After a summer reluctant to end, London has entered its winter delivery of mist and rain, with darkness creeping in earlier each evening. When we return from spring on the bottom of the world, it will be dark here at 4. I had envisioned the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney opera house but am getting Adelaide and Melbourne -- lucky to be doing this at all! The month began with Mike’s brothers and our jolly French canal trip.
Brother Tom arrived with Ruth in the midst of the second tube strike in a week and took two hours to crawl through traffic from Heathrow. Dutch and Barb chunneled back from France in comfort with us on the Eurostar. While we were away, our niece Katie stayed here, and got engaged immediately afterward in Paris. Oh la la! She’s our third bride-to-be niece in recent months. By mid October, suddenly faced with the first break since August with no guests and none on the doorstep, we sat in the living room reading for the first two nights, repeatedly saying, “Isn’t this remarkable?” What a peaceful feeling!
The pub at Connaught and Kendal streets and the new Indian restaurant at the end of our mews have gotten many visits from our guests. The Duke of Kendal also be open for singing on Wednesdays, with Paul at the piano then and June on Sundays; we still prefer the latter… how often can you hear, “Who do you think you’re kidding Mr. Hitler, if you think old England’s down?” or “…you get three meals quite regular, and two new suits beside, thirty bob a week, a wife and kids to keep, come inside you silly bugger come inside!” The latter is the lunatic asylum song, usually sung by John, a retired headmaster.
The other wonderful singing is from the angelic little choirboys at Westminster Abbey at the 11 am service, wearing white neck ruffles under scarlet gowns. We often take guests astounded to sit in the ancient carved wooden quire with the singers; we send them off to the museum in the cloister afterward. Ask the usher next time you go to London.
UT was ranked number two nationally and the football games promised to be quite exciting this fall. The Vow of Silence is hard to keep when family or friends call to comment on the latest games, so we here are counseled not even to answer phone calls prior to games! However, we each paid £20 ($30) on a Sunday afternoon after the OU game at the Cotton Bowl in order to fly over a grad student with the tape as soon after the game as possible. We watched in Diageo’s bar, cutting off the crowd at about 100, and groaned as our boys lost. It ain’t over, the burnt orange played another day, and we watched at a new pub called—get this—Honkers, where the waitresses wear abbreviated tops and serve ‘burgers, nachos, and only American beers. The ceiling is white stars on dark blue, and the walls are red and white stripes. We beat Kansas. Hook ‘em horns!
Encouraged by my friends, I bought an Armani gray wool beret at a fashion show to benefit breast cancer. The men’s fashions were more outlandish than the women’s, but the peach bellinis and hors d'oeuvres were tasty, served by young staff in black. I learned that the emporium near Harrod’s caters to the younger set, and that there is another entire store for um, my type. Hmmm. It was fun, and sister-in-law Ruth and some other military wives were there too. My goal is to buy as little as possible here, since I’m still constantly horrified by the prices. France’s VAT is even higher than England’s 17.5%, a tax that misses few purchases.
Mike and I attended The Lieutenant of Innismore at the Garrick Theatre, which offered two for ones in the best seats: fourth row center for us. This Irish black comedy offered an earnest torturer, who’d just removed two toenails from his prisoner’s foot for selling marijuana to schoolkids. He announced he’d lost his train of thought; the prisoner, bare-chested, bloody, chained upside down in a dark warehouse, observed that it must be a slow train indeed! His right nipple was saved from the razor by a call from Da announcing that Wee Thomas, the torturer’s cat, was ailing. A comedic search for another cat, dyeing it with shoe polish, and shooting some patriotic gangsters was funny, terrible, gory, and we had a great time adding dinner before the Portrait Gallery nearby to see American paintings on loan from the Smithsonian. A great London day. Alice Neel, Matthew Brady, John Singer Sargent, and Gilbert Stuart added to our pleasure.
We continue to read about the Washington DC sniper and the carnage in once peaceful Bali. London is expecting awful things in the next month, up until Christmas. Firemen vow several lengthy strikes, so the army will take over with a fraction of the personnel and ancient equipment, the 800 Green Goddesses, last used in the seventies. (We wonder who owns the three thousand new trucks in the stations. The firemen?) The tube, stores, chunnel, trains, and many others will be unable to protect users. The deepest tubes will close, and some schools and shops will reduce operations. We all are disgusted, even though the firemen indeed deserve higher pay. But 40 to 60 %? I’d guess it would take the other unions about 5 minutes to put their own new demands on the table. Blair has demanded this not happen, and we’ll miss all the excitement by being away.
Ireland has voted yes, finally, on expanding the European Union. They have grown 20% richer than the rest of Europe, thanks to massive inpouring of money, which will now be available for Poland and others. Ireland has even become expensive to visit. There will be 25 countries and 450 million people in the EU--bigger than the US population. The British wonder why their taxes buy Spain large new mechanized boats while they’re forbidden to fish their own waters!
At a neighborhood lecture I learned about 11 Downing Street, home of the British Chancellor, or treasurer. I hosted a KCWC coffee, taught painting classes, got the house back to normal, and readied for the next trip. I finished all but one painting commission. Firemen, fishermen, and actors are all part of the 46% drop in marriages in English churches in the last ten years. Happy Hallowe’en.
Our neighborhood ironmonger, hardward store.
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