Admiralty Arch, Bloomsbury Square Gardens, Buckingham Palace, Caffe Concerto, Diana Fountain, Elizabeth Line, Grenadier Guards, King George VI, marabou stork, Oxford Circus, Paddington Station, Piccadilly, platinum jubilee, Queen Ekizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent Street, Regent's Park, Ride London, The Mall, The Ritz, Trooping the Colour
The purpose of my trip to London was to see the Stonehenge Exhibition at the British Museum, but it would have been impossible not to be aware that a rather significant jubilee was about to be celebrated, that marking 70 years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Just in time for the festivities, (but five years late) the Elizabeth tube (metro/subway) line had been opened just three days before my trip. The driver of the mainline train bringing me up from the West Country had helpfully said that access was to be found to the side of Platform 1 of Paddington main line station. Just as well, since there was no signage until very near to the entrance.
Movement was among airy, cavernous stations throughout, and what felt like natural daylight everywhere.
The trains are light and airy as well, open end to (very long) end. Like certain sections of the Circle Line.
My goodness did the Elizabeth Line make a difference to my own movements around the capital! Just 3.5 minutes from Paddington main line station to Tottenham Court Road underground station, (which will increase marginally when the the line’s Bond Street platform opens in the autumn. Meanwhile its roundels read alternately, as we whizzed through, ‘Station Closed’ and ‘Opening Soon’).
Once I had arrived at Tottenham Court Road, my saving of time all evaporated. Even though I had the assistance of the sun’s shadows to determine points of the compass, I still managed to set off in the wrong direction, and what should have been a 6-minute walk turned into a 20-minute one. Thank goodness for texts/SMSs. Mary was able to go and have a coffee while she waited for me.
Once I’d made it to the museum
we made use of Mary’s membership of it, and had a coffee in the members’ cafe.
I’ll cover the exhibition itself in my next blog post.
Mary knows London bus routes inside out, and after our visit to the excellent exhibition she confidently had us walking past Bloomsbury Square Gardens,
to the stop we needed for the bus to get to her home in Kentish Town,
where I was invited to join in a Zoom call with Mary and her siblings,
before her eldest, Susan, top left, who lives very near, joined us for a meal.
The following morning, Saturday, was Mary’s regular get-together for tennis in Regent’s Park. It was a little chilly to begin with, but this did not detract from enjoying the wonderful display of roses.
I took many photos of them, of which here are a very few.
At the tennis courts.
Zooming in on the far end of the courts, I could make out a tennis lesson for youngsters.
I had seen a photo of a flag-lined Mall, and had a yen to reproduce it myself. After we had had sociable coffee with the other tennis players, Mary’s unerring knowledge of the routes soon got us to a bus which would take us to Trafalgar Square. Oxford Circus was not very busy (she said).
Regent Street more so. The yellow sign warns of road closures for the following day to enable Ride London to take place.
I hoped to take my photo of the Mall through Admiralty Arch, but this was as near as I could get, as a very polite policeman directed me back round the outside of the Arch. (Ride London also was inconvenienced by the Jubilee preparations as it usually finishes in the Mall, but did so this year at Tower Bridge.)
I post this photo only to show another, very cheery, policeman.
More zooming in, and this was the best I could do for my hoped-for photo. Crowds (and clean-up lorries) prevented me from getting dead centre.
We had alighted on the tail end of a rehearsal, for, as we soon learned, Trooping the Colour, part of next weekend’s Jubilee celebrations. Did the crowd know of the rehearsal, or had they, just like us, stumbled on it by chance? There were absolute hordes there, making photographic opportunity very random.
Two young Grenadier Guards were selling programmes for the ceremony. (I have no idea what is in the mind of the fellow to the right.)
Statues of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that I’d never seen before.
I was hoping to take a photo of the front of Buckingham Palace, but we were diverted by solid barriers before getting there. We skirted round to the right, and at one point I could see the whole of the roof of the building over the barriers. Two men from a private security firm were standing by, and one of them (the other held back all the time) told me “No photos, security.” “Ridiculous’ I thought, and said, ‘this is the UK!’ I was quite riled, especially as it called to my mind an incident that had occurred to me on my first day in Uganda in 2013, when a corrupt young soldier (again with his companion holding right back) tried to get my camera from me because I had taken a photo of an enormous bird (a Marabou stork if I remember correctly) in a tree next to some kind of military establishment. I was quite sure he was only going to let me have it back on payment of a ransom, so I wasn’t going to let it go. I won. Anyway, I was quite sure that this security man, whether misinformed or just plain bossy, had got it wrong. There were no notices of any sort forbidding photography, nor could there be any possible reason to justify what he said.
In due course I gave up, and a few steps further on was able to take his photo, with, though it does not show up, a corner of Buckingham Palace in the background, and no-one objecting.
And just a few yards further on, I got this corner of the Palace.
We crossed Green Park to get to Piccadilly,
decided not to have lunch at the Ritz, (!)
and settled on Caffe Concerto over the road,
where Mary notice the interesting functional ceiling, à la Pompidou Centre,
and we had a very nice meal, chosen from a very wide menu.
Emerging on to Piccadilly, we saw that it had flags too, though not at such frequent intervals as we had seen elsewhere.
Regent Street had lots.
Back in Kentish Town, we called into a cake shop, and bought a celebratory ‘Queen’s Jubilee White Chocolate Chip Cookie’ each, which we had with a cup of coffee, or half a cookie each anyway. It was very sweet and very enormous.
A game of ‘Upwords’, at which Mary, as usual, beat me, and it was time for me to leave. Again the Elizabeth Line helped speed me on my way to Paddington, and this time it was quite crowded. Today the news tells us that in its first five days, a million journeys were made on it. Mine contributed two to that total.