I’ve been in London for about 10 days now altogether. I’m getting to know my way around a bit, know which Underground stations to go to, how to find a bus going to your destination… And I love it! I have been warned about the ‘London Vortex’, a swirl of excitement and energy that means you never leave the City. And I can see how that can happen, with everything it has to offer.
So on Sunday night, some family friends who were over for their son & brother Mark’s wedding (earlier post) came to London Town for a flying 2 night, one full day London experience. Deciding that one of those hop-on, hop-off bus trips was the way to go, we all met out the front of St Pancras station on Monday morning and I put my London knowledge hat on and navigated us to get an Oyster card and onto the tube – this included changing trains, as the Victoria line was broken and that was the one line we needed! Typical.
We eventually got onto the Big Bus and off the wheels went round. Behind the people on the bus is Marble Arch, an old entrance to Buckingham Palace. It has been said that Queen Victoria’s coach didn’t fit through the arch and she demanded it be moved, but in actual fact it was sinking.
The tourist bus ride is a good way to see the city if you have just one day, and several people to chaperone around without the aid of a flag or a microphone.
We got off the bus near Trafalgar Square and joined a walking tour that would take us to the changing of the guard. Last time I was in London with my Mum, we met Mum’s friend Nora and we happened to be at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. I hated it. The crowds got to me (I didn’t cope well with crowds back then) and it all seemed to be too much fuss over something that happens everyday! But, it is tradition, and if there’s one thing I know, is that the English like their tradition, it helps them to remember that once, they were top nation and top nations do traditional things.
I didn’t go on the Eye, I contented myself with wandering around the riverbank and finding things like the statue commemorating the men & women who went to help the Spaniards fight facism in the 3 years before the Second World War.
How much I don’t know about history and how it all fits together! I only know a little about the Spanish civil war that occurred in the hazy days before absolute war broke out across Europe, but sending young men & women to fight “because their open eyes could see no other choice” seemed to be a reflection on the sentiments of Britain at this time. Earlier, the walking tour guide talked about George VI, and how he never expected to be King. He was shy and had a severe stutter, and Queen Elizabeth and her mother believe(d) that his brother caused his early death by abdicating and giving George VI the throne. It is not known how deeply Edward VIII (later the Duke of Windsor – he lived until 1972) was involved with the German Nazi regime, but documents have been found that show how he was to bought back as a puppet king should Germany conquer England, and he had later been quoted as saying that ‘Hitler was not that bad of a chap’. British documents will not be produced until 100 years after the events of his abdication (2036), so until then, we can speculate on how things could have been. George VI, though he was not raised to be King, nor did he want to be, at least did not hold with Nazism. He & his wife prayed & read the bible each night, and used certain passages to get them through the tough times. Current belief is that Charles will not be called Charles III when he becomes King, but George VII, after his grandfather. If I were Charles, I would probably do that too, though he can choose from any of his christened names, which include Charles Philip Arthur & George. There has not been an Arthur in recorded English history, despite some attempts. Could be an interesting choice, but doubtful he will choose it. He’s already had problems with his romances, why incite strife with comparisons between himself and a mythological King?
But mythology was not the theme of the day, so why not round off a sight seeing tour with a look at the Castle to end all Castles – the Tower of London? A boat ride down the Thames and porting just before Tower Bridge, we got off a the Tower. Did not go in, but it’s definitely a sight to behold, sprawling over the green, and if you’re an Australian looking to see a castle, this one is pretty damn special!