A Travellerspoint blog

Black Saturday: September 7, 1940

In honour of this Sunday's 68th anniversary of the first day of The Blitz, a walk through London to see some of the Memorials to those who lived and died during the air raids of World War II.

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Into the dark shadowed spaces below us, while we watched, whole batches of incendiary bombs fell. We saw two dozen go off in two seconds. They flashed terrifically, then quickly simmered down to pin points of dazzling white, burning ferociously. These white pin points would go out one by one, as the unseen heroes of the moment smothered them with sand. But also, while we watched, other pin points would burn on, and soon a yellow flame would leap up from the white center. They had done their work - another building was on fire.
- Ernie Pyle, World War II correspondent, Pulitzer Prize Winner (source: Eyewitness to History )

On the afternoon of September 7th, 1940, 348 German bombers, escorted by 617 German fighter escorts flew over the east end of London, dropping a massive amount of bombs on the port of London. While the attacks that day were aimed at the port to deliver an economic blow, a number of bombs fell off target and 448 Londoners died that day in what became locally as “Black Saturday.” It was the first day of 57 days of sustained bombing of London and the United Kingdom, and the first phase of a bombing campaign that lasted into the Spring of 1941, eventually killing 43,000 civilians across the United Kingdom. It is known now as The Blitz.

London has long been a port city, with easy access to the sea via the Thames River. As the British Empire expanded, the city became the central hub for the shipment of goods from around the Empire. To handle this increasing trade throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, a number of docks were built to the east of the City of London proper, starting with the West India Dock in 1802.

West India Dock, opened in 1802, today home to the Dockland's Museum, bars, restaurants and a very nice Marriott hotel

With the Nazi’s take over of France in June of 1940, the Nazi’s turned their attention to the United Kingdom. On the 18 June, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in a speech at the House of Commons declared, "The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin."

Statue of Churchill, sitting beside Roosevelt on a bench near Bond Street

The Battle of Britain began with a bombing campaign by the German Luftwaffe against military targets, specifically air fields, and industrial targets in Birmingham and Liverpool. On August the 24th, some German bombers strayed off target and dropped bombs across the north end of London. In retaliation, the British Royal Air Force carried out attacks on Berlin which killed 10 people. Hitler was apparently very upset at the attack on Berlin, and on September 5th ordered the attacks on London and other major British cities.

As Hitler had ordered attacks that would disrupt the life of London and the United Kingdom, it is no surprise that the docks were one of the major targets of the German bombers. By 1939, London was one of the busiest port in the United Kingdom, handling 60 million tons of goods which accounted for 38% of the entire trade of the United Kingdom.

Cranes at West India Quay. Previously used to load and unload cargo, now used to give the place a little nautical atmosphere

That first night, on Black Saturday, over 1000 bombs had hit the Docklands, causing an inferno that covered 250 acres of land. The fire was so strong at the Surrey Docks that glass in buildings not on fire started shattering from the heat. Firefighters were brought in from all over London and even from out of town to fight the fires.

Not only were the buildings on fire, but also the contents of the many warehouses holding trade from across the British Empire. A firefighter described how some of the goods from far away corners of the British Empire made fighting the fires even more difficult.

“There were pepper fires, loading the surrounding air heavily with stinging particles so that when a fireman took a deep breath it felt like breathing fire itself. There were rum fires, with torrents of blazing liquid pouring from the warehouse door and barrels exploding like bombs themselves.”
source: Port Cities UK

Memorial erected in 1991 by artist John W Mills, dedicated to the 1002 firefighters who died fighting fires in London during the Blitz. It shows three firefighters - two holding a hose and one directing operations. It is just across the street from St. Paul's Cathedral

The next 56 days saw nightly bombing of London, and many Londoners found shelter in the deep stations of the underground. The area of the port was bombed repeatedly, and many areas were completely destroyed.

The bombing campaign continued through the winter and into the spring of 1941. May 10th, 1941 saw 500 German bombers drop over 700 tons of explosive on the capital, killing close to 1500 people.


The churchyard of St. James' church off of Piccadilly was laid out after the 2nd World War as a Garden of Remembrance to commemorate the courage of Londoners during the Blitz. This statue holds a olive branch, and on the base says Peace.

