London, Day 2

Well, seeing as I’ve received very little / no feedback on Day 1, I can see that you’re all really enjoying reading these. Never mind, I intend to keep going, with the help of more photographs and Google Maps.

Anyway, I awoke on the 2nd day. This was to be the main day we were there, and the only full day. We had intended to visit Brick Lane market at one point during the trip. Unfortunately, due to it only being open at the weekend, it was closed, so that was off the radar. There was, however, Borough Market just a short tube ride away, somewhere near London Bridge. We got there, and it was rather “foody”.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a market that’s got a dedicated “Turnips” section. Admittedly, I did spend rather a long time debating whether I should buy a small tub of Scorpion Chilli powder, but seeing as there was no prices on anything, I decided against it. I’m one of those people who’ll take something to a counter, ask how much it is, and then begrudgingly buy it even if it’s more than what I expected to pay.

It’s probably still there on the shelf now. On the plus side, I didn’t have to carry it around all day.

Accomplice bought a “weird” bacon sandwich, and while I was tempted to buy a sausage sandwich, I didn’t…. my word, the excitement I get up to, eh? No wonder nobody is reading this bloody thing.

We walked around the nearby area, and happened to stumble upon one of the replicas of “The Golden Hinde”.

It was a short walk to London Bridge tube station, so we headed off in its general direction. As you pass under London Bridge, there’s a tannoy that plays a creepy music-box rendition of “London Bridge Is Falling Down”. That’s rather worrisome, especially as you’re going under it as the time. No matter though, as I’m sure it’s built with far more sturdy materials than when that particular tune was written. It’s an old folk tune anyway, so it was probably written about polio anyway.

One of the sights I wanted to see while I was in London was the Olympic Park, in Stratford. It sort-of fitted with the other things we were going to see that day anyway (or so we thought), so we headed off in that general direction.

It seemed we were going out of the more popular area of London, as the tube carriage emptied further and further we went along the line. This had me feeling already that there wasn’t going to be too much there.

Well. After getting out of the tube station, you’re greeted with a shopping centre. Nothing much wrong with that, but it just feels a bit like “You’ve come all this way to see something. Great! Now spend some money!” And, spend I did! I bought myself a sausage roll from Greggs (yes, they have them down there too) and a bottle of wahter. And the sausage roll was *terrible*.

It was a short walk to the Olympic park from the shopping centre. Well, it would have been had we gone the right way, but instead we ended up walking around the not-very-decorative loading bays for the shopping centre. Oops.

Onto the stadium itself. The words “underwhelming” spring to mind. Maybe it was because they changed the shape of it since it was used for the Olympic Games, but I was expecting something much grander.

The athletics championships had just finished a couple of days prior to us going, and there were still traces of the signage left standing. Unfortunately, as the stadium had begun the transformation from an athletics track into a football stadium (which has to be done manually, and takes 15 days), nost of it was fenced off. There were still signs up for the athletics though, including a sighting of my new second-favourite fictional hedgehog, “Hero”…

After that, we were “Gone, Gone, Gone!” Next stop would be Abbey Road. It was a mere couple of stops on the DLR…. or WAS it?

Judging by the presence of that sentence, you’d be right in thinking it isn’t. At least, not the famous one, anyway.

We got off at the appropriate DLR station named “Abbey Road”, and made our way to the bridge that leads out on the road, only to be presented with a sign filled with really crap Beatles puns, something along the lines of “Are you looking for the Beatles’ Abbey Road and are in need of a little Help!? Well, you’ll need to get a Ticket To Ride to “another station”.

Accomplice had pretty much given up on the idea of seeing it. I clearly hadn’t. Therefore, we travelled the 34 minutes on the tube, followed by about another 10 minute walk, just to see a zebra crossing. And it’s not even the original zebra crossing, which was a little further up the road. But nothing stands in the way of a good photo opportunity.

OK, it’s entirely the wrong angle, but I wasn’t going to get Accomplice to stand in the middle of road and hold up traffic. I’d have known what the response would have been.

So, the whole premise of going here and seeing the non-touristy sights were going really well. There was one place I wanted to go that even the hardened tourist wouldn’t have thought of.

Part of my job involves entering data about London streets from emails into a database. It’s all very old fashioned, and something that could be automated very easily, but because of this, I became aware of a street called Chandos Place, upon which stands a Nandos. Therefore, we headed there andhad Nandos in Chandos. I wonder how many other people have done the following just for that very reason. Yeah, probably nobody.

