A day in the Big Smoke

Posted on October 30, 2011

George, Harry and I went for a day in London yesterday, something I love to do every couple of months, the hustle and bustle, street performers, varying bars and restaurants and free museums make London a great and not necessarily expensive day out. I say I went with both of them, but in reality George got as far as Basingstoke train centre with us, then he disappeared off the face of the earth as if he was a magic act. He was meeting up with friends to go and see the Arctic Monkeys at the O2 Arena and there was no way he was sitting on the train with me whilst I explained to his mates that The Arctic Monkeys weren’t bad, but not really in the same league as The Clash or The Jam. I always thought that I might be a cool Dad, but alas, unless we are at Reading football matches, I am nothing short of a downright fucking embarrassment.

So it was just Harry and I, and Harry is more fun than George on these days out anyway, as he has a more creative and arty nature that extends further than the football, cricket, rock music and girls that fulfill George’s more simplistic outlook on life. For instance, Harry and I spent a good hour admiring the beauty and intricate detail of the paintings in the National Gallery and I was initially quite impressed to hear from Harry that George had Tweeted saying that he had been in there shortly before us. That was about as good as it got, because it turned out that George and his mates had gone in there to play would/wouldn’t, a game that involves assessing which of the women in the paintings were do-able. The Inbetweeners has a lot to answer for.

One of the subjects in George’s puerile schoolboy game

It turns out that the results were heavily weighed in the favour of the wouldn’ts, which is pretty much understandable because unlike the brave and handsome men depicted in paintings from the Dark Ages, the women all seemed to be podgy and chinless with disappointing breasts, even I must admit that the majority of the women I saw were not particularly do-able, even the ones with angels wings attached to their backs. I guess that with no photographic evidence from this period in history it is difficult to know whether the women actually looked like that, or whether it was just the artistic style of the period. If this was the case I am eternally grateful for being born a 20th century, though some of the drunken orgies taking place at medieval banquets looked rather good fun.

From there, Harry went to National Portrait Gallery next door and then in to Covent Garden and a restaurant called Maxwells, and absolute gold mine, packed to the rafters serving food that hovered between average and disappointing, though at that point with the amount of walking we were doing, fuel was required more than anything else, and at just over £20 for the two of us, at least the price reflected the quality of what we were consuming. From there where marched back down to Leicester Square and up Charing Cross Lane to the Tottenham Court Road and the British Museum. However, I prefer modern history to ancient history and I have to say, I was utterly uninspired. Call me a Philistine, but I suppose you either get it or you don’t, I didn’t, I found myself wishing that we had headed for the Imperial War Museum instead.

Harry down by The Strand

With that behind us we headed back through Soho and Chinatown (who allowed a fucking great PaddyPower bookmakers in the middle of Chinatown?) back to Leicester Square, Covent Garden and over the bridge to Waterloo. You may ask why we didn’t make use of our Travel cards, bit I think that if you stay above ground it is all so so much more exciting, it is really good fun trying to find your way around and discovering how close a lot of things actually are to each other. It is to easy to get in to a mode on the underground where you think that everywhere is a long way off, jumping in and out of tube stations just because they are there. A good example is the journey from Covent Garden to Leicester Square, a 300 yard trip that takes just 45 seconds and costs an unsuspecting tourist £4.00.

When I worked in London a few years back, for the first year I used to get on the Northern line from Waterloo to Embankment before I eventually realised that it was just a five minute sight seeing stroll across the bridge. The last time we were there, Harry and I asked a lady for directions form Victoria to Covent Garden, she said that it was not walking distance and that the only route was by tube. Half an hour later, after a stunning walk through parks and along The Mall and up past The Strand we were there….much more interesting than crushing in to tube, especially when you have time on your side to enjoy it. The London Underground is a fantastic and vital transport network, but you don’t have to use it all the time.

So, it was back over the bridge to Waterloo and then on to the peace and quite of a suburban cardboard box in Hatch Warren, that after being in London, feels like one of the most boring and safe areas of Hampshire you could ever wish for, a haven for ordinary, safe, boring and conformist people and great swathes of safe and boring houses. Sometimes, I wish I could afford a flat in the West End, it is great place to be, though I would probably hate it after getting mugged for the fifth time……Basingstoke is certainly no place of beauty, but at the end of the day, it is only fifty minutes from Central London and five minutes away from beautiful countryside in all directions.

I better stop there, I am sounding like an estate agent.

2 Replies to "A day in the Big Smoke"

  • Trevor and Amy
    October 31, 2011 (2:30 am)

    re: the would/wouldn't game (very funny by the way)-I read an interview with Terry Pratchett at the weekend (I've never read his books as I don't work in IT) but he had also had a funny quote on the subject "If there's an urn it's not porn".

  • Bob Lethaby's Blog
    October 31, 2011 (8:42 am)

    That is a great quote though, I tried a Terry Pratchett book once, wrongly assuming it would be along similar lines as Bill Bryson, it ended up in the "nearly new" book section at the Broughton Jumble sale.

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