I write as the US warns of an incident to occur, and hope all of us stay safe in these most uncertain days. In London, there is debate over what to do with the thousand or so young Muslims who wish to fight with the Taliban. Since the nation is not formally at war, they can’t be charged with treason when they return, but other charges are being explored. One of the biggest rabble-rousers is an asylum-seeking cleric here, who’s been living on benefits for years. There is anger from the young men, even those British born and educated, who will defend their religion over their country; some welcome martyrdom.
These are also bad times for actors. Several big cast shows are closing, due to the drop in tourism, including Starlight Express, after 18 years. I never saw it.
The leaves change a bit each day in Hyde Park, turning yellow and brown and dropping, as about 5 minutes of light evaporates daily. As I write, we just began daylight savings time. Mike’s two-week trip to the US ends soon. Virginia Creeper on the roof turned burgundy, burst into flame red, but now lies bare and spent after rains, leaving only spidery tendrils against the wall.
My September, in the aftermath of the bombings, ended with more visits to the Embassy Park. I joined volunteers on a Monday sorting literally mountains of flowers, separating cards (many waterlogged), ribbons, wrappers, and arranging banks of the freshest remaining flowers for the cameras due at the final ceremony Tuesday. We discarded and dragged tall bales of spent flora. We worked all day in jeans, stooping and lifting, filling huge black garbage bags and bins, storing vases, candles, hats, toys and memorabilia, all of which will be catalogued by a college group and stored. I pushed a huge wooden broom so we’d stop sliding on plant slime.
Even as we removed, new flowers arrived from mourning visitors, although the park had just closed. The site looked splendid when we finished, the podium surrounded by a sea of blooms, and we looked like we needed a bath! The steps in front of the podium became tiered red, white, and blue flower rows, and behind them, around FDR’s statue, plants and the newest bouquets were set, and on four pillars around the monument. Everything will be mulched afterwards. When the TV camera people complained to the city gardeners that their line of sight would be interrupted, out came a row of offending yews. We covered the mess with flowers. I wonder if they’ve been replaced?
The next day, the Royal Marine band played glittering instruments in sunshine. Their dark blue suits created a strong backdrop for sparkling white pith helmets. We gathered around the dais, with TV cameras rolling and sharpshooters on nearby roofs, as the Ambassador gave a short talk. Next was the British ex American ambassador, flanked by political and military figures. Religious representatives wore turbans, yarmulkes and just plain hair. Several British families who lost relatives carried photos. A young British Army piper in played Amazing Grace from the top step, and an American bugler played Taps. The crowd was not large, and I’m not sure how I knew about the ceremony at all, other than word of mouth, the same way I was asked to volunteer in the garden.
The police continue to cordon off the area and to fill London’s streets—ten thousand extras on duty—as tensions continue throughout the city and the world. Next year is the start of the proposed construction to replace the Docklands finance building where the IRA killed workers with a 1000 lb. bomb. London has dealt with terrorism for years, and has no need for added Muslim involvement in hatred when they have so many evil Christians available.
If you were one of 56 children, like Osama bin Laden, with educated friends from huge families with no real job possible, you might get into trouble too. Four wives and no birth control? Where’s the closest mid-east Planned Parenthood office? Saudi women can’t even drive, so who carpools all those kids? Does oil money pay for all the chauffeurs and plane tickets to escapist holidays?
While I volunteered greeting mourners in the park, I met a garrulous old Irish Jesuit. Fr. Foley has led retreats in America, and whispered conspiratorially that he prays to Fulton Sheen, sure the TV bishop will be canonized. He invited me to his church nearby. On Sunday morning I realized it’s across from The Connaught Hotel, surrounded by other swanky 5 star hotels. After the Latin 11 o’clock high mass, I met my first baroness, since we all were lured into clean-up after coffee by Maxine, a sort of holy Mighty Mouse. They all come here, even Protestants, the baroness cheerily laughs! (Forget styrofoam; coffee was served in green cups and saucers, and there is no dishwasher but us!) The choir is professional, and the service pleasant, but quite pre-Vatican II. We next ran into the baroness and her sister in the Audley, a beautiful pub nearby serving Sunday roast. The area near the embassy is upscale, and we strolled in the pretty church park and nearby streets and shops before heading home in the rain. The weather this year is much better than last year’s record deluges, and it’s been an unusually warm autumn for London.
