The sky is dark, gray and cool today. I am meeting a group of friends for after lunch but had to decide how to fill the morning. I had breakfast and went to Euston station to get a newspaper and a large tea to bring back to my room for a relaxing start to my Sunday. I thought I would go and have a look at Westminster Cathedral. The pub where I'm meeting everyone is on Trafalgar Square at the top of Whitehall so it's within walking distance of the Cathedral if it doesn't rain.
I took the tube to Victoria station and started walking in the general direction of the cathedral according to my map. I ended up approaching it from the back, past a lot of old Victorian buildings, many of which echo the Cathedral which is constructed of red and white striped brick and stone. I arrived at the door at 11, right in the middle of High, or "Solemn" Mass. I could hear the choir and suddenly felt a need to attend Mass, something I hadn't done in 25 years without a reason (weddings, funerals, christenings etc.) I put away my camera and went in. The cathedral was heaving with people, with quite a few standing at the back or along the side aisles. I am not a church goer but was brought up Catholic and like a great number of people in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on NYC and Washington, felt the need for a little restoration of the soul. Just the sound of the choir echoing gloriously off the exquisitely painted ceilings and the thunder of the massive pipe organ making your chest vibrate was an experience not to be forgotten.
After mass I took the lift up the bell tower for a 360° look out over a gray and dismal looking London. There is a small balcony out a door on all four sides of the tower. Back down in the nave I wandered around with the other tourists and admired the friezes and sculpture and mosaics on the walls of the side chapels. You could still smell the incense closer to the altar. I had a quick browse in the gift shop for a postcard but wasn't very impressed with most of what they had on offer as far as other articles. Seemed kind of cheap and cheesy to me.
I begin the walk towards Whitehall with a stop in a department store called Army & Navy for a bathroom break but the gusts of wind soon carried a heavy misty rain so I took refuge in a bus shelter and took the bus the rest of the way to the Lord Moon on the Mall, where I was meeting my mates. J.D. Wetherspoon's owns a chain of pubs around the country and they situate them in renovated old buildings. This one was an insurance company or bank. I was early and it was crowded so I bought a pint and perched on a stool near a ledge where I could lay my glass and watch the door. I did get a table after about 20 minutes but didn't keep it very long because not long after hearing a few police vehicles screaming by, the owner came around to everyone and informed us that we had to evacuate the building out the back door. Seems there was a "suspect" car down the road and the police were evacuating the whole street! Yikes!!!! This isn't all that unusual for London but a first for me and how was I going to find my friends! I later told another Londoner friend of mine about the bomb scare and her reaction was "Oh, what a bore!!!" which puts it pretty much into perspective for me!
We all traipsed out the back door and I walked around to the corner on Trafalgar square scanning the crowds. One of my friends came across the street just then and I filled her in on the situation. She didn't seem too fazed but we hung around for awhile trying to spot the others and figure out what to do. She knew of another pub called Chandos at the Trafalgar Square end of St. Martin’s Lane, just a short hop away where we could go but the problem was, how to let people know! In the end we weren't allowed to hang about any longer so we wrote a note and hung it out of the letterbox of the pub and headed across Traf. Sq. Fortunately most of the people we were expecting and two we weren't found the note and managed to locate the pub. I say "two we weren't" expecting because two of our friends, John and Nikki from Manchester, unexpectedly turned up which was a wonderful surprise. They were on their way to Glastonbury for a week's holiday so came down a day early for the get together. Another friend had traveled up from Dorset as well! We stayed at there a few hours and then, when the dining room there proved to be full, returned to the Lord Moon for a meal. It was open and Whitehall was all clear by this time.
It was a day of moving emotions, and renewal of old friendships. Tomorrow I'm taking an Original London Walks all day tour of Richmond and Hampton Court.