Thursday, 18 November 2010

Getting lost, and Wembley Again

Later that morning, the Saturday morning of Erika's mom's departure with her grandchildren, I accompanied Benedict to his football clinic, for lack of a better term. Normally we took a bus along the Great West Road, but that morning we missed it. Knowing how long it sometimes took for another bus to appear on Saturday mornings we elected to walk to the football facility. It only took about 25 minutes as we walked briskly on the chilly chilly morning, and this turned out to be the correct strategy since not one bus heading in our direction passed us. Four buses went in the opposite direction in that time. We were about 15 minutes late, but everyone else also appeared late so one could argue, rather lamely I suppose, that we were on time.

One of the boys whose acquaintance he'd made at the football club, Dominic, asked that he, Benedict, join him at his computer club after football. Dominic's mum, a very nice lady named Jackie, had offered to pick up Benedict along with her son after football, ply them both with some lunch, and then drop them off at the computer club for a few hours. Seemed like a jolly idea to Benedict. So that meant I had a few hours to myself and I endeavored to find a pub that we had passed on two occasions on different tour buses called the Famous Three Kings. I wanted to photograph the placard hanging outside the pub. Oh, and enjoy a pint with my pub grub for lunch.

As events transpired that morning and afternoon, I never did find the pub. I did, more or less, figure out its location, however. But time ran out before I could drag my bedraggled carcass to where I believed it to be as I needed to be home by 4pm to greet Benedict. Erika had plans for her own adventures that day. Quite good a good one, actually.

The whole story of my wandering aimlessly about southwest London some may find amusing, and please indulge me as I reveal some of the rather embarrassing details. After I dropped Benedict off I hurried back to the Great West Road. I remember that we passed the pub in the vicinity of Fuller Brewery, the only beer brewery remaining in London. I believed that the pub and brewery were on the Great West Road between my location and Heathrow. Mind you, I did not investigate Famous Three Kings pub's location anywhere; I simply assumed I was right. Ah, the self-destructive capacities of the male ego. Will we never learn?

While waiting for the west-bound route H91 bus, I took the following photographs.

This intersection is called Gillette Corner after the structure, the Gillette Building. The Gillette Building lies at the western terminus of a series of art deco buildings on the Great West Road called 'The Golden Mile'. If I can manage it I may yet product a photo essay of the art deco buildings on this stretch of road. Built in the 1930s the Gillette Building was, until just a few years ago, the European headquarters of the Gillette Company. It contained both offices and manufacturing facilities. Around five years ago offices and manufacturing moved somewhere to Eastern Europe and Gillette sold the building to a group intending to turn it into a hotel.
This art deco gem is just a couple hundred yards from Gillette Corner. I don't know what became of its original purpose prior to its becoming the Syon Clinic.
A couple of contemporary buildings. I had to wait quite some time for a bus to come by, so I took these photos.
I had never ventured farther west than Gillette Corner on the Great West Road. We passed the Osterley tube station. On this weekend service on the Piccadilly line was disturbed for maintenance work, and the section between Boston Manor tube station and Hammersmith (which included our local Northfields station) was closed. Passengers from Heathrow were shepherded off the tube at Osterley, one stop before Boston Manor, onto large coaches which drove them along the Great West Road to the Hammersmith tube station. My bus was a double decker, and as usual when going somewhere new on such a bus I sat upstairs to see the world better. Most of the buildings along the road itself were very nice homes. Eventually a more south Asian flavor emerged along the road. After a few miles the bus turned off the Great West Road and after about a mile the H91 bus line ended at the West Hounslow tube station on Bath Road. Behind the station a parking lot (car park, actually) held a very busy and varied flea market. Almost everyone at the market and on the very busy street--cars seemed backed up for miles going in either direction on the two-lane road--were Indian. I found another bus heading west on Bath Road (it really does end up in Bath--eventually). Traffic going west was easy going, but going east looked like a nightmare. When the bus came to a roundabout and began going to Heathrow on the Great Southwest Road (the continuation of the Great West Road with a different name) I knew I was going in the wrong direction. I got off the bus in the middle of nothing, really. I had to cross the busy road and hop over a short barrier without benefit of a cross walk--the nearest one was several hundred yards away--to get to the bus stop on the other side. I noticed an underground train passing parallel to the road. The Piccadilly line to Heathrow Airport. I got on the next bus and got off at the roundabout. This is what I saw:
We had passed this Tudor-style MacDonalds on the bus tour. The guide had told us that pubs doing poorly sometimes become fast food restaurants, and that's what happened here I was happy to encounter it again though I would have preferred the pub I searched for. See the picture on the middle gable? My guess is that the name of the pub used to be something like 'The White Night'. The interior theme is MacDonalds Moderne. It might have been more appropriate if it looked like the Tudor kitchen at Henry VIII's Hampton Court. I ordered a milk shake for sustenance despite the pervasive wind and chill, and then found a bus heading west on Bath Road. The traffic going east was horrendous, especially east of the roundabout. Going west was a dream. Except that after a couple of miles the road passed through a small canyon of hotels with which I was familiar. Benedict and I had been on this part of the road during our journey to join Erika and the SU students for the guided bus tour of London oh so many weeks (months?) ago. These were hotels for travelers using Heathrow. I was practically on top of the airport.

