The Retirees go Abroad – On Her Majesty’s Service


We went to the theatre and saw “The Play That Went Wrong”. It went very wrong and I would not recommend it. Our plans for the following day were to do another walk but we passed by an exhibit in the London Film Museum. We were offered a mission and should we choose to accept it we would visit “Bond in Motion (the largest official collection of original James Bond vehicles)”. Of course we accepted.

The display included:

Gold Finger his majestic gold Rolls Royce Phantom III.


The archetypical Aston Martin DB5,


The submersible Lotus Esprit S1,


The Citroen 2CV,


And a variety of other craft.


There was also a display of examples of the creative process – story boards and concept art.


We spent over and hour and a half touring the display and found it necessary to refresh in the coffee shop. After ordering two coffees and snacks, I spied the reason we had been called in on this difficult job – I spotted a mouse in the kitchen. I reported the sighting to the Barista (unfortunately named “Q”) and I was informed that “007 was on the job”. As we were leaving we both spotted the villain scampering under James’ BMW. We left wondering if 007 ever got his man.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Hidden Pubs of Ole London Town


We met Andy at Temple Tube Station along with 6 other hardy souls as it was still drizzling with rain and the moon was hidden by rain cloud. Andy is a young actor waiting for the big break and doing these guided tours to make some cash whilst studying.

We headed off east toward Middle Temple and our first stop was outside 2 Temple Street the former house of William Astor the American millionaire. The building was built by John Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor, in 1895. It is now some sort of reception house and is maintained by, managed and preserved by Bulldog Trust, a charitable organization, and is hired out for functions. It opened to the public as a gallery in October 2011. An image of the bulldog appears outside the Temple St. frontage.

Oh there are famous sights, but to get to them we have to walk through a maze of lanes of the Inner and Middle Temple. In fact we retraced our steps from that afternoon visiting Temple Church, Middle Temple the Great Hall and the Square before landing in our first pub; the Deveraux. The Devereux is located in the back alleys near Fleet Street. We sampled a pint; my choice being Hobgoblen to match the haunted atmosphere said to exist at the hotel. The weather was becoming more and more miserable so we were disappointed when Andy said we must press on.

Andy took us to Gough Square and the former house of Dr. Johnson, claimed to be the author of the first English Dictionary and other literary works. Johnson had a cat called “Hodge” and the only real trace of Johnson today is the statue of his cat outside his house at 17 Gough Square London. By this time we were both huddling under an umbrella and the last thing I was concerned with was taking anymore photos promising that we would come back tomorrow in the sunshine.

We set our course for the most famous London inn of all – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II listed public house at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court, City of London. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. According to Andy, there has been a pub at this location since 1538.

The vaulted cellars in the basement are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside you soon realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In fact you find yourself getting lost in the maze.

For around 40 years, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was associated with an African Grey parrot named Polly. The fame of the parrot was its ability to swear and imitate corks popping and it was world famous such that on its death in 1926 around 200 newspapers across the world wrote an obituary, and a copy of these are posted on the walls along with the stuffed parrot. They have new parrot but he is a bit shy and doesn’t say a word.

From the Cheese we journeyed back along Fleet Street until we dived into a small alley through another alley and before we knew it we had popped out down near Blackfriars and a pub called St Brides Tavern beside the church of the same name. Just across from this landmark (down another alley) is the London Distillery a modern remake of a London gin distillery and around the corner is our last pub Punch Tavern.

Well that was it. Andy shot through and we had to make our way to Blackfriars Tube Station and home. Andy had promised to show us cheek-by-jowl, higgledy-piggledy, brooding back-alleys, secluded courtyards and tortuous zigzag passages; quintessential London. Well we saw plenty back alleys and had no chance of finding our way around again. Apart from the dismal weather we enjoyed our search for the hidden pubs of London.

The Retirees go Abroad – Shakespeare and Dickens in London


We started the day with a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is massive and has the traditional dome. We were told later by our guide Corrina on our walking tour that Wren the Architect fought with the Bishop about the rebuild of the church after the Great Fire of London (1666)

Wren wanted a dome like catholic cathedrals but of course this was an anathema to the Bishop of the time. The Bishop wanted an English spire not a dome but Wren outlasted the Bishop hence we have a large dome and two spires on the cathedral today.

It is costly to visit the cathedral but we found the crypt which was free to enter. Here is the coffee shop and gift shop amongst the columns and vaulted ceilings together with statues and monuments all accessible at no cost. After coffee we returned to the St Paul’s Tube Station entrance to meet Corinna. Corinna is an actress also but in the twilight of her career and she does these tours for interest and to keep her active. The weather was a little kinder today. The sun was shining most of the time but the wind had picked up and it was chilly.

Corinna started the tour by taking us across the street to the remains of a church destroyed in WW2. This church had been rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire but devastated in WW2 and turned into a memorial garden. The bell tower has recently been converted into a residence (sold to the current occupier for 4 million pounds). She sat us down and said “London was to Shakespeare and Dickens what Paris was to Balzac. It held them in its thrall, was both their canvas and their inspiration, their workshop and their raw material. They in turn made it their own, imaginatively colonising it. And, like “special correspondents for posterity”, bequeathed it to us. Today, despite the ravages of time, riot, bombing, and especially fire, traces of their London – shipwrecks from the past – still abound in the City. Everything from superb half-timbered Elizabethan dwellings to the magnificent early 16th-century gatehouse where Shakespeare went with his plays to the offices of the Elizabethan Master of the Revels. And from London’s grandest Tudor manor house to crooked little alleys which fed the fires of Dickens’s “hallucinating genius”.” (an extract from the advertising on the web site)

We admired the gardens and looked at various pictures which Corinna handed round. Then off she went; she may have been in her senior years but she was not slowed by them. We chased to follow her to the Candle Makers Guild building, then to the Mayoral carriage on show near another guild hall, then down some alleys to a small garden where a statue of Shakespeare stood. In fact it is a memorial to John Hemminge and Henry Cordell who are credited with compiling and publishing the First Folio in 1623 being the first collection of Shakespeare’ s works. It is located near the Pewterers’ Hall another guild hall this time for makers of pewter.

After a short stop she charged off again passed a remnant of the wall of London but no time to stop just a quick photo. Onto a memorial to people who had died rescuing others. After that we entered Little Britain St and walked passed St Barts Hospital and through the gates to St Bartholomew Great Church where we paused to hear another anecdote on Dickens as around this area Dickens set a number of his stories. Quite frankly I cannot recall exactly what the anecdote had to do with but everything we were seeing was new and fascinating.

As we left the church yard Corinna pointed out the seamstresses and embroiderer’s guild and then the Hand and Shears Hotel – this had been the sewing and cloth district in the times of Dickens.

We ended up near Farringdon Tube Station. But before she let us go Corinna had to do a little song and dance to finish her tour so here on the footpath in public view Corinna starts singing and dancing – no doubt the residents are used to this performance but I was taken by surprise and delighted. After giving directions to the tube station and the local hotels she vanished.

We elected to go to the oldest looking establishment we could find – the Jerusalem Tavern.

Jerusalem Tavern
Jerusalem Tavern

It was tiny and inside it was busy with workers from nearby, the floors were worn and the layout was higgledy piggledy but we were able to order lunch and a drink and rest our feet as we sat at the table in the bay window of the pub. After answering natures call I bumped into one of the other tourists on our tour and suggested he join us – tables were in short supply. Andrew did join us and he turned out to be an Aussie from Sydney an actor by profession and visiting his girlfriend in London, We chatted away out of the wind in the warm atmosphere of the pub and after finishing lunch bid Andrew adieu and headed for the Tube station and home.