We left the flat early and went into Leicester Square and watched the Swiss House bell clock do it’s thing at midday. We had a wander around the sleazy and none-too-pleasant smelling streets of Soho then caught the tube to Islington. With one station to go we were forced to get off the train due to an attempted suicide ahead. We made our way by bus and suicide-interrupted train to a place called Seven Sisters where we sat and waited for 2½ hours as all the trains had been held up by overhead wire damage. After another train & bus journey, & a taxi phoned from a pub called “The Woodpecker”, we finally made it to our 3:30 interview at 5:30. We had our interview & were more or less told we had the job then we made our way home again by taxi, bus, train, tube, train again, and taxi again. What a day. I have a cold!!
After a surprise trip to an employment agency yesterday evening, I found myself in a good warehouse in Bracknell¹, loading up trolleys with food orders. What a mind-bogglingly tedious job!! It wasn’t s’posed to finish till 10:00 pm but luckily it was all over by 6:00 pm & the mini-bus that had taken us out there took us home again.
Linda has had a very successful day in town, job-hunting and we have an interview tomorrow for a live-in job at a pub called “The Woodman” out in the country.
¹Bracknell is an outer suburb on the western edge of London.
We just mucked round at the flat all day as it was cold and Linda’s cold is at its peak.
Linda has a cold so I left her to her own devices for the day and set off into The City¹ to find out a bit about my relations. My first stop after getting off the tube at Blackfriars was the College of Arms² to see James Woodcock, the man who researched the title. It turned out that he was away in India. Next stop, after a couple of photos, was Mansion House³, closed for Easter, then the Bank of England on Threadneedle St. I looked round the museum there , then went in search of the Guildhall. I found it quite by accident and went inside. The hall itself, where the Corporation of London holds banquets, is a huge cavern of a place with stained glass windows at each end and lovely, ornate wood carved panelling around the walls. On the bottom right-hand of the window at the far end of the hall is the name BLAKISTON and the date 1760. The names of every Lord Mayor for the last 800 years are inscribed on the windows.
I left the Hall and caught a bus round to Whitehall where I spent an hour on a fruitless search for information on James Gillingham.⁴ Not having had a very successful day with my reli-hunting, I caught a tube back to Paddington & went round to the London Walkabout Club⁵ & got some brochures on African safaris then went home.
¹London’s central business district, which is also the oldest part of town, is known as The City.
²The College of Arms is the office where titles and lineage are maintained. In 1977, after the death of my father, Norman Blakiston, it was a person from the College of Arms, James Woodcock, who had proven my right to succeed as the 9th Baronet.
³Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.
⁴My mother’s brother who was killed in Italy in 1993.
⁵A long-standing travel agency specializing in providing travel services for Australians and New Zealanders.
EASTER MONDAY We got the train into Paddington Station then the tube to Monument Station. We went up the Monument, 202 feet high, the distance from the base to the place in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started in 1666, then walked along the Thames to the Tower of London which was yet again under siege – this time by thousands of tourists. So we decided not to go in there and went up into the pillars of Tower Bridge instead. After ½ an hour exploring the workings of the bridge we walked down to the London Dungeon¹ where graphic wax models told the grisly story of hanging, torture, boiling alive & various other forms of gruesome death.
From there we wandered around until we found a double-decker to take us to the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral. We explored there for an hour or so but there is so much to see there that we will have to go back. Stunning is the only way to describe the place. We finished our day in the city with burgers & fries at the Hard Rock Café. We queued for an hour to get in but it was worth the wait for the cheap food and atmosphere complete with many gold discs and instruments from famous bands. We tubed and trained home again.
Lynne, Murray & three of their friends came round to look at Murray’s African photos and souvenirs¹ then we walked round to Murray’s flat & spent the afternoon there eating, drinking, talking and playing the drums. Went back to The George² for the evening.
¹Sue and Bernie, along with their friend Murray, a New Zealander, had recently returned to England after a five-month overland trip through Africa, beginning in Zimbabwe and travelling up through Central and North Africa back to London. It was the stories and photographs that they showed us that day which inspired us to make our own trip to Africa later in the year.
²A local pub.
