So my trip on Thursday 27th June to the Big Smoke had a two-fold purpose. One to meet the requirements of my appointment at The Arthur Steele Clinic on City Road with Mr Julian Stevens MRCP, FRCS, FRCOphth., DO and the other to catch up with my good friend Ric Barham for lunch, then both enjoy an afternoon at Greenwich with our cameras and hopefully get in to see The Visions of The Universe exhibition.
Travelling on London's Tube is always a fascinating experience and for many years I did this every day without a thought commuting to work. Even as a child, I had to use the Tube living in the suburbs of London and was once stuck underground going home from a dental appointment at Wimpole Street escorted by my heavily pregnant mother, sweltering for 4 hours between Stratford and Leytonstone where some inconsiderate lady had decided to end it all on the tracks, but hadn't quite managed it. In case no-one is aware of this fact, it was procedure on London Underground then that if a 'jumper' was not dead, they couldn't turn off the power and let everyone walk through the trains to safety, the heavy lifting equipment had to be brought in to hoist the train off the track so they could retrieve what was left of the unfortunate person. I also recall waiting for an eastbound train on Embankment station in the mid-1990s when a briefcase bearing gentleman decided to step straight off in front of me on the other side, just as the westbound train pulled into the station. A sure-fire way to quickly clear 2 platforms of commuters if ever there was one.
But on Thursday last the trains were looking good, it was 10.00am so all the rush below street level had dissolved into a few late risers and eager tourists. Between changes at Bank for the Northern Line I even had time to let a train go in order to try out the sports mode on the Canon 700D.
|Northern Line at Bank|
At Old Street station I was pleased to see the little dress shop that I like still there, although disappointed at the range of clothing currently on sale. I emerged into breezy daylight and headed to my appointment at 11.30am. Had a little trouble trying to get the receptionist to answer the intercom, but then realised I was on the wrong floor! It's been a while since a checkup so I went through an eye test and lots of staring through expensive and futuristic equipment before I got to see Mr Stevens. I had my eyes treated here in the 1990s under Moorfields excimer laser photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) surgery programme. My eyes were treated separately over a 6 month period, costing £500 each. During 2007 I was treated a second time by LASIK on my right eye as it had slightly reverted back, this time however Mr Stevens had reverted back to the private clinic and the cost was significantly higher at £800 per eye. Since that time I have had 20/20 vision, although due to my increasing age, I use reading glasses of +1 just to help nature out a bit. I have never regretted having the surgery as contacts and glasses were just as expensive.
Thankfully my 2 hour stint in the clinic turned out fine and all was well with my eyes, just a little massage needed to get my oil glands going (who knew you had oil glands in your eyelids!). I was very hungry having resisted the temptation in the clinic to help myself to Hobnobs and other treats on offer. I then headed over to London Bridge to meet my friend Ric who manages a number of buildings around St Thomas's Street for Great Portland Estates.
I can never get the whole of this building into the frame! A much wider angle lens required I believe....sigh, all these hobbies cost dosh, dosh and more dosh.
A short drive to Greenwich ensued and we parked close to The Trafalgar Tavern.
I hadn't tested this particular watering hole before, but we were both more than ready to eat. I should mention that Ric recently went through an amazing operation that resulted in extreme weight loss, so he warned me that eating lunch would be a slower affair than usual.
I'm impressed by the progress Ric has made in the last few months and he's looking very healthy and a lot happier for it. It's been a long road psychologically too, I applaud his determination and bravery for going through such a hard few months. Well done mate!
Oooh, what a view of the O2 from the Tavern:
food menu with a side of fries, I had never tried that fish before. We sat down and pulled out both our cameras, fussing over this setting and that, comparing apps on iphones too. I'm a newbie with my iphone, so all assistance helps!
