“When you are lost in London, and you don’t know where you are,
You’ll hear my voice a-calling, “Move further down the car!”.
And very soon you’ll find yourself inside the terminus,
In a London transport, diesel engine, ninety-seven horsepower omnibus.
Along the Queen’s great highway, I drive my merry load,
At twenty miles per hour in the middle of the road.
We like to drive in conveys, we’re most gregarious,
The big six-wheeler, scarlet painted, London transport, diesel engine, ninety-seven horsepower omnibus.”
Thank you Flanders and Swann for that very apt description of London transport.
There is something very comforting in watching a ritual passed down over the years performed each day with pride and patriotism.
Many of the young men on display have seen tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and it was nice to see so many people showing their respect for the British Armed Forces.
If you are a collector you can buy them online from http://www.mklmodels.co.uk/toy-soldier-centre-4-w.asp.
From there it was to the Bloody Tower and where the London Omnibus came into play. My father does not take the bus. He takes the Underground.
Unfortunately, the Circle Line was out of commission so I led the way to the F bus stop. And there we waited. And we waited. And we waited for the Number 15 bus.
Yeoman Warder George met us at the entrance to the Tower and promptly entranced us with tales of blood, gore, murder and treason.
You couldn’t ask for more.
Three beheaded queens, one who carried on praying after her head was severed.
One illegitimate bastard of a King brutally beheaded by a drunk part-time butcher whose head has to be sewn back on for an official portrait.
And the sad tale of the young Princes murdered in the Tower by an avaricious uncle.
In the White Keep is an incredible exhibition of armour including a number belonging to old Henry VIII – responsible for the deaths of at least two of those headless Queens.
His armour gets progressively larger and larger around the middle and his codpiece extends further and further out.
Freud would have had a field day with him!
The Crown Jewels are housed here along with a strange assortment of odd gifts from around the world.
South Africa’s most recent gift is a ghastly chess set of Zulu impi. I suppose after the Cullinan Diamond what are you going to give? The diamond is a sight to behold. Marilyn Monroe would have gone into paroxysms of delight.
My favourite in the collection was Queen Victoria’s miniature crown designed for her to wear with her mourning veil. It is exquisite.
Finally we paid a visit to the old torture chamber in the dungeon of the White Keep.
It now houses a more modernised version of the rack – the credit card machine.
Equally, if not more painful.
Luckily, if you have a hankering for any memorabilia – a snow globe, a knight’s armour or a Union Jack pen you can buy them here – http://www.hrp.org.uk/shopping/.
And, if you’re looking for more to do in London, there is an exhibition of Damien Hirst on at the Tate, however I decided to exercise parental control over that one.
If you are going to London and plan on visiting any of the palaces, of which the Tower is one, purchase your tickets online beforehand.
There is also a behind-the-scenes tour of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studio in Windsor.
Sadly, our collective souvenirs were left on the London Underground. Happily they have a fantastic lost and found section who are doing their best to repatriate it.
Don’t scoff, I used to end up at Lost and Found quite regularly thanks to an employer who was forever leaving his dry cleaning on the Tube.