London Marathon Training – Week 15

Mileage for Week Fifteen
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.7 miles
Wed – 0 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4.2 + 4.6 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 1.9 miles (at the track, mostly walking)
Total – 17.5 miles

The taper week in full flow, for the most part.

I skipped one run, Wednesday, as I got home a little later than expected and my enthusiasm for running quickly vanished.

That aside this was a good week, the mileage dropped easily and the legs are responding to the rest. Yes, the calf issue is still there but it is manageable.

I began the week running at marathon pace over the run. My legs were tiring towards the end and I put that down to sitting all day at work and then running.

Friday was Good Friday and the beginning of a long weekend off from work. I woke around the normal time, had some food and then got myself out of the house. Once again I managed to average my marathon pace of 9:00 min /mile across the run. It seems like I’ve finally got my legs to understand where I want them 🙂

I got back from the run and Sarah was preparing to go for her run, after a brief rest, I put my shoes back on and went out for another run, making 8.8 miles for the day.

Saturday was parkrun day! My 20th parkrun too. I started right at the back, this was intended to be a gentle run. I plodded around the first mile in 9:23 min /mile and was comfortable. I was just running and the next time my watch beeped I had run the second mile in 8:33. I didn’t consciously speed up nor did I feel like I had sped up. The third mile was quicker again! 08:12 min /mile. There was a sprint at the end which I shouldn’t have done but a chap ran passed me on the final corner and I wasn’t having that, so put my foot down and sped passed him for a final time of 27:12

We went into Sunday, expecting not to run that much at all. Sarah and I took her brother and his son aged 8 up to the local running track.

Leo hadn’t been to the track before and certainly hasn’t done much consistent running. We started by running a lap of the 400m track. Leo did really well and managed to run/walk the lap. We played some games and ran around. Leo must have done three laps in total, his best was 2:40 which we all think is brilliant. As I remarked, it was great to see him out of breath and breathing heavily!

We will get him and his Dad up to the track lots more as the weather improves and keep an eye on his times but with no pressure on him at all. I have a hope that we can get him to a junior parkrun in the future.

I’m typing this with six days to go to the marathon and I’m looking forward to getting there now. Three more days in work and we’re off to London 🙂

London Marathon – Training Weeks Five & Six

I’ve already got slack and fallen behind in the updating of the blog!

As I type, it’s Wednesday of Week Seven and I’ve come back from a long run. I will get ahead of myself and start a draft that once this once is posted.

Mileage for Week Five
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.2 miles with Sarah
Wed – 4.4 miles Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 2.5 miles
Sat – 6.2 miles with Sarah
Sun – 9.2 miles Instagram
Total – 25.8 miles

Week five on the plan was a quieter week, which I was doing well at until I joined Sarah for a 6.2 mile run on what should have been a rest day for me!

On Wednesday I ran almost flat out to The Bin, a distance of 2 miles if taken straight through the town. Pace averaged around 7:15 which was spectacular considering I haven’t run that fast for a while. On the way back I tried some fartlek between the lamp posts and to be honest that combined with the speedy start, took the juice right out of my legs.

The long run on Sunday was good but oh so cold. It was cold to begin with and it just got colder. I made the error of not taking my gloves, by the time I got home my hands would barely work! I got home and got straight into bed to warm up.

 

Mileage for Week Five
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 4.5 miles
Wed – 4.8 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 5.2 miles with Kevin
Sat – 13.2 miles Instagram
Sun – 0 miles
Total – 27.9 miles

The first run this week was a slog. I remember looking at my watch and feeling like I had already run 5 miles but the readout was only 1.8! I plodded around the route and got the run done. A run is better than no run.

I’ve noted on Strava that the heel pain that I’ve had was becoming annoying. It’s still there and still bothering me but not as much. I have tried to stretch my calves a bit more but I still need to work on them.

I moved the long run from Sunday to Saturday in order to give my heel a bit more rest. On the plan the run was ‘Run 10 miles’ but I knew my legs were capable of more, so went out with the aim to run the half marathon distance.

To do this and not lose too much of our Saturday, I woke up at 4am to eat and then went to run at 6am. This meant that I was back around 8am and the day wasn’t wasted!

