Our arrival into London seemed to have bad vibes from the start. We had left Prague on time, but ended up having to circle near London for 20 minutes as the wind had changed direction and they needed to change runways at Heathrow.
Once we landed, we found that we had arrived just after a flight from somewhere in Africa. There were only about five or six immigration officers on duty and each of them were giving all the Africans a real grilling as to their bone-fides and intentions. It was over an hour and a quarter before we cleared immigration. Then we found that Jill’s bag was nowhere to be found, so we spent another hour reporting its loss and filling in the paperwork at the baggage services counter. By the time we caught the train into the city and then a taxi to our apartment, it was well after 6.30 pm, cold and raining. We were expecting that we would now have to go shopping for replacement clothes and things.
It turned out that the bag had been taken by mistake by an elderly medical professor who was on the same flight. We had noticed him talking loudly on his phone in Prague and we had already come to the conclusion that he had taken it by mistake, as the only bag left on the belt was a similar looking one with his name on it. However, as we reached our apartment, his very gracious and lovely wife was calling to apologise and to find a way to get the bag over to us. She had found a copy of our itinerary in the front pocket and used the phone number in it to call and see if she could set things right. By the time that I had returned from the supermarket with some breakfast food for the next day, Jill’s bag had arrived in a taxi they had arranged. There are still some decent people left after all!
Our apartment is in a row of terrace houses that seem to line the streets of Kensington. I’m not sure if they are Georgian in Style or Edwardian. All the streets are filled with these white, five story buildings which have been divided into many small flats. Near the end of each row is a ‘mews’ where horses and carriages would have been kept. They are rather quaint. Our little apartment actually is in the place of a previous lobby, or entrance way. Whilst tiny, It is very nicely equipped and even has painted murals on the ceiling. Our nearest station is Gloucester Road.
We started from there this morning and headed off to see the Imperial War Museum. I would have liked to have spent all day there, but Jill was getting bored after a couple of hours, so we ended up having a sandwich for lunch in the cafe and then heading to another stop. The museum has some excellent displays and presents a somewhat different perspective of war than we would see at our war memorial in Canberra. There is some similarity, of course, in the exhibits relating to WW1 & WW2, but there is a lot of good information about other conflicts that we hear little about – Suez, African conflicts, NATO operations in Europe and the Cold War including the division of Berlin, for example. They had a small, but comprehensive display of the Vietnam War – mostly focused on the Australian and Kiwi involvement.
There is probably a lot more gear on display than we would have in Canberra. One exhibit that I appreciated was an old red double-decker bus that was used to carry troops to the trenches. It carried the badge of the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) which was the parent corps to the RAASC, in which I served. Perhaps I might have driven one, if I had been born in another place at another time. I also particularly enjoyed a new exhibition on the recent discovery of unmarked graves at
As we were leaving, and talking to one of the guides, I noticed a soldier in uniform standing near us who had been attending a function relating to Remembrance Day, later this week. To my great surprise, he was wearing a Victoria Cross amongst his ribbons. Once we returned to our apartment, I Googled his details to find that his name was Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, Britain’s most recent VC recipient. His award came from his extreme bravery in Iraq in 2004. I have never before been in the presence of someone so courageous as him.
After leaving the war museum, we walked along Lambeth Road, past Lambeth Palace (the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury) and then along the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. There was a very large police presence and they are being guarded more closely than I remember from previous trips. From there, we walked past Westminster Abbey and on to a St James Park Station to return home. By then it was getting quote cold.