Florida Sailor makes it to Meet, but happened to his shoes?
Florida Sailors UK Trip: Part two, with added Meet report
I had the 'Full English Breakfast', but I had them hold the beans, baked beans for breakfast seem a bit heavy to an American.
After Breakfast I had a bit of a wander, but stopped by the 'Googe Street' tube station well ahead of meet time. I took the tube to 'Waterloo Station' having seen the messages to Bluebottle about how close it was, in retrospect I could have continued to 'Kennington' and saved a bit of a walk. No matter, as I reached the centre of crossing 'Westminster Bridge Road' I felt the sole of my larboard (left) shoe fold back and try to touch the heel - this is not a good thing. I managed to cover the rest of the distance to the IWM carefully stepping 'heel first' I soon met up with MMF who recognised my blue t-shirt, even though I wore an open shirt over it, needing as many pockets as possible for maps, cards etc. We talked for a bit until Icy North and Bald Bloke arrived. MMF agreed to cover the entry for new arrivals while the three of us headed into the displays. We decided to take the lift to the top floor (5th), but the wait was too long so we took the '4th Floor Only' lift and climbed one flight of stairs. The top floor had a huge display of the men who had been awarded the 'Victoria Cross' and some of their stories. The next two floors were dedicated to the story of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The story is one that must be told, and the presentation was excellent - however we were all familiar with the story and it was just a bit depressing. We decided to head back downstairs and see who had arrived while we were gone.
We met up with the rest of the group and set a 4:00 PM meet-up near the cafe'. I decided to break off by myself and explore the grounds as my shoe sole was becoming a bit of a struggle on the stairs. I did find the 'Tibetan Peace Garden' and the 'Ice Tree' trail of interest. Re-entering the museum I encountered Icy North and told him about my shoe problem. He immediately offered to help and headed off to find a good signal for his smart phone. He returned shortly after with not only an address, but also the offer to escort me there.
On the main floor of the museum there are examples of both the V-1 and V-2 rockets that caused so much destruction in the Second World War. As we walked past historical and modern buildings he told me about how some of the destroyed building had to be replaced with modern construction.
As we approached the shopping mall I had my first encounter with the London Subway system. Unlike the American 'Subways' with tracks, stations and trains - the London 'Subways are a pedestrian tunnel under the busy roads that allow crossing without 'Green Men' and dodging buses and taxis. We found a cheap pair of 'trainer shoes' for £13 that would see me home, as opposed to £45 for a proper pair of shoes. When Icy offered to carry my old, worthless shoes in his bag I told him they were headed for the nearest bin, as I had no intention of returning with them. I suspect this is where the 'Bin Photo' contest began.
We returned to the IWM and met with the others at the appointed hour. After a bit more visiting we headed to the bus stop and all scanned our cards to head for Shakespeare's Head. We bought our pints and waited for a large table to clear. After we were established in our booth it occurred to me that I had intended to return to my room to get my gifts (I did not know how common it is to carry a backpack in the city). I excused myself for half an hour so that I could return to my hotel room and fetch my gifts (and towel) for the main meet. (sorry Sasha, I owe you a flag)
The evening went very well, you may have read about my speculations about the church in the opening of the film of 'My Fair Lady', I found an image of a church on-line that I thought might be the site of the set. having been to Convent Garden, I now know it was just St. Paul's Church (not the Cathedral) that is located there. We did have the toast to absent and lost researchers. I saw Amy's image on the Skype page, even if we were unable to link.
As the evening ended I started to walk back to my room. The streets were alight with thousands of people walking to 'make the streets shine' I found myself returning with hundreds, if not thousands of marchers, they only turned off a couple blocks from my door.
Other than the Meet, my other big desire was to attend an Anglican mass, I was raised Episcopalian (American Church of England) and I decided to attend the early service at Westminster Abbey. I took the bus to Victoria Station, including the agent coming aboard to collect the congestion charge from our bus cards (congestion on Sunday Morning)
I expected any service on a Sunday morning in one of the most famous churches in the world to be well attended. I was surprised to find only 3 officiants and well less than a hundred souls in the sanctuary. The Communion Service was very well done, although I would rate it as 'Low Church' - not in anyway to downgrade the service, just to say it was not the 'High Church' with chanted service, incense and the rest.
After the service I called Solnushka who had offered to accompany me on a personal tour of London. She was, of course, accompanied by THE pre-eminent tour guide 'Herself' of London and Moscow fame. She reluctantly agreed to guide me because Mama said 'Please' We first met at the forecourt of the Abbey in the midst of a great celebration. there were soldiers, and sailors and even horsies - lots of horsies and a band! After they marched about a bit and made lots of noise they all marched off into the church.
We decided to walk over to the Queen's house as the guard was supposed to change soon. She was not sure what they were supposed to change into, but it sounded interesting. The square was crowded with thousands of people so we couldn't see much, but there were horses - and bands - and even big men with guns on their shoulders. They all looked very important and serious. After the people began to leave we got to go to the playground! The swings were quite busy, but eventually my guide got her turn. We then began our trek into the City. Just past the horse's parade ground we made our way through the arch and into Trafalgar Square. Admiral Nelson was still standing proudly atop his pillar, surrounded by other proud bronze statues, on the North West plinth there is a large glass fibre cockerel painted ultra-marine blue. Folly is not dead.
But there is still so much to see! Off we head toward Covent Garden. The question of lunch comes to a head. We decide to travel onward with an eye for an interesting repast along the way. The 'White Swan Public House' looms up along the roadside. Mama has to pause and take a picture as it is a location known to one of her favourite authors. Lunch in the upstairs dining room seems to be the order of the day. Herself proved herself to be the master of 'Pick-up-sticks' while we waited for our orders to be delivered.
At last we went to the Garden (a sight I probably would not have picked on my own, but well worth the visit, I am very happy for having had the opportunity to see it) I see someone has added their own reminisces The acts are entertaining, and it seems to be part of the fun to give your coins to a child and let them drop it into the cup or hat. Herself was more than happy to perform this task.
We then headed to St Paul's Cathedral to see the results of Sir Christopher Wren's work. We found an interesting monument to the west, which we thought might be a remembrance of the Great Fire. In any event it had waterfalls and pools that entertained Herself for several minutes.
We then decided to head over the Millennium Bridge. There is a large bronze statue on the approach. looking just at the helmets and uniforms I guessed it must be a monument to the First World War, After a closer inspection we discovered that rather than a large cannon, the men were wielding a fire-hose. The plaque identified it as a salute to the Home Guard in the 'Battle of the Blitz'. I found myself looking into the sky and trying to visualise the V-1 and V-2 rockets I had seen at the IWM - I cannot imagine such a thing. As we reached the south bank of the Thames we decided it was time to call it a day. It was sad to say good-by to such good friends.
Although the meet is over, Florida Sailor’s UK Adventures will continue next week.