Sunday, 28 July 2013

Before we pushed the boat off...

...we thought we had better push the boat out, just one last time...

Our 21st anni was just over two months ago. We were just getting used to London and Jess was due to arrive for her visit. Unsure as to how we would like to mark the day we settled on eating, drinking and being merry (which continued for several other nights over the month or so that we were in and around one of the best cities in the world). As a little extravagance I had also booked on open dated Champagne afternoon tea for us to look forward to.

Over the last week or so we have drifted out to London's extremities having attended the IWA's national bash in Watford, we were now moored just over two miles from the furthest tube station from London whilst still being walking distance from the canal. Watford underground is nearly all over ground, and over canal in a few places. As it is in zone 7 it's a little more pricey to get back in to town, about £11 for day ticket all zones through the oyster card.

We didn't leave quite as early as expected but by just after 9.00 we were strolling towards Cassiobury park heading for the tube, we couldn't have been much earlier as we would have snuck into the peak charge time and incurred further traveling expenses. 

Ready for the off

It doesn't look that warm but it is well up in the 20's already

We had been over charged on a tube journey a few weeks before (don't know how) and had been offered the opportunity to reclaim the money by swiping our cards at the Edgeware station. Not one to look gift horses in gobs we made our way over to collect our money. Oyster cards topped up we walked over to Paddington basin for a coffee and croissant in the M&S head quarters/staff canteen. Sat outside the on the basin side the clouds started to part and we started to roast. I had planned our trip for Wednesday as that was the coolest on offer according to the Met office, a mere 25 deg C was expected after the previous days rather warm 33C. Deb wasn't too bad, she had her 'Bongo dress' on, so called because it is small enough to easily fit into the glove box of the old Mazda Bongo without displacing any of the other essentials. I on the other hand was getting a tad warm in my jeans (first day I haven't warn shorts since 22nd of June) and my poshest shirt, cuff links and all, I even took a jacket which spent the whole day draped over my arm.

How come the Ozzy's can take a simple name, simplify it further and still get it to sound better? Us back in 'PADDO'
I had been trying to sort out tickets to a show for a few days but TKTS is only available on the day, all other deals are by post but 'Lovetheatre' are available if you phone book last minute to be picked up at the theatre. Our itinerary for the day was set. After coffee head to Leicester square to pick up the tickets, spend some time chilling in the parks, afternoon tea in Bloomsbury, 7.30 show, bite to eat in Soho, an evening stroll and gelato, oh and possibly a couple of drinks before the last train.

Pre-Tea in the park

Trafalgar filling up

Bongo Dress
Of course plans seem to have a way of unraveling themselves some what. All was fine up until the afternoon tea but then we realised that there may be no more eating to be done that day. Our table was booked for 2.30 and suitably booted and suited (I even put my jacket back on) we arrived to a warm welcome from the maitre d'. It was the perfect happy medium between relaxed and formal, service was attentive without being stuffy. As we were cooling off from the midday sun we asked to start with our champagne and confectioner's sugar dusted strawberries, other diners looked like they were having everything at once, but I didn't want the champagne getting warm or the tea getting cold and we were in no hurry. We sat sipping and chatting for the best part of an hour before we requested out afternoon tea proper. Breaking with tradition I decided to drink coffee whilst Deb made her selection from the platter of assorted teas on offer. We knew what food was on offer from making the booking on line. I had presumed however that the cakes and pastries would be of dainty proportions. 

A nice cooling glass of Moet


Salt beef, egg and chive, smoked salmon and pickled cucumber sandwiches arrived in thick, crust-less fingers. The three tiered cake stand had scones (yes plural, two each fresh from the oven) with preserves and clotted cream, fruit loaf, chocolate covered strawberries, fresh fruit tartlettes and butter iced fairy cakes! All in full portion sizes. Deb tried to battle through the last of it but eventually the cakes won. After more tea and coffee we watched those that had come in after us leave before us and waddled our way back into London's heat. We needed somewhere to sit, cool off and digest. Deb did mention once or twice that she was 'so full up'

Deb looks adoringly at a pile of food

Those sarnies went quickly

A nice strong coffee

And a bowl of tea, I told you that cup was as big as your head!

