Tomorrow People 30th Anniversary Dinner
Saturday 10th May 2003
Before The Dinner
I flew into Heathrow at 5:20am. Things that were different about this trip: (a) I was told that I could not take so much as a pair of nail scissors or a nail file in my cabin baggage; (b) about one in ten people at Singapore International Airport Changi were wearing face masks; (c) I actually found a place in Terminal 4 where I could take a shower -- just as well I'd packed my little travelling towel.
After dashing (very slowly over long stretches of travellators) over to Terminal 3, I found that Kristy Dunn's Air India flight appeared to be arriving early, and that Terminal 3 was such a confusing place it would be better to stick to the original plan and meet at the Underground station, so I trundled with everything back again, and sat on the seats near the entrance to the station, hoping that I wouldn't miss her. I glanced up every now and then from my book, looking for a woman in a Miami University sweat shirt, and "ducky pants" (whatever they were) possibly looking rather lost.
As time wore away, I started wondering if I'd been mistaken about the earliness of the flight, but also told myself that immigration and baggage can take ages. Then, I saw a woman wearing a grey sweatshirt (but no ducky pants) looking curiously at me; I said "Kristy Dunn?" and she said "Kathryn A#######?" and thus we met. Hugs ensued.
So then we proceeded to negotiate the Underground, first the ticket machines, and then the barriers (shove suitcase through side thing, put ticket in slot, come through, pull out suitcase) and then down the escalators to the platform. Fortunately the circuit around Heathrow is one-way (it goes from the Terminal 4 station to the Terminal 1+2+3 station and then off down the Picadilly line) so there was no way we could get the "wrong" train. Negotiating the maze of corridors (and occassional stairs) of other Underground stations was not a thing for the braindead very tired person to do -- though if one followed the signs one usually got where one needed to go. Heathrow to Earl's Court, up stairs to change to the District Line, but make sure one didn't get the wrong train that went up the loop of the line instead of the straight bottom bit; then Westminster, with lots of tunnels, trying to find the Jubilee line to Waterloo. Then out the station, up a lift and we were at the BritRail station. We found the Left Luggage at Platform 12 (not at 9 3/4, as Kristy pointed out...(+)) At the discovery that it was 5 pounds per item, I decided to keep my backpack with me, heavy though it was. Though it was a bit of a song and dance to get up and sit down, seeing as I had a cape, a handbag (with shoulder strap) and a back-pack to get off and on, but I managed (though sometimes I had to ask for assistance with my cape).
The day had started off warm and sunny, very pleasant. Which meant it was perfect for going to look at Cleopatra's Needle on Victoria Embankment. Embankment station was only one station along the tube, so it was easy to get to, and easy to find once we got out. On my last trip I'd been to see it to, so it was even easier for me to find! The thing that had struck me then, was that when that scene in "The Ramases Connection"(*) with Cleopatra's Needle was filmed, the angle at which it was filmed gave one no clue that the whole thing was actually on the bank of the River Thames, since it was filming pointing away from the river, and one just got the impression that there was just more ground behind, wheras there was just river in the spots we didn't see.
Then we just strolled along the Embankment in the sunshine, sat down for a while on some benches watching things go by and chatting, and trying to figure out where to go next. We decided to just keep walking along the river until we got to Westminster tube station, and then to take a random destination. We passed a lot of boats which were set up to be restauraunt cruises, presumably for the tourist trade. And then we spotted a bunch of Morris dancers just dancing in a clear area near a dock with lots of steps near it. I don't know if it was a special occassion, but there they were, with their hats and bells and scarves/kerchiefs and accordions, going at it very enthusiastically and with good humour. There were a couple of different groups of them. One of the dances they used wooden sticks instead of scarves, and they were hitting each other's sticks with great enthusiasm, such that splinters came off the sticks, and at one point on of the sticks almost got split in half, one great piece of it flew off, fortunately not hitting anyone.
Then we continued on down the road, coming up to Big Ben and the statue of Boadocia. We went down into Westminster station, and Kristy picked the Jubilee line because of the character from the X-Men. Then when we looked at the stations and saw Baker Street I said yes, we must go there. Once one gets to Baker Street station, I don't think anyone would have a chance of forgetting that the famous Sherlock Holmes was associated with it: not only did they have posters in "engraving" style with pictures from his adventures, but the tiles on some of the walls were done in a Holmes silhuette.
