Thursday, 27 December 2012

2012 - Day Out 20: London - Remembrance Day Parade

Date: Sunday 11 November 2012

It is our last day in the City of London and we hope to get back on TV this year when we spend the morning at the Remembrance Day Parade at Whitehall, it is an early start so after the bags are packed, we make an early start to get the prime spot in front of the BBC TV cameras.

Our spot at the Remembrance Day Parade in Whitehall!
I wake up and after getting ready, make sure that everything is packed before I go downstairs for some "fresh air" and check out before Mr UKBuses rises from his pit. My stomach feels loads better today but we haven't got time for breakfast this morning before we have to leave Travelodge Docklands for the last time this year (I will be back here in April 2013 to watch the WWE at the 02 Arena again). Mr UKBuses said to meet him in reception at about 08:30am, but I think he needs a new alarm clock as he is twenty minutes late again. He checks out and we are on our way to our last London destination for this weekend and we are off to see The Queen - not "We Will Rock You", the real Queen, we are off to Whitehall to see the Remembrance Day Parade. We say goodbye to the hotel for the final time this weekend and we take the short walk to the Docklands Light Railway station at East India for the final time this year. I get my Oystercard out ready and tap in on the point that I have grown to hate this weekend, but at least it lets me tap in. We don't have long to wait before our train pulls up and we go one stop to Canning Town and thankfully, Mr UKBuses decides not to do any singing as we walk to the London Underground platform, which means that the current blue skies will stay that way. Our train arrives and we are on the Jubilee Line, and are on the train for eight stations before we arrive at Westminster Underground Station.

As we make our way outside of the station we see Big Ben in front of us opposite the station entrance and as I get a "fresh air" break and make our way around to Whitehall, the crowds are gathering in big numbers already. As we turn the corner, the police are ready for the security and bag checks which I failed last year due to leaving my Asthma Inhaler in my pocket. This year I leave nothing to chance and take all things out of my coat and trouser pockets including my cigarettes, the policewoman who was checking my stuff turned round and told me "those are mine I'm afraid, I'm going to have to confiscate them for myself!", little did she know that when she was searching in my bag that she would be going through my dirty underwear! Now its time to go through the security metal detectors and this year I pass the test and am able to collect my things and put everything back in my pockets, Mr UKBuses is still being checked, perhaps they were having trouble getting into his wallet. After passing security we head up towards the Cenotaph to get a prime spot for watching the Remembrance service, the location can be seen in the picture above. 

To ensure that we get a good spot, we had to get here early so there is just over another hour to go before the event starts, so we just wait around looking to see if there is anyone famous lurking about. The time soon passes by, even with the help of a jolly gentleman behind us by keeping our spirits up with his jokes. It is nearly eleven and the start of the parade. The bands have started to make their way down Whitehall and are taking there places, we have a band wearing large bearskin hats on their heads which sort of limits our view towards the Cenotaph. As soon as the bands have taken their places, the dignitaries start taking their places with Prime Ministers past and present as they appear from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Once the dignitaries take their places, Her Royal Highness, The Queen makes her appearance, with the press photographers starting to click away, taking over the sound of silence and as Big Ben strikes 11, a shot is heard starting the two minute silence and is ended by another shot being heard. The main service is underway with Hymns being sung and prayers being spoken. After the service is over, the parade starts and we start to make our way back to Westminster Underground Station to get some food before we have to board our train back to the Midlands. Everything is going fine, even passing Jeremy Paxman along the route and as we pass The Red Lion, disaster strikes. Everyone who has watched the parade seems to want to get out at the same time and we hit a bottleneck, we are stuck in the middle of the crowd and we cannot move anywhere backwards or forwards, and I make sure that the person behind me who keeps pushing my spine into all different directions trying to get past when no-one else in front is moving anywhere by calmly SHOUTING at her to stop trying to break my back. Mr UKBuses is quite a way behind me (and he heard me!) and after nearly an hour and a half being stuck, the parade has finished and the police start releasing the crowd by moving the barriers. With a bit of space, I have a well deserved "fresh air" break whilst quickly making our way to the Westminster Underground Station.

