Darn Sarf – London Trip

On Thursday morning, I packed my things (badly – in a rush and not knowing what the weather was likely to do!) in to my new bright pink ruck-sack (a present from Billy as I felt a rucksack would be more practical on this trip than a suitcase.) I had a smooth trip down to London though I was glad I had booked my seat on the train as it was very busy and Mum and I met at Victoria and then headed together to our hotel in Crystal Palace.

Before our trip, we had both bought a Visitor’s Oyster Card so that we didn’t have to mess about with tickets, change, and queues and throughout our trip, this proved to be absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended for anyone visiting London and it saves an absolute fortune in money, time, and planning. We had also booked our hotel in advance, and were a little wary of what we’d find since this was very much a budget hotel, a bit out of the way, and we feared the worst. What a pleasant surprise we had when we got to our room – we expected something small and dingy but instead found we had a large room with not two, but four beds!


Beds all in a row

Our room was in the basement and had a little courtyard backing on to it – though the gutter and other pipework constantly dripped and leaked. We just imagined it was a tropical waterfall and with the room getting very hot at night, it was easy to pretend we were on an exotic holiday πŸ˜€ We had dinner in the local Wetherspoons and then returned to our room and watched TV whilst I painted my nails in readiness for the next day.


England Nails

In the morning, we took the lift to the fifth floor for our inclusive continental breakfast and found it to be very basic, but certainly adequate. Many people were complaining about various things, but to be honest, at the price we were paying, Mum and I felt things were pretty much acceptable. There was a choice of cornflakes, Frosties or Cocoa Pops for cereal, of apple or orange juice, of toast or fresh rolls with butter and jams, and of tea or coffee. Nothing fancy, but good enough to get the day started.
Capstar & wristbands

Friday, being ST GEORGE’S DAY and therefore our annual celebration in memory of dad we exchanged cards, donned “Support the Coldstream Guards in Afghanistan” wrist bands, and set off to buy our red rose button holes on our way to the train station.

Cards and booze

Roses

Our first stop was the Guard’s Museum.

Guards Museum Anji
Guards museum Mum

We chatted to the ex-Irish Guard manning the desk for a while and then enjoyed working our way round the exhibits which mark the history and honours of the guards regiments right up to, and including, the Coldstream Guards in Afghanistan. This section was very moving, being so very recent and still ongoing, and at the end there was a poster which had a different picture but was something like this:

Hardest thing

We decided to picnic in St James’ Park and then we walked up to Buckingham Palace (where we identified the current guard to be the Grenadier Guards) and Horseguards – where the stands were being erected ready for the trooping of the Colour.


Horseguards

Then after a rest in Green park, we decided to visit The Tower – we even caught the sun a bit, as the weather was glorious.

The Tower


Tower Bridge

We saw quite a few England shirts and flags during the day – lots of black cabs, and even one bin lorry, were flying them πŸ™‚ We had noted that Wetherspoons were offering a St George’s Day menu so decided we would have our evening meal there.

SGD menu

When I went to the bar to place our order, I said we’d like the sausage and mash meal and the barman was pleased we were being patriotic – and I was pleased that he was pleased πŸ™‚ The meal was really filling but enjoyable and mum and I decided to have another drink. A man, whom we’d seen in there the previous evening with his England-Flag-Sporting friend, came and chatted, having spotted our red roses, and then he chatted about football and seemed pleased (but amazed) that mum is a fellow Palace fan. A little later, another man came over and again, congratulated us for celebrating St George’s Day. He was 74 (he told us) but was a tough little nut and we got the impression he was something of a character in the area. He seemed to take a shine to us and chatted for rather a long time, sitting (uninvited) next to mum and in no hurry to leave. He asked our names and I gave him mine (first name only, of course) but when he turned to mum, she gave a false one – which had me struggling to keep a straight face as I wasn’t expecting that! Fortunately, just before we had to resort to inventing a meeting with our husbands, he left – so we drank up fast, and went back to the hotel. He hadn’t spoiled our evening, but he did cut it a little short as we may well have otherwise stayed for another drink. Still, it had been a good St George’s Day and we felt Dad would have enjoyed the way we’d spent it, even if he would have had considerably more alcohol than we did πŸ˜‰

