About this blog
I’m going to try and visit every attraction in London (even the rubbish ones), and every big event like 'Trooping the Colour' as well. But it will probably take me about ten years to complete because I’m too lazy to get out of bed most days, so I hope you stick around until the end.
Where I’ve been…
These are the top 25 things that I’ve enjoyed the most:
>Churchill War Rooms
Visit London Drum’s YouTube channel for more videosI went to the Churchill War Rooms today and it was pretty good. I thought it was going to be deep underground like a concrete bunker, ten miles down, reinforced with steel to withstand an atomic bomb. But no, it was nothing like that. It was literally just ten steps down from the street. It seemed to be housed in the basement of a big building in Whitehall, and probably stretches right under Downing Street. If Hitler aimed his bombs a bit better I'm sure he could have landed one on Churchill's head.
They give you one of those big listening devices when you go in that looks like a 1980s mobile phone. I don't usually bother listening to those things but the commentary wasn't bad. You can hear stuff like falling bombs and sirens wailing, and the day-to-day bustle of people going about their business. Every time you pass a room there is a number on the wall and you have to type it into this big phone to get the commentary. They tell you about what went on there, what all the stuff is that you can see, and even a few diary readings from the people who did the job.
It's pretty cool actually, it's quite atmospheric down there and it's easy to imagine what it must have been like. It makes me wish I was born in 1920. The corridors are cramped and the ceilings are low, the lights are barely lit. It must have been pretty dark and smokey, judging by all the 1940s fag packets on the tables. These days they'd make you stand outside if you wanted a puff, even when the bombs were falling. But judging by the amount of ashtrays on the desks down there everyone was puffing like a steam train.
The first room you come to is actually the best of the lot -- the War Cabinet Room. It's got the table and chairs around which the big man sat, with all his bigwigs and military men. Winston's seat is in the middle and the rest are right on top of him -- two feet from his face. It's very cramped down there. You've probably got the 20 most important people in London sitting in 20 square feet. They play you a dramatised transcript of one of the meetings too, so you can hear what went on. It's quite amusing to hear Churchill pretending to be deaf to fob off someone's arguments.
Then you go past the secret telephone scrambler room, which was cunningly disguised as the Prime Minister's own flushing toilet. It's even got one of those 'engaged' locks on the door. I wonder what people thought when he came out two hours later.
After that you have to make a detour through the new Churchill Museum. It's not bad I suppose, but it's basically just one big room with lots of cabinets and push-button TV screens. They've got the obvious stuff like his bowler hat and cigar on display, and his 'Dirty Harry' style handgun (it's about a foot long!). They've got some of his paintings too. Luckily for us he was better at politics than he was at painting. You can listen to his speeches and watch a movie of his State Funeral too, if you want. I just used that as an excuse to sit down, to be honest, but it was quite interesting to see people like Atlee (I think it was Atlee) in the 1960s, shuffling up the steps of St. Paul's to pay their respects.
After the museum you go back on the tour, and see stuff like the kitchen and bedrooms. I'll tell you this: If I paid to stay in a hotel with rooms like that I would have left. There's no luxury in the War Rooms. Winston's bedroom is about the size of my bathroom. It's got all his maps on the wall and a cigar by his bed (who takes a cigar to bed?). His wife's room is a bit nicer, with a pink bedspread and a pretty cup and saucer. He certainly knew how to woo the ladies.
After that you come to the Chief of Staff's Conference Room and the Map Room. They are packed with military maps and telephones, all different colours depending on who was on the other end. They've got some waxworks in their too, so it looks like the staff are going about their business.
It's good! It's definitely worth a visit -- as long as you don't mind sharing the dark and dusty concrete corridors with a load of old men, reliving their youth.
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