Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday 11th- Octopus's Garden

Our last full day in London and I had one more thing in mind to do before leaving. Sophie and Maddie were off to visit friends and neighbours in Dulwich where they used to live while they were in London a few years ago. I hadn’t done any shopping at all so I thought I’d pay a short visit to Kensington High Street before making my way to the most famous recording studio in the world, Abbey Road.

It wasn’t the studios I was interested in it but the iconic zebra crossing outside which appeared on the cover of the final Beatles album, Abbey Road. The album celebrated its 40 year anniversary in August and many more fans than usual have been making the pilgrimage this year to Abbey Road to recreate the famous shot of the four Beatles crossing the road. While I enjoy many Beatles songs I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard fan, I was too young to have enjoyed their heyday, I was more curious as I’d been reading about the 40th anniversary and seen pictures of the crowds outside the studio in August.

I checked to see how many stations and trains I’d have to take to get to St Johns Wood Station and it seemed easy enough, I could even get out at Kensington to shop for a bit before heading onto St Johns. What I hadn’t allowed for was that the shops don’t open until 12pm on a Sunday and a couple of the tube lines were down for maintenance.

I’m not sure if it’s all of London that the shops don’t open until the afternoon, I can’t remember from the last visit, or even if I went shopping on a Sunday last time. There were plenty of people(a lot of tourists too) and traffic but no open shops, Seems quite strange given that Sunday shopping is the norm in New Zealand. The London shops do stay open later though, 6pm closing from memory so I guess that makes up for it. I walked up one side and back down the other window shopping for a bit then decided that with an hour and a half to fill in before the shops did open I might as well get back on the tube and head to Abbey Road.

Kensington High Street

I found it quite hard locating the right trains to get on and off for the next few stations as a couple were closed or under minimal operation. I also have trouble deciding whether I’m heading East, West, North or South and find myself standing on the wrong platform frantically reading which stations the next train will stop at.

Or the overhead sign saying how many minutes before the train arrives and what it’s final destination is. That is quite important because get on the wrong train and you’ll go whizzing past your station or you’ll find yourself heading in the totally wrong direction. I thought I had it pretty well OK this trip, I was becoming a real pro at this Tube malarkey that was until today. It was made worse by the dozens of escalators, tunnels, lifts, twists and turns you have to make to get from one train to the next. Most of the time I just went with the flow hoping I was heading in the right direction. I did get on a couple of trains, sat there for a bit and then decided it was the wrong one and quickly hopped off again (lucky they were stopped and waiting queued ready to go). Once I got off and the train went, the next one came which I then got on and when I exited at my station I saw a girl that had got on the first train with me there too. Obviously made a wrong decision there.

A quiet day on the Tube

One of the stations I passed through on my way to St Johns was Baker Street. This is the oldest underground station in the world and opened in 1863. It is also one of the most complex with a total of 10 platforms, it has the Metropolitian line station in the open, the sub-surface Baker Street Station just below and then a deep-level station for the Bakerloo & Jubilee Lines hence all the up and down, through and over I had to do.

I saw a number of people taking photos of the walls. "Elementary, my dear Watson" Baker Street was the fictional address for the famous dectective, there is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes outside the station but I didn’t get that far.

Finally I arrived at St Johns Wood Station and exited out into a leafy quiet suburb. There was a map of how to get to Abbey Road located in the station but it didn’t take me long to work out the general direction anyway. There was a small trickle of people walking and returning from one direction only, they all looked like tourists! A short walk later and I found myself standing on Abbey Road with the famous crossing right in front of me with people doing the “walk” I felt sorry for the traffic here, they have to give way to the pedestrians and of course the people want to either pause in the middle to get their photo or keep crossing back and forward. The traffic was stop, start, occasionally tooting to hurry them up. As soon as there was a break in the traffic there was another 4 marching out onto the crossing.

Abbey Road Studio

Just a few paces along from the crossing is the Abbey Road Studio, along the front is a white block wall and iron fence. And on every available space on the white wall are the graffiti left by the thousands of visitors. Even the fence next door wasn’t immune to signatures. The funny thing is that I saw no dates older the “09 and in fact I think they only went back as far as September, barely a month ago. I did read somewhere that they have to paint the fence once or twice a year because of the thousands of signatures and they paint it with a matt white finish so fans can continue to leave messages. Obviously this year they have been working overtime.

The album cover was taken from this position

And if you want to check out Abbey Road for yourself you can watch the daily antics on the live webcam that's set up in the area, see it here;

After Abbey Road I retraced my steps back to the station and successfully through the maze of the Underground back to Kensington High Street which was now chaotic. I had a quick look through the shops but my heart wasn’t in it, a lot of sales and a huge jumble of clothes in piles didn’t hold my interest. I headed home to do the laundry and start the packing as I needed to be back at Earls Court late afternoon to watch the stand and help with the dismantling.

The guys had had another very busy day and poor Pete was feeling very off with a sore throat. It took awhile to pull the stand apart and then find a spare trolley to wheel everything from the hall to the parked van. Pete managed to commandeer a caged bread trolley from behind one of the food outlets which worked well. By 8 o’clock we were done and we headed back for our final night in London. Dinner was leftovers from the fridge. One thing I did enjoy were the raspberries, I’d buy a couple of punnets every second day or so. They weren’t cheap at £2 a punnet but boy were they tasty!

I finished the packing which took a bit as I had to send one of our big bags back to Wales with Pete and Sophie with stuff we didn’t need in Ireland and also because we were on very strict restrictions regarding weight and number of bags flying with one of the cheap airlines, RyanAir- a bus with wings!

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