The Return of the Naive

Yes, I was naive, thinking my return to the business battle field would be relatively relaxed. I reverted to my old 12 hour (minimum) day on the first day. It stayed like that throughout. Two long haul flights in five days have left my mind and body a little discombobulated. I watched several films on the ‘planes, most of which disappointed. I enjoyed The Book Thief but I yawned my way through The Invisible Woman, which relates the story of Charles Dickens’ love affair with a young unmarried woman. I had hoped it might be entertaining but alas, my great expectations were dashed.  I can’t quite make my mind up about The Best Offer. I quite enjoyed the story but the ending was not exactly difficult to guess. I looked in vain to see if there might be a screen adaptation of And Then Like My Dreams…………… not yet.

I was pleasantly surprised by Cathay Pacific – much improved since I was a frequent victim. London was distinctly chilly and overcast, although not as overcast it seems as Hong Kong which greeted me back with a storm. Après moi, le déluge?

I took some photographs on my sole free afternoon. It was Sunday so the streets were relatively deserted. No bookshops open, no restaurants beckoning me in. Just the odd coffee shop. To be honest there was an extensive range of haute cuisine available at the railway station, where even on The Lord’s Day people squint up at the departure boards, hoping the 11.53 to Colchester will be on time, or perhaps the 14.02 to Much Binding in the Marsh. Travellers are by their nature optimists, destined to have their good nature tested to the breaking point by the vicissitudes that are the very essence of the British rail system and weather. I was happy to wander around and take a few snaps with the X100s I had tucked into my luggage. Before we get to the Kodak-copia of fine art I would like to warn you that exiting Britain through T3 at LHR is not now for the faint hearted. For the first time in my life I was tested for explosives. Very politely and with a soupçon of humour and to the relief of us both I am sure, I was officially semtex negative. I shall add it to the piece of paper that records my blood group.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street bears this splendid lion’s head.


It is unusual to see Leadenhall Market so empty.

Leadenhall Market

The somewhat grimy roof of Liverpool Street Station

Liverpool SS roof

Ants on the move. I had several goes at this as I needed a longish exposure to get some movement but I forgot that the illuminated boards were changing. This was the only one where they seem not to have done so.

Liverpool Street

Just look above eye-level in London and you will find things to catch your eye everywhere.Metropolitan University2

And a touch of nostalgia. I worked in this building for many years. Indeed my desk was one of many that was covered in shards of glass and debris after an IRA bomb went off. I forget now which one. Maybe the Baltic Exchange. And I sat in here when the IRA bombed The Stock Exchange, 2 minutes walk away. Now called, with stunning originality, Tower 42 (it has 42 floors), it was then the iconic NatWest Tower.




26 thoughts on “The Return of the Naive

  1. Ah, Liverpool St station. What memories come flooding back seeing that roof again. I spent much of my youth going up and down to London from Suffolk on those trains. When I was quite tiny, around 6 yrs old, my mother parcelled me and my little brother down to London to stay with an aunt. She attached a brown luggage label to my coat with the address in Notting Hill where we were going to be staying. Those were days!
    Glad you are back safe. Your trip sounds exhausting but it must have been fun to re-visit past haunts.

    • Thanks Lottie. Yes I quite enjoyed it but hit the wall on Wednesday. I had an early morning video-con on Thursday and was then highly relieved to be whisked off to the airport. I can’t believe these days mums and dads would send their kiddies, Paddington Bear style, to Notting Hill. Lucky you didn’t bump into Rolf Harris I suppose.

  2. Who is GREGNOG VLIELMI? Your work schedule does sound a bit much, especially now that you are more used to a gentleman’s life of leisure. At least you did have Sunday and the opportunity for a walkabout with the X100s.
    Was this a one time thing, or will you be expected to make more of these trips, Andrew? Seems an awfully long journey for just a few days of work.

    • Steve, I think GREGNOG VLIELMI is Welsh for Abandon Hope. Either that or it is something to do with it being founded in the reign of Bill the Third. I sincerely hope this was a one off trip. I have some short haul work trips in prospect and one long haul holiday. That’s it for June.

  3. Thank you for sharing your trip to ‘The Smoke’ very much enjoyed the descriptive too.
    How familiar all the sights were,
    Should I attempt to supress any urge to return?

