Day 6. Things Americans say.
This log is devoted to my fellow Americans, as I sit in London on the day we commemorate our Independence. Bless our hearts, we mean well and most of Europe loves us for having their backs in a scrap, but they would sure appreciate it if we would relax a bit.
While we were on our Walk Tuesday, a woman from Colorado asked our guide why men in suits were drinking beer at a pub at 2:30 in the afternoon. Our guide explained that these men arrived at work at 3:00 AM. She asked why they couldn't wait to start drinking until 5:00 PM like everyone else. He replied that they would be going to bed at 5:00 PM so they could wake up at 1:00 AM to get on the train into London so they could start working with their colleagues in Hong Kong.
After all this, she didn't get that people might not work 8-5 jobs and that it was perfectly alright to have a drink at 2 in the afternoon if you've already put in 11 hours that day.
Traffic in central London is insane. So insane that they charge an fee for the privilege of driving there. Busses, taxis, delivery trucks, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. Also, pedestrians. The local bike riders are good. The tourists, not so much. You can rent a bicycle from a stall for a couple pounds a day without proof that you know how to ride it.
Heading somewhere, a family gets on the bus beside us. Mother, father, a couple of under-10 children. The kids are amazed at the sights, so clearly they've just arrived. After watching the traffic for a few minutes the mother says to the father "Nobody here is wearing a bicycle helmet." The father says "I guess the police are too busy to write tickets".
The British love us, for the most part, discounting that whole mess from 1776 to 1781. And again from 1812 to 1814. Americans cross the pond, spend dollars like it's Monopoly money, and try to get in touch with our past. Along the way, we mostly don't act like a bunch of hoodlums. But, we can be rather naive about how the rest of the world works and that our behavior and standards are different from, not better than theirs.
As to what we did today. We went to Windsor Castle. We got up earlier than normal and tried really hard to get out the door early. We succeeded to some extent.
We got on our bus and got to the Tube station. We transferred to another Tube line. Then we got on an overground train to Slough (a far suburb) and then a quick jaunt on another train into Windsor. We got there about noon.
Windsor Castle is the Queen's residence. It dominates the landscape around it by virtue of being on the highest ground. This goes back to the days of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. All of which we learn nothing about in the US but it's really relevant to us in many ways.
The castle has stood against outsiders for nearly a millenium, but it may lose ground to commerce. There are shops in all directions from the castle, hawking everything from cheap jewelry to cosmetics. If you've ever been to an outlet mall, transpose that concept onto a row of 300-year old buildings surrounding a thousand year old castle. But, unlike an outlet mall in Gainesville, Texas, the beer outside Her Majesty's residence is quite sublime.
The castle is a lovely place. The grounds are immaculately kept with pots of flowers everywhere. The staff who operate the tours operate in a balance between devotion to their Sovereign and providing a service to the Public. We spoke to a number of the guides and wardens and they were equal measures of helpful, friendly, and dutiful. I have no doubt in a time of crisis that most of the people working the turnstiles would drop everything to ensure the safety of the Queen and her family.
From the Royal apartments and the state rooms, we went to the St. George Cathedral. This is a working church of the Anglican Communion and it's gorgeous inside if you're a fan of architecture, the craft of stained glass, or a student of history. You are walking along and you realize you're stepping on the place where a king from 500 years ago buried his wife or looking into the crypt of the sister of the current monarch.
We exited the castle and found a pub outside the gates. We've found a lot of pubs this week, but this one was special. This was my first pub in England, in 2006. I arrived off a flight and were greeted by Richard and Steve, gentlemen that I'd never met before. They were photographers who used equipment similar to mine and they were going to show me their world. Sleepy and a bit jet-lagged, I got in a car with these two and we went off to Windsor. We came to this pub called the Horse and Groom where I had Fish and Chips with a cask-drawn ale. A couple years later, Richard and his wife Pat met Jackie and I in France. A year later we visited them at their home in Gloucester. Richard and Pat were both lovely people and I'm sorry to say that Richard passed away in 2012.
We left Windsor about 5:30 PM. We transferred back to Slough and waited on the incoming train. There were a lot of people waiting at the station. When the train arrived, we went to board, but there was no room. As in, there was no way to get on the train. So we walked down the platform to the next car. Same result. Next car. Same result.
A young woman, smartly dressed, shouted over at us, "There's another train in 10 minutes. It will be much better." So we stopped fighting the crowds and waited for the train to depart.
We thanked the young woman for telling us that information and started chatting. She was from the Netherlands and was working in England for some time. She gave us some tips on places to see while we're in Amsterdam and Belgium.
You plant seeds and those seeds bear fruit. If you sow bad seeds, you get bad fruit. If you sow good seeds and nurture them with Love and Kindness, they will nourish you.
Into Paddington and then catching a connection over to King's Cross. What's there? If you've read a popular book in the past 15 years or seen the movies from it, you might know that King's Cross station is home to a certain railway platform with an unusual name. Beau was quite happy to find it, as were about 200 other kids and adults. We stood in line for 30 minutes for our opportunity to take this photo.
Then, we headed back to the apartment. Footsore and happy after another day and another 19,000 steps on the pedometer.
As I write this, a storm is coming in. Thunder, lightning, rain. Cooling things down, bringing life. The windows are open, allowing the outside world a chance to penetrate the hard kernel inside.
Tomorrow, perhaps, Greenwich. That's pronounced "Grin-itch". Home of the Royal Observatory and something really relevant for one of my favorite hobbies.