Saturday, December 03, 2022

National Windrush Monument

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The National Windrush Monument.

Anyone travelling through Waterloo station, since late June of this year, will almost definitely have seen the 3.5 metre (11.5 feet) tall bronze National Windrush Monument. 

The Monument depicts a family (father, mother, daughter) dressed in their 'Sunday Best', while standing atop seven suitcases, which contain all of their worldly belongings from their Caribbean home. 

The monument is dedicated to all those who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain between the arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948 and the Immigration Act 1971.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Rail Adhesion Trains (RATs)

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A C69/77 stock train converted to be a Rail Adhesion Train (RAT) on the Metropolitan line.

Every now and again I see these Rail Adhesion Trains, usually in the Autumn/Winter months and usually at Watford Metropolitan line station, but I never understood what they did.

Coming back from London, last Sunday evening, a Rail Adhesion Train was in the sidings, so I took a photograph and decided to do so some research to find out what this train actually does.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Christmas Lights By Bus Tour


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Crowning Glory.

Sunday November 27, 2022.

As a treat my mum booked tickets for herself, my grandson Theodore, Erin, Keilyn, Emma and myself.

After meeting up at Watford Metropolitan line station, we made our way to Finchley Road, where we changed to a Jubilee line train and continued on to Waterloo.

As we had arrived early we had time to grab a warm drink and a quick snack, form one of the many stalls along the Embankment.

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A little something to warm us up.

Suitably fed and watered we made our way to our stop, on Belvedere Road, and waited in line for our bus. Being at the front of the queue enabled us to pick the best seats. Erin, Keilyn and Theodore sat at the front of the top deck, below the covered area while Emma, mum and myself sat in the open air, which allowed for a better view.

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Our Carriage Awaits.

The weather, which had been unsettled and drizzly for most of the morning, was dry with a mild temperature, until we boarded the bus and the drizzle started again. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Woolwich Free Ferry

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Looking from the south terminal to the north.

Although you can traverse the River Thames by foot, either by bridge, tunnel or cable car, you can also choose to go by train, by road or boat.

The Woolwich Free Ferry, however, is only suitable if travelling from South Woolwich to North Woolwich, but it is still a fun way of travelling and offers some great views along the Thames. Plus, it is completely free to use.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Trafalgar Square: Fourth Plinth

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Nelson's Ship in a Bottle.

Ever since Trafalgar Square was opened, in 1844, one of its plinths, situated in the northwest of the square, has remained empty. The other three plinths have statues of King George IV, General Sir Charles James Napier and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock.

It was supposed to have a statue of King William IV affixed, but a lack of funds left the plinth unadorned.

In 1998, the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce commissioned three contemporary sculptures to be temporarily displayed on the plinth. 

Shortly afterwards the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, commissioned a report to seek public opinion on what should happen with the fourth plinth.

The report recommended a rolling programme of temporary artworks rather than a permanent figure. 

Ownership of Trafalgar Square was transferred from Westminster City Council to the Mayor of London, in 2003, which marked the beginning of the Mayor of London's Fourth Plinth Commission.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Little Ben

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Little Ben.

Standing outside Victoria Station is a 30 foot replica of the Queen Elizabeth Tower, which is colloquially known as 'Big Ben'.

This replica has been used as a meeting place, since 1892, when French people caught their trains to the English ports. For almost all of this time is has stood where it was erected, except for being removed for a road-widening scheme and also when refurbishments took place at Victoria Station.

It is a wonderful little gem that, unless you are visiting the Victoria area, many people miss.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Florence Nightingale Museum

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Florence Nightingale.

Friday October 28, 2022.

With so many museums about a myriad subjects it is often hard to choose which to visit. Fortunately, Erin and Keilyn made the decision to visit the Florence Nightingale Museum, which is in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital, so is easy to reach. Emma booked the tickets and off we set.

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Turkish lantern.

The museum, although small, is packed with information concerning the life of 'the lady with the lamp' from her childhood through the Crimean War and beyond, with each area of her life in three distinct areas.

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Stained glass.

