UK trip 16 May 2005: Brightlingsea to Twickenham
Continued from UK trip 15 May 2005: Monastery and Essex Girls | Khanya
We had breakfast at at Ye Olde Swan hotel at 7:30, and left Brightlingsea at about 8:30, driving to London.
We stopped for petrol on the way and took a photo of the Fiat Punto that had taken us round Britain for the last two weeks, as we would be handing it back today.
We headed for the Thames crossing at Dartford, where I expected to go through the Dartford Tunnel, but there was another change — southbound traffic went over a bridge instead of through the tunnel.
We went to see Laureen Morrow, whom we had known from Namibia. and found the place she was staying, Ralph Perring Court in Beckenham, with some difficulty, as it was not well marked on the street.
It turned out to be a home for clergy widows, and Bromley College, the place where her husband Ed had been chaplain, was likewise a home for clergy widows. We talked about some of the people we had known in Namibia, and Laureen said that she was the only one who was still active in the church, which I found rather sad. Her husband Ed had died a couple of years earlier.
We drove around south London, and up through Streatham, where I showed Val the house where I had lived when I worked for London Transport at Brixton Garage nearly 40 years ago. The house had now been painted yellow. All the trees looked bigger than they had 40 years ago, which is probably only to be expected, but I thought that the London trees were so well established that they would have reached their full height long before. Streatham High Street seemed a lot narrower than I remembered it.
Then we drove over to Twickenham, where we found Frank Cranmer’s cottage in First Cross Road, down a narrow passage between two other houses. Frank had been another fellow student at St Chad’s College, Durham, and had said we could use their cottage while we were staying in London. We took our things inside, and then drove to central London to return our car at Bryanston Street in Marble Arch. That incurred a “congestion charge”, and we thought that the car hire company could have been more considerate and sited their garage outside the congestion charge area.We no longer needed the car, as it is a useless encumbrance in London. It had taken almost the whole day to drive across London from north-east to south-west, and London has a good public transport system, though it is very expensive. I was rather sorry to see that London Transport seemed to have been privatised into a number of different firms, though they still had vacancies for bus drivers.
We went to Westminster on the tube and met Frank Cranmer at the central lobby of the House of Commons, where I had met my mother’s cousin Willie Hannan several times before in the 1960s, when he was MP for Maryhill in Glasgoe. But there were now elaborate security precautions to screen people going in, with all bags being X-rayed in a tent on the lawn outside, instead of a single friendly policeman standing at the door. We went for a drink at the strangers bar, again, little changed from before, and then went across to Church House, where Frank’s partner of 21 years, Helen, worked as a kind of parliamentary lobbyist.
We drove with them back to Twickenham, and Frank made supper, for which we were joined by Alex Griffiths, also a former St Chad’s student, who had, however, left before I arrived there. Helen wanted to know my history, which I told over supper, with many digressions and diversions. Frank looked little changed from St Chad’s days, greyer and sporting a beard, but, unlike Chris Gwilliam, he was quite recognisable. He said he had become a Quaker as a result of visiting Chris and Nina Gwilliam and attending a Quaker meeting with them, in some trepidation, not knowing if he could take an hour of total silence.
Alec Griffiths was an Anglican priest and magistrate, but was retiring because of ill health.
Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005