Well I don’t like London much, but I do like Londoners. That sounds rather odd doesn’t it? I like the people who grew up there, I find many of them charming. London itself often leaves me cold, harassed, confused and irritated – not least by people just ploughing in to me on the pavement. But I’m just a county boy, so I guess that might be it; though Becky who grew up in Derby finds it just as hard I think.
This Saturday we went to London, for no better reason than we had a couple of unused coach tickets from when we were going to an SPR event and sickness meant we had to avoid the coach, and drive to Ealing then take the Tube. So we decided we would go and see the shops, and in particular see the Winter Wonderland event at Hyde Park. Leaving the house at 5am was a real shock I think, and while the 5.45am to Victoria is a very comfortable ride, and we had my favourite coach driver, by the time we arrived I was already ready to go back to sleep. I spent most of the day half asleep.
We went to Hyde Park first, but Winter Wonderland was pretty much shut up, and the ice rink fully booked for the day already. I had hoped to try ice skating — Becky was not so keen. We walked down to Harrods past Harvey Nicholas a department stoore with what to mind mind was a grotesquely ugly shop window display, though Becky liked it, and when we arrived at Harrods I was amused to find it is decorated at the moment with a Wizard of Oz theme. Shame it landed on the witch!
Harrods was bit too crowded for me, and having no money did not add to its appeal. I’m glad I went in though, if only because I saw the strangely touching yet slightly absurd statue of Dodi and Di; I think on balance I found it moving. It is an odd piece – extremely sentimental, and the British are not often comfortable with sentiment, and I was not sure what the seagull represented, but I liked it. I was never a fan of Diana, and I subscribe to no conspiracy theory about her death, but even so this touched me, after an initial impulse of confusion and amusement. While Becky fought her way through the crowds in the Christmas bit upstairs, I stood outside and smoked and reflected in my ambivalent response. I think you would have to see the sculpture to understand, but I did not take a picture, but Bill Mitchell’s statue did what public art should do – made me examine my responses to the whole thing, and evoked a genuine emotional response.
The SPR is closed on Saturdays, so next up was a quick walk through Knightsbridge, and then back to the Harrods food place, I think it’s Harrods 102 for a coffee and then YO! Sushi I really enjoyed this, apart from being irritated when charged for tap water on the final bill — I am pretty sure this is illegal. I know you can drink as much as you want of it, but charging for tap water is never acceptable. Marred an otherwise enjoyable meal.
After dinner we visited the V&A, Science Museum and Natural History Museums, not a lot of time in any, just a quick look round a few of the galleries, as by this time we were both extremely tired. More of a reconnaissance for a future visit I think than a proper look. I noticed that bag checks were the order of the day – not for guns or explosives, but for nail scissors or sharp pointy things. Not sure what all that was about.
I guess £5.70 a person for a zone 1 and 2 travel card is pretty good, as we can’t take advantage of an Oyster Card as we are just visitors, but I have absolutely no idea how any one copes with living and working in central London. In the event of an epidemic I strongly suggest we just build big wall around the M25 to contain any infection within – I seemed to spend most of the day jammed against total strangers or hanging on to beck for dear life so as not to get swept away in the maelstrom of people on the Underground. I clearly having grown up on a farm have different personal space requirements, but I find the Tube a deeply unsettling experience. When it’s quiet its fine, when it’s busy I’m OK, but when I am crushed in to a corner I hate it. I wondered how swine flu ever died out in London if this is how people travel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive advocate of Public Transport and mass transit systems, and private car ownership in London is really not a good idea from what I can see, but Becky and I did walk several times rather than take the tube when we could. I need to get a London A-Z.
Anyway a side trip to try and find Regent Street ended when I could not remember where it was, so we went to Leicester Square, saw Soho and visited the Orc’s Nest, a nice little roleplaying game shop in Earlham Street. Smaller than I expected and with less stock, but still very good. Becky bought me Realms of Power: Faerie for Ars Magica – I never got a free copy of that one for some reason. 😦 From what I have seen so far it looks excellent.
We made it back to Winter Wonderland as it got dark, and if you are in the London region it is certainly worth a visit. It’s free to wander round, and we never went on anything, though there were some wonderful looking rides, but we were still greatly entertained. Just make sure you arrive after dark, when it’s lit up and open. It’s a German Christmas market with fairground rides and attractions, I could not resist a photo of this sign on the stand where I bought my sauerkraut and sausage.
I look pretty rough there, but never mind! Anyway if you do go to see it, be warned that at half five Hyde Park Corner tube station was completely jammed solid with people coming and going, and I would strongly recommend walking to Green Park (as we did) or Knightsbridge tube station to avoid the crush. I was amused by the fact Becky for once did not seem to know where we were going, but I have been to London enough to know my way back to Victoria Coach Station.
It was a lovely day: thank you to Becky for suggesting the trip, and for taking all the photos. I ‘ll sign off with a couple more of Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park.