Tag Archives: London

A Weekend in The City

What a busy weekend I’ve had.  The father of my children picked The Boys up at 9am on Saturday and I shot straight off down to Elephant and Castle in London to… oh no, I can’t tell you that, you’ll find out soon enough, but I did have the pleasure of seeing The Marquis of Barnet and Carlos Fandango.   The traffic was pretty good and I was there by 11.45 which included a stop off for a coffee and a bun at The Gates of London service station because I was in danger of falling asleep.

Sadly not my photograph

I came straight in through the centre of town and was, as ever, completely thrilled by the view as I crossed the river via Tower Bridge.  In the wink of an eye I could see the beauty of Tower Bridge, the ancient Thames itself, the Tower of London, The Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral and behind me The Shard racing skywards like a living mirror straining towards the sun.

London is beginning to feel like an exciting place again.  There is so much regeneration going on; new and beautiful structures going up and old ones being refurbished.  Yet somehow, London absorbs it all; the old bumping elbows with the new, the ancient holding its head high as it welcomes in the modern with open arms.

After I had finished … the thing I was doing … I headed for Walthamstow to visit my old friend Mrs Gnasher whom I have known since I was ten.  Mrs Gnasher hails from Co. Durham and, despite living in London all her adult life, still has her gorgeous accent and will sing ’The Lambton Worm’ at the drop of a hat (whether you asked her to or not).  For a cheerful version of this song, complete with words and chords, see below.  I suspect the singer might actually be a Manxmen by his accent.

The Olympic Stadium is coming on a treat, giant cranes sweeping over the East End like great, lumbering iron men.  The Velodrome resembles a giant version of those little plastic Pringles boxes – all very exciting.

The Skylon at the Festival of Britain in 1951

I left my lovely friend and headed for The Aged Parent who lives near Staines on the edge of Heathrow Airport.  We had chicken and chips for supper and watched an achingly brilliant documentary about the Festival of Britain in 1951.  The FOB is worth a blog in itself, but I found myself fervently wishing that I had been born in time to have seen it for myself.

They should have re-done it as part of the Millennium celebrations or even for next year’s Olympics but I guess at the moment we simply don’t have the money.  The thing is, that after the war they didn’t have the money either, but what the FOB sang out loud and clear is ‘We’re down but not out’ and the architecture and design that went into it heralded a bright and optimistic new world that gave people tremendous hope for the future.

In the morning, I dragged the AP out of bed and packed her little valise so she could come and stay with me for a while.  Sister the First turned up just before we left for a lovely but fleeting visit, then we headed out to Sister the Second to give her belated birthday presents and have lunch.

We arrived back in Desbo at about 4pm, just in time to bake some cakes for Boy the Elder to take to school this morning for his birthday.  He is 14.  It is not possible.  The Boys were collected from their father at 7.30pm.  I unpacked the … results of my trip … , cooked dinner, put The Boys to bed and now I am here telling you all about it.

It was a lot of miles and I am very glad that I have got a couple of days off to get my head down and  learn how to … (hand is clapped firmly over mouth).


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, History, Life in general, The Wartime Housewife Blog

It’s the times – they’re a-changin’

Please forgive the slightly erratic nature of the postings at the moment, but there are Good Reasons, and these Reasons will soon be revealed.  Ah haa!

Suffice to say that I have spent the day in London, our glorious, if fast, smelly and congested, capital city, doing Secret Things in the guise of the Wartime Housewife.
Two hours to drive down, four hours to drive back.  Mmm.  And it was still cheaper than letting the train take the strain.

Secret Things?  Good Reasons?  Comings and Goings?  And probably Gypsy Signs and dog called Timmy to boot?  Oh, and a black Bentley moving silently in the dark…. actually I made the last bit up, there is no Bentley.

I promise that tomorrow you will get a proper posting and before long, all will be revealed………..


Filed under Life in general, The Wartime Housewife Blog

Riot Riot

I have been on more demonstrations than I can remember in my time.  I have picketed buildings, slept outside embassies, boycotted consumer goods and marched with my head held high, lustily singing campaign songs, sometimes in two part harmony.  I have leafleted, canvassed, collected signatures and stood for election.

The right to demonstrate, to protest and the right to free speech are absolutely essential in a democratic society and I wish more people would do it.  I find the political and social apathy of  people abhorrent and the only time they seem to take to the streets is if someone challenges their inalienable right to personal comfort or threatens their access to free Wi-Fi connection in Starbucks.

OK, I admit that’s a little harsh, but I stand by the sentiment.  We are turning into a society of whingers, tutters and softies who think the world owes us a living, that we deserve everything, yet we need do nothing in return.  Not for nothing are references being made to the ‘L’Oreal Generation’.  Well it’s come back to bite us on the bum.

This year, Britain was days away from being in the same financial state as Greece or Ireland.  A country which once (rightly or wrongly) administered half the world, had manufacturing industries which were the envy of other developed countries, we had shipyards, farming, car plants, steelworks – you name it.

And we buggered it all up.  Successive governments borrowed and borrowed, wasted and wasted, taxed and taxed and spent and spent.    We have not supported our own industries and we have become such slaves to greed that our desperate and misguided pursuit of cheap goods and cheap food have put our own businesses out of business.