As we were still in an “upmarket” part of London (Covent Garden, to be exact), it seemed only right to go and do something even more upmarket. It was time to take my very first trip to Harrods. After all, I’m sure I’d fit in, with my purple Slazenger polo shirt and Sports Direct walking boots. I’m sure it was the type of clientele the shop regularly does business with. Mind you, nobody in their right frame of mind actually buys anything from there. I mean, £1.80 for a bottle of coke? Come on, I’m sure there was a Tesco Express around the corner.

I bet you didn’t know that the carrier bags for Harrods used to be made in Hartlepool? I don’t know if they’re still are, but I always remember going to infants school with my PE kit in a Harrods carrier bag. My nanna worked for the company that made them. Obviously, I didn’t get the significance at the time, but I’m sure it’d raise a few smiles these days, wandering around this lovely little fishing village with a Harrods bag.

I was considering buying a music system, but even if I put together all of the money I have ever earned from all of my jobs, and not spent anything else ever, I’d probably still not come close on buying this…

It was at this point my Nandos started moving, and I thought it’d be a nice little thing to say I’ve had a cack in Harrods. If you’re a bloke, don’t bother. There’s bogs on every floor for women, and one bog in the entire place for blokes, and there was a queue a mile long. There’s one thing I absolutely detest in life, and that’s following someone into a cubicle It’s happened too often where I’ve dropped an absolute panblocker, and someone’s went in straight after me. One day, I know the tables are gonna turn, but not this time. I kept hold of it until we found somewhere else.

And that somewhere else was apparently “the only pub on Sloane Street”, known as The Gloucester. Finding the bogs was like playing something in The Crystal Maze (which has returned to our TV screens! Hurrah!) – go up some stairs, through the doors, disable the laser, though some other doors, etc. While we were in there, I also had a pint of “Camden Pale Ale”, which was a nice smooth pint. I have blocked the price of this from my mind. Accomplice would watch out of the window as the shiny and expensive cars would go by, and comment on each of them. I would simply nod politely and pretend I knew what was being said. I didn’t have a clue. When it comes to cars, you might as well speak Swahili to me.

We downed the pints and emerged once more into the setting sun. Apparently, we walked up Knightsbridge, Kensington Road, then onto Exhibition Road. Lots of large colleges around there. Walking around there made me feel like I was back in Berlin or Vienna. It certainly didn’t feel like London.

Another quick ride on the tube took us to Victoria. A station I believe I last frequented in 2003. We walked down Victoria Street. Another street lined with modern buildings and shops, and of course, some not-so-new buildings. It was, at this point, it became clear that all of my hopes of doing the non-touristy stuff came to an abrupt halt, as unbeknownst to me, the road led to the Houses of Parliament, and of course, Elizabeth Tower, a.k.a. Big Ben.

It was a mere five days before the big bell would stop sounding for four years, so I suppose it was nice to be one of the last to hear it in action one last time.

We made our way across Westminster Bridge, and headed down the river towards London Bridge, taking in the sights, stopping off for the odd sit-down along the way…

I’d avoided any type of curry, so I don’t know how that possibly could have happened.

As we were walking, something became apparent. My feet weren’t holding up as well as I thought they were going to. I’d pretty much avoided the problems with my left foot (more on that later, probably in the next part), but instead I was having problems with my right foot…

And, right on cue, just as we’d passed the ITV studios (home to none other than ITV’s “This Morning”, as you can clearly see), I felt a massive blister go. Oh, this didn’t feel like it was going to be good.

I struggled on, desperate for a sit down somewhere, but we kept on, and eventually made it back to London Bridge. It was about 9PM at the point, but that music-box thing I mentioned earlier was STILL playing. Creepy.

It was still relatively early, and we’d made plans to go somewhere and catch something to eat, but my feet decided not to play ball, so we headed back, calling in at McDonalds on the way, as it was just a short journey from the hotel. My word, if you know Hartlepool, you’ll know you always get your flurry of harmless chavs hanging around. It’s warm, it’s dry and it has free Wi-Fi. What’s not for chavs to love? Well, in London, it’s like that, but the chavs seem a little more… sinister, like if you look at them the wrong way, they’d stab you. I felt like the guy sat next to me was going to jump me, or something. Then a guy sat next to me, carrying a Primark bag, having a full-on conversation to himself.

“Right, that’s it, we’re going”…

We arrived back at the hotel at approximately 9:30. I nipped downstairs to the hotel bar to see what it was like. Not very good to be fair. One lager of dubious origin on draught, and a price tag around the £4.50 mark. I managed to have one before they ran out. I then had a 330ml bottle of Stella and paid about the same. If I’d have thought, I could have nipped to the pub across the road. Though if I thought @the Maccy D’s was rough, I dread to think how rough that pub might have been, especially on my own and with a Northern accent. Yeah, best to stay in the safety of the hotel I reckon.