Our First Class train is due to depart at 13:20 so we don't have long to get to London Euston Railway Station, we enter Westminster Underground Station and rush down to the correct platform and we don't have to wait long before a train arrives. Somehow after we board, we arrive at London Euston Underground Station and rush up to the main concourse of the railway station to find out what platform we are on. We run down to the train and board with a few minutes to spare. We board our Virgin Train and find our seats in first class and decide that it will only be tea and biscuits for our free food, whilst Mr UKBuses gets himself comfortable I make my way all the way down to the other side of the train to get to the shop and get some sandwiches and crisps. I spot a bacon Ciabatta bread sandwich, so opt for a warm one of those and a couple of liquid refreshments for the journey back. I get back to our carriage after walking a mile back down the train and Mr UKBuses is enjoying biscuits and drink, nice of him to save mine - but at least I get my own back when I pass him his sandwich and I pull out my hot bacon sandwich. After we devour our much needed food we get comfortable for the rest of the journey.

We arrive in Coventry and are surprised how quick it has taken us to get there, it may seem only a few minutes for Mr UKBuses as he has had a kip for half of the journey. We are near Birmingham and we can tell as the train slows down to nearly a standstill just outside of Birmingham New Street, but we eventually arrive and we get our belongings and alight the train and catch our connecting London Midland train to Smethwick Galton Bridge. We arrive at Smethwick Galton Bridge and have the arduous task of walking up a few flights of steps to get to the right platform for our Stourbridge bound train. We have a few minutes to wait even if the minutes on the time estimated board keep changing up and down and we eventually board our train which takes us on the faster journey back to Stourbridge Junction, only stopping at Rowley Regis and Cradley Heath on the way back. We have a bit of time to spare and I am able to have a well deserved "fresh air break" outside of the station before getting the "Stourbridge Dodger" back into Stourbridge Interchange where we go to our stand and catch National Express West Midlands Service 276 back home after a brilliant, if not exhausting, weekend.

Another successful weekend break was had in London again this year, this was due to the good company of Mr UKBuses and also down to the fact that he came up with good plans for each day spent in the Capital, the weekend would not be possible with the good planning of Mr UKBuses (Big Thank you!). Plus when we got home I checked on BBC i-Player and we were on the BBC coverage again, about 2 minutes 30 seconds in.

2012 - Day Out 19: London - Lords Mayor Parade

Date: Saturday 10 November 2012

A busy day is ahead so after a good nights sleep it is time to feed our stomachs with a buffet breakfast (bacon, bacon, bacon!) before seeing the Lords Mayor show today followed by a show of a different kind tonight.

The Lords Mayor Show
As always the first night away from my comfortable bed, I don't sleep to well and also with my stomach still not right it looks as if I am going to suffer today. I get up and make my way downstairs and have some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses makes an appearance in time for breakfast, which was at 08:30am. After waiting in reception, I send Mr UKBuses a text to ask him where he is (he must have had trouble finding his industrial strength Brylcreem) and twenty minutes later than planned he finally turns up in reception. We make our way to the hotel bar, but not for beer this time as it doubles up as the breakfast room. It is a buffet breakfast so that we can pile our plates up as much as we want, I love the breakfasts at this hotel, but seeing as my stomach was still playing up I don't over indulge and even though there was not a lot on my plate, I still struggle to eat what is on it. I try and sooth my stomach by having a yogurt or two and after Mr UKBuses finishes his morning cup of coffee and I finish my apple juice, we quickly make our way to our rooms and pick our stuff up needed for today and meet back up in reception to make our way to our first show of the day, The Lords Mayor Show. We make our way to the East India Docklands Light Railway Station, having some "fresh air" en route and as we enter the station, the Oystercard is being accepted this time after last night's refusal to let me clock out, I also discover that I was charged fully for the last journey we made back to the hotel last night.

We go just one stop on the Docklands Light Railway and arrive back at Canning Town, it looks like rain as Mr UKBuses has adapted a famous London song and is singing "Canning Town". Instead of making our way to the Jubilee Line we make our way out of the station to the nearby Canning Town Interchange, briefly stopping off so that Mr UKBuses can get some cough sweets to ease his cold. We have time before we catch our first London bus of the weekend and take a few photographs and I also spot something that I have never seen before, a dual door Optare Solo. Just after 09:45, we make our way to our stand and catch Stagecoach London's service 115, passing through Poplar and Limehouse along the way before arriving at Aldgate, where we have a bit of time and take a walk around the bus station and take a few more pictures. After the pictures have been taken, we cross the busy road that is Aldgate High Street from the bus station and head on the London Underground where we head onto the Metropolitan Line. This is where we catch a new "S-Stock" Underground train which looks weird to begin with as you can see all the way down the train from each end. We are only travelling one station and we quickly arrive at our next stop, Liverpool Street Underground Station.

