17 - 18 January
ago, the journey out here would have been somewhat dangerous as the bus passes
through Brixton, the scene of violent race riots. Today the whole south-east is
mainly West Indian. Much of the housing is 'Council Estates' (public housing)
but it seems fairly well maintained and rebuilding is going on everywhere, and
public signs refer to making the area safer through "Neighborhood
Watch" type schemes and video surveillance. After the racial homogeny of
most European cities, London's 'melting-pot' is refreshingly different.
million tourists visit London every year. As the biggest city in Europe with
8-12 million people, depending where you stop counting, London takes this
invasion in its stride. Even in the depths of winter, a cacophony of languages
fill the streets. We all come to see a fairly standard set of attractions, the
Tower, Westminster Abbey, the theatres, the shops, pubs, museums and galleries.
They are all great and whatever your interest there is never enough time in
London is such a well-known city that it would be
pointless to try to describe all the above. Suffice to say that over the almost
quarter of a century since we first visited the city, it has continued to
interest, captivate and excite us. There is always something new or a new slant
on something old. At the Imperial War Museum for example a 'Blitz Experience'
and a '1940s House' have been added to the extensive collection of war
memorabilia from Britain and the Commonwealth.
neighborhood air raid shelter has been constructed within the museum. Visitors
enter the darkened shelter to the wail of the sirens. Recorded conversations
capture the drama of the times as the bombs fall all around. When the all clear
is sounded we exit into a simulated bombed-out London street. - Chillingly
realistic and probably a very difficult experience for those who actually lived
through the war years in London.
pleasure, the London house of the 1940s was much the same as our own house which
we have attempted to maintain in the 30-40s style. A major TV series has been
made around an English family who lived in this house (the English one, not
ours!) and experienced a total 1940s lifestyle for some months.
commented previously on the numbers of European school children who visit
important monuments and museums. England is no different. While they are far
more boisterous than most other groups of kids we have encountered, the British
education system seems to promote in them an understanding of history and
culture to much the same extent as their continental neighbors. We overheard
teachers speaking to their (primary) students of the Blitz and of Hitler's
invasion of Poland. If we did the same, our students in Australia would rebel...
What's that got do do with us? What year?
Our students - probably as the
result of our system, and the relative youth of our country
- do not have the same
appreciation of history and the
global effects of historical events.
-- a constant source of discussion -- has been pleasantly cool, sunny and
clear the last few days with minimums of -4
and maximums of +4 centigrade. Hard
frosts in the morning and the freezing fogs tell us that it is cold, but the
electric heater in the van and the Drizabones on top of our normal winter gear
(plus tights and spencers for the girlie crew) have made winter bearable
-- in fact enjoyable -- for us -- especially after the sometimes
unseasonable heat of Eastern and Southern Europe.
London is reputedly the most expensive city in the world.
Believe it! Forget all the stories about Paris, Rome and the rest. They are
actually fairly reasonable. London is outrageous. On the 'beer standard', London
almost doubles its nearest rival, Paris. A 500ml can of beer in London will cost
you UKP 1.20. In Australian dollars, $2.80. In Germany, the same can would cost
AUS$.70! In Paris AUS$1.50. A trip on the Underground, inner zone will set you
back UKP 1.50 (AUS$3.90). On the Paris Metro a similar trip is 5.4FF, about
AUS$1.25 If you can escape with a couple of sandwiches for lunch for less than
AUS$14 you must have stolen one of them!
have dropped dramatically in the last month. Even so, one litre of diesel is 81p
($AUS 2.20). .... Oh well if you don't want to pay, don't stay.....
In a couple
of days we will be on the ferry to Holland.
- 21 January
Only a few
days remain of our 'great adventure'. Having left London for the third time
without seeing all we wanted, we have a good excuse to come back.
are camped on Harwich Docks in preparation for the last of our six major ferry
trips, from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. It is Sunday evening (we think?) and
our van has to be returned to the agency in Amsterdam on Wednesday. We fly out
for Singapore and home on Thursday.