As we got out of the station, we could see the Baker Street sign, and as we crossed towards it we could smell this delicious smell; a little vendor selling Belgian Waffles, made even more alluring by the fact that the weather had turned colder and grey. We ignored it and went on our way, crossing the street and going in the direction towards 221. Now, while the fictional Holmes lived in a real street, his fictional address 221b is not a lodging house, but the site of the Abbey National bank. It had a plaque on it.
We went further on, and saw a Beatles memorabilia store, and right next to it, an Elvis store. And some Japanese tourists taking photos of them.
Further down the street was the Sherlock Holmes Museum, with a man standing outside dressed as an old-fashioned London policeman, with Bobby hat and a uniform with a half-cloak. Tourists kept on taking his picture, or having their picture taken with him. We didn't go into the museum because it wasn't free and we weren't that into Sherlockania. There was also a shop associated with the museum, as well as another Sherlock Holmes memorabilia shop across the street.
We wandered on, and just kept going, up the street and around the corner, until we figured that we didn't know where we were going and we turned around and went back. Then we sat down to plan what to do next, and the smell of the Belgian Waffles wafted over to us. Yep, we suddenly knew what we were going to have for dessert, and that meant we had to eat somewhere local. After wandering a bit, we turned coward and ate at the Pizza Hut, but consoled ourselves with the thought of dessert. Which was indeed worth it - ah, that hot Belgian Waffle with Belgian Chocolate - yum!
But by the time we were done eating, it was definitely past 2pm, and since the Hotel Antionette checkin started at 2pm, it was past time we headed for the hotel. We'd taken our time wandering London because we knew it would be a waste of time to just go to Kingston because they wouldn't have let us check in before 2pm. But since that time was past, we just caught the tube back to Waterloo (luckily on the Jubilee line so no changes this time), got our tickets , checked the timetable, got our luggage, and got onto the train, dragging our clumsy heavy suitcases down the aisle and plonking them in front of us. Since the train was going to be expressing through a few stations, I was a bit nervous about missing our stop if we couldn't get our stuff off in time, but we made it. I'd chosen to go to Surbiton rather than Kingston because it looked as if it were closer to the hotel, though it was probably much of a muchness.
Hearts almost sank when we saw the stairs, but then we spotted a sign for a lift. Up we went, to find ourselves in this long sort of corridor which was actually a covered bridge over the station and the rails. I saw a sign at the far end saying "way out" and said this aloud. There was an oldish gentleman with a bycicle who was up that end who heard me, and he then proceeded to give us loud instructions in a broadish accent that the way out was at the far end by the red doors, which I could see perfectly well, but he kept on saying it as he came up and past us. We got to the lift at the other end, but Kristy was biting the knuckle of her finger to stop herself laughing, and when we got into the lift she erupted with laughter. It was just the way he'd said it all.
So then all we had to do was catch a taxi to the hotel, if there were taxis to be had, but fortunately one pulled up just as I said this, and it was no trouble at all. When we got there, there were of course other people checking in, and they to were here for the dinner. We got checked in, and my room, despite having a number in the 400s, was actually on the first floor. I discovered later that there was another wing of the hotel, which had the 100-300 rooms. Finding my room was a bit of an adventure, since the corridors were narrow with a number of branches and twists and stairs going off every which way. But I found it and got settled, and then decided to go down the closest set of stairs, instead of retracing my steps. Down I went, and found myself near what looked like a bar at one end of a corridor, and a courtyard at the other. Out I went into the courtyard, and that was when I spotted the other wing. Then I went along the side, found the car park and encountered Colin Bruce (the Scott) who figured that someone wearing a T-shirt with a galaxy painted on it must be here for the TP dinner. Which was true, of course.
Then I got back to reception and encountered a few more TP people, including the eponymous Wendy Perkins and Beth "Tigger" Epstein. Wendy has a petite build, dark hair, very calm and focused. Beth is short, even compared to me, and she isn't called "Tigger" for nothing -- hyper and bouncy. I also saw a couple of people whose faces I recognised, whom we figured I must have seen at Redemption '01.