There were also two family 'trails', of varying difficulty, that children could attempt, where they had to search the museum for specific items or pieces of information. This was a good way of keeping the girls engaged, rather than just looking at the exhibits. There are also interactive exhibits, which allow you to explore her life.

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Florence Nightingale's final bedroom.

All in all It was a fascinating trip around the museum where we all learned a great deal. Like, why she was called Florence and that she owned over 60 cats.

Friday, November 11, 2022

A Splash of Colour

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Lest We Forget.

I sit beside a fallen tree, looking across my field that has been transformed, these past years. My once lush, emerald pasture has been replaced with a patchwork of myriad browns. My once proud trees lie twisted and broken, like so much mangled machinery, spread without any thought or care. 

Diffused sunlight causes the timber frames and mangled steel of rotting machines, to appear to dance before me, like ghostly silhouettes on the uneven ground. 

Water, which fills the pits and troughs, reflects the dull, colourless sky, adding to my sombre mood. My heart feels heavy. Nothing moves. Nothing lives.

But, suddenly, there is clarity. The droplets from the fine rain, acting like a lens, focus my attention. Among the detritus, at the edge of the field, is there movement? Do my eyes deceive? I resist blinking, trying to focus on the apparition before me. Finally, I blink and the form takes shape. The shape of a man. A man who is staring at me,  as though he can see into my soul. 

My body aches as I rise to my feet. I feel the figure watching me, as I make my way into the field, if it can still be called that.

My progress is hindered by the thick mud, which sucks at my boots, threatening to pull me down into the bowels of the Earth. The figure before me turns, heading toward the centre of the quagmire, seeming to float across the surface. My breath becomes laboured, as my ageing body fights to keep me moving forward. As we get closer to the centre, the figure seems to undulate in-and-out of focus. A wave of nausea sweeps through me as the figure turns and holds my gaze. Tears fill his eyes as he dips his head. With a last great effort I step forward, throwing my arms around him, but he disappears and I topple into the mud. 

The sun, which has finally won its battle with the clouds, breaks through and warms the ground around me. And as I fight my way up and out of the decaying ground, I notice a splash of colour. As my eyes try to focus and my mind works to make sense of everything, exactly where the figure had stood, is a flower, swaying in the gentle breeze. 

The sun illuminates the thin wisp-like stalk, topped with blood-red petals. Somehow, against all the odds, surviving in the mud and detriment... a poppy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Trafalgar Square: Nelson's Column

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Nelson's Column.

Whenever you visit Trafalgar Square it is impossible to miss Nelson's Column, on its pedestal, surrounded by four bronze lions. However, getting a good view of Lord Nelson, at the top of the column, is not so easy.

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Nelson's Column.

It is strange, now, to think that when the square was being designed it was to be named for King George IV, in celebration of his ascension to the throne. When this was changed and it was decided to name it after Lord Horatio Nelson the plans still did not include a column, nor fountains.

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Erin and Keilyn sitting with one of the bronze lions.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

National Covid Memorial Wall

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National Covid Memorial Wall.

The National Covid Memorial Wall stretches for a third of a mile along the Albert Embankment, from Westminster Bridge to Lambeth Bridge.  It was a risky idea as it could be interpreted as criminal damage, as no permission had been granted.

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National Covid Memorial Wall.

The first hearts began appearing in March 2021, when members of the 'Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Campaign' arrived and began painting hearts on the wall.

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National Covid Memorial Wall.

At the time of writing there are over 150,000 hearts painted or drawn onto the wall. The idea being that there be one heart for each person who had Covid listed as a cause of death on their death certificate.

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A staggering figure, that could have been much worse.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames

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Keilyn and Erin ready to board the Horrible Histories Terrible Thames cruise.

Friday October 28, 2022.

Erin and Keilyn, both, are really into their history and love reading the 'Horrible Histories' books. So, when we spotted a 'Horrible Histories' ferry sailing the River Thames, we just had to take a trip on her.

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Looking across the River Thames towards the Terrible Thames boat tour.

With the vessel, 'Silver Sockeye', due to depart at 10:45 we made sure that we were there in plenty of time, so that we could be at the front of the queue to grab the front seats. We headed upstairs and sat at the front on the port side, with the stage just in front of us.

