musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: London

Passing time near Paddington

In 2016 I visited London and ended up exploring Little Venice and Paddington Station, and of course my trip to South Africa meant I would invariably end up in the area again. I had spent the morning of the 22nd at the Natural History Museum in London (most of it in the queue), and on my arrival back in London I had roughly 3 hours to kill depending on when I got back from Heathrow. I had more or less decided to spend that time looking around close to the station as it was not really feasible to head down to anywhere else. Paddington and Little Venice were my best options because I really wanted to see whether I could find any Paddington Bear statues in the area.

I left my very heavy luggage at the Station and armed with a map of “The Pawprint Trail” headed onwards. The weather was not really great, and I was not dressed warmly as I had not taken much warm clothing with me on the trip. I had two places I wanted to find and hopefully to photograph the Paddington Statues at those spots. I already had 3 of the statues mentioned on the map:

Paddington  statue in Norfolk Square Gardens

Paddington statue on Paddington Station

Statue on Paddington Station

 

The first Paddington I was after was near Sheldon Square and close to the one corner of Paddington Station. Unfortunately it was rush hour and very difficult to find the statue in the rush of people heading to and from the station.  Fortunately I found him, and he was feeling kind of blue by the looks of it.  Taking an image of him was also difficult as he was under a bridge with sunlight on one side and darkness on the other, and did I mention people walking past just as I hit the shutter button? 

The image to the left has been lightened a bit as his face was mostly in shadow. My pic taken I was about ready to head out looking for number 2, but I was also intrigued to see mention of a Michael Bond statue on the map I had been given at the Paddington Shop on the station. It was not too far away and involved crossing the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal where I was and heading towards Paddington Green. It did look do-able so I turned my bows into the general direction and off I went.  I had roughly 90 minutes to complete the job and I would also be able to have a look at the Church of St Mary on Paddington Green while I was in the area. 

The area around Paddington Station looks like this:

The basin was full of assorted narrow boats, and some where very nicely decorated too, and at this point the sun was trying its best to shine. It was a loosing battle though.

I headed towards a footbridge that theoretically came out close to where the Michael Bond statue was, this is the view looking back from where I had come. 

The bridge crossed under Westway but instead of heading to where the statue was I headed off on a tanget which lead me away from where I should be going. It was quite a pretty area though with many old buildings in it. 

Parking was at a premium and cars were stuck bumper to bumper as drivers tried to nab a spot that somebody was trying to vacate. The building above is part of “St Mary’s Mansions”

I continued walking along St Mary’s Terrace until I reached the Regents Canal. It was home to many narrow boats and quite difficult to get an image that encompassed the whole canal. 

Behind me was the very imposing Catholic Apostolic Church in Maida Avenue but I was unable to get anywhere close to it as the grounds were firmly locked. 

I could not quite work out how this area related to where I wanted to be so I decided to return the way I came and see whether I could find the statue again. Returning to the footbridge I walked in the opposite direction from which I had come and duly found the statue of Michael Bond and two others. Actually it was not a statue but a laser cut silhouette artwork and one of three artworks. It appears as if there are associated plaques at the artworks, but I did not look too closely.

(L-R) Michael Bond OBE, author and creator of Paddington Bear. Alan Turning OBE, FRS, 1912 – 1954, father of computer science and WWII code-breaker. Mary Seacole, 1805 – 1881, Crimean War nurse.

Close by was the Church of St Mary on Paddington Green and an associated hall that appeared to be a nursery school. The church was not a large one and it had an associated graveyard. Unfortunately it was not open so I could not go inside to warm up. It was becoming decidedly miserable by now and I was seriously considering returning to the station.

The church was built between 1788 and 1791 and burials ceased in the churchyards in 1857 when the space ran out.  There are two burials areas, the first being around the church and the original area next to the church grounds depicted below.

The church under my belt I headed back towards that station and the Paddington basin where the other Paddington statue was. It was not too long a walk, but a very chilly one.

The statue was shown as being on the left bank and close to the “Fan Bridge” which was in the down position. I could however not find the statue and had to ask for help from a yellow hi-vis vested person.

Instead of being outside the statue is actually inside a building which explains why I couldn’t see it.

Mission accomplished it was time to head off to catch my train, although I did have an hour to kill till it left and I spent that reading, pacing and looking at my watch, the departure boards and the passing crowds.  Once again the train was one of the new British Rail Class 800’s and I had travelled in one on my way to London on the 22nd. I was able to grab a pic of the old and the new on this occasion, and in 2016 when I was here only the Class 43’s were evident.

