‘On Meeting Our Waterloo’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Nine

‘On Meeting Our Waterloo’

Fairlop

“Ode To The Underground”

‘Mind The Gap’ forces ears to contract,
open expectant eyes,
averted gazes,
privacy bubbles pressed,
squashed flat, mouths move
tasting aromas, heated
pheromones fantasies revealed.
Stranger’s touch,
stroking fingers,
matted hair snaps
lurching roar,
acrid stench below,
cool exhaust above
dark cables rushing by
bright tiles blurred,
fast forward, another stop
clicks into view,
rail above, rail below
standing still, passengers
moved from place
to home
as world races
past, enter, exit, only
the name has changed.

© Brian A. Fowler

Riding an hour on the Tube during the height of rush hour triggered this wonderful poem from Brian. Upon leaving the Tate Modern yesterday evening at five o’clock, we crossed the Millennium Bridge made slick by light mist and slogged slowly towards St. Paul’s Station and the ride home. We passed through the grounds of St. Paul’s, admiring the rose garden and statues before being funneled down the stairs and onto the crowded platform. Brian’s amazing poetry captured the time perfectly. We stood until the end, swaying like weightless sea grass in the surging outgoing tide. Fall colors now fading to somber winter drab broken only by flashes of bright scarves and glittering eyeliner. The behavior of work-time commuters is akin to the schooling of fish. Safety in numbers, orientating in the same directions, senses tuned to every unfamiliar noise and face. Huddled in the center of the writhing mass, slowly working your way to edge and then out into the night air, free to resume your solitary journey.

Speaking of that night, this was the sole occasion when PB made an appearance. All through the trip, Brian would walk ahead of Diane and Ann when in crowds or at the transit stations. Ann had chided him for running off ahead, but Brian explained that PB was taking point and making sure the going was safe. Since Ann had left her vehicle in a car park and it was now very dark, after we exited our final stop, PB was on high alert. He again took point and cleared the way to the dimly lit parking lot, but this time, he also took control of the body. When Ann and Diane entered the lot behind him, he noticed Ann carefully scanning the area. When he assured her it was safe she looked quizzically at him, so he formally introduced himself and shook her hand politely. He didn’t let Brian return until Ann had pulled out into traffic.

Now on this fifth morning of our journey and the ride to Waterloo, in order to connect with the Eurostar to Paris, only re-enforces my belief that mass transit exhibits quantum characteristics that fluctuate from time of day and station. Riding through cast-iron tunnels first bored in the 1890’s on a train equipped with modern maps of the entire 253-mile long system creates a sense of wonder. Since January 10th of 1863, passenger journeys numbering in the multiple tens of billions have rolled across these rails. You can hear the murmurs and whispers of patrons in decades past singing a haunting electric harmony. Although only 45% of the present day system is actually beneath the surface, ‘The Underground’ and ‘The Tube’ have entered into the modern lexicon as familiar terms throughout the world.

Check-in at Waterloo International was easy thanks to the keen recon the day before by the intrepid and world-renowned explorer Brian. Reported to Booth #3, no line and tickets validated. Security X-ray was no problem with food. Quickly through French passport control and we enter the terminal waiting area now for legal terms already in France. Board coach number seventeen, seats thirty-one and thirty-two: piece of cake. Depart precisely on time, slow, slow and slower ride out of London coming to a near halt at times, commuter trains passing us on adjacent tracks.

All Eurostar operations moved from Waterloo International to St. Pancras International on November 14th, 2007. Despite being further north in London, when the new twenty-four mile section of track opened all the way to St. Pancras, the travel time between London and Paris was reduced by an additional twenty minutes to two hours and fifteen minutes for non-stop service. The centerpiece of this rail link is a twelve-mile tunnel bored under east London until emerging about a mile short of the station.

The new quicker transit times contrasted sharply to the low speed exit out of London we took that morning. It wasn’t until we switched from third rail power to overhead gantries at Fawkham Junction upon entering the high-speed track opened in 2003 that the train began to reach the faster speeds needed to make the timetable. Racing towards the Chunnel at nearly 175 mph, the still verdant green countryside of Kent unrolled in a pleasing panorama of quiet villages, grazing cattle and bleating sheep. At least I assume they were bleating. What else do sheep do? Crossing the Medway Viaduct we raced through Ashford International on the flyover and began a gradual slowing to 100 mph and the descent for the twenty-minute ride under the English Channel.

Plunging at high-speed into the Chunnel may seem frightening, but the only thing scary about it is the massive amounts of debt leftover from the project. As far back as 1802 proposals had been made to dig under the Channel, but serious efforts were undertaken in the 1880’s, 1922 and the mid 1970’s. All of these attempts floundered for both monetary and political reasons and it wasn’t until 1987 when a joint Anglo-French consortium began digging from both sides of the English Channel. By 1994 the three 31.35 mile long tunnels were completed and service began late that year for passenger service by means of the Eurostar and via a shuttle service that carries automobiles. Freight service is marshaled around the scheduled passenger runs and includes trucks on shuttles as well. The Chunnel is the second longest rail tunnel in the world and the portion under the Channel is the longest undersea tunnel at 23.55 miles long. Eurostar train services have now grabbed over two-thirds of all passenger traffic regardless of type from London to Paris or Brussels.

Northern France was very flat and rural with small villages, dominated by a stone church in each, and surrounded by windbreaks of stubby trees. The fields were mostly bare earth with occasional winter crops sown and sheep here and there. The sparse landscape was only occasionally relieved by the view of a wind farm or an industrial park. Despite the better rail, the speed was no higher than in England, although sustained for longer periods of time. There was little in the way of urban sprawl and we maintained our schedule until traffic into Gare de Nord delayed our arrival by five minutes.

One thing I noticed on the run-in through the northern suburbs of Paris was the vast quantities of graffiti on the walls and buildings alongside the tracks. This continued on le Métro and on the RER both in the tunnels and on the exterior of the coaches. Compared to the London Underground, le Métro was far dirtier, the stations more confusing, the signage less clear and the trains smaller. It was quieter though as much of the rolling stock is on rubber tires. Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris was better known as the Métropolitain or le Métro – it’s now run by the RATP – but in contrast to the London Underground, it is far cheaper to use per single-trip ticket. Primarily running through compact neighborhoods, it is the most densely packed station wise of any transit system in the world and it carries the second most passengers in Europe behind only Moscow. The short distances between stations and the overall length of 133-miles can be explained in part by the resistance of many Paris residents throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to allow le Métro to reach into the inner suburbs. Their fear of crime and undesirables if non-Parisians were allowed free access into the city is also why the decision was made to run le Métro on the right hand tracks rather than on the left as the suburban trains were being operated. It was not until 1934 that the first line was extended beyond the city limits and this remained the case until the 1960’s. By then, lingering post World War II problems related to the many closed stations and the booming population growth, finally lead to the decision to construct an entirely new rail system. The RER linking the city of Paris to the ring of suburbs was the ultimate result.

