January 1, 2023

Dateline: London, UK

Happy New Year! I suppose. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions or go for New Year, New Me or any of the other usual cliches as I have found through my life that things evolve more quickly than one might expect and whatever you might think you’re going to have happening in June, it usually ends up being something completely different. I have nothing against those who do such things – it’s just not me.

I did not write an update last night as it was New Years Eve and I allowed myself to indulge a bit in the grape. Our group, joined with other groups through the same travel company, took over an Argentine restaurant in the City called Gaucho and were fed an excellent steak dinner with free flowing wine and champagne. I’m not sure that we were supposed to get as much as we did (we had only been promised two glasses of wine and a glass of champagne at midnight) but the restaurant staff kept pouring off the special order that had been brought in for our group. I ended up with five glasses of wine and two of champagne with is about three times as much as I usually drink these days. I remained vertical and did not have to be carried to the bus at one in the morning but there was no hope of my being able to string words together in a coherent fashion.

Besides over imbibing, yesterday and today were relatively slow days with the ability to sleep in for the morning. Yesterday, after a leisurely arising, David Pohler and I headed off to the east side of the city where we had not yet done any exploring. We walked around Tower Bridge, The Tower of London (planning on going back and going in on Tuesday), and then through the city to St. Paul’s and down across the wibbly-wobbly Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern and the Globe theater. When that was done, it was time to head to the West End for a matinee of the Aaron Sorkin adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird with Matthew Modine as Atticus Finch. It was fascinating as an adopted Alabamian to see it with a British audience and to see what parts of the story they reacted to. We both loved the production. The adaptation is a much more interesting play than previous versions as it does not try to tell the story in a linear fashion. It weaves back and forth in time, trimming out some of the secondary characters to focus on the central themes that are all brought out in the trial. It’s currently touring the US. If it comes close to you, it’s worth seeing.

Today, after sleeping off the wine (fortunately no hangover), we had a leisurely brunch and then all seven of the Alabama contingent went off together for a Shakespeare/Dickens walking tour taking in various sites important in both of their lives (most of the original buildings long since destroyed due to either the Great Fire of London or the Blitz). I’ve done a number of walking tours through the company London Walks over the years and I highly recommend them if you’re in town. Our guide, Steven (who refused to give his surname) was obviously a Shakespearean actor at some time in his life and had the various speeches down pat. I impressed him by knowing the answers to most of his trivia questions. The result of an expensive education and an inquiring mind. From there, a quick race across town to The London Eye where we spent thirty five minutes being hoisted gently up in the air for views up and down the Thames. The day finished with a pub dinner of chicken schnitzel and chips. Two more days here, both double theater days with a little sightseeing around the edges…

This is my fourth trip in forty years to London. I have a jumble of memories as I walk the streets. That’s the restaurant in which I had lunch with Tommy in 2007. That’s the theater I saw Bombay Dreams in with Lynn in 2002. That’s the spot from which I first saw the parliament buildings and Big Ben. It’s the same city, but in other ways completely different – cleaner, more prosperous, more cosmopolitan, more energetic. What’s interesting this time is that my next visit to London is already planned and coming up in six months. There’s a coronation between the two visits so I imagine that when I’m back in June, the city will be fully spruced up as it’s only going to be four weeks after the big event. I’m not worried about anything I miss this time around, I’ll pick it up this summer. And the weather is going to be a good deal better. Hopefully new Covid variants will not cause difficulties.

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