I finally boarded my train at 11.25 and at 11.36 the train started to move and I was on my way home. I still had 4 hours of travel ahead of me, but was getting closer all the time. I had originally considered staying in London overnight and only returning home on the 8th, but given the weather and my own state of tiredness it is a good thing I did not.

DRW © 2019. Created 08/03/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

3 Hours in London

As mentioned in my previous post, I was going to South Africa to see my mother…. 

Ashchurch for Tewkesbury

Having set off from Ashchurch in the early hours of the 22nd I eventually arrived at Paddington Station in London. 

Paddington Station, London.

This was also the first time that I had traveled on the new rolling stock that was entering service with GWR and it was quite comfortable, although I did feel quite a bit of swaying in some parts of the journey. 

My flight was leaving just before 7 pm so I had a few hours to kill and like my last trip in 2017 I headed to the Natural History Museum in Kensington, determined to see the inside of that glorious building.

It was a bad idea; it is half term in the UK so one 3rd of London seemed to be queuing to get into the museum! I assume another 3rd of the population was queuing at the Science Museum and the rest were en route to them both! It was the longest queue I had ever stood in since the elections in 1994 in South Africa. 

The weather was glorious, and I had worn my warm woolies when I left Tewkesbury and suddenly it was an early Summer! I cannot however comment on what it will be like when I arrive back in the UK on the 7th. It is almost Autumn in South Africa and generally hot with the occasional rain or thunderstorm.

I think it took almost an hour to get into the building and it did not disappoint.

“…in 1864 a competition was held to design the new museum. The winning entry was submitted by the civil engineer Captain Francis Fowke, who died shortly afterwards. The scheme was taken over by Alfred Waterhouse who substantially revised the agreed plans, and designed the façades in his own idiosyncratic Romanesque style which was inspired by his frequent visits to the Continent. The original plans included wings on either side of the main building, but these plans were soon abandoned for budgetary reasons.  Work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. The new museum opened in 1881, although the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883.

Both the interiors and exteriors of the  building make extensive use of terracotta tiles to resist the sooty atmosphere of Victorian London.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_History_Museum,_London)

Because of my time limitations I did not get to see the whole of the building, but what I did see was breathtaking. It is probably the most beautiful non cathedral I have ever seen, and the interior of the old building is jam packed with exhibits and visitors. This is not a stuffy collection of odds and ends, but a collection that encompasses everything. This museum is a bucket list item, and I bet no museums in South Africa would be able to house so many visitors and so diverse a collection without utter chaos. Because of the crowds and my inadequate equipment my images can never do it justice, and of course the sheer size of it makes photography very difficult.

Having completed my visit I headed back to Paddington from South Kensington Station and collected my luggage.

South Kensington Tube Station

After a quick lunch and loo break I left for Heathrow at least 2 hours before I had intended to. I had not been able to check in online and had been prompted to do it at the airport!  Surprisingly enough my booking was still correct and I suddenly had 4 hours to kill at Heathrow.  Airports are a drag; huge places with lots of bored people just waiting to be propelled through the air in a cramped narrow metal tube with wings. I was taking a direct flight again and the flight was scheduled to leave at 18.55.  

However, there was a problem with clearance for 5 people because comms was down with South Africa so we sat on the apron for over 30 minutes before trundling to the runway and then charging headlong into the air. I was on my way.

The flight was scheduled to take just over 10 hours, and while I had much more legroom the seat itself was like a brick and the plane was packed. I felt like yet another sardine….

Continued….

forwardbut

Random Images: Natural History Museum

Random Images: The Rest

DRW © 2019. Created 26/02/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

By the time you read this

I am technically back in South Africa for a quick visit. My journey really started early on the morning of the 22nd, travelling from Ashchurch to Cheltenham and then onwards to Paddington Station and finally Heathrow for my overnight flight.

My mother took a bad turn last December and I decided then that I needed to go down to see her, although having enough leave and being able to get a slot to take it was difficult. I was also tied in by the date for Brexit, and will rather be back in the UK before it happens. Ideally I wanted to do this trip in March or April but beggars cannot be choosers.

So, if things get quieter for 2 weeks you will know why. I will catch up when I get back after the 7th.

Hang in there, keep calm and don’t panic!

