Saturday, 23 August 2014

From Tower Bridge to Oxo Tower

Well, where did that week go?  Following on from last week's post to the Tower of London's installation we are now walking over Tower Bridge for a colourful tour full of such variety on the South Bank.  As usual I had to look up to get a slightly different view of this iconic bridge.
Our walk was long, with plenty of stops along the way, just drinking in the diverse culture of this City.  It's amazing that with living and working in this fantastic part of the country when I was younger, I just didn't see it at the time, but now that I live in a very, very quiet corner of the Lincolnshire countryside, I can't wait to get back to get my London fix, and try to fit in as much as I can in one day.

So my dear readers, here we go again!  I couldn't put everything down in this blog post, it would be far too long, so I have added an album to my Facebook page, please pop along if you would like to see more (I'd love it if you would 'like' too).  Right, cup of tea in hand, slippers on and a Garibaldi?... here we go...
On the other side of the Thames looking back across to the grey stone of the Tower of London, it seems dwarfed by the Guerkin, Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater, however the old and new are now all icons together.  The more modern buildings are yet to prove themselves with the test of time though.
 I must say, we did stay here just looking over for quite some time.  It was busy but we felt incredibly comfortable with our own thoughts and dreams.  However, lots to still pack in!  Our plan was to just walk along the River's edge and stop at different points along the way, just taking our time.  The permanent museum on board HMS Belfast, something I have never done but the company with me today were more arty and not the military type.
Over the River, the golden top to the Monument poked its head out in between the other buildings.  Apparently if it fell the top is meant to be able to reach where the Great Fire of London started in Pudding Lane.  Have you ever climbed to the top?  Myself and Miss Teen have and it put me in mind of our St Paul's trip a couple of weeks ago.  Painful!  But, you do get a certificate at the end of it, and the views are well worth it along with a much better platform to view from as you can see...
A little way along, we came to Hay's Galleria.  The sign states that in the mid 1850's, following the steady rise of the River Thames as the commercial lifeline of the City of London, Sir William Cubitt was commissioned to build a new wharf around and enclosed dock.  Ships from all over the world visited the new Hay's Wharf but the most beautiful were the tea clippers from India and China.  By the end of the century, over 80% of perishable foodstuffs passed through the area which became known as the "Larder of London".  Hay's Wharf has now been restored and it stands where the tall tea clippers edged their way into the dock 150 years ago.  I wonder if the Cutty Sark was one of the tea clippers?
While Miss Teen and her friend succumbed to the shops inside the Galleria, I was intrigued by the beautiful piece of engineering in the middle of this area.
With some retail therapy suitably ticked off the list, we carried on our walk until we came to London Bridge. The bridge itself isn't very exciting but its predecessors show the barbarity and ways of living that used to be.  The Wikipedia link is here and well worth looking at.  Nearby is the forgotten Cathedral, Southwark, again steeped in history.
But we were looking for some vibrancy (no Cathedral climbing for me today!!), and just around the corner here it was, the start of all things arty and exciting... Borough Market.
Now I admit, as a Londoner and spending so much of my early life going out with friends around the area, I never, ever knew of this place!  The smells of the different foods, both being sold to invent new recipes and also those cooking absolutely delicious fayre was mind blowing!  If you get a chance and haven't been before, it is on my 'must do's'.  Even a little bit of entertainment while you enjoy this wonderful atmosphere!
We will be back!  

Walking a little further you come to this very old, narrow street.  It made me think of the closeness of buildings back during the Great Fire of London and how easy it was for the flames to lick the buildings opposite.
The lovely building near the centre left of the shot is actually quite important.  This is 'The Clink', the notorious medieval prison.  So barbaric that they still have one of their old 'guests' hanging around outside...
It is now a museum and one that we will re-visit at some stage, but our walk was only part way through.

Another look across the Thames, and this time we are back to the Millennium Bridge and St Paul's (my legs still hurt after that climb a couple of weeks ago!).  But look!  Could this be any more perfect?  A blue sky, St Paul's, The Thames and a narrow boat!!  How my heart skipped when I saw this boat and wished that I was on board.
By now our feet were a little tired and the girls were asking to go down to the sandy beach which was beckoning to us.  After all, it's not every day you can say you have paddled in the Thames!
Looking across London while dipping your toes was a little strange to say the least, but so beautifully cool (and entertaining to those who were looking over the side just wishing they were doing the same!).
One thing to watch for are waves created from the pleasure boats going up and down the River.  These models found out the hard way during their shoot (those waves were the little warnings!).
By now we were at the OXO Tower, yes they used to use it as a cold store many many years ago.  It is now a mixture of shops, flats and a restaurant.
We all discussed that this would be a great place to live (in another life maybe).
The views would be, well, just perfect.
And so dear Readers, I will leave it at that for now.  We were now looking towards Westminster, which means we were on the exciting part of the South Bank with huge amounts of colourful characters and constant fun.  Next week's post dear friends, next week!
Thank you so much for your visits and comments last week on the installation.  I am gradually getting around to acknowledging you all but with GCSE results coming through for Mr Teen (he passed them all!!) and then the enrolment at College, my life has been a little stressful to say the least.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, 'where has the week gone?!'.

I have noticed however that quite a few of you have gone back to 'no reply' bloggers.  This maybe the Google+ thing again of reverting you without telling you, but just to let you know that I have added a contact form in my side bar in case you wanted to get in touch that way.

Have a wonderful weekend and week.