May 10th was the last night of the bombing campaign as the Germans turned their attention eastward to Russia. By the end of the blitz, over 25,000 bombs had fallen on the docklands, destroying 11,000 homes and many commercial buildings. Across London, 1.4 million people were homeless.


In St. Mary-Le-Bow church, one of the stained glass windows on the north side of the church shows St Paul with his Epistles, surrounded by bombed City of London churches. This church, while not technically in the east end of London, is said to define one of the most enduring images of east end London, the Cockney. A "true" Cockney is someone born within earshot of the Bow Bells, the bells in the church's tower.

Despite the end of The Blitz, London and the docklands still suffered from bombing and rocket attacks for the rest of the war, including V1 and V2 rockets. The port continued to operate, however much of it’s traffic was diverted to other ports in the United Kingdom.

Looking at the docklands today with the large towers of Canary Wharf, the condos and ExCel centre around the Royal Victoria Dock and the part surrounding the East India Dock, you might think that the German bombing campaign was the end of the docks as a port.




It wasn’t the German bombs that did in the docks. Much like the rest of London, which was rebuilt in the image of pre-war London with minor improvements in some places (like indoor plumbing), the docks were for the most part rebuilt as a working port once the war ended, and by the mid-1950s the part was fully operational again. By the mid-1960s the port was back to its pre-WWII levels, handling 60 million tons of cargo.

Eventually though, it was a combination of shallow water, twisty bends and small docks that did in the docklands as a working port. By the late 1960s, more and more cargo was being handled at the larger downstream port of Tilbury, as it could take the large container ships that were becoming the norm in the industry. By 1980, all the docks within London had closed.

A Japanese container ship glides through the Panama Canal. These ships, built to just fit into the canal, were much too large to fit into the docks in London, and there was no room for the large cranes needed to unload the boats.

In 1999, a memorial to those killed in air raids during World War II was unveiled at St. Paul’s church. Designed by Richard Kindersley, the memorial is a low circular stone inscribed round the sides with the words, “remember before God the people London 1939-45.”


Atop the stone, at the centre are the words

In war, resolution: In defeat, defiance: in victory, magnanimity: in peace, goodwill


Posted by GregW 00:10 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (1)

Toronto: A Global City or My Home Town

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Writing about London as “a global city” recently got me thinking about Toronto, and why I felt I couldn’t become “an international citizen” while still living in Toronto.

One can’t read much about Toronto before hearing it linked to multiculturalism. The City of Toronto has a webpage celebrating the diversity of the population, and the last census revealed that 49.9% of the population was born in another country. It is a city with a rich diversity, and one can easily hop around town to experience various cultures - from China to Italy to Greece to India all for the price of a TTC day pass.

Monument to Multiculturalism, Union Station

Monument to Multiculturalism, Union Station

As an example of this, I recall the fourth of July, 2004. On that day Greece was playing Portugal in the final of the UEFA Euro 2004 football (soccer) tournament. I decided to go and watch the game with folks who had a vested interest in the outcome. The only question was whether I should head over to The Danforth to watch in Greektown, or head over to Ossington Avenue to watch with the Portuguese in Little Portugal. I ended up choosing the larger Greek population, and celebrated with the local Greek population on a closed Danforth Avenue after Greek won one-nil.

Toronto is very multicultural, but frankly so are many cities. What is it about Toronto that makes people equate it with multiculturalism more than other international cities?

Pico Iyer addresses this in the book The Global Soul: Jet-Lag, Shopping Malls and the Search for Home which I read recently. In a chapter on Toronto entitled “The Multiculture,” he writes:

The first time I ever met the word multiculturalism was while reading an essay of Jan Morris’s, about Toronto, from 1984, in which she described meeting the word herself for the first time in a city that seemed to be built around it. The singular promise of Canada, for her, lay in the fact that it was no Promised Land, hand no torch-bearing statue, no vision of a City on a Hill nor constitution guaranteeing the pursuit of happiness. Canada seemed to her a vast and all-accommodating open space, “all things to all ethnicities,” with “Canadian nationality itself no more than a minor social perquisite, like a driving license or a spare pair of glasses.”

