We now have a pocketful of cards of various kinds. On our first day in England, we purchased our senior rail cards, and, believing that we needed small photos, stopped in a booth and produced the usual dopey-looking snaps. The rail card has its own little green case.
In Truro we acquired, temporarily, a library card, but it remained there. We also got reader's cards issued by the County Record Office, which should serve in other counties as we visit them.
After a few days in London, we have added several more documents, each a different size and shape. The Society of Genealogists has given us Provisional Membership Cards, held in a clip-mounted plastic holder like any conventioneer's badge; our permanent cards may go to Texas or perhaps we'll pick them up here -- they are quite attractive and wallet-sized.
We have purchased a one-week transport pass and will soon exchange that for a one-month pass. That did require our photos, which the attendant in the subway station pasted onto our transport identity cards. We now each have a snazzy blue plastic holder containing our picture ID and our weekly ticket both of which we are required to use when boarding a bus or subway.
At the Public Record Office in Kew, we were issued Reader Cards, good through 2006. They are also quite attractive, sturdy and wallet-sized!
We carry our Post office telephone calling card, similar to our AT&T calling card except with longer numbers.
We got a nice temporary membership card in English Heritage, which will allow us access to various historic locations throughout the country. This is different from the National Trust, which concentrates on the more elegant, furnished, and generally occcupied country estates and castles.
We have three keys to our apartment: the building door and two (one skeleton key) for our apartment door. The postman apparently has the building key as well, because our mail is tidily dropped through the slot in the door.
We were disappointed to learn that Camden, the part of London where we live, requires six month's residence before issuing library cards. This must be hard on the 25% of Camden residents who are recent immigrants and refugees and could use the resources of a good public library.
Along with our cards we have accumulated quite a collection of membership pamphlets, maps, guides, library layouts, etc. The guides to the transportation system are suitably complex, and are quite helpful . . . so long as the transport system is working correctly.
There are several different private companies which operate portions of the London underground and bus systems, but so far they all seem to work together quite well. They share tracks and routes, and a common traveller interface.
Nevertheless, we seem to be walking a lot. Often people don't volunteer the information you need to know. For example, on some weekends the underground is closed from Baker Street to King's Cross for repairs and as part of the ongoing restoration / renovation of the King's Cross and Pancras stations. But what we were told at Great Portland Street Station was (with a grin) "they're building a tunnel to France." This was followed with good information concerning how to travel to South Kensington, where we wanted to visit the LDS Family History Library. So we walked to the Warren Street station and changed at Green Park. Then on the way back, we inquired if we could take the Circle Line to Great Portland Street and the attendant mistakenly answered yes. So we found ourselves dumped at the Baker Street Station where it is hard to avoid the crowds pushing towards Madame Tussaud's, and those leaving the station are under the watchful eye of a statue of Sherlock Holmes, complete with pipe and deerstalker hat. Nobody had told us simply that Great Portland Street Station would be out of business until Monday morning, although we finally saw that sign posted inside the Baker Street Station.
In a similar vein (it goes on and on) a number of bus stops are closed from time to time for building restorations. Sometimes there are temporary bus stops placed nearby, but the bus drivers don't always know about the temporary stops. So they drive by. One woman in her 50s raced two and a half blocks to the next stop to try to correct a wayward bus (and no doubt give the driver a piece of her mind).
Big cities are always under construction and repair ("Dig We Must for a Growing New York" was a universal Con Edison sign in the fifties) so we are often diverted. If we would just take one fixed route every day we would soon learn the drill. But we keep trying to go to different libraries and archives and museums, so we keep having new London travel adventures!
The Congestion Charge of five pounds to drive in Central London on weekdays seems to be working; all the traffic seems to be cabs, buses and lorries. A few private cars do pay the charge, but the newspapers are reporting that one of the cars belonging to the Tony Blair family has had several tickets -- failure of staff to fill out the proper forms. With our pockets full of official cards and with surveys and guides and maps spilling out of our tote bag and computer case, we can definitely sympathize!
Our report title matches that of a 1955 novel by Nigel Dennis.