We caught the 8:46 train from Slough to Paddington then the Bakerloo Line to Charing Cross. We emerged from the station to the most wonderous sight. There before us in the bright English sun, was Trafalgar Square! The statue of Lord Nelson, flanked by 4 lions, rose directly in front of us, grey stone buildings surrounding us on all sides, Whitehall, The Strand and Pall Mall, leading off to our left, right, and ahead. Pigeons were everywhere, perched on walls, monuments and small children who screeched with delight every time a pigeon landed on its shoulder.
The church of St-Martin’s-in-the-Fields, standing on the South West corner of the square, was our first stop. It is a smallish church, the size of Chch Cathedral¹, with Roman pillars at the front. Inside, I asked about where Matthew Blakiston² was buried but all graves had been removed and the Crypt had been turned into a restaurant. We had a hot chocolate down there then went back out into the sunlight.
We decided to walk down Whitehall and about 1/2 way down we happened to see the changing of Her Majesty’s Life Guards. Two fierce-looking guards dressed in red and balck with shining helmets were mounted on horses outside the gates of the barracks where, at precisely 11:00 AM, the new shift of guards rode out and exchanged places with them. We jostled for position with the hoarde of tourists & the whole thing was
We continued on down Whitehall past Downing Street, guarded by two Bobbies³, until we came to wonderful scene of the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben rose above us on the left of Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey, parts of which are [sic] cloaked with scaffolding, stood across the grassd area of the square. It was almost too much to take in at once. Everywhere we looked we saw buildings and places we had only dreamed about. We walked along past
the Houses of Parliament, climbed the 13th century jewel Tower, pushed and shoved our way into Westminster Abbey along with a thousand others then wandered through the medieval cloisters at the rear of the Abbey where the 10th century monks who died of the Black Death lie alongside of a grassy quad where several boys from the Abbey school were playing cricket.
We had lunch at a street café then caught a river cruise down to the Thames Barrier† and back. The history of London flowed over us like the cold, dirty water of Old Father Thames flowed over the piles & steps of the London docks: Tower Bridge, Executioner’s Dock, Waterman’s Steps, hundreds of old, old riverside warehouses decaying amidst the new docklands developments of flats, pubs and houses.
When we got back to Westminster Peir it had gotten quite cold so we wandered back up to Picadilly Circus and caught the tube back to Paddington then home to Slough.
¹The Anglican cathedral in the city of Christchurch back home in New Zealand.
²My ancestor, Sir Matthew Blakiston, Bt. was Lord Mayor of London in 1760. He was created a Baronet in 1763 and I succeeded him as the 9th Baronet in 1977. When he died, Sir Matthew was buried in the crypt of St.-Martin’s-in-the-Fields. See the post The House of Blakiston for more information.
³ British police are known as Bobbies after Sir Robert Peel who introduced the world’s first organized police force in London in 1829.
† The Thames Barrier is a flood control dam built across the lower reaches of the River Thames.
We had intended to go into the city today but as the buses and trains were running on some unknown Sunday timetable, we decided to only go for a wander round on the main street of Slough.¹ The weather was very cold & showery and we wandered around looking at the large selection of shops. Linda bought a pair of jeans & I bought a track-suit and we had a “1/2 of ale” at a corner pub. We went back to the flat & did nothing.
¹The town of Slough (pronounced to rhyme with “now”) is on the western outskirts of London. Our Australian friends Bernie and Sue Farquhar lived in Slough so we went and stayed with them for the first few days we were in England.
We woke up to a cold, grey day at about 10:00 AM & lay in our bags talking to Sue until about midday. We went for a wander up the street & cashed a traveller’s cheque but spent most of the day resting.
21/3, Tuesday – 22/3 Wednesday
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM 32,000 FEET
It is 7:55 Sydney time and darkness has fallen over the island continent. The darkened coast of Australia has slipped by far below us and we are gone. Outside, huge bolts of lightning are vaulting through the giant clouds; muzzle-flashes from guns wielded by angry gods above the Timor Sea.
We are high, but from much, much higher, the moon bathes the wing with its cold, silver light. The storm is past, but the turbulence is still buffeting the airplane. What monstrous stresses are at work on the metal and bolts and rivets that make up the body of the plane. Rattle and Hum.
We said goodbye to Russ outside the main entrance of Tullamarine airport late this morning and spent ½ an hour on the plane before we took of for Sydney at 1:30. After and hour in the Transit Lounge at Sydney Airport and a further hour on the plane while a missing passenger [was found]. We finally left Australian soil at 5:30.