After a certain amount of nattering, we scattered to change for the dinner, and then came down and talked some more, with the growing numbers who were congregating. Jackie was running around being called for here there and everywhere, looking a little bit like Servalan's short Good Twin, what with her short dark hair and the white cross-cut blouse she was wearing. Colin-the-Bruce was, as he had announced, wearing a kilt, though I haven't a clue what particular tartan it was (it was mainly red, with dark blue or black threads through it).
Wendy said to go and check in "so I can see if I can like you or not". The meaning of this cryptic remark was explained by the fact that half the name-badges were blue and the other half were green, which Wendy had figured was a reference to "The Blue and the Green"(*). Wendy and I both had green badges, so she could like me after all. I had fun insulting the first "Blue" I saw, but after that we basically forgot about it.
The room was all decked out as for a party, with golden-yellow helium balloons tied to every other chair, poppers, and at each place, a packet of two of those sort of screaming flying balloons which one blows up and then lets go. These served to increase the silliness factor later on in the evening as certain enterprising persons blew them up and aimed them at people (Jason of Big Finish and Philip Gilbert being amongst the culprits). This was presumably all to the purpose to make this a celebration not a convention, and it worked.
Each table had a stand thing holding up a name and number, underneath which was a picture of the thing that the name referred to. The table I was assigned to was the Spaceship (as in the Ship under the island in the New Series). Amongst some of the others were The Lab, Hyperspace, and Glenn College. Each table had one particular guest who was to start at that table, and then move on to another table with the next course while the rest of the people stayed at their own table.
The Spaceship was the least populated table of all, for some unknown reason -- not only was our designated guest not there, but three or four of the attendees weren't there either. So we had basically 2/3 of a table. There was Viv, a large Texan, and her companion Leah. I didn't realize until later in the evening when she brought out a zine to show that Viv was actually she of Tia's Pal's Press. Also at our table was David Jacobsen, musician from New York who earned his keep writing "manuals that nobody reads for systems that nobody uses". Then there was Rachael, a US exchange student who was thrilled at the timing of the Dinner, since she wouldn't have been able to afford to come otherwise. And there was Nick (not Young) the only Brit on our table.
Despite there being only six of us, our table managed to win the trivia quiz, because (a) we actually did the quiz (I noticed a couple of tables didn't seem to have even opened their envelopes) and (b) because we had a spread of people who knew different parts of the questions; Old Series, New Series and the CDs.
The guest lineup had a few surprises in it. While Andrew Pierce (Kevin) mysteriously didn't come (though since he had been out of communication for a while, who knows what happened) and, dissapointingly, Anne Curthoys (Tricia) sent her apologies ("on a mission for the Galactic Trig in France" was what Jackie said) we got an totally unexpected addition with the presence of Nigel Rhodes (Andrew), who had apparently found out about the event that morning, and had rung up and asked if he could come, which Jackie of course had given a delighted "yes" to. Of them all, I would say he was the most changed and unrecognisable -- he looked a bit like a pop star, with wild dark blond hair in dreadlocks or something like that. I only saw him at a distance. The other "Hey can I come too?" which we already knew of was David Prowse, who'd played the android Coppin in The Medusa Strain (as well as the body of Darth Vader in Star Wars).
Of course the amazing thing was the number of people Jackie had managed to track down and actually agree to attend and manage to do so. Nick Young looked older, but quite distinguished, with iron grey in his hair, and a smart suit, and a voice and accent which made me want to go "prithee" and "Milord". Sammie Winmill was wearing a fluttery sort of pants and top, and she was very sweet, still with a blonde cap of hair. Peter Vaughn Clark would take the next-most-unrecognisable stakes, because he looks completely different, but his voice is there for anyone who's listened to the commentaries on the DVD. It's interesting that he seems to have come from his initial reluctance to have anything to do with The Tomorrow People, and the enthusiasm he showed over this weekend. I suspect it's the difference between not having too fond memories of the way Thames treated its people, and the way that the fans have brought out all the positive things about the series; our enthusiasm sparking fire and burning back brightly.