Purchasing two tickets at the station was simple and we took the number 4 Métro line one stop from Gare de Nord and then rode the number 2 line to Charles de Gaulle Étoile. There we walked outside and up to an elevated platform to get on the number 6 line. It was interesting to be sure: different of course from London but not because of the language. Citizens of Paris are different. Way to go Rose! What a keen insight! No need for sarcasm here Dewy, I know that every writer since the time of the Romans has commented on Parisians, I was simply stating what I observed. You think it’s easy having Dewy around all the time? No she’s not real, not like I am, but that doesn’t stop her from poking her rounded assets into my life. Back to my observations please. As this was their first visit to France, Brian was being very cautious and triple checking the maps. He had a small folding map from a guidebook that he compared to the diagrams in the stations and on the carriages. The first transfer was easy since it was only one stop so they stood. The doors on the carriages are self-service and the pictogram instructions are not all that clear. Depending on the line, some have buttons, some have handles and they don’t all work the same. Since Brian wasn’t sure on how to work the doors, he made sure they were behind someone who did on every stop.

Which brings me to state my first observation that Parisians are impatient. The first person in line was trying to open the doors before the train came to a halt and if that person moved too slowly, someone else would reach around to do it quicker. On the second leg of the trip, they sat down next to an old woman. Brian smiled and said bonjour and she returned the salutation. The stops clicked off one by one and before we knew it, our next transfer station was at hand. Nothing any of us had ever read mentioned that some stations were elevated and when we followed the signs to Line 6, it lead out onto the sidewalk. To Brian’s surprise there was no exit ticket gate or an entrance ticket gate onto the next platform. There were however, several sets of steep stairs and Diane had to stop and rest. Which is my next observation. If you look confused while reading a map no one will break stride to offer advice. Not bashing Paris, but it was very noticeable though that few people in public would actually make eye contact.

At our final destination, the elevated Passy station, Brian was in a daze and got spun around and we descended the multiple flights of steps in the wrong direction. It turned out fine though because there it was! La Tour Eiffel. It was actually real and right across the Seine from us silhouetted against the crystal clear blue sky. What a glorious sight as we took pictures and it was only then that it sunk in that we were actually in Paris. Retracing our steps up the hill, a very steep hill – Paris is not flat – the hotel sign was visible from blocks away. The hotel Regina de Passy was recommended by our friend Tara and it was very nice and at 177 euros a night, considered to be moderately priced. We were on the third floor and had a room at the end of the hallway overlooking rue de la Tour. Featuring a large bedroom with two double beds, a television and desk the room was complemented by a walk-in closet with a generous bathroom. Despite the constant traffic, the room was quiet with no sounds from the hotel and only muffled noises from the street below the balcony. Diane was feeling very tired so she laid down for a nap and rested. Brian and I went for a walk to scope out the neighborhood and look for a place to eat dinner… we must get our priorities right!

Which brings me to another observation. The first thing I noticed when we got to the hotel was that the front desk help was smoking! That was a culture shock more than the fact that they spoke only French to us. That was expected at least and Brian simply bulled his way through the check-in procedure. You can’t intimidate him, he can out haughty the best of them. He’s far from an Ugly American but he demands respect and service in a civil manner. Diane was exhausted as it was decidedly more walking than she had planned on and Paris seemed to be all uphill. She was very hungry but too tired to go out exploring. After we had gotten to our room and unpacked Diane asked Brian to bring her back something to eat. Front desk aside, Brian was pleased with our accommodations. He’s stayed in hundreds of hotels through the years and this was a pleasant place. The lobby on the ground floor was flanked on one side by a room with a computer and opposite a breakfast room. The carpeted stairway to the back left curled in a circle from landing to landing around an open elevator shaft. It looked like an old movie set with the metal accordion door and tiny interior.

Paris was overwhelming to me. The short trip on le Métro, the walk to the hotel and the myriad narrow streets filled with traffic and people walking purposefully in every direction. This was a city that brooked no nonsense and expected visitors to keep up. It was already apparent that we would be unable to comply. It was time for a new strategy.

Tower

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‘Dancing With Dali’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Eight

‘Dancing With Dali’

Monday dawned, if you can use that phrase, cold and gloomy. On the itinerary was a trip to the South Bank and the Dali Universe exhibit at County Hall. Once more on the Underground, where we started it’s aboveground, we rode the Central Line and then transferred to the Jubilee Line where it commences at Stratford. In all we would transfer at Stratford a total of six times during our stay and it was always fairly easy, except when using the Jubilee Line. Due to heavy usage and multiple platforms, trying to pick the right train can be an adventure. They have overhead electronic signs showing the next departure, but if it’s full, you have to walk back and around to another platform and wait for the next train. Stratford International will serve as a centerpiece in the Olympics Games in 2012, including the Eurostar; today it is a major junction for traffic entering east and south London. Our first stop today though on the Jubilee line was at Waterloo International to check on the status of the next day’s journey to Paris on the Eurostar Express. After trying to use the self-check kiosks and failing, we stood in line and asked the counter clerk for information. It worked out well although paying 20p for use of the Ladies was exacerbated by Ann’s lovely black suede fringed purse falling and smashing a bottle of perfume. The rest of the day she smelled like a bordello; a lovely bordello, but I felt people were wondering how much she charged.

We walked the rest of the way to County Hall after taking a detour to street level. It was still cold and windy and the large plazas surrounded by the modern concrete slabs posing as buildings caused it to be even colder. County Hall also houses the London Aquarium and the London Eye is right out front on the Thames. There were massive crowds on the embankment but none were entering the Dali exhibition. Once inside, there was a slight contretemps at the Dali ticket counter when the clerk refused to take sterling travelers cheques. Considering the admission price was twenty-seven dollars per person, it was rather upsetting. In fact, Brian had to cash all the cheques at Ann’s bank because no one would accept them as payment. Kind of defeats the purpose of having them in the first place. What’s the use of free replacement if lost or stolen when you can’t use them? You can use credit cards as most people do, but with the amount of credit and identity theft, many times the issuing company will block the card when they see it being used overseas. In fact, cloning of cards is such a huge problem that we used cash for everything. Diane had placed a usage request on their accounts before leaving to prevent the card issuer from suspending the credit cards. Despite their precautions, the one time Diane did use her credit card the number was immediately stolen. She found out after we got back home when someone tried to use it in Romania.

Quite frankly, call me shallow, but the Dali drawings left Diane and I cold. We did enjoy the sculptures much better, and I loved the ‘Venus With Drawers’ among others. After awhile and seeing how much Brian was enjoying the art I decided to withdraw and allow Ann and Brian to spend over an hour together viewing each and every piece of art and arguing their various merits. Downstairs there was a small display of ceramics and textiles by Pablo Picasso. By this time Ann had ditched her aromatic purse as the perfume had spread to her jeans as well. She got a plastic bag from the Dali gift shop to put all her bits and pieces; Diane was waiting there patiently for us, I wish I could have been as well.

“All right then Brian, it’s up to you and Ann to carry the day. It sounds like you both enjoyed the Dali show. What were some of the strongest impressions it left on you Brian?”

“First off Dewy I must say that the overall exhibition looked shopworn. More than a few displays were missing descriptions and I was disappointed with the lack of supporting materials and explanations. Having only a basic knowledge of Dali beforehand I was actually quite pleased with the wide variety of themes displayed.”

“And as for you Ann? What were your initial reactions?”

“Dewy it’s been my experience of Dali that people either love him or hate him. I find him fascinating. He was an out and out eccentric genius who made no bones about using any means to draw attention to himself and his art. I think his agenda was to be provocative. What about you Brian?”

