Monday, November 26, 2007

More on the London trip

Episode 2 - How I didn't get to the Guildhall

My poor daughter is not having an easy pregnancy and we arrived in London on Thursday to find her on crutches and unable to climb stairs. Both she and the baby are fine but Tanith developed a lot of pain in her hip, which then locked so that she couldn't move. She is having the very best obstetric care and we are confident that this condition will be righted, possibly even before the birth but, for the moment her mobility is restricted. She wasn't able to go to the Guildhall to see her husband receive his three awards, so the MM accompanied him and I stayed at home with Tanith.

Here, for erp, is the little black number I would have worn! The skirt length is just above the ankle and what you can't see in the picture is that it is layered and floaty. (I don't have the vocabulary of a fashion writer, as you can see.)

The MM took my camera to the Guildhall but he inadvertantly had it set to video, so I can't post any pictures of the grand interior.

Episode 3 - Friday in the City Centre

The MM and I spent Friday in the City Centre. We visited the Sainsbury Wing of the National gallery in Trafalgar Square to see the Renaissance Siena: Art for a City exhibition, so beautifully described by D on 60goingon16. We also spent some time in the National Portrait Gallery. I was particularly interested in seeing the nineteenth century politicians, reformers and pamphleteers. Then the MM said, 'Let's take a quick wander through the twentieth century.' How could anyone resist such an invitation?

I am not sure that I like what has been done to Trafalgar Square. It wasn't looking its best, I admit: the fountain was being cleaned, there were piles of barriers left over from the celebrations earlier in the week and the low-carbon, Green house, which will grace the square for some months next year, is still under construction.

I have reservations about Thomas Schutte's sculpture on the Fourth Plinth. It is made of scaffolding and coloured glass and looks exactly like its title: Model for a Hotel 2007.

I was far more impressed by the sculpture on Horseguards' Parade, dedicated to the Women of World War 11. The many different roles women played are represented through uniforms and other symbols.

And, of course, no walk through Whitehall is complete without a picture of a Horseguard.

P.S. I forgot to say that, when we got back to Tiverton, I waited at the station with the luggage while my husband WALKED to the nearby village to collect the car. There were no wheel clamps, fines or broken windows. Only nice people live in Samford Peverell!


  1. A potential disaster has a happy ending and your little black number, sufficiently elegant and sparkly needs to be shown with you in it. A romantic dinner perhaps preceded by a photo-op before you both change into grandparents?

    So sorry about your daughter. It’s uncomfortable enough being pregnant without extraneous pain. Any idea what caused her hip to lock.

    There’s probably a way to get a single shot from the video of the awards ceremony. No doubt your kids know instinctively how to do it. I haven’t indulged in videos as yet and don’t know if I’ll bother. It’s getting increasingly annoying that a lot of stuff I’d want to read about is now on video. I can’t receive information from moving pictures of talking heads. That part of my brain expects entertainment, not information.

    I noticed an alarmingly similarity to my own postings in Blogger’s awkward editing of this post. This is what happens to me and it takes literally hours to compensate for Blogger by laying out pictures, etc. in a way that looks correct in the finished product.

    The more software tries to take all decisions away from the user, the more time and trouble it takes to get it to do what you want.

    I can’t help but ask what I think is the obvious question here: Why didn’t you just drive to your daughter’s house ... and why you willing to risk another horror story by planning another trip by rail for the baby’s birth? Get in your car woman and make sure you get there on time and with all the dozens of cartons of baby stuff intact in your boot (trunk).

  2. e, thanks for your concern about my daughter. Her problem is something called sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SIJ). As i understand it, the pelvis becomes unstable and the joints move too much. Sometimes it rights itself as the baby grows but at present poor Tanny has to have physiotherapy, wear a supporting brace and use crutches. It is a shame during what should be the best period of the pregnancy.

    We couldn't take the car because of parking restrictions in the area of London where Tanith and Peter live. We have been enquiring about visitor permits for March, when we are going up for the birth of the baby but we haven't been successful yet.

    Did you see my many attempts to set out the post without widows and orphans? I find it very frustrating to have to publish the post and then re-edit it to get the spacing right. If you solve it, please let me know how.

  3. What I do is exactly that.

    I keep adjusting and publishing until the finished product doesn't look like it was tossed helter skelter and photocopied.

    It's time consuming and stupid and I don't always have the time or the energy to do it right, so some posts still look like drafts.

    I don't understand about parking. Aren't there any parking garages reasonably close to your daughter's home where you can leave your car for the duration? I hope you are able to resolve this problem. Not being able to use my car at will would cause me serious angst.

  4. As a lifelong central London resident - until I moved down to Devon in '98 - and still a regular visitor. I can confirm that driving to London (and staying in London with a car) is ill-advised at the best of times and should be avoided if at all possible.Here are just a few reasons why:

    1. Draconian parking restrictions now apply across almost all of the 32 London boroughs, that's outer as well as inner London; even residents pay a huge sum just for the privilege of parking their cars within a local zone (parking outside one's own home is a pipe dream for most and as for visitors . . .)

    2. There aren't enough parking spaces, parking meters, or car parks for residents, let alone visitors. The car parks that are available know this and can and do charge a fortune. For example, the car park that was nearest to my old home in Notting Hill, but was still a good 15 minutes' walk away, was charging £12 ($24) a day to park (no overnight parking), in 2006. Bound to be more now.

    3. The daily congestion charge, which is being extended to apply to an even greater area of the capital, makes driving across London more costly that ever.