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

5 years ago

On this day 5 years ago I was facing my last day in South Africa. At this point the last of my possessions had been moved to the storage unit and there were no more sleeps left as I had to catch my flight. I had accommodation organised for my first week in London, but anything after that was uncertain. On arrival my priorities were: find a place to stay,  open a bank account, obtain a National Insurance Number, have my qualifications assessed, and find work. I had played these scenarios out in my mind a number of times, but was pretty sure that the odds of finding work almost immediately were small. When I had originally planned this I had decided that I really wanted to settle in Southampton, although that depended on whether I found work elsewhere first. I had visited the UK in 2008 so was not completely in the dark about what it was like. At least I more or less knew where London was!

I had a lot of stuff to store, so much so that I hired a storage unit to keep it all in, and the last week I spent driving to and from the unit and offloading into it. The unit also had to be big enough for my car which I had not sold. It is scarey how much stuff I really had at that point, much of which would be superfluous with me being the UK, but I was loathe to dispose of my books and other collectables. 

At my age (52) packing up and leaving is not easy, I literally had to turn my back on everything I had accumulated since I moved out of the family home so many years ago. Make no mistake, I had no loyalty to South Africa, I could easily turn my back on the place without a second glance. I would not be missing “braaivleis, rugby, sunnyskies and Chevrolet”, although I would miss Mrs Ball’s Chutney.

My visa was for 5 years and the start date was 1 January 2013. My original plan had been to leave on the 15th of Jan, but as things turned out I finally left on 28 Feb. 

The last sunset I saw in South Africa for a year

My flight was not a direct one, but via Dubai, and it would be a long schlep with roughly 17 hours in the air and 4 hours in transit in Dubai, and unusually it was partly during the day but I was still dreading the flight the most.

There were many preparations that I had to make; that included changing money (I seem to think the exchange rate was around R14 to £1), getting enough medication to last me at least 3 months until I had organised a doctor and a new repeat prescription. I was not lugging too many clothes around although, and was technically “travelling light”. Because my arrival would be towards the end of Winter I did have to take warm clothing and that included my infamous 20 year old navy parka. I also needed comfortable shoes, and bought a pair that seemed perfect but which turned out to be hell to wear. At the last minute I also bought a pair of Hi-techs that served me very well through many cemetery visits. I was also going to take my coal burning laptop because I would really need to search for work and frankly my small smartphone not be adequate for that task. 

I closed my bank account and killed off as much debt as I could, the one thing I did not need was having to run around trying to placate my creditors. A last minute snag with my broadband provider did cause me a lot of trouble and I ended up fighting with them while waiting for my flight at the airport. Fortunately when things went pear shaped at work my car was finished paid for so it was really a case of paying insurance while it languished in storage. 

It is very difficult to believe that 5 years have almost passed and I am now heading into year 6. I have seen many things in this period or my life, and have taken thousands of photographs to prove that “I was there”. The most difficult thing to believe is that I have literally started over. Although realistically starting from scratch really started in Southampton and not in London.

Was I scared? I would have been an idiot not to be, if things went pear shaped I was up the creek without a paddle, and because I had a one way ticket could not return to South Africa easily. I did not have any friends in the UK that I could call on and I really had to make a success of it as quickly as possible.  The fact remained that I was not able to find work in SA, I was prevented so by the constitution and legislation that enforced discrimination in the guise of “transformation”. It is important to know that my retrenchment was not a result of any racist agenda by the company I worked for, but rather a result of skulduggery by those in charge. Many of my African co-workers were similarly retrenched when I was.

In the 5 years I have been in the UK I have lived in London, Southampton, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Burntwood and Tewkesbury. The furtherest North I have been is Crich to visit the Tramway Museum. I have been to many museums in my travels, and walked myself to a standstill on a number of occasions.  I am much more physically active here than I was in South Africa. I have even started to ride a bicycle, but have not driven in the UK yet (although I do have a license to drive).

What do I find different?

For starters their postal system works! But the much vaunted NHS does not live up to the Doctors and medical professionals that I encountered back in SA, although I was a paying patient in SA (I had a medical aid). What amazes me in my day to day life is how many people I see. Dogs get walked, children accompany their parents to shops or the park, the trains and buses work, the weather is not only overcast and wet, houses are not fortresses, and life does not revolve around driving from home to the mall and back, or braai-ing meat over a weekend

There are negatives too: accommodation is expensive and hard to find, meat is pricey, food can be expensive depending on where you shop, London can get horribly crowded, employers do not tolerate slackers and works starts and finishes on time with overtime being paid unlike in SA. Safety in the workplace is often crazy but it is also there for a reason. 