If a household finds that it has a reduced income or finds itself with its outgoings outstripping its income, the first and most sensible thing to do is look at how it can trim down the cost of living.  Luxuries go, leisure activities are cut down, shopping bills are curbed, wine consumption may be limited, holidays may have to be curtailed.  This is all done to keep the finances under control so the family doesn’t incur debt whilst strategies are found to stabilise or increase the household income.

If that family carries on as normal, buying on credit and spending  the same as they did when their income was higher, they are soon going to find themselves with mounting debt and unmanageable interest payments.  Even if their income subsequently increases, they will be saddled with the debt they incurred for a long time to come.  If they manage their finances carefully, when the good times come round again they will be in a far stronger position.

If you have over-indulged and  become too fat, however valid the psychological reasons, you have to endure a period of pain where you are obliged to forego eating the things you like and to move about more, in order to have the body shape you want and the comcomitant health and increased energy.

I am no economist and I am no politician and I’m quite sure that those of you who are, are jumping up and down and asking what the heck I know about it and how dare I be so obnoxiously simplistic.  Obviously I am aware that a family is a micro-economy and a country is a macro-economy, and that the numbers and complexity of managing the beast in the red box are eye-wateringly immense.

But it strikes me that the basic principles are the same.  If we stand any chance of enjoying the benefits and services to which we have become accustomed, well into the future, there has to be a major overhaul of the nation’s economy and a major change in our own attitudes to what we can do for ourselves.

As I said at the beginning, I have been on many demonstrations for many causes in which I passionately believed and, occasionally, with hindsight, I was mistaken in my beliefs.  I was delighted to see so many people taking to the streets (shame about the violent and malignant tossers who got so much attention, but they always turn up and always will) to protest about what they believe to be wrong.  I do hope that those marching people will go back home and play their part in supporting local economies and community projects and trying to make a difference on their own doorsteps.

If you have only £15 in your pocket and have to buy school shoes and something for dinner, you (may) have two choices.  You can complain loudly that you can’t possibly manage on that, overdraw by forty quid, buy a pair of branded leather shoes, a tray of lamb chops and knuckle down to a bit of compound interest.

Alternatively you can buy a pair of £12 shoes and make a nourishing lentil and vegetable stew that will last two days.  It may not be ideal – the lentils might make you fart a bit if you’re not used to them and the leather shoes would probably have lasted longer than the supermarket version.  But in the long term,  you won’t owe anyone anything and you’re not giving free money (that you could have saved up for the next pair of shoes) to the thieving, shameless, scumbag banks.  Or the EU.

Right then,  I’m bracing myself.  Put the pitchforks down.


Filed under Politics

London – Part 1: St Paul’s Cathedral

We had the most wonderful time in London.  We got to the Aged Parent’s gloriously warm house  late morning, and headed into town for lunch and an afternoon of cruising round the shops.  The day was finished nicely with fish and chips and the DVD of ‘Nativity’ – I sobbed throughout, as usual.

We got up relatively early for a Saturday and headed into town on the tube.  The Boys get very excited about going on the tube, particularly Boy the Younger who oohs and aahs at every bit of dark tunnel and every bit of decorative tiling at the stations. 

Our first stop was St Paul’s Cathedral.  I last went there in 1982 so it was a glorious revelation for all of us.  The first revelation was the entrance fee: £12.50 for me and £4.50 each for the boys.  As I was standing, swearing vilely at the information board, a very kind Guide pointed out that if we nipped across the road to the Tourist Information kiosk, they would give us a tourist map which had a 20% discount voucher.  Therefore, entrance for we three plus a guide book came to just over £21.  It had better be good, we thought.

It was.  We were given ipod thingies which had the most extraordinary guide, including film footage and choices of information so you could tailor your visit completely to your own interests.  Boy the Younger had to show me how to work it, of course.  It’s really hard to describe the wonderfulness of it, particularly as you aren’t allowed to take photographs but one of the highlights for me was seeing William Holman Hunt’s painting ‘The Light of the World’ which I find unutterably beautiful.

St Paul himself

Naturally we trudged up the stairs to The Whispering Gallery and whispered frantically to each other – thankfully wheezing works just as well.  There was also a Eucharist Service performed while we were there which was lovely and what was even nicer was that virtually every hour, the clergy asked for a moment’s peace for prayer and contemplation which made me somewhat less inclined to order the merchants from the temple.

Boy the Elder then decided that he wanted to go up to the next level, The Stone Gallery.  This involved another hundred or so stairs, so he and BTY skipped up with the camera with instructions to photograph London.  They came down with some smashing pictures and demanded that we make an unaided attempt on the summit, aka The Golden Gallery.

Taken by Boy the Elder

Now, I went up there in 1982 and came down every step on my bottom, pausing periodically to change my underwear, and I only did it then because I was trying to impress a boy.  I had forgotten just how hideous it actually is.  The dome of St Pauls is actually in three parts.  There is the inner dome which is above The Whispering Gallery.  There is then a conical structure on the top of that, around which is built the outer dome which is the familiar and iconic image of St Paul’s. 

