28 November 2018 was a cold, overcast, day for our slightly later 9.45 departure and remained that way for the duration of the trip, with a total non-appearance of the sun. We had a long hold-up near the bottom end of the M11 because of an accident but we arrived in time at the pick-up point in Redbridge for our Blue Guide, Martin, an older chap who was with us for the whole day. My word, could he talk! Our first drop-off was at the Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell, which few of us had even known about, let alone visited. Martin had recommended lots of nearby restaurants as well as the street food stalls, which were mainly patronised by students and local office workers. There was also an Anglo-Catholic church called the Church of the Holy Redeemer, which was open. The market itself was a come-down; it consisted almost entirely of cheap food stalls, with little opportunity for bargain hunting. Because of the cold weather most were happy to return early to the warmth of the coach.
We only had a short drive to the main attraction for the day - the Post Office Museum. It was actually split between two sites; the first, where we alighted and waited further instructions, contained the shop, cafeteria and exhibition centre. We then crossed over the road to the building that housed the underground rail system. We’d been divided into three groups and given different boarding times, indicated on our wrist bands. Most of those in the last 3: 35 slot decided to walk back to the cafeteria for drinks and to look at the exhibition, which was fascinating. On returning for our train ride, we put our bags and coats in the lockers provided, as requested, so we could cope with the cramped seating in the narrow carriages. There were several banged heads as we wriggled on board! The ride was explained by a recorded commentary and included stops at former loading areas. Afterwards there was time for a quick look at the small exhibition on the history of the railway, which included a simulation of the Travelling Post Office (TPO), complete with its wobbling floor as the train moved! The rail tunnels were an amazing achievement of engineering but there was a sense of sadness as we contemplated the enormous changes in correspondence systems that had emerged in our lifetimes with us hardly noticing they were happening. Everybody was back on the coach in good time ready for our next destination: The West End to see the Christmas illuminations.
There were many “oohs” and “aahs” as we found ourselves in Regent Street and passing the surrounding side-streets. Our route took us to the far top end of Regent Street before turning off towards Hyde Park, where a massive brightly-lit funfair had been set up, and thence to Knightsbridge, Harrods, Piccadilly and the Strand. The lights were certainly impressive, as were the displays in the shop windows. Even the appalling traffic congestion went unnoticed. Martin had been talking non-stop throughout the tour, drawing our attention to the impressive buildings we passed, together with the unbelievable prices charged by the expensive hotels.
We’d been told not to arrive at our final destination before 7 o’clock. In fact, we were dropped off back in Camberwell at about ten past seven, ready to walk across to Kennedy’s Fish Shop. The staff were marvellous and duly served us with our delicious fish’n’chips and cups of tea, coping brilliantly with the large numbers. Suitably fed and watered, we walked back across the road to join the coach for the journey home. Once we were out of London, Richard put his foot down and we got back to Coval Lane at about 9:30 pm, after an unusual but memorable day out.