Posted: May 26, 2011 in Photography
Tags: , , , ,

I just poured boiling water into an empty mug. That’s how functional I am before my first coffee. Another episode to add to the ranks of my many other, pre-caffeinated brain farts; including (but by no means limited to) making a bowl of coffee, and testing whether the water was boiling by sticking my fingers in. Next up: shoving my fingers in a socket to test if the power is on. (As an aside: is Nescafe really weak these days or have I just developed a natural immunity? Three tablespoons later and it still tastes like coffee-flavoured water.)

But – returning to our adventures down south. The following morning, we made a second – decidedly more successful – attempt at visiting the Tower of London…and just about every other tourist destination in the city.

Our return brought us back to the bridge, which I approached through the viewfinder of my camera rather than with my eyes. Naturally, this caused me to smash my shins into a low-lying fence, though by some merciful miracle, I managed not to completely eat it.

Not that you can tell from this picture, but John laughed at me for the next five minutes as my shins continued to bleed.

Curse you, Tower Bridge!

We didn’t pay for the guided tour, but we did occasionally stand close enough to listen in.

This was actually John’s choice of destination. My knowledge of British (or indeed, any) history is appalling, so I wasn’t entirely sure why it constituted such a major attraction. (Failure of the Scottish education system: letting us choose between geography, history or modern studies at age 14. Now, if you want to talk about ox-bow lakes, I’m your man.)

Officially “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress”, the Tower of London is so named because of the White Tower in the centre of the castle. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, it was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from around 1100 onwards, although its primary purpose was actually to serve as a royal residence

The ravens of the Tower of London: a tradition that persists even to this day. They were originally believed to protect the Crown and the Tower, with a superstition foretelling that “If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” To ensure that the ravens don’t fly off and herald the end of the British monarchy, they actually keep their flight feathers clipped on one wing. As recompense, however, they’re treated more or less like royalty: living in a palace, waited on by servants and kept at public expense. The ravens in captivity in the Tower grounds have had lifespans of over 40 years.

Tower Bridge, as seen from the castle.

The Tower of London is the site of of several high-profile executions. Henry VIII had two of his wives beheaded on Tower Green: Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. On a slightly less grim note: the very first person imprisoned at the Tower was also the first person to escape it. Bishop Ranulf Flambard hosted a banquet for his captors and waited for them to get blindingly drunk before escaping down a rope he’d hidden in a cask of wine.

I’m guessing they upped the security afterwards.

People of that era: not John’s height.

Beefeater on his mobile. In 2007, a Scottish woman named Moira Cameron actually became the first female beefeater in history! 2 years later, two of her colleagues were fired for bullying her. :\

Cross-shaped window in the tower. I can’t decide which I like better: this or the one I took on Jane Badler.

Just past this scale model was the Jewel House: home to the (actual!) British crown jewels. Sadly, they was a strict “no photo” policy. (Rest assured that they were terribly pretty.)

The White Tower in full. As you’ve probably established from the construction crew, it was undergoing some heavy-duty renovations at the time.

There’s a minimum of six ravens at all times, with a seventh in reserve. They’re also colour-coded!

The interior of the White Tower houses the largest collection of ToL memorabilia. This is Henry VIII’s armour.

Um, someone’s overcompensating. (Actually, I was more struck by how fat the armour was. It’s almost as wide as it is tall!)

St John’s Chapel on the top floor.

Creepy executioner’s mask, slash 12th century Leatherface.

Aaaand then I was kind of over the Tower so we went to Starbucks.

We were going to climb Tower Bridge until we realised we’d have to pay for the privilege.

The Tower is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is…

…the Palace of Westminster! (a.k.a. the Houses of Parliament)

Hi, Big Ben! Which – as I discovered in Japan of all places – is actually the name of the bell, not the clock tower.

And just across the river: the London Eye.

As we were crossing the bridge towards the Eye, a crazy old lady with a full on Eliza Doolittle accent started rambling at us to buy her tinfoil flowers. (“Oh pleeze, sih: buy me flah’z! Fuh the kids ‘n the ‘ospi’uhl!”) Whilst we sadly did not buy her flowers, we did stop into said hospital to use their toilets. While John was waiting for outside, he was chatted up by a middle-aged gentlemen who may or may not have mistaken him for a hooker. (John would prefer to believe the latter.)

On the Eye! After being surpassed by the Star of Nanchang and then Singapore Flyer as the tallest ferris wheel in the world, it now describes itself as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.” Give it up, guys. It’s kind of slow and not an especially nice view, but I liked that we finally had a chance to just be still for an hour. We did, however, choose to go just as the sun started to set, which meant that we spent most of our time squinting against the glare.

The view on the other side is a slight improvement. There’s Big Ben in the corner there.

Spot the photobombing booty.

Back at Westminster Palace.

This is the 6 o’clock news.

Speaking of which, a news reporter I vaguely recognised stopped us just outside here and asked us (on camera) whether we thought Question Time should be more confrontational. His first mistake: assuming I’d ever watched Question Time in my life. We didn’t want to disappoint him, however, and dutifully dropped the coloured balls we were handed into the confrontation box.

Nerdy Asian boys with purses feature far less in my life nowadays than they should. I♥LDN

The glare we’d experience on the London Eye actually made for some beautiful, sunset lighting down here on the ground.

Westminster Abbey, which you may or may not recognise from a little wedding that happened there recently. Stick a bunch of in-breeds in a desert and it’s a horror movie. Put them in a castle and the whole world tunes in to see their wedding.

I should note, however, that John and I recently read a book called Faces in Places, and ever since he pointed it out, the only thing I see when I look at the Abbey is ˚∆˚

If that Union Jack in the lower corner had been at full mast, this would actually be the most tourist-gasmic picture in existence.

Apparently, at the Royal after-party, the newlyweds celebrated by drinking cocktails called “crack babies”. Crack babies around the globe toasted the couple by drinking “self-entitled in-breds”.

“I want to be a lady in a flower shop ‘stead of sellin’ at the corner o’ Tottenham Court Road!” (Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Portman: what more could a gay man want?!) This was taken after several hours spent shopping on Oxford St. and a slight textual altercation with John’s friend who we were supposed to visit while we were down. Needless to say, that didn’t end up happening.

And finally: back to the hotel, to survey the damage I’d done to my shins. Scarring: the souvenir that lasts a lifetime.

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