I think Jan Morris, whom Iyer quotes, was definitely on to something. The Canadian identity is a bit of a blank slate, without much of the history of European countries, nor the underlying ideology of self-made individualism that defines the American identity. Canadianism mixes the social collectivism of Europe with the Individualism of America. Being Canadian is about being an individual as part of a collective, but allowing others in that collective to be who they want to be. So one can easily come to Toronto from Delhi, and experience both the comforts of India in local shops, restaurants and clubs, and also the international experience that the rest of the city can offer.

I wrote in my recent blog entry “The Global City vs. This Other Eden,” that “I didn’t move to England looking to take on some new national identity, but rather to take on an international identity. I don’t want to be English and Canadian (or British-Canadian, if such a thing exists). I want to be global.”

If I wanted to be global, why then couldn’t I stay in Toronto and do that. After all, there was much opportunity to get out and experience other cultures. There was opportunity to be part of the global world in my work, and even in my personal life. Why did I have to leave to become a “global citizen?”


The answer, I think, lies in the consciousness with which I was living my life in Toronto. I was born in Toronto, lived there by the accident of birth rather than through a conscious choice to move there. As much as I wanted to see Toronto as the future, as a wide open outward looking place, the fact was Toronto was my history and wasn’t my choice. I was connected to Toronto as a locality, the physical place where I grew up. As global and multicultural as the city was, I was never able to shift my perception of the place as being the place town where I live.

I was unable to see the wider world contained within Toronto from within my own world. 

And so, perhaps unfairly to Toronto, I had to leave Toronto to be able to see the world contained within a city.

Some day I will probably return to Toronto - not just as a visitor but for good. I wonder if I will see the global, multicultural city or if it will still be the town in which I grew up.


Posted by GregW 15:30 Archived in Canada Tagged books migration_philosophy existential_migration Comments (0)

Ascent: An Ending

Epilogue to the Esoteric Globe

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It’s been over a year since I wrote my last blog entry. I wrote it just before the year turned to 2013, in the wake of my father’s death. When I wrote it, it felt like an ending.

The title of this blog is based on the haunting song by Brian Eno called An Ending (Ascent), written for a movie about the Apollo space program. You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It4WxQ6dnn0. The song came into my head as I finished my last entry.

I originally started writing a blog when I started travelling more, both for work and for pleasure. I had lots of different thoughts about what the blog would be over the years, even at points wondering if it might not be the start of new career as a travel writer.

Ultimately, though, the blog was my motivation to live a more interesting life. It made me more adventurous. As I have gotten older, I have found myself becoming more introverted. When travelling, especially for work, if left to my own devices, I would probably be happy just staying in my hotel room and watching TV.

Knowing that I had a blog, and should write an entry about the place I am in, it forced me to get out and experience something. I never regretted getting out and doing stuff once I was out, but often would suffer from a lack of motivation to get started. The blog, and knowing I needed an entry, provided that initial push to get out and do something.

In the past few years, though, things have changed. I no longer live the nomadic life of a consultant, and instead am trying to settle into a new life in a new country. When I first moved to the UK in 2008, the blog was still an inspiration and motivation to get out and do things - make new friends, immerse myself in a new life, explore the interesting parts of my new city.

After living in London for a few years, I decided that I would make a life for myself here. No longer did I need motivation to get out and experience London as a tourist. I needed not a breadth of experiences, but to dive deep into a specific life.

I realised, though, that the blog was holding me back. I was going out observing life, taking some pictures of it, and then writing about it in the blog. I felt like the blog was giving me an excuse to stand on the sidelines, when what I really needed was to get into the melee.

I thus made a resolution to not blog for a year, and instead to use my energy to immerse myself in my London life. To do things not because they would make a great blog entry, but rather because it would give me a deeper connection to my life in London.

While the blog has been quiet, I have been busy. I got my permanent residency for the UK. I moved to a nicer house to a more interesting neighbourhood. I gardened and BBQ’d and had people over. I left my job to take some time off. I have taken a wine course, and driving lessons, and met people who share interests of mine like formula one, sailing and skiing to gain some new friends. I did some online dating for a bit, and may pick it up again in the new year.