Exhausted after Sept. 11, and sorry about canceling our trip Down Under, we rented a car and headed for Stonehenge. I’d been forewarned to be underwhelmed, but no! It was stunning, I thought, to see those giant calendar rocks, arranged over a thousand years, marking solstices and moonrises, with giant doorways through which the sun shone on different months of the year. Trader/farmers six thousand years ago replaced earlier wooden markers with stone. The hill is visible from the road from a distance, topped by the stones like candles on a grassy birthday cake. Close up, the English Heritage hand-held Audioguide and signposts explain the site.
The wild hilltop wind scrambles your hair like an eggbeater as you walk in the grass around the giant stones, listening to details. There’s a circle of small bluestones, up to your thighs, (you can’t get too close because of a rope) a circle of bigger Sarsen stones with continuous lintels, added a few hundred years later, and a horseshoe of Trilithons (two giant posts and a lintel). What is unique is that the Welsh bluestones come from 350 km away; the 45 ton gray Sarsens from 30 km (19 miles), needing about 100 men to haul each one. (Neolithic boats capable of carrying 20 oarsmen and five ton loads—tonnes, in British--have been discovered.) There are many ditches, and a slaughter stone for human sacrifice. Human bones abound, but vigorous amateur diggers disturbed most burial sites. Only about a third of the original stones remain; the area was used as a giant rock quarry for years.
The once continuous lintel was level, despite ground angulation, and giant edges were tongue-in-groove fitted. A joint also connects each section to the piece below. The work was well planned and executed. It’s easy to imagine processions, chants, music, or games thousands of years ago. Before radio, TV, film or books, I envision bearded druids worshiping life forces in huge living trees, or man charting sun passages, stable and predictable, as opposed to the churning skies that thundered, threatened, then beguiled. Avebury is nearby, another one of the 10,000 stone henges or shrines of Europe, but we didn’t get there. One of its stones tops the scales at 65 tons. (How do they measure that? Maybe it’s only 64 or 62 tons.)
Nearby is picturesque Salisbury, with the medieval tallest cathedral tower in England, unique because it was all built in a century in early English Gothic style. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror brought over his Norman pals to build and administer England. This church began in 1220 and is gorgeous inside and out, finely decorated in stone carvings, monuments, stained glass, paintings, and embroidery. There is a chapter house very much like the one at Westminster Abbey, and also the biggest cloister in England, and a choir school. Since 1970, there is also a choir for girls.
One of the four remaining originals of Magna Carta (1215) is in a glass case. A black iron medieval clock inside the rear of the church has no face, but strikes a bell on the quarter hour; supposedly it’s the oldest working clock in the world, from 1386. Since we’d arrived too late for evensong, we decided on a later “mystery concert” at 7:30. It turned out to be a barbershop quintet in that enormous stone nave, men in bright pink shirts and black bow ties! Rugatino’s for a cozy dinner, across the cathedral yard, ended the evening. Visitors for centuries have done pretty much what we did on our visit.
We stayed in a B&B that night at “Baryl “in an antique four poster with yards of fabric gathered overhead and behind us. In our room were hundreds of small old leather-bound books; the owner has an antique store in town. The next morning, we had a huge garden to browse after noshing “the full English”, with aisles of espaliered fruits, vegetables, and flowers. On the nearby green hillsides, sheep (the “Cotswold lion”) and sunshine after the morning rain. The house looked like a Gothic castle with jutting chimneys, with a pool for summertime. We walked through the old town, exploring market stalls and enjoying shops and smells. There are medieval market booths of carved stone alongside modern nylon umbrellas and tents. The streets, vacant in the dark the night before, were jammed. Dogs on leashes, pushchairs, (strollers), canes, wheelchairs, carts, teens and busy housewives milled everywhere.