“One thing I was unaware of beforehand Ann was his perverse nature. Perhaps it was because we were in England, but there was no mention of the sexual portion of the show until you were actually viewing the prints. In America this would have been very controversial and probably set aside in a back room lest ‘innocent’ children be corrupted. The very shocking nature of some of his explicit works was in stark contrast to the offhand way they were presented.”

“What I was thinking Brian when I viewed these drawings was that while they were obviously done to provoke, they were also stunning works of creativity. I would have loved to know what Dali’s mindset was when he conceptualized them. I was really pleased that I went and I enjoyed having someone like Brian to exchange views. It was also interesting how we both saw different things in the same drawing. Viewing the sculptures took merely minutes to absorb all the elements, but in studying the drawings, you needed much longer to see all the depth that Dali had created.”

“I agree Ann, I also enjoyed having someone to discuss various works and the relative merits of Dali’s themes. I remember having quite heated conversations over the reasons behind Dali’s frequent uses of religious icons mixed with some of his more shocking drawings. It seemed to me that his use of certain symbols meant more than the actual colors or topics portrayed. I also felt that his art was based on deep rooted neurosis, not necessarily his own and by mocking sacred traditions or the obsession with sex and genitalia he was able to move the topic beyond the earthy desires into the realm of the sublime mysteries.”

What next? The plan, as the clouds thickened and rain threatened, was to saunter up the Thames sidewalk as far as the Globe Theatre and then cross the Millennium footbridge to St. Paul’s and thus ride home. “Over the river and through the Tube to Annie’s house we go!” First on the agenda though was food… again! As this was a school holiday week, the queue for the London Eye ride was still quite long and along the embankment we spotted many of the same street performers I’d seen yesterday at Covent Garden. It seemed to me to be a tough way to make a living displaying yourself covered with paint or in a fancy costume hoping for some loose change. There were numerous restaurants to choose from and we finally settled on Eat to eat. ‘Eat’ is the name of a chain of self-serve delis where they make fresh sandwiches and salads. The food was good but expensive and the drinks in particular were twice as much or more than back home. I have to mention here that to us food is fuel and nothing more; however, the body needs regular feeding. Although Brian and some of the others eat vegetarian, I do not. I will eat chicken on occasion, but food is not a source of conflict amongst us. He picked out a nice vegetable wrap with a soy burger inside and found us a table to sit. Ann and Diane took more time, but when they joined us, it gave us a chance to sit and rest and chat some more.

Brian had only met Ann a year ago, in October of 2006, and they were good friends already through emails and phone calls before this trip was even planned. Diane spent hours as well talking with her and the three of them seemed to be good chums after a few days spent together at Ann’s house. With me, it was a little different. Ann and I had gotten off to a confusing start when the multiple personality business exploded in November of 2006. She had only begun to comment on Dewy’s blog and was concerned that Brian did not understand the impact of his announcement. The idea that one day I was a ‘character’ and the next day I was a real and separate individual within him made little sense at the time. In fact the first time we talked on the phone was when I came out and introduced myself in an effort to reach an understanding. I love Ann very much and respect all her achievements and wisdom. As with all friendships there are varying levels of communication and neither Ann nor I felt any pressure to be other than sassy sistahs who love shoes, clothes and the thought of a man of our own. This trip only strengthened the bond and our friendship is a close and loving one.

Thames

Continuing our ramble, promenade, walk, we strolled east along the Thames and marveled at all the sights and sounds on both banks of the water. It was low tide and the exposed mudflats were rocky and rank. I was drawn to the variety of buildings on the north bank. The mix of old and modern was actually very pleasing, as were the many decorated bridges. Scanning the calm surface and the various boats in motion gave a sense of the history that had flowed by in centuries past. It was easy to image the generations growing up with the city, year after year, living and working and dying along the banks of this great river.

Ann was constantly drawn to the railing and although it wasn’t the warmest or the brightest of days she still enjoyed the leisurely stroll along the South Bank. While Diane and Brian walked together ahead of her she just gazed at the river, aimlessly drifting along, wistfully reflecting on how like her life it was… going with the flow and not knowing what will be at the next turn. She told us that it was the dreamer in her and although that applies to everyone, not everyone necessarily thinks like her! Like I did, she wondered and imagined the stories that the water could tell. Always flowing, but who was actually moving: the Thames or us? For Diane she was struggling with the cold and her physical aliments. Her legs were badly swollen and the walk was tiring. We slowed down and admired the wide variety of architecture and the intriguing style of the lampposts and fences. It’s clearly a very popular walkway no matter the weather and the highlight for Brian was the skateboard park and the artistic graffiti that covered every concrete surface. The kids skating there were as much performers as the fancy dress ones working for tips.

The few retail stores along the way were closed on Mondays and we passed by all the other attractions until we got to the Millennium Bridge and the Globe Theatre. And then there it was. Dominating the surrounding landscape looms the imposing and hulking former Bankside Power Station that is now the Tate Modern museum. Clad in dark brown brick, the rectangular shape is broken in the middle by a slender tower that thrusts defiantly skywards yet draws the eye down to the seemingly tiny glass entrance. The Thames side stone plaza is separated by a series of white birch groves that successfully softens the overall industrial look. This was not on our trip agenda, but I loved this first visit to the Tate Modern so much that we returned the next Saturday to meet Jo and Drizel.

Opened on May 12th, 2000, the free-entry museum now attracts more than five million visitors annually. Walking into the Thames entrance, you arrive at an overlook of the subterranean floor and your first instinct is to look up into the vast empty space of the Turbine Hall soaring eight stories above. With only natural light floating through the windows high overhead, the interior seemed very dark compared to the exhibit halls. When you instead gaze downward, revealed to your disbelieving eyes is a large and jagged fracture in the concrete floor. Starting from the ramp at the west entrance and running a hundred yards all the way to the far eastern end of the building is a mesmerizing piece of modern art by Doris Salcedo. To the artist, “Shibboleth” represents the fracture in societies created by groups excluding others through customs or language. In particular she points towards colonial exploitation and repression.

I loved this piece as to me I saw it as a bolt of lightning on its side tearing through the gray clouds and causing the two halves of the building to separate and fall away. It was clearly the most popular exhibit and was particularly mesmerizing to delighted children who walked straddling the entire length. We also spent a little time as well in the ‘Poetry and Dream’ floor, but as we were returning the following Saturday for another visit, we’ll talk with Dewy then about what we all saw.

Crack

This was yet another day when I was in the background, but I didn’t feel left out. I have a much higher energy level than Brian does and when I’m the face, I’m still a little awkward in certain situations. It’s more efficient for us to have him do the heavy lifting so to speak and for me to observe whatever I like. In other words he walks and talks and I control what the head sees. When Brian wants to look one way and I the other it can look like a tennis match. It’s quite funny at times, especially when he’s admiring something and a hot guy walks by. Sharing works for us, most of the time we function quite well with me in the background. This way I can come and go as I please and I understand that Brian has the control right now.

There was so much to see along the path, not only the buildings and the attractions, but the walk itself was a destination. Beyond the fact it’s a river walk, beyond the fact that ‘History’ smacks you in the face, beyond the fact of the many places to visit, this walk brings you inside of yourself. When was the last time you went somewhere and walked without purpose? Walked without trying to get to the end as quickly as possible? The river walk along the South Bank of the Thames in London England should be a destination for everyone who visits. Not to go from one end to another, but to go from being a traveler to being part of the story.

