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.
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.
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: Godzilla: King 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.
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 although I have since heard that the cross is “in storage somewhere”.
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 was also looking to photograph a statue on the viewing deck but it is in front of a bank of windows so is lit from behind which effectively renders my images useless. However, this is what it looks like (theoretically). Unfortunately I was unable to get clear images of the inscriptions on the plinth.
However, an information board next to the statue provided the following:
The statue was presented to Jan Smuts Airport on 20 March 1956 by the British Overseas Airways Corporation to commemorate the first flight from London to Cape Town in March 1920, by Lt.Col Pierre Van Ryneveld and Squadron leader Quinton Brand from which flowed the close collaboration of British and South African Civil Aviation inaugurated by Imperial Airways in December 1931.
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.
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?
In 2020 the Covid pandemic pretty much shut the UK down and renewing the passport proved difficult. I was set to do it in February but floods cut off the town and March lockdown cut off the country and forced the embassy to close too. However I was able to get the passport renewed and it took just over 3 months! You can read about it here
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