Part 1: London
I have to say that 2005 was a very good year for me.
In fact, the Christmas letter I sent to family and friends that year - one complete with numerous pictures of the year's events - is still on my refrigerator door!
As I note in this letter, one of the highlights of the year was my Mum and Dad's visit to the Twin Cities from Australia. They stayed with me in my St. Paul home for about ten days in mid-July before journeying to London to visit my older brother and his family who at that time were living in Weybridge, just outside the British capital. I joined them shortly after for a two-week long "Highlights of Europe" coach tour.
Given that it is now five years since I shared this wonderful experience with my parents, I thought I'd share a few photos and journal entries from my time in Europe - starting with my journey and visit to London.
Monday, August 8, 2005
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, 6:50 a.m.
It took ages to get through both check-in and the carry-on check point. I managed to get about ten minutes sleep last night. There were so many little things to do! I hope David and Michael remember to water the plants!
Late yesterday afternoon I rode my bike down to the river and sat at my favorite spot. I prayed for a fearless heart, a heart full of courageous compassion. It's my prayer this morning as I sit on board the first of two planes that will take me to London.
I feel embarrassed that I'm so nervous, so fearful. I guess it's because here in a plane one is totally not in control. Plus the finality of any mishap! And so I ask God to be control - control of my spirit, my heart. I long for a heart full of love and courage, one that has no room for fearful thoughts and scenarios. Be with me, God, on this journey and all the journeys I'll be undertaking in the next four weeks.
It already feels strange to be cell phone free! Strange but good. I'm confident that all with CPCSM will be fine over the next month. I hope the newsletter gets printed and mailed out without any hitches.
I am so tired! I feel as if I could drop off to sleep right now. Unfortunately, there's no head cushion!
. . . Wide awake and airbourne. I feel calm and at peace. This always happens once the plane's taken off. Yet I still pray for a continued sense of God's presence.
Chicago, 11:00 a.m
Because the flight from the Twin Cities to Chicago was delayed, I missed my connecting flight to London. I've been put on a later flight today which means I'll get into Heathrow at 6:15 tomorrow morning. It also means I have to spend all day here in Chicago at the airport.
I need to somehow let [my brother] Chris and [sister-in-law] Cathie know of this change of plan. I asked a guy with a laptop if I could use it when he's done. He said yes and so I'm wanting for him to finish so that I can send an e-mail to Cathie. It's kinda calming just sitting here on the floor watching people go by. But then again, I'm very tired.
Some time later . . .
Flying over Quebec with five-and-a-half hours to go before arriving in London. I have no idea what the local time is but in London it's about 1:00 a.m., Tuesday, August 9. I've been reading Jamie O'Neill's At Swim Two Boys. I started it between dozes at the Chicago airport.
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
It seems appropriate to be reading At Swim Two Boys while flying over Ireland and the Irish Sea. In fact, we've just passed Dublin, the setting of the book. In less than an hour we'll be landing in London.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Cathie and [my eldest nephew] Ryan met me at Heathrow yesterday morning. I then spent the rest of the day reconnecting with my nephews . . . and trying to stay awake! I was dead tired - having very little sleep in 48 hours.
Today Ryan and I went into London from Weybridge and did the shamelessly touristy thing of taking a sightseeing bus around the city's most popular areas. Actually, it was very informative and a great way to get an initial experience of the sights, sounds, and general atmosphere of the place. The highlight was probably our stop at St. Paul's Cathedral and our climbing of the 500-odd steps to the very top of the dome where we were treated to magnificent views of the city.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Earlier today I explored Westminster - by first making my way through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. As I walked along the Mall I came across the Duke of York Column [left] which I recognized from the film Mrs Dalloway.
I then proceeded to Trafalgar Square and then down to the Houses of Parliament. After walking across Westminster Bridge, I made my way past the London Eye to Waterloo Station. It was quite an enjoyable walk and I'd like to do more such wandering around the city next week.
Sunday. August 14, 2005
An interesting and enjoyable afternoon today at Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn. I could have skipped the jovial display of jousting, but the little castle itself, surrounded by its moat and imbued with centuries of history, was fascinating. The surrounding gardens, pools, and lawns were very elegant and thoroughly English.
The highly manicured grounds boasted sculptures dating back 2000 years, and in one garden courtyard I believe I found Antinous, in all his naked glory. He seemed to be ignored by everyone - except for an elderly woman who gleefully rubbed his buttocks as she passed by! I guess when you get to be a certain age you can do as you please.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Spent most of the day in London with [my nephew] Liam. We visited Chris at Shell Centre, walked to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Circus, and took the Tube to Kensington (Holland Park Station) so as to find the house were Dusty Springfield lived for a time and which is marked by a commemorative plaque. After locating and photographing Dusty's former residence, we took the Tube back to St. Paul's Cathedral where again I climbed to the top - though this time accompanied by Liam rather than Ryan!
Monday, August 22, 2005
I'll miss spending time with my nephews. Yes, my time in Weybridge with them and Chris and Cathie has passed. Last night after a wonderful meal of black bean chicken and stir-fry vegetables and noodles that Cathie and I prepared between sips of Pimms, Mum, Dad and I made our way into London where we stayed at the Crowne Plaza London-St. James. This morning at 5:30, we boarded our Insight Tours coach for our "Highlights of Europe" adventure! I write now abroad the Pride of Kent, the ferry that will shortly transport us from Dover to Calias. From here we'll journey to Brussels where we'll spend the night.
The best part of my time in England? First and foremost, spending time reconnecting with my brother and his family. It seems as if I had endless games of Cheat, Memory, Snakes and Ladders, and UNO with Mitch and Brendan. I exchanged music with Ryan, while Liam accompanied me on my quest to find the house where Dusty Springfield once lived. It seems as if I also watched with all four boys countless episodes of Teen Titans, Samurai Jack, and Wild Boyz!
The second highlight was exploring and experiencing London - or rather central London.
Third, I enjoyed meeting and spending time with Paul Howes and his partner. Paul [whom I'd interviewed in 2002 for my Dusty Springfield website, Woman of Repute] generously made me a DVD of Dusty interviews and videos from the time of her Reputation album.
Another Dusty-related highlight was the trip to Henley-on-Thames that Chris, Cathie, Liam, Mum, and I made on Saturday. Here we visited Dusty's grave [left], enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of this peaceful riverside town, and had lunch by the Thames at the Angel on the Bridge pub and restaurant.
We're casting off! When the boat gets a bit further out I'll take a photograph of the famed white cliffs of Dover!
NEXT: Part 2: Bruges and Brussels
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Good Times, Happy Memories
Remembering a Very Special Time