Category: London

Looking back on 2019

In memory of Olive Walker, Tony McGregor, Rudi Van Dijk, Pam Price and Graham Armstrong.

2019 is having its last gasp and frankly I think I am glad it is almost done and dusted. It has been quite an eventful year and not all of it was good. 

In my life the most significant event happened when my mother passed away on 1 October.  I returned to South Africa in February to see her for what I knew would be the last time, and in October I returned to attend her memorial service.

It is hard to know how I feel about her death, there are just so many memories, regrets and guilt that it is easier to not deal with it. 

South Africa on the other hand had changed for the worst. Eskom continues to ruin the economy and at one point imposed rolling load shedding right up to stage 6. The concept of maintenance was forgotten once again and they are counting the costs of listening to bean counters, corrupt suits, cadres and consultants. The exchange rate on 23/12 is £1 = RZA18.54. 

On the political scene the UK held a General Election in November and Boris Johnson is the new PM and hopefully will make sure Brexit happens. It is however hard to know where politics will go in the UK, over here an election can put a different party in power whereas in SA an election just changes percentages. 2020 will be crunch time for this country, although we thought that October 2019 would be crunch time too. 

The weather did wreak havoc in the country with widespread rain and floods, Tewkesbury having 3 flood scares in 2 months. At this moment both the Severn and Avon are running high and there is a lot of water about.

(1500 x 655)

I did quite a few day trips of note this year, with Oxford being visited 3 times as well as visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and Great Malvern. Evesham is still a favoured destination and of course I passed through London on my way to South Africa. 

Oxford was an experience though and I may head back there in the new year to see a few places that I missed.

(1500 x 529)

I also want to visit Didcot Railway Centre next year and am going to have to return to London to renew my passport in February or March. 

Celebrity, politician and other noteworthy deaths for 2019 include: Jan-Michael Vincent, Albert Finney, Peter Mayhew, René Auberjonois, James Ingram, Ken Kerchevel, Niki Lauda, Grumpy Cat, Doris Day, Rutger Hauer, Peter Fonda, Robert Mugabe, Jacques Chirac, Chester Williams, James Small, Clive James, Denis Earp,  and Marie Fredriksson. A more complete list is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2019

It was a bad day for aircraft builder Boeing too as the loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302  on 10/03/2019 caused the safety of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft to be brought to the spotlight and as at the end of the year it was still grounded. Too many people lost their lives because of this aircraft and confidence in flying took quite a bump. Confidence in America has nose dived too and we all know why that is.

The closure of Reefsteamers is a major shock though, and it came hot on the heels of the 100th birthday of Susan, the only 12AR in the world.

Greta Thunberg has also had her fair share of publicity, and it is difficult to know whether there is an ulterior motive behind her or not.  She certainly has admirers and detractors in her camp but even if she turns out to be a hoax hopefully enough people will realise that our climate is changing and not for the better. A number of animals have gone extinct and we all know who to blame for that.

We certainly live in interesting times, and our Western lifestyles are probably going to bring about our own downfall. At the rate things are going we are heading for a global catastrophe, and the end result of that will not be a good one. Hopefully saner minds will prevail, but somehow I doubt it. 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a peaceful and prosperous 2020, we are now back in the 20’s and that hasn’t happened in ages. 

DRW. 2019-2020. Created 29/12/2019.

Updated: 30/12/2019 — 19:23

X Marks The Spot

Today is election day in the UK, and this election will turn out to be a very contentious one. It will make or break the future of the UK and will have serious ramifications for the well being of this country and the rest of Europe.   

Who to vote for? Realistically it is down to either the ruling Conservatives, or the bit champing Labour party. Both are seriously flawed and the latter even more so. The fact that the leader has a Marxist leaning is detrimental to everybody if he does come into power. The Tories too have their faults, but it is really down to choosing between a rock and a hard place.  

The Houses of Parliament

The biggest issue is Brexit; and this is really what triggered the election in the first place. The end game of that decision is now nigh, it needs to be concluded as the uncertainty of the future is detrimental to the economy. 

The one difference between this election and a general election in South Africa is that in the UK there is always the chance that a different ruling party can come into power, whereas in South Africa every election is a foregone conclusion; it is just the percentage lead that changes. 

Tonight I will go cast my X, I have not decided who to vote for, but I do know who not to vote for. 

By the weekend  we could have a new government and a new direction, but it will always rest uneasy as far as I am concerned. Fake news and voter manipulation is already affecting how people will vote, and we all know who to thank for that. 

Update 14/12/2019.

The votes are more or less all in. Boris has been given a mandate to do his thing. Labour has shed votes like crazy and once again the people have spoken.  Its all over bar the autopsy and name calling and blaming.. 

Poll results as at 07.14, 14/12/2019:

DRW © 2019. Created 12/12/2019

Updated: 14/12/2019 — 07:18

Heading South

I was very fortunate that I was able to find a flight to take me to South Africa to attend the service for my late mother, and like all of these things there is a lot of preparation to be done before I actually get on a plane. Thanks to my explorations in Oxford  I now have an alternate city to travel to London from. My flight was due to leave at 22.30 which meant I was able to leave for London a bit later, although I still had to leave home early to get the bus for Evesham first.

