A November 2005 trip
to London by jaybroek
Quote: And so to London. The Blonde was looking forward to the London Eye and putting in her side of the story after starring in so many journals, while the Tomato just wanted to walk. And stare at people.
Of course, I had to bring the Blonde and the Tomato, if only to prove I hadn't made them up and been photographing any old gorgeous mother and baby loitering around Provence. The Blonde had been hankering after a trip on the London Eye for some time, and an opportunity to ride for free was not going to be passed over. Quickly establishing itself as one of the most popular tourist attractions in London, the Eye didn’t disappoint on a clear summer's day.
The Tomato proved himself to be something of a performer in the afternoon in St. James Park. Desperate attempts to shake off the igougoers had failed somewhere on Westminster Bridge however the boy took to his Pied Piper role with aplomb. Unfortunately he now thinks he should always be pushing his buggy rather than sitting in it and is endlessly searching for an audience. The thing about beards doesn't seem to have gone away either.
If you've ever thought that 'the late 20th century may be a fascinating place to visit, but surely nobody would ever want to live in it,'
then a visit out to Spitalfields and the spectacularly eccentric Dennis Severs House is required. Cut off your electricity, block up your plumbing, and pick up some interior design tips on 're-cluttering' your home to achieve that authentic 18th-century feel.
And my final recommendations for a thoroughly enjoyable trip to London? Share a few pints with some like-minded people in the Pillars of Hercules, wander around the Science Museum chatting about Provence with a fellow devotee, take to the lawn in St. James Park and while away the afternoon dodging runaway buggies and occasionally catch glimpses of London from the Eye in between chats with charming new friends. I'm not sure how easily this could be recreated although I understand the comedy duo Mutt and GB are available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.
For transport, start at the Transport for London website where all the ticket deals are explained. The Tube is not an economic way to take occasional journies with a single trip inside zone one (the very centre of the city) costing £2. There are a number of Travelcard tickets available which cover tube, bus, river, the Docklaond Light railway and suburban rail travel at a much more reasonable rate. The cost drops noticeably if you travel after 9:30am on weekdays.
Being something of a London novice I have only recently discovered how close together many of London’s points of interest are so be prepared to walk and revel in the bits in between that you would miss underground.
To build up anticipation for what was to come, our ‘flight’ was delayed long enough for a few hangovers to wear off and for the cheeky one to work his grubby magic on a number of the party. When the call came to board, we headed the charge for the pods – a year of preferential boarding of aeroplanes does that to a family - only to be informed that buggies are not allowed. The Tomato unleashed inside the bubble without restraining mechanism? Is that wise? A further blow was the discovery that we could check only the buggy. The multitude of bags, coats, food and assorted stuff had to remain with us. Bear this in mind, all who follow.
Still, such setbacks often have fringe benefits. We rejoined the rear of the party, largely consisting of friendly female IgoUgo staffers. Smiles and attention for the Tomato, along with a distinct lack of beards (it seems to be facial hair that perplexes – as if he’s not sure which way round the head is). The day was looking up.
The London Eye is a spectacular way to see a spectacular city. Its clever design, placing the cars so they are always on the outside of the structure, ensures incredible views for most of the 30-minute journey. The historic city spreads out below, and everyone begins to snap photos and share their observations. Just over the river to the west is a strip of the most familiar real estate. The imposing opulence of the various government buildings that line Whitehall is book-ended by the reassuring Big Ben and the surprisingly diminutive Nelson’s Column. At the top of the wheel, 135 metres above the Thames, the 360-degree view is complete and encourages a little awe--that’s if you’re not crawling around on the floor or trying to put your hand in the woefully inadequate air-conditioning unit, of course.
The Blonde and I took it in turns to apologise to our fellow passengers, as the Tomato did his best to trip them up or use them as a climbing frame. The Blonde took the opportunity to correct any preconceptions about her that may have developed from my journals, and I mostly sweated.
The London Eye is great. It’s even better than that when it's free and enjoyed with good company, but it does still justify the somewhat steep £11.25 (online) fare.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 22, 2005
The London Eye
South Bank of the River Thames
London, England SE1 9TA
+44 (870) 500 0600
Attraction | "Dennis Severs House"
Since acquiring the house in Folgate Street in the 1970s, Dennis Severs did the exact opposite of all those who surrounded him; scorning modern amenities, he took the house backwards to the time of its construction. Along the way, he invented a family of Huguenot weavers to share the property with him and created a unique piece of living art that he shared with visitors. Michael invited me to wander through the house in silence, exploring the late-18th-century home that the fictitious Jervises shared with their creator.
If you have ever stood before a painting and asked yourself what was happening just off the canvas or what series of events led to what you see (or, indeed, what followed), then this house will intrigue you. The stated desire is to create the sense of sharing the house with the Jervis family, inconsiderately interrupting their mealtime and causing them to flee to another room, where they whisper darkly about the intruder. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but if you suffer from any form of mild paranoia, this experience won’t help.
