London February 2019 - Part 2

Right, here we go again. Better late than never? I’ll let you be the judge of that, written, as most of this was, in my head on the school bus home run the other night. A dangerous place – inside my head that is, not on the minibus – mostly anyway.

So, Tuesday and with the first of two visits to the theatre planned for the evening I wasn’t rushing to get going, not least because, as I had been painfully reminded the day before, walking time is somewhat limited thanks to my knee. I know I keep going on about it but it did affect my trip somewhat, however at the time of typing I’ve had my first session of physio so hopefully there will be an improvement soon.

It was a lovely morning so I pottered about, doing the usual caravan jobs – top up the water and empty the waste and loo. In addition there was another task I needed to complete as well. You may recall that in the October trip the pull out canopy was removed with help – thanks Adam – and I’ve been meaning to replace the awning rail protector strip – which obviously now had a large gap ever since, a new reel having languished in the front locker since November.

Firstly however I had to remove the remaining stopper, which again involved prising the awning rail gently apart a little, then gently tapping back with a hammer after. It’s not something I’d do on a new ‘van and it’s not a perfect finish but then at the age of 11 Patsy does have several other marks of er, character about her bodywork and one more won’t make any difference.

It was then I remembered that I’d put away the towing jacket, soaking wet, in the back of the car so, took it’s two halves out for a good shake before loose folding and laying back on the parcel shelf, figuring a couple of hours in the fresh air would dry it off.

With no specific plans for food later I made lunch – OK warmed something up – before heading off, not for the number 3 bus but to the Overground Railway station on the southern side of the park, my eventual destination being Hampstead after swapping lines at Highbury & Islington station.

Hampstead High Street was pleasant enough, sloping gently uphill but suffering, as so many places do, with far too much traffic. At least this time, however there wasn’t a certain red Honda adding to it.

I mooched about a bit, not really enthused then headed for my next port of call which was Hampstead Heath, the lure being nothing more exciting than the promise of a good view of the city from Parliament Hill. The walk to was pleasant, taking in a number of pretty back streets and by one of the entrances to the heath I came across a National Trust sign at the entrance to a property proclaimed to be 2 Willow Road.

The property, designed by one Erno Goldfinger was subject to some controversy, not least because local residents at the time considered it ugly. One of those was a chap by the name of Ian Fleming, him of James Bond fame. It is said that Fleming named one of his villains after the aforementioned Mr Goldfinger in revenge. Not the most attractive property as you can see:

The rest of the walk to, and the view from, Parliament Hill certainly didn’t disappoint and was impressive even though it had clouded over. I found a vacant bench and paused for a moment. There is – apparently – plenty of activity on the heath where throbbing plays a part but in my case it was only the knee. I took in the view, the fresh air and the occasional whiff of marijuana from those occupying a nearby bench.

The plan, when I set out, was to head down the other side of the hill for a meander around Highgate. We did the famous Cemetery on the 2013 trip, but the village was apparently worth a wander. It would have to wait though – had I been more enthusiastic I might have made the effort but with the knee aching and the light fading early thanks to the moody looking skies, I decided to make my way back into town, my saviour being the number 24 bus just a short walk away.

A short walk brought me to the Lyric pub, just around the corner from my eventual destination; The Lyric Theatre. It came recommended by CAMRA’s as a ‘real’ pub likely to be occupied by locals rather than just tourists and so it proved, with a wide range of local beers and and a window seat to people watch it proved to be a very amenable port of call for an hour or so.

Another wander brought me to The White Horse on the corner of Archer Street and thoughts turned from grog to grub as I glanced at the menu. As is often the case here the dining room was on the first floor and proved to be a real oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the rush hour trade below. Whilst waiting for my meal I got talking to a couple from the Midlands who were enjoying the first stay in London, Les Miserables being the main reason for their visit. At first they thought I was in one of the shows, assuming it seemed, that no-one dresses like I do because they want to. However we had a very pleasant chin-wag – and a very reasonably priced meal too. A main course of a tidy burger and chips, a dessert of sticky toffee pudding and a coffee – yes coffee – all for less than seventeen quid in Theatre land. I thought that was pretty good going.

