We booked tickets for a show in London quite a while ago. Since then, we’ve been planning a whole weekend. For various reasons, we decided not to go by train nor to drive. Instead, we travelled by National Express coach. This was a first for Liesel, and I’ve not used their services since well before Liesel came on the scene. We took a bus into Manchester and found the coach station easily enough.
This shows how long it is since I’ve travelled by coach. In the coach station, I was expecting to be engulfed in a miasma of cigarette smoke and diesel fumes from coaches with the engines left running unnecessarily. But no, it was quite a pleasant atmosphere.
The coach stopped a couple of times on the way to London, but we still arrived at Victoria Coach Station 20 minutes early. A real bonus after being on board for over five hours.
From Victoria to Putney was quite easy and we checked into our accommodation.
The gig was at The Half Moon, Putney, and I knew exactly where it was. Just a short walk from our hotel, over Putney Bridge and along the road.
On the way, we bumped into Helen and Steve. What are the chances? A little further along the road and there it was. The Half Moon. On the wrong side of the street. Yep, I knew exactly where it was, so why it’s crossed the road, I don’t know.
We dined here before the show. And I met Alan in real life, someone I was friends with online until I left Facebook.
When we took our place at the table right in front of the stage, I also saw Sue, although we have met before.
So what was the show? ‘Those Were The Days’ as performed by Jessica Lee Morgan with Chris on bass and Paul Cuddeford on guitar.
Jessica covered songs written by or made famous by female musicians from 1968 to 1976. Two hours of brilliant songs, beautifully performed. Yes, of course I sang along but I wasn’t pelted with too many rotten tomatoes.
We enjoyed the late night walk back over he bridge and had a purple night’s sleep, as advertised.
Meeting someone at Liverpool Street Station is hard, we just don’t know it well enough, and certainly not the meeting points. So we agreed to meet Elakshi at a Starbucks. While waiting, we went next door to Pickwick’s for a nicer coffee.
Our friend Monica in Anchorage has a niece who’s studying here in the UK for a few months. We showed Elakshi round some of the more quirky sites in the city of London, including the Sculpture in the City trail.
Cosmos, 2018 is composed of three 3.5 metre-high slatted structures which lean into and support each other, painted black on the exterior and sprayed in a coloured gradient within. An imposing physical structure, the work encourages both a physical and aesthetic response. Says Rothschild: “The external piece is quite forbidding. Its black shiny surface is like a set of disruptive gates.”
This was number 8 on the trail, but we managed to miss a few. All were interesting in their own way, even if it was easy to walk by and miss some without realising.
Leadenhall Market was looking quite tentacular today, and not just because of the stars painted on the ceiling.
Our walk took us to Spitalfields Market where I just about resisted the temptation to look at the vinyl records on sale. We had lunch here in the crowded market before Elakshi had to head off for some proper study.
Liesel and I then made our way to Covent Garden, yes, another market, where we planned to buy absolutely nothing. Except Liesel was thinking of a particular clothes shop she wanted to visit. In one of the art shops, there was a portrait of David Bowie. One that moved as you walk by. Spooky.
On to Leicester Square and beyond to Trafalgar Square where I was pleased to see a new item on the 4th plinth.
Antelope restages a photograph of Baptist preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley as a sculpture.
The photograph was taken in 1914 at the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Nyasaland, now Malawi. Chilembwe has his hat on, defying the colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats in front of white people. A year later, he led an uprising against colonial rule. Chilembwe was killed and his church was destroyed by the colonial police.
On the plinth, Chilembwe is larger than life, while Chorley is life-size. By increasing his scale, the artist elevates Chilembwe and his story, revealing the hidden narratives of underrepresented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa, and beyond.
At this point, we still hadn’t decided what to do in the evening. A film? A play? A musical? Another gig? In the end, we thought a comedy show would go down well and we spent a funny couple of hours in the company of Maisie Adam at Leicester Square Theatre.
The show finished early-ish so we decided to wander over to the South Bank for something to eat. You can’t go wrong at Wagamama. Oh yes you can. I chose a dish that I’ve had many times before but boy was it hot. Hot in the sense that it really stung my windburnt lips. And hot as in much more spicy than is usually the case. Phew. Once the steam stopped puffing out of my ears, I cooled my head down with a nice bowl of coconut ice cream. Phew indeed!
We went our separate ways on the Saturday. Liesel went south to spend the day with Rosie, walking from Surbiton via Kingston to Hampton Court along the towpath and having some giggly girly time together. Was I at all jealous? Well no, not at all, because I’d decided to pay a long overdue visit to the National Maritime Museam at Greenwich and then up the hill to the Observatory.
But as soon as I went outside, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was lovely and warm, verging on the muggy even, and the thought of sitting on buses and/or tube trains for hours to travel to Greenwich just wasn’t as attractive. Instead, I thought I’d walk part of the way and then maybe complete the journey on public transport. I headed in the direction of King’s Road and took in the sights and brought back some memories.
I passed by Parson’s Green, close to where I used to work in the mid-1980s. It hasn’t changed much. But another little patch of green is encouraging insects.
It’s always good to see birds of prey, especially in the middle of a large city.
I do feel sorry for this one though, tethered as it is to the roof of a glorified shoe shop.
Not all quirky sculptures are in the City of London.
