Taking a refreshing stroll along the Thames Embankment on a very hot day, I spotted how London’s citizens tried various ingenious ways to stay cool in the city.
Thus I’m sneakily introducing my first, and most favourite point of interest in the capital – sorry HRM Elizabeth II, but the River Thames beats the “lady of the stamp” any day as London’s best tourist attraction!
Even on the hottest day of the year there was a gentle breeze blowing that cooled the wrinkled writer’s brow – walk along the lovely Thames Embankment and sooner or later you’ll come across a fountain where you can cool off your steaming toes.
When the tide’s out, people walk along the patches of “beach” that appear along the river bed.
For those with more money than sense there are the official river cruises, some via stately old river barges, cruisers or former steamboats, others via power boats that zoom past with an almighty roar and spew up brown waves in their wake. The much cheaper version is to take an ordinary river bus.
Cruises start from various points along the river, my favourite spot is at St Katherine’s Dock, where this couple sat patiently in a little pavilion – like a bus stop for the Thames – and awaited the arrival of their cruiser, while enjoying the magnificent aspect of Tower Bridge.
Making a Splash
My favourite image of this summer are unquestionably the parents and children who stayed cool by diving into the fountains at the National Theatre, which overlooks the Thames Embankment by the London Eye, roughly opposite Westminster and Big Ben.
At certain intervals during the day the kind people of the South Bank-National Theatre complex press a button and within moments people are engulfed by refreshing spouts of water – only they don’t know where the jets of water will come from next, for the fountain’s sprays shoot out at random in different spots.
With a lot of squeals and laughter, the youngest of London’s citizens find relief from the searing heat, a perfect image of summer as it should be, don’t you think?
At the other end of the river, that bit where HMS Belfast, a cruiser from WWII, is moored, whole families gathered around fountains, had a picnic and enjoyed the spectacular London skyline from just outside Hayes Gallery.
Erasing horrid Memories
This summer I’ve seen a different side to London, one I liked very much. Many years ago, when I worked in the city for more than a decade as an office slave, London was a complete construction site, where it was virtually impossible to get anywhere near the River. My memories are of noisy construction crews whistling and jeering at anything looking even vaguely female, of cranes polluting the skyline, of mud and dust everywhere.
Over the intervening two decades the embankments on both sides have been transformed and turned into London’s best attraction – and I’m clearly not alone in this point of view, judging by the hordes of people who use the River Walks every day from dawn till dusk and beyond.
My next post will be about my splendid walk from Tower Bridge to Rotherhithe, which turned out to be a delightful village, not a boring suburb with uniform new apartment blocks, as I had suspected.
After more than three decades in the UK, this summer has been the first time that I’ve actually begun to understand why people rate London so highly – up to now, I’ve detested it. These past few weeks, hot and steamy as they have been, have done much to clear my mind of horrid work-related memories and regain my “cool” about the Big City.
The true aim of my snap-happy wanderings through London is, of course, to gather background material for a future murder mystery series. So alongside the pictures I’ve been taking notes on the smells, sounds, temperatures and light conditions I’ve encountered along the way. I can still hear the children’s giggles, when a flurry of soap bubbles headed our way…