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  • Writer's picturePaul Kilgour

A Nice Day Out - London #3 {There are no Elephants at the castle}

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

It's no use, I can put it off no longer. Today I'm going...

...south of the river!

I'm not sure why North Londoners resent travelling over the river to the South so much. It's as if they expect to be confronted by some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland, populated by baseball bat wielding Zombies, covered in blood and puss, ready to take a bite out of your neck. It's not quite that bad.

Battersea. Showing the way.

Crossing the river and entering Battersea one of the first things you notice is the absolute balls up they've done of converting the Power Station. "Let's just take a generic office building design in steel and glass, and slap it on the front. That'll do. We'll call it Post Post Modern. After all, everyone's waited so long for this they won't care. Will they?" Bugger me. It would have been better as a football stadium. There seems to be some kind of community growing up around it though, with café's and restaurants built into the arches of the railway bridge; 'Gordon Ramsay's Street Pizza', vegan this, vegan that, and coming soon 'Bear Gryls: All You Can Eat Grubs’. Tasty.

Onwards to Elephant & Castle, and the first thing that becomes blindingly obvious is the lack of Elephants. Of any kind. Live, dead, stuffed. Nothing. Your disappointment will likewise be compounded by the fact that there would appear to be no castle either. It's a swizz I tell you. There was once an Elephant though. A big pink one. Authenticity obviously not a priority in South London. It sat proudly at the entrance to the shopping centre, exactly where you would expect to see an Elephant. Sadly it has recently fled, along with the shopping centre. The heart of the area has become extinct. Maybe it’s hiding in the castle grounds? Oh wait…

Elephant & Castle. Michael Faraday memorial.

Southwark Street, London Bridge.

Then some odd stuff happens. I take a break for a cup of tea from a sandwich bar next to the station:

Me: English Breakfast Tea please (no such thing exists in England, but you’ve got to humour some people)

Pleasant Tea Selling Lady (PTSL): White tea?

Me: Please.

PTSL: With milk?

Me: Is there any other kind?

PTSL: Without.

Me: White tea without milk?

PTSL: No, black tea.

Me: OK. Black tea with milk then. (Woman behind me is now sniggering.)

PTSL gives me one of those looks, then gives me a white tea. With milk.

Woman Behind Me: I’ll have a black tea with milk too.

I take my tea - I stopped short of asking for a pastry - to a bench across the road, where a couple are deep in conversation.

Her: They’re celebrating Keats.

Him: Who is?

Her: London Undergound. It’s all over Borough Market.

Him: I was there earlier, didn’t see anything. Mind you, I was looking for the toilets.


Her: Is he any good?

Him: Who?

Her: Keats.

Him: No idea. I didn’t find him.

Her: I bet he’s not as good as Ed Sheeran.

Him: He’s a poet, isn’t he?

Her: Who, Ed Sheeran?

Him: No, Keats.

Her: Dunno. I think he might be one of those dead blokes.

Him: What, like a Vampire or a Zombie?

At the mention of Zombies, and remembering that south of the river is where the Apocalypse happened, I make my exit.

The Shard, London Bridge.

Southwark Underground Station.

It’s now 2:30pm, and I seem to have accidentally strayed into Bermondsey. Nobody goes to Bermondsey on purpose. I mean, you don’t wake up in the morning and say to your partner: “Fancy a little outing to Bermondsey later? We could take a picnic”. Anyway, the Zombies would probably get you before you had a chance to finish the pork pies. I hot-tail it, only to then find myself in Lewisham, designated London Borough of Culture for 2022. It's a charming place: Catford, New Cross, and the memorably picturesque area of South Bermondsey, home to Millwall Football Club and their delightful fans. There are no pubs in South Bermondsey. Obviously. There are still of course, drunk people. Some very drunk people. And vomit. Still, if you like that sort of thing. Look what you're missing, Ursula!!

I did find a Soviet tank. Why is there a Soviet tank? Maybe the whole Zombie Apocalypse thing was cooked up by the Ruskies. The cold war is alive and well, and living in South London. Welcome Comrades.

Soviet Tank. They're here!

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