London Calling…

Tower-Poppies

I’m a country boy.  I was brought up with dawns full of birdsong and church bells, and evenings surrounded by bats and owls, so I always find big cities crowded and overpowering places.  Miles of armour and concrete have always made me cringe, yet cities can have their charms too.  They hold many historical palaces, libraries, castles and society’s, and are useful places to meet friends and colleges.  London draws me occasionally, but there is always an adventure theme…

Before I travelled to Greenland to partake in the Iceman Polar Race, I had met MP Pauline Latham OBE.  We had talked about my travels and she extended an invitation to visit the Palace of Westminster.  There was little I could do but accept, and so I boarded the 07:05 train from Derby, and upon arrival at St. Pancras I fought through the Underground to Westminster.  I find the London Underground a fascinating place.  It is a land of blank faced ghosts, many of whom are plugged into some kind of ear infused, electronic life support system.  To look is a crime and to speak is heresy.  One sneezed and when I said ‘bless you’ I was stared at.  Another was singing at the top of his voice (I assume his life support was faulty).  Another had to be dragged from the train as his life support was distracting him too much.  I’ve worked in electrical engineering for years, and I wonder what would happen if I removed the supply to these life support devices..?   Would people survive..?  In the mountains, saying hello is a given.  Conversation is  a must and laughter keeps us alive.  Technology is creeping in, and my speech at TEDx Derby earlier this year will explain my thoughts further…

The Palace is a beautiful creation, which has evolved over centuries.  It was first begun by the Normans, but much was destroyed by fire in 1512.  A second fire in 1834 allowed the building we see today to be constructed in the Victorian Gothic style of Charles Barry.  It is a maze of corridors, crannies and chambers, decorated with fresco’s, paintings and statues celebrating over 500 years of Parliamentary rule.

The Palace of Westminster may be ancient, but it’s always changing and evolving.  There is much artwork in the Palace, denoting Scotland and St Andrew as part of the Union.  Next week’s vote could change much of the way this place works, but that’s up to the Scots to decide.  I’ve climbed there many times, love the mountains and am in favour of the Union, but as an Englishman, I have no vote.

I had no time to rest as a school was awaiting my arrival in Woodford…

I’ve been a member of the Professional Speaking Association for a number of years and had accepted a call to present in a comprehensive school in North London.  Alan Stevens is a governor there, and had asked fellow speakers to give their time to help enrich the students.

Every school is different, but not just due to the physical structure.  You will never find 200 teenagers the same, anywhere in the world.  The modern spread of cultures and backgrounds brings audiences for whom English could be a second language.  Yet the language of motivation, excitement and adventure crosses all bounds.  I spoke about my life changing climb on Mt. McKinley and my life since, to a room where you could have heard a pin drop…

A long day had almost come to a close, but the finale was to come.  The ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ is one of the most incredibly moving pieces of art that I have ever seen.  The Tower of London is being surrounded by a sea of Poppies, made in Derby and Stoke to commemorate The Great War, and the spectacle has thousands of people standing aghast in the city.  I walked the entire perimeter, with tears rolling down my cheeks.  Not only was the sight moving, but my feet were tired, and walking in dress shoes over the cobbles was excruciating.  Nothing was going to stop me though, and I ended my day, staring into the sea of red as a lone bugler sounded the Last Post.

It was time to head north, back to the hills of Derbyshire.  By complete chance I sat on the train and bumped into an old Raleigh friend and we spent the next hour catching up.  I told you adventure would always follow me…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *