The Banana Skin

I travelled by my usual means to Waterloo this morning, and from there took the Westminster Bridge route to Green Park.  There was a long queue on the M27, making my arrival at Southampton Parkway a little late.  Obligingly, the train was also tardy, but reached the London terminal on time.

Bright sunshine coursing through the passing trees and the carriage windows caused rapidly flickering strobe lights to dance across the pages of my book.  Dull clouds and a biting wind swirled across and over the Thames in significant contrast as I walked across it.

There are about fifteen ticket outlets at Waterloo station where, on arrival, I now buy my return tickets.  From half way along the row a shrill shriek of ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ shattered the calm.  An otherwise elegant young woman kept up a similarly tongued tirade at the teller.  I’m not sure quite what had distressed her, but she demanded the return of a ticket for which she had paid.  She momentarily claimed the attention of all those serving behind the other counters.  This rather disconcerted people in a hurry to buy their admission to the trains.  She disappeared before I had reached the front of the queue.

Sculpture of mother and child, County Hall

A figure astride a plinth set high up on the wall of the former County Hall was either giving birth to or supported on the shoulders of a young Hercules.

Lion Travel Guide

Near the London Eye a cheery oriental gentleman representing Lion Travel held up a flag which brought his compatriots flocking to him.

Lion Travel tourists

Around the corner the London Dungeon was decorated in season. London Dungeon pumpkins The pumpkins, like the exhibits inside, were probably made of wax.


Gulls swooped down on a glutinous white substance, perhaps emanating from McDonald’s opposite, smeared on the coping of the Embankment wall.  StarlingsWhen they had sufficiently sated themselves and gummed up their beaks, starlings eagerly scraped up the residue.

Wordsworths Lines Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

The lines William Wordsworth composed on Westminster Bridge have stood the test of time.  The picture can be enlarged by clicking on it to facilitate reading this famous work which is often obscured by the sheer volume of visitors passing by.

Painter, Houses of Parliament

Squirrel's tailA painter has begun the task of applying a long-handled roller to boards screening works outside the Houses of Parliament.

In St. James’s Park a young squirrel disguised as a flattened teasel chewed a tourist’s tempting lure.

The window display of the wine merchants Justerini & Brooks in St. James’s Street suggested that, in Iberia and Italy at least, vintners still stop their bottles with corks.

Because he always opens the bottle before I arrive for lunch, I do not know whether the excellent St Emilion Norman served with our roast chicken was blessed with a cork or a screw top. Justerini & Brooks Sainsbury’s apple strudel was to follow.

On the Victoria Line tube en route to Carol’s a pleasantly and persistently smiling young man, reading the Evening Standard whilst plugged into an electronic device, sat next to a fresh banana skin.  When an elderly Chinese woman expressed interest in occupying the otherwise empty seat, he picked up the discard; nursed it carefully, whilst still managing to turn the pages of his newspaper; and carried it away when he left the train.

My normal journey from Carol’s to Southampton was uneventful, but poor Jackie, driving to meet me, had a reprise of this morning’s delay, because of an accident on the road ahead.

A Splendid Occasion

Today completes a blogging year.  As is appropriate for this particular one, it  rained throughout in Minstead, although not in London.

Jackie was pleased to be able to drive Gladys and Dave to Southampton Parkway with us.  Their trip to Edinburgh happily coincided with my London visits to Norman and Carol.

I took my usual walk from Waterloo to Green Park where I boarded my Jubilee Line train to Neasden.

I don’t normally plan a photograph or manipulate the image to change it.  I picture what I see and crop if suitable.  At almost any time of the day or night in central London, a helicopter will be seen hovering overhead or making a dash to a hospital.  Helicopter over ThamesToday one was hovering apparently motionless high above the Thames.  After I’d photographed it, I realised the potential for setting the flying machine against the London Eye.  Walking on to that feature of the skyline, I raised the camera and pressed the shutter.  Helicopter, London Eye, PigeonFaster than the movement of my finger was the flight of the pigeon that stole the shot.  Serendipity indeed.

The London Dungeon exhibition first opened in Tooley Street near Guy’s hospital some time in the 1970s.  It is a series of waxworks tableaux representing historic horrific happenings in the capital.  When Matthew and Becky were still quite young I took them there to see it.  No way would they be persuaded to enter.  These horrors are now housed in part of the old County Hall, alongside the river. The London Dungeon For years I have been under the misapprehension that it was such as the body that lies at the top of the steps outside the new premises that deterred our children.  Not a bit of it.  ‘It was the rats’, was the explanation Becky recently gave me.  Given that Matthew soon kept them as pets, I was rather surprised by this.

At eleven o’clock this morning Westminster Bridge was marginally easier than usual to traverse half way across.  After this point it was far more populated than ever.  Every race and nationality in the world must have been represented.  Whitehall was cordoned off.  The only way to cross it was via the public subway at Westminster tube station.  The reason for the helicopter became apparent when police cars blocked the entrance to the Houses of Parliament car park.  Every few feet along the approaching streets stood a police officer facing rows of crash barriers.  Crowds of people packed the thoroughfare, cameras hopefully raised at arms lengths above the throngs.  There seemed to me no chance of any point and shoot device snatching a reasonable image of the horse guards and ceremonial coaches glinting in the occasional sunshine. Crowd at State Opening of Parliament I focussed on the crowds through which I was elbowing my way, thankful that I could see over most of the heads.  I had stumbled upon the State Opening of Parliament.

Having reached the comparative sedateness of St. James’s Park, my way across The Mall was again blocked.  Guards bandThe band I had heard getting nearer as I crossed the park turned out to be a military one.  The crash barriers and police protecting the musicians were supplemented the length of this famous street by guardsmen in their splendid uniforms.  There was one pedestrian route across, reminiscent of Birdcage Walk during the London Marathon (see 25th September last year).  Every so often one of the guards would present his rifle and march back and forth across the pathway, eventually returning to his place and shouldering arms. Guards lining The Mall Pedestrians had to hang fire while this went on.  The whole route from Admiralty Arch to Buckingham Palace was a sight to behold.

Green Park entrance

At the entrance to Green Park itself, a pair of golden arches suggested that McDonalds was now sponsoring this national treasure.

Church Road Market

Walking through Brent’s Church Road market, I felt I was in a different city.

Norman produced a roast pork dinner followed by apple strudel, accompanied by a fine Italian red wine.  I then took my usual route to Carol’s, and afterwards the amazingly frequent 507 bus to Waterloo and the train back to Southampton for Jackie to drive me home.

The two way train journey was sufficient for me to devour Jack London’s excellent story ‘The Call of the Wild’, in the Folio society edition, superbly illustrated by Abigail Rorer. The Call of The Wild It is the savage yet tender tale of Buck, a phenomenal dog who eventually obeys the call.