Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Before the city wakes...

Monday, 4 June 2012:

After class, I finally made it to the Churchill War Rooms, like I promised Grandpa Tobler I would. I've enjoyed reading about WWII, but visiting the actual sights does something that no amount of studying can do. Call me cliche, but it brings the history to life. It's really exciting for me to be enjoying history, you see, because it hasn't been a subject that I've been extremely passionate about in the past. I'm embarrassed by that now. Everything I was exploring at the museum hit home when an elderly man pointed to the date on the description of an artifact and, leaning over to me, told me that he had been born six days prior to that day. June 13th, 1937. Sometimes I forget how close history is to my own day, and when it comes to war, that can be a scary thought.

Mr. Churchill himself.
Monday night was a night of Jubilee celebration. Abby and Brittany and I grabbed some dinner then went to Hyde Park to watch the live broadcast of the Jubilee concert on a big screen. It was such a fun atmosphere! People and British flag decor and booths everywhere. On the program were Paul McCartney, Jessie J, Elton John, Sissel, and others. We saw a few strange things during the evening: drunkards in a human chain running around us in circles, a man begging every girl in sight for "just one  kiss on the cheek", two gay men enjoying themselves far too much directly in front of us, a lady to the right of us who seemed to be aiming her cigarettes straight into our mouths, and a giant pair of eyes in a tree. I'm sure there was more that I've forgotten by now, but it was quite the variety. It was one of my favorite evenings in London!

Sunset in Hyde Park. Pretty good shot, eh?

Abby and Brittany.
This tree wanted to watch the Jubilee concert too. 

Elton John, Paul McCartney, the Queen of England, and others.
Tuesday, 5 June 2012:

Ry, this story's especially for you.

My dear brother Ryan, being as wise as he is, suggested several weeks ago that I try exploring the city of London before it wakes up in the morning. Because of so many late nights, I didn't actually try it until Tuesday morning; I woke up at 5, and set off on my own little adventure by 5:15. Because the tube hadn't quite started running by that time, I took a bus to get to St. James' Park. I ended up just enjoying a nice long bus ride and getting off at the end of its route, but then I had no idea how to get to the park from there... because of the Queen's Jubilee, all sorts of roads are closed and cluttered and it's difficult to get anywhere. It's a long story, but I ended up heading to the park, changing my mind about where I wanted to go, and wandering till I reached the Westminister area. By this time, there were dozens of policemen on every street preparing for Jubilee festivities, so I wasn't exactly alone in the city like I had planned. I walked along the pier of the Thames Rivers and found the perfect bench near Westminister Bridge and directly across the river from the London Eye. A beautiful view of the city from every angle. I brought with me a poem by William Wordsworth that Ryan introduced to me, which was written right on Westminister Bridge. I sat there for a long time, reading and rereading it and pausing every few moments to admire my surroundings. It was actually quite the spiritual experience. I began to write and write in my journal, reflecting on my London experience as a whole.

The beautiful morning view from my favorite bench.
During the time I was writing, a homely Italian fellow had taken a seat on the bench about ten yards to the right of my bench. He didn't bother me until he started smoking, because up until then I had been enjoying the rare smokeless air. He walked over to me after a while, asking for a "letter" or "paper." At first I couldn't understand him, so I just shook my head "no" and tried to focus on the perfect morning I was having. To be honest, I actually thought he wanted something to roll his drugs up in. When he came over again and asked a second time, I understood, and (even though I'm OCD about never ripping out my journal paper) I shared a piece of the precious paper with him, and he thanked me and walked away. Not five minutes later, he returned yet again and said "you write letter."
"You want me to write you a letter?" I asked.
"Yes, yes! Please! Sign paper. It doesn't have to be your name, just something to remember this morning!"

I didn't know what he was up to, so I declined, but finally gave in when he wouldn't stop pestering me. I quickly signed a non-legible signature and handed it back. He looked at it as if it wasn't exactly what he wanted (he was looking for a full "letter"), but was happy nonetheless. He thanked me profusely and finally left. Or so I thought. He sat back on his bench. Soon, he stood up, put on his backpack, and began walking in the other direction. Three times he walked a few feet, stopped, and looked back dramatically as if to bid me goodbye. He finally disappeared, but then he'd suddenly reappeared, sat on his bench in the same place, and stared out into the Thames. He repeated this dramatic process several times, until he finally left and didn't return; for that I was grateful! What a crazy crazy man. 

After what seemed like a four hour adventure, I went to Abbey Road with some friends. We took the traditional Beatles pictures as all annoying tourists must do, and we sang to all our favorite Beatles songs as we walked. No shame.

Caroline and I had a really enjoyable afternoon. First we went to Covent Gardens; listened to the musicians, dilly-dallied around the shops, got a cookie from the heavenly Ben's Cookies, and just soaked up the fun environment. As is usually the case, we spent more money than we meant to. Oops.

Covent Gardens. :)
Next, we wanted to find a little cafe to sit in, out of the rain and cold, and finish reading Twelfth Night for our Shakespeare class since we would be seeing the production in the evening. We got a little distracted by M&S, then H&M, then Stanford's bookstore (triple oops), but eventually we stopped in at Paul cafe and enjoyed an hour or so of reading. We actually ended up going to Nero cafe for dinner, and ended up lingering there almost an hour as well. We had time to kill before the play. Although we hardly had a motive during the entire day, we had such a great time. I think Caroline is the greatest. She's very quiet and reserved, but she's hilarious when she opens up! She has her head screwed on straight and is one of the sweetest, most sincere people I know. Thanks for such a fun day, Caroline!

Paul Cafe.

Like I mentioned, we went to Twelfth Night in the evening, which was surprisingly well-done. It was especially fun to watch because I was in the play in middle school with all my friends, so it brought back a flood of funny memories! Mike White as a drunkard, Heather and Jakes' behind the scene fling, Allysa and Amity as the leads, Annie Willie who moved to Wyoming... I can still remember the smell of the auditorium where we rehearsed. Wasn't that just yesterday? 

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