Continued from UK trip 19 May 2015: London | Notes from underground
We took a bus to Twickenham station, and got a fast train to Waterloo, which got there in 20 minutes, Just outside the station was a bust of Nelson Mandela. It didn’t look much like him though.
We walked across the Hungerford footbridge, which was new since I was last here, and gave views of the Thames downriver.
It seemed worth recording the London skyline, which had changed quite a bit over the last 40 years, and would probably have changed more if we ever came here again.
The bridge crossed the Embankment, which I had driven along many times in 1966, when I had worked for London Transport and driven the 109 bus both ways between the Embankment and Purley.
From ground level it looked much the same as it had in 1966, except for the London Eye in the background, and the push chairs in the foreground. In 1966 they would have been Victorian-style prams, with boat-shaped bodies and enormous wheels, with back wheels bigger than, and overlapping, the front ones. And they weren’t called prams back then either, they were called baby carriages, at least in the advertisements.
It began to rain, so we didn’t hang around there, but took the underground to Blackfriars, and took a couple of photos of St Paul’s Cathedral.
When I had been here in 1966 the dome of St Paul’s had been covered with scaffolding, so I wanted a picture with the uncluttered dome.
By this time we were feeling hungry, and wandered down Ludgate Hill looking for somewhere to eat. We passed a Starbucks place, which I had heard of from conversations on mailng lists and newsgroups on the Internet. People mentioned Starbucks as if everyone knew what they were talking about, so I was tempted to try it just to experience it first hand. But the descriptions had also made me think that their coffee was similar to that of the Seattle Coffee Company back home in Pretoria — bitter and overroasted. The Seattle Coffee Company shops were always attached to the bookshops formerly known as Exclusive Books, now Exclus1ve Books. It was a good idea, as one could browse through books drinking coffee, except that the coffee was undrinkable. So we chickened out and instead had an enormous breakfast at Ossies Cafe on Ludgate Hill.
After breakfast we took the No 11 bus to Victoria station, and looked for book and record shops, but couldn’t find any.
We took the Victoria line tube train to Oxford Circus. The Victoria line had been under construction in the 1960s, so that was something else that was new. Val got me a Che Guevara shirt from a street vendor — one item from the sixties that remained current. We returned via the Embankment and Hungerford bridge again; the rain had stopped and so we crossed on the upstream side, and saw the view of the Westminster skyline.
Back to Waterloo Station, where the innovation since the sixties was the post-1984 Big Brother cameras, to remind us that we were living in a surveillance society.
We took the South West Trains train to Strawberry Hill, and I wrote a last minute postcard to our daughter Bridget who was in Greece, and posted it as we walked back to Frank Cranmer’s cottage.
Frank came home from work at 4:00, and took us to the airport, though we would have been quite happy to catch the train. He dropped us at the Terminal 1 building about 5:00 pm. Val bought a couple of books to read on the plane, which were being offered at 2 for £9, one a new Robert Goddard novel, Sight unseen. We checked in and boarded flight SA 235 for Johannesburg (well, actually Ekurhuleni, but they don’t tell travellers that) which left at 7:30. I remembered seeing England dropping away below when I left for Amsterdam after I finshed studying at St Chad’s 37 years before, and wondering if I would ever see it again, and now I felt the same, but this time I was sorrier to leave. Our time had been all too short, and it was good to meet old friends, and the relatives we met had all been nice ones.
On the plane I read The great Gilly Hopkins, which we had bought the day before, and when I finished it tried to watch a film, but the sound in my seat wasn’t working properly — not that it mattered much, as the films were the same as when we had come over, and I had watched all the ones I wanted to watch. So I replayed our trip in my head, trying to remember the places we had been and the people we had seen.
Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005