Sunday, 17 February 2013

2013 - Day Out 01: London

Date: Saturday 02 February 2013

It is time to kick off 2013 with our trips and our first outing is back to where we left off in 2012, the City of London, so with Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses assembled it is time to get 2013 under way.

The BBC TV Centre, due to close in late 2013.
I get up early to get our first trip of 2013 underway, after getting washed and ready, I make my way to Wollaston, and read the posters on the butchers door before the first bus at Wollaston arrives. The bus arrives early and the kind driver lets me on and lets me get warmed up even though he is not due out for a further ten minutes. I get the standard text ready for Mr UKBuses to receive. Mr UKBuses replies to say "let me know when you are close", and thanks to my new mobile phone network, Vodafone (Good network if you don't need to use your phone) which is rubbish, I get the text just about when I need to send it. I reply just as I'm about a minute away from Mr UKBuses bus stop, so I hope he is there and does receive the text before the bus arrives. I don't have to panic as when we turn the corner he is standing at the bus stop. Mr UKBuses boards and as he sits down he passes me an envelope, it is my spending money for today and payment for the train tickets for Mr UKBuses and Mr D9. Mr UKBuses must have been the last to put his payment in the envelope as it is full of loose change making his ever bulging wallet a bit lighter. We don't have long on National Express West Midlands service 276 before we alight at Stourbridge Interchange where we change our mode of transport to the "Stourbridge Dodger".

The ARMS are on a posh Chiltern Mainline Train
On ticket checking duty this morning on the "Dodger" is Phil Tonks, who informs us that if we had purchased him a bacon sandwich we would be upgraded to First Class and could have sat next to the driver. Mr UKBuses wallet is mentioned, and he ensures that security is not broken by ensuring his inside pocket is closed firmly. We arrive at Stourbridge Junction and instead of waiting for our planned train, we jump on a London Midland train which is waiting for us at Platform 2, we decide to keep warm by catching this train and do a sneak attack on Mr D9 by alighting at the Hawthorns. We have time for a "Fresh Air" break as when we get on our next train there is no change of train until we get into London Marylebone Station, so we make our way to the back entrance of The Hawthorns and we keep an eye out on the passing Midland Metro's to see if we can ambush Mr D9. With the "Fresh Air" break over, we make our way back onto the Platform to get our Chiltern Railways train, and we can still keep an eye on the Midland Metro platforms for Mr D9. There is a couple of minutes to go before our train is due and there is still no sign of him, a Midland Metro arrives and we keep an eye out but still no Mr D9, it looks as if we have to go off plan already, but a minute before our train is due, we hear a shout from behind us and as we turn round it seems that we have been the ones ambushed by Mr D9 and we see him walk down the platform towards us and as he gets closer, the Bald Spot comes into view.

Our first visit to London Marylebone in 2013.
Our Chiltern Railway train arrives and it is one of their posh Mainline trains, we board and try and find a table seat, but we do not have to worry as every group of 4 seats has a table, so we choose the closest free table, see picture above right, and get ourselves comfortable for the two hour journey ahead of us to take us back to London for our first time in 2013, but not before Mr D9 and myself are in shock as Mr UKBuses informs us that he has a new camera and he spent more than £10 on it. Before I get comfortable, the first port of call for me is for a bladder stop, and I am impressed as they have Dyson hand dryers in the toilets. As I make my way back to get myself comfortable I get the first sneaky shot of a bald spot (these can be seen at the bottom of the post), and as we make our calls at Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham Moor Street, the driver picks up speed and we are on our way passing through Solihull and High Wycombe before we will reach our final destination. At 08:40 Mr D9 makes a bladder stop, and as he is away at 08:44 he misses the Cash Counter reporting in! Before I did get comfortable I did have a walk all the way down the train to see if there was a shop on board, I couldn't find one, but as we were getting ever closer to London, people were walking past us with food, so I take a walk to the next carriage (the way I didn't go previously) and find out that the next carriage has the shop but unfortunately there are no bacon rolls on offer so I have to settle on a "grab bag" of crisps. We are nearly in London as we start to see Underground trains so Mr UKBuses and Mr D9 decide a bladder stop is needed before the train arrives at London Marylebone Station, not long after we arrive and I make a bee-line to the outside of the station, see picture left, so that I can get a "Fresh Air" break and Mr D9 rewards my break by spitting on my leg, but he does wipe it off, so I forgive him.