Off we went to picturesque Wells, home of another cathedral named for the natural wells that provide the town’s abundant water. It was the market day, and stalls lined the ancient streets. The church was built from 1180 to 1508. Churches in the area date from 705, and the diocese was created in 909, the time of the church’s Saxon baptismal font. This church wasn’t dissolved by Henry in 1539 with nearby Bath’s because it belonged to secular priests, not to a monastic order. A climb up very deeply worn wide stone steps—a processional stairway--led to the Chapter House, where canons met daily to read a bible chapter and plan events. The pathway looks like a movie set! Soon thereafter, we saw that very staircase in a BBC TV film. The well-lit octagonal room, also like Westminster’s, has a frieze, stained glass windows, and tile floor. There is an ancient clock on the building exterior wall where mechanical helmeted warriors strike a bell at the hour, while (whilst) inside, its face is elaborately painted, having but one hand. And we take wristwatches for granted!
Wells has unusual scissor arches in the high stone nave, a tower with no spire, and still retains some of its medieval glass, but what probably is most memorable is its beautiful grounds, with a duck pond moat, today filled with swans trained to ring a bell when they’re hungry. The golden stone is warm and inviting. Its front, or west portal is filled with rows of medieval sculptures over the door, the largest collection in the world. (Most churches replace badly eroded sculptures and move the real ones indoors. Air pollution eats into them.
The favorite sport of Cromwell’s iconoclasts was cutting up statuary, as effectively as their French neighbors after the Revolution.) Nearby is a beautiful cemetery, where gnarly leaning stones and ostentatious marble monuments mix with modest gravesites. Over the road passes a dining hall that’s also a bridge, connecting the church and the abbot’s house across the way. The church has had an organ since the early 1300’s. Adjacent in a yard are two lines of 42 golden stone row houses that housed the choral vicars; after religious upheavals when they were allowed to marry, quarters were enlarged and combined. The complex is enormous. We missed seeing the old library and bishop’s house, but there were special events that day and it was closed.
We drove a bit farther to the Cotswolds and stayed in a B&B whose Polish hostess once worked in the American Embassy in Warsaw. She and her husband had a beautiful garden with views of countryside, but our comfortable room lacked any sparkle. However, to find a cleaner, prettier, more charming area than the Cotswolds, you’d have to go to Disneyland. If there were rewards offered for finding graffiti or a dirty candy wrapper, nobody could collect.
We were near Bourton on the Water, a tourist center sometimes called ”Venice of the Cotswolds” because of the pretty stream running through it, beneath stone bridges. (The bridges had no railings, which in the US might have resulted in lawyer trolls lurking beneath.) Since it was fall and tourism was down, we dawdled, soon to find to our dismay that every restaurant, pub, and inn we stopped by was booked! How could this be? It seems there was a big cheese festival at Stow on the Wold nearby, with Prince Charles appearing to boost his organic cheese entry. We made many inquiries and finally found dinner at a big pub, The Coach and Horses, and in the morning revisited town and its tiny church, where parishioners invited us to stay for coffee after the service. (A wold is a rolling hillside.)
In the Sabbath morn’s mist, after we’d wandered into Beatrix Potter and other shops, we saw a raucous group of Morris dancers, men and women in white pajamas, blackface, ribbons flying from their white clothes, bell loops on their trousers, and outrageous decorated hats. None was young; they wore thick black clogging shoes, and huffed and puffed their way nicely through several lively dances, rather like reels and square dances. Once they noisily beat long stout sticks against each other’s sticks, with the music. Their jolly musicians played a drum, concertina, and little tin flute, augmenting volume by sheer energy, joined with shouts and hoots from the laughing dancers. By then the sun was brightly shining.
