Published: June 21st 2017
The usual order was in turmoil in London. It is a city that normally takes things in its stride and just gets on with living. The recent terror attacks on Westminster Bridge and in Borough Market have put everyone on alert. It seemed strange to be walking cross Westminster Bridge, taking note of the increased security measures. A series on additional barriers have been added to prevent vehicles mounting the footways. The tourists on the bridge seemed oblivious to recent events and carried on with their photographs of the river and the Houses of Parliament.
A noisy demonstration was taking place at the entrance to Downing Street. A group of Sri-Lankans were held behind barriers on the opposite footway, chanting something incomprehensible about why their voices were not being heard. The Police kept a careful eye on proceedings. They listened carefully to information and instructions on their ear pieces. Meanwhile outside Number 10 itself, it was lights, camera, action. The press pack lined up waiting for the black door to open. The last few days have been political chaos. Strong, stable leadership was what we were being asked to vote on in the recent election, in order to
strengthen “her hand” in the looming Brexit talks. The strong hand in pursuit of the mythical good deal for Britain in those discussions with the wily Europeans. The public verdict on the vicar’s daughter plan was somewhat underwhelming. The ridiculed leadership of the left led a resurgent campaign when all polls suggested a landslide blue in the early days. A majority turned into a minority and the focus now was on making friends in Northern Ireland. The expectation had possibly been on Scotland being the key, but much to the frustration of Nicola no doubt the powerbrokers would be elsewhere. The pause continued, but the alertness of the Police suggested action was imminent. A steel grey Jaguar, blue lights in the radiator grill discreetly flashing, followed the Police motorcyclists towards Whitehall. We surmised that it was Theresa May on her way to the Houses of Parliament to seek forgiveness of the her own party and the 1922 Committee. In reality, it could well have been Larry the Cat on the way to the vets. Larry is the permanent resident of Number 10, others who may wear kitten heels are merely transient occupants. It remains to be seen how long the
latest incumbent of the address is allowed to remain.
We moved along Whitehall, leaving the protest group to shout to an empty Downing Street. The sentries were not in their usual location facing the street and were tucked away in the courtyard towards Horse Guards Parade. This could have been a security measure or just that the ceremonial dress was a bit overpowering in the warm sunshine. It can’t be the greatest job on any day, but certainly not with the recent security issues. The parade ground behind Whitehall was being laid out for Trooping The Colour. Banks of temporary red seats were being assembled around the perimeter.
The Other Half had been enjoying her birthday on the other side of Westminster Bridge. She is partial to a spot of afternoon tea. The former home of the Greater London Council faces the Houses of Parliament. The former stomping ground of Ken Livinsgton among others is now a Marriott with commanding views out across the Thames. The big wheel that is the London Eye is outside the front window. We had been tipped off that afternoon tea in the Library Lounge was a London bargain,
especially if you opted for the “free flowing bubbles” option. We waited patiently in the comfortable leather seats for the 2.00 pm sitting and engaged in conversation with others. “We try to come once a month. I used to accompany my daughter, but alas she has moved abroad. I have to bring him with me now” said the smartly dressed lady, beckoning towards the man in the smart pin stripe suit. Her husband looked impatient. He clearly had a business meeting to attend later, but added “Best afternoon tea in London” and he didn’t look as though he was without sufficient funding to take his afternoon tea at any venue.
The regulars were shown to their “usual table”. We were assigned our window seat with a view, as requested in the reservation. A splendid view of the Houses of Parliament was before us. A box of loose leaf teas was left for our perusal and choice. The bubbles was never going to be champagne, but turned out to be a very acceptable cava. “A glass, sir?”. The waiter had clearly singled me out for special attention. The political slogan used by one of the main parties in
the recent election had been “For The Many Not The Few”. We joked on in view of location looking out at Parliament that this afternoon tea experience was “For The Few Not The Many”. The 2 Japanese girls who arrived at the next table had a poor view and seemed disinterested in the prospect of a glass of bubbles. They seemed unconcerned with their view and were more interested in the wi-fi code. They perused their mobile phones, checking in on Facebook status or whatever the younger generation does these days. The quality of afternoon tea did indeed turn out to be a good quality affair. The sign that all was well with the desire to put service over profit came with the offer of a second round of sandwiches. We accepted. The man in charge of the cava was equally attentive. I was impressed, although perhaps over indulged. There was a savoury and a sweet scone. This was also followed with the offer of an additional round of scones. We declined. The adjacent table were busy picking at the offerings and consumed very little. There was clearly no shortage of funding, as 2 crisp £50 notes were produced to
pay the bill. Who carries £50 notes. The majority of us would struggle to recognise one. They left after an hour.
The London Eye outside the window was a magnet for those tourists in the area. A long queue had formed. The attraction seemed to be capturing the imagination of the many. We had approached from the direction of the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre via Waterloo. There was no battle or sunset. A series of benches seemed to be a recent addition to the streetscape in the vicinity of the river. A collection of weird shapes and designs, all painted in a bright orange. A group of girls practiced a stage managed group photograph, which is manner from heaven for me. I wandered in next to the photographer and clicked. The girls laughed. The Other Half wandered away from in embarrassment, pretending that she wasn’t really associated with me. I waited for another bench to become free and waited patiently for a pigeon who was hoovering up a piece of discarded lunch box to walk in front of the said bench.
The day had started at Edgware Road. I had never been
to Edgware Road underground station previously. It is nothing out of the ordinary, although there are some interesting tile decorations on the wall. A life size statue of a window cleaner stands outside. I wasn’t sure of the bonding between Edgware Road and window cleaners, so I had to check. It is the work of an Allan Sly, who is a lecturer at Wimbledon College of Arts. The bronze is leaning back slightly and looking up. Alas, I missed the point with my photograph. The work is looking up in despair at the huge tower block before him. How many windows? He’ll certainly need a new ladder.
The Other Half was more interested in the pawnbroker shops around the corner on the Edgware Road. She gazed through the window of one older establishment. Her mum used to walk this way in her youth from her home towards Marble Arch and Oxford Street. The Other Half has an ex-pawn ring that her grandmother bought in the very establishment in 1973. The receipt states £25. It is worth somewhat more now. She moved on to the next shop and spied something of interest. She is now the
….. afternoon tea
proud owner of another ex-pawn ring. “They don’t put poor quality diamonds in platinum”, she proudly announced. It is very nice, but I questioned the need of it. The receipt didn’t state £25! I quit whilst I was ahead. There could be some retaliatory questions about football programmes or vinyl records. We moved on to Marylebone High Street where we often linger at two design shops. The Other Half is hankering over a new floor light. Unfortunately, neither establishment had one to view in the flesh. We found ourselves in The Attendant, which by default is now our preferred underground coffee stop in a public toilet when in Fitzrovia. My usual flat white. Morning coffee. Afternoon tea!
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