I have met people from many countries, and I have worked with all manner of nationalities. Unfortunately my poor hearing and their accents does sometime create odd looks. Tattoos and “vaping” are very big, as are tanning salons, betting shops and nail bars. Many of the cities in the UK are in a decline as they are realistically built around old towns with a much simpler layout. I currently live in a small town and it and goes back many centuries and it too is suffering from the accommodation shortage and declining business within its borders. My council tax is roughly £75 per month and on top of that I still pay National Insurance and income tax. I was fortunate enough to find a bedsit and lead my own life surrounded by my ships and toys. I do miss my books, although have quite a collection already. I came to the UK with 1 suitcase and a wheelie bag, I now have 3 suitcases and 3 wheelie bags (and a wodge of other bits and pieces).

The experience has been a life changer for me though, at my “advanced age” (nudge nudge wink wink) I have had to adjust myself to a whole new country, timezone, hemisphere and culture. Fortunately I am somewhat of an Anglophile so it was not too difficult. My biggest challenge has been in the workplace. Lets face it, my skills are out of date and my poor eyesight really negates me applying for jobs that require small work. I have however worked 3 temp job, the first as a baggage handler, the 2nd as a “recycling operative” and the third as an “assembly operative” in the manufacturing industry. Those entry level jobs do not exist in South Africa and if they do come available get flooded by thousands of applicants.

Like many places the UK has its problems. I was here when the Brexit referendum occurred and by the looks of it will be here when Brexit actually happens. Gang violence does occur in some cities, knife crime is commonplace and drugs and alcohol abuse are a problem. Hooliganism and petty vandalism are common too, but alcohol does play a major part in it. Overall people obey the rules of the road (which can be confusing), and parking is expensive. Relatively speaking cars are quite cheap to buy but not as cheap to operate. I do miss my car, especially where I live now which is somewhat of a public transportation dead zone. Rail fares are not cheap either, especially if bought on the day and in peak hours. Bus fares are expensive too (Day rider is £7.50 to Cheltenham and back). However, public transport does exist unlike in SA. The transport system in London is to be seen to be believed. 

The weather does play a major part in our lives, and flooding happens more often here than it does in SA. Gloucestershire suffered a disastrous flood in 2007, and I tend to be nervous when it rains.

Snow is welcome but not an every day occurrence (at the time of writing we are suffering from a week of low temperatures and possibly snow too). I have seen snow 4 times in the UK which is 4 times more than I saw it in SA. Generally though most of the places I have lived had warm but short summers and long cold winters, and 2017 was probably the closest I have come to how the weather is supposedly in the UK; cloudy days and low temperatures in summer.

When Spring starts to arrive the country becomes a riot of colour as the flowers bloom and everything wakes up from its long winter sleep.

I have picked up some strange new habits and have a whole new line of food to try. I have developed a taste for cod ‘n chips, I tolerate “brown sauce” and I really enjoy a glass of cider. Pizza is not that great here, so my consumption of it has declined. I was never much of a meat eater and now eat even less, although I do live on “ready meals”. I do not own a television and if I did the TV license would snag a chunk out of my salary, I do not intend buying one. I have really quick broadband and my cellphone has 4G of data.

I could probably rattle on all day about this stuff, but I think I have covered it pretty well in blogposts that stretch from 2013 right up till 28 February 2018. 

It has been quite a ride, but stick with me because I am here for another 5 years, and who knows what changes will happen in South Africa while I am gone, or what will happen when the UK finally divorces itself from the EU. It is going to be interesting though. Talk about Interesting times.

I will periodically return to milestones in my sojourn from a retrospective point of view. It is always good to look back and say “Wow…. I did that?”

DRW © 2018. Created 28/02/2018

Updated: 15/03/2019 — 07:00

Nelson’s last stand?

Recently there was a spate of “statue bashing” in the United States, mainly centred around statues pertaining to the American Civil War. We are no stranger to  statue bashing in South Africa, and I would hate to think that it originated in South Africa. The dilemma is that one man’s statue is another man’s enemy, and as usual the PC mob is ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth about the whole issue. I can understand their “grievance” up to a point but what I do find irritating is that they really want to expurgate history of what they perceive as the “bad guys”. Whether we like it or not the bad guys shaped the world and enriched themselves and their cronies at the expense of their fellow man. It is history, it happened, we cannot do anything about it but we need to know about it or we end up repeating it.  

The PC mob was also at it in the UK, centred around Trafalgar Square, and Nelson’s Column where Admiral Horatio Nelson peers into the distance from his lofty perch. 