‘High Tea and Nuns’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Seven

‘High Tea and Nuns’

I’m getting used to sleeping in. If this is jetlag, I like it! A beautiful Sunday in London with glittering blue skies and cool weather. We are using our Travelcard to get around instead of driving, but sometimes driving is necessary. The Tube can take you to most areas of interest but on the weekends, many lines are shut for engineering works. Case in point, the Central Line was closed midway so rather than transfer onto a bus into central London, Ann decided to drive us to the north end of the Victoria line. From there we would all ride and then transfer onto the Piccadilly line at Finsbury Park station en route to our ultimate destination of Covent Garden. In its present form, Covent Garden the shopping arcade has only existed since 1980 after the wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market had been moved out in 1974. The area itself has been a central market since the mid 1600’s when Inigo Jones was commissioned to design a residential square. Even for centuries before that, the area was an important source of crops. Today, the surrounding streets in all directions are filled with shops catering to all levels of customers.

I should point out here that our London Visitors Travelcard should not be confused with the one-day and longer Travelcards or even the Oyster card available throughout London. The Overseas Visitor Travelcard can only be purchased by non-residents of Great Britain and before arriving in London to begin your holiday. The major advantage to this card versus buying daily or longer Travelcards on site is that there are no restrictions on time of travel or any surcharges for rush hour use. If you are limiting yourself to central London then a zone 1-2 card is fine, but if staying in an outlying area a zone 1-6 card for peak travel is a must. In addition to the London Underground, this card covers all bus travel and many suburban National Rail lines within Greater London. The current 7-day unlimited pass sold in 2007 for $95 or roughly £48. The one and three day passes however were only available for the Central London zones. By comparison, buying the single daily off-peak fare, not peak, will add up to approximately the same cost, but the Travelcard is more convenient and saves time waiting in line at the ticket machines during rush hour.

There is also the Oyster card option [which has nothing at all to do with getting frisky] but is a re-loadable prepaid cash card not to exceed £90. The Oyster has nearly eliminated all cash fares throughout the system and it can also be simultaneously loaded with bus passes and/or Travelcards of durations of at least seven days up to a full year. Available overseas as well, it calculates the lowest possible fare for each journey and the daily total will never be higher than a Travelcard single day fare, peak or off-peak. Although similar to a Travelcard, the Oyster is designed primarily for commuters and frequent users, and is not valid on most National Rail services as the pay-as-you-go cash card option, only with a valid Travelcard loaded. Also very important is that unlike a single use or other type of fare card, the Oyster must be validated at the beginning and the end of each individual journey segment on the Underground before transferring; otherwise the highest possible fare will be deducted. Many stations have extra personnel on-duty during peak periods with mobile validation stations. If you are using some other form of payment, then bypass the crowds queuing, if an Oyster Card is your mode, then make sure you touch the yellow button upon every entry and exit of each train journey. The Oyster Card offers overall lower fares than individual cash tickets but prices are higher before 9:30 A.M., so if you are planning to travel early and often from outlying areas, I would recommend the long term Visitor Travelcard for all zones. [Note: If you wait and purchase a seven-day Travelcard in London, it will only be issued on an Oyster Card.]

As Ann drove us to the station, the main roads were busy even though none of the shops on this particular route were open on Sunday morning and, along the way, Ann pointed out the multitude of sights from a lifetime growing up in the area. Nearly every street and neighborhood held nostalgic memories for her and we felt privileged to be shown her corner of the world. Her schools, her various homes and the people walking the sidewalks were all a time capsule passing by. A bit wistful she was. I got the feeling that despite being widely traveled, this part of England was called home. In fact, the area we drove through strongly reminded Brian of Philadelphia, except with fewer trees. Many of the residences along the main routes were similar row houses with businesses on the corners. The streets went up and down the rolling terrain though and followed the contours rather than being mowed flat. Even the major numbered thoroughfares were seldom more than two lanes and most allowed parking on both sides of the road. An interesting contrast in that urban renewal didn’t appear to ever have reached this area. In most cities and towns in America, the streets are laid out in a grid and the main drags have been converted to at least four up to eight lanes wide. In addition, there are many alternate routes and expressways. Of course, the roads in America are clogged with traffic most of the day and night so it’s hard to claim that one is better than another.

Like the streets, the trains were crowded with fascinating passengers. Not only were the stations on both the Victoria and Piccadilly lines more upscale with colorful tiles and pictures, but so too were the people. More affluent and stylish than the more working class patrons we’d seen so far, the women in particular wore colorful scarves and designer footwear in leather heels. Ann pointed out that this whole area was considered upscale and it was hard to separate who lived in what neighborhood. I did sense a difference though to the passengers. Just my opinion and after a quick ride on clean cars we arrived at Covent Garden station to take the lifts to street level.

Covent Garden

Upon exit and a right turn, walking down the pedestrian mall revealed numerous street performers surrounded by crowds of cheering tourists. All during the week, the entire area is filled with various market stalls and you can barely move through the aisles for all the people crammed there. I noticed right away that the majority of the stall keepers were Russian girls and most of the stuff being peddled was not worth buying. A lot of the wares were not handmade either (although it was claimed to be on Sundays) but simply items made in bulk and available elsewhere for less. To me handmade means handcrafted and a few stalls were offering legitimate handicrafts, but they were in the minority. It was also much more expensive than Greenwich Market and with the poor exchange rate of two to one with the dollar, even the quality merchandise was out of reach. Many in the crowd were families out in force as the following week was a school holiday in England. Ann noticed that most of the people she heard talking had ‘Northern’ accents. To which Brian replied, ‘Compared to your accent?’

Ann’s tart and swift response of course was to say that she didn’t have an accent, he did. And furthermore when she was in Florida she couldn’t even understand most people’s conversations. Which was funny because living here in Florida, you rarely hear a true southern accent. Most people have moved from somewhere else.

His Voice

Heard gentle voice
A texture so fine
Quality words
Soft, silken, kind
Read me a story
Blew away my mind
Quiet, soft-spoken
Laughter refined
Told me of truths
A life left behind
I hope to hear more
Another time
Fact or fiction
Alone or entwined
Stroked me his voice
Warmth shined
And lifted my spirit
Privileged was I

© Ann Raven

Being a crisp, bright day, we enjoyed warming drinks al fresco; coffee for Ann – strangely for an English girl, she doesn’t drink tea – and a cuppa for Diane and himself. As in Greenwich, I noted that although the restaurants were very busy, less than one person in one hundred toted a shopping bag with purchases; most of the crowd was clearly made up of tourists. We did some window-shopping; there was a great store called Octopus that sold amazing household goods. Everything in the two-floor shop was based on modern funky designs. I had a great time looking at the merchandise and listening to the techno soundtrack booming from the speakers. The shop girls were dancing to the beat and caught up in the excitement, I was very tempted to buy a grater with a figure of a woman perched atop, or one of these cool teapot purses shown in the picture, but managed to resist. Ann succumbed though and simply had to buy herself a funky black and white purse covered with red pouting lips. Good thing too, as you’ll discover later. After a little more shopping, including a wonderful teashop which was right up Diane’s alley and lots of people watching, it was getting very close to the time to make our way to The Savoy for high tea. It was obvious we wouldn’t make it there without the obligatory pit stop. The restrooms were next the London Transport Museum and this is one time I’m more than delighted to be in a man’s body. No lines for the Gents!

