I decided to reverse the way I came to the UK, but going by bus to London for 4 days and then on to the airport. So I booked into the Hostel I was in before. Luckily tings had improved there over the year. They got rid of the miserable front staff and now have polite and helpful people (this was a major complaint on their website) They also had improved their entrance and gave free wi-fi instead of charging an arm and a leg for it. I was put one floor lower, whew, those stairs are a killer, but it was in season so my 6 bed room was full of 6 sweaty people. It was hot and muggy and the window opened only very slightly. Also because of Health and safety fire rules, every lading was closed by a fire door. Now I am sure that no fire would spread there, but the health of the occupants wrt fresh air was definitely compromised. Its funny how some issues take precedence over others..too bad if you cant breathe, at least you wont get burnt down. One fat Italian had luckily bought a fan that he kept running and we opened the fire door with a fire hydrant.
Unfortunately the same fat Italian was also a LOUD snorer. My earplugs were not designed for those decibels, but somehow, amongst the other MALE snorers, I managed to sleep. (As I said before, the rooms were mixed male/female..but I was the only female.
London was full of tourists, as it was holidays for most. This gave it a good vibe too. So I planned to meet some of my OLD friends there.
I first planned to go to Camden market to get some souvenirs to take home, despite the fact that I literally had no place in my suitcase, which was already overweight, but I decided to throw away some clothes, I had got too fat for. (yes, despite all that exercise and healthy food, I had put on weight! I put it down to the huge amount of carbs you end up eating on a low protein vegetarian diet, as you are constantly hungry. Also the fact that you cant buy a small bar of chocolate..they are ENORMOUS..so you end up eating it all in one sitting.) Camden market is some place you wont see anywhere. I had come previously with Amie (a German girl who had volunteered previously in SA and came to visit me in England).
They had this zulu restaurant with boerewors rolls for R180! (9 pounds).
I thought that I should first go to Portobello road market, as I had not yet been there. Well after that I didnt really need to go to Camden market, as I got all my souvenirs there. Its an incredibly long street lined with market stalls and shops, but difficult to find, as its not advertised.
There was this shop with literally hundreds of old singer sewing machines that echoed a similar one in camden market. In Malawi they would have been used, not just posing in the windows.
I wished I could buy more, but my bulging suitcase said no. I thought of sending some things home by post, but the cost was prohibitive. (R2000 for 5 kg). So more clothes got turfed out.
The next day I met my OLD friend, Andrew, and we walked to Kensington castle, which was where Lady Di used to live. Well, I am sure I would also have been depressed there..what an ugly square building..just lots of square rooms, and the garden was so formal and full of tourists. I am sure the paparazzi were lurking at every corner.
Then we found the memorial to prince Albert, the love of queen Victoria. Well you cant miss it..it is HUGE. She must have really loved him. At each corner of the memorial was a statue commemorating the conquered lands: Africa, Asia, Europe and America..it looked like she did it all for him.
Coming from an ex-colony, I was not impressed, and wondered what the “Rhodes must fall” group would have done. London is FULL of colonial relics. I found that the street leading to Trafalgar square had a statue of a (male) war hero very 100 yards or so, I began to wonder if that was all that was commemorated. then I found one for all The FEMALE war heroes…but war heroes nevertheless.
The worst was finding the funeral mask of Lord Kitchener in ST PAULS CATHEDRAL. He was responsible for the slash and burn tactics that led to the establishment of the first Concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer war that the Germans emulated so sadly in the second world war. Eventually 26,370 Afrikaner women and children (81% were children) died in the concentration camps. I am not surprised that he is guarded behind an iron gate, as I am sure his memorial would have been defaced..[.
Frederick Joubert Duquesne, a Boer soldier and spy, claimed that he had assassinated Kitchener after an earlier attempt to kill him in Cape Town failed. I was shocked that such a cruel man was lying in state in one of the most important Cathedrals. I wonder if one day he would be brought to justice by the ICC. (The ICC seems biased towards Africans and Germans)
Another sculpture that had SA echoes, was this one in Hyde park called ” Physical energy”. Three of these sculptures were created and one is at the Rhodes memorial in Cape Town! The artist: George Frederic Watts. It was dedicated to Cecil John Rhodes, but the plaque does not mention him at all.
Watts said the statue was “a symbol of that restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved in the domain of material things”. This was particularly appropriate for Cecil Rhodes, made his fortune before he was 30 and in 1880 established the De Beers mining company, which has dominated the diamond industry ever since.