Trafalgar Square is one of the many icon’s that you find in the UK, it is on the same level as The Tower of London, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and a few other things too numerous to remember. In fact, having lived in London for a month is 2013 I got used to seeing the column, so much so that I never really took too many contextual images of Trafalgar Square. I do know that there were lots of people there all talking on their phones, so I tried to avoid passing through it. 

Unfortunately there are those who want Nelson removed because he may just offend somebody. The reality is that he probably doesn’t fit in with their sanitised version of history. A quick glance at the headlines leaves you with the following “….should be torn down because the 18th Century naval hero was a ‘white supremacist’….. ” I kid you not. Incidently, the building on the right trying to hide behind a lamp post is South Africa House,  it is the South African Embassy in the United Kingdom. 

The one thing I like about the British is that they tend to embrace history, warts and all. Nelson probably would turn a blind eye at the frothing and foaming tirade about him being torn down. Personally I would like to see him brought down a bit closer to where you can see him, but that ain’t going to happen. In fact if the bulldozers did rock up the chances are they would be attacked by little old ladies brandishing brollys bedecked in the Union Flag and champing their choppers energetically as they chant “Do not mess with our history!”

Nelson is probably more concerned about the pigeon population than anything else. 

In fact it was the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar recently (21 October) and besides Nelson there is one other remnant of that Naval action by the Admiral. HMS Victory still exists in Portsmouth and she is well worth the visit, and will leave you in awe of the men who fought and died in that battle. Unfortunately she is sans her upper masts and yards so was somewhat of a sorry sight when first I saw her in 2013. I am surprised the PC mob haven’t had a go at her too. 

However, one thing that this statue bashing incident did remind me of was another obtuse reference to Nelson’s Column that I found in Portsmouth when we were there in April 2013.

One of the places where we paused was Fort Nelson, and  one of the things we saw while traveling is this column seemingly in the middle of nowhere. In fact it is surprisingly historical too. 

The handy dedication plaque gives us a bit more information.

Known as The Nelson Monument, it stands on Portsdown Hill about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Portsmouth Harbour and Fort Nelson is named after the monument.  Work was started on 4 July 1807 and it was completed just over a year later. 

I am not sure how visible it would be as a navigation mark though because that was one of the intentions, certainly I was not able to spot it from Portsmouth Historical Dockyard, but that was probably because I did not know where to look. However according to one of the information boards it is used as a fixed point by which the Navy can check the deviation of a magnetic compass. 

When will this statue bashing cease? probably never; there will always be somebody somewhere that will be angry at something, The fact remains that in many cases they are in a minority, and I do respect the fact that they may have an opinion that differs from the majority of people. All advice I can give is for them to walk a different route, or close their eyes as they pass a statue, and if they are so offended then there are other avenues to explore, non-violence being one of them. Nelson would have taken no notice of them, he was too busy winning a battle to care about offending anybody. All he was interested in was expecting that England expected every man to do his duty. 

I do know one thing, if ever I get to London again I had better get more pics of that column before it is too late!

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 02/09/2017. Updated 14/10/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:03

Buried Him Among Kings

Last night, while reading about the Unknown Soldier, it struck me that I I had seen the graves of at least 3 kings. I am not a royalty fan as a rule, because a lot of the misery in this world was caused by their petty squabbles, minor wars, appetite for vast amounts of money and a generally “holier than thou” attitude. Fortunately Queen Elizabeth II has managed to  be a sensible monarch and that has helped a lot.

In this post I am going to root amongst my images and post the graves of “royalty”, and hopefully settle them in my mind because frankly I can never remember which one reigned when and where they ended up being buried. 

My first king is to be found in Worcester Cathedral

Tomb of King John. Worcester Cathedral

This is the tomb of King John, He was king of England from 6 April 1199 until his death in 1216. He is generally considered to be a “hard-working administrator, an able man, and an able general”. Although it is acknowledged that he had many faults, including pettiness, spitefulness, and cruelty, so much so that along with his crony “The Sheriff on Nottingham”. He is the bad guy associated with Robin Hood. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John,_King_of_England)

Gloucester Cathedral is where Osric, the King of Hwicce, may be found. I have to admit I need to look up where Hwicce is (or was). It encompasses parts of Worcester, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. Technically I live in Hwicce.

