Tag Archive | South Bank

London’s Burning! London’s Burning! And Orientation Lectures at NYU-London

Friday, September 2, 2016


Morning Visitors:

I awoke at 6.15 am (naturally, no alarm, just my body clock) to catch up on writing a blog post–this seems to have fallen into fairly comfortable routine for me. Not much time to do any reading as I had a lecture appointment at NYU. I did make the time to chat with my Dad–a much longer chat than I had anticipated, but all is well in Bombay.

I had a visitor expected at 8. 15 am–The Gas Man Cometh! The problem with the boiler needed to be fixed and I would be letting him in. He arrived on schedule and about 45 minutes later, I was relieved by David who had agreed to wait as long as it took for the gas man to resolve the issue. Accordingly, I organized my brekkie (muesli with honey yoghurt and decaff coffee) and got dressed (no shower because obviously there was no hot water!), doused myself in Freesia perfume by Fragonard and was out the door!

Introductory Lecture/s to London at NYU:

The lectures I wished to attend as part of NYU-London’s Orientation for our new students were at 10.00 am. I took a bus to Bethnal Green station then the Central Line Tube to Tottenham Court Road, then walked along Great Russel Street to find The Congress Center where the lectures would be held. The place was already buzzing with about 200 students but since there were many seats vacant, it was clear to me that one batch hadn’t yet arrived from their resident hall. About half an hour later, they trooped inside and the session began.

I was keen to listen to what the speaker would say on the ‘Introduction to London’ lecture. It is a tall order–introducing London from the Beginnings to Brexit! The Lecturer was Porf. Steve Inwood, who, I later discovered (on chatting with him) had been one of Boris Johnson’s advisers on matters regarding transport for London. He started off by reminding us that we were gathered together to listen to a lecture about London on one of its red-letter days–no pun intended! But today marks exactly 350 years since the Great Fire of London of 1666–a date that I had committed to memory decades ago when studying British History in India. Using Powerpoint, he presented a number of visuals–old maps, modern photographs, etc. to delineate the varied faces of London and the forces that have contributed to its evolution and being. I found some aspects of it quite enlightening although I really did know a lot of what he disclosed.

He was followed by Dr. William (Lez) Henry who spoke about the Black Atlantic presence in London. A visually striking Jamaican-British figure in his dreadlocks, Lez spoke about the arrival on the Empire Windrush in 1952 of the first Jamaican immigrants to the UK–these included his parents–who settled in Brixton and immediately attempted to bring their music and dance traditions to the city. These were roundly rejected as the vicious racism of the 1950s was designed to demean and degrade these hardworking, ambitious people. The rise of the Skinheads worsened this issue when full-blown street warfare began through gangs. As a part of one of the gangs during his growing years, Lez brought first-hand experience to his talk which was fun, entertaining and informative. It is ironic that Reggae, a form of Jamaican music, is among the most popular music genres in the UK today–just as chicken tikka masala is the favorite form of takeout food in the UK today: brought in by the South Asian immigrants who also experienced the same race and color bars in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Overall, it was a very interesting morning and a chance for me to reunite with some of my former New York students from the Stern School of Business who will be spending their Fall semester in London.

Photocopying and Pizza Lunch:

Back at my office at Bedford Square, I attempted to get some photocopying done but discovered that the machine was in hot (no pun intended!) demand and that we had run out of paper. I really ought not to have waited until the eve of school re-opening to do this as every faculty members is in the same boat–desperate to get syllabi printed out. I am surprised that they are still required to photocopy them for students here in London. In New York, in an attempt to Go Green, we merely email students’ syllabi and get them to photocopy individually, if they need to. However, the wait for the copy machine allowed me to meet a few of my new NYU colleagues here in London, Steve (who delivered the lecture), Elia, Marie (a lovely Frenchwoman with a Parisian accent) and her son, Ben ( a very bright little boy).

When I was done, I sauntered over to the Book Fair in a nearby hotel and browsed through the stalls. That when I made a nice discovery!

Registering to Vote from Overseas:

I had felt very disappointed that my position in London would not allow me to vote in the US Elections of 2016: an election that might be historic as it could put a woman for the first time in the White House. Eight years ago, I had not been able to vote for Obama although I was a big supporter of him because I was in London when the US election took place.

