Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 10 - Things go slightly awry, The Blitz Walk and a Show

Thursday 5th April 2012

We’re very efficient this morning. Out the door by 8.10 am and walking around to Acton St for the bus.  We are delayed by the outdoor gym in Argyle Square. Our sons would love this! 
Oh cool! Look at that. They have a merrygoround! This means we have to go in the park for a closer look. I spin the merry-go-round.  I seethe with resentment.  Why don’t we have these in our parks? All kids should have the opportunity of riding on a merry-go-round!  It’s years since merry-go-rounds were removed from Sydney’s playgrounds. Too dangerous. Sure kids used to break their arms falling off them all the time. Big deal. It was great fun!  This one has lots and lots of webbing to hang onto. It spins smoothly.
There's still something in Argyle Street for us to find wonder in.  On the blocks of flats almost every individual apartment has a little satellite dish attached to the outside.

It’s so easy finding the bus stop and the correct stop.  Sydney’s transport authorities could learn a thing or two.  We loiter in the brisk morning air contemplating the claims of the Queens Head that they are the best pub in London.  The No 17 bus arrives in due course and it’s pretty full so at first we’re standing. Then people get off in considerable numbers having come down from upstairs. We head up and take a seat. I’m in the front of upstairs. Always the best spot on the double deckers.  We used to have double decker buses in Sydney when we were kids. They were fun. Alas no longer. Only the bendy buses now.
The traffic lights are interesting. They turn amber while still red before turning green. We cross Theobalds Road. I wonder if this road is named for William Cecil’s property that is no longer and which seems to have been pronounced “tibbalds”. We pass an impressive “tudor” style building at Holborn Circus. I snap and put camera away and then am a bit slow on the draw for the 1914-18 war memorial that is just around the corner. 
The bus heaves a sigh of relief as passengers alight. Then picks itself up again to labour onward. As we approach our stop there is an announcement (verbal and in text display) that we are approaching our stop. Named as indicated on the TFL journey planner. It’s just so easy to use the transport here. Very impressive.
We alight at Ludgate Hill/Old Bailey and we’re virtually at St Paul’s by 8:50.  We wander about, taking photos trying to keep out of the way of a few other people who are similarly occupied. Eventually we wander down towards the shop to discover that the Cathedral is not open for sightseeing thismorning due to Maundy Thursday service.  Ah. Oh well. Our trip over hasn’t been a complete waste. We did ride a London bus (tick) and we spend a little time checking out a couple of elaborate marble sculptures which turn out to be memorials to various military people.
We take a seat to regroup and decide on an alternative activity. I’ve a few back up ideas. Hubby has been thinking though and his suggestion is adopted.  We decide we’ll head back over to Victoria to the Paddington bear stand and then head home for some R&R. We have a busy afternoon and evening ahead.  There’s no access to St Paul’s underground station until 9:30. We can walk to Bank but we figure that by the time we get there it will be accessible here so we loiter about enjoying the plantings of daffodils and pansies and checking out the surrounding shops and cafes.
We’re getting the hang of the underground now and it’s an easy exercise to find our way today.  A busker in the underground is playing a sort of reggae version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  He’s pretty good and the catchy beat matches our holiday mood.
At the Paddington bear stall the stallholder is very friendly and tells us that this is now the only Paddington retail outlet still actually owned by Michael Bond.  Apparently Mr Bond is still alive, 86 years old and still writing new Paddington stories, a couple of which have been released for this Olympic year. We have a lovely chat and hear various little stories about the making of the original bear merchandise and the animated series. We adopt two bears and recompense Mr Bond for their care previously provided.  Hubby grabs the box set of videos for our grandson to watch.  Each of our daughter’s households can foster a bear.  You don’t own or buy Paddington bear. Surely.  Oh, we also got the brightly coloured durable Paddington bag which was rather cute. Then it’s thanks all around and we’re on our way home. 
In an hour or two we’re back on the underground heading back to St Paul’s where we will have a decent lunch for a change before our London Walk – The Blitz.  Just around the corner from the underground entrance is a “champagne and wine bar” called Dion.  It has a pleasant ambience and is full of suits.  Menu looks nice. This’ll do.  Our evening meal tonight will be a bit rushed so we decide to make this the main meal for today. Hubby wins hands down with his Stuffed supreme of chicken wrapped in pancetta with vegetables (£11.50) which is a nice portion size. Nothing wrong with my serve of beer battered cod with mushy peas and tartare sauce (£10.95) which is enormous. Huge slab of cod. Huge pile of chips. The mushy peas are good, really light and fresh and go really well with the battered fish. That’s a new combination for us.  We’ve noted at ordering that we only have about half an hour.  This is duly noted to the kitchen, and we’re out of there in plenty of time.  The maitre d is friendly.  It’s been a very nice lunch and we appreciate the speedy service. 
As promised, our London Walks guide is very easy to spot.  There’s quite a large group assembling for the walk.  As we are planning to do at least another couple of London Walks we take the option of buying the discount card for £10.  This will then give us £2 off other walks.  The tour concentrates on the area in the vicinity of St Paul’s and in particular on the cathedral itself and other local churches.  We start with context. It is commonly said that Britain was unprepared for war, but this is not wholly the case. There were several important areas where Britain was very well prepared. Britain expected to be bombed in the event of a war and took early action in several areas. 1. Civil Defense 2. Science of War – they had radar. Germany didn’t and 3. Intelligence.  By quite early on, Britain had captured every single German spy, shot those that wouldn’t cooperate and established a network of double agents using the rest.  Germany had used terror bombing in Europe but did not do so in Britain.  They could not invade because the Royal Navy was in the way. But a ship is a sitting duck for air attack. Control of the air was vital.  Germany was strategic in the approach.  They avoided bombing civilians and concentrated on air fields and industry. They came very very close to succeeding. However, whenever the bombers came over the RAF was always there waiting for them.  It looked like Britain had a vast number of planes when in fact they didn’t.  The double agents also were feeding a line of “your strategy isn’t working, they have heaps of planes”. Then, completely by accident the Germans bombed the East End residential areas.  In retaliation, Churchill ordered the bombing of Berlin.  The RAF scraped together the planes and the bombing raid was duly completed. Hitler was furious.  He had promised the German people that Berlin would never be bombed.  He ordered a change in strategy. It looked like their existing strategy was not working anyway.  The blitz was the result.  This was a huge strategic mistake by Germany. The pressure was relieved on the RAF.  I ask a question.  I have heard it suggested that Churchill deliberately provoked Germany to get them to change their tactics and relieve the pressure on the airfields, is there any justification for that?  No. It was just a series of errors and good luck on the part of the British.
We are informed that the arched gateway that we were admiring earlier is actually Temple Bar relocated from it's original position via a period neglected on some country estate.