Also taken by Boy the Elder

In order to ascend to The Golden Gallery at the top, you have to climb a narrow, open fretwork, iron spiral staircase which winds its way between the cone and the outer dome.  On either side and below, it just drops away into darkness.  There are narrow platforms which serve as passing places, but otherwise you just go up and up and round and round in a way of which Dante would thoroughly have approved.

We got about a quarter of the way up when BTY did what I was desperate to do, but couldn’t because this time I was trying to impress MY boys.  He burst into tears and wouldn’t go any further.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was.  We scuttled down and ran straight into the crypt for some refreshment.

And that is where the horror started. 
I jest – but can I just tell  you that a mug of tea, a plain scone, two tiny tubs of fruit salad and two Fantas came to £14.95.  Another change of underwear please.

I will tell you about The West End and our arrival at home tomorrow.


Filed under Family and Friends, History, Outdoor Activities, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Religion

Out and About

I’m afraid there will be no post on Saturday for two reasons.  Firstly, as I sit here on Thursday night, in my dining room with no heating, with the temperature outside nudging -2o, I can see my breath billowing against the computer screen and my hands are shaking so much that I keep mis-typing.  I have prepared the Sunday Poem but that is as much as I can do for you my friends.

The second, more pleasant reason, is that by the time you read this, me and The Boys will be on our way to London for the weekend.  We will go out with The Aged Parent, with whom we are staying, on Friday afternoon, then on Saturday we are going into town to see the sights.  I’m going to take them to Hamley’s Toyshop (taking care to make them wear extra underpants – just in case), then to see the Christmas display in Selfridges windows and then we shall hop on the tube and have a look at St Paul’s Cathedral.  We were watching Mary Poppins yesterday, so I might just dress up as a chimney sweep and pounce on them from an alleyway with a tortured Cockney accent.  Or maybe I’ll take their tuppences and…

On Sunday we’re meeting up with my sisters in St Albans to visit the walnut tree which we planted in Victoria Park as a memorial to our father who died a few years ago.  We don’t often get the chance to meet up all together so I’m looking forward to the visit and a pleasant lunch.

I’m off to pack for the weekend now, after which I will snuggle up in my warm bed.
Thank God for electric blankets.


Filed under Family and Friends, Leisure, Life in general, Outdoor Activities

Sunday Poem 60

I bet this is one most of you haven’t come across before…

Shadwell Stair – by Wilfred Owen

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair,
     Along the wharves by the water-house,
     And through the dripping slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
     And eyes tumultuous as the germs
     Of moons and lamps in the lapping Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
     Where I watch always; from the banks
     Dolorously the shipping clanks,
And after a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
     And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
     But when the crowing syrens blare
I with another ghost am lain.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art


Sorry for the lack of blog today – the Boys have been down in London this week with Sister the First and we had to arrange pick-up at Sister the Second’s in Buckinghamshire.  Bad night for travelling, Friday.  Boy the Elder is then off to Summer Camp in North Wales with The Scouts at 7.45 in the morning, so early nights all round.  Forgot to get a packed lunch so have just had to do an Emergency dash to Saino’s.  Ho hum.


Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday Poem 10

This is one of my favourite poems.  I’m glad to say that I was made to learn it at school and it one of the few poems that I can pretty much quote from memory.  When I worked in London, I would often recite this to myself on hot, stuffy summer days, when the air and noise of the city was becoming unbearable.  

I am also a person who cannot go near the sea without going in; I have paddled at Cley-next-the sea in November, I have swum off Brighton in March at six o’clock in the morning  in my underwear, I have struck out  from Gigha, surrounded by seals, on a September evening without my underwear, because the sea calls to me in a way that makes me ache. 

Reading this poem again, I am struck by the power of the rhythms and aliterations and I can see it all.

The Ice Cart by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962)

Perched on my city office-stool
I watched with envy while a cool
And lucky carter handled ice …
And I was wandering in a trice
Far from the grey and grimy heat
Of that intolerable street
O’er sapphire berg and emerald flow
Beneath the still cold ruby glow
Of everlasting Polar night,
Bewildered by the queer half light,
Until I stumble unawares
Upon a creek where big white bears
Plunged headlong down with with flourished heels
And floundered after shining seals
Through shivering seas of blinding blue.
And, as I watched them, ere I knew
I’d stripped and I was swimming too
Among the seal-pack, young and hale,
And thrusting on with threshing tail,
With twist and twirl and sudden leap
Through crackling ice and salty deep,
Diving and doubling with my kind,
Until, at last, we left behind
Those big white, blundering bulks of death,
And lay, at length, with panting breath
Upon a far untravelled flow,
Beneath a gentle drift of snow –
Snow drifting gently, fine and white,
Out of the endless Polar night,
Falling and falling evermore
Upon that far untravelled shore,
Till I was buried fathoms deep
Beneath that cold, white drifting sleep –
Sleep drifting sleep …
The carter cracked a sudden whip:
I clutched my stool with startled grip,
Awakening to the grimy heat
Of that intolerable street.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art