Sunday, 23 September 2012

London - Abbey Rd, Harrods

"That crossing" in Abbey Rd. Studio
is the white building behind. The 28IF
Volkswagon was parked on a then
narrower footpath in front of the studio
Oh boy, did we get the real London today. After light rain during the night, most of the late morning through to late afternoon it was tipping down in oversized buckets and driven by a determined wind which grabbed your umbrella from your hands in gusts that were twice as strong as the wash from a passing truck.

That's not to say it was all bad.

In the morning, after an unintentional sleep in, I led the way back to St John's Wood. That's where I found Lords Cricket Ground waiting for me earlier in the week. This morning, Sue and I were aiming to avoid one of those "so near but so far episodes". Research since my Lords visit indicated I had been very close to Abbey Studios and the infamous pedestrian crossing which was the subject of perhaps the most iconic album cover of all time: the Beatles walking over a pedestrian crossing on the cover of the last recorded Beatles album. (Note: last recorded, not last released. "Let It Be" was recorded before Abbey Road but was released afterwards)

The rain was light but annoying by the time we got there and the live webcam mounted outside Abbey Studios at 3 Abbey Rd, St John's Wood, picked us up as we arrived at the corner. The webcam is live but points nearly 180 degrees in the opposite direction to the famous photograph. The photo was taken on a rare day when all of the Fab Four were at the studios. By that time, they were barely functioning as a group and hadn't played to a live audience in two years. They were destined to never play to a paying audience again. A photographer had sat about ready to take the cover shot but in the end was given only ten minutes. He hastily arranged for a passing Bobbie to stop the traffic, put a step ladder in the middle of the road and snapped the shot, without the benefit of a digital camera to review it and the deed was done.

When we arrived, Sue realised why I had been so distressed at not understanding the importance of my location a few days earlier. I had crossed the double angled crossing at a three way intersection and turned right to walk to St John's Wood Station. Had I walked left instead, less than ten metres, I would have been on the Abbey Road crossing!

Abbey Road Studios where
James Taylor recorded "Fire & Rain"
in between Beatles takes for "Abbey Road"
As always with such places of cultural reverence, there were already people beside and on the crossing, with their friends trying desperately to get run over by standing in the middle of the road and ignoring traffic. Most of the cars and buses which arrive at the crossing know the story and cut pedestrians a lot of slack but many of the tourists present this morning seemed rude and inconsiderate that this is still someone's suburban street.

Thanks to Marcus Wilson (Tamworth), I was aware of the live webcam and had alerted family to both it and our arrival. Sam organised a phone hook up and we were able to share the moment with them, making it immeasurably more special but it left me with an aching hole that won't be sated until I can hug each of them in a week or so. The silly buggers laughed and giggled as we crossed a few times, striding out, as Sarah described it, "like two rain-soaked hobbits". I even managed a silly jump or two.

After signing off from the kids, I took a few photos of the front fence which is stuffed full of messages to the Beatles in all sorts of colours and with all sorts of promises and descriptions which give substance to images of screaming faces from the sixties, who long since discovered what they were screaming about and what to do about it. How many Englishmen must have continued to be laid on the Beatles rebound is anyone's guess but I'd be happy to suggest most of  their girlfriends and wives have scrawled suggestions on these walls since. As I took photos, Sue got herself ejected from Apple Studios - apparently the signs on the fence, gate and front door telling her not to enter didn't convince her she shouldn't go in.

The big security guard inside the door had more success but not until after Sue had argued with him.

Chased, thrilled and excited at having made a family connection, we made our way to St Pancras Station to purchase our tickets for the trip to Dover in the morning and have a dry run at where to go.

Into town then for Sue's excursion to Harrods. It was pouring by the time she kissed me goodbye and was swallowed up by a world neither of us belong to, nor regret abstaining from membership. I walked through heavy rain, armed with an umbrella and a stout coat until I found a pub. Guinness and steak and ale pie and a room full of people to watch was enough for me. I ate, drank, wrote and was merry.

Back at Harrods, Sue started out with confidence but was soon struggling. Her clothing didn't inspire much affection from the staff and she began to find the prevailing attitudes of staff and customers of the nature which we in Australia delicately describe as "up themselves". By the time she rang to say she'd had enough, my pie was gone and a third Guinness was under destruction.

Back together and with the rain still hammering down as the last part of the afternoon started, we gave up on plans to visit the Tate Modern which would have meant a walk through the rain of about a kilometre. To cap it off, when the train arrived to take us close, it was sardine capacity and another crowd pushed on. No thanks. We went back home to Gloucester Road and had a coffee at a local restaurant.

Packing tonight and leaving here at 7:30am for France.

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