So, imagine my delight when I found that one of the stalls was run by three women who were registering absentee American overseas citizens as potential voters. They did everything: They gave me a form, looked up the address of the Town Clerk in Connecticut to whom I ought to mail it, even sold me a stamp for 1.33 pounds to pop it into a British post-box. I was simply delighted and lost no time in going through the formalities. Sooner or later, I will receive my ballot sheet in the mail and can send out my vote! Now, of course, I will have to sit and think: who is the less horrible of the two candidates–Trump or Clinton? Hmmm…on that score, I don’t think I will need too long of a think!

Finding out that there was tons of pizza in the dining hall next door, I popped in and ate probably the worst pizza I have ever eaten in my life. It made me dreadfully homesick for good New York pizza dripping with good quality, tasty tomato sauce and really gooey mozzarella cheese. Good chocolate Ice-cream and good Pizza–those are two of the things I so wish I could find in London!

Off to the Holborn Library:

My next port of call was the Holborn Library on Theobald’s Road where I used to have a membership when I lived there. Since it had lapsed for want of renewal, I decided to go back there and reinstate it. It had been the source of all the leisure-time reading I had done when I had last lived in London (almost the entire Harry Potter series, for instance, which I had read then). It was done online and before long, I was presented with my membership card. I browsed through the stacks, did not find a paperback I could pick up and did not want to carry around the weight of a hardbound volume. I will go back again when I have some more leisure to pick something out.

On the Bus to the National Portrait Gallery:

It was about 3.00 pm, by the time I arrived at he National Portrait Gallery to continue my survey of the Victorians. I was pleased to find a portrait of Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament and Highclere Castle (setting for Downton Abbey) as I had no idea what he looked like although his name has so often come up recently. I also found a portrait of a 19th century cricketer that I photographed for my friend Bash. It is nice to have free wifi in these big museums. When I finished with the 19th century, I stopped as I decided to do the 20th in one go–if time permits, tomorrow.

Journey To and Research at the Library:

I was headed next to the Library at Queen Mary College to continue my work on Elizabeth Buettner’s book; but this time I made sure I stepped into the café to eat a snack and order a cup of tea first. I did not want to leave the library early when hunger pangs beckoned. And was I glad I did!

So I took the Northern Line from Charing Cross Station, switched into the District Line at Embankment, then took a bus for 2 stops to the college on Mile End Road. It was about 6.00 pm when I arrived at my favorite seat in the library. In a week or two, it will be much more crowded as college classes begin. For the moment, it is still a pleasure to sit in my carrel and take notes. I made steady progress but when the library closed at 7. 30, I left–thankfully, I was not hungry at all.

On the Bus to the Thames:

It was actually while I was seated on the No. 25 bus to get home that I made the lightning decision to do something that would mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire. I was not sure exactly what I ought to do. So I played a guessing game. Surely there would be something on at The Monument–designed by Wren and erected to mark the horrible occurrence.

So I switched into a No. 15 bus that would get me there. When I got off, there was absolutely nothing and no one at the Monument except for a few pub revelers. Not to be daunted, I walked along London Bridge (which had also been burned in the fire) to arrive at the center of it. But for the fantastic illumination of Tower Bridge and the Shard that made for good photo ops, there was nothing to be seen. I really ought to have Googled it first to find out what was going on where–as there simply HAD to be something.

Great Fire 350 Commemoration on the South Bank:

I walked back to Poultry, hopped into a No. 11 bus that was headed towards The Tower of London and decided to get off at Wobbly Bridge. Surely there would be something going on there! It was a lovely late summer’s night and although there was a slight spritz of a drizzle, it passed off quickly. I was grateful for my fleece as it kept me nice and comfortable.

At St. Paul’s Churchyard, I got off and oh my goodness! Crowds heading towards Wobbly Bridge convinced me that something was going on. I hurried forward without looking around me and it was not until I was right in the middle of it that I looked back and found that the dome of St. Paul’s was ablaze–yes, a fantastic light projection show circulated flames in varying colors that moved around the dome and filled one with horror. The rest of the building, usually beautifully lit all night long, was kept in complete darkness. It was totally eerie.

By the time I arrived at the middle of the bridge, I could see hoops of fire over on the South Bank right outside the Tate Modern. And as I hurried forward, I could smell fire and burning and it was the first horror I truly felt of the gravity of the terrible tragedy that befell the city.

