Monday, November 16, 2009

Blighty Blackout Ends


Perhaps the novelty is waning or perhaps it's the lack of monumental screw-ups to memorialize. In any case, I apologize for the blackout of the past few weeks.

In any case, we are now at home in St John's Wood, which I am learning to pronounce properly for the cabbies: instead of the americanish "saint", just say "sent". Very simple.

Today Pam went to her 'Sumptuous Silver' class at the V&A museum which culminated in a private tour of the Goldsmith's Hall. The Hall is the HQ of the Goldsmith's Company: "Founded to regulate the craft or trade of the goldsmith, the Goldsmiths' Company has been responsible since 1300 for testing the quality of gold, silver and, from 1975, platinum articles." Per Pam, it was quite sumptuous indeed. Check out the dining room.

Afterwards we met to tour St. Paul's Cathedral. This masterpiece of Christopher Wren notwithstanding, I was keen to pay my respects at the tombs of Lord Nelson and The Duke of Wellington having had my interest piqued by readings on British maritime power and the conflicts with France (those idiot Frogs!). Nelson's tomb is particularly moving:



The beautifully shaped black sarcophagus sits dead center in the lower floor of the Cathedral. Inside is a wooden coffin, a gift from a fellow officer who had it made from the mainmast of a French ship Nelson blew up in the battle of the Nile. Morbid Nelson kept this treasured coffin by his side everywhere he went for the last 6 years of his life.

We're just back from 3 days on the continent: Pam with Elie in Waterloo, me with Simone in Oberursel (outside of Frankfurt). The occasion was the volleyball and soccer season finales (respectively) in which the girls partook in a tournament of the international schools from Europe and as far away as Cairo and Israel. It was a meaningful bonding experience with the other parents as well as with potato pancakes, schnitzel, and fine german lager. But standing on the sidelines of a northern soccer pitch in mid-November will forever make one pine for the relatively balmy environs of the Beach Chalet fields of GG park, thank you very much.

Between games I found time to hike the nature trail nearby which tracked through a Celtic archaeological site – much more interesting (and more wholesome) than those bushes by the Great Highway. The site, a fortified settlement dating to the late centuries B.C., was carpeted with the last of the fall foliage and in a deep twilight due to the overcast, the forest canopy, and shallow November sun angle. As we stumbled about the remnants of the ancient walls, my companion Sarah (Greer) Bertasi remarked that it seemed a scene from Lord of the Rings. In complete agreement, I could not help but ponder the pro's and con's of living in a bronze-age, pagan civilization in the forests of northern europe. Cool!

Other recent activities of note include a road bike ride out to Windsor Castle and a visit from Tom and Julie Feldstein of SF - the most agreeable of guests, giving us excuse to visit some new restaurants and tour some of the classics: The Tower of London, Harrod's, The Tate Museums, Westminster Abbey, St James's Park.

I sent my account of the ride to Windsor to you biker friends via email already, but here it is again:

It was a very crisp, clear autumn day, 8-11C, I'm told. We experienced some very cool sights. Huge red deer in the Richmond Park. Then along the upper Thames lavish riverside homes, early-birds rowing the river, crew teams practicing. Then on our right suddenly appeared Hampton Court, Henry VIII's sumptuous palace, with majestic formal gardens rolling down to the river bank. Spectacular.

We rode on through quaint riverside villages, eventually up into a manicured parkland. I did not realize it was "Windsor Great Park" (the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle, dating primarily from the mid-13th century) until we rounded a bend and were looking down the "Long Walk", which runs three miles straight to the castle:




Awesome!