Saturday, 13 June 2015

A day out of the comfort zone

It's been a busy day - and for me quite an unusual one. I've never been a fan of London, finding it far too busy and full of ignorant people who care about nothing but themselves, but as it seems that the entire country's railway network leads there it's the logical place for three old school chums to meet up when they're scattered across the southern half of England.
Andy and Steve are the only guys from school that I've kept in touch with, and every so often we make the effort to meet up for a day. Previous occasions have had varying degrees of success, partly due to the issues I have with crowds. Last time it was all going fine until we wandered into Covent Garden and I just completely lost my shit. One panic attack and a mad dash for freedom later it was all I could do to get the boys to get me back to Kings Cross so I could get the train home. I was a nervous wreck.
Determined not to risk a repeat performance, this time we decided to make sure we avoided the obvious tourist traps and actually have a plan of what we would do.

We met up at Kings Cross and jumped on the Northern Line towards Hendon where we'd planned to investigate the RAF Museum.
Not really knowing what to expect, we were amazed that anywhere with free admission could be so good. Although not up to the level of Duxford Imperial War Museum, this place was quite a surprise.
It's really well laid out with planes spanning the years from Bleriot to the Eurofighter, and an almost inexhaustible supply of other exhibits. We could probably have spent the entire day there, but stomachs were growling and although there was plenty to eat in the museum restaurant, we'd already decided to eat at Wagamama.
This was my first foray into Japanese cuisine, and I have to say I can't wait to repeat the experience. Luckily there's also a Wagamama in Cambridge so at least I don't need to go far to indulge myself.
Next stop was Hampstead for a walk on the heath, hoping to find a decent vantage point with views across the city. This met with limited success due to the amount of trees blocking the view and the question of exactly how much more walking my knee would be able to cope with, but the prospect of finding a pub for a nice pint of ale revitalised our efforts.
The Wells Tavern on Christchurch Hill provided the necessary refreshment, as it looked a decent place and was conveniently en-route to Hampstead tube station. Having happily declared that I'd get this round in, it was with some trepidation that I waited for the barman to announce the cost, imagining London's reputation for beer prices would leave me needing a second mortgage to fund three pints. It was the day's second big surprise when it turned out to be about the same as I'd expect to pay in Cambridge.
Returning to Kings Cross the three of us parted ways and I spent the time until my train was ready for boarding by people watching, which is always good entertainment. You really do see all sorts in places like that.

Even though I woke up this morning not really wanting to go, I'm now sitting here glad that I did it.
Central London is a living nightmare for me, but spending time away from that bit reveals another side to the city which is far more acceptable. Having learned from this, I expect future meetings of the Swavesey Village College massive will take in other attractions away from the bustle of the tourist infested shopping extravaganza that is central London, and be all the better for it. Who knows, little by little perhaps eventually my comfort zone will get expanded. Don't hold your breath though.

Even a bit of war doesn't damped a Brit's ability to take the piss,
as this quote from Goering written on the side of a Lancaster proves....