Best of all, I’ve still kept going out, experiencing things. After ten years of the blog acting as my motivation, the habit of getting out has become so ingrained I don’t need the blog as a crutch anymore. Further, as I am not experiencing things as an observer thinking of how to write about it, I am meeting more people and getting more involved in the experiences.

So with that I am ending the Esoteric Globe, with the final chapter being about how my father inspired me to live a brave life, and this epilogue telling you how it is coming along one year on.

I may pick up blogging again in the future if I feel the need arises, but will start fresh in a new blog. I am still writing, though in only 140 characters, on Twitter, where I also post some pictures now and again, if you really cannot do without my musings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting over the years. I hope I was entertaining, and perhaps provided some inspiration for you all to travel. Writing for you has inspired me to have a more interesting life, and as I move forward I will continue to do the same.

To live a brave life.

Posted by GregW 03:45 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged travel_philosophy migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Living Life Bravely

A tribute to the life of Reg Wesson, my father (1928-2012).

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My father, Reg Wesson, died on November 27th of this year. He was 84, and had not been well for the past year. He was admitted to hospital in mid-November, and I flew back to Toronto to be with him and my family. We spent a week together before he passed away.

It is, I will admit, something that I had been both expecting and dreading since I moved to the UK. Moving overseas with an octogenarian parent, I knew at some point I would get that call. As much as you want to pause the hands of time while you are on the road, they keep ticking back home. I most feared a call saying he had died. Every time I spoke to Dad on the phone, I knew that the goodbyes we said before we hung up could have been the last. I was thankful that the call I got allowed me to get back to Canada and say my goodbye in person.

I count myself lucky on two counts, one that I was able to make it home in time to spend some time with my father before he passed, and also that he passed peacefully, without any prolonged suffering.

Me and Dad in 2011 in Florence

Me and Dad in 2011 in Florence

After my father passed, I stayed in Canada for a few more days for the burial and the “Celebration of Life” for Dad.

My dad didn’t want a funeral or a memorial service. “I’ve been to too many god-damn funerals,” he said. “I want a party.” So we planned a celebration, with music and wine and laughter. It was tinged with sadness, of course, but mostly was a great opportunity for people to get together and share memories of my dad.

Despite not wanting a memorial service, we did have a few parts that were memorial-service-like. One such piece was speeches. People wanted to get up and share, either through reciting a poem, singing a song or sharing a favourite anecdote.

I played emcee, and shared a few memories I had of my Dad. I wanted to share some big, life affirming story, but couldn’t really think of anything, so told everyone about the little parts of life I remembered with him. Most of them revolved around trains, actually, which I hope goes some way to explain the recent train nerdiness I have exhibited in the blog. It is (a tribute to / the fault of) my father (pick whichever one you feel best describes your feeling towards the train blogs).

My sister Jen spoke last, and I was struck by what she said. I paraphrase her here, because (true to my father’s spirit) she spoke without notes and I wasn’t taking a transcript. She said that when she was younger she wouldn’t have described Dad as a brave man. He didn’t especially like heights, and dealt with pain much in the same way I do, by feeling faint and nauseated. He didn’t partake in a lot of physical sports.

Yet as she looked back recently on Dad’s life, she realised her analysis was wrong. As a young man, Dad gave up the safe option of working for his father’s business as he really wanted to work in a bank. Having never been involved in auto racing, he applied on a whim to be part of the Oakville-Trafalgar Light Car Club and took up rallying. Later, he wound up a part of the Canadian Racing Driver’s Association, running Grand Prix and other racing events in Canada. After moving to Burlington, nestled at the edge of Lake Ontario, Dad went out for a walk one day, down to the local yacht club, and though he didn’t have a boat or knew anyone in the club, he joined.

He was a real “give it a go” kind of guy. He was constantly finding new interests, and on finding that interest, he pursued them. He didn’t let the weight of opinion of others influence him, nor the fact he was venturing as an unknown into an area he knew nothing about. He just did it. And in doing so, thrived. For every new club, organisation, interest or career he tried, he became an invaluable part of the group. Often acting as treasurer for groups, or working his way up into the executive. He would immerse himself in his new circle, making new friends, bringing in old friends to his new group, becoming a key part of the social circle.

