Cereal bars in the City
London Photography

Cereal bars in the City

The story behind the image

It is often the case that I need to pop into London. Usually, I drive to Heathrow, park up, and catch the underground into the city. After spending hours on the M1 during my last trip, I decided to see how cheaply I could get directly to the city centre. A few minutes with Mr Google online and I was all set up with a £17 ticket all the way to St Pancras.

The downside of my money saving plan was that the train would be leaving early.....very early.

The night before the big trip I decided to upgrade my iPhone. The new software included what seemed like a great feature that calculated how much sleep I would get. Unsure how this worked exactly I was pleasantly surprised to have my phone tell me it was time to go to bed.

To get to the station on time I needed to be up at 4 am. I set the alarm on my phone and drifted off.

Having been lying awake since 2:30 am waiting for the alarm. I quietly turned it off at 3:59 am so as not to wake my lovely wife.

A friend had recommended that I take a cereal bar with me on my photo shoots. In this way, if I felt peckish I would not need to trudge around to find somewhere expensive to eat.

In my local shop, they only sold cereal bars in multipacks. I poured all ten bars into my camera bag. That would sort me out in the city!

Glugging a strong coffee I grabbed my tripod and camera and set off. My plan was to take some sunrise shots in Hyde Park. Maybe I could get some lovely tree lined path shots with early morning joggers silhouetted against the morning light...the possibilities were very exciting.

I have found that very early morning train commuters are the least likely to be up for a chat. Most often they just stare into space with an 'I wish I was still in bed' look etched across their face. This particular morning was no exception.

My carriage was quite busy.

It was also silent.

We were only half an hour into the journey when the music started playing.

I had never heard this piece before. It was a very soothing piano piece. We all looked at each other. Perhaps this was a ploy of East Midlands Trains to keep us all happy. Or lull us off to sleep.

After ten minutes there were visible signs of irritation. The music was extremely short and very repetitive. It was the sort of music that sticks in your brain. The only way to remove it would be to hear an even more annoying tune to replace it.

The plus side was that everyone was now talking. Perhaps the driver had a new ringtone he was trying out. Maybe the elderly lady in the corner had a radio hidden in her handbag. Whatever the reason for the mystery music, the carriage was alive with shared disgruntlement.

After 40 minutes we could not wait to escape the torture of tinkling on the piano. As we stood on the platform I could still hear it! Was it my mind playing tricks, or could I really still hear it as I walked away from the train?

My fellow passengers made off quickly towards the underground.

I felt a gentle vibration in my pocket.

It was my iPhone. It had been telling me it was time to get up. It was the source of the music.

I decided to hang back a while and let the platform clear before I moved off. I did not want to get lynched.

By the time I had made it to Hyde Park the sun had already risen. It was singularly unspectacular. My wife texted me a great shot from her mobile of the beautiful colours in the sky back at home.

I sat in Hyde Park and ate a cereal bar.

To save weight I had made the decision not to bring a watch. I would rely on my iPhone. Pulling out the dreaded device I noted that it was just after 6 am and my battery was half empty. All that power had been used up by the wake-up piano music on the train.

I could not sit on a bench all day (no matter how tempting it was). I decided to use the day to get some great shots of early morning London.

After scoffing another cereal bar to fuel my new found mission I headed over to the Serpentine.

The Serpentine is a large lake in Hyde Park created in 1730. Many varieties of bird have a stopover on the calm waters of the Serpentine. My plan was to sit for a while by the water's edge and fire off some shots of the birds. Wild birds come from all over Europe on their way to somewhere else and sit on the lake.

I quickly learnt that these wildfowl were not that wild. They got well fed by passers-by.

Finding a spot with no droppings I sat down to wait for my feathered friends to come to me.

I watched as birds fought over the husks of bread being thrown by a small boy from across the lake. He had monopolised the entire bird stock. My wishing that I too had a loaf of bread quickly changed to horror as events unfolded before me. The young chap had run out of food. Instead of the birds saying "thank you" and swimming off for in search of a new supplier, they descended on him to find out why he had stopped.

Overwhelmed by the onslaught of so many birds the poor boy ran into his mother's arms and was quickly whisked away. Shocked onlookers pointed and shook their heads at the wickedness of the flying demons.

I cracked open a cereal bar to calm my nerves. One bar was not enough. It was as I opened the third bar in a row that I realised the birds were heading for me. They all fancied a cereal bar sized snack.

Not wanting to be mauled by these feathered attackers I scampered off in search of a safe haven. As I walked along by the side of the lake I spotted a TV crew. Maybe they were covering a story of Londoners terrorised by swans. I moved swiftly on.

Despite having seen images of Russian swimmers getting into freezing rivers in movies, I was still taken aback at the sight of speedo adorned athletes in the early morning sun. I wondered if they had problems with what seemed like the rabid bird population of the Serpentine. Maybe they were left alone being some sort of water based kindred spirit.

Downing the last of the cereal bars I was feeling lightheaded. The combination of oats glued together with goodness knows what was giving me the shakes. I whipped out my tripod and snapped away as the sun beamed out over the water.

Eventually, I made it to Serpentine Bridge. The warm glow of the morning sun lit up the arches of this historic structure.

It was 8 am. Only 13 hours to go before my cheap return ticket home. I had no cereal bars and a dead mobile. This had all the ingredients of a great adventure in the city.

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Location: Serpentine, London.

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