Saturday 23 October 2010

20 trains and a bus

That was the final tally for the week once we stumbled through the door on Thursday evening. By and large, Sean and Finn were great on our trip "dahwn sarf" and good travelling companions on the train home. As a bonus, we met up with Adrian for half an hour in a Starbucks next to Kings Cross Station. He was en route to Sweden to pick up the rest of his stuff, having finished his course there back in June.

On Wednesday we didn't cover quite as much of London by train as we did on Tuesday, but we did a fair bit of walking. First we got off at Waterloo and walked to the South Bank to the London Eye. I had actually booked it for the Tuesday so had to pay a £10 "re-booking fee" to transfer my booking to the Wednesday. As if Merlin Entertainments don't make enough money out of this attraction. Judging by the queue on a chilly midweek school day, there are no shortage of takers at £17 per head (£8 for children).

Finn had been a bit reluctant to go up on the Eye when we were talking about it but Sean was dead keen and his enthusiasm soon warmed up Finn, as did the sight of this 130m high wheel by the Thames. We queued for around twenty minutes before being ushered into our pod as it slowly swept past the embarkation point. Soon we were gliding upwards away from the Embankment. The view began to open out to the north and west, with a great aspect down to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I could even spot the familiar (from watching Spooks) ariel view of Whitehall. The City of London was laid out to the east but the south of the city was rather indistinct in the morning sun. The Eye cast an impressive elongated shadow across the Thames. Finn and Sean really enjoyed looking down at the tiny people far below and the barges on the Thames. I don't think Sharon would have been as keen!

The "flight" took around thirty minutes. We escaped the souvenir shop (the boys do like a bit of tat) and huddled together against the chill breeze along the South Bank and across Westminster Bridge. The boys were fairly oblivious to Big Ben. I can remember coming down to London in the early months of 1988 for an interview with a computer company called Triad. I may have come down on the sleeper. I made my way to Westminster by Tube and had breakfast in a fast food place right across the road from Big Ben. It was hard to believe that so many people worked in the vicinity of such an iconic London, if not British, landmark. However, at that age, I decided London was not for me. I felt far happier settling into a working life north of the border.

As it was cold and hunger was creeping up on us all, we darted into the tube and headed for Kensington, to the whole foods market that I had discovered on my trip in March. The boys were agog at the amount of food available at the hot and cold food counters, the salad bar, the soup counters and so on. I wasn't far behind them, the saliva close to dribbling from my mouth. Forcing Sean into a decision else we would still have been there now, and enticing Finn to pick some salmon, we took our containers upstairs and tucked in. After, we went back down so that I could have a wander round the market. The boys were losing patience, only partially assuaged with some chocolate.

Rather than take the Tube again, we set off on a walk along the southern edge of Hyde Park, which turned into a traversal across to Lancaster Gate, past the the Italian Garden. It was a glorious day, albeit cold, and the boys weren't put off by the trek. We took the Tube to Oxford Circus and made our way down a busy Regent Street to Hamleys. As there is a "branch" in Jenners in Edinburgh and with the advent of Toys'R'Us, the likes of Hamleys perhaps doesn't have the cachet and impact it may once have had. Still, we whiled away an hour on various floors. I think we all liked the Lego bit the best. There were some impressive Lego figures including Buzz Lightyear and Harry Potter. We made our way from Hamleys down to Picadilly Circus. I had intended going to Trafalgar Square, as I always remember having a postcard of it from my brother Billy which I stuck on the inside of my cupboard bed in Raasay Drive. However, it was getting late so we took the tube to Waterloo and headed back out to Mortlake so the boys could have dinner and a play with Megan and Freya before it got too late.

On the Thursday morning we wandered down to the shops of East Sheen to buy some thank you gifts and stock up on food for the train before returning for an early lunch. We packed up and said our goodbyes to Ali before heading off on the last of our trains, pausing only to meet Adrian. The weather was good, we all had fun, saw lots of things and got plenty fresh air. And I never lost anyone. It was a good October holiday.

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