By this time I was ready to give up, go home, and take a nap. ('When the going gets tough, the tough go napping?') Recall that the traffic east bound on Bath Road just before and especially after the roundabout barely moved. It would take forever to get home. I was standing at a bus stop for east-bound buses. Many bus stops have maps of the bus lines in the area. I studied the map, wondering if there were an alternate way to get home when I noticed a tube station at Hatton Cross, the one Benedict and I emerged from that day on our way to the tour bus. A plan formed in my mind. The Piccadilly line was partially closed, but it was open to Boston Manor, only a short walk back to the house. I would take a bus the to Hatton Cross, take the tube to Boston Manor, walk home, and avoid the gawd-awful mess on Bath Road. The bus to Hatton Cross didn't stop where I was standing, so I walked to the bus stop I needed about 400 yards up the road, got on the next one, and relaxed. The route took us along the absolute eastern edge of the airport landing strips. Minutes later I was on the train out of Hatton Crossing, heading home, running next to the Great Southwest Road and right past the spot on the road where I crossed it to get to a bus stop.

But then I heard over the loudspeakers that riders wishing to continue to Hammersmith (remember that the Piccadilly line was closed for repairs between Boston Manor and Hammersmith) needed to get off at the Osterley station and board coaches that would cruise along on the Great West Road and drop them off at the Hammersmith tube station. Hmm, I thought. There's still time. It was only a bit after one o'clock. Maybe I could take the coach to Hammersmith and the H91 back on the Great West Road, stopping at the Famous Three Kings Pub for my picture of the placard (skipping the pint, to my regret), and maybe there would even be time to take some shots at some of the other architectural wonders on the Great West Road. At the last moment I jumped off the train at the Osterley station, waited patiently for about 15 minutes to get on a coach (the line was long, but a steady procession of private coaches kept us moving slowly....slowly....slowly), found a seat, and enjoyed the ride. Yes, indeed, we did pass the Fuller Brewery, but not the Famous Three Kings Pub. I must have missed it. I'll see it on the way back.

Hammersmith is much closer to the Thames than it seemed on the maps. From the coach it looked like there is a pleasant area to stroll along the river. But not today. Hammersmith is a major transportation hub. A huge underground and massive bus station unite to spiral people out to wherever they want to go in west London and beyond. The developers wisely put a major underground shopping mall amidst this very large confluence of transport options. But my interest was not in shopping. (Is it ever?) Before finding the bus I needed I had to get at least one picture of this building:
This building is simply called The Ark. I had to climb up a small wall adjacent to a busy street to get this picture. ('Whot's that bloke doin' up thair? Shou'dn't we call som'un'?) In some ways it's an architectural marvel although I've been told that it stands empty because of some structural defects, such as leaky plumbing. That more or less horizontal strip in front of the building is the Hammersmith Flyover. Click here for better images.

I find where to get on the H91, if it ever shows up. When I finally do I'm surprised it doesn't get on the Great West Road after leaving the station.. Instead it turns down King Street and pass the King's Mall Shopping Centre. We're inching along a major shopping avenue. Fascinating stores, even a German bakery. But surely we'll soon turn off and head to the Great West Road. But we don't. We pass Ravenscourt Park. We've picked up a little more momentum. Stamford Brock comes and goes. Still a fine street. By the time we reach Turnham Green the street has changed it's name to Chiswick High Road, which is just as well as we're soon in Chiswick, with its police station and the bus moving at a better clip when we're not stopping to allow passengers to enter and exit. It's shortly after the Gunnersbury tube station that the road enters a roundabout and comes out on the Great West Road. By this time the brewery, and presumably the pub--my Holy Grail--are behind us. At this point I could have gotten off the bus and taken some pictures, but time was running short. I got off at Windmill Road, missed the connecting E2 bus, and started walking home, passing through a park hidden behind the terraced homes ('terraced' means the houses have two stories). I made it home 15 minutes before Jackie and Dominic dropped off Benedict.

The next day, Sunday 6 November, Dominic joined us as we took the hour-long bus ride to Wembley. Benedict missed the tour with his cousins the previous week, and he wanted to see the stadium too. It was windy and chilly. Note that Benedict is only wearing a shirt and sweat shirt. He argues he's warm enough. His mother does not agree.

Benedict and Dominic give their condolences to the West German goalie who witnessed the controversial English goal in the 1966 World Cup helping England win it second World Cup. Well, Germany has won three World Cups, so there.
Our guide by the trophy case.
The American football markings have largely worn off since I was last there.
Perhaps the Roman influence is greater than I thought.

The replica silver Football Association cup.
We were made for each other. See how it matches my hair?
Benedict and Dominic in the home locker room.

Looking up at the Royal Box. The recently engaged Prince William is President of the FA and presents the cup.

Dominic and Benedict prepare for questions from members of the press.

The Wembley Arena with the Wembley Arch arcing behind it.
After lunch at a place designed as an American diner and owned by an Indian family and serving less-than-ideal hamburgers, we caught the bus for the hour-long ride home The area around Wembley is heavily Indian. We passed a large Hindu (we assume it was Hindu) temple, lots of Indian restaurants, shops selling colorful saris and dresses. Most Londoners tend to wear dark, dreary clothes. The color in this district is a welcome contrast.

The day was a success.


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