Monday, May 5, 2008

Wednesday in London: The morning begins with some politics and gloom

I think that we finally are getting acclimated to the time change. We sleep and get up early, but not outrageously so -- enough to say hello to the kids on the webcam and to and get organized for the day. We go and have our nice breakfast, which is not yet tiresome. Because we are now eating at normal breakfast time, we see more people. There are a lot of families -- I can pick up Spaniards and Italians talking. There is a table of sleepy Germans and some South Americans.

It is Wry's day to navigate and I am just along for the ride. I don't know where we are going. We get packed up for the day, making sure that we have extra camera batteries and
hand warmers and an extra SD card, for just in case. We get out on the streets and it is cold and drizzly. We finally have London weather. I have a sense of time starting to be short. We will be in London for today and one more day, and then off to Edinburgh and to see Rowan. There is still so much to see! I am pleased with how much we have been able to cram into two days and am looking forward to today's stravaig.

So on we get.

More horta tunnels.

We get on the Underground and have to do more train changing than we have had to do in a while. I wonder where we are going. We get on the Jubilee line, which we later find is related to the Queen's Jubilee. It is a more modern station and is much more bright and airy. No holes in the ceiling, and the escalators are at a more than 15 degrees.

I have to say that I was cold. And maybe a little grumpy. I was getting tired of rude people on the Underground. Someone had left chicken bones on one of the seats, and it was perhaps the last straw. I mean, we were all crammed in like sardines, and here was a perfectly good seat with nothing but chicken bones on it. No one was willing to remove them and take the seat. I know that I sure wasn't. What if they were contaminated? Gross.

So, all of that to say, I was not in the best of moods when we walked up the stairs to the street. I felt a little better when we got to the street. There were crowds of school children, some with great Union Jack hats. There were food carts with Indian food and pancakes. I smiled to see one sandwich trailer with a California Burger -- I think it was just a bacon cheese burger. I wondered if I was hungry or thirsty and decided that I wasn't.

I still did not know where we were. I saw the Millennium Eye, which was nice. But not something that I would choose to see over other things in London. I am feeling a little disgruntled and not very impressed with Wry's historical landmark choice.

Wry pointed it out with relish, as if that was what we came to see.

An interesting sign post. I did not see California on it.

The chariot was very neat. I think that Rowan would appreciate the statue of Boudica. She looks appropriately fierce. She definitely looks like she can kick some Roman rear.

We stand and look at the pier for a bit and then wander out on the bridge. And I see ...

I gasp and finally get it. Wry grins and me and says that we are at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Palace. I am excited. We look for a while and decide to walk across the bridge to get some shots with some perspective. From about halfway across Westminster bridge, the view is this ...

A little gray, but a nice shot. The wind off of the Thames is really cold. I was not pleased with my shots, because Big Ben kept looking like it was leaning drunkenly. I have broken down and kiped a better shot from the Interweb -- but it is during the summer.

Imposing, isn't it? A wonderful, massive building.

We walk along, getting buffeted by the wind. The traffic is zooming by. Wry points out a very old brewery across the bridge, and I get a nice picture of one of the famous lions.

I am becoming very fond of British lions. This is a very famous fellow, made of Coade stone, which was a type of artificial stone. He is pretty old but looks good for being 170 or so years old. He used to be painted red. And his masculinity has apparently been toned down to suit Victorian public consumption.

Another shot of the Houses. The iron work looks like filigree.

As we walked back toward Westminster, both Wry and I had the same idea for a picture. I am not going to say just how much time we wasted getting this shot, because it would be embarrassing. Let's just say that having the giggles makes it hard to keep the camera steady. "I'm crushing your head! I'm crushing your head!"

Same chariot, different angle.

And a better look at Westminster.

With Big Ben.

I like the painted parts of the bridge.

And across the bridge to the other side.

Here is a view of the wall.

Details of the stone work on the walls. Great isn't it?

The concrete columns are in between wrought iron gates keeping us out.

I like the iron work. As you can see, the sun is starting to come out.

We come up to the busy street in front of the Houses of Parliament. Westminster Abbey is to our right and Westminster is to our left.

We walk down the street and Wry is wondering if he can go in and watch a session of Parliament.

He is told that he can tomorrow morning, if he likes, but he would have to be there at about ten in the morning.

We consider the idea.

Another handsome lion.

We cross the street toward Westminster Abbey. Next to it is a smaller church, St. Margaret's church, which was built in the 12th century. It was more for the common people of the parish to worship in.