My dad may not have been physically brave, but he was a brave spirit, willing to put himself out into a new world he didn’t know, and give it a try.

As my sister said this, and I remembered my big, life affirming story about Dad.

It was when I was between high school and university. While in high school I had worked as a waiter at our local Pizza Hut. I was pretty good at it, and saving a good bit of money for university. As summer approached, I decided I was a bit too good for Pizza Hut, and should be working at a more upscale restaurant. So I quit my job without another one lined up. “I’ll quickly find a new job,” I said, confident in my skills.

I didn’t quickly find a new job. I struggled, and even tried to go back to get my old job at Pizza Hut, only to find it was already filled. Desperate, I took a job doing door-to-door sales of … well, anything I could carry – tube socks, books, calculators – this company had the lot.

I hated it. The money was alright, but the job made me miserable. I knew by the end of my first week I wanted to be doing anything else.

My Dad, giving me a ride home from the train station on Friday evening, could see it on my face. “What’s wrong, son?” he asked.

“I hate my job,” I said. “I wish I could quit. It really makes me miserable.”

“You see no way you could be happy at this job, if you changed something,” my Dad asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t like the sales part of it, and that’s the biggest part. I don’t know what to do.”

“Quit,” Dad said.

“Quit?” I asked. “I can’t quit. What will I do about money? I need money for university.”

“Don’t worry about the money. We’ll figure out a way to make it work,” My dad said. “You can’t keep doing something that you hate. Son, life is too short to spend it being miserable.”

I believe this was the philosophy that drove that braveness my sister had been speaking about. It is about putting aside those things that aren’t contributing to your fulfilment, and taking up those things that you think may contribute.

Obviously that isn’t the only decision point. My father was not selfish in his choices, he took his responsibilities seriously and if he said he would do something, he would try his best to see it through. But his current responsibilities didn’t hold him back from trying something new, and he didn’t feel the need to be chained to something that wasn’t working for him.

Dad always told me how proud he was of me for having taking the step to move abroad. I had never really understood why he used the word “proud,” until I started to look at it in the context of the bravery my sister described. I think he was proud of the move because it was me doing something daring, striking out on my own and taking a new adventure because I was pretty sure it would make me happy, in much the same way he might have done. In my actions are reflected his lessons and example.

So as we enter 2013, I take the next steps in that journey, in becoming a permanent resident of the United Kingdom, and continuing towards becoming a British citizen. More so, I start to think to myself, over and above the paper work, what can I do to become more integrated into my new homeland? To fully immerse myself in this, as my father had done before in the many adventures he undertook. I may not stay in the UK forever, but if I do leave, I want to leave knowing that I threw myself into my life here with all that I could give it.

I will bravely live this life, and in doing so, hopefully reflect some small part of my father, and honour his lessons and example.

2006 08 26..er Sign.JPG2006 08 26..re Sign.JPG

Posted by GregW 08:39 Archived in Canada Tagged travel_philosophy migration_philosophy Comments (0)

The Secret Trainspotter... Riding London's Old and New Rail

Riding from London Victoria to London Bridge on the last day of service (Dec 8), and then the first day of service on the new Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays, Highbury and Islington and right round to Clapham Junction on the first day of service (Dec 9)

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I am going to apologise in advance for this entry, and provide a warning. This is an entry about two train rides from and to places within London, in one case from one point in London right around back to the same place. You might find it dull, but I find riding around on trains endlessly fascinating. It's in my heritage. Anyway, if you find train rides dull, I would suggest you stop reading now.

Still here? All right, you've been warned. You've only yourself to blame now.

I wrote recently about a trip on the parliamentary train from Clapham High Street to Kensington Olympia, and how the opening of a new train service from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays was allowing this service to close. The new Overground service isn't just closing this (mostly useless) service, but also closing a twice-an-hour service from London Victoria to London Bridge. The Victoria to London Bridge service was closing on December 8th, and the new Overground Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays opens December 9th, so I decided to ride them both.


London Victoria to London Bridge, December 8th, 2012

The Inner South London Line was a twice hourly service running between London Victoria and London Bridge stations in central London, servicing Wandsworth and Southwark with a horseshoe service to these two main terminal stations in London.

