Claire and Ant collected the boys on Monday 21st August. Two days later we went to London for the day, just the two of us this time. We tend to have a ‘London day’ about once a month when we are in the UK. But this one was arranged at short notice, when we heard that Paul would be passing through on business.
Another London day
As usual, we caught the first ‘cheap’ train to London, and went to Leicester Square to get cut-price theatre tickets. The queue at tkts was longer than we’d seen for ages – we had to wait 45 minutes, but we did get the tickets we wanted. After a coffee and a quick visit to Stanfords, we walked to the Embankment and took the tube to Tower Hill. We then headed east along the Thames Path, stopping for a snack lunch en route. We’ve been doing bits and pieces of the Path for the third time, as and when we have the opportunity.
This stretch of the Path goes slightly inland, passing wharves and warehouses, as well as along the river. Although we had no rain, the day was very grey and gloomy – hence our photos are not great. And our time was limited, so soon after passing Canary Wharf we headed for the nearest DLR station, and returned to the West End. By now Leicester Square was packed, but we managed to find a pub with a few spare tables, and Paul joined us there. After drinks, dinner and chat, he took the train back north, and we went to the Haymarket Theatre. We saw Queen Anne, which was brilliant like all RSC productions, although we would have benefitted from knowing more about the historical context.
A sunny day
Charlie and Oscar were back on Thursday 24th, for just two days this time. The forecast for Friday was warm and sunny – and just for once, it was right! We decided to walk our favourite stretch of the Thames once again. So we got the bus to Henley, and the boys explored the playground there. Then we had coffee and headed east.
It was only two days since we’d been on the Thames Path, but the scenery on this stretch is very different from the East End of London. And the weather was completely different too, with hardly a cloud in sight. The boy enjoyed watching boats go through Hambledon Lock – at least we did not have to wait this time! We stopped for drinks at the Flower Pot, sitting in their large garden. Then it was on to Hurley Lock – more drinks and snacks – and finally Marlow. Another playground to visit, followed by dinner in the George and Dragon, and then the bus home.
The boys left us on Saturday 26th, but the warm weather continued through the Bank Holiday weekend. We decided to go to the Notting Hill Carnival on Monday, for the first time ever. We’d been to the Rio carnival, and Mardi Gras at New Orleans, yet we’d never been to one that is (relatively speaking) on our doorstep!
We spent some time trying to work out the best way to get there. As Notting Hill is west London, we thought we might be able to get there without going into central London and out again. Ian pored over bus and tube routes; he even found a way we could get there totally free (using our bus passes). The problem was, we couldn’t get home again – bus services tend to stop early on Sundays and Bank Holidays. So we had no alternative but to go into central London by train. Not cheap… but as the trains run late, it meant we had another opportunity of going to the theatre.
Arriving at Notting Hill earlier than expected, we saw plenty of individuals in carnival costume – lots of feathers, but little else! But there was no sign of any floats. We’d got a map from the Internet which showed the carnival route, but not where the parade started or ended. We asked two of the many police officers who were on duty, but were still confused. Finally, a third officer explained. There is no set time when all the floats set off in convoy – each group parades as and when they wish. More casual and chaotic than other carnivals we’ve been to.
The costumes were gorgeous, but the floats we saw were not much decorated – mainly lorries carrying some of the participants. There were some bands, and some groups danced, but it was not the highly organised dancing we’ve seen elsewhere. Indeed, some individual dancers paused in the midst of the ‘action’ to eat, drink, chat, or use their mobile phones.
As in Rio, many of the shops and cafés in surrounding streets were not just closed, but boarded up. There was certainly a lot of drinking, and incredible piles of rubbish later in the day, when the crowds became so large it was difficult to move. But we saw no sign of violence, although we read reports of arrests the next day.
In the evening we went the Dominion Theatre to see the new version of An American in Paris. The dancing was brilliant, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
After the excitements of the past week, we anticipated a quiet few days at home: just as well as we had a lot to do. Ian made a start on some analysis for one project, and wrote a brief proposal for another. We put the finishing touches to our book, and signed the contract for self-publishing. And we heard that the paperwork relating to the extension of our leases was at last ready to sign – good news which involved a day trip to Slough.
So on Friday we were off again. We had coffee with a friend, signed the new lease at our solicitor’s office, and walked along the High Street, marvelling at the number of major stores that had closed down very recently. After lunch we bought flowers and went up to the cemetery. Although the hot weather last weekend had not lasted (down to 12°C on Weds!) today was quite sunny and ideal for a walk. We walked along the canal (the Slough Arm of the Grand Union) to Langley, then up to Langley Park and down (by different footpaths) to the Red Lion where we had dinner. This was our regular Friday evening excursion when we lived in Langley, so it was a nostalgia trip as well as an enjoyable walk.