Ric has been interested in photography, particularly the wildlife sort for a long time. I've always been interested in taking pictures on holidays, day trips and the like, but never really seriously. I learn a lot from my good friend this particular day, in fact I'm shown an amazing trick to widen the angle of my Canon 700D 18-55mm IS II lens as he quickly pulls out a small 1 inch deep adaptor and screws it onto the front of my lens..."now look through that" he says:
As I look through the viewfinder, I am blown away by the difference, even taken through the grubby glass of the Trafalgar Tavern on a less than bright day, this is impressive for me.
This adaptor also doubles as a macro lens
The food arrives and initially I look pensively at the breaded deep fried whitebait in front of me as I can see two little eyes peeping through the batter....ah well, in for a penny in for a pound.
|Twinkle before the food|
The whitebait at the pub came with a lemon and paprika dip which served for me to ignore the eyes a bit. However, on reflection now I have to admit one of them did taste a bit....strange. But, I had already swallowed it. I think I looked quite happy before lunch in this photo!
We left The Trafalgar after about 2 hours and headed across to our destination, the Visions of the Universe Exhibition at the Maritime Museum. The museum was a short 15 minute stroll from the Tavern. Just before entering to purchase our tickets, Ric commented that the running waterfall outside close by the ship in the bottle would make a good photographic shot.
Was this deja vu?
At the desk we were told we could not take photos inside the exhibition. Our tickets purchased, we strolled inside with much anticipation and I nabbed a snap of Ric under the banner with my phone. The first photograph you are confronted with inside the dark room is that of Sir Patrick Moore. The exhibition is dedicated to his memory, I will always remember him with much fondness as he provided my first interest in astronomy and space at the tender age of 8 with The Sky at Night programme. There are over 100 fantastic images of the cosmos at this exhibition and I thoroughly recommend a visit.
I was a bit peeved that some guy was snapping away with his 'point and shoot' at the photos inside and made a point of informing the security guard, to which she replied "Yes, you can take pictures, I'm sorry you were mis-informed". Had I known this, I think I would have asked Ric to take a picture of me sat in front of Mount Sharp with what happened next.
We had only been inside the exhibition 10 minutes when I began to feel very hot, particularly on my hands and feet. They were on fire and I was scratching frantically. It was quite dark inside the exhibition so I couldn't really see what was going on, but after a while I had to find a seat. That seat happened to be slap bang in front of the massive panoramic photo of Mount Sharp on Mars. My sandals came off and I rubbed my feet on the cold carpet, I must have looked quite a sight scratching like some bear against a pole. At the end of this seat a young far eastern girl was coughing and spluttering constantly and I hastily shifted away from her. Ric kept asking me if I was alright and clearly this wasn't the case.
I managed this quick snap inside but, after 20 minutes I couldn't stand it any longer, In a quiet whisper that felt more like a roar in my head I said, "Ric, I've got to get out of here NOW, I'm really sorry". I think I almost ran out, calling over my shoulder for him to grab me a coffee. Out the front door by the Ship's bottle I sped towards the running water exhibit and stood in it, much to the amusement of a group of school children. The cool water was a blessing, but my hands and feet were red raw and blotches were appearing on my knees and legs. I sat on the cold stone wall and waited for the coffee. When Ric saw my hands and feet he couldn't believe it. The only explanation was an allergic reaction to something, but what??? I was breathing fine, no swollen tongue, lips of any other body part.
"Right, let's go find a chemist for some Piriton", he said.
"But, I want to go up the hill, this is my day out", I wailed.
We waited 20 minutes and I began to feel better, despite the misery, my feet were cooling and I put my sandals back on. We walked no more than 100 yards and I had to sit down as the whole itching thing started again. In the end this is all I got to see of the Observatory:
A cute blackbird also popped up in front of me whilst I pondered whether or not I could go on or go home.
The answer was obvious really but I didn't want to admit it. Ric really wanted to take me to A&E, but I firmly refused. Done enough time there in the last 12 months, thank you kindly.
|Hello little blackbird|
|Old Royal Naval College|
Walking down the hill on terra firma I felt very giddy indeed. But managed somehow to take a picture. Spots of rain were beginning to fall as well. Could this day get any worse? It's now 5pm.
