Friday a day out in London. A very cold day out in London to the British Library, an exhibition on illuminated manuscripts in the afternoon, a concert by The Sixteen in the evening.
It snowed Thursday night. I got up Friday morning to find my garden white with snow, the trees covered in snow.
I went back to bed. No, I have to get up, I have a day in London planned.
I walked to the station. Along came a bus. I hopped on the bus.
The train journey into London a veritable winter wonderland.
We have become used to mild, wet winters for the last decade, that a cold spell arrives comes to us as a shock. This has been an exceptionally long, exceptional cold spell.
It snowed the previous weekend on the Saturday. It has been cold, below zero, since the Monday before the Saturday when it snowed.
As the train approached Waterloo two interesting buildings caught my eye. One, still under construction, a tall pyramid shaped needle, the other looked like the sail of a boat.
The sun was now out, and so although it was very cold, I decided to walk to Covent Garden rather than catch the Tube. In the sun pleasant, out of the sun, very very cold.
I went on a little detour out the back of Waterloo Station. There used to be an excellent second-hand record shop, I thought I would see if I could find it. I did not recognise where I was, decided it would be a wild goose chase and gave up.
I walked over Hungerford Bridge, excellent views looking downstream of St Paul’s on the skyline, through Victoria Embankment Gardens and up into Covent Garden, where I had arranged to meet a friend who I had not seen for twenty years, for lunch in Food For Thought. In the sun it was pleasant, out of the sun very, very cold
Food for Thought was as always excellent.
We then caught the Tube to King’s Cross St Pancras. Emerging into the street it was very, very cold. What was it going to be like tonight? Forecast was well below zero.
We walked the short walk to the British Library which is just past St Pancras Station.
A little wander around the library. Looked at a small collection of books celebrating the life of Charles Dickens. Where was the Reading Room where Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto? We learnt later the Reading Room was in the British Museum. We then tried to enter the exhibition on illuminated manuscripts.
They would not let us in. Said our tickets were only valid for the evening. After some hassle and the intervention and apologies from a more senior member of staff, we were allowed in.
The exhibition was excellent, but after an hour or so, my head started to spin. We decided to go off and get something to eat and come back in the evening. On leaving we double checked the time and was told doors opened at 7pm.
We walked down Euston Road to Euston Station. A very cold walk. Around the back of Euston Station is a side street with excellent Indian restaurants.
We ate at Chutney’s. The food as always was excellent.
We got back to the British Library around 7-15pm to find people hanging around outside. It was subzero but they would not let anyone in until 7-30pm, the time stated on the tickets.
Once in, a man apologised for all the hassle we had been given and was grateful for raising the issues. He gave me a copy of a CD by The Sixteen as way of apology. I thanked him, said the exhibition was excellent and we were looking forward to The Sixteen.
After-hours access sounds great. It was not. It was very crowded, by now I was very tired and could not remember what I had seen and what I had not seen.
The concert was very informal. People standing, sitting on the floor, on the stairs on the balcony. We were lucky and had seats. The seats were for the elderly and infirm. I felt a bit guilty taking one, until I thought, I have been very poorly with bronchitis and this was the first day I have been out in three weeks.
The concert was excellent. Music of the period inspired by the exhibition, with an accompanying CD, of which I had been given a complimentary copy.
By now I was exhausted.
We went to a pub and relaxed with a much needed drink. Then Tube to Waterloo and trains home.
My train seemed to have got lost. Why was it passing through East Putney? A very slow journey due to bad weather conditions and trains ahead.
My train did not arrive at my station until twenty minutes past midnight. A long walk home in the cold. Luckily there was no wind. My face was starting to burn from the cold.
I arrive arrived home in the early hours of the morning, ten minutes before one o’clock.
Later in the day, I did not get up until midday, I learnt it had been the coldest night of the winter. In Holbeach in Lincolnshire it dropped to minus 15.6 C, the coldest recorded temperature since 1910. During the day, Coningsby in Lincolnshire was the coldest place, the temperature not rising above minus 6 C.