or, at the least, this is my experience of london over a few days during the week, as the regular readers will be surely tired of hearing about. to that end, look you see, let's just get it all over and done with (bar a post on my train journeys) in one large post, featuring some 30+ pictures and no less than 2 video clips. phew, this will take some effort to write. a fair few do feature me, in full on selfie mode, so you have been warned.
my first sensations upon arriving in london were relief that i had made it, soon followed by fear and terror. why the last two? because of how many people were there. london really is crowded, with literally thousands of people moving about in every direction you look.
the fear and terror fell away quite quickly, however. yes, it's crowded and congested, but it seems that the overwhelming majority of people in the city have accepted this and just all get along with what they need to do. as busy as the place is, it is an incredibly calm, peaceful and relaxed place to wander around. oh, for sure, i have no doubt that there are places in london where people would wish you ill, but my experience was all one of tacit welcome and encouragement to just enjoy.
a picture of me outside the Armani store, closed for the night? doable.
my Gran made a request of me whilst i was in london, and that was to "stay away from that river". i took "that river" to mean the Thames. i did not go near it as such, then, but crossing it was an inevitable and unavoidable part of my travels.
here, then, is a picture of the Thames, taken off of a bus as the bus (and all on it) crossed, i believe, the legendary Hammersmith Bridge.
that is indeed an island in the middle of the Thames. there are dozens of them, with some of them being owned by some celebrated and sensational people. i seem to recall that Pete Townshend owns one or two, as does, i think, Rod Stewart.
what could i tell you about the Thames that you don't already know? not a great deal, i suppose. it would probably be best for you to just listen to Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks or, at a push, the Derek Bowie cover. magnificent, the original is, interesting, the cover is.
also from the bus is this picture of a closed, somewhat distressed Blockbuster video store. the tramp sort of vagrant that Spiros has become good friends with lives outside of it. sadly, and to the disappointment of Spiros, he was not there as we passed, but Spiros wished for me to take a picture anyway.
the relationship between Spiros and the tramp is an interesting, if not curious, one. i believe Spiros attempts to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of this gent of the road, commissioning him to do things like carry his bag for him, or even cut his hair. the standard fee that Spiros pays for any service rendered would appear to be £1, which i am led to believe the tramp more or less straight away invests in ale.
a further image that Spiros instructed me to capture off of the bus was of this place, the Patisserie Valerie. as by this stage we had not had breakfast i would actually have rather got off the bus and eaten, but no matter.
i am sure it is a most fine and smart bakery place, and gets a fair bit of brisk trade off of potential travellers that have conducted transactions in the Flight Centre next door.
a few of you who follow news of london with some enthusiasm may well be aware of something called "Boris Bikes". here is a row of what i presume to be them.
are they Boris Bikes? well, they would seem to be sponsored by that Spanish bank that seems somewhat popular in England, but otherwise i guess so. the idea is that you shove your credit card in one, ride it around the city, dock it back in at another depot and remove your card. nice one, although i only ever saw one person riding around on one of them.
as far as i could work out in some three days, Boris has done a superb job as mayor of london. i thought that the job of the mayor of london, or any city for that matter, was limited to judging sandcastle competitions and opening swanky new business parks. it seems i was mistaken, as there were many projects on the go that were funded and endorsed by the office of the mayor.
one project that he, or his successor, might want to focus on is the provision of restrooms for the ladies and the gents who get caught short in the city and feel a bodily urge to spend a penny or two. to that end, here i am outside a locked up bathroom.
one criticism i would have of london is the lack of public conveniences. to find somewhere to gain relief is hard work indeed. Spiros says that most people simply find a red telephone box to do their business in. as King's Cross charges one 30p to use their restroom facilities i can understand why, although of course i obviously do not condone such actions.
a place i didn't intend to visit but happily stumbled upon as we walked around was Carnaby Street.