Elizabeth Adare would probably win the most-recognisable prize; she looks just the same, apart from, of course, actually being able to show her own hair instead of being forced to wear a wig. She was very nice. Philip Gilbert was of course changed from when he was being Tikno, but his photo on at least one of the CDs prepared us for that, and of course his voice was just the same. We also had Helen (Elena) and James (Paul) from the CD adventures. Strangely enough, when James came to our table (alas, late because he'd been meeting his girlfriend at the airport and her plane was two hours late) I actually recognised him by his face not just his voice -- again the photos on the CD.
All of the guests seemed to be moved and surprised at how we've held the show in our hearts all these years, and let's face it, we're remembering the good things, like how it didn't patronize its viewers, as well as the nostalgia of how we watched it as kids.
Actually it occurs to me that another reason we might have won the trivia quiz was because, since we didn't have a guest for the first course, we could spend more time working on it. For the second course, there was a bit of confusion in how the rotation would go, which meant that we ended up with Nick Young for about five minutes before he got dragged away, and also Philip Gilbert and Jason of Big Finish, who actually stayed. Viv waxed enthusiastic about the CDs, and no wonder, since not just the point that they were new adventures, but I reckon that for someone who's vision impaired, a "radio play" format would be a godsend. Then James arrived late and sat at our table to eat his dinner, and then he got dragged off too. For some reason, Jason had stayed at our table when Philip left, and he and James quipped at each other while they were there. At the dessert course, we had a half-portion of Peter Vaughn Clark, and he also got dragged off. But even a half-session of PVC was fun, since he was crackling and bubbling with quips. Mind, Philip Gilbert was also witty, though dryer. Get Philip, Nick and Peter in the same room and no wonder people love the DVD commentaries. Peter was telling us about the show he was working on the lighting of, "Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat" and basically saying that it was just awful. "If the lighting saves the show, you know the rest of it is terrible."
At the coffee-and-mints course, Elizabeth Adare came to our table. While someone suggested it would be nice if Elizabeth took part in new CD adventures, I got the impression that she probably wouldn't be able to find the time for it.
While people were still sipping their coffee, the Cake was brought out; it was all white, with domes on it, like it was a replica of Tim. All the guests went up, and the cake was cut, and photos taken. I can't remember if the gifts were given before or after the raffle, but each of the guests were given a gift, and chief helpers were given a gift, and Jackie was given flowers. Scott had done a quick whip round earlier to get contributions for a gift for Jackie, which was great; I'd thought earlier in the day we should do something, but then one thing drove out another, so I'm glad Scott was more organized.
The raffle prizes were drawn, with more photos. Scott had bought a lot of tickets, and we got theatrical groans from his direction when time after time he missed out, until finally he won something -- the second-last prize, a stuffed animal. It was one of those choose-your prize raffles; three major prizes, then a bunch of minor prizes. The major prize that Scott was hoping for was a prop from the series, a model of Peter Vaughn Clark's face from the Egyptian sarcophagus from "The Return of Jedikiah". However that went to another person, but later that person very kindly swapped prizes with Scott. The prize that I was interested in was a replica of the Stargate, but I didn't win anything. No surprise there. Other of the prizes were: a set of DVDs of the series (signed), a painting of the cast (signed), a bunch of other things I forget, and last of all, a Men-In-Black pen. That pen turned out to be particularly useful for its recipient, because when the lights went down for the disco, a fair number of people were actually standing around getting the guests to sign things -- and the pen actually glowed in the dark, making it easier for them to see what they were signing. In fact, it got so hardly anyone was actually dancing. Mind you, I believe the intention had been to pack the tables away to make more space for the dancing, but that never happened while I was there, but then again, it didn't seem to be needed anyway. Considering that I heard later that some people ended up staying up to 2am just chatting to Peter Vaughn Clark, perhaps TP fans are just more interested in talking than dancing?
And Much Fun Was Had By All. Even me, despite the fact that I was Sensible and left at about 11 due to not wanting to yawn into people's faces. If I'd known they'd intended to take a picture maybe I would have just propped my eyelids open.
