29/4/90

After work I borrowed Jim’s bike and cycled over to the Greek Tourist Agency on Lower Regent Street and picked up our flight tickets then biked back to the pub. Louie [a former barmaid and our friend] rang up at 5:30 and suggested that we meet her and Jenny [another former Red Lion barmaid] at Break for the Border on Tottenham Court Road, so we caught a bus over to Trafalgar Square and walked up Charing Cross Road to the restaurant near Oxford Street. We had a good laugh there drinking sangria and eating spicy Mexican food while listening to a shit-kicking rock and roll band.

From Break For the Border we walked to the pub where Jenny works called The White Hart on Drury Lane and had a few drinks there.

28/4/90

We caught a mid morning bus over to Oxford Circus and did some shopping, the most important of which was at Jessops Cameras where we bought 20 rolls of film¹:

8 rolls Kodachrome 64
2 rolls Kodachrome 200
2 rolls Ektar 125 B&W
8 rolls Konica 100

That lot set us back 83 quid but even so it is still quite a saving.

We had lunch at a vegetarian place then walked up to Covent Garden where we went to a couple of outdoor shops looking for pack straps. After a while we ended up at Trafalgar Square and walked down Whitehall and back home.

Lambeth Palace Gardens

We went over to the park for a practice run of putting up the tent that a guy from the pub has lent us then went up onto the roof of the pub to sunbathe for a while. Later on in the afternoon we took our cameras and headed off to take some photos of London by dusk and night. We walked across the bridge and took a couple of photos of the Houses of Parliament then caught a bus from Whitehall round to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The City of London was nearly deserted at that time of day and we walked down narrow, empty streets away from the ghostly, floodlit bulk of St Paul’s towards the river. When we got to the Embankment we turned left and headed downstream towards Tower Bridge, stopping a few times to take photos.  We crossed London Bridge and caught the Tube back to the pub from London Bridge station via Elephant and Castle. In the evening we watched a trashy Australian movie called High Country.

¹The film was for our upcoming trip to Greece and Turkey.

25/4/90

ANZAC DAY At 10:30 Brian came and told me not to start until 2 and work right through for an afternoon function. Not wanting to waste a fine morning I grabbed my camera gear and Jim’s bike and headed off for a ride.

I crossed Westminster Bridge and found that Whitehall was closed off by the police for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph. I stopped and joined the crowd of onlookers and took a few photos of the band and the watching police then carried on up Whitehall past the Horse Guards and round two New Zealand News UK [a publication devoted to New Zealanders living in the UK] to do a message for Brian. After that I rode round behind the Horse Guards to The Parade Ground, back out onto Whitehall then down past the Houses of Parliament and across Lambeth Bridge.

I bought a can of Coke and sat up on the edge of the Albert Embankment and watched life rolling by on old Father Thames. A busload of Japanese tourists arrived and scampered round for ten hectic minutes, taking photos and jabbering, then rushed back onto the bus just as fast as they had arrived. After  half an hour or so I jumped back on the bike and peddled back to the pub.

23/4/90

I arranged with Brian to have the day off to go and get our French visas. When I looked out at 6 a.m. it was cold and misty but by the time I got outside at around 6:30 it wasn’t too bad. I had Jim’s (stolen) bike¹ for the day, a book and lunch so off I rode, across the river and up Victoria Road, heading for South Kensington where the French Embassy is. It was early enough for there not to be much traffic, but even so it took a fair bit of effort to finally locate the embassy at around 7:30.

 I sat on the steps in the cold reading and by the time it opened at 9 there was quite a queue. When I got past the security search, I filled in the long form and presented it to the girl at the window and asked if I could apply on Linda’s behalf. She said that the form needed to be signed by the applicant so after I had completed my formalities, I took a couple of forms and went up the road to a cafe where I bought a hot chocolate and sat down to forge Linda’s visa application. On the second go I managed a fairly reasonable copy of her signature and took it back to the embassy. I had to queue for quite a while but they never asked any questions when I presented the application.

From the embassy, I cycled across Hyde Park to Paddington Station to enquire about rail timetables for Wales, then cycled up to Oxford Circus to see if our flight tickets were ready, which they weren’t.