The poster describing Mr UKBuses perfectly.
It is time to travel around London and the first couple of places we visit are TV filming locations, so with the "Fresh Air" break over and our Oystercards (or a London One Day Travelcard in Mr D9's case) at the ready, we make our way underground and head back inside London Marylebone station and "tap in" as we go to the underground platforms, and as I tap in I finally get my big refund of £2.60 back onto my card from our previous visit in November 2012, and as we make our way down the escalators I see a poster advertising my favourite musical "We Will Rock You", which I will be watching again in April, and we make our way onto the platform where we only have a few minutes wait before our Bakerloo Line Underground train arrives but we are only on the underground for a few minutes as we only have to go one stop and we alight at Paddington Underground Station, where we make our way back to ground and wait for a bus to arrive. After a few minutes of waiting, our first London bus of the day turns up and we board First London's Service 23 for a journey of just under half an hour and we alight at Alderson Street, where we try and find the location of the scrapyard used in Steptoe and Son, it looks as if the area has been redeveloped since filming, but we do find where we think it was located thanks to the help of a nearby canal and pub. After a few photographs are taken, we head back to the bus stop and retrace our previous bus journey by catching First London's Service 23 again but we are only going half the distance and we alight just outside the Ladbroke Grove Underground Station. It's time to get onto the Hammersmith and City Line, and we board our train after a few minutes wait and Mr UKBuses decides to take a seat under a poster , see picture right, describing him quite well "Even I've been accused of penny-pinching" - I wouldn't accuse him, he is an expert at it.

The original Nelson Mandela House.
We arrive at Hammersmith where we change platforms and onto the Piccadilly Line where after boarding we go a few stops and alight at Acton Town Underground Station, where we go for a little walk, or so we thought, after ten minutes of walking, we arrive at our next destination, the original exterior location for "Only Fools and Horses" and the residence of Le Trotter's - the original "Nelson Mandela House", which since filming has had a refurbishment. We spend a few minutes here taking pictures and Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses seems to have been on some kind of drugs as they say that can see low flying planes, I may need to go to Specsavers as I couldn't see any. We have a little  walk to get us to the bus stop to get us to our next location, luckily it is only a short walk and we wait for our next bus, which turns out to be quite a few minutes, but eventually, with Mr D9 complaining he needs to have a bladder stop, London United's Service 440 turns up and takes us for a short journey to West Acton Underground Station. We alight service 440 and we again head underground and make our way onto the Central Line which will take us to our next location and refuelling stop, just over ten minutes of travelling we arrive at Shepherds Bush Underground Station.

Cheers from The Central Bar
As we make our way out of the station we can see our J D Wetherspoons across the road, but we have trouble getting there as when the little man turns green, a maniac driving a Range Rover decides to keep on moving slowly though the barrage of pedestrians crossing. We eventually make it across in one piece and to get to the food we have to enter the Wetherspoons through a shopping centre, I get confused and didn't know that the pub chain had branched out into a sports division as before we get the escalator we walk past a J D Sports shop. Upon arrival at the top of the escalator we enter "The Central Bar" and something weird happens, Mr UKBuses makes a bee-line straight to the bar and gets his wallet out first, Mr D9 and myself order our drinks and then find a table, well Mr D9 does, I head straight for a bladder stop. Drinks are carried over to the table, with Mr UKBuses a bit sad as the zip has just broken on his wallet (causing a full scale security alert) and we decide to order our food, Mr D9 and myself forget to make the usual bet, but we did end up having the usual, Mr D9 had his gourmet burger (gas brewing up along the way), Beer and Burger for myself and Mr UKBuses opted for his BBQ Chicken Melt without the Melt. As we waited for our grub to arrive we admired the views over Shepherds Bush and also the views of the long legs of the Wetherspoons waitress as she kept going past us taking the food orders to other people. Our food promptly arrived, delivered by the long legged waitress and after we stopped drooling we consumed our food and took a few minutes after to finish our drinks before making our way back out into the bush. Photographs were taken and Mr D9 had a special interest with the underground toilets opposite the pub, which has been turned into a nightclub. Pictures taken, we head back into Shepherds Bush Underground Station and back onto the Central Line and we only went one station before arriving at our next destination.