540 to Evesham

My train arrived at Paddington at 13H30ish which left me roughly 3 hours to kill in London before I headed over to Heathrow. However I was somewhat stretched for ideas as there were a few things that were scuppering my possible plans. Fresh rain would have made a cemetery visit too muddy, and the ongoing protests by Extinction Rebellion (XR) ruled out any visit to Tower Hill or anything in that area. I was really left with the Kensington Museums again so I decided to head out to South Kensington Station to have a look. Unfortunately there was at least a 20 minute delay on the whole Circle Line so I had to change over to the District line from Paddington to Earl’s Court on the Wimbledon Branch then changing to the Upminster branch and bailing out at South Kensington. It was do-able but would take time to change trains.

Earl’s Court

Then it was a longish walk to the London Science Museum via the subway that serves it and the Natural History Museum. It had started drizzling outside so the subway was perfect for my purpose.  I had pretty much photographed all I wanted in the Science Museum though, but wanted to look at the Flight Gallery again as it had been very dark on my last trip. The museum was full (again) but after a few distractions I found my way to the correct place. Unfortunately the darkness issue was still present so my pics came out iffy.

The seaplane is a Supermarine S.6B from 1931. This aircraft won the Schneider Trophy on 12 September 1931. The famed trophy is also present at the museum and is quite impressive to see but awful to photograph. A lot of aviation milestones are represented by the trophy and the Supermarine S.6B became the fastest vehicle on Earth when it set an absolute speed record of 656 km/h (By comparison at times our jet aircraft was flying at 917 km/h). The other two aircraft in the table above are the Hawker Hurricane (v) and a Spitfire MK-1A  (P9444, c/n 6S.30613, in 72sqn markings as ‘RN-D)

The cockpit below is that of a DC3 “Dakota”

Having seen the Flight Gallery again I headed down the stairs towards the basement. The one item that was missing was the large circular energy ring that I had seen in 2017. I had thought that it was a permanent part of the museum, it was certainly impressive enough to have been, and the place looked kind of drab without it

Time was marching and the rain outside scuppered my plans to walk back to Paddington via Kensington Gardens and I returned to South Kensington Station and then Earl’s Court and finally onwards to Paddington.

Heathrow was packed as usual and I had to kill roughly 5 hours till my plane left, and a very slow five hours they were indeed.

We boarded at roughly 9.30 and the plane had about 250 on board. It was a very cramped flight though as the person in front of me tilted their seat all the way backwards, leaving me almost stuck in place. It was not a fun way to spend over 10 hours.

I watched 4 movies: GodzillaKing of the Monsters, Toy Story 4, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and finally Alita: Battle Angel.  The last movie was interesting as I had read the Manga and seen the anime before. It was quite enjoyable and the time passed without any major health issues on my side which was a good thing.

 

By 10H30 we had landed, and it was hot! In fact for most of the time I was in South Africa the midday temperature was seldom below 30 degrees.  The only exception being one morning when it felt as if I was back in Tewkesbury during Winter. In spite of 2 electrical storms we had almost no rain, although the opposite was not true of the United Kingdom.

South Africa was also undergoing “load shedding”, which is really caused by the end product of “state capture” and sheer incompetence and corruption. I only experienced it on the one evening though but many in the country are becoming more and more dependant on generators, candles, gas stoves and or even going off the grid completely. And talking of energy, the petrol price was R15.79 for a litre of 95 Octane and R16.21 for a litre of diesel.

Of course the real reason that I was in South Africa was to attend the memorial service for my mother who had passed away on the first of October. My brother and I had many discussions when we were together and I am glad that I made the trip down. I expect I will be processing a lot of my thoughts as time passes as it is quite a traumatic moment in your life. Possibly the one saving grace is that my brother and I are not spring chickens with young families. I will however cover aspects of the next few days as time passes.

On the 20th we both attended a Piston Ring Club meet held in Modderfontein and it was great, with lots of good junk for sale and heaps of vintage cars.

It was a scorcher of a day though and the Jacaranda’s were in full bloom. Obviously those who think Pretoria is the Jacaranda city have never seen Johannesburg in full bloom.

On our way back from the meet we made a slight detour to the SOE Memorial in what is left of Patterson Park in Orchards. Between when I saw it in 2007 and now the park has been destroyed by what looks like “development”. Unfortunately I have no idea what the heck is going on at that site and the memorial is missing the wooden Butte De Warlencourt Cross that was mounted on the memorial.

Returning Home

Alas, my trip was a short one and I was not as busy as I usually am. While waiting at ORTIA I quickly popped up to the viewing deck to see what I could see. I was last up there when I was a toddler (I hear) so have no memory of it. The view however is not as great as you would think, but its better than nothing.

I boarded the plane again on Thursday 24th and arrived back in London just before 07H00 on the next day.

It had been a cramped and bumpy flight and I had not really watched much although Missing Link and Dumbo does stand out as being quite enjoyable. The food on this return flight was also iffy but I may have been a tad too tired to notice. By 09H21 I was on my way to Evesham and by 11H48 on the bus back home.

Waiting for the train to be called at Paddington

Unfortunately it has been doing a lot of raining during my absence (the opposite being true in South Africa), and this morning the field outside is flooded and the temperature is very low. Tomorrow it is back to “normal” and soon this trip will only exist in the memories and images that I have collected in this week and a half.

It is doubtful whether I will return to South Africa in the next 2 years. I have to renew my passport next year and that can take 8 months in itself. 

And whether we like it or not, life does go on. Mum left many memories behind and it is up to my brother and I to continue in her memory. Sadly her last two years were not as we envisaged them, but then how does one predict the end of a lifetime? 

And now there are only two.

DRW © 2019. Created 25/10/2019

Updated: 04/12/2019 — 20:21
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