Carnaby Street is one of several places in london that is world famous. once upon a time Carnaby Street was the fashion centre of the world, the late sixties in particular. today, alas, it seems to be mostly drab, bland, bereft of character branches of chain stores, but at least the focus is still on quality threads for the people to wear.
bland and bereft of character, i say, except for one particular store on Carnaby Street.
oh yes, indeed, that is very much Liam's shop that i am stood outside of. nice one.
did i go in and purchase some of the clothes that Liam Gallagher has approved? alas no, as Liam does not, it seem, believe that gents of my size should be wearing his threads, for he does not commission them to be made in my size. still, inside the store he had things that i could have bought, like for instance Turns Into Stone by The Stone Roses on vinyl.
i didn't, however, as the store was closed. like most retail concerns in london, it seems that they were only interested in opening at some point after 10am.
when 10am came around, i did indeed shop. Hamleys was my first point of call, for a priority was for me to get some teddy bears dressed as Beefeaters for the boys. Hamleys did not let me down in this regard.
if you are unsure as to what Hamleys is, it is suggested that it is the oldest and biggest toy shop in the world. with some six floors of toys to browse, i can believe that. there are also some amazing things to see in there. like, for instance, this brilliant lego statue presentation of selected members of the Royal family.
that's Kate, William, Charles and Harry you can see there, or rather see in a bit better detail in the picture just below all of this writing.
Hamleys was also the place where the final scene of Eyes Wide Shut was filmed, which made it all the better to be able to go and visit the place.
Spiros did indeed go with me to Hamleys. he too was very impressed with all the things that one could see inside the store. as you will note from this next picture, he was very excited indeed by the presence of an absolutely massive stuffed gorilla.
there were one or two other pictures i took inside Hamleys, but in retrospect i have opted not to share them here. sorry, but to do so would risk Spiros being arrested, and myself being prohibited from entering the store again. the latter would make it most problematic for me to purchase further teddy bears dressed as Beefeaters or similar.
pubs would be something which i do not frequent much at all, really. i am not adverse to the odd pint, however, and both Spiros and Shaun quite like an ale. pubs i went to, then. i didn't go into this particular one - it was around 10 in the morning - but Spiros was keen for me to be pictured near it.
yes, that is indeed the "gay flag" hanging above the pub. it is a universally recognized flag, and a very good, simple and effective way to let all those who enter it know that all are welcome, with those not prepared to be welcome to all being advised to rather go somewhere else.
as my somewhat irresistible sexual magnetism crosses all known gender definitions, it is probably best that i didn't go in, lest i have to gently break the hearts of any chaps that were drawn to my charms. perhaps one day i shall return to london with one or more of my gay chums and we can go in for a drink, then.
it used to be class to go and take them cards out, and run away when the runner sent to put them in phone boxes caught you, yelled "gertcha" at you and legged at you for a bit. now, as you can more or less see here, there are just a few stickers shoved in instead.
i suppose this is all because of that whole "internet" thing, where services for short term relationships are, i believe, advertised frequently.
other disappointments in london? the biggest was that Tottenham Court Road tube station was closed and, apparently, shall be closed for more or less all of 2015. for those that do not know why this is disappointing, look no further than An American Werewolf In London. a significant, smart scene was filmed in that tube station, so it would have been very nice to have gone along and had my picture taken next to one of the signs for it.
also, i didn't make Oxford Road, or Oxford Street if that's what it is called. another dear friend works there, but he advised me that June was "busy" and that i should try and see him another time. in the absence of seeing him, all there is to Oxford Road is shopping, and i was limited in regards of how much stuff i would be able to carry home with me.
still, i made it to Leicester Square at the least, and got this picture taken of me to show that i did.
according to Peter Cook on the celebrated Why Bother? recordings, Leicester Square is the place where you can purchase crack cocaine the cheapest in london. is that true? i have no idea, as none of the shops i passed seem to even so much as stock it, whatever it is, let alone have prices for it on display.