The Day After (Sunday 11th May 2003)
Saw Viv and Leah down at the breakfast room, though I couldn't share a table, I sat on one near by and comments passed to and fro. Viv said she was still buzzing from last night. Then we repaired to their room to continue chatting, and I picked up "Mind Music" and "The Mind Over Matter Affair". Talk ranged from computers (Viv works at Apple) to hard sell, Doctor Who, Mary-Sues, fan-fic (TP and otherwise). The suitcase Viv and Leah had brought their zines in was painted with glitter paint to look like a TARDIS. Later Viv realized she hadn't taken the currency difference into account when she set the prices, so she gave me the third TP zine as well, "Cooperative Venture".
The plan which Jackie had made was that, depending on the number of cars available, those interested in the "tour" would gather about 10:30 and we'd leave about 11, and end up at a particular pub about 1, in time for lunch for those who wanted it. PVC was actually "leading" the tour, so to speak, since he was the one who knew where the particular sites were, and was giving directions. I ended up going in Scott's car, with Carol and her soft-spoken Chris. The remarks kept flying back and forth, keeping us laughing. Carol said later she didn't think she'd ever laughed so much in one 24-hour period.
Off we set, like a Presidential cavalcade, five cars in a row, with the car containing PVC rather appropriately being a silver Jaguar. Scott's hired car was also silver, Ana-from-Mexico's car was blue-green with some hire-car company logo on the side, Jackie's car was a different shade of blue-green (if I recall correctly) and then there was a dark purple car.
Scott, an American, gleefully said "I'm driving on the left-hand side of the road -- on purpose!" His method of navigation was to stick like glue to the car in front. "We brake for no-one!" The driving wasn't too hair-raising, except for the time he did a U-turn past oncoming traffic. Then again, I'm a pretty calm passenger. "As an American tourist, you have a serious reputation to live down to," Chris said to Scott.
The first stop was the Teddington studio of Thames, where we all got out and those with cameras took pictures. There were blue plaques on the wall of famous people who'd worked there, such as Benny Hill. PVC remarked that they'd treated Benny Hill like dirt when he was here, and now there's a plaque with his name on it.
Off the cavalcade set again, and we were right behind PVC's car. But not everyone managed to keep up. "The principle is to stick with the car in front," Chris said, and said that if the other cars had managed to remember this, they wouldn't be missing.
But sticking close to PVC had its perils, since he'd actually overshot, and suddenly turned around, and there we were, with the silver jaguar turning, a car coming out of a side street, and us trying to follow. When the jaguar then turned down a dead-end street, Scott declared "I'm not following them into a dead end!"
But they actually stopped and got out, and it turned out that this was our destination, the railway bridge that featured in a chase-scene in, I think it was "A Man For Emily"(*). But there was no sign of the other three cars.
"I think you've done an excellent job of losing everybody," Scott said to Peter.
But eventually the others turned up (with a bit of dialogue on mobile phones in the interim). Apparently Ana had just decided to turn down the next side-street to get her bearings, and there we were!
So then we all started walking up the bridge, and Ana, who was waving a video at the top of the bridge, asked us all to "Stop!" until she was ready to roll, so we did, with much laughter, and then started walking again. There we stood at the top, looking either way, and then started down the other side. Someone suggested that Peter "renact" the chase, by running down the second side while Ana filmed, so he did that, while the rest of us mingled at the bottom. A lady with a bicycle was trying to cross the bridge, and a couple of people tried to explain to her what we were doing; I'm not sure if she ended up with a comprehensible explanation or whether she just thought we were a bunch of rather odd people.
Then we re-crossed the bridge again and off into the cars. This time we lost one less car by the time we got to the school where they'd filmed "The Blue And The Green"(*). I didn't see anything recognisable, but apparently the playing fields were on the other side of the buildings from where we were. Someone inside had evidently seen the three carloads of us there waiting for the others, because they came out and ostentatiously padlocked the gate! Yes, these Tomorrow People fans, obviously up to no good!
Then it was off to the pub next to the Teddington studios, which, since we'd been there before, prompted this remark from Scott when we all got there: "Something's wrong -- we didn't lose anybody!"