I headed from Clapham Junction to Victoria to catch the 13:11 departure from Victoria. The train was due to call at Battersea Park, Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street, Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Queens Road Peckham, South Bermondsey and finally terminating at London Bridge.


London Victoria has this great logo on the floor telling you to watch what you are doing with your roller bag. Don't be a trolley wally, it says.

I boarded the service, which is usually a two car train but Southern Rail had put on 4 car trains for the day. There were a few train spotters taking photos (much as I was), and a few people with placards about the service, but there was also a few people who were just taking the train to get where they wanted to go, looking a little bemused at those of us with cameras and placards.

I inadvertently ended up on the same train as the Southwark Rail Users group (SRUG), who were riding the trip a couple time around. They had signs and were taking pictures, and talking to people on the train. The woman I talked to said they weren't protesting, just communicating, though the information they were handing out was titled "South London's Loss".

They were handing out maps they felt better represented the new layout of the train services than the TFL tube maps, which they said don't show how Southwark is connected to central London. I didn't bother pointing out that the TFL tube map doesn't show any rail service other than the Overground, and that most of the new stops weren't on the old London maps.


Other than the chat with the SRUG people, the train journey was short and uneventful.

Battersea Power Station from the rail bridge

Battersea Power Station from the rail bridge

Peckham Rye station, last time that this Southern train upholstery could be seen here?

Peckham Rye station, last time that this Southern train upholstery could be seen here?

Between Queens Road and South Bermondsey, A view of the Shard

Between Queens Road and South Bermondsey, A view of the Shard

We arrive at London Bridge, and off I get. The station is undergoing a number of improvements, which is one of the reasons that this South London Line service is being discontinued, as platforms in London Bridge station are being closed until 2018. I wander around lost for a few minutes before I find the way to the Underground, passing in the shadow of The Shard, Europe's tallest building.

Arrival at London Bridge, walking out to see Europe's tallest building - The Shard

Arrival at London Bridge, walking out to see Europe's tallest building - The Shard

Off I went on the Jubilee line to do some Christmas shopping... For myself... I bought a laptop... at Harrod's. That really happened.

Clapham Junction to Highbury & Islington to Clapham Junction, The Orbital Overground, December 9th, 2012

The sun rose on Sunday, and "all change, please," when the old services stop and the new service begins.

The London Overground is a train service run by Transport for London, the local government body responsible for transportation in the Greater London area. In the past few years, TFL has taken on many train services, aiming to create an orbital railway running around central London. The last piece was to put together a link along the southern edge of the city, and a new service from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays completes the link.



I caught the train from Clapham Junction, catching the 11:52 headed towards Highbury and Islington. There were a few "train enthusiasts" on the train (you could tell by the literature printed off and the cameras), but there was mostly regular rail users, off on whatever commute they were on for the day.


We left Clapham Junction, and slowly made our way along, eventually passing underneath the main rail track and coming up on the previously unused portion of track heading to Wandsworth Road.


Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street station, previously serviced by Southern Rail but now only serviced by the Overground, have been rebranded as London Overground stations, with the orange roundel. We pulled into the station, and I noticed a young boy (probably around 12) filming the train as it came in from the north end of the platform. A few minutes later, when we pulled out, the boy had moved down to the south end of the platform to film us pulling out.


Soon enough the train pulled into Denmark Hill, where I jumped off for a quick rest on my round-London journey.


I had heard that there was a decent pub in the Denmark Hill rail station building called the Phoenix. I popped in to the pub, and found an absolutely lovely pub with a massive beautiful clock. I got myself a pint of London Pride ale (decent choice for a train spotter).


Pint done, and reinforced, I headed back to the station to catch the train and continued my round the city journey.


Boarding the train at Denmark Hill, I found a much busier train than the last, with every seat taken, and people having to stand. Pretty impressive for the first day of service.

We pulled out from Denmark Hill and off to Peckham Rye. As we pulled into Peckham Rye, I noticed the same young lad who had filmed us coming into Wandsworth Road filming our train coming in. Arrival filmed, he jumped on the train and as the train ran from Peckham Rye to Queens Road Peckham, he worked his way through the open train to the front of the train, his mother following behind him.