Totally Thames Festival:

But first, in the Thames, anchored just below the Millennium Bridge (the real name of the bridge), I spied the lit cube with the Korean man posed on it. It is a seven meter high illuminated cube floating on a pontoon on the Thames and containing sketches by Korean refugees who made London their home. Created by Korean artist Ik-Joong Kang, it is part of the Totally Thames Festival which will go on till Sunday. I took a few pictures of it and moved on as it was getting later and I feel compelled to get home as soon as I can.

Becoming a Part of the Fire Garden Outside the Thames:

Hurrying along with my camera at the ready, I took the foot passage to the South Bank and arrived at a most awesome sight. The area outside the Tate Modern was converted into a Fire Garden with hanging baskets, terracotta pots placed in formative loops, hoops, etc. But instead of being filled with flowers or plants, they were entirely filled with hot burning coals! The heat, the smell of burning fuel, the sizzling, crackling sounds made as they burned, the shooting off showers of tiny flames, was all so hideous and so evocative of what had happened 350 years ago that I was deeply affected.

London’s Great Fire of 1666:

So here is what happened: In the early hours of September 2, 1666, a fire broke out in Pudding Lane in The City of London when hot lard used in baking bread was set aflame. The female servant who became aware of it while it was still manageable went to alert her boss who lay asleep with his wife. He was so panic-stricken, he roused his wife and they ran as far away as they could. The poor maid was one of the 14 people who died: a rather tiny number if you consider what damage and destruction was caused during the next four days that the fire raged.

First of all, London was built entirely of timber in the 17th century. A vicious wind egged the flames on and within no time at all, the entire square mile that comprised The City was ablaze. People scurried away to the river which offered the only form of refuge. We know much about the Great Fire through the pen of Samuel Pepys, the diarist who climbed to the steeple of All Hallows at the Tower Church to watch the spectacle. By the time the fire was quelled, the entire City lay in ashes.

It provided an opportunity to rebuild the City under the stewardship of Sir Christopher Wren who used stone and turned immediately to the churches creating his masterpiece–St. Paul’s Cathedral–and it got rid of the rats that had carried the bubonic plague that for centuries had regularly decimated the population.

The City of London that survives today is not too far different from the way it looked in the early 1700s after Wren had accomplished his miracle. Of course, there is no telling how long this landscape will last as The City is being altered almost beyond recognition by the 21st century frenzy of development that is giving us modern icons such as the Gherkin and the Cheese Grater!

Participation in the Event:

I listened to some of the live music that was being presented by musicians in cages surrounded by burning coals. I needed to rest my feet a bit so I squatted on the grass and listened to the extremely plaintive mourning music they produced. I took many pictures of the installations in wrought iron that produced the fire and the heat. It gave me an idea of what it might have been like to try to escape the fire by jumping into the Thames–but what if you could not swim? I wondered.

At about 9. 30 pm (really much later than I had desired to stay out), I crossed the Thames again on Wobbly Bridge and jumped into a bus heading to the East End. This afforded me the opportunity to get some really good pictures of the burning dome of St. Paul’s. About ten minutes later, I was changing into another bus outside Liverpool Street Station–by this time I was hungry, so I pulled my sandwiches out of my bag and ate them on the top deck of the bus that came swiftly along.

By 10.00 pm, I was inside my house and sitting down with a mug of ice-cream–mugs because there are no bowls in this house (the bowls here are more like large soup plates–not the best for ice-cream or other desserts).

On A Videochat with Llew:

I ended my day with a long videochat with Llew who had a routine colonoscopy that morning with our favorite surgeon. Our American friend Susan, who had driven Llew to the hospital and back for his surgery,  had been in touch with me all day to keep me informed on how he was doing. He looked and sounded fine and none the worse for his medical escapade. With the long Labor Day Weekend looming in the States, he has three days to make a good recovery and to take it easy. I told him all about my experiences with the South Bank Great Fire commemoration and he was very pleased that I braved the late night to go out and do something significant to mark the day.

At 11.30, after catching up with email, I got ready for bed but it was after midnight when I switched off the light.

Until tomorrow, cheerio….

