It was always going to be hectic, but two days worth of visiting the ‘smoke’ has left us a bit tired, but not too emotional. This was courtesy of the Games Maker e-mail that said I could get cheap tickets to certain musical shows in London, priced at £20.12. Too good to miss, I thought, so opted to see The Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward. On previous occasions it was always a bit of rush to get back to catch the last train home, so we decided to spend the night at my ‘club’, the Union Jack Club, adjacent to Waterloo station. This is a hotel and club for ex-service people and costs the princely sum of £18 a year to be a member, but they offer extremely comfortable rooms at a very good price, in central London. As an aside they also have a bar, restaurant and common rooms to relax in. I’ve been going there for a number of years and have always had a great experience, and because it’s near Waterloo station, it’s easy for us to get to. The water feature in the outside courtyard:
Anyway, we got there early on Thursday, and checked in the bags; they have a baggage storage facility so you can go off before your room is ready, and collect them later. Another lucky thing that happened to me was one of my Team Leaders at the Excel works at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and said she could get me complimentary tickets to visit it. It has had a £20 million facelift, so would be very worthwhile. After dumping the bags we jumped on the tube to Covent Garden (CG). Whoever said London was empty wasn’t in CG that day, it was heaving and as usual most of the people there it seemed were foreign visitors. If you have never been to CG in the summer it is well worth a visit, there’s wonderful food, great (and free) entertainment, and plenty of shops and markets. We had a spot of lunch and went in to the LT Museum where Tara came out and met us and handed over the tickets, which saved us a few bob. The museum was really interesting, and shows the growth and progress of London as much as anything else, the fact that mass transit systems were started in the 19th century is testament to the forward thinking fathers of the city at the time. Strangely though, although a vast majority of the tubes lines were finished by 1906, no more additions were made until the 60’s when the Victoria line opened. It was also a history of other transport in London, including the omnibus, now just called the bus, the taxi and the tram. In the pre and immediate post war period, trolleybuses were very popular. These were popular conventional looking buses but driven by electricity picked up by overhead cables around the main streets of the centre. They were given up in the 1950s because all the old electrical systems needed replacing and it was thought that diesel powered buses would be better. How times change, trams have now been reintroduced, although not in central London yet, only as far as Croydon. Anyway history lesson over, the museum was a worthwhile visit and we are going back again.
Later that evening we found our way to the Prince Edward theatre to see The Jersey Boys, the musical about Frankie Valli and the Four seasons, and it was a fantastic show, with the highs and lows of his life, which in common with, I suspect, many young people from any ‘project’ estate who could turn to a life of crime, the armed forces or become a star. Frankie chose to sing, and the actor/singer who played his part was fantastic at displaying the raw talent that was there at the beginning and as the show went on his voice got better and better. The Prince Edward is decorated in art deco style and in common with many other West End Theatres has very steep seating which gives it a cosy, convivial feel which added to the experience. After we left, we made our way down past Trafalgar Square where the Paralympic clock display was counting down:
and down Northumberland Avenue to Hungerford Bridge and back to the UJ club. A comfortable and quiet night later and we had already decided to go to Greenwich to visit the newly refurbished and displayed Cutty Sark. We got there via the Jubilee and the DLR to exit a hundred yards from the ship, which rises in all it’s glory above the surrounding pavement famously used by the London Marathon and as a turning point. The Cutty Sark was well worth the £28 million spent on it. It’s story is of the greatest and last in the line of the ‘tea clippers’, the word clipper coming from the American expression to ‘go at a clip’, i.e. fast. The Cutty Sark was instrumental after she was launched in 1869 in bringing back tea from China in the fastest time possible because of the sudden drop in the taxes applied to it. The Victorians considered the freshest tea to be the best, and therefore deserving of a premium price, despite it having a three month shelf life. Cutty Sark though was practically out of date before she was 10 years old, because the newly introduced steam ships could cut it’s average journey time of 77 days in half. The Cutty Sark went on to tout for any cargo it could ply between any port and eventually couldn’t achieve even that. In the early part of the 20th century she became a training ship and eventually was put in a dry dock in 1956 in Greenwich where she stayed until starting to be refurbished in 2006. In 2007 she caught fire because of a overheating air conditioner, and was restored back to her former glory. Well worth a visit:
We went from Greenwich via the Emirates Air Line cable car to the Excel, where I spent nine shifts as a Games Maker during the Olympics. The ride across this way was better than my previous trip in the other direction because the views coming towards the Excel and City Airport were better:
From there it was a tube ride back to Greenwich and onto a river boat from there to Westminster, about 45 minutes, not bad value for £4! A brisk walk across Westminster bridge; whoever said London was empty couldn’t have been there on this day, the bridge was rammed full of people, including people gathering around some poor old women who had collapsed on the bridge and was being seen to by the Ambulance Service who were struggling to get through the crowd. Then later near the Eye, the big wheel on the Embankment, another poor old chap who collapsed, and it wasn’t even a hot day, I don’t know what was going wrong. Anyway back to the UJ, where because the rain had started to set in, we had dinner in their superb restaurant and caught the train home. A great two days, fun-filled and we packed in so much in 36 hours, a good way to do it. It’s taken me the Bank Holiday weekend to recover, but it was worth it.