One day I will meet the man who worked out all the timings for the directions on googlemaps - he must have much, much longer legs than mine! but of that, more anon.
I'm taking a break from sifting through my 489 photos (trying to work out why my computer jumbles them up while claiming it's put them in date order) to write a little bit of my trip report.
Warning, it will have many parts.....
I took the coach from Leeds to Victoria on Wednesday. Straight down to Golders Green in 2.5 hours, then another 1.5 to get to Victoria. I'm sure it made sense in someone's mind! Of course, for all I know that could be the only road into Victoria from the north.
I had retained a vague memory, now almost 40 years old, that when you arrive at Vic. Coach Station, you're kind of straight out from the bus garage onto a small sidestreet. I was sure I'd either imagined it or things would have improved. Neither was the case, and I found myself in the small sidestreet. After a little rotating on my axis (direction not my strong point) I set off up Buckingham Palace Road, skirted one of the many construction/repair sites in London, into Buckingham Gate and up to Vandon House Hotel.
I got a really friendly greeting and an ironing board - I'd ordered a new work shirt (clerical) ready for the evening, and it had been delivered to the hotel. My room was a twin on the 3rd floor, the only one left when I'd booked, one of the very few to be en suite. I appreciated the en suite but if I'd spotted at the time of booking that I was paying the full rate - for a 2 person room, which I understand but also for 2 breakfasts, which really bugs me, I wouldn't have taken it, or would have asked for a reduction. I do understand why I had to pay the full, twin room rate but paying for two breakfasts seems a bit mean.
Anyway, changed and 10 minutes walk up the road to Westminster Abbey, where I was attending a special Evensong to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Gilbert Scott, a well-known architect, and the one who designed the church where I work. On the way up I took my first photo - a red telephone box designed by GGS's grandson, Giles. I smiled
Arrived and showed my invite to a steward. They were very friendly, in fact, I don't think I met an unfriendly person the whole time I was there. Evensong was wonderful, sung by a visiting choir. After the 800-1,000 attenders left, about 150-200 of us stayed on for a wreath laying on GGS's tomb, and a short service. I sat down and opened the supplementary service sheet - only to find my name there!!!! I was leading a prayer!
I approached another steward, "I find I'm in the programme. Is there a particular place I should speak from?" and he directed me to a lectern and microphone, and to (I think) the Precentor, who was round up a couple of other priests - none of us knew we were going to be "on".
I'm used to big crowds and big occasions but my goodness! It all but got away from me.....I'm leading prayers in Westminster Abbey.....(and breathe). Afterwards the Dean of Westminster shook my hand and said, "Thankyou for busking". The last person whose hand I saw him shaking was the Queen's, on TV..... and breathe. Then we had wine and nibbles in Poets' Corner.
Afterwards, I walked round the corner and gazed at Big Ben (yes, I know that's the bell's name). I took picture after picture of it this trip. Funny, the Eiffel Tower had the same effect on me the first time I went to Paris. Iconic to the point of kitsch but somehow very powerful.
Along to Trafalgar Square, where I picked up a sandwich in Pret a Manger - more nice people. Again, more icons. Those lions really got to me, I could hardly believe I was seeing them. Couldn't see too much of the square, there was an opera being shown.
Back up The Mall and home, getting some good pictures of the Palace en route.
A wonderfully comfy bed, and I saw no more until 06:30 the next day.
To be continued.....