Once again my idea was to run 9 minute miles which I did mostly for nine miles; dipping under for three of nine. Once it became clear that I could probably go under two hours, I started to race the clock and made it home in 1:58:04.

On Strava I have written “I won’t be able to do that in the longer runs coming up but it’s nice to know there is something in the legs to push the pace if I need to.”

Well I can say now that I can and I can’t do that on the longer runs. Today in week 7, I ran 16 miles at a quicker average pace than that run… So I know I can do it but there’s no way I could add on another 10 miles to it! It’s good to know that if I pace the first half of the marathon correctly, I can then go for it for the second half.

See you soon 🙂

 

I should have gone to bed but I’d have missed all this!

I was supposed to be getting an early night. To make the transition to Heathrow less painful, I was staying in London for the night before my flight to New York.

My plan involved getting to the hotel around 3pm, relaxing a bit before going out for food. That changed when I bought a cinema ticket for the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. It’s a cinema I’ve wanted to visit for a while, the showing I was going to would finish around 9pm still giving me plenty of time to get an early night – or so I thought.

I checked in, didn’t take any time to relax and went straight out towards Trafalgar Square. My cinema visit would be in about 90 minutes, so I dived into the nearest Garfunkles for some no nonsense food before heading onto Trafalgar Square proper.

The Square is hosting coverage for the Paralympics. I went up the Haymarket to see if anything was happening at Piccadilly; there were lots of barriers and the traffic was pretty much stopped from moving around that area. It was quite odd to see people all over the road, more used to seeing cars and busses jostling for position.

The last time I was in Leicester Square, it was being renovated, that’s now complete, and the square has lots of places to sit and the pass the time; but if you want to spend a penny, it will cost you 50 pennies!!

With time to kill, I wandered around Covent Garden and watched a couple of street performers. One was a circus style entertainer. Although he was the most ungrateful performer I’ve ever seen. Granted he wasn’t getting much response from the crowd but when someone tells you “It’s been a long hard summer and I’m really tired”, “this doesn’t pay much” and when it came to the finale where he struggled to get on his unicycle (admittedly it was a very tall one) he complained even more! I did hand over a few quid though.

With the film done. For those interested it was a Wes Anderson called Moonrise Kingdom. I should have headed for the hotel but I walked back to Piccadilly to see if anything was happening; which there wasn’t really. A couple of blokes swinging around 30 or so feet in the air.

I stopped in Trafalgar Square to watch a bit of the Paralympics, people very gracious clapping every winner! I retraced my steps from earlier and went back to the river and over the Hungerford Bridge, stopping to take a photo.

20120903-060641.jpg

I could hear dance music and there were lots of flashing lights coming from the flat roof of the Aquarium, so naturally I ignored my bed and went there. It was a live DJ/band set by an Italian group called ‘Motel Connection’ they were quite good. I didn’t throw any shapes but there were some terrible efforts all around me. They eventually finished about 1015 and I stayed to see the next group ‘The Futureheads’ a band I used to listen to a while back, but there set started off a little boring so I finally decided to go to bed.

…..then I remembered there was a freakshow/carnival thing I passed by the bridge. Earlier in the day I saw a group of acrobats doing some amazing things (no pictures though), near here is a very very tall swing thing, can’t really describe it right now, here’s a picture.

20120903-061252.jpg Think Bounce at Oakwood but with less strapping!

I made it in time for the last freakshow, which was okay. The act was an alternative strongman whose named fails me right now, here he is.

20120903-061423.jpg
He juggled cigar boxes, which was more impressive than it sounds, hammered a nail I to his nasal cavity and for the finale lifted some weights using a hook which he put through his tongue. I didn’t take a picture of that but here’s the nail.

20120903-061610.jpg
When the show was finished, I finally went to bed, it was nearly midnight, late for me not so much for others…but I had a 7 hour plane journey to come.

London – Day Three

Monday 20 February

Another day of blue skies and sunshine. I really did pick a good weekend to visit London.