an amazing thing to do in london is cross a street. there are many pedestrians and many, many cars. the latter is something of a surprise, considering all that congestion charge business.
for the most part pedestrians in london wait for the green light to appear that says traffic has stopped so they may cross the road safely. the perversity of "jaywalking" is something us English tend to leave to the Americans, thank you very much.
to ensure safety as you cross, many of the crossing lights in london have this added feature.
yes, indeed, that is a little countdown clock, telling you how many seconds you have before the lights change and the traffic once again commences down the road over which you are crossing. very clever and serves only to encourage even safer road crossing. although i am sure somewhere someone sees this as a challenge, and waits for the clock to get down to 2 or even 1 before legging it and sprinting across. Usain Bolt, maybe.
an image of Spiros by the statue outside of Hammersmith tube station? doable.
that is indeed a Starbucks to the side there. i tried one whilst i was in london. dreadful coffee, and i still do not understand why the insist on writing people's names on the cups. rather just serve people a bit faster so you don't lose track, and it didn't help in my case that the person serving me somehow managed to get "lee" wrong. i don't recall what they put instead, but it took some time for me to get my coffee as a consequence.
more touristy, well known things instead of just what Spiros felt compelled to show me? why sure, how about a gander at Buckingham Palace?
no, i was not there to collect a knighthood or obe, dear reader, i just had the opportunity to go past. would i accept an honour from the royals? in the blink of an eye, although of the top of my head i have no idea at all what it is that they could honour me for. services to blogging, perhaps, or maybe even services to smoking.
if such an honour for such reason is to be bestowed upon me i suppose they could have done it there and then, if only i had let them known i was on my way. it was the case, after all, that Her Majesty was in residence, for that is what i believe is signified when the Union Jack is flown full mast above the palace.
the thing that amazes me, and many others, is just how close you can actually get to Buckingham Palace. if you tried to get this close to other stately homes around the world - Nkandla, for instance, or Barbs' smart Malibu pad or her New York brownstone - you'd end up arrested or worse.
on that note, it is in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace that one can see a very rare sight - armed police officers. i got a bit of a fright when i saw them, as it has been some 18 months since i last saw a firearm.
the presence of armed officers near Buckingham Palace - and one or two other locations around london, is understandable and pretty much what you would want, just in case someone incredibly foolish attempted to do something that they would instantly regret for both seconds of the remainder of their life. with that being the case, though, the officers are non-aggressive about it and remain as unobtrusive as they possibly can, allowing us simple tourists to take in the sheer beauty and sense of awe of the place.
a look at the main gates to Buckingham Palace? sure, why not.
if someone was particularly stupid, right, and approached Buckingham Palace with malice as their intent and for some reason the armed constabulary were not enough to cause them to change their mind, there is of course the small matter of the very well armed and exceptionally capable soldiers before the palace, appointed and trusted to protect our monarch with no questions asked.
i possibly should have zoomed, but all the same, here is a bit of video of them changing sentry boxes and doing a bit of a patrol thing for you.
a picture of the main gates to Buckingham Palace, blemished by my present before them? if that's the sort of thing which works for you, well, then, here you go.
the more observant, or wise, of you will have noticed in the above picture that a fellow tourist was taking an image of what was in front of me, not behind. in case you were wondering of what exactly, that would be the Queen Victoria Memorial, which i've sort of taken a half bearable picture of for you here.
onwards, then, to the other place where i spotted armed police officers. that would be outside of the home of the constabulary, the world famous New Scotland Yard. some sort of television interview was being done as i passed it, so i thought i had better take a selfie. this is despite young Ben at my office describing men who take selfies as being "totally gay". to which i say ha, if only i had any sort of style or sophistication to me then perhaps the gay community would consider accepting me.
who was being interviewed and what about? i have no idea at all. as i was in london the main story was of some sort of vigilante cyclist taking photos of people who ate cereal as they drove to work; a story which was mere day later followed by the story of someone who was driving a car and eating cereal as they did so knocking over a cyclist who appeared to be taking photographs of them.