Take care.

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Friday, 15 August 2014

The Tower Installation - Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

As promised last week, we've been on another trip to my lovely London town which in part was to show you the installation of the poppies at the Tower of London.  This trip was a real marathon which took us from the Tower of London all the way to Waterloo!  Lots of shoe leather was worn down but, my oh my, so many wonderful delights to capture along the way and share with you!    However, if I put them all into one post it would take forever to get through, so I am going to do this in sections over the next couple of weeks (also, by then my legs and feet will be back to normal!!).  So, here we go again, grab a glass of Pimms and a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream, are you ready?  Here we go to the first part of our trip - Tower Hill...
The Tower of London on its own looks formidable, a fortress to imprison traitors and Royalty (even the Kray twins!) as well as the protector of the Crown Jewels.  A place to torture and behead.  An imposing place indeed!  One entrance would have been terrifying, arriving through Traitors Gate from the Thames.  The lapping of the tide against the stone walls and the boat that was the carrier of the condemned on dark, foggy nights.
Can you see the steps through the wood?  These would take you from the boat to your place of doom.  Today though, it was a tour at the top of the stairs with one of the many Beefeaters.
However, the reason we were here was for the poppy display "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red".  The photos I took, and the images on the TV can't prepare you just how huge this display is.  Thousands of people lined the 11th century moat of the Tower, mostly in silence just trying to take the spectacle in.
The poppies cascade out of one of the windows and then pool around the moat.
Each poppy represents one life that was lost in World War I.
Volunteers arrive each day to add to the installation which will continue through the next couple of months until Armistice Day in November.  888,246 ceramic poppies will be placed in the moat.
Going past the entrance to the Tower you can see a wave of poppies making its way over the bridge.
The queues were huge to get into the Tower!  How times change!!
The welcome is a lot more friendlier too!
The installation of this amazing artwork is a thing of beauty, reflection and grateful thanks to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  The shadows of their time on earth forever remembered.
If you are planning a trip to London in the next couple of months, this really should be on your list to witness even if you only had ten minutes to spare.  It is a piece of history that will not be repeated, unfortunately this is not the case with War.

Next week, I'll share with you our walk from the Tower to Tower Bridge and along the South Bank.  A colourful and varied trip!
(I hate taking a panoramic shot and a lamp post decides to make an appearance!).

Have a wonderful, reflective, weekend and week.

Take care

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Saturday, 9 August 2014

A First World War Mother's Torment

With the Centenary of the beginning of the First World War, I started to think of the men that were lost and those who survived with my own family.  Recently Mumsy gave me a photocopy of a letter which was to my Great Great Grandma, whose sons were sent to War.  Can you imagine life one hundred years ago and watching your young son leaving?  I look at my own 16 year old and just can't comprehend that this would have been a fact a century ago.  The sickness fills my stomach and tears sting my eyes as I try to put myself in those angry, anxious, loving mother's minds.

The letter is almost 100 years old, dated 26 May 1915, regarding one of her sons.  With age, the letter is incredibly fragile but its words can be photocopied for safety and its ink saved for generations to come.
The words contained within this thin and fragile paper are heart breaking.

Dear Madam

Your letter of the 7th inst, and addressed to General Woodruff, has been passed on to us to send you what little news that we can concerning your son who has been missing since March 23rd.

When the enemy attacked us on March 21st we lost practically the whole of our Battalion and two days later when the enemy broke through again, all details including the Band, were sent up the line to try and check his advance.  I myself were with these people, and I am sorry to say we were driven back with rather heavy losses again.

I would very much like to give you some hope that your son was captured and perhaps he was, but the only men who were taken prisoners that day were those who were wounded too badly to get away.

I myself was the last to leave the position and certainly nobody was captured unwounded, so either your son is severely wounded and in a hospital somewhere in Germany, or he was killed.

I tender to you, on behalf of the Battalion the deepest sympathy, and although we ask you to be brave and hope a little that he is alive, we have very grave doubts.  I regret that this is all the news that I can give.

I can only imagine the pain and anguish that the family went through as they waited throughout the war for any snippet of news, holding on to whatever hope they could.  The heart wrenching and uncertainty would have been too hard to bare.  However thankfully, her son (my Great Grandad) survived!  He had been captured and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp but he was alive.  Amongst the family's papers I hold, there is a small slip of paper that shows the medals he collected up until the late 20's when he was discharged. 
Even though his body was constantly shaking from the results of War injuries and he never left anything on his dinner plate (a result of being in a Prisoner of War camp where there was hardly any food), he continued to collect his medals through being a soldier with the Coldstream Guards and then the Police.

Here he is in 1940 (the one with the pipe!) and his brother.
A survivor, a man who kept the horrors of war firmly in his mind and never off loaded these to his family, which was a common thing for those heroes that lived through these awful times.  I only knew him for a few months of my life, held by him in his safe arms as a baby, but this man who was initially thought to have been killed in the First World War lived until he was the grand old age of 85, knowing that his family were safe through the actions of him and his colleagues, where most had made the ultimate sacrifice.  He was a kind and respectful man (even though this photo of him looks quite stern and serious!).
We are off to London next week to see the Tower of London's poppy installation, the link is here, and I have ordered a poppy from this display to proudly remember all my family members that lost their lives and also the ones who survived this awful war such as my wonderful Great Grandad Christopher.

So, another thought provoking trip out next week which I hope you will join me on dear Readers.

Take care.

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