We relaxed with laundry and hanging about until an early dinner down the hill at a little Vietnamese place. Marilyn tried the Phohito and I ordered the basil/lemon martini. David missed out by sticking with beer. Dinner was delicious, but service rather slow so we anxiously boarded the train hoping for good connections to get us to the theatre on time to pick up the tickets.
Fortunately they weren’t very organized at the newly renovated Aldwych Theatre, so we had plenty of time. After nearly doing David in with the climb into the rafters to our cheap–and extremely narrow–seats, we settled in for what we expected to be a good show. I had read rave reviews last year. Well “good” doesn’t even come close!
“Tina” is a musical loosely based on the life of Tina Turner, an excuse to dance and sing her music basically. The players are phenomenal and the production so infectious that the audience was issued a warning to “please refrain from singing along and dancing until the end so as not to interfere with the enjoyment of others”. Oh my. We were all exhausted as we jiggled and swayed our way out the doors.
On the less happy news front, the paper tells us that while Brits, and their insurers, love pets of all kinds, nobody will cover koi. Firms see them as too risky. Some can cost 20,000 pounds and are easily stolen or eaten by predators. “Owners can reduce risk with security measures such as lockable pond covers and CCTV cameras.”
And in the ongoing Ashes cricket competition, “Short leg and leg gully lay in wait for the short ball. Fine leg too.” Keep that in mind as you go about your daily business.
Long ago and far away in the city of Londinium there was a temple to Mithras. Archeologists knew it was there but just couldn’t find it. German bombs did. So there it was out in the open for a number of years until somebody decided to cover it up for safety. Fast forward to Bloomberg interests building a headquarters right over the site in the City within sight of the Lord Mayor’s residence, the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, etc. Mr. Bloomberg, after giving free reign to archeologists, preserved it all where it was supposed to be down at the level where it should be two floors down beneath his building. One can visit for free as long as we make a reservation for a time.
Marilyn and I arrived at 11 a.m. slot to be awed by what was there. Many fascinating artifacts plus the complete foundations for the temple. Mithras was an important god, but only one of many at the time. The building must have accommodated some 30 worshippers, all men. No women allowed.
After a stop at St. Stephen Walbrook, a Wren church which stood, as did the Mithraeum, beside the river Walbrook which ran through Londinium down to the Thames, we went up to the Guildhall to see the remains of the Roman arena discovered when the gallery extension was made in recent years.
Next a stop at the Wren church of St Lawrence Jewry across from the Guildhall before a quick look at St Vedast, another Wren creation, before crossing two streets to the majesty of St. Paul’s, Wren’s masterpiece. We gave that due reverence and jumped on the bus down Ludgate Hill, through Fleet Street, past the Royal Courts of Justice, to Charing Cross Station. We admired the Charing Cross out front before cutting through the station to take the bridge across the Thames to the South Bank to catch the train for home.
Marilyn got caught in the airline snafu Friday and Saturday so finally arrived Sunday. This meant no resting day before hitting the pavement. We took the Tube to Victoria to join every tourist in the city headed for the Palace, some for the Changing of the Guard and some for the inside tour. David and I went many years ago soon after they opened the State Apartments to visits while the Queen is on her Summer break in Scotland. I can say that they have improved on the original idea. Much more information via headsets, signage, and “warders”. We went in for our 11 a.m. entry time, exiting at 2 p.m.
Probably because of the tv series, there was special emphasis on Victoria’s occupation of and influence on the Palace. As I’ve said before, I’m always amazed at what these people can pull out of the attic. We saw designs for a fancy dress ball dress for Victoria, and of course the actual costume itself in the case beside. My favorite was the velvet case containing the baby teeth of the Royal children. All were labelled with the children’s names in gold. Marilyn remarked that she had never seen so much gold in her life!
