Unusually it was on a Monday (27th November) rather than a Tuesday that the Bow Geezers were fortunate enough to squeeze in just one more 2023 excursion.
So, at 9:30am on a grey and wet winter’s day, why not start the week with an outing to Kingston Upon Thames to sample its Christmas Market – to add a little bit of colour in the run up to the Festive season-and, maybe, get a feel for the earliest royal borough to belong to the King in Saxon times?
Forty-two of us – a mixture of Geezers, some accompanied by their wives/partners, along with elderly residents from Bow West – set off aboard our not usual coach. Rather than brave, as you might expect we would for speediness, the M25 (the modern transport link equivalent of The Thames) we were driven across traditional, evolving and vibrant London (“…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” [Samuel Johnson]), to dip our toes into Kingston Upon Thames. As a bonus, then, we snatched coach-high views of our great city as we headed southwest from Bow.
After a few minor traffic snarl-ups we arrived in the King’s Manor in just a jiffy past 11am.
First treat in store, Jon Alexander and I were tasked with collecting mobility scooters for Dennis and Ellen. Finally, a test drive: I get to drop down a cog, give it handful ‘n grab hold of the cow horns of one of these non-greasy animals with minimal torque. Cranking the lecky gizmo dial up to max (as my beast wouldn’t, at first, talk let alone budge) I left my pavement crawler on full grunt mode as we sped back to Las Iguanas – where Dennis and Ellen sheltered from the imminent rain and cold – before they could set fire to themselves with the restaurant’s famous, flame-grilled Latin American menu. We (I mean I) missed hitting three Kingstonians by inches; to prevent fatalities we handed the beasts over into safe hands: Eddie tells me Dennis is well steeped in the art of motorcycling, so mastery of an electrically power-operated vehicular scooter is a doddle for him.
Sparked by this level of adrenalin we were more than curious to greet Kingston with open arms. We meandered towards the market where Eddie and I shared-for-the-quaff (indulging in on-the-hoof-in-hand-grazing) a tasty hot dog with sauce and trimmings.
There’s no photographic evidence to verify this mid-morning secret as our hands and mouths were far too busy and full to catch us in the act. And, anyway, all gobbets were long gone before Jon, who had found more interesting things to snap in The Market, peeled off to find the Post Office.
So, why are we here? Is it to savour goodies and buy stocking-fillers in The Market?
To have coffee and cake in the glorious surroundings of All Saints Church?
Admire the architecture whilst wishing the stalls weren’t there to appreciate the splendid buildings surrounding The Market Square?
To, unexpectedly, wonder at the “Chimps are Family” public art exhibition Comes to Kingston?
To straighten David Mach’s 12 “Out of Order” old fashioned red phone boxes that are laid out like they’ve fallen against each other like crashing dominoes?
To, perhaps, explore the many flagship major retailer outlets that haven’t yet folded, either here or on Oxford Street? Check out The King’s Tun Wetherspoons pub for a chomp and a drink.
Afternoon Deal? Or finish up at The Ram to be served by a delightfully friendly Polish woman putting up Christmas decorations as we warm two armchairs by the fire ready for Linda and her Mum after shopping plus some of the above?
All these things and many much more are here to enjoy if people wish to. Granted, later in the day and especially towards the weekend, the atmosphere in The Market would be more vibrant. The indoor market the other side of the church had more interesting produce than the outside stalls. Take The Market stalls away, mind you, and the wonderful architecture that adorns The Market Square would be revealed in all its splendour. Similarly, the buzz at The Ram, especially outside overlooking picturesque views of the part of the Thames, from where Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat” begins, would have been more intoxicating on a hot summer’s day. But it would be well-rammed.
Un-rammed on a wet late November Monday, after either a swift or lengthier gander around and about Kingston – depending on peoples’ respective needs and appetites – most of the Geezers spent an agreeable chunk of time, snuck-in-all-snug, in the two pubs.
Overall, it was a good outing even if the weather, perhaps, didn’t make it everyone’s favourite cup of tea. The first cup of tea always being the best, for those of us who had not been to Kingston Upon Thames before, it satisfied our curiosity as much as new places often do.
Scooters returned on time we arrived safely back in Bow.There was a mass dash to empty bladders – Wetherspoon pubs! – as our usual bus with the cludgie was kaput. Let’s hope the Geezers’ charabanc is back up and running for 2024.