London Duck Tour

30May10

 As part of Rumpus’ recent birthday festivities, I took the children and their cousin on a London Duck Tour … a short trip on a bright yellow WWII amphibious landing vehicle around the streets of Westminster and Lambeth and up the Thames. Although I’ve lived in and around London for over 20 years now, I’ve never taken a tour, and probably never would have if Rumpus hadn’t expressed such an interest in this strange vehicle.

Of course, I took my camera. I wasn’t sure how many photos I’d take, purely because I was responsible for 4 highly excited children for the duration and was concerned about how many of them I was going to need to fish out of the river 😉 … and because taking photos from a moving vehicle is rarely a satisfying experience.

It was interesting to see the usual tourist attractions, but I found my eye drawn to the more unusual sights along the way … I loved the structural lines and severity of the old Waterloo International Terminal:

I never knew until this trip that there was a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square. It is an unusual image of him … normally he is seated in his big chair, but here he is standing – whether out of respect for the democratic institution he is facing, or out of respect for the Queen I’m not sure.

I wonder what he would make of the rainbow coalition of protestors filling the green outside parliament – everyone from Stop the War to stop Tescos seemed to be protesting today, and our most unenvironmentally friendly transport was at one point surrounded by a purple posse of protesting cyclists. Democracy in action, or malcontented rabble? Winston Churchill (you can see his feet here) definitely didn’t look happy – probably worried he might get another turf mohican at any point.

Away from the serious side of things, the streets of London were as busy as they always are on a Saturday afternoon … I love the way the plate glass windows allows us to see both the people enjoying a quiet five minutes inside, whilst showing us the reflected rush of people on the street beyond.

Unexpectedly, I found my patriotism stirred by this statue of Richard the Lionheart … an impressive figure outside the Houses of Parliament. The upraised sword signifies that he died in battle ….

It was a curious journey … everywhere we went, parks and green spaces were filled with bright papier-mache elephant sculptures ….

When the Lions drink, London Sinks … along the Thames, these mooring rings line the South Bank. When the tidal Thames overran the lions’ mouths, London would flood. This isn’t a problem anymore, now we have the Thames Barrier in position to restrain the wilder surges of the dark river.

The symmetry of the support structure underneath Lambeth bridge makes for an interesting image …. this appealed to the textile artist in me, strongly reminding me of a complex patchwork with its strong geometric lines and contrasts between dark and light.

All along the stretch of the Thames we travelled, massive barges were anchored. They largely seemed to be repositories for industrial rubbish … but it struck me as incongruous that all these banqueting chairs should be stacked so high on this one ….

And the final shot … perhaps more conventional, and what one would expect of a tour of London’s attractions …. but it *is* a pretty impressive building. Apparently, the architect went mad just before it was completed.

A good day out … and Rumpus (and the other children) had a fabulous time … and I saw a side of London I’d not seen before. Interesting how viewing the familiar from a slightly different perspective can change your perceptions.

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