O Lights of London Town
The way was long and weary,
But gallantly they strode,
A country lad and lassie,
Along the heavy road!
The night was dark and stormy,
But blithe of heart were they,
For shining in the distance,
The lights of London lay!
O gleaming lights of London,
That gem of the city’s crown,
What fortunes be within you,
O Lights of London Town!
(From the ballad, 'Lights of London' by George Robert Sims, a not so well-know English journalist and dramatic author)
Londinium, as it was originally called, was established as a town by the Romans. The name Londinium is thought to be pre-Roman in origin although there is no consensus on what it means. Who wants to know? London is London.
Well, the 'country lad and lassie' touched down at London's Heathrow airport on the evening of 4th October. The night wasn’t dark and stormy; but yes, shining in the distance, the lights of London lay.
|Stunning architecture - the entrance to London's Natural History Museum
|Click to zoom!
It was a long walk from the aerobridge to the immigration desk; so you can well image the airport size. And this was only terminal 3. The immigration area was packed. Many flights had landed and brought in people from all over. Everyone was slotted into ‘Qs’ and awaited their turn. Some were cleared without much delay; some were thoroughly grilled, especially by this stout, black lady who apparently needed lots of convincing before granting entry. What with maniacs out there wanting to cause trouble, it’s but natural to expect these immigration officers being so tough.
|Nothing fancy, but comfortable and
cozy. Room 404 at the Blakemore Hotel
|Click to zoom!
An hour of waiting and then came our turn. We were directed to the stout, black lady's counter and I had my fingers crossed. Surprisingly, we were cleared in about 5 minutes. We had proper papers, our reasons for visiting England were genuine and I guess being straightforward and honest helped. Relieved, we hurried to the baggage collection area and made our way towards the exit.
I was desperate for a smoke; more than 10 hours and not a puff. I found this sign 'Smoking Zone' and promptly headed for it. But before I could light my Gold Flake King, we were approached by an Asian, all suited and booted. Was he an Indian, a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi? It didn’t matter; they all look the same.
"Want a taxi?" he asked. I replied 'yes' and told him we wanted to go to The Blakemore Hotel in Bayswater. "Baywater, eh? Blakemore, eh? Sure, I know it. That'll be 60 pounds." I was prepared. Nigel had told me that the Black Cabs would charge 40 pounds and so I told our friend, "Look pal, I have friends here and who’ve told me that 40 pounds is what it costs to Bayswater. So, take it or leave it. I'll find a Black Cab at the Taxi stand." He came down to 50; I said 'no' and started to walk towards the Taxi stand. He made a final pitch for 45 pounds; we kept walking. Eventually he agreed for 40 pounds, punched some numbers on his cell phone and in less than 5 minutes a car came over. We put our bags in the boot and hopped in. The driver – another Asian – took the wheel and we were on our way.
|Piccadilly Circus - junction
of five busy streets -
a famous London Landmark
|Click to zoom!
As we drove towards the city, London triggered off a host of memories of 15 years ago. Mona sat in stunned silence absorbing in the ‘culture shock’ she was witnessing. No blaring horns; traffic lane discipline; no mad overtaking; smooth roads; no bumps or potholes in sight; no cows and buffaloes grazing on the green of the medians; well lit roads; traffic lights that actually work; no traffic jams with or without VIP movement.
Wow! The fascination of this amazing city had just begun to sink into Mona.
Next: Room 404