While PVC went straight to the pub for some liquid refreshment, most of the rest of us went behind the pub to this footbridge over the Thames, from which we could see the back of Teddington studios, as well as a faint glimpse of the spot where they'd blown up the boat in "The Vanishing Earth"(*).
Then we went back to the pub for lunch (or just drinks for those who wanted that). It was still quite pleasant outside, so we voted to congregate outside, away from most of the rest of the patrons, so as not to disturb them. We put three of the picnic tables together, and then discovered that one couldn't get food for tables in our area, so some volunteered to man a table closer to the pub so that food could be delivered to it, and then people take it down to the main group. However, after someone had made a list and people had put their money in, I went up to get myself a glass of orange juice, and then stopped to talk to the people at the higher table, when someone came up from the lower tables with the list and a pile of change, saying that everyone except me had decided not to get food after all. So there went my lamb sandwich. I was considering giving it up as a lost cause, when some fish-and-chips were delivered to the table, and it looked rather good, and I thought hey, why not get some genuine English-pub fish-and-chips, especially since everyone else seemed to be having it, so I did. We started eating our fish-and-chips when they arrived, since Scott's hadn't arrived yet, but then we did move down to the lower table.
Much chatting ensued. Wendy and Beth and I got into a discussion about fanfic, which resulted in Wendy being haunted that night by imagining Drusilla (of Buffy) explaining Highlander Immortals to someone. "I saw them dancing in the moonlight, cutting so brightly, and the blood was beautiful..." and things along that line.
The party started thinning; Jackie left with many farewells, as did a few more people. I ended up sitting nearer to Peter Vaughn Clark than before, and heard him bemoaning the passing of so many of the "mad" (and often drunk) actors such as Peter O'Toole and the like, because the rest are all too clinical and we need the stirrers (and mentioned Russell Crowe as someone still with us). The thought went through my head that if PVC were to go back to acting, we'd have one more of the type he was lamenting the lack of.
It was clouding over -- though someone pointed out a patch of blue sky that was so pale I found it quite hard to see, and we figured we'd better be going back to the hotel, those of us who were still staying there. Peter wasn't going back to the hotel, so he said goodbye to us all inside the pub, and the barman took a photo. Hugs and handshakes all round.
Kristy said after he was gone, "It's not the lager he's drunk on, it's us."
Then it was out to the parking lot, and Scott polled all the drivers to try to find someone who knew the way back to the hotel, so that he could follow them. The best we got was Colin waving a map, so we set off again following the purple car, us and at least one other car.
"Once upon a time there was a car that looked as if it knew where it was going, but that was obviously a very long time ago," Chris pontificated after it became clear that Colin didn't know where he was going either. Finally, Scott stopped and asked a random person for directions -- except that we were nearly there already!
The Day After The Day After (Monday 12th May 2003)
By prior arrangement, Scott, Beth, Wendy and I met for breakfast on Monday morning. Both Wendy and Beth were checking out that morning, but while Wendy was then catching a flight home, Beth was moving hotels to one near Gloucester Road, and the three of us planned to meet with Kristy and go TP sight seeing for the rest of the day. But our road lay alongside Wendy's for a while, so we travelled together.
Because it was actually sunny and pleasant (something that didn't last by the time we got to London) we decided to walk to Kingston, something we probably wouldn't have been so blithe about had we known how much walking we were going to do that day.
"Are we going to Kingston or Suburbiton?" -- Beth, stumbling over the name of Surbiton, the other BritRail station nearby. Then again, Scott kept on calling Kingston "Kensington".
It seems that I had made a mistake when I arrived, since Kingston is actually in Zone 6 and thus we could have used our all-zones travelcard when we arrived. Oh well. For some unfathomable reason, though, which we didn't discover until we were actually in London, the ticket person didn't sell Scott an all-zones ticket, but only a zones 2-6 ticket, which meant he couldn't actually get out in central London. But I'm ahead of myself.
At Kingston, we caught BritRail to Wimbledon, which happened to be the next station at which the train was stopping (as distinct from stations that the train passed through). Wimbledon was the last (or first) station on the District line of the Tube, so we could change there to get into the Tube system. We parted with Wendy there.