This being my last day, I packed my bag; triple checked that I’d not left anything behind before depositing it in the left luggage area in the hotel. My plan was to come back this way later on to re-visit the BFI shop, collect my bag and then head for Paddington. My train was due to leave at 15:45 so I had a rough itinerary for the day.

The first destination was Westminster Abbey. Virtually re-tracing my steps of the previous evening, I headed through Waterloo Station possibly amongst more people than live in Brecon! Along the embankment, before heading over Westminster Bridge.

As I was out early the Abbey was not yet open, it was due to open at 9:30, and I got over Westminster Bridge at about 8:45. Having a rough idea where I was, I knew that St. James’s Park was close by. It sits in a rather busy area, but as you go through, the trees lessen the traffic noise and whilst you don’t completely forget where you are, it does feel quite peaceful. I sat on a bench near the entrance to the park and watched the commuter’s speed walking through to their destinations.

There are quite a large number of birds in the park, I couldn’t begin to name them, some I don’t think I’ve seen before. In the middle of the park is a bridge, from which you can see Buckingham Palace.

Still having time to spare, I went and had a better look at Buckingham Palace, on the way through the park, I could see a woman taking a picture and as I got closer I could see why. I was very surprised to see three pelicans in the middle of London, but they looked quite at home. I’ve since had a look on the internet, and it seems there have been pelicans in London since 1664.

Buckingham Palace look rather splendid in the sunshine as did the Queen Victoria statue.

As the time was now getting towards 9:30, I made my way back towards the Abbey via Birdcage Walk, passing Wellington Barracks. Although I’d ‘gone’ before I came out of the hotel, I was now in need of some facilities!! I saw a sign for both the Abbey and a WC, following it brought me to a zebra crossing near to the west door of the Abbey but more importantly another sign for the WC pointing in the direction I had just come from! As I wasn’t in a desperate need to go and it was nearly 9:30 I headed for the Abbey entrance…and then the world got a tiny bit smaller.

I was at the zebra crossing, in front of me where the obligatory Japanese tourists who stopped in the middle of the crossing to photograph the Abbey, I zigzagged through them, turned left, looked up and who should be heading for me but a colleague who recently left Brecon to work in London. To say we were both rather shocked and surprised to see each other is an understatement. He was on his way to a meeting, so after a quick chat we said our goodbyes and went in opposite directions. Amazing that in all those people, I was able to bump into someone I knew.

I came to London in 2006 and wanted to visit the Abbey but I just never got around to doing it. So I made sure that this time I did. The wealth of history is just overwhelming if you try and think about it. Taking for example, the people who are buried here; A huge number of Kings and Queens of England & Scotland – Henry V / Elizabeth I / Mary Queen of Scots / Charles II / plus many more, and then there are the people who have shaped history – Geoffrey Chaucer / Ben Johnson / Sir Isaac Newton / Handel / Charles Dickens / Tennyson / Rudyard Kipling / Laurence Olivier / again there are many more. Then there are the events that have taken place here – the recent wedding of William and Katherine, the funeral of the Queen Mother, the Coronation of Elizabeth II and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales to name a few.

There is a free audio guide narrated by Jeremy Irons to help you around the Abbey, this was a good tour but didn’t mention everything that was around you. Of course a comprehensive tour would take days but for example, coming out of King Henry VII chapel, I could see the tomb of King Henry V, one of England’s greatest kings but there was no mention of it on the tour.

The Abbey staff were very helpful, in one ‘rooms’ where there are several tombs, a guide told me and the other visitors all about each person who was interred there; it was very interesting. The husband of one of the women interred there had been beheaded at The Tower. Somehow she had been lucky and had made it to the Abbey! Walking around the Abbey took about 90 minutes and like The Tower of London, was well worth the visit.

I still had a couple of places to tick off before leaving London, so a short tube journey later I was in South Kensington, home to the Natural History & Science museums. First though I wanted to get a picture of the Albert Memorial, as I was slowly running out of time I had to make do with a couple of long shots from the other side of the road.