As I was unwilling to mortage Mercury Towers for another small beverage, I headed back to the room in preparation for the 3rd and final day in the Capital…

London 2017, day 1.

Yes, I’m aware that I came back from London over a week ago, yet I’ve only just got around to starting to type out it. “Why is that”, I hear you ask. WIt’s because I’m in the middle of recovering from it. I’m under doctors’ orders to keep the weight off my right foot, because, possibly due to a case of worn / ill-fitting footwear, soft Hartlepudlian feet, and walking for approximately 30 miles in the course of three days, means that I managed to lose a large percentage of the skin on my foot.

I did have an accomplice with me for the trip, but this person doesn’t want to be named in the blog. It’s to be expected. I mean, who wants to openly admit sharing a hotel room with me? Therefore, this person will be named as “Accomplice”.

Aaaanyway. Onto the trip. I arranged athe the abode of Accomplice just before 9AM. Thankfully transport for us to get to Darlington had been pre-arranged, as the train was at 10:28. We were both expecting the A19 to be heaving at this time, so we set off at about 9. Half an hour later, (including a stop off to pick up excessive amounts of Pom-Bears), we were there. Darlington Station isn’t really a place you’d want to spend an hour at, but I guess it’s better than missing the train.

The train journey was uneventful, expect for the occasional piercing scream from the child in the seat in front. Admittedly, I was slightly hungover, so this didn’t really help matters. Headphones did, however.

So, we arrive in London with the sun shining. Hordes of fellow travellers depart the train, and off we go towards the hotel. It was about a 5 minute walk from King’s Cross to the hotel, though the weight of my bag made it feel more like 50. Accomplice had been to the same hotel previously, so at least we knew the way.

We were early for the hotel by about two hours so couldn’t check in, but were allowed to drop our bags. That was a weight off. I don’t know if that’s often a thing that hotels do. but it could have helped with the times I’ve been places and carried my bag around until check-in time. I’ll have to remember that.

Seeing as we were now bagless, it was time to have a walk around. Up Euston Road, along Great Portland Street, and down Oxford Street because we both agreed it was time to grab the tube, seeing as we’d pretty much just done a “lap”. I make no secret about hating the underground, but it’s so convenient. Could have done without the £12.30 price tag for a day ticket though. Sure, an Oyster card might have worked out cheaper, but you know I hate shellfish. A-haha, etc.

There were a few places I wanted to go. Not exactly touristy things. Camden, and The World’s End pub were two of these. I’ve never seen the film, but still always wanted to go there.

We had a brief walk around Camden. It was crowded, seeing as it was mid afternoon, in the height of summer.. Camden Market really is weird though. It’s all of the stuff you’ve never realised you’ve never needed and actually didn’t want, but with really nice food stalls. They also get arsey if you want to take a photo too.

We decided that we’d come back after things have died down a little. Our stomachs were rumbling, so it was time to find something to eat. A quick dash on the tube later, and we ended up in Leicester Square. Accomplice had informed me there was a nice Italian place “around here somewhere” that would satisfy our foodular needs. Turns out we couldn’t find it, and instead went to “Steak & Co.”

You genuinely can’t go wrong with a good steak, and at this point I was starving, so it seemed a perfect choice. We were provided with a menu. A complete waste of time. I felt like saying to the woman at the door “Two slabs of beef, chips, bit of pepper sause… STAT! But, before I’d plucked up the courage to talk to a female, the waiter was on-hand with a notepad.

“Yeah, I’ll have that. that, glass of coke, and can I have it medium rare please”.

“Oh, it comes rare, YOU cook it how you want.”

What kind of actual voodoo was this? I’m in a restaurant, and you want me to cook my steak? Oh, okay, my knowledge of steak barely expands above Frankie + Benny’s, but… prepare my own steak? Eh?

It turns out, they bring out the steak on a massive, hot stone, and you cut it, fry it, and add the ingredients as you see fit. Admittedly, I expected to spend the next two days in the hotel bog, but nope, I managed to somehow prepare a steak on a hot stone and cook it all by myself, without food poisoning. It came to just under £25 for steak, chips and a glass of coke, but my word, we’re still talking about that steak now.

So, happily fed, we headed back off to Camden.

Crap photo opportunities aside, we headed to The Worlds End.

