Monday, March 2, 2009

Advance to Go or Go Directly to Gaol!

This morning armed with
· tube and bus map,
· London map,
· a list of railways, streets and squares with the closest tube stations worked out, and
· backpack laden with water bottles, scarves, biscuits and fruit
we set out to capture the Monopoly Board! Surprisingly, there are a number of central points around which a whole lot of the squares are clustered. And then there are other squares that are nowhere near any other ones!

One thing is for certain - there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the layout of the monopoly board - the sequence of the squares bears no resemblance to any directional or other link between them!

In fact, it almost appears that when the game was designed, someone picked up the cards with the names of the proposed squares on it, threw them in the air and then laid them out according to where they fell.

We had tried to plan the day around tube station points, but no matter how we planned, there were times when we went over the same points, back-tracking and going forward again - in fact, very much like playing the board! Two steps forward, land on Chance or Community Chest, and move back a step!

We soon discovered that we needed to avoid Oxford Circus Station if we didn’t want a long walk between the various rail lines. But there were steps and steps and steps at every station. After a day travelling the Tube our calves ache and my feet are beyond aching. And just don’t mention the hip!! Thank god for drugs.
We started the exercise by catching the Tube (Metro) to Leicester Square and managed to excite one of the staff at a local Pizza Hut take away window so much when we focussed on the street sign above his outlet that he began to pose for the camera! Leicester Square is where they launch many of the upcoming movies and shows and they were obviously setting up for another one soon. Michael managed to pose with a favourite character – Charlie Chaplin which is in the centre of the park in Leicester Square. Then it was off to Trafalgar to get the Square, Pall Mall, Northumberland and The Strand.

And so it continued all day. Back to the Metro, a few stops, up into the beautiful early spring sun (hey – March has arrived and with it the gloom has been banished) to walk to another street or station sign, time to reflect shortly on the landmarks around it and then back into the cavernous warrens of the Metro to do it all again. It is very easy to see how during WWII the whole population of London could be hidden underground. In fact, on the walls at Warren Street there are tiled mosaics of mazes that indicate jsut how much a rabbit warren it can be!

At Hyde Park Corner, we not only get Park Lane, but Michael also gets to visit the Royal Artillery and the Wellington Memorials as well as giving him a glimpse at Hyde Park itself. See, bonuses all round.

As we were walking up Regent Street we passed the British Tourist Information Centre and were able to collect brochures on the Cotswolds, Wales and Scotland – that was a bonus!!! Another bonus was the opportunity to get some interesting photos of London in the changing light of the day.

A day in the life of the Metro is very interesting indeed. It is interesting to see how many times that station staff don gloves to collect litter with those long-handled claw things. And how easy it is to send the whole system into disarray - as happened today when a signal failure near Embankment (Station) caused long delays on the Circle line that dominoed through the whole network. Thankfully it was all but fully clear by the evening peak hour.

Today was the day that we had been promised the return of our beloved Digital SLR should it be fixable. Yay – it is! And so at the end of the day, we part company – me off to get Liverpool Street Station and Michael to collect the camera (after forking out £265 – you Aussies can double that!) And the advice from the guy who cleaned it? Try not to use it so much - you see we had worn out the shutter mechanism but gosh, can’t see the logic in having a camera and not using it! Guess it really doesn’t owe us much but can’t help thinking that Nikon cameras should outlast 10,000 plus photos! While up that end of town he also managed to get Marlborough Street - on the Nikon!!

While waiting back at Holborn just outside the Station, I marvel at the tenacity / stupidity of people willing to risk life and limb to weave in and out of peak hour London traffic on pushbikes. For every one that I see with a rider in a helmet, I see at least one other without. Mind you, they have reflective safety vests, masks with filters and flashing front and rear lights - but no helmets. And of course then there are others with no safety gear at all. And all the time, they zip in and out of London Cabs, London busses, motorbikes and cars – brave or foolhardy – you judge. Tried to get a photo or two but gee – I had the little point and shoot camera didn’t I and it just doesn’t do moving shots at all well. Arrgghh

There were a few squares we didn’t get – Fleet Street, Whitechapel Road, Old Kent Road, Fenchurch Station, Angel Islington, the Water Company and the Electricity Company – they were too far from the other squares we did get to visit in one day. Oh, and there is no Bond Street in London – so we have to be happy with Bond Street Station.

And so, after 6:30 pm we leave in the end of the peak hour crush from Holborn to return to Stratford to cook the last of the veges and get ready to pick up on the road tomorrow.
Initially we are off the Welwyn Garden City so I can show Michael the house that my brother Michael has just sold, the Roman Bath House excavated during the construction of the M1 (and now underneath it!) and maybe Hatfield House. It will also allow us to get to a large TESCO store where we can get new wiper blades, a micro screwdriver set (for glasses screws tightening) and other such obscure needs. Then it is off to the Cotswolds. The only black cloud on the horizon is just that – rain is predicted in the area by late tomorrow for a day or two. Can’t complain – if it eventuates it will be the first time we might be impeded some way.

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