Floating meat at the parade!
We leave the Metropolitan Line behind and change at Liverpool Street onto the Central Line where we travel one more station again and arrive at our destination for the first show of the day, The Lords Mayor Show. As we arrive at Bank Underground Station, we make our way to ground level and find a suitable place to stand to see The Lords Mayor Show. We have a bit to go before the show starts and we can see the band assembling opposite us from where we are standing, close to the entrance of Bank Underground in Princes Street. Mr UKBuses keeps his eye out for Fearne Cotton, one of the usual presenters of the television coverage which is shown on the BBC each year. I have a feeling that she will not be presenting it this year as she is currently pregnant. We see one of the presenters but don't know who she is and it confirms that Fearne won't be there when the second presenter appears, Mr UKBuses is not feeling happy now that Fearne won't be there, but a smile beams across my face when the other presenter is one of my favourites (who I had also seen up close when she presented Blue Peter's Olympic Roadshow in Wolverhampton in June), Helen Skelton, (see pictures below). The show begins and there are a load of old lorries, buses, taxi cabs, floats, bands, horses and even dogs going past in the parade. There is also a big piece of meat that goes floating past us, (see picture right). After an hour or so, the parade finishes and before we make our way back on the London Underground, I manage to get one last look at my Helen who is debriefing with the television production team. Back into Bank Underground Station we go and we catch a fully loaded train to our next destination, that is after I'm let through the barrier after being told to "seek assistance" due to the barriers not liking my Oystercard, Mr UKBuses gets through safely and is nearly on the floor with laughter after seeing my predicament again.

Wish I was that dog!

I wish I was that dog!

I'm over here Helen!

I'm over here Helen!

Helen, come back!

Helen, come back!

We are on the Central Line and as we feel like a sardine, we go four stations, arriving at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station where we change onto the Northern Line and go one station arriving at Leicester Square to have a liquid refreshment stop. We were supposed to go to J D Wetherspoons "The Montagu Pyke", but end up in J D Wetherspoons "The Moon Under Water", where a "first" is happening, Mr UKBuses purchases the first round of the day. The pub is quite busy and there are no tables available so we stand next to Noel Edmonds, well a Deal Or No Deal fruit machine with his face on it. A couple of people move from the table in front of us and eventually after wrestling with their coats they move and Mr UKBuses is like a whippet and grabs the table so we can have a well deserved rest from standing on our legs for the last couple of hours. Two other people take our place at the fruit machines waiting for the next lot of people to vacate their tables. After finishing our drinks we make our way to the next destination so that we can sample two different types of rear platform buses, so after purchasing fresh poppies for tomorrow from street collectors, we make our way to the bus stop and catch the Arriva London service 24 bus for the short distance between Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.

The new rear platform in town!
Upon alighting at Trafalgar Square, Mr UKBuses decides to go the wrong way and eventually we find Stand S, where we will catch the old guard, an Heritage Routemaster on the heritage route service 9, or so we thought. Due to the Lords Mayor Show, this service was terminating short due to road closures, so instead Mr UKBuses uses his map allowance and we board First London's Service 23 where we alight at Piccadilly Circus and have a short walk to the Arriva London's Service 38 bus stop to at least catch the new guard, The New Bus For London - otherwise known as the Borismaster, or so we thought. We decide to wait at the bus stop for a while and after about four normal buses go past, a Borismaster finally arrives and we board at the front tapping our Oystercards as we pass the driver and after a short while, we arrive at Victoria Bus Station where we this service terminates and we alight via the rear platform. After waiting a couple of minutes for the tourists to have their pictures taken on the rear platform of the bus, I finally manage to get a picture myself, see picture left, whilst I am doing this, Mr UKBuses does his normal trick when he is at Victoria Bus Station and goes missing. I wasn't that lucky though, as after a few minutes I find him again and we decide where to go next. We decide to go off the plan and "go with the flow" and as we didn't make a visit as planned the night before, we head off to our London regular.

