London and Canterbury

Published by Jac Sprat in the blog jackie and martin's gap year. Views: 141

We decided to take the plunge and drive through London en route to our festival and see our daughter Nell, on the way and drop off Joe, another of our children too. We'd done other big cities so felt we could handle this one now.

It was quite hard to pack as we'd only half unpacked the van before just to do our laundry mainly so we weren't sure what was already in. We ended up taking the recharger for the hand held hoover but leaving the hoover behind, taking extra desert spoons as we were short on the last trip but then only taking two forks because we took the rest in to wash. It was sad saying adieu to our dog Pip and our daughter Poppy who has to hold the fort until mid July. I wish I could take the whole family with us.

Driving down was fun with Joe in the front seat as its always a shock for people first time to be in the middle of the road (right side of a left hand drive) and also to be so high up. It caused problems when we dropped him off mid busy London street as he had to exit out right too and step literally into the middle of the road. Needless to say it was a very swift goodbye as we hurled his case after him.

Finding Finsbury Park wasn't too bad at all and I must say our new Garmin camper satnav is doing us proud these days now we know how to programme it properly with coordinates. However the fun and games started when we got there. Nell had airily said 'You can park anywhere in our flats' carpark, always lots of spaces.'
For the first time since I've visited, there was not a spare space anywhere and even if there had of been we would not have got in (we need two next to each other preferably vertically joined). My horror scenario ensued where you keep driving through the carpark even though you can see the lane is getting narrower with clearly nowhere to turn. Finally we had to do our wounded whale act at the end diagonally on the U bend waiting for someone to move so we could do our oft practised 20 point turn. Someone decided to make things more stressful for us by opening the window and yelling 'You can't park there!!' as if we really had decided to do that. I just waved regally and wasn't going to bellow up five stories.

Finally we got out of there and with it being rush hour thought we were really doomed. Amazingly enough though the very next road had a choice of parking places which were free after 6pm so we parked outside someone's house and acted like we weren't there in the morning. It always feels weird to spy on people from our bed and see them start their day and go off to work knowing that we can sleep as late as we want, that we are sleeping on the street and that we no longer have any work - something I don't think I'll ever get used to.

The next day we had to drive through north London but it was all fine with no close shaves and I couldn't believe it when we reached the Dartford tunnel after only about 40 minutes.

We had decided to visit Canterbury as neither of us had been there and it was close to where our festival was for the following day. We found a Park and Ride carpark for the night which was very cheap, including return bus fare to the city so soon joined the ranks of mohos there. We met an Ozzie and his wife who had literally driven from Australia and painted their route on the side of their van. They did it in chunks and put the van in storage where they had reached and flew home and then returned 6 months later and drove it for another 6 months. He told us about an incident in Khazakhstan where a policeman confiscated his passport for no reason and demanded $50 to give it back. This guy decided he was not going to be bullied and refused. The policeman cuffed him on the head enciting him to hit him back so he could have a reason to arrest him but he wouldn't and put out his hands to be handcuffed . Finally the enraged policeman flung the passport at him and ordered him off. Martin and I agreed afterwards we wouldn't have been so brave.

We got a double decker bus into the city. As usual I insisted we sit upstairs at the front and we had our regular conversation about what would happen if we went under a low bridge (him) and how we are probably in more danger on a ski slope or in our moho (me). We must have run through the salient points of that particular discussion on at least 6 occasions but it's always nice to give it another airing.

Canterbury was a nice surprise as I had been put off visiting by a friend who had told us it was all new build and boringly restored since its World War 2 bombing. We enjoyed the shopping areas and the historical relics.
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Churches, abbey and cathedral

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We were interested in the story (and where it happened) of Thomas Becket in 1170 - the Archbishop of Canterbury who refused to allow King Henry to change the laws to give more power to the courts over the clergy. The king is reputed to have said ' Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest.' Four knights took him at his word and burst into the cathedral where he was conducting a service and killed him at the altar. Henry then said something like 'Whoops I didn't mean you to kill him, I was just angry.' and felt so bad about it that he put on sackcloth and walked the streets barefoot in Canterbury while 80 monks flogged him with branches. Thomas became a saint as several miracles were said to occur at his tomb which is probably what spooked Henry in the first place.

This explained to me why Chaucer had chosen Canterbury for the Canterbury Tales. I had studied it as part of my English degree and only now realised that the medieval pilgrimages to this place must have been because this ghoulish story.

We went into the very room (Conquest House) where apparently the 4 dastardly knights gathered right before going off to do the deadly deed but I don't know how they can be really sure of that fact.

We loved some of the street names which reminded us of Norwich:

We wondered about the origin of the names.


After a surprisingly peaceful night at the bustling Park and Ride, we headed off the next day in very welcome sunshine for our five day hippy festival - wishing we could pick up some dreadlock wigs along the way.
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