Making the most of London

17 Jul

Tiny kitchen and dining room combined

Tiny back section with an overgrown garden. One day soon the cats will be allowed to get out and play!!

I don’t usually show the front of our clients’ houses but this one is so nondescript it probably doesn’t matter. England is full of these semi-detached pebble houses.
We had the smaller one on the left.

Green Finch

Surrey, London

It is very interesting to compare all the different houses we have stayed in while employed by the Housesitting Agency.  This house in Epsom was very modest which is fine but it was also very tinny!  So many things were flimsy and poorly built about it.  I often would pull open a cupboard door and the handle would fall off, that sort of thing happened too often for my liking.  The clients were due to return at 3.30a.m and wanted us to stay with the cats until at least 8p.m on that last day (so they wouldn’t get too lonely) so Dennis had plenty of time to fix all these broken handles, etc while I did the cleaning.

Typical of this modest house, if I wanted to use the oven I had to jam the chair against the door to have it shut properly. The stove top had solid rings which took ages to heat up and cool down.

Evidence of the Jubilee Celebrations still up in London

When the sun shines the feathers on a swallow are a beautiful navy blue

It was another case of not having to stay in to look after the cats at this house sit in Epsom so we made frequent trips into London.

If you stop and look up you see the most fabulous stone carvings

…. all over London

… on the old buildings…

On one such trip we met up with Rob and went to The Globe Theatre to see the play Henry V.    We had booked our “seats” a few days previously and were surprised how busy they were!  We only had a choice of two matinees and that was standing room only.  The lady at the booking desk told us that standing in front of the stage is actually the best viewing place, even though that meant standing in one spot for three hours and she proved quite correct.  The stage jutted out into the audience and on several occasions the actors either walked through the crowd to get up onto the stage or descended from the stage on their way out.  Neither Dennis nor myself have really had much experience with Shakespeare’s works other than when we were in college (which was a negative experience) or the one outdoor play we saw in Wellington a few years back (which we thoroughly enjoyed).  The three of us just loved this one and all felt that even standing for so long was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon!!

The Globe Theatre on the banks of The Thames

Three tiers of seating with a thatched roof on top. The central section is completely open to the elements, so along with the lovely sunshine we had to put up with the frequent planes flying overhead, but it all added to the carnival atmosphere.

The stage juts out into the standing audience. No photos allowed while the actors are doing their thing.

Rob and Dennis, waiting for the play to begin

Signpost at The Globe, Auckland was the furthest away (sob, sob)

A fantastic wrought iron gate, probably three metres high, at The Globe

We were happy to return to St. Helen’s Anglican Church again under the great Gherkin building, right in the heart of London.   Evangelism and church planting are a couple of key priorities for this Church and that Sunday they introduced four pastors who were starting new evangelical Anglican congregations, of the same ilk as St Helen’s, in London.  They each had a core group of 12-20 people already committed and invited regular members of St. Helen’s to join them in spreading the Good News to these four different suburbs.  William Taylor, one of the ministers at St. Helen’s spoke of when his predecessor, Rev Dick Lucas began work here there 1961, he had 6 members in the congregation and now 41 years later with God’s blessing, they have a congregation of 1100.  It is so extraordinary to sit each week amid all these young university students, lecturers, bankers, etc.  We have not attended the morning service but apparently young families and older members fill the pews for this service.

London Eye up close looks remarkably like a bicycle wheel

All over the UK we’ve seen recovering drug addicts and the like making a livelihood by selling copies of The Big Issue but this guy went the extra mile! He stood motionless for ages. I respect these people more than those the just sit and beg. Actually, London has very few beggars though you often see people who sleep rough wandering around with all their bags in tow.

