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Published: July 16th 2016
We arrived in London's Heathrow around 7.30am, Thursday 13 July. Hundred of other travellers also arrived around the same time which meant it took ages to get through customs. Leaving Sydney wasn't without its problems either as we sat in the plane for over one and a half hours after our scheduled take off time. Due to Sydney's strong winds only one runway was operational for both take off and landing although once in the air it wasn't as bumpy as we'd been led to believe it would be...thankfully! Amongst the movies I watched on the plane was The Graduate starring a very young Dustin Hoffman and Ann Bancroft. It's years since I saw it originally but it was certainly well worth a re-run.
Catherine and David Barker - a couple of other Dickensians - were on the same flight which meant we were able to have a chin wag at Sydney airport, our Dubai stopover and then finally at Heathrow before a parting of the ways.
By the time we arrived at the Victory Services Club, where we were staying, it was 10.30am and as I'd organised to meet Miriam Margolyes at 11am there was no
time for a quick shower and freshen up; it was just a case of leaving the bags and heading out. Since Miriam had been doing some work with the Roald Dahl centenary celebrations and was due to attend Channel 4 for a radio interview, being collected about half an hour after we arrived, we didn't have that much time for a chat. Nevertheless the time Miriam gave us was greatly appreciated.
At the end of the street where Miriam lives is Clapham Common which we walked across before catching a bus back to Marble Arch. From there it was short walk to the Victory Services Club, where we finally settled down in our room for a while before walking over to Hyde Park for a wander around and to do some people watching. By 9.30pm we were tucked into our beds for an early night.
Armed with our trusty Oyster Card the next day we caught the tube, getting out at the Chancery Lane Station with the intention of heading towards the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street. First stop was Staple Inn; dating from 1585 it is where wool was weighed and taxed, a building which survived
the Great Fire of London in 1666. We then visited the site of Furnival's Inn founded in 1383. One of the Inns of Chancery it was where Charles Dickens rented rooms between 1834 and 1837 and where he began writing "The Pickwick Papers" while a tenant there. In its place now is the Waterhouse Square building which is next to the Leather Lane Markets. In Dickens' day it was where leather was processed so blood would have been running down the street and the stench must have been dreadful.
We then met Sandra Faulkner, NSWDS Past President 2007-2009, at the Charles Dickens Museum and the chin wagging began! We looked around the Museum, enjoying an exhibition celebrating the life of Catherine Dickens which included the marriage certificate of Catherine Hogarth to Charles Dickens and Catherine's will. And I was very pleased to see that another dinner plate, honouring Catherine, was amongst the set displayed in the dining room.
Sandra, Kev and I lunched at Carluccios close by, enjoying beautiful food and much more chin wagging before finally parting ways. Thanks Sandra, it was such a pleasure to spend some time with you.
Our Friday evening treat was
a visit to the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Ave to see the brilliant play "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time". Amongst the many awards the play received was the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play. Well deserved too; we just LOVED it. The minimalist set, the staging and the acting were all top notch. Amazing!
Walking toward Piccadilly Circus once the play finished we were amazed to find a reveller atop the statue of Eros. Posing, taking photos of the gathering crowds and generally misbehaving, it wasn't long before there were hoards of police and firies doing the best to get him down, culminating in the fireman's ladder being hoisted up there. Much to the delight of the ever growing crowd, once that happened he began taking selfies and then jumping up and down the statue to avoid being removed. Finally though he came down to be arrested by at least half a dozen police...and we caught the bus back to Marble Arch. What a night!!
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