Octopus

“That is too funny Rose. Do you ever forget when you are out and head towards the ladies restroom instead?”

“No I haven’t ever done that Dewy and I let Brian take care of business. It’s something we deal with every day and it doesn’t bother either of us. Privacy is hard to come by most times with six people inside. Being a woman inside a man means that I am used to having to handle his plumbing. No sense freaking out about it; it’s part of our life and that’s that.”

“Moving on then Rose, I take it you enjoyed the shopping excursion with the girls?”

“Dewy I loved Covent Garden, both the shops and the stalls. There was so much to see and admire. We had limited time and funds. Oh for an unlimited expense account! I know Diane enjoyed the arcades as well and she loved the teashop. How about you Ann?”

“Oh Rose, I love Covent Garden; it’s one of my ab fab fav haunts. I could have spent all day there and gorged myself on designer fashions. I have to fight temptation too ‘cos I don’t have an expense account either. I had a marvelous time with you, Diane and Brian browsing the stalls and I simply love the store Octopus. I know where I’ll be buying my next kettle and toaster when mine at home conk out.”

“Diane hadn’t you been here before and what did you buy at the teashop that had you so fired up?”

“Brian had reminded me Dewy that we’d visited Covent Garden ten years before. We stayed then at Walton Hall near Coventry, but I remember very little from that trip. I liked window-shopping but the teashop was marvelous a dream come true. I also loved the funky stuff at Octopus, but it was at the teashop where I found my thrills. I bought a teal colored mug…”

“That was no mug Diane! That was a soup tureen!”

“Ann, that’s a small mug for me. I usually take two tea bags per serving, the stronger the better. I had never seen so many teas in one place before and the aroma was marvelous. However, of all the types for sale they didn’t have what I was looking for! No Lady Grey Tea! They had an alternative called Afternoon Tea which I grabbed instead.”

“Speaking of tea ladies, I do believe it is time for the social event of the week to commence. Without further ado, may I present, The Savoy. Rose, take it away.”

High Tea at The Savoy was the social event of the week. Striding through the muted wood paneled foyer at 3:45 P.M., Ann is accosted by friends trying to book a table. Alas, they are unsuccessful and I glide to the podium to give our names to the attractive young lady. She smiles at himself instead, all the ladies do, and he turns on the charm. He makes me laugh with his antics. Diane just rolls her eyes. Ann looks on bemused, or is that amused? No matter, I return and we are introduced to Ann’s friends and then it is time.

As we are shown to our table, I try to look aloof and sophisticated, but I fail and gawking like a rube from the sticks, my head swivels rapidly in all directions. Opened on August 6th, 1889, The Savoy exudes luxury and refinement and several months after our visit, in December 2007, The Savoy closed for major renovations. The current dining room at The Savoy is massive with two story high ceilings. The walls are mirrored in gold frames that reflect the electric rose chandeliers hanging overhead. At regular intervals, stunning gold and tan marble columns thrust to meet the ornate cornices. Despite the numerous patrons and individual servers for each table, the room was surprisingly hushed and conversations from the next table could not be heard. Our table was marvelous. Two armchairs and a plush divan set against the wall surrounded a low table set with a pink striped white linen cloth and napkins.

Tea

We began by ordering tea, a pot of Jasmine and a pot of Assam; both with real loose tea and hot water poured through solid silver strainers into bone china cups. Neat solid black uniforms edged with gold buttons gave both the male and female staff a professional and dignified appearance. They were attentive and friendly without being obsequious. The vegetarian High Tea tower arrived loaded with sandwiches and cakes along with smoked salmon for both Ann and Diane. When we had gulped down… err, daintily tasted the initial offerings, our waiter strolled up with a full platter of more sandwiches. We exchanged glances and very, very reluctantly agreed to more food.

As soon as his back was turned, we ripped into… err, we reverently sampled the second round of egg salad, cucumber with cream cheese, ham and cheese and the salmon. They were bite size but generous about a third of a full sandwich. So when he returned a third time, we said yes.

And a fourth time.

And a fifth time.

Each seating lasts for an hour and forty-five minutes and Ann inquired of our tea server if we had to leave promptly at 5:30. She replied in the negative and encouraged us to stay as long as we wished. In the front center of the room there was a white baby grand piano and at four o’clock a gentleman commenced playing an ensemble of modern classics. Included in this selection were numerous turns of ‘Happy Birthday’ followed by cheers and singing from various corners of the room. The ‘smart casual’ dress code yielded an interesting blend of Sunday best. Some were dressed in business or eveningwear but we fell somewhat below that. We were comfortable but not schlocky.

Having our fill of sandwiches, we turned our greedy eyes… err, our adoring gaze to the middle tray laden with rich and decadent desserts. Brian ordered a pot of Peppermint tea, said ‘to soothe the digestion’. We didn’t need it for that! We relaxed in our intimate corner, noshing steadily and reduced the once full tower to crumbs. Certainly an enjoyable two hours that bonded all of us together with a sense of shared joy, but also an expensive two hours and best reserved for very special occasions.

Tea2

“Sounds like a fantastic place Rose. Were you actually out the entire time or did you and Brian switch off?”

“The plan Dewy was that this was going to be the three girls having tea after a day of shopping, but Brian spent more time up front than I did. This was one of those times, to my surprise, when I got tired. Besides, they were having a rather intense conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“What was the intense conversation about Ann?”

“We were getting to know each other Dewy. This was probably the first real chance we’d had to sit and talk undisturbed. Right Brian?”

“That’s true Ann, the food was good and the entire ritual of the tea had loosened us up and allowed a more personal conversation between the three of us. Diane and I and Ann had a deep probing talk about life and the strange twists it can take. I found for myself that I was enjoying the time more than I thought I would and thus Rose stepped aside to allow us our time together.”

“So Brian you had a great time, what about you Diane?”

“This was a very special event Dewy and it was intimate and relaxing. I loved the food and the endless tea. The conversation flowed freely and we really got to know each other well. I was the one who kept ordering the sandwiches. But they were so scrumptious Ann.”

“This was my first trip to The Savoy so I was fairly dazzled by the surroundings, but the most enjoyable part of the afternoon for me was the delicious company of friends. Tea out is not one of my favorite things but the afternoon was made special because of Brian and Diane and Rose; they were the perfect accompaniment.”

‘Delays and Clouds’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Six

‘Delays and Clouds’

A chilly start to our first Saturday in England and a late start as well. Ten o’clock came and we finally rolled out of bed staggering to the kitchen for a light breakfast. I checked my email account for any messages from my blogger friend Jo. We had planned to meet today, but her father was being placed in hospice instead and was not expected to last the weekend. She still wanted to meet the following Saturday and I felt sad that there was nothing more I could do for her and her family. I also contacted another friend Rethabile about meeting in Paris, although it appeared Tara would be unable to meet with us there. They were the only two bloggers I personally knew in Paris although an overnight stay doesn’t offer much time to meet in any case. For me, these meetings were actually what I looked forward to the most and all the meetings greatly exceeded my expectations.

