Thursday, January 29, 2015

London again

I can't believe how many times I've been into London in the past 12 months but I'm jolly glad I went in on Saturday because I met a very special lady; the wonderful and inspirational Liz Yelling but as usual I'm getting ahead of myself so I'll start at the beginning.

It was the day of the second annual ARUK get-together for people who will be running the London marathon and raising funds for them and I'd been asked to speak again. The only downside, I mentioned in my previous post, was the trains so it was with very low expectations that I headed off to the train station to embark upon what could be hours of misery on the railway network.

But the travel gods smiled upon me and when I chatted to the station master he told me that although no trains were going to Charing Cross that day, and I had to head for Cannon Street in the City, they had just announced that the train would be stopping at London Bridge.

Why did this make me happy?

I don't enjoy the London Underground aka the Tube and I'd rather walk for 45 minutes than go just 2 stops on the network. I realised that if I could get off at London Bridge then I could probably get away with just one stop on the Tube and then take a leisurely stroll across the river. Happiness!

When plotting my route the night before, Mike had spent ages trying to convince me that taking the tube from Cannon Street to 'Embankment', a tube station close to Charing Cross, was only about 4 stops and I couldn't possibly get lost. I'm pulling a face as I type this because I find the whole Tube thing confusing with its tunnels going off this way and that, East/West or North/South, lots of stairs and steep escalators, confusing maps with different coloured routes on, and people hurrying along as if they all know exactly which way to go.

I quickly phoned home to check I was correct just as the train pulled into the station and so I had to jump on and find a seat whilst clasping the phone to my ear. Now here's another thing I don't like - telephone conversations on the train, often spoken very loudly so that they disturb other passengers and yet here I was about to do exactly the same thing. So I cut it short and said I'd phone when I got off wherever I decided to get off. The other thing that was all wrong was that in my haste I'd sat in a seat going backwards and I hate going backwards as I prefer to see where I'm going rather than where I've been. Fussy thing aren't I!

As I settled myself, a familiar face smiled at me through the seat in front and it was a lady from our village who'd got on at the stop prior to mine. She motioned for me to join her and her husband and so not only did I get a forward facing seat, I enjoyed convivial company for the whole journey.What a treat.

In the end I decided to get off at London Bridge so phoned Mike who told me to take the 'Jubilee line' for one stop to Waterloo and then walk across the bridge to Charing Cross. It sounds so simple doesn't it but to travel that 'one stop' I had to walk down a long corridor, round a bend, down some steps, down an escalator, catch the train and then repeat a similar process to escape the underground tomb.

Within the labyrinth, I followed the signs for the South Bank and was delighted when I finally emerged just by the Royal Festival Hall so sprinted up the steps to walk across the bridge towards the station. The Golden Jubilee Bridges are interesting structures which opened in 2002 and I can remember watching them being built.

You get fabulous views across the river and I took several photos of the skyline.  It was a beautiful day.

You can see Charing Cross station in the background. I loved the contrast of the red handbag against the teal-coloured coat on the lady in front of me.

Looking out across the beautiful River Thames brought to mind a tragedy which happened just after I'd moved down to London in 1989. Known as the Marchioness disaster, it was a fatal collision between 2 boats in which 51 people drowned. Mike and I had often walked past the boat and wondered how much it would cost to go on a trip along the river.

Low tide
Each time I visit London I see new buildings climbing upwards into the sky. It must be a very lucrative business to hire out cranes!

As I walked up Villiers Street towards Charing Cross I realised that although I've walked this route many times I'd never been into the small public gardens on the righthand side of the street and so I did just that. Known as the Victoria Embankment Gardens, it is an open space with lots of benches for people to sit and enjoy a break whilst looking out over the river. When I moved down to London it was all closed off so must have been renovated.

I couldn't find any information about this gateway but presume it was erected during Queen Victoria's reign

There were rows of benches all along the edges and the massive trees gave the area a feeling of tranquility, something I always craved when I worked in the City

The venue for the meeting was just off Whitehall which is only a 10 minute walk from the station and so I wandered along the road being a tourist and taking photos. Here you can see one of the sentries outside the Horse Guards building. The horses always get lots of attention from tourists.