Right, the show in question was Thriller Live!, now in it’s 10th year in the West End. I’d picked it, not least because I like a lot of old wacko Jacko’s stuff but also because it filled my seat/price criteria. When it comes to shows, I’m not that fussed what I see but I have a price limit and and I want a half-decent seat for that price and the view from the first row of the balcony on one side was great. As for the show itself, well it didn’t really hit the spot if I’m honest. The lighting was good, the band were superb as were most of the performers but it just didn’t quite do it for me. There was no story built around the songs so it had a tribute act feel about it. Even the title song failed to ignite my enthusiasm. Good but not great was my conclusion and I didn’t come away with that lovely buzz as is so often the case.

The Admiralty on the south eastern corner of Trafalgar Square was handily placed to empty the bladder – and yes, refill again. Well it would be rude not to.

The number 3 starts it’s journey at the bus stop opposite but the departure board suggested a lengthy wait – lengthy that is on a chilly night when you’ve had a few. Fortunately though it appeared to be a work of fiction as the bus appeared not two minutes later.

It’s fair to say that I was in a bit of hurry to get in and pay a visit on returning to Patsy but risked an accident by diverting a few feet to check the car – you see I had no recollection of shutting or locking it before leaving earlier and whilst the boot lid was down it was still unlocked. All seemed to be present and correct though.

It had seemed sensible to turn the heating right down earlier with Patsy basking in sunshine, bit I was regretting it now, as well as not bothering to make up the bed prior, with both the duvet and pillows feeling like they’d been residing in a fridge.

Never mind though, it had been another good day overall and I was already flipping through the Rough Guide deciding what to do the following day as the duvet thawed, but for that you’ll have to wait for part 3. Yep, I’m afraid there’s more – much more - to come!



London Feb 2019 Part 1

The recent half term break – a week early for us – saw me, once again, drag Patsy up the A23 to Crystal Palace. Yes, it was only October when I was there last but with the threat of closure hanging over the site I wanted to make the most of it. So how did it go?

I had orginally planned to go up on the Saturday – not the best day to be on the Purley Way particularly if aiming for a midday arrival – but then with some caravanning pals coming to Brighton for a few days, I wanted to catch up with them; so decided instead to go the Sunday which is normally a bit quieter traffic wise. Yeah, right.

I'd done very little in the way of preparation but was over at the storage yard in good time Sunday morning to load Patsy up and complete the pre-flight checks – conscious of how much longer it takes with just one. I am getting a bit more organised and a bit slicker but even so I still left fifteen minutes later than planned, though once again successfully navigated the tight right hand turn in one go, helped in no small part by both of Patsy's neighbours being absent and getting much more a swing out as a result.

I didn't spare the horses once on the open road, keen to try and get there as soon as possible, even cycling the dashboard display so I didn't have the MPG reading glaring at me. Rosie seemed happy enough and Patsy is a bit lighter these days. Decent progress was soon halted once inside the M25. For most of the rest of the time on the A23, I barely made it out if second gear. The section known as the Purley Way being particularly miserable thanks to the lure of the retail parks on a very wet Sunday. There were too, in greater numbers than usual, those that just had to get in front of that pesky caravan no matter what and I had to stamp on the brakes more than once, the middle finger getting plenty of air soon after.

So, I was pretty relieved when I finally arrived and even more so after I'd darted quickly into Patsy to relieve my aching bladder before heading to reception to check in.

Pitch 27 was to be Patsy's home for the next few days and thanks to space opposite it was a nice easy reverse with no levelling ramp needed. I did engage the services of the motor mover for the final approach but was quite happy with my efforts. Set up was swift and Her Ladyship was soon warming through nicely though it was clear that the pot holed South London roads had undone my good work – as well as a few screws - in quietening the heater fan down.

