Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Safe at Home

They’re changing the guard
At Buckingham Palace.
Christopher Robin went down
With Alice.
“Do you think the King
Knows all about me?”
“Sure to, dear,
But it’s time for tea,”
Says Alice
      - A. A. Milne

London was great!  Becky found us a sweet little hotel in the prestigious Westminster area, not far from Paddington Underground Station.  There I rested and got some strength back.  We ate at a nice pub called The Pride of Paddington (their shepherd’s pie is delectible), shopped at Selfridge’s (founded in 1902 by an American) where I bought a beautiful sterling silver charm bracelet, went to the Changing of the Guard, the Tower of London (the Crown Jewels are astonishing), the National Gallery (their collection of Impressionists is wonderful), Portobello Road (lined on both sides with tiny antique and collectible shops), and took a day trip to Stonehenge (which was mostly the reason Becky decided to go to England).  The weather was mostly pretty bad, cold and windy – there is a special kind of wind in England that pierces your clothing and flesh to lodge in your marrow.  But there are daffodils in every park, great swaths of them, and flowering shrubs and trees everywhere.  The schools were out and some businesses closed on Good Friday.  The streets were packed with tourists (it seemed like every little group of people we passed spoke a different language – lots of French and German, some Russian, some I couldn’t identify).  I bought a pair of red trousers in Marks and Spenser (almost as famous as Selfridge’s, not as high end).  Bought gifts, a fine ballpoint pen at the Tower with a big “diamond” on its head, t-shirts, a silver replica of the White Boar badge of Richard III found a few years ago at the site of the Bosworth Field battle where King Richard was killed, some coffee mugs, lots (and lots) of postcards, books.  Had to buy a second suitcase to carry all the loot..

Because our plane tickets called for us to fly on Easter Sunday, we decided to go to Westminster Abbey for the Saturday evening Vigil of Easter service.

Oh, my, it was beautiful! We gathered in the dark just inside the door, something over 100 of us, seated on folding chairs. The church is old, old; the stained glass in the huge windows medieval, the pillars immense, the main aisle studded with flat markers of famous people buried under them.  Meanwhile a large number of priests, deacons and others gathered by the door and suddenly there was a little fire leaping up out of a pale stone. A prayer was said, the Pascal candle lit and from it other candles. We the laity had been given a taper with a cardboard guard and the light was passed so everyone had a lit candle. Then we processed into the inner church, past the choir (their choir members wear red robes with little white ruffs around the neck and white whatchacallems over that). Gorgeous voices! I love it when the boy sopranos' voices rise so high over the others, but there was a magnificent baritone in there, too. We stood and sat as the readings and collects began, from Genesis (The Sixth Day of creation) and on through Abraham about to sacrifice his son. The choir sang. Suddenly the organ burst out a peal and the lights came on, and it was Easter! Incense rose in clouds, chandeliers were lowered, lit, and raised (one spinning gently), and six children were baptized. We went on through the Eucharist, hymns were sung, old Latin chants were intoned, a priest came through us with a golden object he would dip into a basis and use to scatter holy water over us – Becky caught a drop in one eye, to her surprise and amusement. The gospel was the three women, Mary, Mary, and Salome, coming to anoint the Body and finding it gone. The bread and wine handed around (the wafer thick and chewy and the wine pale,  sharp and strong), blessings were given, and we were dismissed. The service began at eight and was over about quarter to ten. We’d come on the Underground, but took a cab home. I was the only person present in a hat, but as we shook hands with the celebrants on our way out, I got lots of compliments on my “Easter bonnet.”  As we stood outside waiting to signal a cab, right across the street, Big Ben chimed the hour and then, in its mighty deep voice, struck ten times.  A very lovely farewell to our adventure.

Got a few hours of sleep before we were summoned to the lobby to catch a 4:30 am shuttle to Heathrow. And there began the longest day. The plane left around quarter to eight London time and landed in Chicago about quarter to one Chicago time (something over seven hours later). Then there was an enormously long trek to the gathering place to catch a plane to Minneapolis. We were met at the airport by Mimi and Tanya (poor Tanya, who had missed this adventure because of her knee). They dropped me off at my apartment and I managed to stay up until around 8 pm. Woke up at quarter to five on Monday, safe at home.


Betty Hechtman said...

Monica, great to hear that you managed to have a great time despite the earlier problems.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome back, Monica. Glad to hear you had a good time, but I'm not surprised.