For those of you not already in the know, it is not uncommon for those of us on the railway to work night shifts. I'm not one of these weirdos that chooses to do night shifts so I can moonlight in the daylight hours, and I've seen too many of my colleagues who choose to do nights on a regular basis go down with all sorts of heart-related or blood pressure-related dramas to ever want to do night shifts on a permanent basis.
As I do my own turns through following the roster, my week of nights only come around every 17-18 weeks or so, so if you think of that spread out over a year, it doesn't seem like much. The railway week starts on a Sunday, this means you start a set of nights on a Sunday night and finish on Sunday morning later on in the week. The Sunday you finish on also happens to be your rest day (or annual leave, depending on whereabouts in the roster you are), and then you're back to work on the Monday (sometimes to a dead early shift) through to Wednesday, followed by (normally) four or five days off.
Pros to nights? Maybe the block of a few days off (after you've been back to work for three days) after your nights. The fact you don't have to wake up to an alarm. In the summer, there's the amazing sunrises and the walk home in the sunshine. But the cons outweigh the pros to me, especially the sheer fuckwittery that ensues when it comes to trying to get your sleeping pattern in order afterwards, never mind during. As I said earlier, the Sunday morning that you finish your nights (normally by around 8am at the very latest) also happens to be one of your rest days that week, and as you have to go back to work on the Monday, there's often a debate amongst train drivers over what to do on that Sunday. Do you stay up? Do you have a nap? Do you just go to sleep as normal when you get home? Bearing in mind that most of us would've been up since Saturday afternoon, you can imagine what the body wants to do, but my answer is to not be a pussy and just stay up and do stuff, because it is a rest day after all.
So, on the Sunday morning, having just finished a set of nights, I decided to stay up. I think that by the time I put myself to bed on the Sunday night, I'd been up for a mere 33 hours. I've done longer, but it was a pretty hot day.
We decided to get the train into London Waterloo and stop by the Southbank Centre Food Market, something we love to do when we get a weekend day off together as there's one or two stalls we always love to visit. I'd only had a small breakfast when I got home from work, so by lunchtime I was slightly ravenous. And thirsty.
Downing a lovely pint of real cider almost makes me feel like I'm celebrating having survived nights, ha. For £3, it's also probably for cheapest pint you'll be able to get in London, and 6% is pretty tame for a pint, I'd say. With pints in hand, we take a wander around the back street behind the Royal Festival Hall. There is a bus that serves up oysters and cocktails.
Anyway, we wander down to the riverside and prop ourselves up against a rail to watch the skateboarders for a while. There is a guy in a green Thrasher t-shirt that is very good (he nollies onto the concrete block and then shifts into a nose manual, which he lands perfectly on the other side into a switch), but I'm never able to catch him in time.
S wants to go and have a look at the new part of London Bridge Station that had opened, so we decided we'd walk down along the Southbank and then perhaps get a train later on. We pass the book stall underneath Waterloo Bridge (where I always have to stop and see what new antique maps they have for sale), and then sit down to rest my tired bones and finish my pint.
Further on, there's a quiet rebellion about that controversial Garden Bridge.
I feel another bridge would spoil the view along the Thames, especially from the project images I've seen of The Garden Bridge. One thing I love about following the River Thames in town is being able to see St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance as we wind our way round, though it's getting a bit crowded now what with all the other buildings that have sprung up. I'm not sure how I feel about "The Cheesegrater", and I definitely want to send "The Walkie-Talkie" somewhere else, but it seems like all these new glass things popping up are all the rage.
Always great to see people out and about mudlarking about the Thames as it brings back memories of when my parents used to take my brother and I down very early on Saturday or Sunday summer mornings to the Woolwich shore – they used to fob us off and tell us we were going to "the beach"...
Carrying on, we get closer to Blackfriars and the railway bridge. S thinks it's an amazing structure, and to his credit, you can get some amazing and unobstructed views of London from the platforms, though I'm somewhat put off by the roof when I'm looking at it from the distance. I do like the crests on the side of it though.