With 3 hours to fill in until the visas were ready at 4 p.m., I went and lay in the sun in Hyde Park beside the Serpentine, wrote a letter, read, and had a snooze. Later on, I was given a ticking off by a policewoman for cycling in Kensington Gardens while trying to find Kensington Palace which, despite its size and multitude of signs pointing down pathways, remained unfound.

I picked up the visas at 4 and then, lacking anything better to do, cycled back to the pub. In the evening Linda and I had pizzas at LG Grunt’s Chicago Pizza Company.

¹Almost everything at The Red Lion – our clothes, our bikes, the sound system, even a lot of the beer – was stolen to order for us by local thieves!

21/4/90

Linda and I met Lydia and Jen at Oxford Circus.  We walked up Piccadilly Circus and through some of the small back streets then caught an open air tour bus for an hour long tour of the main sights of London. Jen and Lyd found it interesting but Linda and I had seen it all before!

When we got back to Piccadilly Circus we went to the Rock Island Diner for lunch. Jenny and Lydia had to leave at four to get ready for a waitressing job that night, so Linda and I caught a bus back over to the pub. We leafed through a few papers and magazines to find something to do for the evening and decided to go and see Mountains of the Moon, the story of Burton and Speake, the two Victorian explorers who discovered the source of the Nile River. Because it was only the second night of the season, I borrowed Harry’s bike and cycled over to Leicester Square to get tickets in case it was booked out. Leicester Square was busy and after I bought the tickets I watched a busker playing to a big crowd outside the Empire. He was playing an electrified 12-string guitar and doing guitar solos with his voice. It sounded really good, especially when he did Pink Floyd’s song Comfortably Numb.

I biked back to the pub and had a shower then we went down to the bar and had a drink with Harry and caught a bus over to Trafalgar Square. The movie was brilliant: action-packed and beautifully filmed in England and on location and Kenya. When it finished at 11 p.m. we walked back down to Trafalgar Square and caught a bus home.

15/4/90

IN OUR TIME  Linda and I spent a couple of hours seeing the exhibition of photos taken by members of Magnum Photos. The exhibition covered 50 years of work by the company founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson in the 1930s, whose photographers have captured on film, with a rare depth and feeling for the people involved, nearly all of the world-shaping events of that period. Magnum is a very select organisation and photographers must be highly recognised and respected before being asked to join. New Zealander Brian Brake was a member during the 60s and 70s and until his death in 1988. The exhibition took the form of a large-format slideshow in the lobby then photographs shown in the slide show were exhibited in the Hayward Gallery itself along with the history of the photographers. The photograph that stood out for me among the graphic, humourous and sometimes very moving exhibits, was a colour photograph of a Thai girl’s face in the rain –  the photographer: Brian Brake [I learned later that the photograph was staged and that the “rain” was, in fact, water poured from a watering can!]

We spent the rest of the day writing letters and repacking a African souvenirs into a tea chest [to be shipped home]. After tea we settled down to watch a TV adaptation of Thomas Harvey’s novel of life in rural Wessex, Far from the Madding Crowd.  “Ooo arrr!!

14/4/90

TIME  We slept in until 10 a.m. then after showers and breakfast we walked up to Waterloo and by using Tom’s discount card bought two return tickets to Greenwich. We caught the train from Platform A at Waterloo East and watched out of the grimy windows as the grimy inner suburbs of London rolled past outside. It only took 15 minutes to get to Greenwich and it’s grotty, rundown station. 

We walked up the street past a couple of bric-a-brac markets, then up the hill to the old Royal Observatory. We took each other’s photo standing with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one foot in the West, then explored the museum’s displays of clocks, telescopes and navigational instruments which have been used over the last 350 years to keep time, spare and distance under control.

Back down in the village we had a cup of hot chocolate in a café and then some hot chips later on after we had walked around the highly unimpressive Cutty Sark. The National Maritime Museum which was our next port of call (a little subtle humour there) was also pretty run-of-the-mill with hall after hall of models and uniforms, all of them pre-Battle of Trafalgar. I had expected more on modern naval history but there was hardly any. [These days, I’m fascinated by age-of-sail history so I would love to see that museum now!]

After we left the museum it began to rain and get quite cold, so  we bought some groceries for tea and caught the train back to Waterloo. Linda cooked up a lovely stir fry meal for tea and we watched TV for a while then went to bed…