WEDNESDAY Today I had arranged with Brian to have the whole day off so that I could go to the Home Office Immigration department on West Croydon to find out some details about my visa.
I got up at 7:00 AM and dressed warmly as it was a cold, wet morning and it was still a long time until dawn. Along with some sandwiches for lunch, I took my camera, tripod and the two new gradient filters I had bought during the week. I caught the tube over to Embankment then the Circle Line to Victoria station where I caught the train out to West Croydon. The Home Office building was a 20 minute walk from the station and there was already 5 people queued up in the cold outside the door. By the time the doors opened at 8:30 there were about 80-100 people in the queue.
In the end, it turned out to be a waste of time going out there as the woman who interviewed my said that it was pointless getting my four months added on to my visa at this stage as once they have done it it cannot be done again¹. She recommended that I should wait until my visa was about to expire and apply for the time to be added on then, even though I would be over 27 by then.
Back at the station, I caught another train, heading back into London and got off at Battersea. I walked along past Chelsea Bridge with the huge Battersea Power Station² towering over the Thames on my right, its four huge chimneys disappearing into the cold, low cloud which hung over the city. I wandered along the riverbank taking photos and looking at landmarks and buildings along the way.
At Millbank I found a huge concrete bollard with a bronze plaque on it saying : LONDON CITY COUNCIL. NEAR THIS SITE STOOD MILLBANK PRISON, WHICH WAS OPENED IN 1816 AND CLOSED IN 1890. THIS BUTTRESS STOOD AT THE HEAD OF THE RIVER STEPS FROM WHICH, UNTIL 1867, PRISONERS SENTENCED TO TRANSPORTATION EMBARKED ON THEIR JOURNEY TO AUSTRALIA.
Further along the embankment, I came across some steps leading down to the river. The tide was out so I went down to the water’s edge took a few photos then sat there and watched the ancient river roll by…so much history. I climbed back up to the footpath and walked along to the Parliament Gardens then around past the statue of Richard III – Coeur de Lion in front of the magnificent Houses of Parliament.
After a quick look around Westminster Abbey, I sat in Parliament Square beside the bronze statue of Winston Churchill and had lunch with the pigeons then did a few jobs around town before catching the tube back to the pub.
¹ In those days, New Zealanders were eligible for a work visa which allowed them to live and work in the UK for a total of two years. Whenever you left the country, the visa was put on hold until you returned when it would re-start. You were able to get the time you were out of the country added back onto the visa allowing you to spend a total of two years in the UK. These work visas could be obtained by any New Zealander under the age of 27 and the UK working holiday was a popular part of many New Zealanders overseas adventures.
²The disused power station was made famous as the main feature on the cover of the pink Floyd album Animals.