The Hydra Files The London Trip

Do you remember when lots of people were wandering about with phrases like "Lets make Hydra more professional!"? Well, it was a long time ago (summer I think...), but the Jenster (a rather psychotic editor with terrible taste in men) seems to be getting the idea, when she did what any self-respecting magazine chief would do, and ordered me to write some rubbish about the recent college trip to London.

What could I write about? Mr Brennen (I just couldn't get the hang of calling him Paul, it just didn't sound right) and John Turner spending all night in the hotel bar and returning at half one in the morning only to keep Mr Charles Parker, their unfortunate room mate, awake for a couple more hours? How about the millions of police cars that sped about sirens blazing at all hours, and the constant calls on the Underground's tanoy system telling us that once again, another tube station had been closed. Even better, I could ask, just why does Tina Turner wear such short dresses?

OK, coach journey: horrendous. Hotel: take my advice, don't go to the Royal National Hotel. Breakfast: constant cries if "Man cannot live on roll alone!" when we first saw that breakfast was an extremely crusty roll and a pot of jam. Hey, if you were lucky, you got to argue with the member of staff in charge just to get it! Even better when you find out that he could only speak broken English...

Which gets me onto something else... I think in all the time I spent in London, I spoke to about three people who were natural born Londoners. Everyone in London appears to have come from America, Japan, or the Philippines.

The trip was supposed to have a complete set of prearranged trips out everywhere, all of which seemed to fall through at the last minute. Indeed, instead of the strict 'Thou must be accompanied by a member of staff at all times or else thee shalt die' regime as promised, was mysteriously lacking, and indeed, some of us did spend a lot of time wandering around tube stations alone, trying to figure out how to get to our rendezvous with certain staff.

Talking about that, we were supposed to meet Mr Jones at Charings Cross on the Tuesday (our first full day in the smoke, after arriving on the first Monday in half term), and naturally arrived an hour early, and had a quick walk around. Suddenly we find ourselves on the Strand, and we causally walk up the road. Then we start seeing lots of police cars and barriers and signs diverting traffic. Walk up the road a bit more, and there's a bus. Slightly destroyed. I don't think that buses were designed to cope with IRA bombs, but don't start me talking on buses, or we'll be hear all night.

Anyway, our reason for going off to Charings Cross was so we could have visited Greenwich. We were supposed to get there by Docklands Light Rail, but due to another IRA bomb, part of it was closed, so we went by train. The sights at Greenwich when the weather is not too pleasant consist of a boat, a mini supermarket and a green Burger King. Boats aren't exactly very interesting, so I dragged Mr Parker down the Greenwich tunnel to the Isle Of Dogs to see if any of the Docklands Railway was running, returned back to Greenwich and started a race back to the hotel, myself, Miss Newberry and Miss Lee via Docklands and Tube, and Mr Parker by British Rail's former finest, now privately run thanks to another mad Government scheme to ruin the nations public transport system (not getting political at all.)

Unfortunately, due to half of Docklands being out of action, we had to bus it part of the way, and this was our reason for returning seven minutes later than our contender. But the Docklands Ride round Canary Wharf is rather nice, when you're not going past a rather nice building that no longer had any windows in it.

On the Monday night, we were dragged of to the theatre, and believe me, there is nothing wrong with a bit of culture. We arrived at Covent Garden, having not eaten, while everybody proceeded to disappear away from me, leaving me alone, stranded with no idea of where I was supposed to be going. I'm sure there are some who wish I'd never been rescued. And to top it all, it started snowing.

When I was eventually rescued by Mr Jones (whom I now blame for getting separated from my cohorts in crime) I did actually get to see a play. It was very good. It's the Women In Black, stars three people, only two who have any lines, and is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. Very spooky. And indeed, HOORAY FOR HORROR. It's on at the Fortune Theatre if you are interested...

Apparently everyone went to a Chinese restaurant on the Tuesday night. Unfortunately, I missed this, owing to the observance of my companions, who, on the way to the tube station, spotted a discrete fluorescent sign proclaiming that tickets were available for Grease, so being the mature upper sixth students we are, we were allowed to nip off to the Dominion Theatre and enjoy that instead.

Wednesday saw complete dispersion when everyone seemed to go somewhere else and do some SHOPPING. Oxford Street was cunningly only twenty minutes away, or fifty if you follow the map reading abilities of Miss Ruth Lee. On this street you will find the biggest Virgin Megastore in the country, aptly named as 'The Megastore'.

I could have spent hours in that place, but time was pressing on, we grabbed some lunch and caught an authentic London bus back to the hotel. Authentic London buses are the ones that are about forty years old, have open platforms at the back, and conductors who shout "All fares please" in that typical London way. Unfortunately due to another of the Government's privatisation plans, London Buses are now about as London as the Eifel Tower, as they run around with names on their side like Stagecoach East London and MTL London Northern, companies based in Scotland and Liverpool respectively.

After this fun and games, we headed back to the hotel ready for the obligatory group photograph, before all piling in the coach to be dragged up North again.

Looking back, I can't see any reason why anyone should want to go to this horrendous place. People are cold and unfriendly, and the water tastes horrible, though not as bad as the water in Portsmouth, and the tube system is constantly full, no matter what the time is. And I'll tell you something, The Big Issue isn't nearly as good as The Big Issue In The North.

Never less, the hotel may have been horrendous, but the trip wasn't that bad, though John Turner didn't change his jumper once, and this naturally put a bit of a downer on the trip, but hey, you can't have everything! And personally, I'd have preferred to pay extra and go by train, but then, that's what I'm like. Awkward.

In Easter 1996 Edition

Background Information

Odd one this, but added in due to the line asking why anyone would want to live in London. Obviously times change... Cos I now live in London.

The comment that Greenwich isn't very interesting bar a boat and it's not interesting also shows the old teenage temperament in full force - that boat was, of course, the mighty Cutty Sark.

It's also interesting as a record of London at the time - this was 1996, not long after IRA bombs had torn Canary Wharf apart, and another had accidentally gone off on the top deck of a bus near the Strand. Indeed seeing that bus, cordoned off in the middle of the Aldwych was a quite frankly weird sight, as was the lone Docklands train stuck forlornly at Island Gardens, unable to move due to the fact that there was no track for it to move along. And as for sitting on the Docklands riding past smashed building after smashed building...

I'm sure however we had much more fun than this piece seemed to imply, but we did seem to end up in an awful lot of Burger Kings!


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