Making Dreams Come True–Thames Barrier & Greenwich

Friday, July 26, 2013
            Today I went to one of my favorite parts of London—Greenwich. It is an opportunity to cruise on the River Thames, to take in the grand architecture of Sir Christopher Wren (which, in the case of Greenwich, was actually inspired by India’s Taj Mahal) and to stroll through antiques’ stalls to pick up bricabrac. This time, I made a few more dreams come true—small ones, but dreams, nonetheless.
            I worked for about three hours in the morning—awaking early really does help me accomplish substantial work and leaves me guiltless about goofing off for the rest of the day in this distracting city. Brekkie done (walnut bread toast with peanut butter and goat cheese, tea) I showered, got myself organized and set off for Westminster Pier to pick up the ferry to Greenwich. Being a bit early for the 12. 30 ferry, however, I got off one stop later—at Waterloo—and began the South Bank Walk, according to DK Eyewitness Guides.
Strolling on the South Bank:
           Scores of shots of this part of London (from watching too many BBC TV shows—MI5, Sherlock Holmes—made me feel as if I were in a movie. Alighting from the Tube at Waterloo, I had the good sense to jump into a bus that was crossing Waterloo Bridge (as I knew I needed to conserve energy for all the walking I would do during the rest of the day), and alighted at the National Theater—that poor controversial building that Prince Charles described as “a carbuncle on the face of London”.  Others described it as a “war bunker”, yet others as a “power station”. So, no, visually appealing it is not. But it is practical and functional and I have quite grown to like it.
           I crossed the busy dual carriageway street (whoa, careful there!) and reached the other side: the Hayward Gallery has a huge topiary display depicting two people gardening. In the forecourt, I saw a multitude of potted plants and flowers and in the gallery itself it a special exhibition on Nek Chand, an Indian sculptor based in Chandigarh, Punjab, who designed the famous Rock Garden there to blend in with the brilliant architecture of the city by Le Corbusier. Years ago, I had visited Chandigarh with my late mother Edith who was a great admirer of the work of Le Corbusier and had motivated my Dad to arrange a family holiday of North India that would include Chandigarh. Looking at Nek Chand’s work took me back to amazing holidays with my parents during which my Mum had communicated and passed on her zeal for discovering new parts of the world. She was, when I look back now, indeed a ‘studied’ traveler—although, at that time, I was too young to realize it. It is exactly what I have become.
       Resolving to visit the Nek Chand exhibition on another day, I walked towards the BFI (British Film Institute) and browsed in the second-hand book stalls set up under the bridge by makeshift salesmen. Heading forward, I walked past the skate boarding rink that is heavily graffitied and which usually sports a bunch of young chaps flaunting their skills. This morning, it was empty. On I pressed towards Hungerford Bridge past the many riverside restaurants—I have eaten twice at the Wagamama there—before I received a call from Llew that I took sitting quayside. I also spoke to our friend Ira who is visiting Southport from Maine for the annual Pequot Library Sale which is going on this weekend.
Booking a Thames River Cruise:
           It was time for me to get on if I wished to board the 12. 30 pm ferry, so I crossed Hungerford Bridge on foot and arrived at the Embankment Tube station from where I took the train for one stop to Westminster. I easily found my way to the booking offices where there were about 8 people ahead of me buying tickets to board the ferries. Most folks go only as far as Greenwich which is a popular spot for a daytrip. But, as I said, this time round, I was making long-held dreams come true.
             Years ago, I had read a series of books on traveling in the UK and in London by Susan Allen Tott—books that were such pleasurable reading and that rang so many bells in my mind that I actually prescribed them for a Writing course I had taught while living and teaching in London. It was from Tott’s books that I had become aware of the Thames Flood Barrier and ever since then I was determined to go there and see it for myself. Unfortunately, it is only open to visitors for a limited time in the year—three months of summer—and since I have visited the UK usually in the winter, in recent years, I have been deprived of the opportunity to see it. Meanwhile, on more than one landing into Heathrow airport, I have seen the Barrier from the air, and it has only whetted my appetite to be present in person on the ground.