We were close to Stow on the Wold, so drove to the famed cheese fair, advertised by signs in nearby towns. The town, yes, as charming as the others, had arranged parking in a field nearby, and a bus transported us to activities at its center. The winds gusted as we strolled past red-vested Dixieland players in a tent, and skittles bowlers, jugglers, and Morris dancers in the streets. This time all men in white waved white handkerchiefs as they danced. The bells fastened to their trouser legs jingled, and blue and orange ribbons swirled from their hats as they jigged and twirled. Some jumps must have offered less challenge to healthy farm lads than the older chaps we watched, but they kept on for several vigorous dances.
The line for the vast cheese tent was lengthy, but we moved along, and entered an anthill of humanity swarming over one another. We could hardly move. Eventually, we tasted cheeses at the counters filling the place, made in venues all over England. We bought several--goat, cow, sheep, hard, soft, peppered, fruited, natural—and escaped to wander into the shops. The garden store had a sale on teak benches, but how to move one to London? There were teas, dinners, antique shows, cheesemaking classes, contests, and falconry displays.
Near Wells is Glastonbury, missed the previous day, so off we went to King Arthur country. He and Guinevere are buried nearby. Once upon a time, this was England’s biggest abbey. Henry VIII had its holy abbot hung, with two of his monks. His body was quartered, each section taken to a different town, and his head left at the abbey gateway on a pike. The immense stone monastery was destroyed, most of its walls leveled, its treasures pillaged to provide gifts to political cronies. It still amazes me that millions of people belong to a church established by an egotist so enraged with Rome. (I can be equally harsh about Rome and my home boys, and I attend services of both groups!) The Archbishop of Canterbury has encouraged Charles to be “defender of faith” not of “the faith” when it’s time to be king.
There are portions of rock walls and windows of the abbey, and foundations of other sections, and in the far distance on a hill, the Glastonbury Tor (Tower). Two thousand years ago, the area was an island, and about 300 BC a Celtic lake village was founded. Their legend placed an earth god here, where sea met land, and souls departed for the underworld. Later, Joseph of Arimathea, after placing Christ in the tomb, brought the Holy Grail here, augmenting many old tales of a special cup. His staff rooted, then blossomed into the Glastonbury thorn bush, when he thrust it into the ground. (Other stories have him and the boy Jesus building a daub and wattle church where the Lady Chapel later stood. It’s where Arthur and Guinevere’s graves lay before being despoiled by Henry. This area, with the island now called Avalon, is the first site of English Marian devotion.)
Today the tor is best reached by a small bus, which for a pound drops visitors near the hill base every 30 minutes. The climb to the top is vigorous and steep (no rails again) and the windy view is awesome. The tower is actually all that’s left of the little church of St. Michael. It’s very steep: I wondered if someone could commit suicide by running straight down, or if an excellent skier could do it. Far below were tiny cows and sheep, blue far hills and tidy geometric green fields.
The abbey burned in 1184, so another grander one was built, with very heavily ornamented Romanesque arches. The huge new church was enlarged, including a chapel to St. Thomas à Becket, murdered in Canterbury. Pilgrims came to pray, climbed the tor, bought goods, and filled local inns. The area’s wealth was second only to Westminster, and the abbot by then had a separate fine house, especially in relation to the poor monks. His house even had a special apartment made for King Henry II’s visit. His kitchen remains today, with four fireplaces in each corner, and a huge ribbed ceiling curved upwards, making air holes. Today there is a museum and a chapel for St. Patrick, also once a visitor.
In 1536, there were 800 monasteries; in 1541, none. The Church of England bought the demolished property ruins in 1907 and cares for it today. In July, services are on Tuesdays, says my booklet, and the Roman Catholics on Sunday afternoons. There is a photo of a procession past the shops in town, with vestments and banners. There are still pilgrims, more wearing Gore-Tex than homespun.
We still hadn’t gone far from London, so we drove to a small inn, the Sequoia, in Stratford upon Avon, which really had a huge sequoia in the back garden. Do avoid the Pasta restaurant on the High St. should you visit! The next day as the ticket office opened, Mike lucked out with tickets for Twelfth Night that evening, so we booked another night and made the short walk across the Avon River, past the Butterfly Garden, Thai Restaurant, and Bancroft Gardens. Before the evening’s curtain, however, we had time for another castle, and we headed for Warwick, now owned by the Tussaud Group and staffed with costumed employees and animated figures.