The rooms are loaded with worn and loved ephemera of 18th- and 19th-century living. This is not a well preserved heritage museum and, while common decency stops me touching the crockery that crams the kitchen dresser or sifting for clues through the papers on the table, the point is that you could. History put in reach - and up your nose, through the profligate use of pomanders, open fires, and damp. There are also clues that tie the house back to the 20th century: knowing incidentals, such as a Royal Wedding mug (Charles and Di – doesn’t look like it has been washed since), a baseball jacket, and cap. Despite the Gothic atmosphere created by candlelight and Michael’s manner, the house is not without humour. There is a need to indulge in a little belief suspension; as in Peter Pan, if you want the fairies (and the Jervises) to exist, they will.
As I explored, I found lots of its. Whether any of them were the it I was supposed to get, I don’t know. I verged on the over-analytical at one stage, favouring some sort of Dickensian social commentary. I tried staring intensively at the paintings, but this just gave me a headache (that might have been the pomanders). But then I decided that, like with any artistic experience, it's your it that really matters, and if it coincides with the artist’s intended it, then, well, happy coincidence.
Dennis Severs House
Article by Jeannette Winterson
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 22, 2005
Dennis Severs' House
18 Folgate Street
Attraction | "The Science Museum"
Set in the midst of all this consumption are, to my mind, three of the finest attractions in London. And they’re all free. The entrances to the Natural History, Science, and Victor and Albert (V&A) Museums are spread around Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road in South Kensington (South Kensington Tube). I have explored them all to a greater or lesser degree – alone, I might add, as the Blonde is blind to their appeal – and can heartily recommend devoting a day to them. Quoting my inner child, ‘Dinosaurs and Rockets Rock!’
For the IgoUgo weekend, the target was the Science Museum and, more specifically, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy exhibition. We arrived early, eager not to miss Tom’s nemesis Mutt and Drever receiving justified entry into the Hall of Fame. Sadly, it was only a fleeting visit for the Tomato as his mother is not keen on him sharing his father’s love of museums (he was showing particular interest too, having made a dash for the upper floors with the Blonde in hot pursuit). I was thus unleashed to bore others with my unseemly boyish excitement and woefully inadequate knowledge of science.
The Hitchhiker’s exhibition generated a titter or two if you share Douglas Adams’ decidedly silly sense of humour. Numerous pieces of the set from the recent movie were on display with the information boards only making intermittent attempts to tie in ‘the science bit’. There is a charge for temporary exhibits such as this (and the IMAX cinema performances), and you might question what is a often a fairly steep charge (this exhibit closed on the 18th September 2005).
The rest of the visit was spent in good company, exploring bits and pieces of the Museum’s seven floors of exhibits. If you’re into big machines, then start in the Power Hall on the ground floor. The Making of the Modern World is fascinating too; the exhibits start to look like something you played with at your Grandmother’s house, while the exhibits of early medical equipment evocatively illustrate the speed of change in this field.
I adore the Science Museum, and what’s more, I adore the fact that I spent a couple of hours happily meandering, and there’s still so much to see. Go and set free your inner geek.
South Kensington, London SW7 2DD
+44 870 870 4868
St James’s Park is the first of three parks that cut a green swathe across the heart of west-central London in close proximity to a wealth of famous landmarks. We strolled across Westminster Bridge and through Parliament Square, nary giving the Palace of Westminster and the Abbey a second glance. Not for us were the historical delights of Poets’ Corner or the Cabinet War Rooms; Horse Guards and 10 Downing Street could wait for another day. We had an appointment with well manicured lawn and ice cream. The party strode on with the Tomato indulging in a well-earned nap while we exchanged tales of daring-do and global adventure.
The park, being the nearest green space to Westminster and Whitehall, was littered on a sunny Friday lunchtime with workers enjoying a little late summer sun. It is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks, dating back to Tudor times when Henry VIII needed a deer park in town for a spot of light hunting and built St James’s Palace to host the accompanying feasts. It has been through a number of major changes since and the current layout owes itself to John Nash and the changes he wrought in the early 19th century. Forming the centerpiece is a delightful lake with a large population of exotic ducks and geese. We paused on the bridge to take in the carefully planned views; to the west, the unmistakable Buckingham Palace is neatly framed by the park’s avenues, while east brings a roofscape one would more associate with Prague (so I was informed by the worldly Mutt). The domes and turrets of Whitehall provide Horse Guards Parade with a most beguiling backdrop.
The Tomato chose this moment to awaken and we found ourselves a patch of grass on which to watch the world go by. As it was, the world at large would have to wait while we watched the Tomato go by. Repeatedly. With the determination and lack of any clear purpose that only a one-year-old can muster, the boy resolved to push his own buggy the length and breadth of St James’s Park. He would have achieved his end too, if it hadn’t been for the erratic steering of said buggy, the inconsiderate placement of deckchairs and his inherent inability to reverse. Thwarted in his initial aim, the Tomato settled for terrorizing idle members of the public and the IgoUgo writing community.
Should you tire of standing outside Buckingham Palace (and you should because it isn’t that blessed with features or excitement) then you could do far worse than take the weight off in the Park. A little contemplation is good for the soul. I can’t guarantee a performance by the Tomato (pushing his buggy is very last week) but it may give you time to catch up with old friends and even acquire new ones.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom