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United Kingdom

Return to the UK: 100th anniversary of start of World War 1

Madrid Airport, London City Airport and St Albans


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At check-in I had to pay about 40 euros because my case was three or four kg over the weight limit. I had a feeling it would go over - I had no way of measuring it beforehand. Unfortunately I had no space in my rucksack or laptop bag to move 3-4 kg worth of stuff into, so I had no choice but to leave it in there and just pay up. At least I got to choose a window seat :-)

Once through security and baggage x-ray I had plenty of time to look round duty-free but not buy anything.

The flight left on time. I managed to get some photos of the Spanish landscape after take-off and then after a while some food was brought round; a pot of couscous and vegetable salad and a pot of chocolate mousse. It felt like quite a novelty to hear English being spoken by British accents by the cabin crew.

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I took some photos of the coast of England as we approached. I noticed white cliffs, but I'm almost certain we were passing over Dorset/ Hampshire rather than the Dover area. Landing in London City Airport was a novelty because I'd never been there before and it was something different to see us land so close to the Thames.

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I had no problems at all in security and my case arrived OK. Emma, Kate and Mum were waiting for me in Arrivals - a wonderful moment.

After looking round the house and settling my stuff back in, Mum and I had some dinner and then watched the service at Westminster Abbey commemorating the beginning of World War One 100 years ago today. We both thought it was exceedingly well done, especially the choice of music (Vaughan Williams' 'A Lark Ascending' worked brilliantly, for example) and the way everyone in the congregation held a lighted candle at the start of the service and then gradually sections of people blew theirs out until only one candle was left, at the grave of the Unknown Warrior. This candle was blown out at 11 pm, the time that war was declared in 1914. The candles going out was done deliberately to echo Sir Edward Grey's famous comment that "The lamps are going out all over Europe".

We also did the 'Lights Out' event, where all households across the country were encouraged to turn their lights off between 10 and 11 pm. We had the TV going to watch the service on, but all other sources of light were switched off.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:22 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom airport spain madrid sisters mum st_albans Comments (1)

Departure eve

London and St Albans


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I went back to London this morning, this time to Wimbledon to collect my CELTA folder. I finished the CELTA course near the end of March last year and we were told then that six months afterwards we could come back and collect our folders if we wanted them. So in September I emailed to ask if I could come and collect mine at Christmas. The college has two sites and unfortunately the site from where I had to collect my folder wasn't the one where I actually did the course, which was a shame. I would have really liked to have gone back there for a look round. Technically I could have walked to the other site, but I couldn't hang around at all in London because my flight is due to leave Heathrow very early tomorrow morning and I hadn't packed yet. There were two other things I had to do in St Albans as well.

On the way home from St Albans station I stopped at the cemetery and said hello/goodbye to Dad and also my grandparents, who are buried very close by.

Once I got back I finished off a project I had been working on for the past few days... sticking down letters and cards Dad's patients had written about and/or to him and given to the surgery when Dad retired last summer. I stuck them in the same special hardback notebook his colleagues at the surgery had all written messages in at his retirement party. A notice had gone up at the surgery asking patients for anecdotes involving Dad. Months later they were still receiving them, from irregular patients who had come in and seen the notice for the first time. The surgery had passed them all onto Dad and after reading them he had tucked them into the notebook but not stuck them down... something I'm sure he was intending to do but never got round to due to chemotherapy cycles. So I did the sticking down for him. I felt very touched and proud reading them, though very sad as well of course.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:52 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom dad english_teaching st_albans Comments (0)

Borough Market and Bethnal Green, London

London


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I went into London today to do several things.

The first thing I did, after arriving at London Bridge and taking one or two pictures of the Thames, was go to Borough Market for the first time.

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Since it was a Tuesday, the full market wasn't on, but I did buy some late lunch at a pie-and-mash stall and have a nice wander round what other stalls were open. I winced at some of the prices (they contrast quite a lot to those in Ecuador) but I still definitely want to come back here in the summer when I am back from Ecuador!

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After Borough Market I went for a walk round the area. I popped into Southwark Cathedral next door first;

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Then I passed by the Clink Prison Museum and a bit later the Old Operating Theatre Museum... both are places I've wanted to go to for a long time now because they sound really interesting, but today I was put off by the price. I will definitely go to them both when I'm back in the summer, but not both on the same day.

Three more missions were in order after this; the first was a stopoff in Bethnal Green to buy some jalebi. These are some of my favourite sweets in the world and I have not seen any in Ecuador so far so I thought I'd make the most of my opportunities in London while I'm here! I walked down Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane in the dusk and promised myself that I'd come back to Brick Lane in the summer and on a Sunday, when the market's on.

After leaving Brick Lane I turned left and carried on along Whitechapel Road to the Royal London Hospital, where my uncle is currently recovering from a heart operation. He had to have a valve replaced. It was a major operation but when I saw him he seemed to be recovering pretty well, thank goodness. I was really glad I'd come.

I went straight to Waterloo Station after leaving the hospital. The reason was to meet up with Roz, an old friend who I really wanted to see before I leave the UK tomorrow. We had dinner at a restaurant & bar at Waterloo before we both had to catch different trains. It was really lovely to see her.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom market museum cathedral river_thames explorations british_cuisine Comments (0)

Back to Ecuador soon

Hemel Hempstead and St Albans


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Yesterday I said goodbye to Dave, who had to drive back to Manchester. It was really hard for both of us. At least when I get back to Ecuador I can start enquiring about time off - Dave is going to fly out and visit me for three weeks, hopefully in June. We're hoping to go to the Galápagos Islands and a few other places we haven't been to before...

Something else to look forward to, but in a much shorter term, is Mum coming to Ecuador next month! She's decided to visit me during UK half term. I can't wait!

Emma, Mark, Dave and I went to Kate and Andrew's for dinner last Saturday. Venison stew and rice pudding were on the menu so who was I to refuse such an invitation? :-D

Company was great, as ever, and the food was delicious. Venison stew with dumplings served with peas and mashed potato with sautéed onion mixed in, with rice pudding afterwards and some clementines later on. We'd had some deliciously sweet, crisp, juicy red grapes beforehand. We played a board game about Britain after dinner, but I've forgotten its name.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:53 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom sisters dave mum st_albans hemel_hempstead british_cuisine Comments (0)

Saddest Epiphany

St Albans

I don't think I can do this justice to be honest, so I will just say that Dad's funeral and the gatherings afterwards in the church hall and then at our house were inspiring and heartwarming. The church was full, the tributes were amazing, the music beautiful and very fitting and the Christmas tree had deliberately been left up for Epiphany. The rain held off until after the burial - in fact the sun came out at one point - and in the church hall afterwards it was clear to me how many people's lives Dad had positively touched. We had spent ages creating photo boards that were put up around the walls; these were poignant to look at but also showed just how dedicated he was to family and friends, how many strings he had to his bow, his sense of humour and so much else.

Speaking of poignancy, however (and I'm sorry if anyone finds this upsetting to read), the moment I found the most affecting during the whole day was when the hearse arrived outside our house to take us to the church. Mum said something like "Dad's arrived" and I suddenly remembered the bright sunny summer's day when we moved into this house back in 1993. Then a contrasting image from the early hours of Christmas morning invaded my thoughts; the image engraved onto my brain of him leaving the house, unconscious, carried in a wheelchair. I was standing in the hall and I saw his eyelids fly open as he got jolted on the last step or two of the stairs; I got a glimpse of his eyes for a second or two but could tell he was not seeing anything. I guessed right then that he was probably not going to re-enter the house.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:36 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom christmas dad st_albans st_peter's_church Comments (0)

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