Visit all the boring,...
Visit all the boring, worn-out, predictable standards: Buckingham Palace (a coincidential forced smile of some royal family member might give your life a new meaning - that of being plebean but free), Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar and Piccadilly, Tower and Globe. Take a refreshing splash in the fountain at the Trafalgar Square if you happen to be there during the hottest summer in the last six milleniums.
Riding the tube. Seriously, I never got sick of that! And yes, the man who laughed so much that he left a wet seat behind him... Hm?
The Wobbly Bridge
The real name of the new bridge that, with Peter's Hill, links St Paul's to Tate Modern is the Millenium Bridge because it was built for the Millenium celebrations. However, in the mind of Londoners, it is doomed to be remembered as the Wobbly Bridge. This is all due to a well-known physics problem.
The bridge was meant to be revolutionary in terms of construction. It is a suspended bridge. Nothing exceptional there. However, the suspension cables are not suspending the bridge from above, as is normally done, but from the sides. This gives the bridge a low and very slender profile. And it was the first bridge to be built on the Thames for decades. Perfect for a great PR campaign and a pompous opening.
What really happened was rather unexpected. The bridge had a natural swinging phase of approximately one second, which is very close to the natural human step. It was therefore asked whether the army regiment phenomenon would apply.
Any person walking on a bridge makes it swing, albeit very slightly. But when an infantry regiment, walking in step, crosses a bridge, the effect is magnified and the bridge starts swinging violently, until it breaks. This is why infantry regiments always break step before stepping on a bridge.
Thus, the question was asked whether this would apply here. The answer was that, because the bridge would never have army regiments crossing it in step, there was no problem. This was counting without the human body's built in behaviour.
The bridge was open, with the due amount of newpapers and famous people doing speeches with the word 'Millenium' in it. Then, they started crossing it. Obviously, being members of the public, they were all walking at their own step. However, the natural phase of the bridge being 1 second, close to the human step, an interesting phenomenon occured. The bodies of the people crossing the bridge automatically reacted to the swing and, to make the walk more comfortable, automatically synchronised with the bridge. Thus everybody, unexpectedly and without realising it, started walking in phase with the bridge and with each other, like an infantry regiment. And the bridge started to swing and swing, making people physically sick.
No need to say that the bridge was closed just after being officially opened. Newpapers threw the expected amount of verbal fire and satire to everbody responsible, deploring the state of a country where such gross mistakes could be made at the expense of the taxpayer, and so on. Everything newpapers would do on such an occasion. Some expensive works were done to stiffen the bridge and significantly shorten its natural swing phase. It re-opened in 2002, with no PR campaign, having missed the Millenium celebrations.
After all these years you discover something new..
I was quite stunned recently to have pointed out to me a couple of what initially looked like manhole covers whilst in Brick Lane, East London.
It was actually of a palm of a hand with veins on it. Apparantly in the days when most shops were no more than the front room of a private house these things were a form of advertising for the illiterate. Clearly this one signified that a palm reader could be found closeby.
A little further up the road was another one with children and pencils on it - unsurprisingly it was outside a school.
There are still several hundred of these things if you know where to look - like in Brick lane.
P.S I was informed by VT'er Transient Temp that many of these 'roundels' are in fact modern - created by the artist Keith Bowler. I have yet to get to the bottom of matter as to how many (if any) are original.
P.S My favourite sign is shown in the picture !
While travelling on the London Underground (and for that matter at any other time in London) avoid eye contact with fellow passengers at all times and under no circumstances talk to anyone that you do not know. Failing to heed this advice may result in accusations of you being insane, or worse. Why risk losing that wonderful sense of loneliness and isolation by meeting another friendly human being?
Another heinous crime in London is to stand on the left hand side of the escalator. If you want to stand, and let the escalator do the work, do so on the right. The left is reserved for those people who can't waste a second in life and need to run up and down escalators.
Mind the gap!
A familiar announcement on the Underground. With straight train carriages and curvy platforms there is sometimes a gap between the platform and the train when you get on or off. Be careful, especially on very curvy platforms.
Creature Comforts for North Americans
Facecloths: They don't use facecloths in most places throughout the UK. So bring one if you can't go without. Do not decide it's a good idea to use the hand towel instead to vigorously scrub because you'll get bright red scuff marks all over your face right before the big VT meet where people take photos like crazy.
Coffee Cream: Another thing they go without in the UK. Not even Starbucks has cream for the coffee here. After a week of nothing but milk in your coffee, you'll be dying for that creamy rich taste! Steal packets of Coffee Mate to bring with you. Better yet, bring a flask and fill it with cream from a corner store.
Rootbeer: Ummm.... Better to just forget about trying to order a rootbeer anywhere. Have one before you go over.