Another full day; a sleeping bag too big for its stuff sack. We got to Alex at Starbucks just below Barclay’s corporate headquarters at the ‘Wharf’ (a colloquialism reserved for those who work there) on time and it was great to see him and catch up. Not surprising to me he has made the transition from senior Army bloke to banker type (it’s all ethical you know) with ease and is doing well. We exchanged all our family news but, as it was his coffee break and with our outside slot verging on chilly in dull sun with a supporting cool wind, we didn’t spend anywhere near enough time on the detail. There will be a next time.
To get to see Alex we had taken the train from Abbeywood to Greenwich and walked under the Thames using the pedestrian tunnel and then north across the Isle of Dogs. What, at one time, must have been a rough area is now a cross between farmland and Hampshire village. There’s a big (listed Grade II) parkland covering much of the area. But before you know it you’re among the
Millwall docks, all of which have been transformed into luxury apartments, posh eating establishments and offices. Canary Wharf is so much more than a few high rises. Indeed, after seeing Alex we stopped for a picnic on another quay just north of the main towers. As we sat and munched away at pate and bread you could sense the hum of money moving its way into, through and out of the many banks and investment houses that dominate this small, chic city. It’s a never-ending ‘ker-ching’ of a place which deservedly has had a bad press, but probably contributes more taxes to the upkeep of the NHS than any other equivalent piece of ground. So we mustn’t complain.
We now had about six hours to kill before we were due at Peter and Karen’s for supper. We took the DLR to Bank and then the tube to Tottenham Court Road. C has this gap in her Big Fat Italian Wedding wardrobe – no appropriate hat. Sure she has hats: a bike helmet, ski helmet, summer straw hats, winter fleecy
hats, but no BFIW hat. We did Oxford Street, which was an experience. Those department stores with specific wedding hat sections were just(!) beyond the sort of money we wanted to spend, and probably wouldn’t survive the Easyjet experience. The plethora of accessories shops majored on ‘fascinators’…..not really her. The rise of these decorative hatpins is understandable for younger women, but they’re probably not quite right for the whole ‘C goes to Italy for a Catholic Wedding’ thing. Bless.
But what was interesting about Oxford Street is there are thousands of people buying stuff and lots of fashion on display. But somehow in the maelstrom of clothing consumerism what people buy doesn’t seem to be what people end up wearing. Unlike Paris or Milan where the general shopper scores a 9.7 on the elegance scale, London hasn’t quite caught up with ‘the look’. Even though over half of the shoppers must have been foreign, and by genetic pool have more fashion sense than anyone born a Brit, it was a drab Tuesday afternoon in London. The sun may have been out to sharpen the colours, but the folk just missed that opportunity to look good. Ok, in our current state we’re hardly elegant, but whilst London architecture has emerged from a period of discolour and dullness, the overwhelming feeling of fabulousness has yet to make an impact on the public who have as much fashion sense as an old folk’s home. Come on London!
We had tea in Trafalgar Square where the arrival of a large French Cockerel on the fourth pillar was a mystery. It’s by German artist Katharina Fritsch and will be on display for eighteen months. Boris Johnson unveiled it and couldn’t help but make phonographic references to it, and, apparently, it’s a symbol representing power and regenration. We both saw: big blue French cockerel, the Gallic blue in particular completing the assumption. It’s great, big as a bus, but clearly the French taking over the square. It’s as irreverent as the poppies in the moat are intensely serious, so worth a visit. The National Galley next which was, as always, fab. We didn’t do it anywhere near enough justice, but C had a good look at her fave, Stubbs’ horse and we both spent sometime pondering Michelangelo’s cartoon.
Still with time to spare we crossed the river and sat near Tommies and listened to Emily Lee, a lyrical folk busker who did a great job of entertaining us and everyone else who stopped by. You can stream her original music from Facebook or similar – just google her. Worth a listen.
We them ambled west down the south bank to Peter and Karen’s new flat in Peninsular Heights. Just a stone’s throw from Westminster and on the ninth flour, this shortish tower block sits on a curve in the river that gives those with the right balcony probably the best view in London. (Karen tells us that Peter Stringfellow. Tommy Steel and Jeffrey Archer all share the same view just from different floors…) My photo doesn’t do it justice, but trust me, it’s something else. There was a v pleasant crowd of us for supper, with a couple of Peter and Karen’s international friends and their daughter Sarah and her friends. It was a grand way to finish the whirlwind that was London and, having slurped their red wine (there’s a theme emerging here) we took a late(ish) train back to Abbeywood.
So, off to Dover today to meet up with Richard and Caroline, and then tomorrow onto Brindisi for the BFIW. We have no idea what to expect and C still hasn’t got an appropriate hat. Oh well…she’ll have to stick a flower in her hair.