Before I found out how much a pint of “Soft Southern Piss” would cost, a small voice beside me said “What do you want?” Holy cow. Accomplice had offered to buy a pint in what would surely be the most expensive establishment we’d ever been in. Pint of your finest lager please, Barkeep! Well, actually it was Brooklyn lager, but still at 5.60 a pint, I made it last about an hour.

Brewdog is a brand we both have a bit of an affection to. Accomplice likes trying the different ales they have on offer. I like it because there’s less chance of it tasting like cat piss. On a night out, I buy the bottles of IPA. On a night out like this, I bought the draught lager. I thought that it may have been better value for money, seeing as it was my round. Nope. Pretty much the same price. Two pints in, and over 11 quid light.

Unfortunately, Accomplice had bought a “dark lager. Not up to their usual standards of taste, and if I hadn’t have necked three quaretrs of it, it’d have ended up down the sink.

So, Camden was completed. The tube was still open, and there was time to do the touristy stuff. I’d never seen Tower Bridge lit up before, so seeing I had my camera, we headed down there. Of course, we did get slightly lost, but ended up walking past a bar called “Fuckoffee” I took photos, but they were shite. Maybe you’ll be able to work out the name from this…

The walk continued, and it suddenly dawned upon us that Tower Bridge probably wasn’t in the direction we were heading. The GPS that my phone recorded clearly proved this.

Note that we didn’t suddenly swim over the other side of the river and back again. That’s just Google’s “Timeline” feature being slightly less creepy for a second.

Naturally, there were some night time river shots. One of which,


Yeah, not bad I suppose.

It was pushing 10pm by this point, so we walked the “short” distance between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, hopped on the tube and went back to the hotel.

Fasten your seatbelts, Day 2 is going to be a long one…

Top Gear Live, part one

Top Gear live was bloody brilliant, as you would probably have guessed. That was two days ago…

(Quick edit… to the person who searched for “top gear live will it be recorded”, and found this site… um… I think the clue is in the name, especially the word “live”. I’m probably wrong. And to the persion who searched for “top gear live is shit”… well, I disagree, but you can’t please everyone I suppose.

As mentioned previously, Chris’s brother Jonathan had secured three tickets to go and see Top Gear Live. Now, some of you have thought I meant I was going to see the TV show being recorded. No, that’s recorded in Dunsfold Park, Guildford. This particular one I went to see was in Earls Court.

The day, as you can imagine for this time of year started off cold and rainy. You may remember in the previous “long” post, that I mentioned I’d been at a halloween do the night before… needless to say I was still feeling the effects of this. Anyway, after typing up that particular blog, I went for a shit. This particular fact has no relevance to the story at all, but it seems like an age since I’ve mentioned a bowel movement in this blog, and we can’t let a tradition die after 7 years and 365 days (leap year, anniversary tomorrow)…

Erm, moving swiftly on. We went down to Chris’s house, to pick him up. Our original plan of getting the train directly from Hartlepool was scuppered by the fact it was at about 7AM, so we were getting the 11:27 from Darlington down to Kings Cross.

The journey down to the station was unentertaining. Daddykins was playing one of the CDs he’d picked up while on Holiday, from some guy who may, or may not have appeared on the X Factor. He can do Ronan Keating spot on, but his Neil Diamond sounded worse than me on karaoke [citation needed]

So, we arrived in good time to catch the train, and had about an hour to spare.

Darlington station is very, very boring. There are a few shops there, including an anti-Tardis WH Smith. And by that, I mean, fron the outside, it looks huge, but when you get in there, it’s tiny.

Chris had booked the train tickets online, so all we had to do was visit a machine to collect them. Strange that these machines were called something like “Fast Track”, yet there was still a queue.

After collecting our tickets, the walk to WH Smith was halted by frantic banging on the window, and a little kid running after us. Turns out Chris had left one of the seat confirmation things in the machine. Ooooooo. Lucky.

Off we went to browse both of the shops.In the end, I bought a bottle of water (to take my sodding tablets with later on), a packet of Quavers, and a copy of The Sun. Chris bought a coffee and a copy of Private Eye. It’s the first time I’d ever seen one of those “in the flesh”. A bit above my intelligence level, I’m afraid. Imagine that episode of Family Guy, where Peter’s staring at a comic outside a newsagent for several days, before saying “Aaaaah, now I get it…. yeah, can I have a copy of Jugs?” Unsurprisingly, I can’t find the clip of that on Youtube, so if you haven’t seen it, that’s tough.

On the subject of Jugs, after buying our merchandise, I noticed that someone had left a copy of the Saturday Sport in the waiting lounge. So, yes, I had a look through, but decided against keeping hold of it, for obvious reasons.

