Final Adventures in London

This is my last evening in London – I fly out to Edinburgh tomorrow morning.

Sunday morning was the second day of the England Cup. My bout was at 9:55, and it was over very quickly. I was completely outclassed by the Japanese fencer, Seira Nakayama, who demolished me 15-2 (she ended up placing 14th in the competition). However, it was an enjoyable – if short – bout, and I’m totally delighted with my final placing of 44th in a field of 84.

I had planned to stay on and watch the end of the competition, but the cold I had meant I went through all the handkerchiefs I had brought with me, so I decided it would be better to head off at about lunchtime. After resupplying myself with hankies, I went on the “Old Westminster” walk in the afternoon. It was half the “public” side of Westminster, and half walking through some of the back streets, and was very interesting, though VERY cold.

Mum had arrived in London on Sunday, so on Monday we went out together. In the morning we wandered around Bloomsbury, and then went into the British Museum so I could see the old Reading Room. Ever so swish! Then we went to the National Portrait Gallery, caught the bus down Piccadilly (riding the top of a double decker bus being One Of Those London Things) and finally walked through Hyde Park. In the evening I met up with Emma and Alex, as we had been invited to the “official” opening of a new elite fencing venue in North London. They had arranged a team match between the UK and China, and asked us to come along so they could have a UK-Australia match as well. Unfortunately, Jess couldn’t make it, as she wasn’t feeling well, so we were a weaker team than we might have been, and the UK beat us 45-37 (I think). China then beat them 45-44. It was a fun evening.

Today was cold and rainy. It was also the day I had decided to go to Hampton Court Palace, and I decided to stick with the plan, in spite of the weather. I’m very glad I did. Going around Henry VIII’s kitchens was cold (except for the room with a big fire in it), but the rest of the Palace wasn’t too bad, and it was fascinating seeing three different historical periods (Henry VIII, William-and-Mary, and George II-and-Caroline) all in one place. I was a bit worried at first, when numerous school groups seemed to be arriving, but they mostly seemed to be only looking at the Tudor bits. By the time we had finished going round the palace (four separate audio tours, which took several hours, plus a really nice and relatively inexpensive lunch in the cafe) the rain had more-or-less stopped, so we decided to walk through the gardens a bit.

We planned to just take a look at the maze, since it didn’t really seem the weather for potentially spending ages wandering around lost. But the man at the entrance said it wouldn’t take us more than 5 or 10 minutes, so we decided to go in … and it actually took much less time than that. I didn’t really have a fixed plan – and I certainly didn’t have a mental map of the maze – but for some reason, just following my instinct at each decision point seemed to get us to the centre in a remarkably short space of time, and without any obvious looping around. It didn’t seem quite like the description in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat – once you got to the centre, the exit was right there next to you, so there was none of the leaving the centre and then unexpectedly finding oneself back there. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that there were audio recordings that played at you on certain corners. I recognised one of them (from Three Men in a Boat) so I assume the others were also quotes from things that specifically referenced the maze. But I found them annoying.

As well as the maze, we walked through some of the more formal parts of the garden. Much of the statuary was wrapped in cloth (presumably to protect it from the elements) so one could only guess what the figures were, but other than that, the gardens were very nice (if cold).

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