London: Commonwealth Observance Day, 2012

Monday 11th March, 2013.

With Alysha performing at Westminster Abbey, for Commonwealth Observance Day, later in the day, I decided to head off to London to try and get some photos.

With the temperature at zero degrees and a bitter wind, bringing in snow, I boarded the 10:50 train from Watford Met station and began my journey. As we approached Northwood station the driver announced that there was a problem at Baker Street, so this train would be terminating at Harrow-on-the-hill. No mention was made of how long this problem would last or whether there would be a bus replacement, so I began formulating a new plan. (Take Met line to Rayners Lane, then Piccadilly line into London. Sorted.) As it turned out, the delay was only 15 minutes, so I carried on with my planned route. I alighted at Finchley Road and took the Jubilee line to Green Park, where I left the confines of the underground for a walk through the Royal Parks. No sooner had I entered Green Park I realised that I was the only pedestrian around, probably due to the dropping temperature. This was beneficial as the Bomber Command Memorial was deserted, giving me the chance to get some nice photos, without anyone in them. With the time approaching midday, I headed South, along Constitution Hill, towards Buckingham Palace, just in time to catch the changing of the guard, which I hadn’t seen for many years. I then followed the guards towards their barracks before turning into St. James’s Park, where I bought a latte, to warm me up. I crossed St. James’s Park lake, via the foot bridge, before walking along the South side of the lake. I was surprised by how many breeds of bird and wildlife were to be seen. There were Pochards, Mallards, Great White Pelicans, Herons, Ravens, Swans and many more. With the snow getting heavier and the wind picking up, taking decent photos was becoming more difficult.

Satisfied that I had some nice pics I left St. James’s Park and took Great George Street to Parliament Square. Possibly because it was a Monday lunchtime, or because the temperature was zero degrees, Westminster was deserted. Parliament Square had erected 54 flagpoles, one for each of the Commonwealth nations. Because of the lack of people, I got some great shots of the deserted square. One of my favourite shots, which I took for the fun factor, was of the Jamaican flag with snow falling. It made me chuckle. As I crossed from Parliament Square towards Westminster Abbey, a young foreign couple with a young daughter crossed the other way. It was a good job I was paying attention as the wind blew the young girl’s scarf into the road, without their knowledge. I picked up the scarf and turned to call out to them, but the wind and traffic noise drowned out my voice. Spying a break in the traffic I managed to catch up with them and reunite the girl with her scarf, much to her parents delight. I then headed back to the crossing and Westminster Abbey. When the green man appeared I checked that the traffic had stopped, but a big black car, with the registration AMS 1, stopped a bit too late. If I had have stepped into the road as soon as the green man had appeared, this car would surely have clipped me. Still, no harm no fowl. I am not sure if Lord Alan Michael Sugar was actually in the car, but if he was I hope he had words with his driver.

All the gates and entrances to Westminster Abbey were sealed and guarded by many Metropolitan Police officers, none of whom appeared to be carrying firearms, but I am sure that some of them had to be. All the dignitaries, VIPs, Royalty and Alysha would be entering the Abbey via the West entrance, by The Sanctuary, directly into The Nave of the abbey. With the time getting on and no sign of anyone famous yet, I decided to try and warm myself up by getting something hot to eat. So, back across Parliament Square, onto Parliament Street and into The Red Lion. A pint of London Pride and a toasted bacon, cheese and mushroom baguette did the trick. Once the warmth had come back into my face and hands, I left the pub and headed towards Westminster station to find Alysha. A few minutes later and we met outside the station and headed off to the Abbey together. More and more people had arrived and news filtered down that HM Queen Elizabeth II was still not well enough to attend. I don’t think that Alysha was too upset by this, as the the chance to dance in front of 3,000+ people at such a prestigious venue was, in itself, a massive honour. After taking a few photos of Alysha, outside of Westminster Abbey, I wished her luck and watched her disappear into the crowds. A few special guests started to arrive, including the Jamaican High Commissioner, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba. The number plate of his car? JAM 1. Then more High Commissioners began to arrive, with the same style of number plate;; NAM 1, RSA 1, etc. How cool.

With the temperature beginning to drop and the snow falling heavier, I decided to find some shelter. The Parliament Shop is a small shop selling various books, crockery and the like. It was while I was browsing through some books, I noticed a man (who looked familiar) talking to the cashier. Not able to place the man I continued browsing until I remembered where I had seen the him before. Then it hit me. His picture was on one the books I had just looked at! I quickly grabbed the book and checked the photograph. Yep. It was him. I then went up to the cashier, placing the book on the counter between the two men. The both looked at the book, then at me and then at each other. I waited until the transaction was complete before looking directly at the author, who still stood beside me. Pretending to have only just recognised him, I asked if he would do me the honour of signing his book. He politely agreed and I ended up with a signed copy of ‘Order! Order! A Parliamentary Miscellany’, which is written by Robert Rogers, Clerk of the House of Commons. Feeling very pleased with myself I headed back to The Red Lion for a pint of London Pride, to warm up and wait for Alysha to finish.

I made my way back towards Westminster Abbey in time to see some of the dignitaries departing, of which I got a few photos. Then it was a case of waiting for Alysha. She appeared at the top of the steps of the West entrance and I managed to get some photos of her, leaving the Abbey. We then waited for her friend Sophie, before making our way to Westminster station. The girls were going back to Watford via a different route, to me, so we made our farewells and headed off home.

All in all another great, if cold, day out in London.

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