Rhodes used his wealth to try to extend the British Empire in Africa from the Cape of Good Hope in the south to Cairo in the north. Rhodes’ dream came true shortly after he died when Britain took control of one million square miles of the Transvaal at the end of the Boer Wars. Rhodes left his fortune to Oxford University to fund the Rhodes Scholarships. the third sculpture is in Harare, Zimbabwe. “Rhodes must fall” would have a field day in London.
Talking about de Beers and gold and diamonds, we went to Harrods, and at last I saw where all the money has gone..well the SA gold and diamonds. As Trevor Noah said Britain never thought of giving the gold back, but that we could win it back at the olympics, one gold medal at a time. (I found out that each gold medal contains 0.1 ounce of gold. Thats a lot of medals to win!)
Harrods has to be seen to be believed. It is really a hub for the ultra rich, I am surprised they dont charge you to go in. Frankly, its quite embarrassing in its opulence in a world of so much poverty. When you flaunt riches like that, you are asking for economic migrants to come to your country. (I also wonder how much can be truly said to be earned rather than stolen at some point in history and even still.) I am afraid I felt quite sick.
The fashion, however, was unusual and creative, but totally unaffordable.
We walked down Baker street, where people were queueing to go two by two into Sherlock Holmes’ tiny house at 221B, then we went to Regents park, where we were serenaded by the open air theatre that was staging Jesus Christ Superstar, and sounded magnificent although we could only hear it. Other typical scenes were bobbies on the beat that still wear those Mr Plod hats, women doing a race for cancer awareness and many street performers..mostly levitators.
The next day I went to meet a colleague from Constantia Waldorf school..Eva Binamu, who is now Eva Godfrey, our wonderfully popular and under appreciated (by staff) eurhythmy teacher who is excelling at Kings Langley Waldorf school in London.
We had trouble meeting each other, as London roads were blocked off by a bicycle race similar to the Argus in cape town, (but not as big, even though they say theyre the biggest in the world..I have checked..its not as long and not as many people ride it). it raises funds for charity..see the flags and see my previous post about charity in the UK.
So finally we met at Kings cross station which is huge. The Eurostar to Paris leaves from here and so does the Hogwarts express, where I saw platform 9 and 3 quarters..with everyone in line trying to get a photograph next to a baggage trolley.
The new harry potter had just come out and a harry potter shop was doing a roaring trade in wands,owls and funny sweets.
The queue was too long to buy any momentoes. It was lovely seeing Eva, and we had a good skinder..although she’s too sweet to skinder. It was good to see how fully involved she was..a member of college and board, and planning to start a school in Tanzania.
Last and not least, I went to the Tate Modern again. A new wing had been opened that I wanted to see. By this time, my feet LITERALLY were blistered from walking, so I took the tube. First to Big ben and watched the hundreds of ways people were photographing it in all kinds of ways.
Then to the millenium bridge, which I walked over, admiring the contrasting views of St Pauls cathedral and the shard.
There were some of my favourite artists like Kandinsky, Matisse,
but not their best works, but the Picasso was my all time favourite,the weeping women, that I had seen many years ago in Paris. I ventured into the new wing that had HUGE spaces for HUGE art pieces. The installations were so odd: this was a mirrored installation, used as an excuse for a selfie…that I found I had mistaken an office for an installation. I found an interesting African artist making a comment on colonialism using a colonial desk, gold bullion and money. Active installations like the one of Marina Abramovic, who lets herself be abused by the pubic by displaying a host of items on a table that can be put on her, then videoing the results; and another woman artist from Bangladore, who uses human hair to knit these great spider webs. However, the installation that electrified the audiences who could not stop photographing was that of Jane Alexander, a South African artist who used a the red kalahari soil and created a surreal 3 dimensional landscape that stopped you in your tracks, with Chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, a commentary in the appropriate place on colonialism.
And so, my exploration of my colonial roots ended as I passed some vandalized bicycles to remind me that Britain is not so different to SA.
and in me pushing my overfull bags to the bus stop using a Tesco trolley bergie style, as I refused to pay the exorbitant taxi fare to get around the corner. I didnt take a photo of that! But this is me at the airport, using the disabled toilet so that I could get my baggage in with me, taking a selfie in the mirror.A
And so I headed home, having had some enlightening experiences and also VERY glad to be back in SA. My next blog will be looking at my own country from British eyes.