The CapitalThis is my favourite pic of Lily and Nick in London, staring up as Big Ben strikes ten o'clock, after a long, crazy day in the city.
When I was a kid growing up in Norwich in the 1960s, London was the centre of the universe: Big Ben, the Beatles, Carnaby Street, Nelson's Column, the queen in her palace, safe as houses with all those soldiers dressed in bearskin and scarlet with shiny brass buttons, looking after Her Majesty and us, her loyal subjects, all over England!
We had two trips up to London from Brighton.
The first was organised around Lily's appointment for a student visa interview at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. The embassy was scary: a couple of the roads alongside it have been blocked off to cars, there are cameras everywhere and high perimeter fences patrolled by cops in flak jackets holding machine guns. Machine guns.
Anyway — Lily's appointment ended up taking about three hours, and by the time she emerged she knew she'd got the visa okay, so with great relief we skedaddled and did some serious sightseeing as night fell.My mum had told me, earlier in the day, 'When you go to Trafalgar Square (above), take some pictures of yourself and Lily with the pigeons [check — though there are very few pigeons left these days] and on the corner, opposite the National Gallery, there's the old jewellery shop where Dad bought my wedding ring — see if you can find it!'
We didn't find it, though we walked right around the square looking at every shop on every corner. No jewellery stores any more!
We had a fabulous time: dinner in a (grotty) pub in the West End, a walk along the Thames at Westminster with the London Eye glittering across the water, listening to Big Ben chime in the hour, and a nod to Westminster Abbey, where my g-g-g-g-g-g-grandfather (one more -g- for Lily) is buried. We were too late to go in and give him our love this time, but Lily did that in '96 so we didn't feel too bad.
On our second day in the capital, we started early with three objectives: the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern, and King Lear at the Globe with Alice, one of Lily's oldest and dearest friends from Subi Primary School days.
We found ourselves unable to tear ourselves out of the V&A (allow at least a week — there are over five million things to see, all of them fascinating), so we had to forgo the Tate. I'm saving it for my next visit, when I'll give it a week as well!
The Globe, which is the low white building in this pic from the Millennium Bridge,is almost next door to the Tate. It was fantastic. In its way. I'm no fan of Shakespeare, or live theatre — throw your rocks at me now — so the combination could've been fatal but for all the wonderful people-watching opportunities. The acting seemed like a contest: who can talk Elizabethan English fastest with the most emoting, alas my liege. David had very cleverly booked our seats online and found us a box, the Gentlemen's Room, with four of the very bloody few seats in the place, and on top of that, four that had backs on them. (I'm all for a genuine experience, but authenticity can be taken too far. I pay therefore I sit.)We had a splendid view of the stage and the audience — lots of those standing up were dropping like flies in the stuffy heat down there — and I spent three and a half very happy hours looking at the costumes (Where do they get the shoes from? Do they have costume underwear on under all that? Does he have make-up on his legs? What is he going on about? Where did they get the thunder machine? Is that real fur?) and staring at the building, and wondering if the columns were real or painted marble, and how long the musicians had had to study to play their wonderful old instruments like the sackbut and crumhorn ... And did the developers of this re-born theatre know it was directly under the flight path from Heathrow, with a plane roaring over the top every three or four minutes ... ?But Alice, Nick and Lily are far less philistine than I and they loved every minute of it!