They have just finished constructing the tallest building in Europe – The Shard. Dennis thought a bloodnut in the frame added drama

Dennis took the van in to get a wheel alignment and as is his wont, he spent some time having a chat to the owner of the garage.  He told Dennis that he pays 50% tax on his business and pays rates of 30,000 pounds (double that for $NZ) on the half-acre land and buildings per annum!   He has water rates to pay on top of that as well as all the other business expenses.   Obviously, he was bemoaning how hard it is to run a business nowadays in Britain, especially as people from the EU are entitled to emigrate here and start undercutting the existing businesses!  We do hear this same story over and over again, about how fed up the English are that foreigners are just allowed to come in and do as they please.  They also have a huge problem with illegal immigrants.

Canary Wharf, looking for the Docklands Museum

You’ve all seen the men dressed in silver pretending to be statues, well this one is similar but how does he do it?

 It took two separate trips to do justice to the Docklands Museum at Canary Wharf.  We rate this one as the best Museum in London!  It was so interesting to learn all about how and why London was established along the banks of the River Thames and all the industries associated with it from the beginning of the settlement to current times.  There was one particular guide that was so knowledgeable and so friendly.  Dennis had her complete attention for about 30 minutes, explaining all the finer points of two painting panels that were attached to a curved wall and combined were about 6 metres long.    On the other visit she showed us around a recreation of a typical narrow alley leading down to the river, complete with shops, pubs, houses, chandlers, etc, and gave us a running commentary for an hour about who would have lived, worked and relaxed down in this 1840-50’s East End recreation.  What an asset that lady is to the Museum, a real storyteller who could really bring the history to life, complete with different accents!  We were so happy we found this Museum when we did as parts of this building will become the headquarters for the German Olympic Team during July and August and thus closed to the public.

Canary Wharf has some beautiful modern buildings standing alongside the old features of the Docklands

Blackfrairs Bridge spanning the Thames in the middle of the city with 4,400 solar panels attached. The new Blackfriars Tube Station has only been open for a few weeks, when all the panels are up and running it will supply 50% of the station’s energy needs

After the murder of his former friend Thomas Beckett, the penitent King Henry II commissioned a  stone bridge in place of the old, wooden one with a chapel at its centre dedicated to Becket, now referredto as the Old London Bridge.  This chapel became the official start of the pilgrimage to Beckett’s Canterbury shrine, 192 kms away.  It had a river-level entrance for fishermen and ferrymen.  The bridge took 33 years to build (1176-)and by 1358 had 138 shops built upon it.  Some buildings were up to 7 stories high and leaned out seven feet over the water and over the roadway!  They also had communal latrines, suspended over the river!!  On the north end two waterwheels were installed to pump water up to street level and in the south arches the wheels there were to grind grain in the floors above.  The starlings tended to restrict the flow of water and there could be a drop of six feet from one side of the bridge to the other.  They used to have Winter Festivals on the frozen Thames above the bridge, in those times the river was not contained as it is now and was wider and shallower.  They used to say the bridge was “for wise men to pass over, and for fools to pass under” because it was so dangerous in the water, even in boats, not to mention the many diseases you could contract from the water.  The southern gatehouse was one of London’s most grizzly sights: a display of the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar to preserve them against the elements.  The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate in 1305, starting a tradition that was to last for 355 years. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Thomas More in 1535 and Thomas Cromwell in 1540.

The Old London Bridge was home to many shops, houses and pubs and had a small draw bridge to allow the taller sailing ships through which was also used to stop the bridge traffic at night.

Old London Bridge even had the Chapel of St. Thomas sitting on one of the starlings

The Thames was useful for all sorts of things; not only was it used as the raw sewage system for this growing metropolis, they also used it for capital punishment.  The gibbet was suspended just above the low tide mark and the victim would be submersed by three successive tides .  This was used especially for pirates

The Police in London are very busy just ahead of the Olympics. This pair was inspecting the many wharves around the Docklands/Canary Wharf area. On our previous visit we spoke to a couple of policemen doing the rounds with their dogs trained to detect explosives!  Makes you think….

