So this time last week John and I headed up to 'that there Londinium' for a few days. The main purpose was to sort out my aunt's laptop, which was riddled with another variant of Virtumondo.
The journey up was a nightmare. Being a bank holiday, it was pissing down. I don't mind the rain, unless visibility is poor. What I also don't like with rain is high winds, so when the local forecast was warning of up to 60mph gusts, I knew we were in for a fun ride.The funny thing is the M4 near that part of Cardiff has signs that give you information. Something like "FA CUP, EXPECT CONGESTION" or "ACCIDENT AT J22-J23." On a day like that though someone in their infinite wisdom put "POOR VISIBILITY, DRIVE CAREFULLY," meaning we had to take our eyes off the road to read the stupid sign. Or we would if we could see it.
When we arrived in Crystal Palace we found a chippy for the obligatory saveloy and chips (we don't get saveloys down here, and I do so miss them). We then sat in the car to eat them and then went around the old stomping ground to get pictures of how it's all changed.
The first image was taken from the bottom of the road, looking up. The second image is my delightful cul-de-sac. If you look carefully, you can see where I broke my arm. My house was the one right at the far end. Finally the third image is the terrace of houses behind ours. This was a lot flatter, meaning that more could be played. Volleyball, tennis, even a sprint between the two lampposts. We also took a trip to my old school. The picture isn't very good, but a conversation with the guy on reception let me know that if I walked around the school I would be in trouble, so I didn't. So I didn't get any decent pictures of my old classrooms.
Anyway, on the Tuesday we'd decided we'd take the day and go and see the sights. It started off with actually a pleasurable bus ride from Crystal Palace up to Lewisham. That's not sarcastic. I have to say that Londoners moan and bitch about what Red Ken did for the city. The introduction of the congestion charge was an idea he had 25 years ago when he ran the GLC. The idea was that any income from the charge paid for free public transport. Now, admittedly, that's not what happens but this is because some other greedy politician realised he can use this money for his all expenses paid lunch.
The change was now put into the buses, and it showed. The frequency is a lot higher (every 10-15 minutes instead of every hour), and because more people now use the bus, the roads are a lot emptier. We were in Lewisham within 20 minutes, and I doubt I would have got there much sooner in the car. We jumped on the new-ish Docklands light railway extension so we could pass Canary Wharf, and get a picture of the highest building in the UK.
Disembarking at Tower Gateway, we took the gentle stroll across the Tower Bridge. My father asked if I walked across the upper walkways. I told him I had problems walking across the lower walkway (the road), and there was more chance of getting a wank off the pope then me walking over there. Also, it's £12 each now to take that particular excursion, and as much as I love the bridge, I'm not that mad. We headed down onto the South Bank, and seeing as there was a new attraction that was also a piece of art, and incredibly cheap for London, we went to see the Telectroscope. The incredibly gullible would believe that this is a series of lenses and mirrors taking your image over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to New York, via the Earth's crust. The more realistic of you (and the ones who spot the camera inside) will realise that it is nothing more then an extremely extravagant webcam. Admittedly paying a £1 each was very cheap, and it was nice to wave to some poor sod who stood the other end at 6:30am their time in the pissing down rain. After about 3 minutes, I realised there wasn't anything else to do so we left. A quick text to TRT, and he said he'd come and meet us on the riverbank. As I sat there I waited patiently for a slightly balding, nerdy looking stranger to acknowledge us. What actually greeted me was someone looking decidedly relaxed, with an Indiana Jones hat that surprisingly suited him. He recognised me before I recognised him. Whilst waiting I had found a nice quiet pub that was due to open at 12. 5 minutes to wait, and the food was very cheap. We sat down outside, overlooking HMS Belfast, and waited. Suddenly 2 Navy Helicopters appeared, and like two kids playing tag, preceded to dart about between the London and Tower Bridges.
Apparently, but unbeknownst to us, it was to commemorate the release of the latest Bond novel.
To us it just looked like we were about to be invaded. I treated TRT to lunch and a pint, knowing that if he lives in London he can't afford to buy one himself. He has to return the favour though, when he comes down here. Something, he points out, is a distinct advantage when the beer is so much cheaper down here. Fed and watered, and fond farewells completed, we headed up to London Bridge to catch a bus over to the West End.
I wanted to take John to the London Eye/Millennium Wheel/whatever it's called this week. We got off the bus on the South Bank and walked across to the wheel. The queue was horrendous, looking like a human snake twisting back and forth. Once again, I wouldn't be seen dead on the wheel. A few people have said it's not that bad if you have a fear of heights. I looked up, and just the thought caused a slight greening of the gills.
We walked along the front of the old GLC County Hall, and up and over Westminster Bridge just in time to catch Big Ben chiming 2 o'clock, and then headed down Birdcage Walk and into St James' Park. Both of us were complaining our feet were hurting a bit, so we forewent the trip to Buck House, but I took a picture looking down the mall. We also happened upon some of the Queen's Horseguards, presumably heading home for a cheese sandwich for lunch. Whilst we stood there, I could hear sirens approaching fast. 2 Scuffer outriders raced past, and I quickly took a video as obviously someone very famous had an escort down the mall. The video shows 3 coaches, all full with old people. No one famous, it would appear that maybe someone had fallen ill on one of the coaches and the Filth were leading them maybe to a hospital.
Taking a stroll (with a funny limp by now) to Trafalgar Square, I took more boring pictures before we jumped on the final bus ride of the day up to Oxford Circus, via Piccadilly Circus and Hamleys. John had a gift card for £10 for HMV, and seeing as we don't have one near us he's had to wait 18 months before he can spend it. One observation I made up Oxford Street is the people haven't changed. If you're in their way, they don't try to move. It's a lot easier to walk through us. Once or twice I said sorry, then realised there wasn't any point. It sums up what I feel about London really in one 5 minute experience. We returned via the train from Victoria back to Crystal Palace. Again, the train was less crowded then it used to be, mainly because the frequency was higher. We got outside the station, and originally we'd decided instead of walking up a nasty hill back to the hotel we'd get the bus. We didn't want to walk to the bus stop, so we caught a taxi. A whole mile I reckon. £4 wasn't as bad as I was expecting, considering it used to cost about £2.50 20 years ago.
My duty was duly dispatched in the evening, sorting the laptop. The following morning we left London. The weather was quite pleasant, the sunroof was open, the windows were down. (You just know what's coming next...)
Yup, more rain. This time just outside Swindon. This weather lasted for about 45 minutes, and was some of the worst driving conditions I've ever been in. We got home about 4:30. To say we were tired would be like saying Wales is wet. John went to bed by 8, I followed shortly afterwards.
The thing is, I actually enjoyed the trip. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't do it again in a hurry. It's nice to see your old manor and how it changes, but not too often. It was also nice to see my two aunts, and to meet TRT. But bugger me, a week later and I still haven't fully recovered.
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