"It's a handicapped lift? That's terrible!" -- Scott
We caught the Tube at Wimbledon to Gloucester Road, called Kristy to have her meet us there instead of us going to Bayswater, since Gloucester Road was closer to Tower Hill, where we were going. Beth and I went off to find Beth's hotel while Scott stayed at the station to wait for Kristy. Unfortunately (a) the hotel was not "100 yards" from the station as Beth had been led to believe, and (b) their luggage area was not secured, so rather than risk Beth's luggage in an unwatched unlocked area, it was deemed better to wait the 10-15 minutes they suggested to see if a room was available to be checked into. Fortunately one was, but that did render us late back to Scott and Kristy, who had arrived by that time.
So off we went to catch a train to Tower Hill.
"Upminster." -- Scott, to native Brit asking where the Tube
train was going
"Upminster." -- Scott, to another native Brit asking where the Tube train was going
"Upmington." -- Scott, to yet another native Brit asking where the Tube train was going
Scott was very impressed by the quality of the seating in the Tube -- it was actually upholstered! Kristy had a tale of woe to tell about getting to her hostel the day before -- apparently by following Colin-the-Scott's directions, what should have taken her half an hour took her one and a half hours.
"Never trust a man in a skirt." -- Kristy, about Colin's ability to give directions
"First time I've heard 'Mind the gap' all day -- was starting to miss it." -- Kristy at Mansion House station, on the way to Tower Hill
When we got to Tower Hill station, Beth was starving, having only had a bowl of dry cereal for breakfast, so we went off in search of an eatery, and found a pub not too far from Fenchurch Street Station. I ordered "Gammon with Bubble and Squeak" not having a clue what it was that I'd ordered, but figuring it was very English. What I ended up getting was mashed potato (with green stuff through it which was not parsley) on top of which was fried ham or bacon, on top of which was a lightly poached egg in the classic style (that is, you could tell it had just been tossed straight into the boiling water, not into some poacher) over which some sort of yellow sauce had been poured. I enjoyed it.
By this time the fine weather had well and truly gone, and it alternated between pouring rain and being grey. This made getting to the Tower a bit hair-raising, since, because there was some construction going on, they had made a temporary way across the lawn, which was reached by a set of temporary metal stairs. Rain and metal stairs do not mix very well.
"I wonder what this was for?" -- Kathryn, of the depressions in
the sills of the windows in one small room in the Tower of London,
"Hair salon?" -- Kristy
When we entered, we went into the Medieval Palace part of the Tower, mainly because it was the nearest place under cover. We caught the tail end of a telling of the tale of Anne Boylin, because when it was raining, the performers relocated to the Medieval Palace. Not hard to believe the people were generally shorter in those days. And it made me glad for lifts and escalators; lots of stairs. Spiral stairs enough to make one dizzy.
Then we went to the Medieval Palace Shop, where Scott bought an umbrella for the purpose of making it stop raining. And it did, for a little.
Then we went to the real purpose of our mission: to see the Crown Jewels. It was interesting how they had it set up, I think designed to cope with larger crowds of people than were there this rainy day: there were a series of rooms which showed films of things related to the crown jewels (such as Queen Elizabeth's coronation) or a catalogue of the Jewels themselves, but with no voice commentary, just music, pictures and labels. This served both to inform and to crowd-control the people. And then one finally got into the rooms with the Jewels themselves.
Very pretty they were indeed, though I think the prettiest thing there was actually the jewelled sword of State -- or maybe that was because it had a bit more variety than the maces and dishes (all gold) or the crowns (lots and lots of diamonds, with big jewels in strategic spots). Though Queen Victoria's small crown was nice and dainty. And the huge punch-bowl would have been impressive even if it hadn't been gold, with all the shells and mermaids and such all over it.
We came to the conclusion, however, that the scene with Rabowski stealing the Crown Jewels in "The Medusa Strain"(*) must have been filmed in the studio, and not in the actual Tower. Or else they'd changed the setup completely since then.