Osric also shares the Cathedral with Edward II, who reigned from 7 July 1307 – 25 January 1327, and he has been seen as a failure as a king, labelled as  “lazy and incompetent, liable to outbursts of temper over unimportant issues, yet indecisive when it came to major issues”, he has also been called “incompetent and vicious”, and “no man of business”. Like many kings he overspent, although he did inherit a lot of the debt from his father Edward I.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_II_of_England)

And, while we are in Hwicce we can stop at Tewkesbury Abbey where we will find the grave of  Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster. 

He lived from 13 October 1453 till his untimely death on 4 May 1471 during or after the Battle of Tewkesbury

Moving northwards to Staffordshire we can briefly visit Lichfield Cathedral which does not have a king buried within it’s walls, but rather we can look upon the mouldering statue of Charles II who lived from 1630 till 1685. His claim to fame is that he gave money and timber to the cathedral to restore it following the ravages of the civil war. In reality he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is the destination I was aiming for because this is where we find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that was buried among the Kings.

“They buried him among the kings because he

had done good towards God and toward

His House”

Could we say the same about the the kings buried in the sumptuous surrounds of the Abbey?

Unfortunately I never visited the interior of the Abbey, I was fortunate enough that a door monitor allowed me to briefly glimpse the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and I quickly shot 3 pics before being shown the door again. Thank you, whoever you were.

Unfortunately, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral do not allow photography within the buildings so it was not really worth standing in the very long queue.  

The list of kings and their consorts buried in Westminster Abbey is quite a long one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burials_and_memorials_in_Westminster_Abbey) 

Many other kings found their last resting place to be less than satisfactory.

Boudicca of the Iceni is reportedly buried between platforms 9 and 10 in King’s Cross station in London, although there is no evidence that this is true.

King Richard III was recently exhumed from the car park where he was buried. Of course at the time of his death that site was not a car park, but was “in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester”. After being identified through DNA he was reburied in  Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

King Henry I is supposedly buried in Reading Abbey. That unfortunate building is now a series of ruins, but investigations were conducted at Reading Prison which is next to the abbey. Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121 and was always known to have been the final resting place of the King and his Queen Adeliza. When I was there in 2015 it had been cordoned off because of falling masonry. Consequently my pics were taken through the fence.  The bottom right image in the group below is the gateway of the abbey and it is labelled as 16 on the diagram below

That pretty much concludes my brief visit to kings gone by. I hope to expand on this post at a later date as my reading takes me deeper into this aspect of history.

As an aside, Elvis “the King” is buried in the Meditation Garden at Graceland mansion at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Just thought you would like to know. 

DRW © 2017-2019. Created 11/08/2017

Updated: 09/07/2019 — 05:52

Return to the UK

On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.

The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.  

Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.

Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of  water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.

The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage.  Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both. 

I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great. 

I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.

We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.

The train is comfortable and got quite crowded as we got closer to Paddington and it appears as if it is used by a number of locals to commute with. The cost for a ticket is £10.30 (or thereabouts)

At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.

Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.

I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!

The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too. 

I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.

Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”. 

They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train. 

I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited. 

It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014. 

South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence. 

And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.

Random Images.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 08/04/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:49

The Science Museum

The Science Museum in South Kensington is probably one of the most innovative and interesting museums that I have ever visited. It is the sort of place that has something for everybody, and it is probably one of the best places to take children to when they need to explore.  I have visited it twice (2016 and 2017) and would visit it again if ever I get the chance. It is that sort of place! 

The Science Museum

The Science Museum

To cover everything in this blogpost would be impossible, there is just so much to see. Founded in 1857 from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition, as well as a collection of machinery that originated from contents of the Patent Office Museum. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_Museum,_London). There are over 300000 objects in the collection, many of which are very rare and of historical importance.

Over 450 000 children visit the museum every year, which ranks it very highly in museum popularity. 

My first visit in 2016 was a short one, I literally ran out of time and I had really wanted to return at some point but my finances precluded a day trip just to see the museum, unless I was in London for another reason.  

I had heard great things about this museum too. and they are all true; it is an amazing place, although I did find the Munchkins crowded me out. However, they were having a blast and I hope that someday they will become great scientists instead of bankers and accountants or “something in the city.” 

Again there was just too much to see and I did not see a third of it. But, there were a lot of exhibits that tied into my interests. (I will be adding many more images to this gallery below at a later date)

 science1314  
   

Now who says Science is not fun? Oh, and by the way, the basement has a really interesting exhibition in it called “The Secret Life of the Home”, and it was amazing.

My 2017 trip was really to see the flight gallery. I had missed it in 2016, and from what I had read it held a number of interesting aviation artefacts.

