Saturday, November 26th 2016
After the relatively mild months of September and October, the weather has turned very cold. Even though the thermometer has so far rarely fallen below freezing, we have experienced a very British cold, a damp, biting cold that sneaks down your neck and up your sleeves and trouser legs however warmly you dress. It has put a damper on our enthusiasm for getting out and about. At weekends, we have tended to dash out for breakfast, and perhaps the weekly shopping, and then to dash home again where it has been comforting to lie on the bed and read.
This week contains that curious day called Black Friday when retailers make plans to bamboozle people into thinking that prices have been slashed on their goods. Mostly this is sleight of hand and clever, if mendacious, advertising though I am told that careful shopper can pick up a bargain here and there. So successful has this annual event become that Black Friday has spread itself out and it would now be more appropriate to speak of Black Weekend. The above photo was taken on the way home from work yesterday evening and shows Leadenhall Market, packed as usual on Friday evenings, with City workers celebrating the end of the working week.
We had arranged to meet friends today, it being our last chance to see them before Christmas as they are soon making their annual trip to Bruges to enjoy the Christmas Markets and everything that goes with them. In view of the weather, we had agreed to meet them in Stratford (East London) in the big shopping centre called Westfield. There are cafes where you can sit and chat and shops to roam around if you become bored. And, above all, it is sheltered from the cold!
A quick and easy way to get to Stratford from the Angel is to walk or take the bus to St Pancras and there take the HS1 train to the station pompously (and inaccurately) called Stratford International. (Whoever named it presumably hoped that the Eurostar could be persuaded to stop here on its way south, a hope that has never been realized.) Stratford did enjoy a brief flash of glory in 2012 when some of the Olympic events took place there in the stadium specially built for the purpose.
Disembarking at Stratford, we went straight to the Westfield Shopping Centre. As we reached it early, there were still relatively few shoppers about and one could stroll about comfortably and explore the shops which were just getting ready for what they expected to be the busy day ahead. Later, this would change…
After wandering around for a while, we took up position in the Marks & Spencer store’s cafe as this would be an easy place for our friends to find us. They did so and the question then was ‘What do we do now?’ and the obvious answer was ‘Stay right here and have some more tea!’ So we did this and spent some time catching up as friends do.
The shopping centre has several floors – I’m not sure whether it is three or four or even more – and at intervals there are light wells down which you can peer at the floor below and frighten yourself by imaging falling over the low barrier. (I’m surprised no one has yet thought of committing suicide by jumping.)
We thought that as we were, after all, in a large retail centre, we should at least take a tour around. So we did so, each pair following its own itinerary with plans to meet up again later. By now the crowds were noticeably denser and it was becoming more difficult to move about, especially in the interior of the shops. I didn’t envy the shop assistants having to deal with a this heaving mass of potential customers.
We now saw our friends to the station to start their journey home while we returned to continue our explorations. The crowds were now so thick, not only with bargain-hunting shoppers, but also with sight-seers and groups of young people who these days use shopping centres as places where they can meet and ‘hang out’, that we gave up and decided to head for home.
This photo is a view from a window in the shopping centre showing the big pedestrian bridge that crosses the railway lines to the bus station. We crossed it ourselves as we had decided to travel home by bus rather than the train.
We changed buses at a stop which London Transport calls Bow Church. The church in question is the parish church of St Mary and the Holy Trinity at Bow and we visited it on a previous occasion (see Bow Church and some other bits).
We had to wait a while for the bus and as it was now quite cold, I was relieved to see it arrive. Before boarding, though, I took a photo of the sunset sky.