    4. If you do have to park on the street, you can expect to find your car broken into or vandalised by the time you emerge the next morning. London streets are littered with broken glass from smashed car windows.

    4. Petrol is now £1.05 a litre here in Devon so a return to trip to London by car is a luxury. In fact, a return trip anywhere by car is a bit of a luxury.

    5. All the main roads leading in and out of London are heavily congested at most times of the day so, unless you are travelling in the wee small hours, you can expect lengthy delays.

    I'm sure I could think of some even more compelling reasons, given time!

    Actually, it's not just London; my daughter lives in a beautiful riverside town about 40 miles outside the capital and she and her husband pay something like £60 a year to park their car opposite their house. The parking space adjoins a park and their car has been vandalised.

    PS Do hope Tanith will soon be pain-free.

    PPS Don't worry too much about the layout M; one can waste an awful lot of time fretting about these things and life, as we know, is too short. My blog doesn't really look the way I want it to but I can't bear to spend any more hours tinkering around with it to get it right. It's the words and the thoughts behind the images that count and they're what we turn to Random Distractions for. (Apologies for extended comments!)

  5. D, thank you for the extended comment, I love it!

    I agree with all your points about driving and parking in and around London. We did drive up with Mother-in-law earlier in the year but we stayed in a hotel with parking. Tanith and her husband have (expensive) permits to park their cars but can only get one day permits for visitors.

    See you soon!

  6. 60... I think that while content is the most important aspect of a blog or any other piece of writing, presentation also plays an important part as it does in all creative endeavors.

    Objectively, great food may taste the same whether it’s tossed on a paper plate and eaten with a plastic fork or beautifully displayed on a china plate set on a lovely table with sparkling crystal and glittering silver, but IMO a beautiful presentation greatly enhances the dining experience.

    The same is true of the written word. If an author has a great idea or a wonderful story to tell, it can be written with “creative” spelling and grammar and still be understood, but few of us would prefer that to a master wordsmith’s words beautifully printed and edited and bound in leather with gilt titles and gorgeous engravings. A book we can admire for its good looks as well as a good read.

    I don’t mean that doing battle with Blogger, even if we win, is as lofty as all that and it may not be the best use of one’s time, but sometimes to do less isn’t an option. I hate to send out my posts looking unfinished. The least I can do for them is send them out in the world with their hair combed and shoes shined.

    Hearing about London traffic makes me think that m. would find it easier to visit her daughter if she lived in Canada!

  7. Indeed. If I may be permitted just the fleetingest moment of schadenfreude, I'm going to remember this thread the next time a Brit or Euro tells me the trouble with we North Americans is that we have sold our souls and cities to overly spread-out, anti-human, automobile-driven development. It's true we may a bit too casual about preserving old architecture, but at least we can park our cars without taking out a second mortgage.

  8. Peter, we may stubborn, but we're fast learners and deciding that old buildings should be part of our heritage, we took action and now IMO we have too many questionable buildings on the national registry.

  9. Peter, the second mortgage pays for the fuel, the family silver pays for the parking!

  10. erp:

    Yes, well that's what happens when your bright self-loathing intellectuals get it into their heads that the definition of a heritage building that must be preserved at all costs to keep civilization afloat is anything built before 1947.

    Here in Ottawa, until about five years ago, there was a downtown office building built in the 30's that all sane, normal folks agreed was the ugliest building in Christendom. Talk about an eyesore. It was slated for demolition, but the heritage lobby got going on how it was "one of an kind" architecturally. They got that right for sure, as no one could imagine anyone building another like it, but nonetheless domolition was held up for years thanks to the granola leftists who made it a cause celebre for anti-development and everything else. Finally, sanity prevailed and down it went, to be replaced by a fairly elegant mid-sized building of high-priced condos. Nothing special, but the Acropolis compared to what it replaced.


    I realize there is a strain of conservative thinking that holds Europe and Briain are doomed because of the decline of religion, demographic collapse, excess social welfare, etc., but I wonder whether future historians won't record that the end came when you completely ran out of places to park.

  11. Peter, the Granola Left. I like it and it is they who have demonized the car and tried their best to ban them and make driving so costly. Remember Gore made the statement in one of his books that the invention of the internal combustion engine was the scourge of mankind.

    Surely building multi-layered parking garages isn't beyond the abilities of the brits. Let the charges be outrageous and let putative parkers decide just how much they value their convenience. Years ago when our son was living in Manhattan and we wanted to stop by his apartment with some furniture and fixings, we paid $75 to park for probably less than four hours. Naturally the accountant was apoplectic, but I felt was money well spent.

    A couple of summers ago when we were visiting our other son in Montpellier la belle, we went to a nearby beach and had dinner at the shore. In the parking lots were dozens of the little verminous cars the natives drive and right in the middle of the lot was an enormous SUV, not a Hummer (my dream car), but pretty close.

    You could cut the indignation with a butter knife. It was great. The ugly American on steroids and proud of it.

  12. Peter and e, Look at your atlases. We live on a little island - you have space in abundance!

  13. Why, sure, lucky us. If the downtown cores get too congested, we can always park here.

    Seriously, I've never quite understood where that argument was supposed to lead. We live in cities, you live in cities. Our cities have suburbs, yours have suburbs. We drive cars, you drive cars. What does the traffic/parking situation have to do with the size of the hinterland nobody wants to drive to?

  14. Lovely picture, Peter; that's exactly what I meant!


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