Cheers from the Blind Beggar!
We head back onto the London Underground and make our way to Victoria Underground Station (the place where we purchased our Oystercards) and we wait for a District Line train to arrive, we have to wait for a train to pass before our train arrives, and we make our way along the District Line where we alight at our now regular London Underground Station, Whitechapel, where I'm sure that we could walk to our destination from the station blindfolded (due to health and safety and loads of people in the way shopping at the street market, we would never try this), and after a couple of minutes walk, with a "fresh air break" on the way, we arrive at our London regular, "The Blind Beggar", where we take a rest at the bar looking out onto the streets of Whitechapel. My round and I "Take Courage" for my choice of ale, whilst Mr UKBuses opts for his "London Pride". We make ourselves comfortable, see picture right, and take the weight off our feet, the barmaid is getting stuff ready behind the bar to make, what looks like, Mulled Wine and something which would probably be nice to drink and keep you warm at the same time now that Winter has arrived. As this is going on, "The Blind Beggar Cat" makes an appearance and duly jumps up onto the bar looking at what is going on, Mr UKBuses gets the best view as the cat's bottom is right in his face. Despite the view, Mr UKBuses must be feeling ill as he puts his hands in his pocket and purchases another half to sample before we leave. Without getting to comfortable we decide that we have to leave so that we can get back to the hotel ahead of our other show tonight, so we finish our drinks and say goodbye to the bar staff and our regular - till the next time.

Is that Marwood or Mark Wood?
It was time to make a move and Mr UKBuses puts his map allowance to good use seeing as we are off plan and we make our way to the nearest bus stop passing a construction company with a similar name to Mr UKBuses (only the "K" is missing in the middle), see picture left, and we wait a few minutes for First London's service 25 to arrive which takes us to Bow Church, which is where we alight to get onto the Docklands Light Railway as we tap in I notice that I need to top up or else I could be short tomorrow, so we make our way onto the platform and have a few minutes before our train arrives. I spot a top up machine and after getting it ready I attempt to make a payment, but the machine is not accepting my notes, I try again and still have no joy, on the final attempt I have to get another type of plastic out of my wallet and pay on my Credit Card, which luckily the machine duly accepts. Our train arrives and we board to make our way back to the hotel so that we can freshen up, we have to change at Poplar whilst on the journey so that we can get onto the other Docklands Light Railway line to take us back to East India and the hotel, enjoying some "fresh air" along the walk. We have a short rest and freshen up before we have to make our way back into the London night to see our second show of the day.

After a quick rest and freshen up, I decide to pop outside for some "fresh air" and a quick Boddingtons before Mr UKBuses makes an appearance. At about 17:10, he appears in reception and we make our way back to East India Docklands Light Railway Station, to make our way in the opposite direction than normal, to Bank and it is a new experience on this DLR journey as towards the end of the ride we actually go underground which makes it easier for us to make our way onto the Central Line at Bank. Once on the Central Line we go three stations and alight at Holborn and make our way outside the station, where we visit our second J D Wetherspoons of the day, "The Penderel's Oak", where we decide to have a bite to eat before our show. Drinks are ordered and table found, I go to the bar to order the food, with Mr UKBuses opting for the BBQ Chicken Melt, without the "melt" and myself a Chicken Burger. It takes about fifteen minutes before the food arrives, and we both get the wrong food, Mr UKBuses BBQ Chicken Melt arrives with the "melt", which I can understand a mistake being made with that choice, but I get a Beefburger, so a complaint is made and after showing the waiter the receipt where it clearly states "Chicken Burger", the food is returned back to the kitchen and fresh meals are cooked. Another fifteen minutes pass and our food eventually arrives with the correct order. We have less time to eat our meals now, and with my stomach not quite one hundred percent, I cannot rush it down me like Mr UKBuses does with his meal, so I have to leave half of my meal so that we can get to our show on time. We make our way back to Holborn Underground Station to get to our important destination of the night.

Upon arrival it is back onto the Central Line and one stop to Tottenham Court Road where we alight and after a "fresh air" break and crossing of the road, we are standing outside The Dominion Theatre, the place where we need to go for our second show of the day, Ben Elton's "We Will Rock You". We head inside and there is still a bit of time before we can take our seats so after purchasing a bottle of Beck's, which at £3 odd is quite expensive for a half a pint drink and after purchasing a Queen T-Shirt from the merchandise stall (I had to really), we take our seats and wait for the show to begin. We are interrupted just as the show starts as people turn up late and have to get past us to get to their seats, but despite the interruption, we make ourselves comfortable and enjoy the show, with me trying not to burst into song every time they sing a Queen song on stage. A thoroughly good show was had and even though it wasn't part of the storyline, the actors at the end came back on stage to give a performance of the classic "Bohemian Rhapsody", but unfortunately it has to come to an end so we make our way back outside and back to the Tottenham Court Underground Station, it must have also been hard for the actors and actresses singing on stage as some words in the Queen songs have been changed to coincide with the storyline of the show.