The Borismaster
We arrive at White City Underground Station and as we leave the station, we have to go past the BBC Television Centre, see picture at the top of this post, but we couldn't see anyone famous apart from the Prank Patrol Van parked outside the building. After the photographs of the famous building, which is due to be closed during the latter part of this year, we have a short walk around the corner and into White City Bus Station, I couldn't take no photographs as the cold weather seemed to have upset my camera and the battery had stopped working. Mr UKBuses had a good walk around taking a few shots, whilst Mr D9 decided to have a ride on the "Boris Bikes", he would have gone for a proper ride until he saw the prices. We make our way around back to the White City Underground Station and onto the Central Line, until we lose Mr D9, but we soon know where he is when we spot the toilet doors, and after a few minutes, he appears and we are on our way. We arrive at Oxford Circus, where we change onto the Victoria Line and make our way to Victoria Station, where we leave the railway station and start to take a few photo's around the bus station outside, we see the next vehicle we are going to catch, the first time that Mr D9 will catch it, the "Borismaster". We board the bus which is operating on Arriva London's Service 38 and we enjoy sitting upstairs at the front, spending just under half an hour aboard, and as we see our next stop, we run down the back off the bus alighting off the open rear platform. We are now in Bloomsbury Square, and we see a couple of First London's service 25's go past and as they are every few minutes it is not long before another one comes, but in our case it was more like fifteen minutes, and as it eventually pulls up, we board the bus which will take us to the next destination and after a journey of thirty minutes, we arrive and alight at Whitechapel.

Cheers! from The Blind Beggar
It is now time for a visit to our London Regular "The Blind Beggar", and a first visit inside this time for Mr D9, seeing as our last visit, the place was shut. We all take Courage and I need it when the barmaid asks me to hand over £12 for the round. I need to take a seat sharpish and have gone a bit pale, but there is one round left to buy and as Mr UKBuses schemed his way to buying the first round at Wetherspoons, we know where it will be and who has to pay for it, the last laugh will be on Mr D9. We relax for a bit looking at The Krays Memorabilia and watching the scores on the television, see picture right, but we finish our drinks and we make our way to the next bus stop to get Arriva London's Service 254 which takes us from Whitechapel and after ten minutes we arrive at The Krays stomping ground, Bethnal Green. As soon as we arrive we head back Underground and onto the Central Line back to Oxford Circus, where we change lines once again and we head onto the Bakerloo line which takes us all the way back to London Marylebone. As we make our way from the Underground for the final time today we see that there is a train ready to depart, but with only a minute to spare we get some supplies and have a final round in "The Victoria and Albert" and it is Mr D9's round. As he makes his way to the bar and orders the drinks, Mr UKBuses and myself rub our hands with glee, especially after Mr UKBuses last visit here, and we are shocked when the price Mr D9 has to pay is £11.25, much cheaper than the last visit and much cheaper than the round I had to pay for at The Blind Beggar!

To get over the shock, I have a final "Fresh Air" break before we board the 17:06 Chiltern Railway train back to Birmingham, and it is a posh train again so don't have to worry about getting a table seat. We make our way and get comfortable and relax, with Mr UKBuses having a nap and keeping the rest of the carriage awake with his snoring, and after passing through High Wycombe and Solihull, we arrive at Birmingham Moor Street at 19:35. I have fifteen minutes to enjoy some "Fresh Air" outside of Moor Street Station, and at 19:51 our London Midland train arrives and takes us back to Stourbridge Junction, with Mr D9 alighting at The Hawthorns along the way. Upon arrival at Stourbridge Junction, a quick "Fresh Air" break is taken before making our way to Platform 1 and catching "The Dodger" back into Stourbridge Interchange, where we interchange onto a National Express West Midlands service 276, which takes us back home to relax (with my Chinese supper) after another good day out.

A successful start to our trips in 2013, which is down to the good company of Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses, the day wouldn't have been possible without the good planning of Mr UKBuses, here is to more successful outings in 2013, plus it wouldn't be as good without Mr D9 providing us with some laughter throughout the day (and for the endless "Bald Spot" opportunities seen below). With no surprise, Mr UKBuses picked up the cheapest round of the day and myself ended up picking up the expensive round of the day at The Blind Beggar.

Andy's Bald Cranium (ABC)

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot is seen travelling on a Chiltern Mainline Train.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is seen "Fool"ing around at the original Nelson Mandela House..

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot is beating about the bush in Shepherds Bush.

Bald Spot 4

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot is trying to get fame outside the BBC TV Centre.

Bald Spot 5

Bald Spot 5: The Bald Spot goes all "Boris" at White City.

Bald Spot 6

Bald Spot 6: The Bald Spot is let loose in Bloomsbury Square.

Bald Spot 7

Bald Spot 7: The Bald Spot is having a ride on Service 25.

Bald Spot 8

Bald Spot 8: The Bald Spot is escaping from Service 254.

Bald Spot 9

Bald Spot 9: The Bald Spot is causing havoc in Bethnal Green.