By half eleven we were finally dressed and ready to go and Ann escorted us on a brisk fifteen minute walk to the nearest Tube station. Besides a couple of pubs and a few businesses, most of the area along the walk was residential. One thing that hadn’t changed since Brian and Diane had been here last was that cars would stop for you at the zebra crossings. It was an effort to look to the right first for oncoming traffic and all intersections were circles of some kind. Some of the circles were roundabouts controlled by traffic lights and these took several sections to navigate on foot. Being Saturday the traffic was light and the fresh air chased away any lingering malaise. Every day before heading out we always checked the London Transit website for any problems on the system. I cannot stress enough the importance of utilizing the website every time you intend to use London Transit. Don’t get caught out by delays that proper planning can easily avoid. The Central Line was reporting signal delays today but it was only five minutes until a train arrived. There were few passengers at this outlying station and we had our choice of seats and carriage. Before we validated our Travelcards Ann gave us all big hugs and then she walked back home to rest awaiting our return later that afternoon.

Our plans for this first full day in England were to go to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian Line. The boys (including Brian) wanted it more than Diane or I. That and they wanted to ride as many trains as possible. Little Brian and Bernard are obsessed with trains and would ride them all day long if they could. My first ride on the Central Line and then subsequent transfer to the Docklands Light Railway, revealed a very diverse blend of cultures and ethnic groups. I was quite taken with the lively interactions amongst various groups. My keen eye also quickly discerned that fashion is taken quite seriously here. Looking good is considered normal and no one I saw the entire time was overweight. Although it is impolite to stare in any culture, eye contact was not strictly off limits. I was fascinated by the many young girls; their sense of style that was trendy but not trashy.

Coming from a monochromatic white world with little cultural differences, it was instructive for me to witness people with different backgrounds and heritages meeting out in a public setting. Overheard conversations on the train included football, food and schools. Except for the names involved these could be topics discussed anywhere in the world. I’m not sure if I can get across the atmosphere I felt, but respect for fellow passengers was the norm. It’s not that the conversations were loud, in the tunnels you can’t hear anyway, but having a chat with your mates was considered normal. What is also highlighted in my mind is, despite the packed standing room only trains most of the time during our entire trip, there was very little in the way of tension or stress. Curiously enough, I never got a sense of resignation either, more like a sense of recognition that this was a part of life and there was no need to worry. Perhaps the high gas prices equivalent to eight dollars a gallon at the time played a major role in the volume of riders, but it seemed to me that the quickest way around London was to utilize mass transit.

The Docklands Light Railway is an elevated track linking various shipping docks in East London that have now been converted to business and residential districts. It reminded Brian of the Chicago ‘El’ in the way it curved snuggly around buildings with right angle turns high above street level. The entire Docklands System is orientated in a cross pattern with the center near West India Dock. The west arm ends at Bank in The City thus connecting with the rest of London while the east arm splits into two branches including the London City Airport destination. Commencing at Stratford on the northern terminus the elevated rail, after several stops at various wharves, then dives under the Thames to reach its end several stops south of Greenwich. To see the attractions in Greenwich it’s best you exit the below ground Cutty Sark station where you emerge onto a pedestrian shopping arcade that curves out of sight to the left. It takes a few minutes to get oriented, as there were no clear signs pointing in either direction. Eventually after consulting our handy folding map (another must have when traveling is a good map) we made our way to the left and found King William Walk and then headed south towards the distant trees. Our destination, Greenwich Park, was amazing. A beautiful weekend day with temperatures in the mid-fifties and mostly sunny skies brought out the play in the locals. Walkers, runners and cyclists of all ages occupied the many paths crossing this 183-acre expanse and families were everywhere enjoying their time together. Perhaps an unscientific sampling, but the sense of fun and adventure was very much more noticeable as in stark contrast to the States.

I believe because I am a multiple personality and nearly always in the background, I tend to notice the way people interact. Londoners are brisk but not brusque. They will acknowledge you and go about their business. They do however accept a loss of privacy and civil rights to a degree that many in America would find uncomfortable and intrusive. This however seems to be the way the entire world is trending, as many prefer the illusion of safety instead of the exercise of personal freedom. Yet I also became aware of the fixation towards the crime rate in Britain. Every day the media would trumpet a new stat about knife and gun violence. The perception among the locals seems to be that crime is rampant and many houses are gated and most have alarms. The police seem to rely on CCTV rather than patrols, because we never saw a police officer walking a beat or even driving through a neighborhood. Despite constant entreaties by the London Underground staff to ‘report anything suspicious to a member of the police’, in the eight days and over sixteen hours of riding the Tube, we never once saw a uniformed officer.

Greenwich Central Market was very interesting. A shopping arcade filled with booths from Thursday to Sunday selling all sorts of gifts and crafts. Reasonable prices on the majority of goods and Diane found a crafter selling handmade greeting cards and gifts. She bought several after exclaiming how inexpensive they were compared to the high quality and creativity to which the seller ruefully replied, ‘That’s Greenwich’ the implication being that she could charge more elsewhere. Nothing else caught our eye and it was apparent that the throng of shoppers on the sidewalks agreed. Only the restaurants were full, a theme to be repeated constantly throughout our stay and few people were carrying purchases. Despite the lack of commerce the stores were not offering any sales or discounts.

Overall Greenwich left me with the impression of being middle-aged. There was a sense of quiet satisfaction and pride in the solid stone blocked buildings built for the trade and for the advancement of science. There was, in truth, very little in the way of promotion or hype. Only small signs atop black lampposts guided you to the major sights. I would have thought the Prime Meridian Line was worthy of more notice, instead of just being an understated and dignified low-key exhibit at the Old Royal Observatory. Perhaps I have been jaded by the theme park atmosphere at even the most mundane of tourist attractions in America, but straddling the line between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres brought home to me the past glory of the English Empire in a way that no amount of flashing lights or thrill rides ever could. The panoramic view from the heights at the Observatory was spectacular. The crystal clear blue sky bathed the buildings of London to the north of the Thames. From the Millennium Dome to the east, the eye was drawn west and down to the Queen’s Palace at the base of Greenwich Park and then up. Up to the University of Greenwich and Greenwich Hospital and jumping back across the river to the compact skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. Still a poor area despite the rampant development, the Isle of Dogs has a long history of commerce. Continuing west you see The City buildings before the river curves out of sight.

Panoramic

I hadn’t realized when I’d written ‘The World Is Made Of Paper’ that my very first day in London would show the very proof of my essay. When the shipping had gone away and the docks closed; left behind were the laborers with no way out. The fiercely insular and independent communities that had grown with each new dock constructed had no recourse once they all closed. To help alleviate the deep poverty and spur new commerce, The London Dockland Development Corporation controlled the overall plan from 1981-1998 and laid the foundations for much of the new growth. Dogged by controversy from the beginning, it is an inescapable fact that the sight of luxury high-rises next to dilapidated estate housing shows that this remains one of the poorest parts of England.

So what did I learn from my first day in London? I learned that a tourist floats through side by side with the ordinary daily lives of citizens. With but not part of the local culture. The clothing, the language, the cultural stamp; what stands out the most are the stark differences in terms of attitudes and lifestyles. No matter your own personal beliefs, as a tourist you are most drawn to the priorities chosen marking the soul of a society and creating the particular social compact. That compact has flaws, as all countries have when dealing with the complex issues of social programs.