Photobucket

On Saturday mum took me round some old haunts of hers. She showed me the house (in Crystal Palace) where we had been living when I was born – and told me how she used to have to walk up Anerley Hill when pregnant and dad used to push my pram up it once I was born – it’s an extremely steep hill so I sympathised. I had always thought, being born in BMH Woolwich, that were I to support the football team nearest my birth place it would have been Arsenal, but in fact Charlton is nearest (Ugh!) However, if I were to support the team nearest our home at the time of my birth, it would have been Crystal Palace πŸ™‚ We also went to Forest Hill and mum told me about some of the things she, her sister Janet and cousin Pat had done as children/teenagers – showing me where they used to go swimming and the cinema where mum was watching a film when the film was interrupted to break the news that JFK had been assassinated. It’s now a Wetherspoons, though nicely done, and the name has been retained, and we stopped there for a coffee before walking on to see the house where my Nanny and Grandad lived. I have fond memories of that house – as I am sure, do my brother and cousins. Nanny and Grandad were always so welcoming and we loved going there. Of course, my memories of it are all from a child’s perspective and I remember climbing the really high steps up to the front door. Only when mum and I went there, I saw, from my adult’s perspective, that actually, the steps were not that high at all. πŸ™‚ I remembered the old fire station and newsagent’s too, and mum was pleased to see that Forest Hill had not changed as much as she had expected.

We went back to the main high street for lunch and ended up in a fish and chip shop, and then headed off to Croydon and the Whitgift Centre as I wanted to take back some little presents for the family. Unfortunately, having done so much walking that morning, we found we had run out steam, so ended up returning early to Crystal Palace, looking at the pubs as we went, to see if any looked suitable for watching the Arsenal v City match. Sadly, there were none in which we felt we’d feel comfortable as two ladies alone, so we went back to the hotel and hoped they might have it on one of their large screens. When we got there, I asked a member of staff, who went off to find out whether the hotel had ESPN. Whilst waiting, a small group of people had come in, and I couldn’t believe it – one of them was wearing a City (3rd) shirt! I was wearing a City t-shirt too, and he couldn’t believe it either. He said he had come down for a party and was planning to watch the game on his laptop. In the end I gave up waiting for the staff member to return and went to the room. Mum and I ended up just vegging out on our beds for the remainder of the afternoon and I followed the match via City Twitter updates. I hadn’t missed any goals at least, and actually was quite pleased that we got a point out of it. πŸ™‚

Having had a cooked lunch, we had a picnic tea in our room and actually spent 15 hours on/in the beds in total – anyone that knows me will be as surprised as I was. It was rather pleasant just relaxing though.

At least, it WAS relaxing until about 8.45pm when a group of people in the room on the opposite side of the courtyard, decided to have pre-night-out drinks int he room, along with their friends. We guessed there to be 15 – 20 or so of them and they were VERY noisy. They also managed to open the door into the courtyard (we had assumed this would be for staff access only as it allowed access in to our room via the large window if desired) and they proceeded to stand right outside our window whilst talking on phones. We felt very uneasy about this, not just because of the noise, but also because of the lack of security. We phoned down to reception twice to ask someone to get them to at least shut the door and stay inside, but with the staff speaking English as a second language, they seemed unable to even grasp WHERE we were talking about, never mind WHAT! We gave up staying up at about 10pm and reluctantly got undressed (turning off the bathroom light to do so since there were no curtains/blinds and we would have been clearly visible to those outside) and got into bed. We had also closed our windows which made the room hot and stuffy, but when the inconsiderate party had finally shut up (left for their night’s entertainment) at 11pm, I did open the smallest window a little. I felt they were unlikely to be returning before the wee small hours, having gone out so late, and I was right – mum heard them return about 4am but I somehow slept through their noise.

On Sunday morning, on our way out, I asked at reception about having breakfast on a tray in the room the next day as I needed to leave before breakfast was served in the restaurant. They said that they could not do this as there was no-one to make a breakfast. So I asked about the 24 hour room service menu (as advertised on a notice in reception) and said I’d pick something from that instead. The receptionist said that that had to be ordered in the bar which was only open from 3pm – 11pm so I asked whether I could do that when we returned later and they could do a tray at 6.30am. Erm, no, that was not what she meant, apparently – “24 hour” room service is only actually available between 3pm – 11pm ! We gave up! πŸ™

Originally we had planned to go to Eastbourne by train, but engineering works meant it would be too much hassle, so we went to Brighton instead. We worked out that not only could we save ourselves the journey into London by picking it up at East Croydon, but that our Oyster cards would get us to that pick up point, meaning we needed to pay less for the journey in all. Good stuff! πŸ™‚ As we arrived, we noticed lots of police everywhere and wondered what was going on – so I asked a policeman and he said it was for a St George’s Day march. We walked down towards Churchill Square where we were meeting Rick and Mel for lunch, and while we waited, the marchers came past with a huge police presence. We were pleased to see people supporting St George’s Day but we were not sure if these were just people being proud ot be English or whether they were BNP types – which is a step too far for us. They soon moved past and the roads cleared again. Shortly after, Rick and Mel arrived and we all went for a stroll down to the beach – it was a bit chilly and foggy, but had to be done as mum and I both wanted to visit the sea. We both miss the sea since leaving Sussex, and though Eastbourne would have been our preferred beach, Brighton did the job – and it had been a very long time since either of us had visited Brighton, though it hadn’t really changed a huge amount. We had a very pleasant 3 hours with my brother and his lovely wife and were stuffed by the time we left Pizza Hut πŸ™‚ I blame Rick – he talked us into having starters, pizza AND sweet, though we didn’t put up much of a fight πŸ˜‰

