Thursday Nov. 27 –London
Today we would move through the underground rail network in much smaller groups and with everyone knowing how to work the system for themselves. Tyring to keep 32 people together is madness and so each person needed to be able to manage it for themselves in case of separation while in transit. Most of the group slept well and were ready for their next full day in London. Our first destination was Churchill’s War Cabinet rooms located in Westminster underground. We were supplied with individual headsets and off we went to be immersed in the story of this most famous wartime Prime Minister and his handling of the war. The complex was vast and housed radio rooms, map and strategy planning rooms, the private bedrooms of Churchill and Mrs Churchill…..both separate rooms …I guess he had a lot on his mind at that time!!!! The place was like a rabbit warren but oh so interesting.
From there we were off the Buck Palace to see the Changing of the Guard and as luck would have it the band and the horseys were marching down the Mall as we were making our way to the Palace. It was just awesome. The weather gods were smiling on us as the temperature was a warm 12 degrees and the sun poked its way through the clouds. Blue skies made photography just gorgeous. It was very special and the kids just loved it all. The Poms certainly know how to do the pageantry stuff superbly. Our next stop was the Australian War memorial in Hyde Park. The walk from the palace was lovely with squirrels everywhere. Wellington’s arch looked magnificent in the morning sun as did the perspective back over the park. Hyde Park corner is the location of one of the best memorials I have seen. It becomes an interactive experience as the place names of every Australian location where men enlisted from is etched into massive granite slabs. The town names are in no particular order so the search for your own town becomes a bit of a challenge. This creates a strong sense of just how many communities were affected by war in our country and consequently the memorial’s message is extremely powerful. Birdwood, Meningie, Point McLeay, Williamstown, Woodside, Callington, Yumali, Gumeracha, and many of our local towns were found much to the delight of the kids. Two group photos of the Birdwood and Meningie kids were taken next to their town’s name. This is the site where Anzac Day dawn services in London are held. In contrast the new New Zealand memorial in the opposite part of the park is a stark and rather grim looking affair with numerous black bits of steel poking out of the ground. Weird!
Tummies were screaming for food so back onto the tube and we were spat out at Piccadilly Circus next to the famous statue of Eros. Explaining the meal options, the group were rather disbelieving when I pointed out the Boots chemist across the road and said they sold sandwiches and rolls. The meal deal there was 3 pounds for a roll or sandwich, any snack and any drink – excellent value for the most expensive city in the world. Some wanted Maccas some the chemist meal (very weird buying your lunch from a pharmacy!!!) so we split up and met under Eros after lunch. Refreshed it was now time to venture off to the Imperial War museum, a place that would evoke a lot of discussion amongst the group later. All the major wars are represented in this very fine museum, the WW1 exhibits being of great interest obviously to our lot. The trench walk was excellent with quite confronting sensual experiences. But out of all of the exhibitions the one that affected the group the most was the Holocaust gallery. This is a place that everyone should visit. The archival footage of the Nazis rise to power and the establishment of the policy of exterminating the Jews were vividly portrayed. People walk through the exhibition in silence and the story is raw, ugly and very confronting. However when we regrouped at the end of our stay I was shocked that for some of our kids they had never heard of the holocaust and this story was totally new to them. This is the outcome of history being squeezed out of the curriculum and the next generation will suffer from a global ignorance that is quite scary in my opinion.
The final part to a very full day was an hour of fun at the largest toy store in the world, Hamleys. What a buzz this place is. In we piled for five floors of toys, teddies, crazy people demonstrating magic tricks, flying boomerangs ( display done by a South African young man on a working holiday in London!!!!) and every magical thing you could imagine. It was a lot of fun but by six o’clock we were stuffed. Making our way back to the hotel through the busiest time of the day was a total nightmare. Tea was a choice thing with some opting for rolls from a deli and for the rest of us we stayed in the hotel and discovered an Italian menu of excellent value. That will be the go for tomorrow night I reckon. At 8.30 when I sent everyone off to bed there were no grumbles at all. Sleep was divine.