Friday, January 10, 2014

Dead on My Feet . . . But Not as Dead as a French Aristocrat, Which is Nice

Whew! What a day.

I slept in and skipped breakfast in order to make it to the Tower on (something like) time. Not quite on time, but eh, who cares?

This was probably the prettiest morning I've seen yet in London: blue sky in every direction. The sunshine was simply blissful.

Our mass of 50-some people broke up into groups of six or seven to explore the Tower in relative independence. For those who were worried: the ravens are still there, and are looking lively. They must have just had fresh batteries put in.

Enjoying the King's view of the river.

Stained glass, all lit by the sun, in the chapel in Wakefield Tower.

Nice place to take a nap. They've even got ropes around the bed so everyone knows not to come up and disturb you.
I also was pleased to find a dragon, for Bethe. The signage informed me that this dragon's name is 'Keeper.' He is made of weaponry and objects representing the various uses of the tower. This isn't a very good picture of him, I'm afraid, so you'll all just have to take my word for it that it's very dramatic.

And I'll just include this tantalizing photo . . .

Sadly, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so I'll just inscribe the word 'sparkly' and leave the rest to your imagination. Also, if ever you're in need of a one-meter-wide gold punch bowl, this is the place to enquire.

I was informed by signage that the golden mace representing royal authority must be present in order for the House of Lords or House of Commons to meet. That strikes me as a peculiar vulnerability; all someone'd have to do would be to steal the mace, and it'd bring the government to a standstill. Unless they went back to the collection here in the tower to get an older mace to use. But what if someone stole all the maces? Would they have to cast a new one before Parliament could sit? And how would they appoint funds to make the mace at all if they couldn't convene?

By the time we'd given the Tower a thorough going-over, we were all pretty hungry and tired, so we popped out across the road for Pad Thai. Since I hadn't had any breakfast, I ate everyone else's leftovers.

After that, it was time for our weekly London Walks assignment. We have awkwardly-shaped, spiral-bound walks books to act as tour guides. They're a little wordy, but whatever. Our assigned walk around the East End traced most of the route of the Londinium city walls, which do a C-shape against the north bank of the river.

We started the walk in good spirits, navigating rather haphazardly as our instructions were complicated by lots of construction in the neighborhood. We saw many cool things, including the memorial to those lost at sea during the Great War and this lovely church, designed by a student of Christopher Wren:

It's super pretty inside, but I didn't take any pictures as it is still an active house of worship and I thought that'd be rude. It had a beautiful modern triptych behind the altar, though: the left panel the Burning Bush, the right panel the sun, and the center panel a rainstorm on a plain . . . the kind that looks like the clouds are made of watercolor paints, and God has dragged his paintbrush through a puddle on the paper to pull it down onto the ground. A bolt of lightning cuts crosswise across the storm, so it looks like it is striking the plain gold cross that rests in the center of the altar. Gorgeous.

We also found some markets and a skating rink, and all that was fun . . . but it was suddenly gray and faintly rainy, and we'd all started to realize that our feet and backs were starting to hurt. Nonetheless, we soldiered on. (It must be admitted that we cut a few corners in our eagerness to be done.)

There was one corner that we didn't cut, and I'm very glad of it. Our guided tour took us into a little bit of grass and flowerbeds called Postman's Park, where we found this beautiful memorial wall.

The artist, one Watt by name, is the same guy who did the "You are now being run over by a horse" statue in Kensington Gardens, of which I've already given account. This very different project is just a wall of tile memorials, each one honoring a common person who lost his or her life trying to save others.

It's really a lovely piece, in this lovely, tiny garden tucked behind a tiny church in the middle of the financial district. And the sense of reverence it imparted helped us all to feel better, just as we were hovering between "Isn't this hilarious, being exhausted and wet?" and "No, this isn't hilarious, I'm ticked off and I want to go home."

So, at long last, having circled the entire Roman town, we dragged our tired feet onto the Tube and went home. I stopped on the way to pick up groceries, and the slightly-more-than-half-a-mile back to the house with grocery bags in hand was pretty darn exhausting. So now here I am, snuggled on the couch, watching an old and not very interesting adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities while I write this blog and let my legs and feet rest a bit.

Tomorrow being Saturday, and entirely at my own disposal, I propose to sleep in a bit, make a pot of mushroom-and-artichoke pasta, go for a wander in the National Science Museum, then grab dinner and see The Mousetrap with my friend Lisa. And then I can tackle the looming problem of which ward I'm supposed to be in.

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