When I arrived at the venue, Walkers of Whitehall, there were already a few familiar faces including Chris and his wife Terri who do lots of work for ARUK. Chris and I were speaking about our experiences as both our mum's had dementia, as indeed we did last year.

For Harriet from ARUK it was her first time at organising an event and she was naturally nervous that everything should go well and I can confirm that it all went very well indeed and she should be very proud of herself.

As more people arrived I was delighted to see a couple of familiar faces, Mick Moody's son Pete (back row with a beard - Mick's wife Elaine had early-onset Alzheimer's and the whole family has done much to raise awareness) and Elizabeth Stapley (middle row, turquoise top), both of whom had run the London marathon for ARUK before.

I managed to avoid the photo-shoot at the end as I left early!

I was especially pleased to see Elizabeth returning as I met her last year. She's in her 20s and is running in memory of her grandma, sadly no longer with us, who suffered from Alzheimer's. It's wonderful to see younger people becoming involved and spreading the word about the need for research into dementia. She told me that her mum had been inspired by my antics and was hoping to run with her this year but unfortunately she's been ill and so has had to defer her place until next year. Last year Elizabeth completed the marathon in 5 hours 10 minutes which is a very respectable time but I suspect that this year she'll get below 5 hours. Good luck Elizabeth and well done for all your hard work and support.

The session opened with a  presentation by Ian Wilson, Director of Fundraising at ARUK, who outlined some of the exciting things that are happening. For now though, my lips are sealed!

My favourite young scientist, Lizzie Glennon, gave us her usual easy to understand insight into her latest research. It's rare for a scientist to be able to explain things in lay terms but Lizzie certainly has the knack. Here she is on the left at our meet-up in London last summer.

Then it was the turn of Liz Yelling, Olympian and all-round amazing athlete. I was so excited to meet her and hear her speak.  Her talk was full of no-nonsense advice geared towards us amateurs. She coaches others now and helped the lovely Richard Whitehead to Olympic Gold. Liz also has a connection with dementia as her mother-in-law had dementia and she is a regular park runner with whom ARUK now have a connection (the big launch hasn't happened yet, although parkrun announced the link via Facebook, so I'll save the details for the official launch - it's every exciting!).

She's so tall and slim that I felt rather short and dumpy standing next to her!

It was a delight to be able to chat with Liz and she was so down to earth and friendly. I'm sure she'll have inspired lots of the runners who attended.

After lunch it was time for Chris to do his talk and then me. I used the slides from the Alzheimer's Show as a basis. Then Jodie headed up a hints and tips session where we split into groups and then each group selected their 3 best ideas.

As I had very limited options for trains to take me home, I left just before the finish and walked across Charing Cross station to see all the departure boards displaying this announcement. There were lots of confused-looking people standing around staring blankly at the screens, almost willing them to change!


I'd already planned to take the dreaded Tube to Cannon Street but as I am familiar with Embankment Station I wash't too worried about it as I knew it didn't involve too many tunnels.

However, when I arrived on the station concourse at Cannon Street I spotted the 'cancellation' sign and guess whose train had been cancelled? Yes, mine. Bother and thrice bother! The next one was in 2 hours unless I wanted to take the next train to Hastings, due in 1 hour 15 mins, and then take another train back to my station 30 minutes later.  By my reckoning I wouldn't have gained any time by doing that, and of course there was no guarantee that my connection would be on time, so I just wandered off to look around the area.

The last time I'd been here was July 2014 and so I recognised many of the buildings but there's always something new to catch your eye if you're prepared to look isn't there.

I liked the way the sun was catching the top of 20 Fenchurch Street, aka the Walkie-Talkie building and look how the red-brick building stands out amidst the stone ones alongside it.

Massive cranes everywhere
As I was taking these photos I heard some music coming towards me and saw a pedibus speeding along but I was too slow to capture it on film. It looked great fun but I bet it was hard work.

The entrance to Cannon Street station is very bright and modern

The cladding on the front and side has a distinctly industrial feel about it

I thought this row of bollards looked like a line of Policemen standing guard

This cat window sticker made me smile. The shop was empty so I've no idea what it was all about.

That passed the time nicely and my journey home was uneventful with a bit of reading and some crochet to pass them time.

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