   
   
   

Unfortunately the flight exhibition is in a very dark environment so pics were almost impossible to get, I was disappointed in that, but it just means a revisit is required.

From there I explored another area that I had missed, and it was really about communications and computing. 

At some point I will caption the images above, I do not have all of my Science Museum information with me so it will happen when I return to the UK. In the meantime I shall leave you with this image.

© DRW 2016-2018 Created 24/03/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:52

Camberwell Cemeteries in Danger

When I first arrived in London in 2013, one of the first cemeteries I visited was Camberwell Old Cemetery and at the time I did not really take too much notice of it. It is an old cemetery and there is a small chance that I may have family buried there, but I cannot confirm it.

I visited the cemetery twice, and on both occasions the weather was grey and chilly and the remnants of snow may still be seen on some of my pics. I had no real reason to visit it though, and it was by sheer luck that I picked up one of the two Victoria Cross burials in the cemetery during my first visit (Albert McKenzie VC).

The cemetery was really divided in two, the first part being a normal maintained cemetery, while the other being a heavily wooded area, probably much older and reminiscent of Nunhead Cemetery. Given the weather I did not explore very long in this area because the mud and undergrowth really precluded doing very much. I was actually quite puzzled by the state of this area, but I did not know the history at the time. 

The cemetery is located on Forest Hill Road, and covers approximately 30 acres (0.12 km2).  The site was purchased in 1855 and it was originally meadow land.  The first interment took place in  July 1856 and over 30,000 burials took place in the subsequent 30 years. In 1874 the cemetery was further expanded by seven more acres and by 1984, there were 300,000 interments. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camberwell_Cemeteries)

Map courtesy of Kevin Brazier

There are 291 First World War burials, and war graves plot is in the north-east corner of the cemetery and contains two screen walls. One commemorates almost 160 casualties buried in the plot, the other bears the names of those buried in the remaining war graves scattered throughout the cemetery that could not be individually marked. Those remaining graves are much important than we realise in the light of what is happening at Camberwell Old Cemetery.

The war graves plot also contains a group of special memorials to the 14 casualties of the Second World War buried in the cemetery. 

   
   
   
   

So what is going on at Camberwell Old Cemetery?

From what  I can  read in short it is “Southwark Council is cutting down acres of inner city woods to mound over graves and next to dig up thousands of people’s remains to sell their graves as ‘new’ burial plots” (http://www.savesouthwarkwoods.org.uk/home/4593424362).  That will include the unknown burial plots of the war graves scattered that are throughout the cemetery that could not be individually marked. The cemetery is more than a mere burial place, it is a green lung in a busy city, it provides homes for woodland and small creatures, it is a valuable recreational space and it is a historic cemetery. It is difficult to know the whole story because there are two sides to each story, but my gut instinct says that what they want to do is fundamentally wrong, although the rational part of me says that come hell or high water they are going to do it irrespective.  The part that really gets to me is that “the Church of England has said the Commonwealth War Graves Commission do not need to mark the poor soldiers’ graves – to avoid making them seem special and for ‘practical purposes’, that is, to allow cemeteries to bury on top of them”. http://www.savesouthwarkwoods.org.uk/48-ww1-soldiers-graves/4593715253. It would be interesting to know why these graves have been “lost” in the first place and why they were not accorded a CWGC headstone at the time. I do suspect that there may be private memorials involved, and as such CWGC has no real jurisdiction over those graves.   

Camberwell New Cemetery

Before I made my second trip  I first visited Camberwell New Cemetery which is not too far away. It contains 198 Second World War burials, almost 80 of them forming a war graves plot and the rest are scattered throughout the cemetery. A screen wall commemorates almost 120 of these casualties (including those buried in the plot) whose graves could not be marked with individual headstones, together with a further 56 Second World War casualties whose remains were cremated in Camberwell (Honor Oak) Crematorium.  

I will be honest and say that the cemetery was not really memorable, in fact I took very few photographs of the place.

In 1926 the first part of the land was laid out as a cemetery and was consecrated by the Right Reverend William Woodcock Hough, Bishop of Woolwich, and the first interment took place on 23 May 1927. The Crematorium was built in 1939 to meet a growing demand for cremations and it is situated in the cemetery grounds, ten acres of which were landscaped as memorial gardens. 

What did interest me at this cemetery was the Civilian Casualties Memorial that was seemingly under restoration.

This was the first one that I had seen since arriving in London, and I have seen a number of others since then. 