After a swift coffee in the Albert Hall it was onwards to the Natural History Museum. On the way I passed the Royal College of Music where I could hear through an open window, a budding singer, perhaps even opera singer going through her scales, she sounded very good. A whistle stop tour of the museum followed; I missed out large chunks as I mainly wanted to see the dinosaurs. The museum was packed with people, lots of school groups from foreign shores. I got a few snaps of the various dinosaurs, including the animatronic T-Rex. I had a quick scan through some of the other exhibits but will come back again to see the rest of the museum and the exhibition that runs until September which is all about the fateful trip of Captain Scott.

There was just enough time for two more destinations before heading to Paddington…the first was Harrods. I left the Natural History Museum with the intention of going straight to Waterloo, collecting my bag before getting some lunch and then the train. I still had over an hour; I’d got through the museum quicker than expected. So I walked from the museum up Brompton Road and into Knightsbridge. On the way I went past the V&A. I’ve not been in the V&A before, so I may visit next time around. Harrods was busy. Busy with tourists picking things up, balking at the price and then putting them down again!

I went through the main door on the corner which opens into the bag section; the only price I saw read £1,750. This struck me as rather expensive for a bag! Again with time pressing I didn’t visit the whole shop and instead concentrated my time in the food hall, specifically the chocolate part. After 20 minutes of wandering around trying to find the best bargain (needle & haystack come to mind) I spent £20 on 3 items, and I didn’t even get a signature green bag, the food hall bags are white.

With my time in London now all but up, I took the Tube over to Waterloo, bought some DVD’s at the BFI, collected my bag and tube’d it to Paddington with minutes to spare. I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in London and I’m planning another for a weekend in April after Easter. It will depend on what is being shown at the BFI, the programme is out in a few weeks and I can make my mind up then. I would like to see another show, perhaps Phantom.

If anyone has any ideas as to what places; museums, galleries, attractions etc, I should visit, then please let me know.

London – Day Two

Sunday 19th February

A bright sunny but cold start to the day. I Tube’d it over to London Bridge as I intended to walk from there to the Tower of London, taking in some sights along the way. Just outside the station on the right is ‘The London Dungeons’ if anyone wants to go.

I wasn’t heading for the dungeons so instead went left towards Southwark Cathedral, the site of which has been a place of worship for over 1,000 years. It’s featured in a few films and even a Doctor Who episode, but it was only as a landmark that made me head for it.

Around the corner from the Cathedral is The Golden Hind which is docked in St Mary Overie Dock. This is not the original ship as that rotted away before being broken up in the 1700s, this one of two replicas of the original ship that circumnavigated the globe. This replica has itself also circumnavigated the globe. As I was there early it wasn’t open but it is possible for a price to have a look around. The other replica has been docked at Brixham since the 1960’s.

Also in this area is The Clink, which is now a museum that sits on the site of a notorious prison. The prison was owned by the Bishop of Winchester, who also had a Palace right next door, the remains of one wall of his Great Hall are still there today.

From a lot of places in London it is possible to see Shard London Bridge, a building currently under construction near; you’ve guessed it London Bridge. The building should be open in the summer of this year and will stand at 1,017 feet tall! There will be an observation platform on floor 72 if you’re feeling brave.

Crossing London Bridge gives some great views of Tower Bridge, I didn’t know at this point but I would be getting a much closer view later in the day.

On the North side of London Bridge is the area where the Great Fire of London started in 1666. I made my way through a couple of streets to the Monument which was erected to remember the tragedy. It is possible to climb the spiral staircase inside to the viewing platform two hundred or so feet above the street. It was due to open about 10 minutes after I got there but I don’t think I would have been brave enough to go up!

The Monument is 202 feet tall, and 202 feet away is Pudding Lane where the fire started. The street now is just an innocuous street between some buildings. Who knows what London would look like now, if that fire hadn’t started.

From Pudding Lane I went along Eastcheap towards the Tower of London. I’d been the Tower once before, I can’t remember exactly when but I would have been a teenager. The area outside the Tower has been completely re-modernised, with ticket booths, shops and visitor information areas. That didn’t stop the many tourists and me aimlessly walking around as we waited for someone to open up and let us buy tickets. Queues gradually formed in front of the booths and with less than 5 minutes before the Tower was due to open, so did the booths. The sun was really bright and was coming over the Tower so I couldn’t get a decent photo of the building, I did get this slightly bright one of the many animal sculptures that are dotted around the grounds. These sculptures represent the animals that would have once been housed here in the menagerie before they were moved west to Regents Park to create London Zoo.