Hungry after our long tour, we spied an ever-present Pret a Manger for a restorative bite. We sat by the window for a view of the passersby. What a show! Evidently the covered outdoor seating area is a primo gathering spot for the Victoria Station homeless population. We saw meeting, greeting, butt tobacco processing for cigarette rolling, repacking of possessions, clothing change, etc.
Back to Wimbledon to rest up and watch the recorded “Naked Attraction.” Yes, it’s still on, but it airs at 11 p.m. on Sunday so a no go for us early to bed types. Happily the new season beginning in two weeks gets a 10 o’clock time slot. Anyhow the format is the cringeworthy same. We rolled our eyes and peeked out from behind our fingers as more and more dangly bits appeared onscreen.
The grocery delivery appeared right on time for Marilyn’s arrival–except her plane delay means yet another day before we welcome her. In line with the fanaticism for fresh goods my receipt apologized for the Oriental Vegetable Stir Fry thusly, “Shorter Life Products: We’ve given you some products that aren’t going to last as long as we’d like. If you’re not happy with any of these, just give them back to us we’ll sort your refund within 5 working days. I mean, I ordered the veggies, right? I know they don’t last long. It’s my fault, not the company’s.
The problem with fresh, as you’ve heard me say before, is that it goes bad quickly. Not a problem at my local Kroger where the stuff has been embalmed for its journey from wherever across the globe, arriving with an artificial gloss (and taste) which will last at least a week. In the same vein, you can’t roll up the bread to use for fish bait here either. What good is that? All you can do is roll your eyes in delight at the flavor and texture as you slather it with marvelous butter and honey.
The weather is warm again–72 today–so the locals are stripping off. I would estimate a good 99.9% should not. I had to avert my eyes several times.
Almost forgot. As the grocery guy unpacked the sack of dog food in the kitchen he inquired, “Where’s the dog?” I was forced to confess that it was for the fox in the garden, not a dog. He was most interested in that. Hope he doesn’t turn me in.
Wednesday was a wash out. I did manage to get to Wimbledon Books to pick up my copy of Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, our next book circle selection. It’s about Victoria’s efforts to influence the face of Europe through marrying off her children and grandchildren. This month’s discussion featured poems by Simon Armitage, the new poet laureate. He’s accessible. I like him.
Today I took the Barking train to Temple for a bit of wandering before the matinee at Trafalgar Studios. I hadn’t been to the major touristed areas for a while. What a crush! First I emerged in the midst of a demonstration. Swept along by chanting, placard-bearing protestors I found myself across the street from the Indian consulate. Pakistanis were protesting cruelties in Kashmir. A security person outside a theatre told me I should move along because there had been trouble and police reinforcements were on the way.
I took a short cut through a packed Covent Garden to St. Martin’s in the Fields for a nice lunch–a salad plate of chicken paprika, Greek with feta, and balsamic roasted beets. I came out to find myself in the midst of the protestors yet again. They had spread out for further effect. It did register that I had never caught sight of a woman in the press. My sympathy for the cause was polluted by the fact that they almost made me late for the play.
Most of you know Equus. This is supposed to be the greatest London production in many years. Having not seen the others, including the one with Daniel Radcliffe which was said to be good, I can’t compare. But it did merit a standing ovation. Trafalgar Studios is such an intimate theatre. Perfect for an up close intense play.
Master herbalist John Gerard, whose estate backed up to the Hatton (more about them later) estate wall, grew and produced his wares widely. Beyond his best-selling curative potions there was a huge market for saffron. Precious then as it is now, it was used to flavor meat, which without refrigeration reached the kitchen either heavily salted or rotting, or both. Another use new to me was for the dying of children’s socks. Now I must digress here. You recall that medieval London offered no universal education for children. The rich were tutored at home; others attended schools run by the Church; and the poor lucky enough to be selected went to charity or “ragged” schools. Now we get back to those yellow socks. Saffron gives off a scent, a scent rats don’t like. Therefore children always wore saffron yellow socks to school to discourage the ever-present rats from running across their feet and stopping to nibble.