At first, I cannot figure out what these blue circles are.

The tower has sundials instead of clocks!

Very neat.

So, this is St. Margaret's Church. It is right next to Westminster Abbey, which is kind of funny. This is facing St. Margaret's.

Westminster Abbey is on our right. We decide to go into the smaller church first for a quick look around. We have never heard of this church.

The lantern above the door. I can't read the plaque.

We step into the doorway ... and are immediately struck by the plasterwork.

It is just beautiful.

Each flower is different, and I am betting that each has a meaning. I wish I knew more about the language of flowers.

We see the now-familiar rosettes, but then, Wry and I begin to see small and interesting devices worked into the design.

I wonder what the dice mean.

And I wonder if those really are teeth pullers.

A hammer and ladder?

And of course, the Lamb. I am passing fond of this image.

We cannot take pictures, but I am happy to find a table with a souvenir guide with nice pictures. I was toasting my freezing posterior by leaning against a radiator. I love radiators. It was very nice to semi-perch and just observe the whole interior. I scanned these in from the booklet.

The original structure dated from a few years before the Conquest. The original church was built in the 11th century for the local Parish, so that the monks in the adjacent Abbey could hear Mass undisturbed.

The building was partly rebuilt in the 14th century, but by the 15th century it was in very poor condition. An entirely new church was therefore begun on the same site in 1482, and completed in 1523.

A wonderful stained glass window.

You can see that almost every square inch of wall space has something on it. Mostly memorials.

This was an oddly modern looking stained glass window, don't you think?

I think that I liked the one memorial at the back of the church the most. A plaque was made commemorating a gift given by a widow upon her death, that her practice of giving bread to the poor would be continued.

There was also a famous epitaph there that I was happy to find a reference to online:

"In the ambulatory, near the door of the porch under the tower, is a mural monument to Mrs. Elizabeth Corbett, which is of considerable interest on account of its inscription, consisting of ten lines of verse from the pen of Pope. The literature of tombstones is not always of a first-rate order; but it deserves to be noted that Dr. Johnson, in his "Lives of the Poets," mentions this inscription as perhaps the happiest and the best specimen of such poetry. The verses run as follows:—

"Here rests a woman, good without pretence,
Blest with plain reason, and with sober sense:
No conquest she but her own self desired,
No arts essayed, but not to be admired:
Passion and pride were to her soul unknown;
Convinced that virtue only is our own:
So unaffected, so composed a mind,
So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refined,
Heaven, as its purest gold, by tortures tried;—
The saint sustain'd it, but the woman died."

It is a humble sentiment, especially given the setting.

We leave St. Margaret's Church and walk the few feet over to Westminster Abbey.

What an amazing place it is.


rowan said...

Ooooh! What a great post!

Love the pictures. I am inwardly chastizing myself for getting ever so slightly impatient on occasion with your picture-taking proclivities, when I am privileged to wallow in and appreciate the results. :)

Fab-tastic architecture. Great to see the details in the roof bosses. Yep - the dice are most interesting.

I am very chuffed with the 'London eye pinch' picture. The sort of shot which truly "makes humans great." :) Boudica would be raising a chenched fist in approval, I am certain.

Woo hoo to being given the opportunity to listen-in to a parliamentary session! I am wondering if you went, but will have to wait and see....

Yikes to the chicken-bones on the seat! No wonder you were a mite disgruntled. I guess most potential 'sit-on-that-seat-ees' would have gone throught he following thought-process:

I can move them. Disgusting - but i can do it. I've changed nappies and have owned a dog.

I have nothing to pick them up with. Am not sacrificing my map/newspaper with that ad for cheap home broadband.

I have no Febreze with me. Am now making a mental note to get a bigger bag and carry some. Clearly, you never know.

Delete the Febreze. I would have an antibacterial rump, but also a damp one. (Sit-down versus percieved incontinency trade-off.)

Maybe they were put there as part of an experiment, designed by a social psychology student worryingly high on "P".

(Clutches at straws in attempt to divert attention from an act of embarrassing slobbishness by a countryman.)

Sheena said...

Hello Bob and Mr Bob!

I have been meaning to thank you for the lovely comestibles, and the cookery book. The other book was very colourful too! Most kind of you. I apologise for not thanking you sooner.

It was great to meet you both. Glad you had a great time in the UK! Hope to see you again before too long.

Dr. Bob said...

Awww -- so glad that you enjoyed them. We had just the best time. Spending time with your family was certainly a highlight.