Once inside I had a quick look around before getting back to the entrance in time for the first Yeoman Warder guided tour. Our guide was Bob.

Bob was great, a very funny chap. I know that to be a Warder you have to have served for at least 22 years in the Armed Forces, and once you are accepted into the ranks, that you have to learn all the history of the Tower and the spiel that is delivered to the paying public, and Bob delivered the spiel perfectly. We didn’t walk as far as I had expected I’m not sure what I expected really but the wealth of history that is told is more than enough to give a feel and flavour of life and death at the Tower. If you ever go, then make the effort to go on the tour. Our tour finished at about 1130, on the way around I’d planned to go and get something to eat (to beat the lunchtime rush) and then go and see the Crown Jewels, at the end of the tour Bob said to go to the Jewels early before the queues, so on his advice I did just that. Erm, well it’s good to be able to say “I’ve seen the Crown Jewels”, but I don’t know, they look wonderful, very shiny but they are just objects aren’t they?

From there I did go and get lunch, the food was really nice and not horrifically expensive. As I’d only seen the bits on the tour, I went and looked around the rest of the Tower; there is a great wall walk, which takes in many of the defensive towers each with their own displays on various aspects of the history of the Tower. As I neared the end of the walk I could see the queue for the Jewels and Bob was quite right, the queue was massive, I was quite glad that I’d gone earlier.

During the wall walk I tried to get a photo of Tower Bridge but the sun was always shining!

I saved the best to last, and finished my tour with The White Tower which is The Tower in The Tower of London. This displays the armour and weaponry from hundreds of years of British history; including sets of armour worn by or made for many Kings of England. There are even a couple of suits of armour made for children.

I’m really glad I decided to go to The Tower, its well worth the entry fee, the Yeoman Warder tour was a particular highlight, along with The White Tower.

I exited through the group entrance on the South Wall as this was right by the river and I spied an empty bench. Once again I tried to get a picture of Tower Bridge, and it was then that I spotted a sign for the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

So I went up onto the bridge passed the delightfully named ‘Dead Man’s Hole’, which is where corpses used to (and maybe still do) wash up! The exhibition is in the two towers of the bridge, which is first accessed via a lift and you then walk between the two towers using the two horizontal walkways. These walkways give a little history of the bridge, other bridges around the world and there are also some really good photos of life on and around the river over the past 100 or so years.

There are also some great photo opportunities as the walkways are 140 feet above the river below.

On leaving the bridge it’s possible to visit the engine rooms, which I did but it’s not really necessary, unless you’re into that kind of thing – which I’m not.

I finally got a nice, glare from the sun free shot of the bridge too.

Now back on the South side of the river I wanted a cup of tea somewhere indoors, but it being a cold day everyone else seemed to have the same idea, as I ventured onwards passing lots of full cafes, I found myself back at the tube station. So I went to Oxford Street, I knew the Palladium was near by (if you come out of the tube station turn right and then right again) and I wanted to have a look at it – not the best picture but the street isn’t massive, so I couldn’t go back far enough!

Turning right at the bottom brings you to Great Marlborough Street which has this great clock at the entrance to Kingly Street.

I was still gasping for a cuppa and a sit down, so I went back up onto Oxford Street in the attempt to find somewhere, in the distance I could see a John Lewis, and they usually have a posh café. So I finally got to rest my weary legs with a cuppa and a piece of carrot cake, all for the cheap as chips price of £6! Well it was a complete waiter/waitress service, I think they even had a licensed bar in there too.

Tea and cake finished, I was back on the move; there were a couple of shops of the DVD / Film memorabilia variety that I wanted to check out. The first was Fopp on Earlham Road, which was a fair walk along Oxford Street to Earlham Road via Tottenham Court Road.

