After feeling homesick for the first week, I made a mometary decision to undertake a tour of London. And how did i begin it? I hear you all asking how…. it began with a big bang. I went to Greenwich, pronounced Greenich, without the w. The Place of zero degree logitude, the place where time is referenced to, the place where astronomers studied the earth and hypothesised the Big Bang.
I went to Greenwich via Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is essentially a growing town. It had the tallest office tower in Europe and well lots of shopping and busy offices. From there, I went to the very small town of Cutty Sark. From Cutty Sark station, the Thames pier was nearby. Looking at the Thames from the pier was good. Such a small river compared to the ones we have in India but such a busy one – loads of ships downing their cargo and loads of tourists on multiple types of boats. It was great to just watch the Thames and feed the already fat pegions. London Eye was nearby. The giant wheel takes you to unimaginable heights. From the top, you could see the whole of London. The giant wheel is big, but it also helps that the city is small.
From there I went to Greenwich Park crossing the University of Greenwich on the way. Greenwich park is a wide area with just green grass and trees to feed the eye that suffers from greenery. Kids and parents alike had a great time there – just enjoying the nature, playing ball or cricket; not to mention the lovers having a time of their own. The Royal Observatory was on the top of Greenwich Hill, I climbed it and went there. The first thing that greeted there was a Talking Telescope. It talked the wonders the observatory had created and of the greatness of Greenwich. The Royal Obsevatory had a lot of stuff to see in it – the Flamsteed Meridien, the Flamsteed House and best of all the Harrison’s Timekeepres. The huge clocks and pendulums thats the astronomers kept to tell time were a sight to behold. The harrison’s timekeepers were a smaller version – precursor to the wall clocks of today – fantastic inventions of a thinking mind. The house also held galleries of all old clocks, time machines, giant pendulums and the huge strcuture of Haileys quadrant which in those days predicted time to an acuuracy never before.
I had the privilege of viewing the line of zero longitude and the time there. A person came out to the courtyard and explained to us why calculating time was so important. It was for the sailors who went to trade in the sea. They needed to know the time at the place of origin, at the place where they were and at the place where they were headed. Countless men, ships and cargo were lost that the King announced a prize of 20000 pounds (way back in the 17th century) to the one who was able to tell time. What they needed for that was Longitude and who got the reward – Harrison. 🙂
Royal Obsrvatory done, I went to the planetorium and museum galleries which housed innumerable resources. The antiques were brilliant and the knowledge that those people gained is voluminous, the rivalry between Issac Newton and Flamesteed was not kept private, for a clash of the intellectuals is worth seeing and hearing about.
Next was the Queens House, whos portico is a royal one with giant pillars and high cielings. The house was full of paintings and told the story of many a voyager and sailor who was lucky enough to come back to the land where they had set sail from. Also housed were the paintigs of the variuos kings and queens who ruled england over centuries.
The next stop was National Maritime Museum… which housed innumerable ships that had crossed te ocean in those days – mere rafts and sails… i guessed the sailors sailed more on will and guts than on any technology. A whole range of teaching devices for young children were present – how whirpools are formed, live oceans etc. The biggest attarcation of the museum was Prince Fredrick’s ship which crossed the ocean and came back without as much as a scratch. The sails were a treat to see. The uniforms of different caders were on dispaly, famous Lord Nelson’s statue and quite a few others, sailor’s log books, the telegraphs they sent, the honours they had won, the prizes they brought back.
That was Greenwich and from there I proceeded to East Ham. On entering East Ham, I had a feeling I was back in Chennai – the grocery shops where maamis were bargaining with the shop owners. I found Britishers in East Ham like I used to find foreigners in Chennai, one or two of them here and there. A walk down High Street North and tamil boards greeted me – Vasanta Bhavan, Saravanaa Bhavan, Aarti jewellers, Selva Stores, Suriya Jewellers and Thayaham Unavagam. The whole place is full of Indians (mainly Tamilians), Srilankans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis – a total asiatic crowd. No wonder that there are two temples in East Ham, I went to both. London Sri Murugan Temple was perfectly like any temple in Chennai. Only when i came out, I realized I was in Britain. Mahalakshmi tempe was a mixture of North and South Indian styles. Before going to the temples, I had tiffen – dosai and pongal at our very own Saravana Bhavan. The Indians ate and the British kept tables. How the world has changed from the days of the Mahatma! I went to the Tirunelveli Nadar run Selva Stores to get a few groceries in pottalams (parcels) and took the tube back home. A greatly fulfilling day and a great way to begin the London weekend tour. Coming up … next Sunday tour to Tussauds and Baker Street.