QXZ's London Invasion, Part Six
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It's a dead man's party, who could ask for more?
The radio weather prophet was right: rain when I woke up, then sunshine. I put the 28mm lens back on the camera. That's, I've found, a better "travel lens". It's often hard to get far enough away from something large (like, say, a building) to photograph it with a normal lens, so the wide is pretty useful... as long as you're not shooting detailed closeups of anything.
Back to Benjy's for breakfast; Builder plate again. The TVs in here are running M2 Pop. There's definitely a difference between the British and American relationships to pop culture, but I haven't pinned down what it is yet.
Emerged from the Underground at Westminster and took a couple of shots of Big Ben. Walked around some of Westminster Palace (the Houses of Parliament) and noted that the House of Commons is convening at 2:30. Maybe I'll sit in on that after I do the Abbey.
Like my reaction to Notre Dame de Paris, it astounds me that people were able to build something like Westminster Abbey in the 11th and 12th centuries. No modern equipment. People living their entire lives, working on the building, dying before it was complete. Amazing.
And everywhere you step, you're walking on the dead. Nearly every stone in the floor has an inscription on and a body underneath. Seems a shame to be contributing to the erosion of the memorials, but what a privilege to see this.
The tomb of King Edward I (d. 1307) is remarkably plain. Simply a rectangular wooden tomb with Latin painted on, and a good amount of that is worn away. "Edwardus Primus" is the only part fully legible. He is preceded, tombwise, by Edmund Crouchback and Aymer de Valence, both Earls. Their monuments are much more ornate. Then again, when you're buried in Westminster Abbey, what more impressive a monument do you need?
Henry III's tomb is a step up; he's at least got some gold inlay and a double-decker. The dual tomb for Elizabeth I and Mary I is lavish. White marble, gold, black columns. It looks practically new, even though it's been here since 1603.
Henry VII's tomb is literally fenced off. Intricate ironwork surrounds it, preventing you from getting closer than six feet or so. I wonder why he's been made so inaccessible?
Here, just in front of the RAF Chapel, is where Oliver Cromwell was buried before having to be pried up and rekilled. Twice. Looks like he had a nice rest for about three years.
"You are Mary, Queen of Scots?" "I am." One assumes her body's been reunited with her head. Nice of King James I/IV to have her buried here after giving the go-ahead for her murder. She gets the fancy tomb while her roommates Queen Anne, William and Mary, Queen Mary II, King William III and Prince George of Denmark are under simple slabs in the floor.
The Coronation Chair has what looks like graffiti carved into it. Curious.
Finally, under slabs, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Interesting.
I lit a candle on my way out, and didn't really consider why until later. I suppose simply for the stories; the history that's made me want to visit both London and this church. Onward.
A motorized bed just drove past me while I walking up Whitehall Street.
To balance out Cromwell's plaque, I've just passed the spot where Charles I lost his head.
Across the street, I happened upon the Queen's Life Guards. Two of them on horseback flank the entrance to the Horse Guards Parade. They're the Queen's personal bodyguards, but it seems their primary purpose is to sit or stand around stiffly and suffer the photography of tourists. And the occasional horse molestation. I don't know how long their shifts are, but standing stock still for hours can't be much fun for the horse.
The Virgin empire maintains a store called "Virgin Bride" on Northumberland Ave. Ha.
Went down to the Barbican and bought a £10.00 ticket for tomorrow night's opening of Hamlet. Pretty good seat, too: center of the first balcony. I've only been down here twice, but I don't like dealing with the Barbican. It's ugly, utilitarian, soulless and labyrinthian, and I can't believe people live here. Boring, squat, concrete "civic center" architecture. Also, it's surrounded by hypermodern financial buildings and old, old, historical structures, so it entirely fails to fit in. However, this is where the Royal Shakespeare Company is shaking its spear, so I guess I'll deal with it.
It's dark out, and it's only 4:20. No more of this "getting outside at 11:00" nonsense. Regardless of how much sleep I get, I've got to get up earlier. Daylight is just so limited and, besides, most of the touristy things close around 5:30. We're getting to the point where I'm going to have to start seeing at least two major things per day. Tomorrow, hopefully, I can fit in Greenwich Observatory and St. Paul's Cathedral before the play. I have to remember to pay for the final three nights at the Hostel of Infinte Wakefulness tomorrow as well. My accomodations are going to run £115.00 total. I guess that's not bad for ten nights' bed in London, even though I'm not using the last one.
Okay, what now... what now?
On my way to The Spitz in Spitalfields, I happened to notice the door of Christ Church was open. I took a quick look inside. It's heavily columned, and the entire building (inside and out) gives a feeling of great weight. It certainly doesn't soar; more squats like an ancient temple. Hmm.
Tonight's Camera Obscura at The Spitz. Me, several pints of Guinness, live music, and a room full of British indie rock folks. They come complete with small eyeglasses and cryptic t-shirts, just like in America. I'm not being derogatory; it's nice to see the signifiers hold on both sides of the Atlantic.
The indie rock girl has a type of face. Take a way the shoulder bag, the retro clothes, the cute shoes and the eyeglasses; the indie rock girl face remains. It's very cute, though not conventionally beautiful. It's intelligent. It smiles shyly, with eyes that look anywhere but at yours. Is it genetic fate, then, that one be born an indie rock girl? Have they no other option? Impossible to imagine them embodying any other cultural idiom. For this we raise glasses and give thanks.
I think you must dream everything that happens in your life before you live it; that's the origin of deja vu. He was lighting his cigarette toward the middle, too far up from the end, so his friend grabbed his hand. But instead of steadying, the friend brought the lighter over and lit his own cigarette. Then pushed the flame back and held it still under the first. As it lit, they held hands for a moment in smoky camraderie. I've seen this before.
Eh. The band right before them was better. I wish I could remember their name.
Pretty darling, you left your rubber band on the seat.
Excerpted from QXZ's travel diary, 12/5/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.
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