This was my big opportunity. Thames River Services (TRS) operates ferry trips all the way to the Thames Barrier (which is half an hour by boat beyond Greenwich). The return trip is pricey—18 pounds, but I was astute enough to go online and I found a 50% discount coupon which I printed out, presented at the counter and was given a return ticket for just 8. 75 pounds! A true bargain considering that I had paid 8 pounds for just one way on the Regent’s Canal Cruise from Camden Lock to Little Venice which was a much shorter trip!
Cruising the River Thames:
            No matter how often I do this, a cruise on the River Thames is an exciting adventure for me. It offers views of the city of the London from a unique perspective and you get to see bits of it that you could never see from any other angle. I have cruised to Greenwich on innumerable occasions and each time, I have discovered something more about this fabulous city.
            The cruise leaves from Westminster Pier which offers incomparable views of St. Steven’s Tower which is commonly known as “Big Ben” (which is really the name of the bell that is concealed in the uppermost compartment—not the clock, as many believe). The ferry turns around to bring the London Eye and the Aquariuminto focus. And then we were off: the sights from the river that stay with me are Shakespeare’s Globe Theater—this is exactly the perspective Queen Elizabeth I would have received when she came theater-visiting by boat from Hampton Court Palace or Richmond Palace. The Tate Modern, St. Paul’s Cathedralwith its imposing dome and twin spires, colorful Blackfriars Bridge, The Gerkin and now the Shard and further on, the magnificent Tower Bridge flanked on one side by the historic Tower of London (you can see the ominous entrance to Traitor’s Gate from the water) and on the other by Sir Norman Foster’s “collapsed pudding” of a building that is City Hall. St. Katherine’s Dock comes next with Dickens’ Pub close by. More pubs dot the bank: The Mayflower (denoting the spot from which the Pilgrims set out in a boat of the same name to colonize the New World), The Prospect of Whitbywhich has a noose hanging over the river (from which gangsters/pirates were once hung) and closer to Greenwich, the Trafalgar Tavern (about which more later). The shabby warehouses of Wapping and the wharfs (West India Wharf, Butler’s Wharf, etc.) that once lined the riverfront (and did brisk trade at a time, for centuries really, when the Thames was the commercial lifeblood of the country)  have all been converted into luxury flats whose prices present sticker shock or into fancy malls (gallerias) before the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf come into view—the major newspaper/press offices and all the big banks moved here from The City to create a small financial township on what is called The Isle of Dogs. The domes of Wren’s National Maritime College then come into view as do the dome-like structures that mark the entrance to the amazing Greenwich Foot Tunnel that offers a footpath under the river in another brilliant feat of Victorian engineering—and which I had once crossed—to denote that most people had reached their destination. They disembarked and our boat sailed on.
Approaching the Thames Flood Barrier:
            Once the bulk of the boat’s human cargo was released at Greenwich, the boat rounded the prominent hairpin bend in the river that is marked by the great white dome of the O2, known as the Millennium Dome. It resembles a gigantic white tent with gold prongs sticking out of it. Used for concerts and being full of restaurants and amusement arcades, there is a lot to keep one occupied inside. I had once attended an exhibition there on the Treasures of Tutankhamunthat had traveled from Cairo to London. A new contraption in a walkway along the circumference which, for a hefty price, allows visitors to climb over the outside of the dome—the bottom is very steep and most challenging.
            Once we left the Millemmium Dome behind, I knew it would not be long before I could catch my first glimpse of the Thames Flood Barrier. And indeed, in a few minutes, there it was. Now I am no engineer so I am afraid I cannot comprehend the complicated design and the operation of this incredible device. But this much I know: From time to time, the Thames has flooded her banks so badly that water has rushed into the Houses of Parliament and destroyed significant parts of the city. When this last happened (in the mid-1960s, I believe), it was decided to do something permanent to effectively prevent any such disaster from occurring, The result is the Thames Flood Barrier which consists of about 8 or 9 structures that were constructed across the width of the river. They look like giant stainless steel domes but they open out and close like the petals of a flower. Underneath each of them are massive flood gates. These are opened or closed to regulate the amount of water in the river. If there are heavy rains or too much melting snow entering the river to threaten floods, the gates are closed. If there is too little (which can threaten to stall river craft at the banks), they are opened. As a result of this manipulation of the volume of water, London has never been flooded and the device has been hailed as revolutionary.
