Wednesday : Walton to Barking and Some Heresy

My standard text for the beginning of these posts…. I mentioned that I’d be writing this blog in a new style. Same old irrelevant piffle, but in a more organised manner really is the short version. I’ll spin off some new web-sites to keep things tidy and then people who only like reading about Norfolk churches, British Airways flights, odd museum exhibits or Good Beer Guide pubs can wallow in content without being distracted by other random things. I’ll add that I’m not really writing this blog for anyone else, it’s for me to remember stuff, so yes, it’s all self-serving. But, it keeps me amused, and so here we are….. I won’t write every day and sometimes I might get behind, but when I do post, it’ll usually be an entire day’s worth of content.

The Travelodge at Walton was a peaceful place and since it’s a relatively new opening, everything worked as it was meant to. Well, other than they haven’t fixed the televisions yet apparently, but that was of little consequence to me.

Getting to my room was odd though, it was the only room at the top of some stairs in a little section of the hotel, seemingly in a different building to the bulk of the hotel. It’s room 138 for anyone bored who wants to look at the floor plan. It’s this sort of riveting content that always inspires me to write more.

It was a twenty minute walk back to the railway station and the area all looked a bit decadent for me. I had a look at the average house sale price for properties on Ashley Drive, it’s just under £4,000,000. Definitely too decadent for me.

Back to the railway station and taxi drivers once again trying to assert their authority by forcing another pedestrian to stop in front of them. There will come a time when railway stations all over the country are reclaimed by pedestrians, but I won’t digress on that matter here.

I had a ticket to go Wimbledon, but wanted to go to Surbiton first, where I could break my journey with my ticket. I thought of the Good Life television programme for most of the morning, it’s what I’ll forever associate with Surbiton.

Not a particularly busy train service, but it’s about ten carriages so customers can spread themselves out and even have a little lie down if they want.

Originally opened as Kingston railway station in 1838, this was renamed as Surbiton in 1867. The station was entirely rebuilt in 1937 and was designed by J R Scott and I think that this is a beautiful building.

My office for the morning was the Good Beer Guide listed JD Wetherspoon pub located just a stone’s throw from the railway station. Actually, I couldn’t throw a stone that far, but I think some people could, so I’m going to say that’s a useful definition.

What a grand entrance, the pump clips on the walls are a nice touch.

And a most impressive building all round. There’s not really any denying that the company does a decent job at transforming older buildings.

I shall quote the history provided on the wall by JD Wetherspoon.

“The building you are now in was opened as a lecture theatre on the day before the coronation of King George V, on June 21 1911. In honour of the new King it was named the Coronation Hall. Later it became the Roxy Cinema, and more recently the Ritz. Like many cinemas, the Ritz became a bingo hall in the 1960s. Originally the Coronation Hall had seating for 894 people. There wasn’t a circle, but in the early days there was a tea room which was situated next to the entrance. The cinema was operated by ML Syndicate, of Kingsway, London. The name change to the Roxy occurred in 1947, and to the Ritz in 1965. When closure came in 1966 the last programme featured the films I’d Rather be Rich and Operation Petticoat.”

And another traditional breakfast, this one is as good as a JD Wetherspoon traditional breakfast can get. Egg perfectly ready for dipping toast into, and a very engaging set of team members as well. It was clear that this was a pub mostly frequented by locals, made evident by a team member going around trying to sell some raffle tickets, but only going to those that she knew.

After several coffees, I treated myself to the £1 half pint of Eureka Quad from Loddon Brewery, the same brewery as who produced the Hullabaloo I had in the Allied Arms in Reading last week. Perfectly decent beer, well-kept and a suitable lunchtime beverage. I’m in a good mood with the Loddon Brewery as they liked my check-ins on Untappd this morning and I’m easily pleased like that.

Then back to the railway station to head into the metropolis that is Wimbledon. My ticket didn’t work at the barrier, but the staff member at the gateline just opened the gate anyway without checking my ticket. I think I have an honest face. These tickets delivered on phones are frequently bloody useless, it’s better to have a paper ticket but then it’s a faff collecting them.

The waiting room at Surbiton railway station. I wouldn’t recommend coming here for a special day trip, but it’s a comfortable enough little space and there’s a Nero coffee shop for refreshments. I didn’t buy anything, I was saving myself to get value from my Pret subscription.

The train from Surbiton to Wimbledon, on time and clean. None of these are strange lands to me, but they’re journeys that I haven’t made before, so they feel more appealing because of that. It’s not exactly an adventure like climbing Everest, but it still makes me feel free.

I will say that anyone wanting to travel on trains around London at the moment is unlikely to struggle to get a seat. Unless there’s a bloody football match on, that changes everything. There’s something quite enjoyable about getting a quiet train, it’s a few minutes of peace and being free from disturbance, as ticket checks are very rare on these trains.

