Back from London

I arrived home yesterday evening to find close to 400 emails in the queue, almost all to do with blog notifications and comments. I just haven’t had time to respond to them all, or to comment on many blogs that I follow. I do apologise for that, but I did my best. From today, I will be able to get back into the swing of regular blogging.

Last weekend marked my first trip back to London since April, 2012. Regular readers will be aware that I lived in various parts of the capital for sixty years, before retiring here to Norfolk. I had to attend the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends on Sunday, so went up on Saturday afternoon, to stay with my cousin, who was also going to the wedding. As she lives in South London, it was incredibly convenient for a wedding in much the same area. Julie was unwell, with a bad cough and chest infection, so she regretfully decided not to come with me. It was sad that she was going to miss it, but no point putting herself through that, when she felt just awful.

I left here on Saturday afternoon as planned, expecting to take around three hours to make a journey of almost 120 miles. After an hour spent meandering around the country roads in Norfolk, I arrived at the A11/M11 junction at Mildenhall, hoping to speed up, and make some progress. But it was not to be. This major route was closed, due to a serious accident. All the traffic, and that was an enormous amount of traffic, had to be diverted off onto a country lane. This was little more than a track, with room for one vehicle, and passing places dotted along it, should something come the other way. We had to go almost to the town of Newmarket, to rejoin the motorway, a distance of around 6 miles. That took ninety minutes, of stop-go crawl.

By the time we emerged onto the now empty main road, it was raining so hard that visibility was seriously impaired. With wipers on full speed, and proceeding carefully, the fastest most of us could manage was under 40 mph. By the time we arrived at the busy junction with Stansted Airport, the road was at a standstill once again. It was already the time I had expected to arrive, and I was only halfway there. Once I got into East London, I had to cross the Thames to go south. My first choice was the Blackwall Tunnel, so I headed for that. I soon discovered a 3-mile tailback, just to get onto the approach road. Undaunted, I continued into the city, heading for the Rotherhithe Tunnel instead. But the situation was no better there, with similar queues. I had no alternative but to drive further on, and cross the river using the magnificent Tower Bridge. By now, I was so much later than planned, I had stopped worrying about it.

Once south of the Thames, in a place where I grew up and know well, I was able to take many back routes and small roads to make progress. Or so I thought. I hadn’t bargained for speed bumps. There were always some streets in that area with them, but in the few years since I moved away, it now appears that every road, including all bus routes, is ‘fully bumped’. These things are so close together, that as you are driving off of one, you are almost mounting the next one. It seems possible to become seasick on a South London side street these days. I eventually arrived after more than five hours of driving, having averaged a speed of only 24 mph for the whole journey.

I spent a pleasant evening at a restaurant with my cousin, and we were both up and about early for the wedding ceremony on Sunday morning. The taxi arrived on time, and everything went very smoothly all day. I managed to fulfill my duties as master of ceremonies with few if any errors, and everyone agreed that it was wonderful to see our friends marry in such a happy and emotionally-charged fashion. The reception was in a marquee in their garden, and was executed to perfection. The excellent food was enjoyed by all, and the speeches and entertainment that followed were equally delightful. I even managed to stay relatively sober, until almost 9 pm, when I was sufficiently inebriated to join in with the dancing. A shared taxi back to my cousin’s house was arranged, and I was in bed asleep by 11. It had been a very long, but most enjoyable day.

Then I had to drive home on Monday morning.

The traffic around South-East London was completely gridlocked, not helped by emergency water-works closing parts of the main road. It took me well over two hours to travel less than 5 miles, and I didn’t get home until late in the afternoon. As much as I relished the chance to see my old friend get married, I won’t be rushing back to London anytime soon.