I'm not going to publish all the details of the Blitz Walk here on the blog. I figure that's IP owned by London Walks.  We mentioned to the maitre d at Dion that we were doing this walk and he wondered what they could show you seeing as the whole area is post war. This is true, but there was still plenty to see and hear. It was very very good and we're really glad we took this walk. The walk is concluded with time for people to get directions or ask questions. I ask about the bombing of St George’s in the East and Rex tells me about how it was an unusual one in that they didn’t rebuilt but build anther church inside the walls of the old Wren Church.
We're all done about 4:30ish and we head up into St Paul’s. Entry fees and desks are packing up and there’s a great number of people milling around.  Announcements are being made, no more sightseeing. People attending the service only.  There are signs about the services over the rest of the day. We take a seat and after a while the cordon is lifted and a couple of people are handing out programmes and letting people go through. They seemed to be checking tickets at first, but in the end we find that you can just go through if you are attending the service and so we do. Ultimately, there’s not a huge crowd that actually attends. The congregation is obviously from all over the world and many of them are casually dressed.
Hubby is more familiar with the following rituals than I am as he was raised a roman catholic.  I on the other had was raised to a Christian faith to which all the ritual was anathema, so I just do my best to follow the detailed instructions in the program.  The president delivered a very good sermon, raising some laughs when he started to consider what the effect would have been if the church had settled itself around the ritual of feet washing rather than the taking of bread and wine.  You would have had sects develop such as the “left footers”, synods on whether the water for footwashing should be hot or cold, or in the case of the Anglicans, luke warm (congregation laughs) and so on. It was clever and amusing and appropriate for the audience.  The choir is in attendance and the sound of their beautiful voices in this magnificent cathedral is uplifting.  The service concludes at 6:15 pm.  We exit with the other worshippers and discuss the service and sermon. This is a wonderful way to experience the cathedral. Quite different to taking a tour. But don't forget to have a donation ready for the offering tray when it is passed around.
We have a show to go to tonight and we need to collect the tix from the box office somewhere near 7pm. We walk down Fleet St to The Old Cheshire Cheese and just a couple of doors away is Chilango. We’re looking for quick.  We opt for Chilango.  Hubby has a sliced steak burrito and I go for the chicken version.  The burrito’s are huge.  We’re not hungry during the show so objective was achieved. Other than that I would say… “meh”.
We probably have time to walk but there are heaps of taxi’s travelling along this road just waiting for us to use them.  We decide it is better to do this than stress and rush to get to the Duke of York’s Theatre in time. We take a London cab (tick). Hubby at first tries to get in the front, which shocks me a bit.  Surely everyone knows you don’t do that on this sort of cab.  Happily seated in the back where we’re meant to be we fasten our seatbelts and enjoy the ride. Lord this thing even has “cab vision”. It’s a very different experience to cabs in other places.  £10 later we’re happily making our way to our seats for Zach Braff’s All New People. No interval, the play is quick moving and very funny.  A great upbeat choice for a holiday show. We loved it.  Duke of York’s Theatre has comfy seating too which is always a bonus.  We’re home and in bed by 10pm.

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