Since I was in Wimbledon, I thought I’d pop to Pret. One of the dirtiest Prets that I’ve been in for a while, but I was happy with my hot chocolate and laptop. More work done which is always handy.

This is one of the most professional Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat set-ups that I’ve seen, although I wonder how the delivery drivers can ever get those hot drinks to their destination in time. Unless they’re Pret teas, which remain boiling for about three hours, like some kind of witchcraft in action.

And relax…. I shoved the food debris from the table onto the floor as the store had no napkins and no staff seemed too bothered about the state of their tables.

After thirty or so minutes in Pret, I thought I’d better move on. This statue of a stag was placed here as part of the Wimbledon station upgrade in 2012.

And back on the underground, the District Line into central London.

I was able to find a space to sit. It’s hard to people watch at times in London at the moment.

I got off at Westminster as I like the walk around here, I’m still attracted to the whole atmosphere and glamour of this part of London. There’s a buzz of excitement and the chance of seeing a politician that I might recognise. There’s something quite addictive about London, as however many times I walk down Whitehall, it still feels slightly invigorating.

Steve Bray was doing his usual brave and courageous thing at Westminster and I told him that I approved of his bravery when I walked by him. There are numerous banners dotted around the place, which I think keep getting taken down. He will no doubt persist for many more years, or at least, I hope that he does.

People arriving for a party at Downing Street.

I went to the Admiralty pub at Trafalgar Square, which I’ve never really noticed before. I went there as Fuller’s sent me a voucher for a free pint of Amstel and I’m not going to turn that down. Indeed, I’m very grateful to Fuller’s, I approve of their kind gesture. It’s not really my beer of choice usually, but it is when it’s free. I liked the pub, spacious and the staff were friendly and helpful. Lots of power points and comfortable surroundings, with some interesting looking cask and keg options. I got more work done here before moving on, but I had to be careful not to spill the pint given that the table was a little wobbly. I was successful in my endeavours not to cause a scene by smashing a glass and drenching myself in beer in the middle of the pub.

The outside of the pub, which I’m sure I’ll go back to at some point. Giving me free things does tempt me back.

I then meandered past the entrance to Chinatown and this part of London seems to be getting back to some sort of normality in terms of the number of visitors.

Walking along Tottenham Court Road, this odd arrangement is more fully explained at https://www.mylondon.news/news/zone-1-news/tragic-reason-caff-nero-tottenham-21057785.

Time for another Pret, this is St. Pancras railway station. That meant a sit down in Pret to get more work done.

I was lingering in this area of the city as I had a ticket to see the recording of BBC Radio 4’s Heresy at the Shaw Theatre.

I didn’t have a guaranteed ticket, but I arrived quite early and although the queue was already long, it was clear I’d get a seat. Some people were so early they were accidentally queueing for the show after, which I thought was very British of them, they’d seen a queue and rushed to join it.

I stood in the queue faffing about on my phone for half an hour, slowly reaching the front. There were friendly staff guiding visitors in and you could fill out a piece of paper if you wanted to potentially take part in the show. I couldn’t be doing with audience participation, so I didn’t go for that option. I think they also forgot to collect the forms in from most people anyway, other for those who were the first to enter the theatre.

And Victoria Coren appears and what surprised me is when she said this is a bit of a cottage industry, as she not only hosts the show but she produces and edits it as well. No spoilers, but I can say that the guests for the episode that I listened to were Richard Herring, Phil Wang and Matthew Norman. The theatre wasn’t full, so everyone wanting to get a seat could, and indeed, they were recording another episode afterwards and were trying to get the audience to think about going back in to watch another. I would have done, but I had to phone my friend Richard about moving this blog. As mentioned in another post, he helped with the transfer yesterday to my own server and he had it all under control after some quick debate. Very impressive.

And a direct train from King’s Cross to Barking, I timed this perfectly fortunately. I’d got a hot chocolate from Pret at King’s Cross, I forgot how late they opened. I’d never pay for all these hot drinks, so thank goodness for the subscription.

Barking railway station is very barren at the moment, there used to be a Spar in the foreground, and I imagine they’re going to do something exciting here. Without wanting to upset the residents of Barking, there is often a slightly tense atmosphere in the town centre and this was no exception, there were two youngsters doing odd things in the street that I just ignored. I’m very good at ignoring things like that and not getting involved….

Crossing the park to get to the Ibis hotel that I stay at relatively frequently.

There was a friendly welcome from the staff member, although he didn’t give me my welcome drinks voucher. He did on request (I wasn’t missing out on that) and I went for the usual pint of Camden Pale Ale.

And safely into the room. It was time for a bit more typing away at the laptop…… This was partly a trip across London not just in a geographical sense, but also a look at the varying demographics of the city. The wealth at Walton, the tourists of Soho, the middle class audience to see Heresy being recorded and then the rather more earthy surroundings of Barking. I like them all, none could really exist without the other.