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, the train arrived. We located our seats, and found that we were, once again, facing somebody, just like that trip with Coatesy to York. These two people were clearly twins, which made it harder to even look in their general direction.

Shortly after the train set off, Chris went to the bog, and I didn’t see him again until we arrived in York Station. Amusingly, he got stuck behind the food trolley.

The rest of the journey wasn’t just mind numbing, it was arse numbing too. The only piece of excitement was the recogntionof somewhere I’d been before – Stevenage. On Boxing day last year, I went down to Stevenage with Daddykins and a few other people. I remember as we entered the estate one of the people lived on, we went under a narrow railway bridge, and the estate had particularly old, probably still mecury vapour, streetlighting. So, after a bit of a rummage through the archives, I’ve found the bridge, in Stevenage, where I have now been over, and under…

See, who said it’s pointless taking a photo of absolutely everything?

We arrived in Kings Cross at approximately 13:57. Everything was how I remembered it. Busy, mainly. The old mechanical destination boards, however, had been replaced with the now standard orange LED display. The announcements are also done by the same guy who does the announcements on the Weakest Link.

We were going to meet Jonathan at Waterloo station, as he already lives down south and so got a separate train down.

Chris’s pigeon-like sense of direction made sure that we didn’t get lost. Now, remember the tapdancing busker that we saw in Paris? The one that was actually quite good? Well, on the tube down to Waterloo, there was one that was really, really bad. And still, some people gave him money.

That’s it. I’m quitting my job and becoming a busker.

Eventually, we made it to Waterloo. It took longer than usual, as one of the lines (I forget which) was closed for maintenace, or as they like to call it, “service improvement. Most of the afore-mentioned orange LED signs were out of order, thanks to some type of software error. I’d have gotten a picture, but we were in a rush, and couldn’t get the camera out in time. It was only a generic preset message anyway.

Off we go to Earls Court. It was a number of stops away, so we braved the underground again. I say braved, because I really, really dislike it.

After what seemed like an age, we ended up at the Earls Court tube station. In my previous two trips down to the big city, the weather was acceptable. Today, it wasn’t. It was absolutely tipping it down. In the 100 yards from the tube station to Earls Court, all I could think of was “London Rain” by Heather Nova. I really like that song.

So, we entered through the huge doors and into the foyer. The tickets were scrutinised, and we entered into the huge display area. And I mean huge.

That photo doesn’t really do it justice, but unfortunately, none of the photos do the place justice! I only took my little Acer, as I wasn’t too sure whether cameras would even be allowed or not, It seems they were and I really wish I’d taken my Canon now, as I didn’t take one good photo of the show itself. Bah!

After a very quick look around the display area, we made our way to the entrance to the main “theatre”. I use quotes, as technically it isn’t a theatre. It’s a big building with temporary seating and a stage. We made our way through what was quite literally, the biggest queue I’ve ever been in. It was massive. Remember the one for the Eiffel Tower? Forget it. This one seemed to go on for ever.

Turns out we had really good seats. High up, and dead centre. Perfect.

A few pre-recorded car adverts looped through for about 20 minutes. One of them even broke down, turning the two huge LED displays random colours, and emitting ear piercing squeals. We thought that was part of the act, but no, it just appeared to be a technical glitch as the adverts looped through for another 10 minutes or so.

Then, the lights faded…

More adverts, but this time in the shape of live adverts on the stage.

Then, we got the introduction. On came Clarkson, May and Hammond. Now, I’m guessing that most of the shows are going to be very similar, so if you’ve found this via Google, and are planning to go and see it, then I suggest you click the back button, or something… In fact, I won’t go into too much detail, just in case.

It contained all of the things that make Top Gear great…

First off there’s the challenges…

Then there’s the whole interaction with the audience…

You know when I said the photos turned out really, really bad? I clearly wasn’t lying.

Er, anyway. There was also the Cool Wall. An interactive version of it. You all get cards given when you enter. Red on one side, green on the other. A computer monitors the input from the camera, and can calculate the amount of red or green in the picture. Green = cool, red = not.

There’s also stunts and stupidly impressive car displays, as you’d expect.

You’d thinka stage of that size would also not be able to handle a game of Smart Car Soccer. and you’d be wrong.

The Stig finishes the show in another impressive display.

That’s all I’ll say for now. I’ve still got a load of pictures which have yet to be uploaded, these will get done today. This particular one is also a highlight for me, personally.

How cool is that? I managed to get my photo taken With Jeremy Clarkson……………..’s cardboard cutout! The rest of the photos need to be uploaded, so I shall do that and return with Part 2…