Warwick (“Worrik”) is actually a fine visit, and is the way the owning/selling family could afford their other Scotland home and pay off taxes. We meandered through the nearby historic town and church first. The burial place of the earls is in St. Mary’s church; its Beauchamp chantry is said to be the finest medieval chapel in England. (A chantry is a small fenced chapel inside the larger church where masses would be chanted, sung, for the donor after death.) One fine tomb was gilded brass, with carvings on its base. The church nave and tower were rebuilt after a 1694 fire.
Inside Warwick Castle grounds, bushes and hedges were trimmed, the huge variety of immense trees well tended, and the 60 acres of Capability Brown gardens exquisite. Concealed car parks hide behind shrubbery and are kept tidy. The huge stone edifice is divided into several visitor areas, and we began with medieval times, when the powerful Earl of Warwick played kingmaker in 1471. There were horses, blacksmiths, carpenters, helmets and even smells. A knowledgeable seamstress and I had a fine conversation, as she showed me her medieval scissors carried in a kit from her belt. She was an English major in college, like me, and enjoyed recreating the past. One of the castle’s earls, Richard Beauchamp, oversaw the execution of Joan of Arc in Rouen in 1431.
Other sections showed the Great Hall and State Rooms, actually set up for a lavish corporate banquet that night amid armour, tapestries, and paintings. The castle’s 19th century wing had mannequins dressed as for a Weekend House Party. The countess Daisy had such a deep “friendship” with the Prince of Wales, a regular guest, that her husband considered divorce. Daisy couldn’t do enough for her guests—he had proof of at least 16 other affairs. (What are the three most terrible words to hear while you’re making love? “Honeeey, I’m hooome!”)
Hats on end tables, draped lampshades, paintings, vanity table silver sets, butlers and maids were set in bedrooms and reception rooms. I recall reading about maids who roused house party guests in time to flee to their proper bedrooms by dawn: fun and games for all. There are also exhibits of jousts, bowmen, music, falconry, crafts, and foods at various times of the year, but we didn’t see any. You can don a black metal helmet, as heavy as it looks, or swing a sword. Over 800,000 visitors attend annually, but it wasn’t crowded, and the £20 million refurbishment seemed well spent. The past came alive.
Twelfth Night enchanted. Although the play is sometimes silly and about mistaken identities, we had stall seats amid students who seemed as riveted as we. Costumes were Edwardian rather than sixteenth century, and the Chaplinesque jester wore a derby, floppy clown shoes, and a peddler’s suitcase. Scenery was spare. Tickets cost about £25 and the red brick Art Deco theater on the Avon is comfortable and small, with bars offering sustenance on every level for the interval (intermission). Above stalls are circle, then balcony, with cheaper seats the prize for the climb. Afterwards, searching for food, we learned that even Stratford rolls up the sidewalks at night. We passed a cacophony of geese, ducks, and swans in the river and stopped at the sole open petrol station for some crackers, which accompanied our cheese bonanza stash from Stow on the Wold.
Stratford upon Avon is filled with old half timber buildings and we visited John Harvard’s home that exhibits pewter and interactive videos on his life. We never knew he was married when he came to the colonies! His 400 books were the basis for the biggest university library in the US, even though he lived in the New World only briefly, soon dying of TB. I worked in Harvard’s McKay library of physics for $50 a week when we were first married. Mike spent lots of time there!
We especially liked Chipping Camden and its pretty stone High Street. Antique shops abound in these towns; we stuffed a small desk into our little Ford rental, since its seats folded down. Cash seems to knock about ten percent off prices. We found an 1850’s platter that matches Staffordshire ironware plates from Mike’s mom by Thomas Till and Son. As the market stalls closed, I bought big bags of apples, pears, and avocados for 50p each. I know more about fruit than antiques!
