Earlier this week, E and H went to London for the day. Our primary reason was to catch up with I and M – friend’s of H’s from school. (It was 10 years since Year 12 last year – how mad is that?)
If you will remember back to previous posts, we are looking for somewhere to live. (Forgive this apparent digression, it reverts back to topic, we promise!)
It looks as though we may have found an unfurnished somewhere at last so R and H have been scouring the web; newspapers and all our slight acquaintance here for tips on finding enough furniture in a short space of time. As it just so happens, on Monday night (the night before our trip to London) H won an eBay auction for a patchwork quilt.
The quilt price was reasonable, but the postage was quoted at 10 pounds (16AUD) which was nearly half the cost of the quilt. Lo and behold, the seller lived in Islington, and so was born H’s determination to save 10 pounds and pick the quilt up whilst in London catching up with I & M…
Yes, it all sounds mad, we know.
Tuesday morning dawned and after the usual morning bustle, H and E set off to Milton Keynes Central station; purchased a ticket to London (including all tube and bus travel in London for the day!) and jumped on a direct Virgin (thanks Richard) service to London. Well, jumped is perhaps not the right way of thinking about it. The Virgin trains, in terms of the floorplan, are a bit like the Sydney to Newcastle country trains in Aus – no real carriage or standing room when you get on the train – just a corridor into a carriage with groups of seats and overhead luggage racks. So, H & E & the pram & the food bag (for E) & the nappy bag & pram rug had to be folded up and carried onto the train, where we blocked the aisle (although we had tried to be the last ones on) until two very nice men helped us. Both were sitting in the Wi-Fi section: one gave up his seat, packed up his laptop and moved to another part of the carriage; while the other man put the pram up on the luggage racks for us. In hindsight, this gallantry was a waste of time, as E decided he DID NOT WANT to sit quietly on a seat in his first-ever train trip and look out the window. Oh no. He wanted to talk to everyone. Loudly.
So we spent the journey standing in the little bit between two carriages, talking and rocking. Thankfully the Virgin trains are swift and we arrived at Euston in 25 minutes.
The same man who had stowed the pram away then got it down, carried it off the train and set it up on the platform. H was beginning to see that the day would require many such kindnesses from strangers.
We then descended to the Underground section of Euston (getting help from another man to carry the front of the pram down three flights of stairs) and caught the tube to Highbury & Islington station (where a lovely lady carried the front of the pram up two flights.)
Thankfully, the eBay seller lived 3 mins from the tube station, so we fronted up to her terrace, paid our dosh and picked up our quilt – in a very large and unwieldy carrier bag. Hmmm, perhaps it would’ve been better to pick it up at the end of the day?
We then caught the tube back down the Victoria line to Victoria station; and changed to the Circle line for St. James’ Park. (Insert 5-10 flights of stairs here!)
St. James’ Park is lovely.
St. James’ Park is set right in the middle of a very pleasant London suburb and practically next to Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Palace, the Horse Guards, Pall Mall and the Strand. It felt a bit like a real-life Monopoly board.
We walked through the park to the Pall Mall side and rendezvoued with I & M for lunch in a lovely restaurant/cafe called Inn the Park. E, by this time, was asleep and slept until just before the food arrived, at which time he devoured anything and everything that lay within reach.
Afterwards we spent some time on the lawns outside and even managed to see a squirrel begging a passer-by for something to eat. No pictures of the squirrel, sorry!
I & M then left to continue their sightseeing, and H & E headed up the Mall to the Strand and thence to Charing Cross station.
All in all it was a lovely day, and wonderful to have been able to do it, pram and all. The kindness of complete strangers took H aback and was one of the standouts of the day. London is a very busy city, it hums like a hive full of bees, and yet busy people took pity and helped us. We were very thankful and it really added to our enjoyment of the day and our appreciation of our new capital city.
There has been quite a lot of comment in the media about the siege mentality of the security forces here in London in relation to the Prime Minister etc. It is true that there is a big police presence in certain parts of London. Most particularly I noticed lots of police in the vicinity of St. James’ Park: paddywagons; police on foot; cars and vans etc.
In contrast, we saw one lone officer on foot in Islington. I don’t really have a position on the whys and wherefores of the buildup of police presence, just that my initial impression was that there must have been some sort of incident occurring, as that level of police presence is not something I’m accustomed to seeing.
Anyhow, it was a great day and gave us motivation to return and do it again – once we’ve recovered from all those stairs!