There's also a very tiny mosaic under the bridge by the bicycle racks, just outside the station entrance. St. Paul's Cathedral pops up again once you come out from under the bridge.
Our original plan was to take the mainline train to London Bridge, but there appeared to be some sort of closure, and Blackfriars was very much shut. So we decided to carry on walking round and shortcut through the Tate Modern.
There wasn't anything going on inside the Turbine Hall and the lighting rig that goes in the roof on the other side was now on the floor. There were quite a lot of a people about in the bookshops when I had a look, and no doubt some of those milling around were wanting to see the new gallery extension. I wasn't keen on having much of a wander inside given how busy it was, so we just crossed through the Turbine Hall to the outside of the Switch House.
I can't say I like it all that much.
We take a good look around on the outside to see if we can appreciate it at a different angle, but the whole thing honestly feels like a GCSE Graphic Design coursework gone wrong. Everyone keeps telling me that I'll like the interior though. I'm still not sure.
We carry on walking towards London Bridge, using The Shard as a reference point. As it happens, we find ourselves making a shortcut on Park Street, where the National Control Centre of the Central Electricity Generating Board was based. S tells me about how his grandfather was based here, and Pop has told us countless stories about his time working here and essentially setting up what is now the National Grid.
The building that was used by the CEGB is still very much there, though it's looking a bit tired now. It looked like it was being used by some production or media company now, so we didn't really hang around to look more, plus I think we both needed the loo by this point and so heading to the railway station became more of an urgency.
S calls me "Bear" on occasion, so I thought it was funny that we passed a Bear Gardens.
We cut past a few more back streets and the Southwark Cathedral, eventually making our way towards the base of The Shard and the entrance to London Bridge railway station and the new concourse bit down below. I didn't take any pictures as it was all a bit uninspiring and unfinished. As some of the railway was shut, it was also full over over-friendly members of staff who kept trying to interrupt S and I having a conversation about aesthetics and accessibility. All the shops were still closed and the rest of the concourse was still a building site. The loos were nice though, and there was no charge (for now). Now that I remember it, the only shop that was open in the new concourse was a branch of T.M. Lewin – because special offers on shirts are exactly what everyone needs on a hot summer's day. Anyway, as to not feel like I was leaving empty handed on the picture front, I took an uninspired snapshot of an equally uninspiring skyscraper...
We walk out feeling a bit disappointed that none of the retail establishments selling refreshments were open in the new part of the railway station, but we find refreshment in the form of iced coffees and air conditioning in a very quiet Costa Coffee five minutes away.
After our brief respite from the heat, we decide to head back underground onto the Jubilee line at London Bridge. At this point, I've been up for over 24 hours, but I find that once I break the 24 hours, I'm good to keep on going.
We decided to head down to Embankment via Westminster and the District line. Wander around there and the gardens for a little bit to catch Pokémon, before walking on towards Trafalgar Square. It appears that The Strand and Trafalgar Square are shut off to motor vehicles for some sort of cycling event, and the space in front of the National Gallery is full of cycling-related stalls.
There is also a Metropolitan Police vehicle that catches my attention, the main reason being that I can see people going up into it and so it turns out that perhaps I want a go, if only to get a picture to send to my brother for a giggle (as he works for the Met).
It turns out that this HGV lorry cab is used by the Metropolitan Police to promote road safety, and they haul it out to cycling events to get cyclists to sit in the driving seat to understand more about blind spots and where not to place themselves in the road when they are near a lorry.
The police officers ask a little about my brother (as Westminster used to be his beat) and the conversation is pleasant, then I get to have my photo taken.
The driving seat is a lot more comfortable than the driving seat at the front of my train, which makes me less inclined to get out in a hurry. It's a bit of a climb down as well, but there are handrails when you get out. These road safety events for cyclists are taking place all over London this month, so if you'd like to have a go at sitting in the driving seat, click here and have a look if there's one taking place near you.
By this point in the afternoon, I think we've had our fill of town. We wander down to catch the Bakerloo line to Paddington, then a train back to Ealing Broadway, before catching a bus back to Boston Manor for Sunday dinner with family. :)