Christmas Decorations In London

Regent Street decoarations are a lovely blend of silver and gold this year, although they weren’t shown to their best advantage on the day I visited.

I used the Burlington Arcade to go and look at Fornum and Masons’ Christmas window displays. The shops in the arcade had decorated both the inside and the outside of their windows. I was attacted to a window full of unusual boxes and went in for a better look. The assistant was most helpful and showed me a number of beautifully made boxes. Some of them contained games compendiums while other had lots of partitions inside for all sorts of different uses. My favourite was an artists box with many hidden features and an exquisite marquetry pattern on the outer cover. As I left the shop I noticed a shoe-shine stall – with a queue.

Last stop was Borough Market where I bought some delicious olives and feta from one of the festively decorated stalls.

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Inner Temple, London

Last week I walked round part of the Inner Temple of the Inns of Court in London. It covers a fairly small area and I expected to see it all during the time allotted, but it was so interesting that I will have to make a return journey to see even half of it.

It was a dull, late October day with a hint of moisture in the air but that didn’t detract from the architectural splendours to be found. This area with it’s four Inns of Court date back to the twelfth century. As I entered Middle Temple Lane through the gates off the Embankment, I noticed a winged horse – Pegasus –  decoration that I saw repeated throughout my walk, and discovered it was from the coat of arms of Inner Temple. The other three Temples have a sheep, a lion and a griffin and they can be spotted above doors or even on the guttering of the buildings.

On either side of the lanes are doorways leading into the various chambers with a list of the barristers who form that particular chamber. Narrow lanes lead off into an array of courts, squares and gardens.

I was disappointed that Middle Temple Hall was covered in scaffolding and not open to the public because it is reputedly one of the finest Elizabethan halls in the country. Temple Church was open and I spent a fascinating time exploring the interior. It is one of the oldest buildings, having survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz during WWII.

Borough Market

I visited Borough Market last week. It’s the first time I’ve been this year and although some of the photographs I took didn’t have many people visible,  it was very busy with the usual vibrant atmosphere.

As the London Bridge attacks began on the 3rd June 2017, I was walking south across Waterloo Bridge on my way home with my family after seeing the musical, 42nd Street. We were all happy and still buzzing from the spectacle of the previous few hours but were alerted to danger by the sight of hundreds of emergency vehicles with their blue lights causing the night sky to take on a different hue, pouring south across the Thames. The sound of sirens filled the air as we picked up speed to escape our very vulnerable position mid-way across the bridge. Not only were the vehicles pouring south over Waterloo Bridge, but looking up and down stream, we could see the same thing happening on the bridges in both directions. Looking over our shoulders we saw that the Embankment also had a stream of blue-lighted vehicles progressing rapidly towards the danger.

It was too early for news to have broken in the media but we sensed danger and got off the bridge as quickly as possible, opting to avoid crowds by crossing the roof of the Hayward Gallery. From this vantage point we could see nothing, but the sound of the sirens being deflected off taller buildings, became deafening.

Until we reached ground level we had no idea whether we were walking into danger or not as we were unable to pinpoint the direction the vehicles were heading. Once we descended the steps we realised we were probably safe as we met no crowds of people fleeing.

As we approached Waterloo Station we walked past several restaurants full of people enjoying a Saturday night out and everything in the station appeared normal. As we waited for a train we looked on Twitter and found early reports of the horrors that had been happening a short distance away. At that time it was thought that a third attack was happening at Vauxhall, a station we pass through on our way to and from London. This was later reported to be unconnected but at the time it added to our sense of unease and anxiety. Being unable to settle once we reached home, we sat and watched as the media began to broadcast reports from the multiple scenes.

As hours and days passed I was able to put my experience into some sort of cohesive order. Despite the horror everyone feels upon hearing of these atrocities, certain things stand out. The thing that I was most struck by was the bravery of the first responders who, in these situations, run into danger. I know they train for this and are better equipped to deal with it than members of the public but it runs against every natural instinct of a human being.

My family and I found ourselves on the fringes of this particular attack but we weren’t in any danger. We went to a show, walked to the station and boarded a train home, but our proximity to the danger emphasizes how much a part chance plays in these things. If we’d been to a different theatre we may have been walking over London Bridge or if the attackers had chosen Waterloo Bridge we’d have been caught up in events. Although I am more alert, I intend to continue visiting London regularly and applaud the crowds of people I saw this week doing exactly the same thing.

London

One of the things that sets London apart from other major cities is the amount of green space. There are several well-know parks such as Hyde Park as well as a multitude of squares. Walking through London you often come across one of these beautiful tranquil squares within a stones throw of the bustle of the city.

I often cross the river and from the Embankment cut through Lincoln’s Inn and am always amazed at the contrast between the area containing the Inns of Court and the busy roads that intersect it.

Narrow paths and alleys criss cross the area, some still having cobbles to walk on. The architecture is fascinating with many different styles and various decorations that signify the wealth of the companies that built them.

Traversing these walkways you come across many small squares, usually containing some type of garden whether formal or informal and the sound of birdsong is easily heard above the muted roar of the city in the background.

London

Our beautiful, vibrant, diverse capital city

Tall Ships Festival, Greenwich, London

I decided to use the river taxis to travel to Greenwich to see the gathering of tall ships. It turned out to be an unwise choice as the queues of people with the same idea and the infrequency of the boats resulted in a considerable amount of time wasted. It was an enjoyable means of transport though and I was interested in the different perspective it offered.

Lots of people had arrived before me and the area round the pier where I disembarked was very crowded. There was no information about the event so I made my way downriver along the towpath, eventually catching sight of the tall masts of ships in the distance.

Having walked a fair distance I managed to find a place where I could observe the ships passing as they progressed backwards and forwards along the river. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of old and new with modern motor-propelled craft weaving in and out of the wakes of the older, more graceful sailing vessels.

A Russian Naval Training vessel was moored offshore and groups of people were being ferried across to take part in tours.

It was an interesting outing and the walk along The Thames offered fascinating glimpses of the past with disused and derelict jetties and iron vessels being broken up for scrap. Looking inland at the inevitable development was no less absorbing with the sight of new skyscrapers rising amongst the ruins of old buildings.

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