Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Squirrel-Whisperer

To tide you over until our next post, here is a little video filmed in Kensington Gardens recently. Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jubilee Celebrations - part 2

(Another reminder for new blog readers - you can view the pictures in a slideshow by clicking on one and then scrolling through with the arrow keys on your keyboard)

The plan for Tuesday was a busy one for the Queen. First up was a celebration service at Westminster Abbey, followed by a banquet lunch, then a carriage ride to Buckingham Palace, and finally a balcony appearance with a flyover by the Royal Air Force. Phew! She sure is one busy lady, and doing so well for her 86 years of age.

We learnt from our experiences on Sunday and set out an hour and a half earlier on Tuesday. The trains were less busy than Sunday, and so we were hopeful that we would be able to get a good spot to view the Queen's carriage journey to Buckingham Palace. Tell him he's dreaming!

We left Charing Cross station and walked to a packed Trafalgar Square only to see large billboards reading "THE MALL IS FULL. VIEW FROM HYDE PARK". Hyde Park?! And The Mall full 2.5 hours before the Queen was due to appear?!

The routes we took. Google estimates
we walked an epic 7.7 kms that day....
So we began our walk up the hill to Hyde Park. We found a good spot and sat and waited. Finally, the footage began.
So did the rain. We stuck it out for a while, then when we heard that The Mall - the road leading to Buckingham Palace - had been re-opened to the public we set off in the hope that we might get to view the Queen on the Palace balcony.

On our way there, we were met by all the Queen's horses, and were thus treated to an unexpected parade. Hurrah!

Once again, London's transport-planning Police were the "heroes" of the day. Roads closed, pedestrians re-routed, parks closed... basically a whole pile of confusion and we ended up wandering around for half an hour trying - and failing - to get to Buckingham Palace. In the end, we spotted a few canny people sitting on the footpath behind a large intersection at the back of Buckingham Palace Gardens. We realised that this would be the perfect spot to view the RAF flyover, so we stood and waited.

And nearly missed it!! The planes seemed to come out of nowhere, and it was lucky that I had the camera on, set to the right settings, and ready to go. The flyover was fabulous, and a real highlight of the weekend. We were so glad to be able to see it, and it felt like a real triumph after the frustrations of our other attempts to get in on the action.

The Battle of Britain planes.

All too soon it was over, and feeling satisfied (albeit wet through and with very tired legs), we made our way through the thronging crowds to the closest good coffee joint and warmed ourselves up with a hot drink. It's amazing what a good RAF flyover and coffee can do for one's morale!

God save the Queen!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jubilee Celebrations - part 1

On June 5, we celebrated an important birthday. Yes, Menisha Jitindar-Singh turned 17 (oh, and some guy called Suraj too). Also, the Commonwealth celebrated the birthday of Elizabeth Windsor, or Queen Elizabeth II. This year is also the jubilee (60 years) of her reign over the Commonwealth, and this first weekend in June was dedicated to celebrating the occasion.

Because we timed our visit to the UK perfectly, we got an extra day off work (well, those of "us" who work got a day off...) while you schmucks in NZ, Australia, Canada, France (etc) had to go to work. Aah such is life!! Bring on more four-day weekends, I say. It was great to have some company even if Adam somehow convinced me to let him buy a television, and we spent much of the extra time together ignoring each other in perfect tv-related bliss.
Fuzzball explores
Two of the foxes have a boxing match
 When we weren't watching tv, photographing foxes, drinking coffee, or playing 'Carcassonne', we were getting soaking wet, muttering expletives at the Police's transport measures for the Jubilee weekend, walking through water-logged streets, and straining to catch a glimpse of Exciting Things. Aah, London!

On Sunday, the day of the Flotilla, we had an early lunch and set out for Charing Cross - the train station that would bring us to the north banks of the Thames, where we would hopefully get a spot to view the river. While the boats were not supposed to reach this part of the river until 3.30pm, it was already packed by 1.30pm. The police had closed off roads, lanes, exits, and entries everywhere, and we had to walk for a good half an hour before even reaching the river-front (despite the Charing Cross station being only a 5 minute walk from the river in usual conditions). We walked for another half an hour in the hope that we might be able to get right to the river-front and have a front-row view of the action. No such luck.

In the end, we parked up at The Temple, and watched the Flotilla beginning at Chelsea from a big screen erected in the centre of the road.

Map of London with my annotations.
The crowd. The Thames is about 10 metres to the left
- and a few metres down - from here.
We watched on the big screen until the first boats came into view. That's someone else's view, mind you. We plucked up the courage to push ourselves through the polite British crowd until we were about 5 people back from the waterfront and able to catch the occasional glimpse of boats on the water.  (We were a little surprised that people didn't surge forward to get a better view - everything was very orderly, and most people seemed content to be unable to see the action! Unreal! We were expecting to be crushed in a sea of people, but that just wasn't the case. Everyone was content to stand back from the action, maintaining their personal space and lack of view. Nice, but strange that you would come all that way and be satisfied to see nothing!)
The beautiful gilded boat
The rowers
Adam used his height and long arms to hold the camera up in the air and take some snaps of the Flotilla as it went past - it was great to be able to view the pictures once we got home and see what had actually happened!!! After the Queen had gone past, a nice, extremely tall, man in front of me turned around and graciously offered to stand back so that a couple of us shorter viewers could get a look at the boats. It was a shame not to have been able to see the boats earlier, but wonderful to have 15 minutes of actually being able to see the action.
The waka
The Queen's boat
Just before the Queen glided past, the rain came down, and we began to get wet. After my 15 minutes of getting to see the boats, we decided to leave (sorry to the remaining boats!). Those cunning London Police, who had spent 18 months composing their traffic management plan, had turned the tables on us, changing all the routes that we had used to get to the riverside. We both had umbrellas, but we still managed to get pretty wet as we walked for 30 minutes - in a wildly round-a-bout route - to get back to Charing Cross station. We arrived home at 6pm, wet, tired and cold, and ate tea while we watched the BBC highlights of the Flotilla. Aah, so that's what we missed!

So while our afternoon wasn't fabulous, we were still pretty chuffed to have been part of such a momentous occasion. On Tuesday, we would try once more to get a glimpse of the Queen. Tune in next time to find out if we were successful!