A further history lesson. Remember yesterday my mentioning the Church involvement in practicing law? This meant the bishops having to spend time in London for ecclesiastical courts and other business. Of course they couldn’t suffer any lack of comfort, so they all enjoyed huge palace estates outside of the city. The Bishop of Ely occupied such a grand place in Holborn. His gardens were famous, especially for their strawberries. Even Shakespeare puts in a reference in “Richard III.”
Cut to Elizabeth I’s reign. Elizabeth loved to dance, and her favorite partner was Christopher Hatton. She showered honors upon him, but her turning up at any time of day or night with her entourage for a spin about the floor in his rather modest house became a burden. What to do? Why toss out the Bishop of Ely to move in the Hattons. Problem solved. The Hatton family occupied the great estate for hundreds of years.
Moving forward again. Jews were forbidden to live or work inside the City of London. William the Conqueror had other ideas, bringing Jewish administrators and aides to the country in 1066. Various wars and pogroms brought more over the years. They tended to live together, as immigrants do at first. One of the favorite spots was near the Hatton estate. Later, after the estate had shrunk they occupied, along with Italian gunmakers, even more of the neighborhood. They couldn’t join the Guilds or open retail businesses, so they turned to what could be done at home, i.e. making or dealing in jewelry, counting money, trading money, etc. Interestingly home was often behind or above a kosher restaurant fronting the street. Patrons came to eat in the restaurants and then went out back or upstairs to do business. Eventually the restaurants went and retail took over. Now Hatton Gardens is not only the center for the London jewelry trade, but after WWII threatened Antwerp and Amsterdam it became the hub for all of Europe’s diamond trade.
Yesterday’s notable Sports headlines: Who is the emergency scrum-half? Are England thin at tighthead? Geoffrey Boycott says England should pack the leg side and attack Smith’s stumps from around the wicket to negate unconventional style.
The papers struggle with what to call Boris Johnson’s current squeeze, the one he moved into #10 Downing Street. Boris’ latest wife is an attractive lawyer from whom he is not yet divorced, the immediate cause of the divorce being his fling with this “companion”. First she was the mistress, but now, since she’s the consort of the Prime Minister, she gets to be labelled girlfriend. A step up in the world? It must be pointed out that all Boris’ wives have been intelligent professional women, not escorts, models, and such. However, I fear that many of the incessant affairs have been with females of that ilk. Carrie, the one in question, did have a job, so we will see whether she gets to join the wifely ranks or is eventually cast aside for the next candidate.
I went on a walk today, “Diamond-Studded London,” guided by Rex. We met at the Chancery Lane exit of the Tube. There beside us stood the magnificent Tudor-fronted Staple Inn. Originally housing a medieval market the building came to be one of the first Inns of Chancery, a resident training school for budding lawyers. At the time of the inns(there were 10 or 12), the practice of law was divided between clergy and state. The King didn’t like it, and the Pope didn’t like it. So, the two agreed that the Church would stick to its own business, leaving the law to lay practitioners. The king said that he didn’t want any lawyering inside the City walls, so these inns sprang up just outside. There young men studied the book-learning aspect of law. All the other Inns of Chancery are now destroyed, but the Staple Inn still stands. Historians suppose that there were lawyers there in the 1300s. By 1589 I guess they thought they needed a touch of refurbishing because that’s when the current façade went up.
Further details of the walk will have to wait because there are so many, but I must share one great story. One Thomas Derrick had been condemned for rape to hang at Tyburn. He pleaded with the presiding Earl of Essex to spare him if he could produce a device to improve upon the limitations of the Tyburn hanging tree. The earl agreed. Derrick delivered with a sort of gantry allowing the dispatch of a dozen victims at once. Naturally everyone knew about this, many taking their families with a nice picnic lunch to watch the hangings. London dockworkers, who used gantry-like structures in loading and unloading ships, began calling the structures “derricks.” Aha!