60 thoughts on “Back from London

  1. One never knows, but London is a nightmare at best (the only times I remember driving without problems has been a couple of times when I went to join my relative and drove early on Christmas day). I drove to South Wales once, and for a trip that would normally be 4 hours, it took me 9. In the end it was just a game of endurance. I kept thinking that if I was flying I would be very far away by then. Thankfully, I was listening to audiobooks, and I did finish one and started another… If train prices weren’t so high…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Only a couple of dances with some ladies. Half-cut, swirling around, treading on their toes. That sort of thing. Julie still off sick from work, so hopefully she will improve soon.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Extraordinary, it shouldn’t be that hard to traverse such a little country but staying positive in 2017 Pete. Everything went well in the end and I hope your girl is feeling better. I do so love a wedding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lloyd. Too many cars, not enough roads. All filtering into the same eventual bottleneck. That’s Europe for you! Julie is still off sick, but a little improved, thanks.
      I am staying positive, but checking the calendar…
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hours of driving at aver. 24 mph would make anyone tear out their hair.
    I had to give someone a lift today, and as I approached the street where she was working, a squirrel crossed the road, and I had to tap the brakes. That constitutes a traffic jam where I’m living. I know schadenfreude is an unattractive personality trait, but thank you, for making me feel better about living in the boonies. At least when you get up the next morning, you can say, man, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that crap anymore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robert. After five years in similar ‘squirrel country’, the return to the metropolis was an unwelcome reminder of urban life. Nice to be back in the peace and quiet indeed.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  4. Our country has far too many cars for the roads. Travelling anywhere is a nightmare. It took my daughter 6 hours to reach her home in Surrey from Doncaster last Sunday evening when it should have taken around 3 hours. An accident on any of the motorways causes mayhem! The trouble is that public transport isn’t any better.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I noticed that on my way north last Tuesday hoping to avoid holiday traffic. I must have passed dozens of caravans and motor homes as of course they don’t need to follow the normal Friday/Saturday changeover days!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Luckily you were back at home, even if the trip was exhausting. Later, only the memory of the beautiful celebration with friends will remain.
    Good improvement to Julie.
    Greetings from Irene

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am happy to learn that you had a good time at the wedding celebration but I am sorry to hear that Julie is unwell. My prayers will be with her until she is feeling better. London sounds like it might be hard to traverse what with all the speed bumps and everything … I do adore pictures of that tower bridge you speak of … We have a tunnel or two here in the States … one of the most notable being the one under the Detroit River that ends up in Windsor, Canada. It leaks like a sieve and as you travel along in it you hope it will hold together but so far it has managed to do so. Your trip sounds like you had a lot of good times and for that I am pleased for you. Great and interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John. Luckily, our river tunnels do not leak! They were originally built in the Victorian age, by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He knew his tunnels! London after five years was a trial, but worth it to see great friends. Unfortunately, Julie is still quite ill, but being treated by her doctor.
      The Tower Bridge is a revelation indeed. My favourite thing in London. Often mistaken for London Bridge, which is something very different.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. One of the small joys in my life is hearing the radio 2 traffic reports when I’m wizzing along the A19 or suchlike, it always sounds like traffic in London is permanently on meltdown and I’m glad I’m out of it! Glad you had a good time and best wishes for a speedy recovery for Julie.

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  8. I don’t relish the big cities anymore either. I used to enjoy the hustle and bustle, but no longer now that I’m one of those old codgers! 🙂 But – at least the wedding went on as planned and your friends are happy!!

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  9. Sounds like you had a super time, Pete, even if the journey was horrible. The traffic around London is terrible. We use the fast train from Faversham and then the tube which isn’t too bad when you are on holiday. I would hate to have to do this trip every day though.

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  10. I’m sure it was great to catch up with old friends again, Pete.

    I’m lucky that now I have tried it’s very rare for me to need to be anywhere at a particular time. With that said, public transport is very good now. If one mode of travel is delayed, then there is usually another one, and the Tfl website is very informative. Also, there are good sat nav apps available to route you around traffic jams.

    I’m glad your had a good time back in the smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers, Ian. When I still lived in Camden, I went everywhere on a bus. But Norfolk to Dulwich is a mare on public transport. It was interesting to see it again, and to discover that it really had lost that ‘pull’.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. Thanks, Sarah. To travel by train, I would have to get to Dereham on a bus, then Norwich on a bus, then from Liverpool Street across to Waterloo, to get another train to Dulwich. It might have taken just as long, and I would have been carrying a suit-carrier, and bag. I also had to take an inflatable bed, and bedding! So on this occasion, it had to be the car.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  11. At least your wedding event went smoothly, but traffic in most big cities these days makes it impossible to enjoy the drive…London has that reputation, as do Los Angeles and New York here in the states, but they are unfortunately just the tip of the traffic jam iceberg!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well that was painful! And I thought the Seattle commute was bad! At least you all had a wonderful time once you got there and excepting the return home again. No wonder you haven’t been back till now. Time to walk Ollie in the countryside and breathe in the fresh air and slower pace! ☺

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