Near the intersection of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road is the Dominion Theatre where ‘We Will Rock You’ has been playing for 10 years.  A massive statue of Freddie stands over the entrance. (Not my picture)

From Tottenham Court Road it was a few minutes to the corner of Earlham Road and Fopp, a few purchases made I went to the next shop, ‘The Cinema Store’. I’d passed this yesterday evening, it’s close to The Ivy & Mousetrap and across from Stringfellows. Nick, my previous boss, likes this shop very much so I had to go in and have a look. It was a bit like a Forbidden Planet if you’ve ever been in one, just a tad more expensive.

My legs still a bit tired I wanted to find another place to sit down! As I was nearing Trafalgar Square I went into the National Gallery and spent a lovely quiet half hour sitting on one of the large leather chesterfield sofas looking at the Haywain by John Constable, which I think could possibly be my favourite painting.

The building in the picture still exists although the trees have all gone and it’s a bit more overgrown. I would like to visit it one day.

In the evening I was going to the cinema at the British Film Institute (BFI), so I went back to the hotel to freshen up and relax for an hour of so before heading back out. The BFI was just a short walk from my hotel and the cinema I was in, NFT 1, was amazing. A really good space with the comfiest cinema seats I’ve ever sat in. I overheard the chap sat behind me say that the only cinema seats comfier were in screen 1 at the Curzon Mayfair; I’ve no way to corroborate that but may have to find out for myself one day.

The film we’d all come to see was Casablanca.

The audience were great, laughing at all the right bits, staying quiet for the moodier scenes, no talking, no mobiles lighting up, no noisy popcorn or other sweets – cinema heaven!

Going into the cinema I was still a bit tired, I’m really not used to all this walking! But on exiting the screening I had a second perhaps even a third wind and was ready to walk some more. I made a beeline for the London Eye, I don’t like heights but the thought of seeing London at night seemed give me the confidence to give it a go, unfortunately for me it had just closed…somewhere down inside I was secretly relieved.

Along the Embankment from the Eye are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, I’d not taken the opportunity to get a photo of Big Ben last night, so was going to have a go now. My new point and click camera couldn’t really get a decent photo it being a bit too dark. However the best of my attempts are below.

From Big Ben I walked up Whitehall, onto the Strand and then up into Covent Garden. The streets were rather empty, it was a Sunday in February after all. From Covent Garden I went to Leicester Square and the onwards towards Piccadilly. Unfortunately the time that I arrived wasn’t the best, as most things had already started; cinema, theatre, the comedy store. So I called it a night and headed for the tube, hotel and bed!

Approx miles walked Day One – 7
Approx miles walked Day Two – 8

Day one of my trip to London

London – Day One

20120218-204807.jpg
Saturday 18th February 2012

My 3 day weekend in London started early when my alarm went of at half 4 this morning. Why so early? Well I wanted to get a whole day in London, so that meant the first train out of Abergavenny, which left at 06:07, I got into Paddington just after 8:30. My hotel is in Waterloo so I got on the Tube and 20 minutes later I was in the lobby.

I dropped my bag off and started walking toward the Embankment. Tomorrow I’m going to the BFI to see Casablanca, and I wanted to see where the entrance was, that found I continued down the Embankment on Queens Walk towards St. Paul’s Cathedral.

20120218-200344.jpg

20120218-193349.jpg

Some Londoner’s are rather energetic and they like to run down by the river, I saw about 30 in my 20 minute stroll.

Further down the Embankment is Tate Modern, I didn’t have time to go in and only got this dodgy photo of the tower.

20120218-200647.jpg
I crossed over the Millennium Bridge getting a long shot of Tower Bridge, which I’m hoping to get closer to tomorrow when I visit The Tower of London. It was very windy this morning, the wind was howling down the river which made me a little uncomfortable on the bridge. As you cross the bridge there is a great view of St.Paul’s Cathedral (which is why the bridge was put there of course) so I snapped a few pics.

20120218-202129.jpg

20120218-202254.jpg

20120218-202849.jpg
I was surprised to see the tents belonging to the ‘Occupy London’ protestors outside the Cathedral, I quite wrongly thought that they had all been cleared away. I’ve not read about their cause enough to know who’s right and who’s wrong but their actions did annoy me, more about that in a moment. The picture below is taken from the steps of St. Paul’s, there are more tents going around the side to the right. Paternoster Square which is behind the tents has all but been closed off, there are lots of metal barriers, perhaps 5 or 6 deep to prevent the tent city or maybe it’s more a village now, getting any bigger.