            Visitors to the Thames Barrier by boat can merely encircle it in their craft. I do not believe there is a landing pier for if there was, we’d have disembarked to visit the Information Center. I believe that one can get to the center by land through Woolwich—but I am not certain.
At any rate, by boat, you get really up close and personal to the barrier and you are dwarfed by it. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to be there and you had to pinch me to get me to believe that, after all these years, I was actually at the spot. The boat made a slow loop around one of the pillar-posts and started its return journey towards London. As for me, one of my dreams came true and I was simply beside myself.
Getting to Know Greenwich Again:
            Half an hour later, we were at Greenwich. I disembarked and began my walk using the DK Eyewitness Guide. It was 2. 30 pm and I had until 6.00 pm to catch the last ferry back to London. I had no intention of entering any of the historic buildings or museums for which the city is known as I had seen all the major ones. Still, it is a joy to wander around Wren’s great creations and I never miss the opportunity to do so.
            I fist passed by the Cutty Sark—this was a Victorian tea clipper (sailing ship) that was commissioned in 1868. For almost the next 100 years, during the golden years of the Raj, it had carried tea back from China and India to England to make it the world’s greatest nation of tea drinkers. It fell out of commission after World War II and lay in dry dock at Greenwich for decades until a recent fire on board destroyed most of it. It was closed for years while refurbishment and reconstruction went on and was only very recently reopened to the public (sometime after January 2012 which is when I was last in Greenwich).
            I had visited the Cutty Sark (after which the famous Scotch Whiskey is named) in 1989 on my first visit to the UK and had been fascinated by everything I had seen in the museum down below: the tea chests that held the merchandise, the smaller tea caddies, the collection of wonderful figureheads from various ships, etc. Hence, I did not visit it again this time round. It looks spanking new and gorgeous and if you are a kid, I would imagine, it would be a great thing to do.                 
            I should add, as an aside, that when I was in Greenwich in 1989, I had also seen the Gypsy Moth II which has been moved to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
            My walk took me quite suddenly into Greenwich Market which offers a combination of things: arts and crafts, clothing, food and bricabrac. And here’s where my next dream came true. In these stalls set up in a giant indoor market, I came upon something I have been hunting for years—a ceramic Dundee Marmalade jar from the 1900s. These have become ever so rare and so sell for very heavy prices. The last one I saw was in a small antiques’ shop in Windsor, a few years ago, but when I had inquired, I was informed by the salesman that it was not for sale—he used it to stash his pens (which is what I plan to do with it). The grumpy old saleswoman had priced it at 8 pounds—a real steal, believe me—but embarrassingly, I had forgotten to replenish my stock of British cash and since I rely mainly on my credit card, I am often caught short. When this happened, I asked the lady if she could do better on the price. She firmly refused and informed me that such objects are now really hard to come by (as if I did not know this!). I literally counted out the last pennies in my purse and found that I was short of 10p! I asked her if she would give me a 10p discount and she said, “Well, I suppose so”. I was just thrilled (small pleasures, right?).
Lunch in a Traditional Eel House:
Yes, you read right—eel house! My walk led me to Godard’s of Greenwich, an old-fashioned eel house dating from the late 1880s where traditional British food has been served for well over a hundred years. Jellied eels were sold mainly to the Cockney population for whom it was a staple food. Today, few shops sell this delicacy and Godard’sis still one of them. I have to admit that I did not have the courage to try them but the shop does sell other traditional food such as Pie and Mash which is what I ordered: the counter is equally ancient as was the saleswoman (who refused to give me a taste of the eels as she said they are very expensive!) My Beef Pie was tasty but it needed a lot of salt and pepper sprinkled on it. The Mash was served with what she called “liquor”—she told me it is traditional—it was a whiteish gravy flecked with parsley (and it needed a lot of more salt too). It was a good meal, very filling and very welcome as I was starving by 3. 00 pm, when I was eating it and I felt well fuelled to continue my exploration of the area.

