Well Done Mum, I’ve Turned Out Awesome!

Anne at Parliament

Last Sunday Mothering Day was observed in the UK. In the run-up to this holiday, vendors were hawking all sorts of wares to buy for mum. Many with snappy catchphrases, like this post’s title. Another good line was, “Okay mum, you were right about basically everything.” I especially prefer using the first line, because on so many levels, it is so true! 😉

Speaking of mothering, Dan blew into town last night. He has been working hard and needed to get out of the city for a few days. He now has two jobs, there is the one that he landed earlier this month, while we were in NYC. That one is in TV, but I am not permitted to disclose much more than that, except that he worked a shoot last week near Rochester, NY. The newer job is more art related. His first gig was to build sets for an art show. He also now has a new roommate.

Meanwhile, Dave has booked his flights for both Boston and Belgium. His itinerary for next month looks like it will be one long road trip. In addition to meeting with his prospective employers, it seems that he has also included enough time on this trip for a little bit of fun. I’ll have to ask him though, what led him to book his return flights through Warsaw. It is not exactly on the way.

Changing of the Guard

Queen’s Life Guard at Buckingham Palace

Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace

On our last full day in London, we decided to explore further west in London than we had been before. We took the tube to Green Park station, with the intent of stretching our legs for the day in a bit of green space. We arrived during the changing of the guard, but not near early enough to get a good view of it. Most of my photos show only the tops of the Queen’s Guard furry shakos bouncing above the intervening throng. We were lucky to catch a good view of the Queen’s Life Guard as they cantered to Buckingham Palace.

The next day, while riding the Heathrow express, Anne sat next to a woman whose husband had been in the Queen’s Guard. She was on her way to greet him at Heathrow. The Queen’s Guard is famous for its ability to stand motionless at attention, in the face of countless distractions from annoying tourists like myself. In the Guard, he had received training on how to stand motionless for hours. He was allowed to wiggle his toes to increase circulation, because that movement couldn’t be seen within his boots. Apparently, the Guard members like to prank each other. One unfortunate guardsmen had an alarm clock secreted beneath the lining of his busby. All his mates must have been eagerly waiting and watching to see if he would twitch when it went off.

Penny Stinkards

Globe Theater

I had always heard of them as groundlings. Those people who in Shakespeare‘s times, stood in the open center of his theater. On our tour of the above pictured reproduction of the Globe, I learned that their real name was penny stinkards. Parsed, this name derives from their one penny admission fee and the fact that they stunk. The cleanest person in all England then was Queen Elizabeth, who only bathed four times a year. Add to this the fact that they all chewed garlic to ward off plague and you can only imagine what a thousand of these stinkers, all crowded together, could have smelled like to the actors on stage. The interval or as we say here in America, an intermission, is a modern invention. So, those five act plays were performed without relief. Speaking of which, to relieve yourself, you couldn’t leave the theater, because readmission would cost you another penny. There was no loo in the house, so your only alternative was to do it there.

We were sitting in one of the stalls that ring the theater, when this photo was taken. Interestingly, modern theaters in London still refer to what we in America call orchestra seating as the stalls. Back then stall seating cost two pennies. Our stall seats that we purchased to see the Carol King musical, Beautiful, were a bit more. The walled-in second level sections flanking the stage are the boxes and were used by the upper class. While, the nobility sat in the boxes behind the stage. It was more important to be seen than to see. That is except for the center second level box, under the gold heart, which was for the orchestra. The door above the stage is where the sound effects were performed. The first Globe burned down when a cannon was fired from this area and set the theater afire. All 1,500 theater goers managed to escaped alive.  

Ours was the last tour of the day, even though it was only noon. That is because this afternoon was devoted to the performance of The Taming of the Shrew. The Globe was built to let in the afternoon light, when Shakespeare normally had his plays performed. Candles were too expensive. This day the performance was being put on for school groups. The stage is dressed in white to represent a wedding cake. Such set decorations are not historically accurate, but were done here for the younger audience. You can see the cast walking onto the stage for a last minute rehearsal. The director is standing on the stairs, with his back to us. This production was in the last week of its eight week run and the director was rather upset with the cast for giving only a half-hearted effort during the subsequent rehearsal. Shortly, it began to rain quite heavily, which put an end to the show, but in Shakespeare’s time the show went on rain or shine. Those poor penny stinkards would have gotten a bath.

Long Day’s Journey into Night

British Busker and Rube at Covent Garden Market

We’re home now, after yesterday’s very long day of travel. It began with a red double-decker bus ride across London to Paddington Station, where we caught the express train to Heathrow. This time, we flew a 787 across the Pond and I cannot not overstate just how fantastic this aircraft is. One small example is that there is now enough headroom to standup in your seat. No longer do you need to leap into the aisle, just to stretch out and I had a window seat. Our route took us across Ireland, Quebec and Lake Huron. We were at 40,000 feet when Anne identified the circular remains of the giant ancient meteorite crater in Quebec. I saw Manitoulin Island before it clouded up. Another key feature of this plane is that it is almost 10% faster than any other airliner, because after eight hours, no matter how great this airplane is, you will be ready to get off of it. We landed at O’Hare, where our customs experience was everything that the Donald could have hoped for. We passed through without even the agent’s once perfunctory welcome home greeting and found ourselves Back in the USSR. Weather had cancelled our connection, but we were able to change airlines and land in the Lou, with only a few hours of delay. Home, siting on the couch and watching an SNL rerun, I realized that we had been up since what was now 1 AM local. It had been a very long day indeed. We really enjoyed our holiday in merry ole England. I chose this photo, because it perfectly captures the mix of traditional, modern, fun and profane that epitomized our visit to London.