Sunday, 10 July 2011

A lazy Sunday on the Southbank.

The weather has been topsy turvy recently so I was very glad that I'd booked tickets for a talk today with Victor Gregg, hosted by Rick Stroud.

Victor Gregg is a 92 year old ordinary Londoner who just happens to have led a most extraordinary life.  He joined the British Army at the age of 19 and was present at the Battle of El Alamein.  Victor volunteered for the Parachute Regiment after his experiences in north Africa.  After landing in eastern Germany, he was captured by the Nazis.  During his time as a prisoner of war, he was sent to Dresden.  Whilst he was in Dresden, the city was carpeted bombed by the British and Americans, (something which is now widely considered to be a war crime).  This event, in his own words, 'ruined his life for the next forty years' because nothing he'd experienced in the theatre of war prepared him for the horrors which he saw during this event.  He became a pacifist as a result and ultimately joined the Communist Party.

After the war he became a painter and decorator and ironically helped to build the Southbank Centre where today's talk was held.  Becoming tired of this he got a job as a driver for the head of a large Soviet bank in London.  This was of course, during the Cold War, and he was approached by British military intelligence to become an agent which he did.  He was a keen motor cyclist & attended many motor cycle rallies behind the Iron Curtain.  It was during one of these rallies that he accidentally bumped into the German officer who'd arrested him in eastern Germany and they became friends.  He spent a lot of time in Hungary and became one of the first people to physically cut the barbed wire that served as the Iron Curtain.

Phew!  Did you get all that?

He was a likeable old man with a very salty, particularly London turn of phrase that I found very endearing - describing the operation that ultimately lead to his capture as a prisoner of war, 'It was a cock up.  A complete balls up.  Them officers didn't know what the b****y hell they were doing.'

By the time the talk had ended, the weather had taken a turn for the better so I decided to take a wander along the Southbank.  Monstrous concrete architecture aside, it's one of my favourite parts of London.

I love the weekend book market underneath the railway arches.

I once found a 1902 edition of Thomas de Quincy's 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater' there for £10.

And then there's the graffitied arches below the Southbank where skateboarders gather to show off their skills...
I tried very hard to capture the boarders in motion but they were just too fast for me.

I was surprised and bemused by the graffiti artists' unexpected social statements...

There was a food market on. 

It's safe to say that I'm addicted to food markets.  

I had a wonderful hog roast and apple sauce sandwich followed by the most delicious chocolate brownie I have ever had.  Sitting in the sun eating good food makes me very happy.

It really was a perfect day.  What's your ideal way to spend a Sunday?



scrogghill said...

My favourite Sunday activity is playing scrabble whilst eating pork pies with lots of marrowbone jelly in them.

Liberty London Girl said...

Your comment made me cry. Blogging can be many things but the one thing I never thought it would be was a platform to change peoples lives, directly or indirectly, or be a force for good.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. LLGxx

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Ooh a book market sounds so delightful- I wish I'd known about it when I was in England! Next time... Have a great weekend xo

Minnie said...

I'm with you on the dreariness of the architecture! But, also like you, I used to haunt the place (it helped that it was part of my walk to/from Waterloo-City & my partner post-divorce worked at the SBC).
What a delightful description of a wonderful, well-spent - and very thought-provoking day. Glad you wrote about it & am sure it will remain in your memory. Lovely to hear of the adventures of the elderly being justly celebrated.
Came here from Mrs Trefusis's august residence, drawn by your comment re The Plankton. Also followed her briefly - until I twigged that it was a constant back-and-forth between self-pity & spleen. Helpful, kindly comments are ignored - or mined for the next rant; the only commenters she responds to are those who are slavish in their ador/miration!
You're right: attitude (& confidence) is all. Bon journée!


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