During WW2 they constructed these Maunsell Forts right in the middle of the River Thames. They comprised seven interconnected steel platforms, five carried guns arranged in a semicircle around the control centre and accommodation while the seventh, set further out than the gun towers, was the searchlight tower.

We have had a mixture of heavy rain for days on end leaving us with a lake on the back lawn, and then the most beautifully warm and sunny days.   Thankfully, we have not suffered from the sever flooding that has been happening around England during this time.  Even with all this water coming down the hose pipe ban is still in place!   

After the rain out comes the slugs, they are enormous!

Canary Wharf happened to have an impressive electric car display…no coveting allowed, Dennis!

…. and the specs

I do feel sorry for the cats, who are stuck inside no matter the weather.  The only exercise they get is running at top speed up the three flights of stairs to the loft and back, up and down, up and down!   On the sunny days we have been very energetic and walked for miles either around the general area or in London.  Once I even fell asleep on the train coming home, very unusual for me but standard for Dennis.  That day we spend hours looking for a particular shoe shop that had the best price to buy Dennis a pair of Loakes.  He was suitably thrilled to finally not only find the shop but find that they had a pair he liked in his size.  We have been to a “few” shops now and been disappointed that they do not have his size 12H in stock!  

The longest day of summer is on the 21 June, nothing unusual about that, just that the sun set was at 21:21!

Oh no! In one of the huge malls at Canary Wharf was this “racing car” brmm, brmm pit. Canary Wharf is now the very upmarket financial district where the docks used to be, home to 90,000 workers. All the major banks have their head offices here.   I was sure that this lame place of relaxation could only be attractive to males but Dennis was delighted to show me one female on the far side looking just as absorbed as the others. Each machine had “authentic” noises to add that note of realism.

The M25 is magic! This motorway encircles Greater London and is often eight lanes wide.

My best friend – the Tom Tom.  We recently had an entire day when it wouldn’t turn on!!  That is a recipe for domestic disruption!  What’s showing on the scene is a junction on the M25, I think.  Imagine me trying to direct Dennis through that maze?

Just about to go through the Dartford Tunnel, taking us under the Thames.  There are actually two tunnels going one way and the bridge takes the other direction but if it’s too windy then the bridge closes and the two tunnels revert to one each direction.  That “chimney”stack is for the exhaust fumes!  150,000 vehicles use these roads per day!!

They have such tall trucks around here. The white truck and bus are just the same size we are used to but the Postal Truck is considerably taller. Those big trucks often have an extra pair of wheels on the front and back, making two sets of three each side, that can be lifted when the trucks are empty.

This bonsai is selling for a staggering 450 pounds ($NZ900) at the local Garden Centre!!

They came late morning and removed most of the weeds growing in the gutter, then laid hot mix over the road, didn’t smooth out or fill the potholes and bare patches, just covered the lot.  By 4p.m. they spray painted this sign at intervals along the street and prepared to leave.  They must have had a visit from the boss man because next thing they were laying down another layer of the black stuff, covering all the signwriting.

A typical example of the state of the roads in the UK.   This is the street we stayed in Epsom.  They had notices up that on Monday there was it was to be a No Parking Zone as they were to reseal it.


2 Responses to “Making the most of London”

  1. Liz Hadfield July 18, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Well I have no excuses really except to say that I had good intentions to log on and read your blogs but just never managed to do it! But a couple of weeks back you emailed and I hit the link and now I am there 🙂 Loved the story about the cats with very specific instructions and still wonder whether you scattered 6oz of food through the house??? We are very lucky to be having Anna,Linton and Eliana stay with us this week. Lovely to meet your newest grandy and to get to know Linton better. What a neat unit they are and I bet you are looking forward to meeting Eliana. Must go as meant to be completing my performance review for work. Take care and I will give Eliane and Anna a special kiss for you xx Liz xx

    • dennisandjanettegowalkabout July 18, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Yes, Liz I do try to folloe our clients’ instructions very carefully! Even though Dennis thinks I’m mad, I figure that’s what they’re paying HIM for…

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