We had long planned a Christmas get together with all the geographically spread family members. So we did it. The Americans, the Dutch and the Portuguese managed to assemble before the day, at the various family houses scattered around London.
The Londoners and their visitors quickly became aware that our get together was governed by a continuous need to be checked by the Covid Centre, Local Testing Offices, and of course domestic rapid antigen tests.
Despite the testing rigours our activites were coloured by many new and bewildering insights.
I soon realised that the number of dog walkers and their pets has doubled. They were scattered around on every street, all seemingly headed to the open spaces of Wandsworth Park. What a sight!
The showroom quality and presence of the road-side parked vehicles, i.e those protected by their cheaper local parking rates, were on every domestic street. The cars on display were a very compelling sight for an old driver currently very reluctant to sign-off on a 12 year old Honda. Yes, money is apparently still available in London town.
Pedestrians were few and far between, with actual masking running at around some 50%. The shopping malls echoed with emptiness before 11 am and then went flying into business for the next couple of hours.
Of course local buses carried only four or five passengers downstairs and mostly left the top an empty space. The underground and the local trains showed similar occupancy, around 40%. I learnt that one the prime reasons for the barren nature of rail travel was that apparently all rail fares have doubled in the last 3 years.
However all was not masks, doom and downbeat. The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park was a brilliant field of entertainment for all ages. The 50 metre wheel, the XL swinger, the Roller coaster, Ferris wheel , the ice track and a giant 25 meter Gravity drop plus hundreds of smaller stalls were really thrilling.
Kew gardens were brilliant and very inviting for us old regulars. The grandkids loved it all, the play ground, the mud walks along the Thames and of course the lollipops and ice cream.
Our return to Richmond Park was similarly a joy to behold. Its usual magnificient open spaces presented themselves beautifully with duck and swan filled lakes plus, of course, a family or two of deer lodging in the old crumbling brown bracken adding to the colour. Brilliant.
Similarly the Thames provided an ever changing shape size and colour. The night time light reflections on the water surface were staggeringly beautiful. The day time joggers of course, were in an abundance and somehow managed to avoid wheel chairs and bikes. Us old folks usually just stopped to let them pass.
Her Highness may well have been at home but we did not receive any invitation for coffee. All we got was a bored "Not this way Sir" from the men and women positioned at the still very impressive Windor Castle gate. Actually after failing miserably on the Windsor Ice skating rink I was happy just to say hello to the "Guards" and then proceed to a road side expensive coffee. After the drinks we received no reversal in the gate guards ruling . What a shame they were not there the next day.
Naturally family meals and outdoor excitement continued unabated. The Science Museum again proved a roaring success and afterwards the youngsters all loved the Oxford Street and Regent Street lights. Of course they viewed this from the top deck of a open air London bus. It's probably at least 10 years since we did the grandkids first lights trip. I suppose everyone will be surprised if I am able to repeat the event after the next decade.
Of course, I do hope at that time the Polymerase Chain Reaction testing is long gone and not required before entering the UK.