Saturday, 10 January 2009

London Visit

I'm back at last; I actually arrived home from London quite late last night. It was a pleasant flight, in an aircraft I've never flown on before: an Embrear 195 jet with 118 seats. The mini bottles of gin now cost a rip-off £3.50; and the tonic-water £1. I didn't buy that.

I was staying at the corner of Fitzroy Street and Maple Street, which was convenient for the Warren Street tube, about five minutes' walk. There was a Tesco Express nearby too, where I could buy food and drink, sandwiches and that sort of thing.

I used my Oyster card a lot. It's really handy on the Tube and saves time.

On Thursday evening I attended a performance of Turandot by Puccini, at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. I managed to get a fairly good seat: stalls circle 21a. This seat is practically four rows from the front, although it is at the side and at right-angles to the stage. I had a reasonably good view of the stage as well as the large resident orchestra (including two harpists!). The glossy programmes cost £6, by the way. The opera house was totally full, as it invariably always is anyway. A seat in the stalls costs about £180. The royal box, in the second tier and very close to the stage, had five occupants whom I did not recognize.

On Friday morning I paid a visit to Kensington Palace. It's quite a few years since I've been there. When I left the Palace, as I walked along the path between it and a formal garden, lots of squirrels were scampering about - in their winter plumage - and darting up to passers-by seeking crumbs and morsels. They are so tame. It's truly a joy to behold. One little devil snatched a piece of biscuit from a visitor's hand, ran away with it to a park-bench, stood on its hind legs and began munching away! Wonderful. These squirrels saw off the pigeons and a large carrion crow was standing, watching them and looking quite bemused too.

I also visited the completely restored church of St Martin-in-the-Fields at Trafalgar Square. It's like a new church; an astounding feat for a centuries'-old building.

I paid a brief visit to the National Gallery before walking down the steps to the Square. I stood and admired the panorama, including Nelson's Column. Admiral Lord Nelson still stands august and proud, gazing out towards Whitehall and the grateful Houses of Parliament; the greatest monument that a Nation can bestow upon one of its finest Heroes. The Trafalgar Square fountains were frozen solid, by the way; that's how cold it was!

I ambled down Whitehall to Downing Street. A grand, solid steel balustrade of steel is currently being constructed along this section of Whitehall; it will have a facing of elaborate sandstone - the iron fist in a velvet glove.

So I'm home again. It was enjoyable. I was up at eight this morning and drove to Gibb's Island to partake in a spot of hedge-laying. I'll post a piece about that tomorrow.

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