London 19-11-14: A Day To Remember

London - Hheader

If you read my blog you will have seen that I recently spent the day in London enjoying a happy trip to the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory musical. A slightly delayed Birthday treat from my parents. But that wasn’t all my day involved. After all, even living a short train journey from London I don’t venture towards the capital very often and so when I do, I usually make a bit of a day of it.

This time was no different, and while sadly the original plan for the day had been altered slightly due to Anorexia getting in the way as usual, after an interesting few minutes doing laps of Reading Station car park trying to work out how to get from barrier A to long stay B when all signs point solely to exit C, I was sitting in a well worn seat of an Intercity 125 heading up to Paddington. The day had begun.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1, and to mark this occasion an art installation thought up by Paul Cummins, soon grew to captured the dreams of a nation. Every November, the Royal British Legion ask people to wear a poppy as a sign of remembrance for those who have lost their lives in Military conflict and the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red display was an extension of that with 888,246 ceramic poppies “planted” in the moat that surrounds the Tower of London, representing every fallen British soldier during the Great War.

The display was started on 17th July 2014 with the final poppy being placed on 11th November. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it up to London to see the display while it was in full flower but, I knew, while even one poppy remained I should make my way to see it, and to remember those who fought without reason and gave without question, suffering the ultimate sacrifice to allow me to sit here writing this blog today.

Even though, a large number of poppies have now been removed, the display was still stunning. And in fact, while the physical amount of poppies and what each one stands for, doesn’t really hit home as you might expect: it’s almost too large a sea of red that everything blends into itself to become one, it is the individually placed poppies that strike the loudest chord. Those singular poppies: sitting of drain pipes, or broken away from the rest of the pack that leave the longest lasting memory.

I didn’t spend too long “with the poppies” as people seem to describe it. Walking round the Tower of London, which wasn’t overly busy, I continued to do the “tourist” thing and take photos of Tower Bridge, the Gerkin and the Shard, while commenting that it’s a slightly sad reflection on society today that as I walked through an outer gate house away from the poppies I was faced directly with the glowing neon sign of a national coffee chain and express supermarket.

What Do We Want? When Do We Want It?

Hopping back onto the tube, and essentially reversing half a dozen stops back down the Circle Line, I arrived in the West End and after a brief hike to find the theatre, get some bearings and take a quick gaze around Covent Garden it was time to find lunch. And what better than a cold soggy sandwich, overly salty soup and a small “large” coffee, all paid for at “London” prices?

But fear not, because while lunch may not have justified the price tag associated with it, the entertainment that accompanied it certainly did. We had jokingly said on the train on the way into London that morning that we should avoid the Student protest march, and my Father, who works daily in the capital, had assured us we’d be fine as they would be in a different “bit” to us; but of course, the best laid plans and all that.

Student Protest - London

As I gave my unused and unwanted salad dressing to the lady on the bar stool next to me, it came apparent that there were a hand full of Police officers milling around with some large piles of traffic cones and as time went by, taxis started to perform U-turns and we started to hypothesise as to what exactly was going on? Things seemed to just monotonously stagnate. Nothing seemed to happen. Then, without warning, traffic cones were deployed and thousands of placard bearing campaigners came marching past. It seemed to last forever and a day, although I’m sure it was only minutes, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the start line of the London Marathon! A huge sea of people that flows gently past, grouped together, before a handful of stragglers are pushed along by a team of street cleaners. Blink and you will slowly miss it, but miss it you will, because, as soon as the brooms have done their work the roads show no sign of their previous guests and life returns to normal.

The Golden Ticket

I won’t bore you all again with my thoughts and musings on Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, you can read my dedicated blog post, but suffice to say, as the main event, it certainly continued to live up to everything that had gone before and keep the experience of the day on it’s entertaining high.

Charlie &The Chocolate Factory - London

Catching a matinee performance meant that we were starting our journey home at the same time as the other 3,000,000 of London commuters. And while, more than happy, usually, to fight them for a seat on the Underground, we decided to treat ourselves to a taxi back to Paddington and take in the magic the lights of London have to offer at night.

Now, fittingly in keeping with our day, the first thing our taxi driver did was to drive in completely the opposite direction of Paddington Station. So much for “The Knowledge”? But before I belittle our Cabby too much, he only did this because he’d forgotten to pick up the Cheese & Onion crisps he’d bought for his dinner a few minutes earlier from the shop counter and gave us a free ride ride round block as he reclaimed his lost bounty!

The trip back across London, was arguably as beautiful as anything else I’d seen all day. With London beginning to illuminate under the light of Christmas it appeared even more stunning than usual. And while the traffic was its typical busy, rush hour fuelled argument, there is one rule in London that saves the day – you never argue with a taxi!

Getting back to Paddington, feeling rather tired and longing for dinner there was one last thing to do: say hello to a little Peruvian Bear. Sadly, the base of his statue was being used as a seat for multiple weary travellers and so I couldn’t get a photograph but it was a nice way to finish a memorable and enjoyable trip to ‘that there London town’.

Posted on by 5WC in Opinion First Edition

Comments are closed.