Our B&B for the last night was perfect, in a former Lower Swell rectory once Cardinal Wolsey’s. Filled with antiques, stylish, and immaculately clean, its hostess Sybil steered us to a fantastic dinner, one of the best we’ve had, at Hamilton’s, in Stow on the Wold. En route home, we stopped for lunch the next day at a last wonderful place also Sibyl-recommended: Churchill Inn. Mr. Adventurous Eater downed lamb kidneys in a potato pancake, polished off by coffee jelly in gingersnap baskets with brandied roasted walnuts, and I ate normal food. We drank Hook Norton and Donningron’s, the local brews. I love the names of the beers and ales. (Jelly is any jelled fruit or even Jello dessert.)
Prices for comfortable B&B’s seem to be about £60 for a double with full English breakfast—under $100. On weekends it’s essential to book early in the day, even off season. These towns are about a two hour drive from London, just past Oxford. There are trains, but a car is essential to move between them easily. Once there, the roads are often narrow one lane affairs, with lay-bys for passing. Most rental cars are stick shift. One thing that struck us we returned to London was the absence of non-Caucasians outside the city.
Broadway, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Great and Little Rissington—one is lovelier than the last, and in each the local churches are available for a visit. They are surrounded by ancient gravestones, and inside are memorial tablets and embroidered kneelers. Churches in this area were funded by wool. I discussed its shipment to Florence with one volunteer guide, where it was woven into the finest cloth, earning florins--Florence’s golden fleur-de-lis coins--used throughout Europe as legal tender. There must be a million stories connected with these places. Each town also has monuments from the Great Wars.
Many people my age had no Dads or Granddads, since so many of the finest boys soaked foreign fields with their blood. Two generations of European men were lost. I wish there were more exchange between, say, kids from Stonewall Texas or San Diego to see how hugely geography shapes our lives. Fields of lavender, Alice in Wonderland topiary hedges, pheasants, horse farms, drystone walls and plowed fields punctuated our trip. Rest and harmony abounded. High seasons are much busier, however, and lodging more scarce.
The Ambassador thoughtfully invited us Embassy Worker Bees to a Friday afternoon barbeque at his grand mansion near Regents Park. Enter, after an ID at the iron gate from London cops, we passed tennis court, greenhouse, and rose garden on gravel paths near immense brick pillars. The big crowd spread through gardens, fountain, and outbuildings. The grassy Montana-size back yard (“garden”) was filled with kids in contests and games, and we watched from beneath a big white tent (marquee) at the rear of the house, which held a very long queue of diners. The cold beer was very non-English.
The high ceiling living room held a grand piano and elaborate green wallpaper. Turns out the paper was rescued by the V&A staff, and refurbishment of the house was financed by selling exquisite rococo woodwork from the next room. Paintings included a Russell and a portrait of of the Ambassador’s own horse. He sold horses to the Queen, and her photo, as well as George Bush pere et fils adorns polished French tables. We waited a bit too long to get in line for hot dogs and chicken, but Mike also snagged some cookies. This is the same place he cooked hot dogs at the ambassador’s 4th of July picnic with Texas Exes last year.
The V&A currently has the first chance for this country to see Dale Chiluly’s fantabulous glass. Walk under a clear glass ceiling aisle filled with hundreds of imaginative pieces of different sizes, shapes and colors, which is kind of like walking under a wild jewel kaleidoscope: stripes, dots, and swirls in brilliant, vigorous colors. Nearby were some wild drawings that led up to the color and shape selections, and many smaller lass pieces are also shown. One of the swirly green Venice canal pieces hangs over the museum’s huge entry hall like a giant chandelier, with viewing also from galleries around the second floor—which would be the first floor. A tall glass pillar of bumpy yellow, orange and red gourd-like pieces ascends from out of the outdoor garden, for which it was specifically made.