After they left, we had a little look round a few shops but weren’t really in a shopping mood. I did pop in to a phone-unlocking shop which had been recommended, to see if I could get my new phone unlocked. Sadly not, but the man there did say that the software required to do so should be out in the next few weeks so at least I have hope. We picked up a picnic tea for later, and an egg mayonnaise sandwich and a doughnut for my breakfast next day, in lieu of “24 hour room service” πŸ˜› and then walked back to the train station. Just across the road was a likely looking cafΓ© for a welcome cuppa, so we took advantage before returning to London.

We had a peaceful evening, the previous night’s party-goers having left, and I redid my nails a little more soberly, and prepared myself and my bag for my seminar the next day.

On Monday morning,I left the hotel at about 7.15am, walked to the station and caught the train up to Victoria, and the tube to High Street Kensington, arriving at The Kensington Close Hotel in good time for registration and coffee. The seminar was arranged by one of my favourite herbal suppliers and the speaker was one of my favourite Herbalists, Kerry Bone. I had a very useful and interesting day, learning more about Ginkgo biloba and a few other herbs, and finished promptly enough that I could get back to the hotel before rush hour reached its peak.

Mum had spent a quiet afternoon after a morning in Crystal Palace Park and had got us a picnic tea again, which I ate as I got changed into jeans and England shirt ready to go to Selhurst Park for the Palace v Baggies game. I borrowed mum’s Palace scarf too as she had her Palace shirt and fleece, and we set off for our first evening match here. Once again our Palace “ticket Daddy” had got us absolutely fantastic seats, right on the half way line not far back from the pitch. Thank you again, Patrick, you are a star – AGAIN!


Selhurst Park - view from our seat

The man who was sitting next to me was huge – and a bit unfriendly looking, so when I noticed him smoking, I wasn’t prepared to say anything. However, mum noticed too, and said, very loudly, “Is he smoking?” Yikes! Fortunately, he either didn’t hear or chose to ignore, but later it became apparent that he was “smoking” a cigarette substitute – though the “water vapour” cloud smelled a bit strange so he may, or may not, have had something in it.

That aside, we really enjoyed the match and on balance felt pleased with a point, despite the fact that 3 would have done Palace more good. (If the situation was not as it was, a point against West Brom would have been something of which to feel pretty proud.) The Baggies players were niggly, and very physical and we couldn’t believe that Bednar didn’t get booked on several occasions. We were sitting close to the away fans (whom I have never liked) and they did not endear themselves to us at all. Singing “We’re going up” when they already were going up, seemed pointless. Singing “You’re going down” was gloating, but singing “You’re going bust in the morning” was just plain disrespectful and rude. They spent more time singing about Palace’s woes than supporting their own team.There was also some trouble outside but mum and I avoided this by virtue of staying behind to clap the team and staff as they did a lap of honour afterwards. I was very pleased we could do this and mum enjoyed the opportunity to show her boys her appreciation of their efforts this season, despite the off-field trials they’ve suffered. Mum fears that may have been her last trip to watch her team, as she doesn’t know if her health will be up to it in future, but I hope we will go again, and we do both enjoy it so much.

On Tuesday it was time to return to everyday life. We seemed to have packed a lot in to our five days and were pretty worn out. Mum’s feet and hip, especially, had been somewhat overworked though we had tried to take it easy. Unfortunately, we both have yet to adjust and learn what mum can and can’t do now, but we’ll get there. This time last year, she couldn’t have managed any of it!

We travelled up to Victoria together and then went our separate ways – she to Euston and me to Kings Cross. My train was quite quiet which was a relief as during this trip, more than any other, I’d felt hemmed in by other people everywhere I turned, buses being the worst, with their lack of seating and two-door system) and was desperate for some space.

Billy came to meet me at Newcastle and we’d planned to spend a couple of hours in town and then have an inexpensive meal out before going home. But he’d called me earlier to ask if I’d mind him postponing our time together as he had been asked to help out a friend in need – by playing golf! I was less than impressed but told him only he could decide how important it was to help this friend and I’d trust his judgement. So we got the next train home, had a cup of tea, and then off he went! At least the house wasn’t a complete tip as Mrs Gem had been that morning. No washing or ironing had been done though, and there was my rucksack full of dirty laundry to add…….. Ho hum. It was good to be back πŸ˜‰

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