Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ye gods what glorious feast!

I had intended to write a pithy paragraph each day, a dispatch, Edward R. Murrow-style, on the daily adventures of the Obers in England. Now we're at the end of our first week and I've managed meandering accounts of day 1 and day 3. Untold in the hurly-burly of catching trains and feeding body and mind and tromping back to the hotel with barely enough energy left to take off one's shoes, never mind spotty Internet access (not that I'm complaining), has been the momentous trek from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, the terrible deed of Milo the Cretonian, Hal's triumphant return to Hampstead Haeth, Matthew's excellent day of shopping at the Camden Market and Carnaby Street, the descent from "The 39 Steps" into the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus, and the remarkable excursions to York and Bath.

But today is a day of catching up. On sleep, on laundry, on blog posting. All the while, of course, we have been moving from the London of discovery, where everything is brand new and remarkable, including names of cars (Scenic, Fabia, Clio, Espace, Saxo, Stream) and Tube stops (Barking, Wapping, Cockfosters) to the London of familiarity, where you become another rider on the Tube and you even stop joking about the lift ladies whose prim voices ("Please do not obstruct the doors!") officiate every ascent and descent, or peering quite as closely at the coins to make sure you haven't mistaken a pound for a seven-sided twenty pence—although if you hadn't peered, you might have missed the inscription on the edge, DECUS ET TUTAMEN: "an ornament and a safeguard."

So, looking through the glass onion of this first week: a visit to the Museum of London, a glass onion in itself, allowing one to time-travel through the square mile of the City of London from the paleolithic giant rhinoceroses to Romans to Saxons to Vikings to the Plague to the Fire to (this place has a lot of history)

Meanwhile, running among the displays, making a display of their own, was a group of 9-year-old boys, sounding like 9-year-old boys everywhere, except with British accents. And why shouldn't they? But I think that must have been right at the border between novelty (kids! British kids!) and familiarity.

We walked from Nelson's Column to Buckingham Palace. We peered in at the Queen's guards in their bearskin hats. They're not close enough to try to get them to laugh or flinch now. They're far back against the palace wall, marching and stopping and posting up in front of the guardhouses like clcokwork soldiers, regarding the tourists of the world leaning against the gates regarding them.

And then we caught a bus to Hampstead—the old #24 I always used to take home when I lived in a flat on Parliament Hill Road in 1968, studying in London. And home I went again, pulling my tired family up the hill with me, past Nasssington Road, to Number 64, looking different, but not too. You can go home again. You just can't go in. So I stood outside for the obligatory photo, hoping someone would come out and say, "What's all this, then?" so I could tell them about our satanic-looking landlord Karel Felix arriving for the rent in a wreath of cigar smoke and about Brian Jones's (of the Rolling Stones) girlfriend who lived downstairs, and dwell a bit longer in both places.

Time to go. Matt wants to use the computer. But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the fellow inscribed in a plaque in the garden outside the entrance to the Museum of London: "Milo the Cretonian an ox slew with his fists and ate it up at one meal. Ye Gods what glorious feast!"

No comments:

Post a Comment