I did not spend too long at this cemetery and set off for Camberwell Old Cemetery to photograph the grave of William Stanlake VC, and I recall at the time thinking that finding it in that mass of vegetation was going to be very difficult, but fortunately the plot was easily found.

Path to the grave of William Stanlake VC.

And then I headed off for home. I seem to recall visiting Motherwell and Brockley cemetery on this trip too. No wonder I was so tired all of the time. 

The destruction that is happening at these two cemeteries is very sad, and while I do not live in London I do have an interest in these happening because I have seen it so often before. I do not think that the destruction and re-use of these two cemeteries can be halted, but I do hope that the damage can be minimised or stopped before these two spaces are irreversibly changed.

It is worth visiting the  Friend of Camberwell Cemeteries website to read for yourself what is going on. Let us hope that sanity prevails. 

© DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 11/03/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:53

Connections: Woodbine Willie

Many years ago there was a programme on local TV called “Connections” and it dealt with how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It was fascinating watching it and I have often tried to link things like that in my own life. Yesterday I found a perfect example. The connection between a ship and an Anglican priest and poet.

It starts off like this:

In March 1986 I went to see the QE2 in Durban for the first time.

I did not see her again until 1991. At that time there was a small ship called Avalon in Durban harbour. Formerly the RMS St Helena, she was now seeking a new career doing cruises to the Indian Ocean Islands.

We managed to wangle a short trip across Durban Harbour on board her as she vacated the berth where QE2 would be the next day.  

Both QE2 and the former St Helena were Falklands veterans. In 1992 I sailed on the Canberra, also a Falklands veteran, and when we arrived in Cape Town the new RMS St Helena was alongside and I photographed her from the Canberra.

I mentally set a goal to see whether it was possible to get a trip on board the St Helena, and I wrote away for a brochure. As luck would have it there was a voyage to Tristan da Cunha coming up in 1993 and I was fortunate enough to book a cruise on this mini mailship

Many years passed, and the RMS St Helena ploughed her lonely furrow between Cape Town and St Helena while they constructed an airport on the island. Once it was completed the announcement was made of the St Helena’s last voyage in June 2016. Of interest to me was her visit to the Pool of London, where she would berth alongside HMS Belfast. I decided to head down to London and watch her arrive and say my goodbye to her.

Upon arrival in London I went to see the RMS arrive on the 7th of June, and it was quite an emotional moment for me. 

On the 8th I revisited Kensal Green Cemetery, and afterwards headed into London once again to see the ship. I first visited St Pauls Cathedral, before heading towards the Thames. In the maze of streets I somehow ended up in Lombard Street, and saw one of the many churches in London, it was now the home of the London Spirituality Centre, or, as it was formerly known: St Edmund, King and Martyr.

During my visit the person manning the front desk showed me a number of wall memorials in the church, and she was very proud of a memorial to somebody called “Woodbine Willie”.

 

I had to admit that I had never heard of him before, but the nickname stuck in my mind because Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was way too much for me to remember at once. Apparently he was the Rector of this particular church at one time. He got his nickname for his habit of handing out cigarettes to troops (Woodbines being a favoured brand).

I continued my walk down to the Thames to say my goodbyes to the RMS and the next day I returned to Tewkesbury to post my blog and recover from my short but exhausting London jaunt. 

Yesterday, I visited Worcester Cathedral, and after seeing the cathedral walked through Worcester, and while I was walking I discovered a number of small bronze statues in the area. I did not pay too much attention to them, just read the names and took the pic. At the one statue I did a double take because the one statue was of Woodbine Willie! 

I was even more amazed to discover that there is a memorial to him in Worcester Cathedral, 

as well as an engraved pane on the Window of the Millennium.

“Woodbine Willie takes the light of Christ to the Troops”

On the 13th of March I returned to Worcester to close the chapter a bit more, walking to St John’s Cemetery where I photographed his grave.

As strange as it seems, this sequence really revolves around how things connected to each other, from the QE2 in 1986 to a forgotten and reluctant war hero in 2017. The key to it is really the RMS St Helena, without seeing Avalon the chances are I would not have recognised the name on the statue. Had I taken a different route in London I would not have seen the church, had I not stopped to look at a statute I would not have read that it was Woodbine Willie. Come to think of it, it is all really the fault of the QE2.

There is a stained glass window dedicated to him in St Paul’s Church in Worcester, that will be the last step of this journey. 

Connections, they are all around us if we know how to tie them together.

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2018, updated 13/03/2017 

Updated: 20/05/2018 — 08:14
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