Beaten, no more room for even the merest crumb
A very warm tube ride later we arrived just post high tide at the embankment, grabbed the first edition of the evening standard and found a vacant bench. It would have been nice to catch the tide at its highest as even by the time we arrived there was more water than I can recall lapping the walls. Just to our right, under the statue of Queen Boudicca is a small door, through the door is the Thames level switch that operates the Thames flood barrier. Opposite us is the old LCC and GLC building now a multi venue entertainment area including the London Aquarium. On the river wall in front of it are the old lion headed mooring rings from yesteryear, and as the old saying goes 'when the lion drinks London sinks' hopefully that switch under Queen Boudicca is working ok.

I recon it was only a foot or so off today, don't know what it would have been like further up river though
We watched the world come and go for an hour before heading off up to Leicester square. The shade of the embankment had not been appreciated and as we walked past Westminster in the early evening sun we again started to frazzle, luckily the sun being lower offered shaded sides of the streets that we made good use of.

Earlier in the day we had noted the setup of cameras and lights for a premier, we presumed it would be at the odeon and all happening whilst we were enjoying our show but it was at a cinema just around the corner - the Vue cinema premiering Steve Cougan's new Allan Partridge film Alpha Papa. There were barriers everywhere and as soon as you slow down to try and look, ushers did their best to keep you moving, one chap shouted over to Deb to keep moving but of course she couldn't hear, as soon as I told him 'she's deaf mate' he promptly opened the barriers and ushered us in!

Rob Brydon completely ignored my best welsh greeting of 'Shw mae butty' maybe he's one of those Welsh that doesn't speak any. Anna Maxwell Martin looked like she could have done with Debs left over scones and Cougan hadn't turned up by the time we had to head for the theatre. There were loads of celebs that I wouldn't have recognised if I had fallen over them but Sir Chris Hoy and wife drew the crowds and I think Alan Carr would have spent the evening chatting to everyone if he had got the chance.


Allan heard my shouts...

...but then got kidnapped by a little person!

Anna thingy whatsit, in need of a Maccy D and some sun
Luckily we didn't have far to go to get to the Wyndham's Theatre to see Relatively Speaking that is all about, well..... here is the right up - Greg and Ginny are in love and planning to be married. Greg finds a strange pair of slippers under the bed and is too besotted to believe they might have been left by another man (which would also explain the bunches of flowers and boxes of sweets filling Ginny’s apartment). 

When Ginny goes off for a day in the country—supposedly to visit her parents but actually to break things off with her older married lover, Philip—Greg decides to follow her. 
Showing up unannounced before Ginny, Greg asks for her hand from the man he thinks is her father, while Philip mistakenly believes that the strange young man is asking permission to marry Sheila, Philip’s exceedingly befuddled wife. 
Once Ginny arrives, she convinces Philip to play the role of her father. Meanwhile, Greg still believes that Sheila is Ginny’s mother. The situation is further complicated by a series of hilarious misunderstandings until no one (including the audience) can be exactly sure who’s in love with whom.
Felicity Kendal was fantastic in the lead and Kara Tointon so much better than all those years in Eastenders. Incidentally Felicity's on screen other half in the Good Life - Richard Briars, had his big career break playing Greg in the original 1960's production, spooky eh.

The Wyndham is air conditioned and leaving the theatre at about 9.30 ish London was still warm. I suppose all that concrete must act like a gigantic night storage heater and carry on building it's heat up. Well by now we should have been making our way up to Soho for something to eat. Soho was as busy as ever and by the time we had walked another mile or so we just weren't in the mood for dinner, both still full up from the afternoon tea. I did however have another wowcher voucher that I had bought though for half price gelato at a little patisserie/icecream emporium just off Goodge Street. We sat outside enjoying the gelato that was made on the premises all for a few pence more than a Mcflurry! By now we were getting weary, our feet were aching and we still had to get across London and walk the two miles back through Cassoibuty Park to LJ waiting for us just past Grove Mill.

As much as I love being in the middle of nowhere, banging my pins into grassy towpaths and waking up to the wildlife, I think any boater who doesn't make the most of London and the free moorings in other great city centres are missing a treat.


  1. Looks like you had a great day guys, glad you enjoyed relatively speaking we thought it was excellent.... Will canal boating ever be the same when you are away from London? Best wishes and speak soon. Doug and James x

  2. Hi guys, we'll always have London to look forward to, its not going anywhere. Will have to score other canal cities against London's 10/10 - I would put Brum at 7/10 - now on to the next one :-)