(Backdated. Posted 29/9/2017)
Good morning! It was garbage day in our street in Chiswick.
As usual, you notice the little things that are different from home. In the London Borough of Hounslow, the garbos (what’s the local term? Not sure) don’t have an arm on the truck that grabs the bins; they have to manually put the wheelie bins into place.
On this occasion, we could hear raised voices – one of the neighbours was arguing with the garbos about what they should take.
With three and a bit days left of the holiday, we were feverishly trying to work out what to see, and when to meet up with friends.
For today, it’d be Greenwich.
On the walk to the station, we did spot Jeremy Corbyn, creepily standing in an upstairs window.
I’m sorry to harp on about this, but one of the joys of a network of frequent public transport services is that you can get from anywhere to anywhere without the hassle of long waits when you change. The various routes mean the whole city is easily accessible. This is something London does really well.
So we caught three trains: walk to Turnham Green station / District Line to Westminster / Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf / Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich… with barely a wait between them.
Turns out the connection at Canary Wharf to the Docklands Light Railway is a few minutes’ walk; something that is in fact indicated on the Tube map.
One thing that did nearly catch us out is that the DLR stations don’t have fare gates, and we didn’t notice the Oyster readers on poles when we initially entered the station. It probably fits in with their automated trains that they wouldn’t have gates and staff at most stations. A train was just coming, and we dashed back down to touch-on.
An alternative route would have taken us via Tower Hill to connect directly from the District Line to the DLR, though Google Maps suggests another route entirely, via Cannon Street and a suburban train. But I was interested to check out the newer part of the Jubilee Line, as well as the Canary Wharf underground station used in Star Wars Rogue One.
We walked through Greenwich up the hill to the Royal Observatory, admiring the view back down the hill along the way.
The Observatory museum is very interesting, with some good stuff on the history of fields such as navigation and astronomy, and clocks, watches and timekeeping.
It also of course has the Prime Meridian going right through the courtyard, so you can stand in the eastern and western hemispheres at the same time.
With an English mother and an Australian Born Chinese father, I guess I am an East Meets West kind of person.
A note in the courtyard mentions that the “satellite meridian” is 100 metres east of the Prime Meridian, so phone GPS might report a slightly different location. Hmm okay.
By 1pm we were ready to move on, but decided to wait for the Time Ball. At 12:55 it rises, then at 1pm it drops again, to mark the hour, visible to ships on the Thames in a similar way to the Flagstaff in Melbourne.
The Time Ball has been in use since 1833. Today, it rose all right, but then failed to drop back down. By a few minutes after 1pm, we were wondering what had happened. I heard a staff member quietly mention to somebody that clearly it was broken. Oh dear.
At present, it’s still not working: the web site says: Please note: unfortunately the the Time Ball is currently not in operation, awaiting repairs due to damage from recent weather conditions.
We headed down the hill to the Maritime Museum, and had lunch there, though we opted not to look in the museum itself.
The boats run roughly every 20 minutes, and accept use Oyster for payment just like the buses and Tube. The fares are more expensive than other modes, but there’s a big discount if using Oyster (or contactless credit cards): for Greenwich to central London it’s £6.50 instead of £8.70 paying cash.
The boat headed west along the river, stopping at various wharves along the way, then under Tower Bridge. We hopped off an Embankment and caught a Tube to South Kensington.
Here’s a line map from the train, showing the eastern end of the District Line. An memorable line in the old sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey had Henry referring to someone as being “completely Dagenham East!” That’s four stops past Barking.
South Kensington is stop for the museums – the station is connected via pedestrian subway to the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert, and the Science Museum, as well as the Royal Albert Hall. Each of the museums has quite a few free exhibits to see. (The NHM and the SM got into an amusing Twitter spat recently – worth a read)
We started off in the V&A – it’s a delicious mix of design and art – and had a good look around there.
I&J decided to head off to the other museums, while M went off to look at the V&A’s Balenciaga exhibit.
I decided to look around elsewhere around the V&A, then I diverted out to have a quick look at the Royal Albert Hall – we’d tried but failed to secure tickets to a concert of John Williams music at the Proms, which were on that week.
The streets were busy, and I noticed ugly, sometimes poorly-placed bollards around the place. Hey, it’s not just a Melbourne thing!
On the bright side, there was some interesting street design, blended with the pedestrian area I guess as a form of traffic calming.
I ducked into the Science Museum for a nose around there. I hadn’t been in there before, and there was some good stuff for
geeks people into technology and engineering.
Here’s Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine Number 2, built 1989-1991 to an 1820s design:
…whereas this is more my vintage, a Commodore PET 8032 (that’s a display with 80 characters across, and a mighty 32 Kb of memory) from 1980:
We all met up again at South Kensington station, where peak hour was in full swing.
Packed train — as the screens told us, there were plenty just a minute or two behind, so we could wait for the next one… but we needed to catch the correct branch anyway — we needed Richmond or Ealing Broadway.
Back to the flat for a pause.
I decided to peek out of the top roof windows to see what I could see. With the telephoto lens, I could easily spot the Post Office Tower (now known as the BT Tower; no giant kittens in sight), the Shard, and planes heading into Heathrow Airport.
Taking the advice of our host, we walked south to the river and then east along it, admiring the expensive houses, to eventually find the Black Lion pub for dinner.
We walked back a different way, passing another pub, where we noted in the front garden was ex-Top Gear host James May, cheerfully chatting to another patron.
Back along the high street (generic term in Britain for the main street through a suburb, though in this case actually called Chiswick High Road).
It was just getting dark, but it was still warm.
Given that, we stopped off at a place called Oddono’s for an ice-cream before heading back and planning tomorrow’s exploration.