I had very little sleep on the night of the 26th, probably because I was not in a familiar place and my mind was working overtime. I got up early and packed my goodies, and went down to have breakfast. Suitably satiated I went walkies again. This time crossing the river at Westminster Bridge. The sun was shining and although quite windy it looked like it was going to be a pleasant day. The bridge was slowly filling up with people heading to work and queues of red “Boris busses” slowly inched their way forward along the bridge. Note the sign on the bus about wearing masks.
Upriver restoration work was being carried out on the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. You can bet that this will run massively over budget and take years to complete.
I had no fixed destination in mind but wanted to try get to Parliament Square to see what had changed there in the light of the recent demonstrations. There are a lot of statues there too, of which 4 have a connection to South Africa (Winston Churchill, Jan Smuts, Ghandi and Nelson Mandela). I did a separate post about the statues at a later date.
The slow moving traffic reminded me of the crawling highways of Johannesburg. The difference here is that at least the traffic lights work and there are no minibus taxis pushing and shoving and stopping randomly to disgorge passengers. Oh, and if you break a rule you will get caught and fined.
The hard part is to try get a pic when there is no traffic at all. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Parliament Square was much quieter than when I saw it last on the news. Thankfully I had missed any strikes, riots and demonstrations.
Having visited the the statues I headed across to the Cenotaph which is outside the Commonwealth and Foreign Office in Parliament Street. The slow moving traffic foiled my attempts at a semi decent image.
It was time to head back to the hotel to collect my gear before going to get my renewal done.
I was standing outside 15 Whitehall by 09H10. At that stage I was the only one there and I could see the time was going to crawl along until the doors open. By 09.45 the queue had lengthened to 10 people, and the door opened at 9.55.
My name was checked against a list, a friendly lady then checked that I had all my paperwork and I was told to use the hand sanitiser and she directed me to another room that had a glassed in counter cubicles for the person behind the desk. I was greeted politely and with smiles by the lady who then checked through all my documentation. When that was done she took me to another counter where I was instructed on how to do my own fingerprints. Unfortunately I have very feint prints due to the type of work I do and she had to consult with another staff member before it was decided that the prints were too feint. She sourced another form and we tried the prints again, this time there was an improvement and they were semi-legible. I then re-completed the information page of the form and was directed to pay at the end window. I handed over my £35 and all was done and dusted. By 10.30 I was finished, and would have been finished earlier if it wasn’t for the fingerprint problem.
Contrary to what I had been reading there were no grumpy people behind the counters, and neither were they slow. I was pleasantly surprised and would really like to thank those who assisted me and ensured that the process was smooth and efficient. The staff were awesome! I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been waiting to do this since February and it was finally done and I could head off home. At that moment I felt that this pub sign was made especially for me.
(I received my new passport at the beginning of December. Just over 3 months from when I wrote this post. I was amazed.)
I was not in the mood to tarry any longer though and I decided to chance the Tube to Paddington Station.
The Circle Line train was not full and the people were masked and keeping their distance thankfully. But, I expect it is a different story during rush hour.
Paddington Station was very quiet though. Again things may be different at rush hour.
Much to my dismay Burger King was still closed so I never did get to have a Whopper. My train left at 12H28 and I had an hour to kill. Fortunately I had my Kindle with me so could read while the station clock crawled along. We boarded with 20 minutes to go and left on time, winding our way to Gloucestershire and finally Cheltenham.
By 03H30 I was at home. I needed to wind down after this little escapade but had so much to do still. I had taken 535 photographs and walked quite a few kilometres, I had also renewed my passport so in 9 months or so I may be making this trip again. I just hope by then things are back to what was normal before the pandemic.
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