July 9, 2007

Our last day in Britain! It seemed a pity that we would be back at work tomorrow. We got up about 7:30 am and had breakfast—cereal and toast as usual. Matthew joined us fairly soon, and we prepared for our last half day in London. We had all had our breakfast when Caroline and Jason came down. They were leaving for France today, so we said our goodbyes then headed to the Canada Water Station to get the tube.

Our plan was to go to Clapham Common to get some photos of Matthew with a “Clapham” sign for his web page and to visit Paul’s “ancestral homestead”. So we transferred to the Northern Line and rode it down to the Clapham Common station. The common was right next to the tube station. It’s said to be the largest park in Greater London, and it looked surprisingly green and open compared to the maze of little streets we had been in. We started walking across the common, and before long we came across the Holy Trinity Clapham church. It didn’t have a suitable sign for Matthew, but we met a church warden who let us into the church and told us a bit of its history. We found out that it was founded by the Clapham Sect, a group who were opposed to slavery and agitated against it until the British government finally outlawed it in 1807.

After leaving there we headed down to the bandstand where hopefully a suitable sign was to be found. There was a notice board with “Clapham Common” on it, so we took several pictures for Matthew and then carried on. We walked back down Clapham High Street and finally located a street sign for another photo, followed by a last photo inside the Clapham North tube station.

We went to St. Paul’s Cathedral next, had a snack outside then paid the admission. Upon entering we were amazed by the painted ceilings and sculptures. We toured the main floor, then headed up the spiral stone stairways to the Whispering Gallery. Looking down to the floor below, the people looked quite small. We tried whispering to each other across the dome, but we couldn’t hear anything. We then carried on up, now on a metal spiral staircase, to the top of the dome. Over 400 steps in all. Luckily for us the weather was great, so the views were superb. We could see all over London, including the massive construction site to the northeast with about two dozen cranes.

Matthew wasn’t leaving London until the next day, so we said goodbye to him and he went off to see the British Library. We crossed the Thames to Southwark and went back to Pip’s house to pack up and leave for the airport. We stopped by the Tesco to buy some Bournville chocolate and a jar of Marmite, which was very hard to find there. At Pip’s we had some lunch, then put on our hiking boots and piled all the leftover things into our carry-on bags. Rosemary’s bag was her day pack and Paul’s was an enormous white plastic bag containing the clock in its box and a collection of miscellaneous things.

Pip and Val drove us and our bags to the tube, which was good because we did not have to haul our bags along the canal to the station. Then they accompanied us on the tube to the London Bridge station and made sure we got the correct train to Gatwick. After purchasing the tickets we said our goodbyes, then hurried to catch the train. It was quite crowded, so we stood all the way to Gatwick.

At the airport we went through the check-in. Rosemary’s carry-on bag was 10 kg, so we had to rearrange things. Finally we had the weights of the various bags sorted out, so we went on to security. Unfortunately we had made one mistake, which was to leave the Marmite in Paul’s carry-on bag. And since it was a paste, it got confiscated. Once that was done we sat in the waiting area and waited for the airport to assign a gate to our flight.

This time there were no yelling babies on the plane, only a British school girls’ netball team. They were on a tour to Vancouver and Seattle. Flight time was supposed to be 9 hours and 24 minutes; we tried to stay awake to counteract jet lag, but both of us dozed a bit. The flight was smooth all the way and the views over Greenland were spectacular, and we arrived a little bit early in Vancouver.

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