did i particularly wish or intend to go past New Scotland Yard? nope, i took a wrong turn on the way to my intended destination from Buckingham Palace. which took quite some doing, as you shall soon see.
but still, every cloud, dear reader. as well as New Scotland Yard, my adventure in taking a wrong turn or two also allowed me to catch a glimpse of that massive London Eye thing, which you can more or less see in this next picture.
where was it that i was trying to get to? Westminster, dear reader. that i managed to take so many wrong turns is all the more impressive when one considers that these very clear and helpful map pillars are all over the more touristy areas of london.
and so, with me both reading the map and paying attention, i was able to work my way to Westminster to see the many fantastic and celebrated buildings it features. like, for instance, Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is most fondly thought of around the world for certain Royal weddings, and of course certain funerals which have been held there.
no, i wasn't there to attend either myself, but if for some reason you wished to see an image of me stood in front of what i think is the side entrance, here you go.
um, do i write this next bit or not? i am aware that, at heart, Westminster Abbey is a church. i appreciate that i have many friends who are quite passionate about their anti-religious stance. equally, i have just as dear friends who are passionate about their faith in the religion they believe in. me? i just kind of get along with as many people as i can, and respect whatever it is they believe in which helps them through the world.
i cannot, however, help be awestruck at the clear strength of faith people had in their belief to craft and build something as astonishing as Westminster Abbey.
in terms of imminent events of world interest at Westminster Abbey, i am assuming someone senior has had a good long, hard look at the life of Prince Harry and concluded that he's not getting married any time soon. further, the offspring of Prince Andrew can go down the registry office and get it sorted if for some reason they are proposed to.
that would be why, i conclude, that they have elected to carry out some restoration and refurbishment work upon this breathtaking building.
cripes, i am somewhat running out of energy to write here - well done if you have endured all of this and are still reading, instead of just looking at the pictures.
an earlier post showed me stood before the statue of Nelson Mandela that is located in Westminster. here's a look at it without me being present in the picture.
i don't feel my images have done this statue justice. it really is magnificent, and i would encourage all who can to take the time to go and see it in person for themselves. for those who cannot, well, i hope my photographs at least give you an idea of how amazing it is.
back to things more traditionally associated with the London skyline, and that big massive clock by which the people of london are able to tell the time correctly.
yes, Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, which i think is the same thing as saying the House of Commons, or if you like Parliament, or that's inside it at the least.
a picture of me stood before Big Ben? sure, why not, as my (considerably) better half seems to really rather like this selfie. probably because of the purple shirt.
we are so very nearly done, reader - hang in there.
finally, then, bar a post on my train travels to and from london at some stage, we move on to Harrods.
i do trust my comments about Harrods in comparison to Fortnum & Mason has not led you to think that i either say or believe that i believe the place to be poor. far from it. it's a legendary, world famous shop, after all, and incredible to visit and browse.
it is also sensational, and very easy indeed, to get lost in Harrods. bloody massive, it is, and i did more than once have to ask one of the many staff on duty about how exactly one exited the building.
i did eventually make my way out, of course, hence me being here now to write this for you. but here's a final picture for this blog post of me inside Harrods, riding an escalator in the hope that it leads towards an exit.
did i purchase anything inside Harrods? why yes, i did. i got my (considerably) better half a nice compact mirror thing with the Harrods branding on it, and i indulged by treating myself to a smart silver pen. also with the Harrods branding on. these purchases were a perfect excuse to speak to yet another employee of Harrods about exactly where one might find an exit.
phew, blimey. my legs and feet are still stiff and sore from all the walking i did (yes, that's an l), but i would do it all again gladly. i do, as point of fact, hope to get down to london again in the not too distant future. it's a splendid place, it is.
i hope some if not all of this was interesting for you, dear visitor, and as ever thanks for reading!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!