“An excellent chapter Rose, well thought out and filled with interesting tidbits. What stands out to me the most is your description of Greenwich as ‘being middle-aged’. What exactly do you mean by that phrase?”

“Nowhere in London and certainly throughout Great Britain as well can you escape the past Dewy. This is an ancient island and humans have subjugated the deep bones of the very earth. Yet here in Greenwich despite the long history and travails, to me, the town felt satisfied, the comfortable and well-off residents enjoying the fruits of their labors in middle-age.”

“You sound disappointed Rose that Greenwich wasn’t more historical and less commercial. Was this part of the unease you felt before you left?”

“I didn’t think it was commercial Dewy, only that my impression was that the material goods of the English Empire had created a town devoted to the enrichment of a select class of merchants. Gentlemen after all didn’t dally in ‘The Trade’ but lived off the land and property. Thus the buildings erected looked away from England and towards Europe, the Americas, India and China. Science and reason were the paths to success in trade and to the creation of new wealth.”

“That path to success would have to include the railways as well. I want to ask all of you about your impressions of the London Underground. Rose, you seem quite taken with your experiences.”

“I was Dewy. I’d done quite a bit of reading before the trip and it seemed that tourists have a much higher appreciation of the Tube than do Londoners. Having ridden it now, I can understand both feelings. I know Ann certainly has strong opinions.”

“That’s very true Rose, I don’t particularly like the Underground, even though it’s the best way to get from A to B and it’s preferable to driving into town and paying Ken Livingstone’s Congestion Charge or the exorbitant parking. Dewy, the Tube is nothing novel for me and I used to ride it day in day out when I worked in The City. I’m getting old, I don’t like being squashed up close and personal next to some smelly commuter and I need a seat and that hardly happens. I hope you all see where I’m coming from!”

“Oh I don’t know Ann. You’re not old and I loved riding the Tube.”

“Of course you did Brian, you’re all guys! Well, except for Rose, sorry dear.”

“That’s all right Ann. I like trains as well. How about you Diane?”

“I loved it too Rose, it was always entertaining and I especially loved riding underground in the tunnels. It was always a mystery seeing the next stop and whether it would be aboveground or not. The theater in the surroundings seats was brilliant and it changes at every stop.”

“Once you got to Greenwich, what did you like and not like Diane?”

“Walking up that massive hill to see the meridian line and realizing there was a handicapped route on the other side pissed me off Dewy. Plus I was not impressed at all by the metal bar in the ground; it is more for the scientific minded to enjoy. I’d have been better off staying at the bottom and enjoying the fall scenery.”

“Rose, were you able to see anything else of Greenwich that day after they finished eating?”

“After they had a picnic lunch Dewy, we walked down to the Thames and along the river walk for a short distance. On the return to the station we did our shopping at the Central Market. We didn’t go into any of the museums, I think both Brian and Diane were still feeling a bit tired and didn’t want to overload on the first day. Anything else you want to add Brian or Diane?”

“It’s very true Rose, Diane and I were a bit weary. We never did adjust to the time difference and stayed up late every night and slept in every morning. It was just as well though because we got to spend more quality time with Ann that way. I would’ve liked to have spent some more time exploring Greenwich and the various museums and historical homes, but maybe next time.”

Greenwich Park

‘First Day Blurs’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Five

‘First Day Blurs’

A tasty lunch of sandwiches and tea served at Ann’s black marble-top kitchen table.

Unpacking the suitcases, hanging the clothes.

Arranging our stuff in the upstairs bedroom and bathroom. (Think George Carlin)

Brief phone calls to my blogger friends, Jo and Drizel, telling them that I had arrived. Drizel promptly called back from work and we chatted a bit making plans to meet the following Saturday. Jo emailed me and I expressed my deepest sympathies for her father’s failing health.

Brian insisted on going out, so Ann gave us a quick driving tour within the local area, along with lessons in parking on the tight streets. The post office was closed for lunch, no postcard stamps, and the health food store hadn’t received the special order of chocolate rice milk for Brian. Also stopped in the local realty office as Ann was thinking of moving house. Talk about sticker shock! The prices were astronomical.

Ann also showed us her neighborhood and the numerous Underground stations that offered convenient access to the center of London.

Sleep in a wonderful queen size bed with cotton duvets. Three hours of blissful nap.

A shower, dressy clothes followed by a light snack and pleasant conversations before the family dinner.

Ann with two of her three children; Rachel and Jamie along with his new bride, Lucy.

I introduced myself and chatted briefly. I talked about my blog, my poetry and writing this book.

They seemed quite taken by me, especially Lucy and relieved that I was actually normal.

“Well Rose this chapter certainly made me laugh. I get a vision of the three of you wandering around with glazed eyes and trembling limbs.”

“In truth Dewy, you’re not far off. The excitement and wonder I felt was tempered by the fatigue in the body. I think Brian would be a better judge of the afternoon than me.”

“I don’t know Rose, I believe you’ve captured the essence quite well. I enjoyed the quick tour of the neighborhood. Ann took us to several local shops and pointed out various landmarks. And of course, parking the car was an adventure. How about you Diane? Did you have any different views of the first day blurs?”

“Actually Brian, I do. I remember vaguely the harrowing drive to Ann’s house. I marveled at how well and fast the local drivers were on the narrow and curving roads. Which was thrilling, in fact, like a theme park ride. After lunch, I was so in need of a nap. However, between being wound up from the flight, meeting Ann, plus the time difference and not catching a wink of sleep on the plane, I lay there and stared at the funky light fixture on the ceiling. My mind was buzzing.”

“What were you ruminating over Diane?”

“Well Dewy dear, I have a slight tendency to worry about the future. I was concerned about the upcoming family dinner and whether we would be welcomed. I was in some physical discomfort as my legs were swollen from the flight. I also fretted about the schedule we had made and the outing to Greenwich the next day. I was already troubled that my frailty would ruin our vacation.”

“Ann, I need to ask you here, how were you feeling about having your children over to meet these friends from America you’d met via the internet?”

“Brian and Diane had heard so much about my family and my children had heard so much about them, how could this trip be complete without all of them meeting and putting faces to names? I was really looking forward to everyone meeting.”

“So your children were excited about meeting them Ann?”

“Yes they were, Dewy, everyone got on really well and we all had a really lovely evening.”

“Rose, did Ann’s children know about you? About being a multiple personality?”

“Yes they did Dewy, I had insisted before we came that Ann explain a bit about me. I was not going to be silent after all and I wanted everything to be out in the open. In the end, it all went well and they accepted me unreservedly. It’s a credit to Ann that her children are so intelligent and loving.”

The first day in London drew to a close near midnight and as Brian digested the Shabbat dinner, I jotted down some notes. The area where Ann lived was a series of villages that had grown together over the centuries. The roads were twisting and narrow and followed old paths and trails. Each village center contained the basic shops while the larger retail boxes were located near major highways and junctions. There was a lot of construction and renovation of the housing in the area, but each village varied widely as to the type available. Towards the Underground station that was nearest to Ann’s house, the predominate housing type was two-story row houses with tiny front spaces used for parking or a small garden. In other areas, single-family detached homes located in planned square neighborhoods were also being busily expanded. Around the village center themselves were taller apartment buildings, both for let and for purchase. These were the most expensive, save for larger rambling estates, but throughout London, the closer to the Underground you lived, the more expensive the dwelling.