By the time we get back to the car and Ric ploughs through the rush hour traffic heading east to find a pharmacy, I can no longer bear sitting up front in the warm car. He stops down a side road, finds a chemist and I woof down a piriton tab with some water, climb into the back of the car and lie down, middle seat belt awkwardly stretched across my stomach. I remove my sandals again, lie down with my hands up holding my phone and feet raised, pressed against the passenger window in 1st position (ballet term for the uninitiated). This cools them down considerably.
What a sight, I take to Twitter on the phone to distract me from the itch and this was the photo I posted before both feet were back on the glass. I joked with Ric that he'd have to clean the footprints off before Aunty Pat got in the car or there'd be some interesting conversation going on!
Ric wanted to drive me back all the way home, but my car was at Debden Station. Providing the tablets kicked in I could then drive back home without incurring a clamping.
I became aware of landmarks passing by as we crawled through the traffic, and at one point as we came out the Blackwall Tunnel into 3 lanes of queuing traffic, Ric stated that we were passing a police car at which point I momentarily moved my feet in case they thought he had a dead body in the back.
I knew roughly where we were by raising my phone up to take this of the Olympic park. We finally arrived at Debden and grabbed two teas, I sat up and waited for the inevitable flush in my extremities. Thankfully it had eased. Yes I could drive!
Instead of taking the M11 as usual, I headed back through Abridge, Chipping Ongar, and The Rodings, a route known as "The Rat Run" as it runs parallel with the motorway through fast country lanes and sleepy villages. Arriving home, I headed straight to bed but not before I had taken some Ibuprofen as by the time I reached home, something else was starting to happen. The itching had died down, replaced by joint swelling, making my hands and feet tight and difficult to move without considerable pain. My 16 year old daughter was away in Devon so I slept in her room for fear of my husband rolling onto my painful hands. He had to be up at 5.00am and in London the next day for 7.00am.
In the morning my hands were solid rocks and communications with them were very slow, I had hardly any motor control at all. Alone in the house except for Oscar the ever cantankerous labrador, ("Err...yes I still want my breakfast woman, get to it!") I struggled around willing everything to work properly. Even holding a mug of tea was surreal, like it was half floating in zero gravity in my hand. I had an appointment with the nurse at 8.45am so I made sure our doctor came in on that to examine my problem. I was dispatched with some anti-histamine that "Will not make you sleepy". I had 3 VAT returns to complete in the office and upload to HMRC, plus a host of other typing, the last thing I needed was dropping off on the keyboard.
Everything that day took forever, my vision was intermittently blurred by staring from screen to paperwork, it was clear "Will not make you sleepy" actually mean't "Will make you dunk your head in your tea numerous times". My 8 hour day turned into 14 hours as the following stilted conversations took place between my head and my hands:
"Hello hand, Twinkle here do you think you could type a little quicker?".
2 minute pause....
"This is Hand, take a hike Twinkle...I'm busy down here".
"Well Hand, I'm a little up against it here too and I need your help PDQ".
2 minute pause....
"Twinkle this is Hand, look there's a major offensive going on here right now, the macrophages, leukocytes and me have got more pathogens, anti-bodies and white cells than you can shake a stick at (sorry you can't shake a stick right now either)".
"Hand, this is Twinkle, you've got to try harder, I mean it's not like you haven't had help with drugs or 8 hours straight rest because you HAVE".
2 minute pause....
"Twinkle this is Hand, don't get shirty with me madam, I wasn't the one who munched on some untried fishy, I'll get to moving when I've neutralised all these enemies".
I don't know how I did it but I managed to file 2 of the 3 VAT returns late that night, one had queries I couldn't resolve immediately. Even a week later, my right hand (the worst affected) is still stiff. I've since looked up this kind of allergic reaction and the most likely scenario is scrombroid food poisoning.
It's amazing what you can't do when a vital body part refuses to work properly. I don't blame a soul.....
But.... I'll be back Greenwich, you are not dismissing Twinkle the Wanderer that quickly.
With thanks to Ric Barham, ex-army medic on the spot and kind permission to use his noodle on here.