We then went to the Jewels Shop, where both Beth and I were caught by the "Outrage" game (the Official Game of the Tower of London), torn between the travel version (because it was cheaper and would be easier to fit in a suitcase) and the full version (because it was a full proper version and the pieces were nicer). And because it was a game about stealing the Crown Jewels, whether one could figure out a Tomorrow People "Rabowski" version of the rules... I ended up getting the full version, but boy did I have problems shutting my suitcase later! I think Beth decided not to get it after all.
We then sought the Scaffold, and were dissappointed that it was just a plaque; the Ravens but didn't really find them, and then noticed the "medieval graffiti" on the gate-arch on the way out. There was one which was actually legible saying "go to bed", and another on the other side which said "Peter", which prompted remarks about Peter the Time Guardian(*) having been there.
We then debated about whether we wanted to go up on Tower Bridge and decided no, because it was still uncertain weather and we were weary with all the stone flags and the steps. But then we found that our way out took us towards it, indeed, past it, so we decided to walk out onto the bridge just so that we could say we'd been on it. Then of course the suggestion came that someone ought to drop something off the bridge, just so we could say "You dropped it in the Thames?!"(*) So Scott went and dropped a coin in, and then dropped another coin in so he could have his photo taken dropping something in.
Then back to the station again, on to Embankment to see Cleopatra's Needle, since Beth hadn't seen it before. Scott wanted his photo taken as if he were skateboarding; an Adam reenactment.(*)
Then back to the Tube to get a train to Kings Cross, so that the Potterphiles could go and find Platform 9 3/4(+) -- apparently they had put up an actual sign to that effect on the station. We successfully got onto a Circle Line train that was going in that direction, but then we heard this "security announcement" that Kings Cross Station was closed and the train wouldn't be stopping there, and those wanting Kings Cross should get off at Farringdon and change to Thames Link. So we got off at Farringdon, but we couldn't change to Thames Link because Kristy's ticket wasn't good for that. So we asked a random friendly gentleman how we could get to Kings Cross, and he suggested we walk. Inward groans, but it seemed there was little other choice. Then, just as we started going up the stairs on the way out, there was an announcement that Kings Cross Station was open again, so we dashed back down again, onto the next train, and got off at Kings Cross, and up the stairs to the Brit Rail station.
The platforms at Kings Cross are in two clusters: platforms 1-8, and then platforms 9-11, which you get to by going about halfway up platform 8 and then turning left. So we started along platform 8 and someone pointed out that the bridge above platform 8 is the one they used in the movie. Then we went past it, and out, and there was a little area, and then the building for platforms 9-11, and on the wall of that building, there was the sign, "Platform 9 3/4". And a newspaper man was standing right in front of it with his stand, selling newspapers. He stoicly ignored us when we started taking pictures. Presumably part of the reason why they put the sign there was so that the Potter-tourists wouldn't interfere with the actual running of the station, messing about on platforms 9 and 10.
It was getting latish by this time, so we decided to head for dinner somewhere, and then our separate ways -- Scott and I back to Kingston, and Beth and Kristy to their respective hotels (or perhaps do something together first). Then the question arose as to where to go to eat. Someone suggested Kensington High Street, because it was a nice area, but when we got there, we couldn't really see any place to eat at. So we picked a direction and just kept walking on our slow and weary feet.
Then we saw a notice, the "Settle Down" pub or something like that, which included a menu, so we followed the sign, and went down the stairs, and then down another flight of stairs until we were well below ground, and came to this quiet area with a hallway through the middle, with a room on the right with tables and chairs, and some rooms on the left with tables and chairs and a bar. Much rejoicing ensued when we looked at the menu and found that the fish of the fish-and-chips was done in beer batter, which meant that Beth could have some.
So then we ordered, and went to the quiet room over the way -- there was nobody in it but us, nice and relaxing. And we nattered and chatted away. Scott was making plans for the next day, and I had to keep on reminding him that I was going to "flippin' Dorset"(*) tomorrow, so couldn't participate. Our food came, we ate and talked more. When Scott and I started singing "The Saga Begins" the others declared they didn't know us. But they relented as soon as we stopped singing. All too soon, the meal was over, and company had to be parted.
(+) Harry Potter reference
(*) Tomorrow People reference