20120218-204302.jpg
My reason for walking to this part of London was my first proper destination of the day; The Museum of London. Before I get to that let me say why the ‘Occupy’ protestors annoyed me; I’d planned to visit ‘Postman’s Park‘ which is just over the road from the museum. It’s a small park which used to be where several cemeteries, which served the local Churches, joined together. The reason I wanted to visit was to see George Frederic Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, a memorial to ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and who might otherwise have been forgotten. I had read all about the memorials when i was planning my trip, however I was unable to get in as it’s been closed due to the actions of ‘Occupy’ Protestors just down the road. I had to make do with this glimpse through the railings of the gate.

20120218-205845.jpg
I’m sure I’ve been to the Museum of London before, I have a vague recollection of going as a child with Mum & Dad.

I went this time because I’d read about and then saw a TV report about an exhibition of Charles Dickens’ London. £8 to get in but it was worth it, lots of memorabilia from his time, the desk where he wrote some of his famous books, costumes from the plays of his books and examples of his early drafts. I could barely read his writing, makes me think my handwriting isn’t so bad! At the end there is a film with a voiceover reading a passage from some of his writings; I didn’t see the start but it’s about one of his many walks around London. It’s a clever piece as it shows that not much has changed in the 140 years since he died. A lot of the buildings are the same (a lot of Dickensian London has gone but a lot remains), we still have poor people, we still have drunken behaviour and London’s streets are still alive with the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Following the exhibition I went around the Museum proper, it’s free to get in if you want to go. The museum follows life in London before London was even founded. The early part of the Museum has lots of animal and human remains that have been found on various digs in and around the city. The story then moves through the Romans, Medieval, Great Fire and so on until it reaches the London of today. An interesting place, a couple of cafes to have a breather and did I mention it was free!

One planned activity down, one to go! I had time to spare so after a quick sandwich, I Tube’d it over to Leicester Square. The square is one giant building site, it was the same on my previous visit in September. There is going to be a new exciting space “Your Leicester Square” as the wraparound hoardings proudly proclaim. I didn’t expect the whole square to be off limits so instead of heading directly to Piccadilly Circus, I found myself making an circuitous route by way of double backing on myself but keeping parallel to Leicester Square, if only I’d put on my GPS and I could have seen what an odd route it was. Anyway I eventually made it to Eros and had a well earned sit down.

I’m sure if you sit at Eros for long enough, you will appear in hundreds of photos. I only managed to get this terribly lit one, oh well we all know what he looks Iike.

20120218-213531.jpg
Just a metaphorical ‘stones throw’ away from the noise of Piccadilly is St. James’s Square where WPC Yvonne Fletcher was killed in 1984. This is the second time I’ve gone to the marker, I can only think its because of two things; I remember it happening (I was 8) and I know where it is. There’s lots more hidden history in London’s streets, you just have to know where to look.

20120219-073253.jpg

From St. James’s Square I went to Savile Row, for two reasons; The Beatles and clothes I can’t afford. The Beatles had their Apple Corp headquarters at 3 Savile Row and played their famous rooftop concert here. The second is the clothes, I’m no fashionista but a sharp suit is a sharp suit, and there’s a lot of them walking around this street. I’m never going to be able to afford to shop here but theres nothing to stop me looking, in fact on one side of the street you are able to peer into the basements where the tailors are hard at work.

You may notice a distinct lack of photos! The streets were small, crowded and I was a bit self conscious about standing out as a tourist, which I probably do anyway – I think I’m the only person I’ve seen in walking shoes!!

With my wandering complete it was time for the big event…

20120219-061248.jpg
On entering the theatre and seeing the stage, I thought it looked much smaller than I had expected. My initial worries were unfounded, the stage is big enough and all of it is used to maximum effect.

