London: Lords & Princesses

Lords: As amazing as a tour of the parliament Lords would be for a historical romance writer, the aspiring cricketers in the family felt the Lords Cricket ground was a must do. The fifth book in the Bluestocking series is loosely penciled as having a cricket playing hero, so this tour also fits under the research category. We arrived at 8.30am for the earliest tour, and it was quickly apparent that this was an excellent choice as a county tournament was being played on the ground, and all the later tours would miss the Long Room. We missed seeing the dressing rooms, as the players had already arrived, but because the game had yet to start, we were allowed into the members area. The Long Room is a famous room in the old stand for members (twenty year waiting list unless you play at the ground and become a playing member), and players must all walk through the room to get from the dressing room to the ground.

Our tour guide was Ken, a perfectly English elderly gentleman, who spent the entire tour saying, “I won’t give you a lecture, you aren’t here to hear me talk,” while talking constantly. A ferocious security person accompanied us, and she spent half the time upset that Ken wasn’t listening to her admonish him for not keeping the group together, and reminding us to move along, stay together, and not take photos in certain areas. Therefore, I can’t show you the incredible painting of Muralitharan in the stairwell of the members area, but suffice to say that it captured the master of spin in action. The members stand is as impressive as you can imagine any purpose built area that services the elite, although it does seem quite miniature compared to the huge stadiums we have in Australia. Lords is, apparently, the largest cricket stadium in England, and yet, only holds 29,000 spectators (with almost 10,000 of those reserved for members only).

After the members building, we went through the Lords museum, saw the real Ashes, then wandered along one of the stands, fighting the gale force frigid winds while being forcefully ushered until we arrived at the press room. If you’ve ever seen Lords on telly, the press room is a spaceship at the nursery end of the ground that floats above the stand. The tour included being able to sit inside the press room, although not into the tv studios on the very top floor. The view from the spaceship is amazing with angled windows out above the ground. From there, we had a quick tour around the nursery ground (practice oval), MCC Academy building, and indoor nets, before the tour wrapped up at the shop. The first T20 game had started, and the group dispersed.

George Lohmann of Surrey. Described as the ‘most dashing cricketer in England’ from 1885 to 1892. Hero inspiration for the next Bluestocking…

Being cheeky Australians, we went back to the nets and asked if we could have a bowl. None of us expected an affirmative answer, and were pleasantly surprised to be allowed. What an experience for the budding young cricketers in the family!

Unfortunately, No2 had a couple of bowls before he declared that his wrist hurt too much. Thirty-six hours before, he’d been attempting parkour in Queensway tube station, and had slipped off an archway. His thumb and wrist swelled a little, but he had all his movement and sensation, so we hoped that it was just sprained. When he couldn’t bowl at Lords (a huge deal for him), we decided it was prudent to get it properly checked. Luckily, St Mary’s Hospital was a short bus ride from Lords, so we took him directly to A&E. The UK health system is efficient compared to Australia’s with less paperwork, and appointments set for each part of the journey through the system. After a half hour wait, No2 had his initial assessment. This gave us an appointment time for an X-ray and follow up. This gave us an hour to spare, so we sought out a pub for lunch while we waited. Fountains Abbey is directly across the road from the laboratory where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, thus changing the course of modern medicine. The pub is part of the massive Greene King pubs franchise, and so we’d already had this menu twice, however, the idea that Alexander Fleming used it as his local after a long day in the lab was appealing. Plus, we only had an hour till the next part of No2’s hospital visit.

The x-ray showed a slight bulge on the wrist bone, an injury that would be a fracture in an adult, but No2’s 11yo bones are still flexible. He now has to wear a wrist brace (like a moon boot but for his hand) for the next three weeks – the remainder of our trip!

Princesses: All that waiting around had left the children rather bouncy, so we walked for half an hour towards Kensington Palace (rather than the tube). We had free entry to the palace as part of the membership deal we purchased at the Tower earlier in the week. Thankfully we didn’t pay extra to go in as it was quite boring with the majority of the rooms sanitized for the sake of tourists to such an extent that anything interesting wasn’t there. Of the few items on display, there was not enough information – again probably designed to get lots of people through the displays quickly, but on a less crowded day like we were lucky enough to encounter, this made the whole process dull. The only room of note was the Long Room, amazing with red flocked wallpaper, and the stairwell at the King’s Chambers was incredible. The gardens are a highlight, and the Diana fashion display would appeal to anyone interested in clothes.

Diana’s Memorial Garden


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