I'd brought some of my prepared meals from home and devoured one of those before setting up the telly for the first time in ages. Proximity to what is – or certainly was - one of the most powerful transmitters in the country meant I didn't have to raise the aerial, much less fiddle about with the signal strength meter and was soon watching England demolish France in the Six Nations.

Having dinner for lunch meant there was a vacancy for later so, after the rugby had finished, I took a wander up to the Crystal Palace 'triangle' - about a 10 minute walk away – to procure some supplies – namely snacks and some er, 'research' samples.

I don't know what overcame me but the bag suddenly became remarkably heavy shortly after I left the shop and I can only assume I'd picked up a bug of some sort as extreme thirst followed almost immediately. Fortunately my malaise had brought me to a halt right outside an establishment ideally suited for remedying of such complaints and when I emerged half an hour or so later I felt much better....

Anyway, I was soon back in Patsy who was now lovely and toasty. The telly was on, a beer and snacks were to hand and my ‘boy’s were keeping me company – that’s Teddy, Hamish and Dipsy in case you were wondering who I’d brought home. I was back in my little home from home and about as content as I could be, considering. It was good to be back.

Monday morning brought with it the promise of some sunshine and with temperatures set to climb a bit it was looking like a good week for some sightseeing. First on the list was Little Venice, an area I’d heard a bit about – it was supposed to be pretty and photogenic and so clearly deserving of my attention.

Well, I got there. Eventually. It was a bit of a tortuous journey involving three buses and a massive snarl up in Brixton which caused quite a wait for the second. It didn’t really matter though – my time was my own and whilst I could have get there more quickly – and more expensively – on the underground at least there’s something to look at from the bus. On the tube the only view you get is of people studying their phones and trying desperately to avoid eye contact with another human.

It was a short walk from the bus stop at Warwick Avenue, but soon paused at Rembrandt Gardens to unleash the DSLR and neck some coffee from the flask. Yes, I was in full on economy mode, at least until later. I even helped a young lady with some selfies involving a handbag – after she’d eyed me warily and decided that the weird looking geezer in the long leather coat wasn’t a serial rapist.

This the where the Regent’s Canal splits off, heading south east to the Paddington Basin or east along past Regent’s Zoo to Camden and beyond. I’d no idea how far it was but through caution to the wind and hoped my knee would cope – which it did, just about. It is a very pretty walk once you can get on the tow-path and you get a glimpse of some truly stunning houses along the way. I thought about putting an offer in on one but decided getting Patsy in and out of this part of London would be a bit of a ‘mare…..

We – back when there was a ‘we’ walked the latter part of this once before. Back in 2013 I think we’d been to Primrose Hill to take in the view. This time Camden was a lot less busy. Heaving, rather than rammed and I had a wander around, bemoaning, as before, the gradual diluting of the studded black leather and PVC with tourist tat and designer gear.

Medication was required for me stiff and aching knee but unusually for me I chose wrong, picking a pub that had no hand pumps. I should have turned tail and gone elsewhere but was really ready for a sit down and social media catch up. The beer was too cold, too gassy and with a flavour akin to grapefruit. At least it was wet.

It was here that the sad news came through that Trev’s sister Maggie had passed away after a long illness. Suddenly the beer wasn’t important. Her death wasn’t unexpected but no less sad and I really felt for her husband and two boys. With Maggie’s passing that’s four out of HRH’s five siblings all gone, far too young.

Subdued but with thirst at least quenched I caught another bus for a mooch around Soho but with the knee soon grumbling again I decided it was time to head back, catching the dear old number three bus at the top of Whitehall. There’s a number of pubs here but I chose one down a side road – I only needed a pee but it seemed rude not to buy a drink as well, ensuring that, by the time I eventually got back to the site my bladder was, once again ready to burst.

After the days exertions a quiet evening in was in order. The TV stayed off but with a good book, the radio on quietly and the company of good friends on Twitter to hand I was back in my happy, cosy little home from home.

That’s it for part one, more soon!