Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A trip to London

I found myself with a couple of hours to spare in London on Friday. Normally, the only thing I get to see of the capital is the Hammersmith and City line as I hurry from Liverpool Street station to Paddington to catch a train West. This time, I decided to apportion myself a bit of the afternoon to do some sightseeing.

Dressed in my city outfit of brown linen jacket, sage pullover and flat cap I headed straight to Threadneedle Street, home of the Bank of England. Other people seemed to have opted for a more formal look of suits and polished pointy shoes. Every time I go to London I notice that the men all wear polished pointy shoes. My hiking boots looked a bit out of place in Threadneedle Street so I decided to look for the Old Bailey where I was meeting my Father later that day. I knew it was round there somewhere but it wasn't on any of the signs. The reason being that, like Big Ben, it is not what you think it is. Old Bailey is the name of the street. The court is called the Central Criminal Court.

Because the IRA blew it up in 1974, you are not allowed into the public gallery if you have a bag with you. So I sat outside and had a cigarette. Jamie Oliver has bought every restaurant around the Old Bailey and turned them into Jamie's Italian restaurants. Perhaps this is the future of dining out - celebrity endorsement. I'm okay with that provided there is a stipulation that they all have campari negroni on the cocktail menu. 

I drank one and headed to St Paul's Cathedral to see the former location of the British branch of the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement was moved on by the Church of England in February 2012, because (seemingly oblivious to the irony) the church didn't want to be associated with a bunch of social reformers who campaigned for equality.

Quick selfie outside St Paul's
With an hour still to kill, I decided to head south of the river to the Tate Modern gallery that is free to get in (the Whispering Gallery at St Paul's is £18!). I walked over the Millennium Bridge to the South Bank of the Thames which was bustling with buskers and bubble-blowers and human statues that moved if you gave them money:

South Bank
I had a glance in the Turbine Hall - the huge exhibition space on the ground floor of the Tate modern. This is what I saw:

Turbine Hall exhibit.

Understandably wearied from all this cultural exposure, I headed back the way I'd come, pausing briefly to buy some hot caramel peanuts from a street hawker. A charity mugger asked me if I had thirty seconds and when I said "Sorry, I don't have thirty seconds as I am in a bit of a rush." She said, "How about thirty minutes?" If anybody can explain this to me, I would be delighted. 

I waited for my Father in the only bar near the Old Bailey that is not owned by Jamie Oliver where I made friends with the bartender. She gave me a shotglass full of free Smarties.


Friday, 2 October 2015

The Return of the Swiss

Every year at about this time, the language school over the bridge from work (opposite Louis' deli - home of the best Sausage Roll in East Anglia) hosts about 100 Swiss students from an engineering college in Basel. For some reason, some years ago, a group of these students adopted the Temple Bar as their local for the fortnight and since then it has become a tradition that is passed down. Every engineering student in Basel knows that when they come to England for their two week English language course, they must visit the Temple Bar.

My friend who teaches at the school says they are a nightmare group as they are always hungover and not paying attention.

Now that I have a second job ghostwriting blogs for local tradesmen, I am always looking for inspiration. So I decided to do a post for a roofer on the steep pitched roofs you see in the Swiss Alps. As part of painting the picture of Switzerland, I mentioned bank vaults full of Nazi gold and was censured by my editor who said that bank vaults full of Nazi gold was not a suitable thing to mention in a ghostwritten blog for a local tradesman. I rewrote it with a reference to cuckoo clocks or cheese fondue or something but I saw later that the original had been posted anyway. This annoyed me because of the extra work I had done on it, but pleased me because the original was better.