Greenwich Walk Continued:

My next stop was St. Alfrege’s Churchwhich was built by Nicholas Hawksmoor, Wren’s pupil, in the late 18thcentury but a church has stood on this spot for nearly a thousand years and is very historic. Henry VIII who was born at Greenwich Palace (no longer standing) was baptized here and poor Thomas Tallis, a musician and composer in Henry VIII’s reign who was falsely accused of adultery with Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, was executed and buried in this churchyard. Unfortunately, it was closed but I managed to walk around the burial stones before I emerged out on the street again.
            I crossed Stockwell Road and at the corner of Nevada Road, I spied the Spread Eagle Pub which was once the watering post for tage coach horses of a past era. Opposite is the Tudor Rose Pubthat was established in the reign of Elizabeth I. I walked towards King William Road which is full of enticing shops offering souvenirs and historical memorabilia. And then I was at the gates of the National Maritime Museum which I have visited on a past occasion. I then walked towards the exquisite Queen’s House designed by Inigo Jones— which I have also visited before–a simple cube of a building in front of the famous Royal Observatory where one can stand astride the prime Meridian—it involves climbing up a steep hill which was not part of my walk but which I have straddled on a past visit as well. Across the Queen’s House are the gates of the National Maritime College and I could see that a graduation ceremony was in progress as varied cloaked young folks were walking all over the place. Right enough, it turned but to be Graduation Day at the University of Greenwich which now occupies these majestic buildings. This meant that, irritatingly, I was not able to go beyond the entrance of the amazing Chapel with its glorious altarpiece by Benjamin West and its elaborate Neo-Classical plasterwork ceiling, walls and balcony (location of one of the most memorable scenes in MI5). I crossed the yard to get to the Painted Hall, one of the masterpieces of British architecture, painted by James Thornhill, who also painted the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It shows George III in great glory, but here too, I was unable to get too far inside as it was closed except for graduation ticket holders. However, having seen it in years gone by, on many occasions, I was not too disappointed.           
            Getting out of the area of Wren’s handiwork, I walked to the riverfront to the Trafalgar Tavern which has stood on this site since the time of Nelson who was a frequent visitor—as were Wren and Charles Dickens. Inside, it is a collection of lovely rooms filled with painting, photographs, engravings, etc. that depict Greenwich in various guises. There is a great deal of history in this area and I am constantly fascinated by the allusions to the great names from the past.
I walked along the Thames Path then by the river and took in the sights of a number of water fowl—including a family of ducks swimming all in a row! It was only 4. 30 pm and I felt I had the time to go out and see one place that I had never seen before—the Fan Museum on Croom’s Hill.   
A Fan of the Fan Museum:
            By the time I climbed Croom’s Hill and arrived at the unusual Fan Museum, it was already 4. 45 pm. Although it costs 4 pounds to get into the museum, they let me get in for free since it was closing in 15 minutes. I made a beeline for the top floor to see the collection of fans of Helene Alexander that numbered 2,000. Over the years, the museum has added to its collection and today there are really unusual fans in the cases. There are traditional ladies hand held fans that are painted elaborately. I saw the use of ivory, tortoiseshell and wood in the creation of fan frames and all of it was wonderful. There was a short film that features the museum’s highlights—from fans that concealed pistols and hearing aids and mirrors to touch up make up. Everything was amazing and I loved it.
            On the walk back, I spied the home of Cecil Day-Lewis, Britain’s Poet Laureate at one time and the father of the famous actor Daniel Day-Lewis. This was where Daniel grew up and it tickled me to think that the riches of Greenwich were in his backyard. Croom’s Hill is filled with very well maintained old homes that are much sought-after real estate today.   
            It was time to get back to the Landing Pier and at 5. 30pm, I was on a boat, really fatigued, as I sailed back to London.
Dining a Deux with Michelle:
            At Westminster Pier, I took the Tube to get to the next place—Regent’s Street to the Ten Café at Café Royal, a very snazzy, very upscale space, where I had been invited to have dinner with my Bombay college classmate Michelle who is a lawyer specializing in European Law with the British government. We have remained close friends over the years and I always make sure I meet her when I am in London. Seeing her again was a real pleasure and, as always, we spent the next two hours just talking nineteen to the dozen as we caught up.
            As for the meal, it was wondrous. We both started with a cocktail—a Picador—that was reminiscent of a margarita. For starters, we had a Tomato Salad full of heirloom tomatoes, a marinara sauce and a garnish of parmesan flakes. For a main, Michelle chose the Salmon while I went with a Rump of Veal with a Bordelaise Sauce served with parmesan crisp on a bed of spinach. It was really very good and we enjoyed it thoroughly before we perused the desserts menu and decided to share the Cherry and Chocolate (a deconstructed Black Forest Cake) and a composition of puddings with Apricot—sorbet, soufflés, cream, candied. They were all fab. We had excellent service from our French waiter named Emericque and were just charmed by the lovely flower arrangements everywhere in the hotel which was truly gracious. He even took us to the Caviar and Champagne Tasting Bar which was a revelation—a room more reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles or Fontainbleu rather than a room on Regent’s.
            It was about 10.15 pm when we decided to leave after what had been an excellent dining experience. As someone who lives mainly on sandwiches when I am occupying the homes of other folks, to have both the company and the opportunity to enjoy a meal with a good friend was a special treat and I felt deeply grateful for it.
            I got back home at 11.00 pm and skyped with Chriselle for half an hour. It was great to see her again and to catch up on everything that has happened to us since our Baltic Sea cruise—so I had a lot of news to share with her.
About midnight, I fell asleep ready to take on the weekend.
Until tomorrow, cheerio!