It’s been nearly five decades since I downed a pint of beer in The World’s End pub. I decided not to revisit today, even though a small part of me wondered whether I’d bump into my old work colleague and drinking buddy Clive. But suppose I owed him money?
The World’s End second-hand book shop on King’s Road hasn’t changed much either. If anything, it’s even more crammed with stock so that potential customers have to move around one at a time, like chess pieces on a very crowded board. I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t have a copy of a book that I’ve been looking for for many years: The Nabob’s Garden by Frederica Bennett. I read it several times as a child but can remember nothing about it other than it had a green cover and no dust jacket.
I knew I was taking too much time ambling along King’s Road but I knew something was really wrong with the spacetime continuum when I looked at the clock over the road. The hands were spinning round very fast.
This place looked very different in the olden days…
Dave the artist still exhibits his own paintings on King’s Road in the Open Air Gallery. He’s very friendly, go and have a chat if you’re passing by.
I wandered by the old Chelsea Hospital and onto a street market, close to the Saatchi Gallery, where I had some lunch.
I thought I’d make use of the facilities at Peter Jones. But no. The Gents toilet was out of order and the nearest one was the accessible toilets. Downstairs.
I hope there’s another route to the accessible toilets, I wouldn’t want to bump down those stairs in my wheelchair.
And so to Sloane Square, where, a few days after she died, I saw the Princess of Wales standing outside the underground station. No dead people today, but a throbbing mass of living ones.
Do I get a train towards Greenwich? No. I decided to continue walking until I stopped. Through Eaton Square and onto the side entrances to Buckingham Palace. I know King Charles isn’t planning to live here for at least a few years, so it was good to see that services to the palace were being discommected.
Millions of people were loitering by the front gates of the palace on this cloudy afternoon but I was surprised by the brightness of the Victoria Monument’s golden angel.
Time for some birdwatching in St James’s Park. Don’t feed or touch the pelicans, says the sign. Well, I didn’t even see any, just Egyptians, pigeons, ducks, geese, swans (black and white) and squirrels. And more pigeons. With whom I did not share by cinnamon doughnut and coffee.
After leaving the park, I realised I ought to head back. I took a bus back to Putney, changed my clothes, then took another bus into Kingston.
Did I regret not making it to Greenwich? No, I had a fantastic walk and Greenwich and the museum will still be there next time. I also didn’t see much of the South Bank on this occasion, just Wagamama. Apart from a slight sense of disloyalty, I didn’t mind walking on the other side of the river this time.
I perambulated through Kingston, mostly familiar, but there have been some changes here, towards the river. The plan was to meet up with Liesel and Liesel’s cousin. Yes, her cousin Andi with her husband of just a few months Steve have moved to the UK, specifically to Richmond upon Thames.
I first met Andi and Steve on holiday in Hawaii ten or so years ago, when Helen and Adam and Jenny came too, not to mention Liesel’s extended family. We’ve also been with them to a few Dave Matthews concerts.
The waiters in the restaurant must have been rolling their eyes when after several attempts at taking our order, we still hadn’t stopped talking long enough to look at the menu.
In the end, we had a very pleasant and enjoyable meal, at Comptoir Libanais since you ask, after which they invited us back to their pad, a quick 65 bus ride away. I’m old enough to remember when the 65 went all the way to Chessington.
Their house is located in a very desirable location, close to the river, close to shops, close to the railway station. The pomegranate tree, as far as we know, is the only one in Richmond and it needs a bit of a trim, to be honest. Liesel and I left quite late but it was easy enough to get back to Putney, via Earls Court on the District Line.
And so our short stay in London comes to an end. At Victoria, we visited The Shakespeare for a late breakfast. Do you have a menu, I asked? We’ll bring a menu over when we’re open for food at twelve o’clock. I felt suitably chastised. No nut roast today so we settled for very disappointing nachos. I couldn’t drink too much beer knowing we’d be on the coach for five hours. Another long journey that passed quickly thanks to some podcasts and a book and some puzzles.
Somehow, the 43 bus from Manchester back to Northenden seemed really slow, stopping every thirty seconds…
Back to normal then? Well, nearly. I have picked up the cold that Liesel’s had for a few days. I hope I didn’t pass it on to Martha and William when we met up at Quarry Bank Mill.
In between climbing trees, and playing in the playground and walking and running through the woods and climbing muddy slopes, we didn’t do much here today.
During the week, we went for our usual walks, noticing it become cooler as time went on. We walked to Didsbury and noticed that at last, after far too long, we are now able to walk on the other side of the Mersey between Palatine Road and Northenden Bridge. That path has been off limits while they jack up the motorway, or something.
The radio show this week was based on Jessica’s show, Those Were The Days. I’d picked up the set list, asked all three musicians to sign it for me, and I used it for my own show. I played (mostly) the original versions of the songs plus a couple of extras.
And if you’re interested, here is the playlist from the gig:
Turn Turn Turn
Big Yellow Taxi
Both Sides Now
Who Knows Where the Time Goes
It’s Too Late
Killing me Softly with his Song
You’re so Vain
Me and Bobby McGee
The Man Who Sold the World
You’ve Got a Friend
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Brand New Key
Those Were The Days
This Wheel’s On Fire
I think my cold is receding, I feel less tired, less cold, less lethargic than I did yesterday, at least I was able to concentrate on this stuff for a while. The Covid tests have all come up negative.
And here we are: November already. Who knows where the time goes?