    • Geoff, do not go back. Everybody looks so stressed. The sights are available without working. So a few days in town, yes but working no. I love driving past the NatHist Museum and the V&A – fabulous buildings. And The Strand and Fleet Street are amazing. So much history. That will do me fine.

  4. And how are you, m’dear, after the discombobulation ? How much air did Cathay give you to breathe ? Presumably just enough … These bastards really do need to make their budget cuts in a different area … Why were the Leadenhall markets empty ? – was it Sunday or something ? Tower 42 looks like an irresistible invitation to all England’s insane immigrants, to me …

  5. Lovely photos, you do do a good job. Having been declared semtex-free, I would have been tempted to ask if I might still break wind… 🙂 Sometimes my sense of humour gets me into trouble.


    • I don’t think it is wise to joke with security bods, AV. Perhaps a gentle parp and walk on but these chaps are not hired for their humour, alas.

  6. My expectations diminished by the minute with the Invisible Woman. And I too await the screen version of And Then Like My Dreams. I rather like the improvements to London’s railway stations but have never been to Liverpool Street. Happy Homecomings.

    • Thank you Simon. The stations are certainly improved. I am not sure about the railway service though. There were still plenty of frustrated faces looking at signs saying ‘delayed’.

  7. I was hoping, but not seriously expecting, that you would find time to blog during your trip. Your captivating photo collage is a surprise icing on that cake. Instant nostalgia is indeed right, although I’m sorry you were reminded of such an unfortunate incident that will take generations to sort out.

    And what are the odds that the phrase “après moi le deluge” popped into my head for no reason, the day before your blog?

    Thanks for taking us along with you, Andrew!

    • I did think of trying to blog but the work hours were too intensive. On the second day I finished at gone 9pm, which was 4am HK time on my body clock. I can never walk along Old Broad Street without thinking of the bad days. I also find my mind going back to the Clapham rail crash. I was on the train that went through before. My colleague and his wife were on the wrong train and were badly hurt. London holds very mixed memories for me.

  8. Nice pics, especially the grimy roof – would make a great pencil drawing. I worked through the IRA bombing campaign – being vigilant became a way of life then. I don’t think we ever became complacent though, and I started walking long distances rather than use the tube which stood me in good stead for knowing my way around the whole of the capital. Younger folk view London’s layout as the underground map, which we all know is flawed!

    • I used to use The Drain each day, Jenny. I would come out at Bank and walk up to Old Broad Street. I rarely needed to use the main underground system. With hindsight The Drain would have been a prime target. The signals were manned by George, who must have been about 110. He frequently did not turn up so we would race across to Waterloo East and get on the train to London Bridge. Then it was a hike to the office. I don’t miss those days.

  9. I like that picture of the railway station. You said everything was closed or shut down on the Sunday. No bookshops open! Do they read in secret in London, behind closed doors?
    I thought is was a bustling city 7/24.
    Anyway, after many years I have finally managed to delete the date on my camera. M-R said R.T.F.M which I have never been able to do on any gadget without dropping into a deep comatose valley of (almost) no return. I braved the default button and it must have done the trick.

    • Gerard, The City is the business centre of London so the offices are closed. Most of the shops in this area serve office workers so they simply shut at weekends.

      I am a huge fan of not reading manuals. RTFM really is the last resort but I’m glad you defaulted to your desired end state and are now dateless.

  10. The book thief is a good film and a great book, naivety aside at least you got some nice shots from the trip. Really like the natwest tower, I mean tower, no I mean tower 42, the black and white works well.

  11. the leadenhall shot is eerily apocalyptic. i still have to do a weekly commute from the nw to london. on arrival at euston and shortly afterwards being smashed into an underground carriage at rush hour, makes me both marvel at the infrastructure and despair at the slavish lives many people lead on a daily basis. it’s far more civilised in skegness, so i’m told ^.^

  12. I’m glad you survived the revisit. I love London for the odd day (we were there yesterday), but my husband is infinitely glad that his Liverpool Station through-scrambles are now off-peak, even when they are work-related. Like Jenny, I think the station roof, as depicted by you, has a pencil drawing quality to it. We are semtex negative too, I have been trying to imagine the scenario when they get a positive reading…

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