My only other exposure to Les Mis has been a very good school production by Brecon High, the 25th Anniversary concert which isn’t acted and the soundtrack which I’ve listened to a few times; ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ is usually floating in my head most days, it’s just so catchy! I’m glad I had that exposure though, as I remember having a little trouble initially following who was who back in Brecon. Jean Valjean being in rags one moment and then he’s a well dressed man, should be easy to spot, but I wasn’t that sharp. The same could be said for the teenager in front of me who was also confused but this time at a much higher ticket price! Several times she leaned towards her Mum and had to be guided as to who was who. There’s a particular scene towards the end where our hero shows clemency to a character, but then seems (with a loud bang) to change his mind, She turned her head and asked “is he dead?”…if you’ve seen the show dear reader then only you will know.

I couldn’t help comparing the lead to Alfie Boe. He appears in the 25th Anniversary concert and is perhaps the most famous of the most recent Jean Valjeans among non theatre goers. I have his version of the songs on my iPod, and while the new chap is very good I didn’t think he was quite as good as Alfie, I just wish I’d seen the show with him in it.

I remember when watching the school production that it seemed they had skimped on the sets. There are several scenes that take place at a house, which was only represented by a set of gates. I had to take back my silent scorn, as out of the darkness on stage in London appeared a set of gates to represent the house! Well done Brecon High for so magically capturing the London stage show!!

A brilliant production and one I would definitely see again, although I will wait until the lead actor changes, so that I might see a different take on 24601 Jean Valjean. (if you’ve seen it, you just sang that in your head didn’t you)

So theatre done, fed and watered I made my way back to the hotel. I’d checked the map whilst in Pizza Hut and noticed that ‘The Ivy’ restaurant, famous for its celebrity clientele was close by, so I went to see if I could see anyone famous. It was only a short walk from where I was but there were no paps and no famous people, it was a bit early perhaps. The windows are made up with coloured glass tiles so you can’t even see in, it was only then that I noticed ‘normal’ people going in! Was this the right place? I looked it up when I was back at the hotel, and yes it was the right place and yes ‘normal’ people can go in, the celebs have a not so secret entrance via a flower shop around the corner. The normals have the ground floor to themselves, the celebs get the three floors above.

When walking in London you come across things you don’t expect (well I do), nothing alarming, although I did nearly trip over a sleeping homeless person within 20 minutes of stepping foot in the capital. What I mean is that things (buildings, shops etc) aren’t always where I expect them to be or they aren’t as far apart as I expect them to be, London despite its size isn’t that big if you stick to the touristy bits. Just across the road from The Ivy is a theatre, nothing special there, I was in Theatreland after all but it’s one I’d like to visit at some point.

20120219-071600.jpg
…and just around the corner from the theatre is ‘Stringfellows’ it wasn’t open though. It was only half 6 but I’d had a long day so I continued to make my way towards home, I headed for Trafalgar Square thinking it would be nice to see Nelson all lit up, but he was all in darkness which surprised me, so I got a picture of the Olympic countdown clock instead.

20120219-071922.jpg

Then I made a mistake, tiredness perhaps but instead of going down Northumberland Avenue, I went down Whitehall and away from the bridge that would take me to the hotel.

All was not lost though because I think I saw a famous person! How exciting, well it would be if I’d had the courage to speak! The man in question was Warren Clarke famed for playing Andy Dalziel in ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’. The ‘man’ was standing outside a theatre, and looked a lot like Mr Clarke, I’m fairly sure it was him as in the very theatre he was outside of, Warren Clarke is starring in a play as Winston Churchill. As I walked down the road I could see his picture jutting out from the side of the building, then my eyes were drawn to the ‘man’, I looked at him, then did a double take and we stared at each other as I walked past, me in disbelief, him perhaps hoping I didn’t call him Dalziel! I got about 30 feet down the road and turned around just to check and he was staring right back at me, perhaps now annoyed that I hadn’t recognised him! I’ll never know.

Two final pictures, the London Eye all lit up which looked better than I’ve captured it here and the Cenotaph. I was going to get a picture of Big Ben but I got to the underground entrance first and saved my legs by going one stop back to Waterloo.

20120219-071734.jpg

20120219-071825.jpg

If you’ve read all that, then well done!

Approx. miles walked – 7