It is 10:30pm and we arrive at the Central Line platform just in time for our Central Line train to take us to Bank, where we change back onto the Docklands Light Railway and emerge from the tunnels to take us back to East India Station arriving just before 11:00pm, where after tapping out with no problems tonight, we make our way back to the hotel where we say goodnight before heading to our rooms. As I get back to my room, I still have the adrenalin pumping from the brilliant performance I had just seen, so go back outside for a "fresh air" break and a nightcap in the hotel bar before retiring for the night.

A long and successful day was had, with the evening show taken its toll, another well deserved sleep is needed and we hope that the weather stays dry for us tomorrow for when we get to meet the Queen (of a different kind) again on our last day in London. Night Night!

2012 - Day Out 18: London

Date: Friday 09 November 2012

Following the successful weekend break in London last year, we thought we would do it again. So with the Oystercard ready, hotel booked, rail tickets purchased and another type of ticket booked, we depart Stourbridge at dinnertime so that we can spend the evening around the Capital.

Travelodge Docklands
I wake up and don't feel to good, I have picked up a stomach bug and feel a bit queasy, but with all the plans made and tickets purchased I do not let this get in my way and finish off my packing ready for the day ahead. I have to pop into Stourbridge before meeting up with Mr UKBuses and decide to surprise him by catching the National Express West Midlands service 276 to his bus stop in Norton and after a ten minute wait he walks around the corner where we wait a few minutes before our 13:56 journey arrives and we, well myself, are back on the 276, which takes us into Stourbridge where upon arrival at Stourbridge Interchange, we alight and change onto the "Stourbridge Dodger" which takes us from the Interchange to Stourbridge Junction where we wait a few minutes for our train to take us to Birmingham. At 14:39 our London Midland train arrives and our first leg of our journey to the Capital is complete as our train takes us to Birmingham Snow Hill.

Upon arrival at Birmingham Snow Hill, I get my train ticket out ready to show the ticket guard at the barriers as when we normally try to escape the station, the ticket barriers do not recognise our tickets and do not let us out. Mr UKBuses decides to give it a go and he gets through, so it is my turn and with my experience with these ticket barriers I fear the worst, but the ticket barrier lets me go through too. As we leave Birmingham Snow Hill I get some "fresh air" and we have a bit of time to kill in Birmingham, so we decide to go to J D Wetherspoons, "The Briar Rose", where we sample a real ale and decide to have a second one as we still have a bit of time to kill. With the drinks finished, we take a walk down to The Pallasades and into Birmingham New Street Station, where we have a change and catch the Virgin Trains to London. We board our train and get our reserved seats making ourselves comfortable with our train departing at 16:10, we pass through Birmingham International and Coventry before arriving at London Euston at 17:34, along the way I have some new kind of "fresh air" break on the train, a legal electronic cigarette.

At this point I would normally have some "fresh air" but we don't have time (luckily I had a few drags on my electronic version on the train) and with the Oystercard at hand, it is straight onto the London Underground and onto the Northern Line at Euston, making our way to Bank where we change onto The Docklands Light Railway to take us to our final destination. We arrive at East India and as we make our way out of the station, I have a well overdue real "fresh air" break whilst we have a short walk to our accommodation for the weekend, Travelodge Docklands, a place where we stopped last November and I also stopped in April this year when I came down to watch the WWE Raw TV Taping event at the nearby 02 Arena. Cigarette extinguished we make our way to the reception to check in. I end up being on the 2nd Floor this time and they cater for the elderly with Mr UKBuses having a room on the ground floor. We go to our rooms to drop our stuff off and have a freshen up.

There is a bit of time left before we meet up so I decide to have a sample of the hotel bar and have a pint of Boddingtons, as I sup my ale I decide to have some "fresh air" and when I return, Mr UKBuses has the same idea and has made his way to the bar and is sitting at a table with his pint, it is a shame that my pint is on another table, but I decide to join him and we finish our pints before heading to East India for our night ahead. We get on the Docklands Light Railway and go one stop to Canning Town where we change our mode of transport and go back on the Underground and onto the Jubilee Line. We alight at Waterloo and change onto the Bakerloo Line which takes us to Charing Cross where we sample our first proper public house of the weekend, J D Wetherspoons "Lord Moon Of The Mall".

After finding a table we decide to have a pint and some food, with my appetite not being up to much, I just opt for a bowl of chips whilst Mr UKBuses has is Masala. After our grub is finished and pints supped, we consult the plan and the next place to visit is our London regular, "The Blind Beggar", but as I'm not feeling too good, we decide to make our way back to the hotel and have an early night.

Despite my tummy bug, it was a successful first day, we get some well deserved sleep ready for a busy day ahead tomorrow, night night!