Other garden pieces are a grouped bunch of tall thin violet, red, and purple rods with pointy tops. They’re stuck in the grass, bobbing slightly with the wind like big pastel pick-up sticks. Nearby, curled low in the grass, are eggplant-like dark red-violet shapes, nearly black, with a bit of color gleaming through the edges. They seemed like an overripe group of glassy produce ready for the harvest! I remember first seeing Chihuly years ago in Aspen, when his seashell bowls could be bought for about $5000, which of course, seemed outlandish! I got his autograph when he exhibited in Austin. He’s transformed glass into pure art, and influenced museums and collectors everywhere. I am always happy to enjoy American artists here that I like.
Andres Serrano’s show of huge photographs is at the Barbicon, an enormous planned community in The City attempting to meld living, working, and cultural spaces. Three of us wandered over to see giant shiny photos—we’re talking four feet high—with fluids--well, blood, milk, and urine. The Piss Christ was there, alongside morgue photos, babies, lovers, nude geriatrics: it’s not a show for the squeamish. En route, we’d visited the National Portrait Gallery to see the mistresses of Charles II, Nell Gwynn and other courtly ladies decked in extravagant silks, satins, jewels and hair styles. The lavish color and texture of these court favorites was intensified because the court had just suffered through Cromwell’s insistence on plain. (Recall that Charles I was executed and C. II banished, then royalty restored after Cromwell’s execution, you history-challenged readers.) There was more than enough fancy dress to please those well coiffed coquettes! The photographs made for a lively and colorful comparison with the paintings.
Our UT Thursday night football games at the White Hart pub normally offered chances to see Texas win in the din. The OU game was different, held on a Sunday afternoon, 24 hours after the actual Saturday Dallas game, on a tape hand-carried by a grad student whose ticket we collectively bought. Texas football is serious! (OU is always played in the Cotton Bowl during the Texas State Fair.) Our venue was a private corporate bar of Biageo, purveyors of Jose Cuervo, Guinness, Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, and other good booze. One bartender made spectacular margaritas: he poured over his shoulder, from arm’s length, bending and jumping, twirled around catching ice cubes thrown into the air, twirled full shakers up into the air, and smiled. Texas was ranked 5 and OU 3 nationally, and alas, even with OU’s substitute QB, they won; everyone played well. I donated a print of my painting of a Texas flag and UT tower for a Red Cross benefit raffle to help 9/11 victims.
During halftime of the game tape, which is a pause for drink refills and pizza, the President came on a nearby satellite TV. He solemnly announced the start of bombing the Taliban. The crowded room went silent, and the second half was a bit more subdued—but the pizzas kept coming. We probably had about a hundred people for that game, way more than usual.
My Warsaw brother Pat McGee is in Tajikistan with our State Department, equipped with a sleeping bag and MRE’s. He packed cookies and money and waited by the phone to learn on which plane the State Dept. would send him. As I write, anthrax scares are everywhere, Congress has closed, and every nutter with a grudge can participate in scaring the pants off the rest of us. All because of one fanatic. Time magazine says in Afghanistan, adult illiteracy is 64% and a quarter of children die by age 5. Daily caloric intake is one of the world’s lowest, 1500 calories, and one of 273 people has lost a limb. Three years of drought and 22 years of war have produced a hell on earth.
My life has been mundanely busy: giving a coffee, movies, friends, shopping, walks, cooking, and getting ready for my first London home show of paintings. There was a pub-crawl of Jack the Ripper the other night, with a walk around Spittlefields imagining an area once too poor for street lighting. We saw where the bodies once lay, and a movie on the gory crimes is due soon. I recommend a Bollywood extravaganza we saw with a cast of 4000, very C. B. DeMille in scope, Ashoka. We have more guests due, Mike has trips to the US and Bosnia soon, and I’m still slogging through Frederick the Great, and have had my first Italian class. If you’re interested in news with a British perspective, www.thetimes.co.uk. It’s good, even if the crosswords are peculiar. Happy Hallowe’en. Be safe.
The noonstop Eye takes an hour to rotate over London. A car holds up to 40.
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