It barely feels like almost a month has past since I last wrote to our Parish Magazine at Saint Saviour’s, but so much has happened since then. I am writing this on the 14th October, which meant that yesterday was St Edward the Confessor’s feast day. As Edward the Confessor, when he was King of England, had his palace built at Westminster and built a church dedicated to St Peter. It was this stone Abbey that Edward the Confessor built which started the thousand year long connection between Westminster Abbey and the Royal Family. To mark St Edward the Confessor’s feast day there was a Eucharist at 5pm at the Abbey, to which I went.
There were 6 of us altogether from St Matthew’s. It was the first service I’ve ever been to in Westminster Abbey, and we were fortunate enough to have seats in the choir. I was sitting at the end nearest the altar (which is still quite a distance away), and had a wonderful view of everything. After the service, at which the choir sang beautifully, we went behind the High Altar to the Shrine of Edward the Confessor for a few moments prayer, before making our way to the nave for refreshments. I must say my first visit to Westminster Abbey that wasn’t a “flying visit,” was a memorable one. But that has only been one of the many things I seem to have found time to do. My day off has been filled with many things, and some evenings as well. Firstly, not long after I wrote last time, the Pope was here. I went with Andreas to stand at the end of Great Peter Street, to wait for him to pass by in his ‘Popemobile’ from Lambeth Palace to Westminster Abbey. As it was turned 20 past 5, and Andreas was leading evening prayer, he left to get ready in the Lady Chapel. I waited another minute and saw the Pope pass by, in fact, he stopped 10 yards from where I was standing while someone passed a small child to him to bless.
On the Saturday, it was Open House day, which meant many buildings in London were open to the public that normally aren’t. I went off to see what was open, and ended up at Lloyds of London, the insurance firm. What a curious building that is, it looks like it is built of all pipes from the outside. I also wandered by the Bank of England, but the queue was half way round the building. Later into the evening, I decided I wanted to go and see Marble Arch. So off I went, not realising how close it is to Hyde Park, where the Pope was leading an open air service. While I was there, I walked along Park Lane, as it was closed to traffic, and on my way past, the organ started to play, and the 80,000 voices in Hyde Park sang Lead Kindly Light. The heavenly singing drew me into the already vast congregation, and I watched the rest of the service on a big television screen there. It was only when the Pope was here that I went into Victoria Street on the Friday whilst it was closed to traffic. That was the first time since I arrived in London I could hear birds singing, and I hadn’t realised how much I’ve missed the once familiar sound!
I also had an experience that I don’t want to repeat a couple of Friday evening ago. The National Gallery is open late on a Friday, so I wandered up and spent an hour and a half looking at some beautiful paintings. After that, I came out and went for a walk, found China Town, which was good to see with all of the lanterns hanging and ended up back on Charing Cross Road, and walked back to Trafalgar Square. It was there that some unscrupulous person took from my coat pocket the leaflet that I’d picked up earlier in the National Gallery. I felt him tug it out, so turned and got a good look at him. I’m just pleased I didn’t lose anything of value! I hope he enjoyed the gallery.
I’ve also been to the British Museum, only for a couple of hours, to Borough Market last Saturday, which was an interesting trip. There were crowds of people, and lovely smells drifting about the place. I got a look in Southwark Cathedral for the first time as well, as it is just across the road (and not far from St. Saviour’s, Southwark) from Borough Market. My friend Karl (from Station Town) was with us, as he’d flown in to Heathrow early that morning from Sierra Leone after working there for a month. He stayed with us the night. On Sunday we walked from here to Buckingham Palace, along The Mall and into Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall and back to the flat, all the while he kept saying “I can’t believe I’m in London, and staying in a flat you’re living in!” We came back from Borough Market and Southwark on the river boat, which gives you a good look at what is either side of the river.
A couple of Sundays ago I went to have a couple of hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I went there on the underground, and decided I was coming back on the bus to see some sights. Whilst waiting at the bus stop, the first bus that came along was an old routemaster, (the ones that you board at the back) and I instantly decided I was getting on it wherever it went! I was fortunate that it was going via Trafalgar Square so I decided I’d get it to there as its not far to walk. I was fortunate to be only the 3rd person to go onto the top deck, so I also got the front seat! I’ve wanted a ride on a routemaster bus since I came to London on a school trip in 1998!
The final place I’ve managed to get to is Fortnum and Mason. Andreas and I went one Saturday afternoon, and didn’t buy a thing. It was fascinating to walk round and see everything. The perfume department looked really good. All the perfumes seemed to be in large glass containers that had a little brass tap, so the assistant puts out as much as you like! The only thing that disappointed me was that there were no doormen in top hats and frock coats that I’ve heard of!
© Andrew Crawford
Our pastoral assistant, Andrew, has been writing his "Andrew's Travels" column in his Parish magazine for three years. He continues to contribute and his current articles will be published here.