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Erin and Keilyn on the stage with Tower Bridge as a backdrop.

Monday, October 31, 2022

County Hall


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The County Hall from the River Thames.

Thursday October 27, 2022.

I have visited The County Hall, to see the London Aquarium, The London Dungeon and other attractions housed within the building, but I had never stayed in this iconic location. So I was over the moon when Emma booked us in to the Premier Inn for the night, during a recent trip to London.

Most of the building is private property, but if you speak nicely to security, and the building isn't too busy, you can go into the main foyer for a quick look around.

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The County Hall at night.

Besides that, the building is pretty much off limits to the public. Still, it was great to see inside areas not normally accessible and the view from the hotel room wasn't too bad, either.

At night the entire front of the building is lit up, making for a striking light display.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Jurassic World: The Exhibition


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Time to get up-close-and-personal with some dinosaurs.

Thursday October 27, 2022.

Having travelled back in time, in 2018, to see Dinosaurs in the Wild, for Keilyn's 5th birthday, it was only right that we should take a trip to Isla Nublar to visit the Jurassic World Park.

We arrived at the port and took our place in the queue to have our photo taken with some dinosaurs, before we waited in line for our ferry to Isla Nublar.

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Advertising for Jurassic World.

The trip to the island was uneventful, considering that the previous ferry had been attacked by a dinosaur on its return journey. We did, however, spot a flock of Pterodactyls soaring majestically through the air.

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Erin and Keilyn preparing to enter Jurassic World.

Once we had disembarked we made our way through the Jurassic World gates, which were made from the reclaimed wood from the original Jurassic Park gates, and came face to face with a Brachiosaurus. 

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The Brachiosaurus, a gentle giant.

There was a raised area from which to gain a better view and the entire area had binoculars, which allowed you look down into Gyrosphere Valley, where various dinosaurs could be spotted.

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Looking through the binoculars into Gyrosphere Valley.

Passing beyond the Brachiosaurus and through the deep jungle we cam across an animal transport truck. The truck began rocking from side-to-side and a rumbling roar could be heard from within. Soon the head, and upper body, of a Stygimoloch peered over the back of the truck at us. 

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A Stygimoloch not happy with its transport.

Not wanting to hang around, in case it escaped, we hurried into the Hammond Creation Lab. 

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The lab was seriously hi-tec and was covered in screens, which showed how DNA was extracted, while others showed information of the dinosaurs on the island. Incubators were also dotted around, with some containing unhatched eggs, or sleeping baby Parasaurolophus. Other containers held various 'dino-poo', which allowed you to feel the different textures between that excreted from and omnivore, herbivore and carnivore.

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Baby Parasaurolophus in the Hammond Creation Lab.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

'MV Royal Iris'

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A forlorn sight.

As I was wandering along the River Thames from Greenwich to Woolwich, I spotted this rusting hulk, moored on the quayside, just east of the Thames Barrier.

She looked like a ferry, but not one that I was use to seeing on this particular river, so I knew that I would have to do some research, when I had finished my walk.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Pearly Kings and Queens

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Pearly Kings and Queens.

Considering every Borough of London has a Pearly King and Queen, it is rare that I have ever seen them. So, I was quite pleased to see some out and about during the State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

They were friendly and more than happy to pose for photos, as the crowds dissipated following the funeral procession.

As this was one of the first times that I seen them up close, I thought that I had better find out more about them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment

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Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

Of the roughly fifteen military barracks, within London, the guards of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment are, quite possibly, the most easily recognised. 

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King's Life Guard.

Known as the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals these are the monarch's bodyguard and can be seen, daily, at Horse Guards Parade, which is the ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace.

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Blues and Royals.

Most notably they perform ceremonial duties throughout the year, such as the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, Garter Ceremony at Windsor Castle, State visits, etc..

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Great Fire of Tooley Street

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On Saturday June 22, 1861, at about 16:00, a fire was spotted in Cotton's Wharf, on Tooley Street. It is believed to have been started when a worker in the wharf dropped a cigarette, but this is not confirmed. 

