Jon and Richard were giving a repeat appearance at the Grant Museum in London last night so yesterday morning we bundled our gear into the car and made our way to Wraysbury in Middlesex, where we left the car and caught the train to Waterloo. Wraysbury is a quiet place – one of those English ‘villages’ where you never see any pedestrians. It is reminiscent of those villages that quite often appeared in episodes of The Avengers consisting of a telephone box, post box, lovely houses, parked cars, but no people. However, it does boast some shops and a wonderfully named pub called The Perseverance in front of which stands a pub sign consisting of a snail walking through, what looks like, a desert.
The most attractive aspect of Wraysbury to us, though, is the fact that it has a small mainline railway station. From here, you can catch the train that trundles along the track from Windsor and Riverside through to Waterloo on (at least on the occasions we have used it so far) clean, half-empty carriages. Around half an hour later you are in London, after having been treated to a skyline sightseeing tour that includes the London Eye, House of Parliament, the Thames and that gherkin shaped monstrosity which is apparently No 30, St Mary Axe. Personally, I find the address more intriguing than the building. According to Wikipedia, St Mary Axe was a medieval parish in London whose name survives on the street it formerly occupied, St Mary Axe. The church was demolished in 1561 and its parish united with St Andrew Undershaft, which is on the corner of St Mary Axe and Leadenhall Street. The name derives from the combination of the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a neighbouring tavern, which prominently displayed a sign with an axe image. To me, a tavern with an axe image on its sign whets my appetite more as to its clientele than a snail. But, there you go.
The ticket machine at Wraysbury Station did not work, and seemed to be stuck in some kind of loop, only asking which ticket you would like and then offering you to confirm your purchase, although when you did it immediately repeated its request of which ticket you would like and so it went on. Eventually, we gave up and hoped that the officials at Waterloo would believe us when we said that we had joined the train at Wraysbury and that we had encountered the teasing ticket machine of ‘not quite a sale’. However, it was interesting to learn, when we paid for our tickets on arriving at Waterloo, that it hardly ever worked and that Wraysbury was a strange station. Hmm, well I did mention The Avengers earlier didn’t I?
Our hotel was in Tavistock Square and is, rather aptly, named the Tavistock Hotel. It was supposedly just around the corner from the venue, but Jon decided that a taxi would be the best idea to get us to the ‘right place at the right time’ as we were beginning to run a bit late. Well, we had a jolly nice ride in the cab as it took us, basically, around the block and alighted us just round the corner from the hotel. The cabbie must have thought we were, at worst, mad or, at best, lazy, but perhaps he would not be that far wrong in either of his possible estimations.
However, we made it with about a quarter of an hour to spare, and the lecture was well received by those attending. A few of us then went out to dinner with the organisers of the event to a local Italian restaurant, and then it was back to the hotel for a diet coke and a chat. After driving for about 5 hours, including the obligatory awful mile or so on the dreaded M25, I was exhausted by now (well it was gone 1 am) so I left Jon and the others to it and retired to my bed.
This morning, Jon told me an interesting snippet of information that had been revealed after I had left last night.
It turns out that, apparently, there is a basement to the hotel and that earlier on that evening there had been some kind of party going on involving some black metal band members, including those of one my listed favourites, Dimmu Borgir. D’oh another wasted gatecrash opportunity, But then, if such parties these days are like they were (supposedly) in my gig-attending heyday, it was probably just as well that it was just another missed opportunity.
Before we left for home this morning, I woke myself up with a stroll around the little gardens opposite the hotel. I sat near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi (which has been there since 1968) with its plinth festooned with bouquets of fresh flowers. Although a Friday morning, with the usual London traffic racing around on its daily business, the park was surprisingly peaceful. I sat for a few minutes, watching a white haired lady as she walked around placing items of food in holes in the tree trunks for the wildlife. Not only was she followed around the narrow paths by a flock of pigeons, but a squirrel hopped along the grass and took a morsel of food from her hand before running off back into its high branches. It always amazes me that such wildlife can be found in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the capital city, with its high rise office buildings, the continual drone of traffic and all-too-frequent whines of emergency vehicles.
We are off to London again tomorrow – but this time I am sitting in the back seat thank goodness.