At Queens Road, the lad jumped off, positioned himself on the platform, and filmed us leaving the station. His mother accompanying him must be a patient woman.

I was so busy watching the young boy filming, I missed the arrival of the woman who sat across from me. She soon got my attention, though, as she spent the entire time on the train sobbing to herself silently. Like a good Brit, I looked away in embarrassment. I seem to attract this kind of behaviour, first noticing crying on the Heathrow Connect in August 2009 and then recently on a flight in September where the woman beside me was crying.

We turned north, going over the newest bit of the rail network (actually a reconstructed old bit of the rail network) that connects us onto the line to Surrey Quays. We now had stopped being on the new bit, and were travelling now up the east side of London. We travelled down underground, and eventually under the Thames river in the Thames_Tunnel, the first tunnel built under the river. It was built in the mid-1800s as a pedestrian tunnel. In 1865 it was converted to a rail tunnnel, and other than a few years closure here and there, has been serving London by rail since that time.

We pull up out the tunnels and into Shoreditch, where we get some excellent views of the City of London and the area surrounding Liverpool Street station.

The woman left the train, still sobbing, at Shoreditch High Street, along with most of the rest of the train. A much emptier train continued along the east of the city, and then turned to the west to start along the Northern stretch of the circle.

We pulled into Highbury & Islington, and I decide to take another break, popping out of the station and to the nearby Famous Cock pub, where I take a quick break for the toilet, and then to replenish my liquids, another pint. I had a pint of Spitfire ale and watched the first 30 minutes of the Manchester derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.


After watching Man U's Wayne Rooney score a soft, rolling goal, I headed back to Highbury and Islington station, and down to the Overground platforms. The next train direct to Clapham Junction (heading west) wasn't for 27 minutes, so I hopped onto a train to Willseden Junction.


The train journey from Highbury & Islington was uneventful, though busy. This section of the line is well established, so not surprising to see it well used.

I snapped this photo during the journey of a TFL advert for the extension to the south. It promises quicker journeys to the clubs in Clapham, Camden and Hoxton. Given that I live in Clapham, and haven't made it out to the clubs there, I doubt that I will be using the train service to get to clubs in North or East London.


The young Japanese girl who was sitting under the sign looked at me somewhat strangely, but otherwise I was the only strangeness on this part of the journey. Mostly it was young people and families off to wherever they where going for the day.

The train terminated at Willseden Junction, and I wait 8 minutes for the next train to Clapham Junction. The train pulls in, and fills up with people. Other than the bit from Clapham Junction to Denmark Hill, and from Shoreditch High Street to Highbury and Islington, the train has been full on a Sunday afternoon. And not just with train spotters and nerds like me, but with people going about their regular Sunday afternoons.


It being Christmas time, and this being a train that stops at Shepherd's Bush station for Westfield Shopping centre, the train was busy with shoppers, either on their way to buy, or at Shebu (what us in-people call Shepherd's Bush) boarding the train with tons of bags.

In amongst that crowd, an older man with large, grey mutton chops also boarded the train. He stood at one end, and listened as the train pulled away from Shepherd's Bush.

The automated train announcement came on. "This is the Overground service to Clapham Junction. The next station is Kensington Olympia," the mechanical, female voice said.

"Olymmmm-Pi-Ahhhh!" the man sung out after the announcement had ended. "Overground... Underground..." he sang, and then stopped singing. The music didn't stop, though, he replaced his voice with a harmonica. Mutton chops played his harmonica until the train pulled into West Brompton, when he pulled his hat down on his head, turned his collars up and left the train. I had expected him to walk through the train asking for change, but he didn't. Simply played his music, and left.

A few minutes later, we pulled into platform 1 at Clapham Junction, and I had completed the circle. From Clapham Junction to Clapham Junction, a journey of 0 net miles.


A final pint of the day to celebrate the circle at Windsor Castle pub in Clapham Junction.


Home again, home again... Completed the circle and back in Clapham Junction. Celebration pint! A secret train spotter success.

Now, where'd I leave my anorak?

Posted by GregW 09:11 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged trains train_travel Comments (0)

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