Monday, June 6, 2011

My first overseas trip: A year on- London

06/06/2010:  London

Woking is only a country train ride from London, so during my stay in Woking, I made a couple of day trips to London! One of the things that stands out in my memory is the Battersea power station coming into view as the train approaches London. It is a huge, monolithic building that has a vulgar beauty about it. Unfortunately I was never able to take a decent shot of it from the moving train.

The first time I arrived at Waterloo Station, I gawped at the size of it. I think I stood still and blocked the walkways! I somehow made my way out and saw London. I recall making an audible ‘WOW’, as I stood soaking my first taste of London. I then walked on, sighted the London eye, saw the queues and decided instead to jump into a Black Cab. I had a plan and had no time to waste!

“Marble arch’ says I… the Driver responded...I excitedly placed his accent, ‘Oh!! You’re  a cockney!?’ I was thrilled! A real live cockney and driving a black cab!! Just like on TV, how utterly clichéd!! I didn’t care that he thought I was a kiwi! We chatted a bit and he showed me some sights on the way.

At one pointed I asked ‘what is that building over there?
Him: (puzzled) ‘which one?’ (which was odd, given I was pointing directly at HUGE building)
Me: “that one over there, with all of those people waiting about’? (Duh!!!)
Him: (laughing) ‘That’s Buckingham Palace!’ (err Duh!! Right back at me times seven!!!)

We chatted some more and I heard about his life and struggles, he seemed a lovely man and I do have a weakness for an accent! Soon we reached the Marble Arch. I got out of the cab and headed across the road to my true destination, Oxford St. Like any self-respecting gay man who finds himself in a foreign country, I shop!  (and get bonus points for managing a few touristy things on the way… Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch etc). I walked down Oxford St, and went into so many stores, including Selfridges, Debenhams and Marks & Spencers (where I had a couple of fabulously priced lunches sitting amongst the blue rinse set!). I then headed down Regent St, brought three pairs of shoes at the Campers store…sourced a post office and mailed it all back home…Ok.. now I needed a  break from shopping, so headed off to The Tate Modern Gallery. It is in a converted old power-station and was amazing! I loved it! It was filled with some great pieces.  Afterwards I walked along the Thames, past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Clink Prison and then became lost in a series of old narrow lanes. After asking what seemed to be every other tourist for directions, I somehow found my way to where I was to have dinner with a friends two daughters who now live and work in London. After great food, conversation and company, the evening ended with me strolling along the Thames at dusk.

My next day in London started in Soho. I decided to brave ‘the tube’ (something akin to what I imagine a rabbit warren to look like) and arrived at Tottenham Court Rd.  Walking through Soho, I had coffee at Bar Italia (Choosing it only because Pulp wrote a song with the same name), I walked across to Carnaby St (destination: the Ben Sherman store), window shopped and then made my way to Hyde Park. I have to say that for my whole stay in the UK the weather was absolutely lovely! I think I wore shorts and a polo most days! Walking through Hyde Park, I sat by the Serpentine and watched the younger people play football (soccer). Soon it was off to Harrods, which I stayed inside of long enough only to find an exit. I then walked to Piccadilly Circus and soon found my way to Westminster Abbey, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and sat exhausted at a café nursing a glass of wine! My poor feet. I couldn’t stop there too long as I was soon to meet a friend for dinner. He studied history at Oxford and has that BBC/upper middle class accent, lovely to listen to!!   

Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe overwhelmed by it all, but I had this feeling that as great as walking the streets of London was, it would be so much better if I was sharing this with someone, preferably someone I cared for greatly (a terribly English way of me saying- someone I loved). I started to feel sad and lonely. As I made my way across an overpass to meet my mate at Waterloo Station, a young cellist started busking. He played something familiar (it’s name escaped me). It was a hauntingly beautiful piece of music that filled my whole being. I stood captivated. It was an amazing experience. The music seemed to draw out the warmth, the love and the hope that lay hidden within me. The young cellist’s playing lifted my spirits and for that I was grateful. I placed some money into his open cello case, as a ‘thank you’ for the wonderful playing and just after that the transit police asked him to move on. It seems the universe put us both in the right spot at the right time! I needed his music to remind of the beauty in life and hopefully he found the money useful. I now had the feeling that I was ready to leave London for other places. Well, after dinner with my friend that is.

Next Stop Brighton and Portslade!

Oxford street means- SHOPPING !!!!!

This is so English.

Bar Italia, Great Coffee, shame about the cannoli I had.

The tube:


 Lunch at Marks & Spencer!

I saw this in a window as I walked about town and the ceramic budgies reminded me of home.

 Just inside the huge space that is- Tate Modern Gallery

Somewhere in a back street,  this odd concrete 'park' rose a meter or so off the ground.

 Dusk along the Thames.


  1. Can't believe it's been a year already! Time really does fly. So, when's the next trip???

  2. LOL.. When I win the Lotto!!!
    I am trying to recapture the joy of the holiday by blogging about it :-)
    Not sure if this will work every year...

    I am off to Hobart in a few weeks.. in the middle of that shoudl be err... cold!!

  3. This was emailed to me from a friend:

    Hi Matthew,

    I used to live near Battersea power station.

    It was known as the dead cow, of which it is undoubtedly evocative.

    Just thought you should know that!


  4. i'm almost there with you. beautifully written and your photos are gorgeous. thank you <3

  5. i had to google a pic of the power station after your description. it is indeed an interesting looking building.

  6. Thanks Yevisha! Speaking of the Battersea Power Station, I should have also mentioned that the Tate Modern Gallery is in a converted Bankside power station :-)

  7. Terrific pictures. Am just back from an enjoyable but pictureless business trip to Chicago.

  8. Chicago as in 'The windy city'?
    which reminds me of a tv episode of 'mad about you'?.. in which I think .... Yoko Ono wanted to commission someone to film the wind..or caputure it's essence/spirit..etc.. perhaps a callenge you could set for yourself on your next visit to Chicago?