Despite Cotton's Wharf having sturdy fire protection, the surrounding buildings were less protected and the fire spread quickly, especially with the goods held in Cotton's Wharf. These included rice, tallow, hemp, jute and sugar. 

At around 17:00 the London Fire Engine Establishment were informed and joined the two private fire engines, from a local distiller, that were already on the scene.

By 18:00 there were 14 fire engines trying to extinguish the blaze. The River Thames was at low tide, so the river fire engine could not be used as it was unable to draw water from the shallow water.

Soon, though, the blaze became so great that the fire engines were forced to retreat as spice warehouses caught light, distributing spices into the air.

Reflections, 2022: A flotilla on the River Thames

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HMS Belfast and the City of London.

Saturday September 24, 2022.

To honour the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III a flotilla of ships sailed along the River Thames as part of a tribute by the river community.

The flotilla of 150+ illuminated boats, of all shapes and sizes, with the rowbarge 'Gloriana' as its centrepiece, began its journey along the River Thames from Albert Bridge. 

Deciding where along the River Thames to view this spectacle was a tough choice; 

Did I stand on one of the bridges and look down on the flotilla? 

Did I pick a spot near the Palace of Westminster, where the river is narrower, allowing for better shots? 

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The perfect backdrop.

No. I would stand opposite HM Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. This would give me an excellent viewpoint of the HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge, with the Tower of London as my backdrop. Besides, the flotilla had to pass through Tower Bridge, which would be raised, and that is always a joy to watch.

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The flotilla begins to arrive.

As dusk turned to night the armada of vessels began arriving to the west of Tower Bridge. A tannoy sounded on Tower Bridge and the crowds, who thought that they had picked the perfect spot, had to leave the bridge so that the bascules could be raised.

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Tower Bridge with her bascules raised.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Streets paved with gold. No, but paved with wood, sometimes.

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Wooden detail on the road.

"London's streets are paved with gold." - Uh, no they are not.

London's streets have never been paved with gold, obviously. They have, however, been paved in concrete, tarmac, cobbles, cork and wooden blocks, throughout the years. And, depending on the area of the city, a different type of wood was used: Australian Jarrah a hardwood was used in the 'posh' areas, while Swedish a yellow deal softwood was used on the main thoroughfares.

Although the idea of using wood had been around for years, it wasn't until 1839 that wooden blocks were first trialled on the streets of London, outside the Old Bailey.
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Chequer Street.

Then, in 1843, a meeting was brought to discuss the discontinuation of the use of wood in favour of granite cobbles (setts). Wood had proved to be problematic and it was found that the blocks would need to be covered in pitch and sanded. Also, accidents were occurring where roads went from one type of surface to another. The wooden blocks becoming slippery in wet weather.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II


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Farewell, your Majesty.

Monday September 19, 2022.

I was unable, due to working and other responsibilities, to visit HM Queen Elizabeth II as she lay-in-state, so I made sure that I would be able to visit London on the day of her funeral.

With Erin and Keilyn up and ready, early, we headed off to catch a train to London. Changing from the Metropolitan line to the Jubilee line, at Finchley Road, we arrived at Green Park station at 09:30 and followed the crowds towards Hyde Park.

The stewards directed the crowds along Piccadilly and up Clarges Street to Curzon Street and up South Audley Street and onto Stanhope Gate. We then walked along Park Lane until we crossed the road and entered Hyde Park.

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Giant TV screens in Hyde Park.

Not wanting to sit in front of the giant TV screens, that had been erected, we headed south towards Hyde Park Corner. This area was already full, so, turning west, I led the girls along South Carriage Drive until we were opposite the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment barracks. With few people in this area we took up position by the barriers and waited. It was 10:36.

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Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment barracks.

At 10:48 the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment left the barracks and headed towards Westminster, our position providing the perfect location from which to watch.

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Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment head off to perform their duties.

Then, at 11:36, the King's Troop Royal Artillery passed us, heading to a section of sealed off park from where the gun salute would be fired.

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King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery on their way to perform the gun salute.

With rucksacks full of food, snacks and drinks we had a small picnic as we waited for the procession. With toilets directly behind us and water filling stations situated quite close, everything we needed was in close proximity.