GROUND SPEED – 942 km
OUTSIDE AIR TEMP – minus 34°
ALTITUDE – 9451 metres
DISTANCE FROM DEPARTURE – 6465 km
We are over the South China Sea.
“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster…”
We landed in Bangkok at 11:00 PM local time. My head felt like it was going to explode out thru my temples with the change in pressure! We spent ¾ of an hour in the transit lounge, stretching our aching muscles as best we could then re-boarded. The air was hot and humid and a layer of smog hung over the airport. It is now 12:30 AM (3:30 AM in Sydney) & we are about to take off.
We are cruising through the turbulent air 9,451 metres above the Bay of Bengal. The shores of India lie below us in the darkness, the people unaware of us as we pass, a small pocket of light in the blackness of the sky. We are under “Total Control”.
10:15 AM Sydney time and we are over Russia. The Aral Sea is somewhere below us, 10<670 metres of empty air separating us from the cold, wind-swept country of Southern Russia. About 15 minutes ago an unidentified aircraft flew by us going the opposite way at high speed. We decided it must have been a Russian fighter plane checking us out. Earlier, as we dozed, the plane had flown over the Eastern end of the Himalayas not for from Kabul in Afghanistan.
3:15 AM London Time (1:20 PM Sydney Time). We are now somewhere over Northern Russia, flying in the eerie half-light of morning. There is still some turbulence and I have been watching the wing-tip dip & sway as the forces of the air wrestle with it. The trip flap rises & falls rhythmically as it keeps the aircraft on course. There is low cloud over the entire expanse of the Earth visible from our window so the clusters of lights that have marked our progress across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Russia can no longer be seen.
And the world’s aware,
There’s radiation over Red Square.
Creeping on to cross Roman Roads
Fear of freezing in the Soviet Snow.
One eye on the winter,
Oh, there’s just a hint of
We touched down at London Heathrow at 6:00 AM London Time on a cold, overcast day. The walk from the aircraft to the customs and immigration area seemed to take forever. We queued for about 45 minutes and went through immigration without a hiccup – no questions asked! We got our packs off the round-about & went straight thru customs, again without a hitch. Outside, Sue & Bern² were waiting for us and we were on English soil at last.
We drove to Sue & Bern’s flat in Slough, past Windsor Castle with England all around us. They live with a girl called Trudi, from Gore (!)³ in a little flat above a laundrette. We relaxed for a while then we both had a bath which helped revive our jet-lagged bodies. At about 10:00 we caught a bus down to the train station then caught a Britrail train into Paddington Station. We got into a grotty-looking compartment & when the guard came thru to check our tickets he said in a most disdainful voice “you are in the First Class accommodation, Sir, and you only have a Second Class ticket.”⁴ We had to move into into a second class carriage which was even grottier. The trip to Paddington took about ½ an hour, through the dirty wastelands of the outskirts of London. From Paddington we caught a tube on the Circle Line to South Kensington then another tube to Piccadilly Circus.
We emerged from the tube station into the turmoil that is London. We wandered round in a daze (literally) for a couple of hours, found where NZ House* is and the office of N.Z.N.U.K.* then caught a tube to Hyde Park where we sat in the biting wind for ½ and hour. We both seem to be finding it difficult to accept that we are actually in London!!
We caught the trains back home & managed to stay awake until 10:00 when we crashed, totally exhausted, in our sleeping bags in the lounge of the flat.
¹ From the song Soviet Snow (about the Chernobyl reactor fire) by New Zealand singer Shona Lang. I had a cassette copy of her 1988 album South with me on our travels and I listened to it while we were flying over Russia.
²Bernie and Sue Farquhar from Bairnsdale were our family friends (see earlier entries) who had been living in England for about a year.
³ Gore is a small town at the very bottom of New Zealand’s South Island. We New Zealanders are, and have always been, great travellers, and throughout our travels we encountered people from our home shores in the most exotic, outlandish and isolated places.
⁴The “first class” accommodation was littered with rubbish, scratched with graffiti and stank of diesel fumes from the engine clanking beneath the floor. We were the only people in the entire carriage. Nevertheless, we moved to a equally squalid compartment in a second class carriage, giggling about the guard’s pompous attitude and saying “you are in the First Class accommodation, Sir” over and over.
*New Zealand House, on Haymarket, just off Trafalgar Square, is the home of the New Zealand Embassy. In those days, it was also the headquarters of NZ News UK, a weekly newspaper published for New Zealanders living in the UK.