Ann’s cosy mews was also a planned development and in order to maximize space, the streets were narrower than we were used to in America. The facades were all white with timber accents and the attached garages had been converted to living spaces in many of the townhouses. Ann had expanded her kitchen and washroom and parked her car in the short driveway. Out back there was a small fenced-in area that residents could use for a garden or for entertaining. Ann had grass and some potted plants, not that there were blooms or anything, far too cold. Despite the close quarters her neighbors were quiet and there was no through traffic to bother us. The three bedrooms upstairs were small and with limited closet space, extra wardrobes were pressed into use. Our guest bathroom was very bright with glossy white tiles and fixtures with black accents. Her entire home was white with beige carpet and wood floors, but despite being neutral tones, her residence exuded warmth and charm. Carefully selected pictures and decorations brought color and personality to the individual rooms. Ann has impeccable taste, if on occasion off-beat, and her sense of style is casual elegance with a dash of sass.

I really had a great time at dinner. Even though I didn’t say much to Ann’s children, they did have questions for me. I didn’t mind in the least their curiosity and I think that because Ann accepted me, they found it easier to understand. When we are with friends, asking a question of Rose will elicit a response from me, unless I don’t wish to speak. In that highly unlikely event, Brian will act as my mouthpiece… if I can trust him that is. As our eyes closed, already Saturday morning, the welcome I’d received gave me such high hopes for the remainder of the trip. Even though the trip didn’t turn out to be all that I’d hoped, that first Friday night dinner will always be more than a blur to me.

‘Circles Over The City’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Four

‘Circles Over The City’

‘Attention please, this is your captain speaking. We will be delayed in our arrival, as there is heavy traffic in London. We will be loitering over the city for a bit.’

We did indeed loiter at a sedate pace and admired the scenery of the surrounding countryside. We were slowly flying downriver over the Thames near the Millennium Dome when we received permission to land. The plane made a swift, hard, right bank and accelerated: quickly diving back west towards Heathrow, cutting in front of other aircraft in the holding pattern. A straight in and smooth landing – all Airbuses seem to have the same touchdown, a hop, skip and a jump – four engines in reverse, flaps up and hard on the brakes throws you firmly back into your seat. The captain mentioned that we had been brought in five minutes early after all, but it was in fact too early as our arrival gate had a plane still attached. No worries though as within a minute we were moving again.

‘And off we go!’ That was Brian’s comment as the seat belt sign was turned off and the mad scramble commenced for overhead luggage. An hour after landing we had cleared Immigration with no problems; as only a few of us were non-UK residents, there were no lines. We trudged ever onward to retrieve our baggage then headed out past Customs to Arrivals and our auspicious first meeting with Ann.

She bounded towards us, an ecstatic grin floating on her beautiful face, arms outstretched and disbelieving giggles smothering us with love. It had been so many months of planning and here she finally was in the exuberant flesh. Excited and passionate, Ann was a bundle of energy and giddy as a child with a new toy. After only five minutes we could tell that this trip was going to be extraordinary and a better hostess and friend we couldn’t have ever hoped to find.

“Welcome once again to ‘Flashing Knickers With Dewy’ everyone. I hope all of you had a refreshing break and are eager to continue this enthralling saga of multiplicity. On that note, enough already, Rose! That paragraph above is so cloying and sappy. You can’t possibly have been so enamored with each other after only five minutes! It must have been the jet lag or lack of sleep causing you to hallucinate Brian.”

“Sorry everyone, but it’s all true Dewy. Meeting Ann, seeing her face for the first time, was something I’ll never forget. We’d been talking on the phone and in emails for a year, but from the first instant we wanted to stay for much longer than ten days. I think Rose has captured the moment perfectly.”

“Thank you Brian. For me personally Dewy, I waited until we were at Ann’s house and alone before coming out and introducing myself. I was still a bit uncomfortable in crowds at that time, but I was out front and center the entire ride to Ann’s house. I was enthralled by every sight that passed by our windows and I wanted so badly to say hi, but it wasn’t the right time.”

“How about you Diane? Were you a part of this love fest or were you the normal and rational one? You seem so grounded.”

“Well Dewy, I was searching the crowd in the opposite direction and didn’t see Ann approach as Rose described. However I looked around and there was this stylish woman clinging to Brian and chattering ecstatically in a fabulous British accent.”

“I have a serious question then for you Diane. Did you hope this was Ann and not some random floozy on the make?”

“Don’t be silly Dewy. I knew it was Ann right away and I was so pleased she had found us in the herd stampeding by. It was a very touching scene and it warmed my heart to see them finally connecting in person. After she let him go, Ann threw her arms around me in gleeful welcome with excited chatter and a thousand questions. She was already making sure we were well and had been cared for properly. I was very surprised by her vibrant energy and genuine joy in seeing us.”

“On that note ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for my next special guest to join us in person here on the stage. Please give a warm welcome to an early member of the ‘Fresh Knickers Club’; a writer, a dreamer, a poet and an all around fantastic friend, Amorous Ann.”

“Thank you so much, Dewy, for inviting me. I am so excited to be here with my friends again.”

“You’re so very welcome Ann, it’s a privilege to have you on the show. I have to ask you first, do you think this is an accurate portrayal of the meeting at the airport? It just seems so unlikely that you could meet strangers for the first time and be so happy.”

“It was perfect Dewy. Our first meeting was perfect and I was so excited that nothing was going to hold me down. I think I was the happiest woman on earth at that moment. Friends had been asking me if I was worried, having strangers in my home; my only worry was that they wouldn’t like me and wouldn’t have a good time.”

“Ann, what was it like when you saw them for the first time? Were they in fact strangers and what emotions did you have at that instant when you realized they were actually here in your country?”

“Happiness. I was so happy Dewy. I was anxious not to be late; we’d been stuck in traffic. I was so ready to hug everyone and I didn’t feel like I was meeting strangers, but meeting close friends. I couldn’t stop looking at them, searching their faces and pinching myself that it wasn’t a dream. I sat between them on the ride back home and I was constantly swiveling my head back and forth and grinning as wide as I could.”

Ann had hired a car for the round trip from her home and Maurice was frustrated with the typical big city traffic on this Friday morning. They had been delayed on the way in by accidents, but as it turned out, we met in the Arrivals lounge at exactly the same time. Take that, quantum foam! Now, on the way back there were more accidents on both sides of the motorway and Maurice was concerned he’d miss his next assignment. We didn’t mind though, as the day slowly moved towards noon, the lovely countryside basked in the bright sun. We talked about the flight and the week’s plans and anything and everything that caught our fancy. I was certainly surprised at the amount of open land and even livestock in the areas we passed through. Finally we exited the motorway – the wrong way on the left – the local roads were tight and narrow and went up and down over rolling hills still lush with greenery. Despite the longer than normal ride back, we pulled up to Ann’s house in good order. Her two-story town house was picture perfect and she fairly bounced off the freshly painted white walls with delight as she showed off her home: our guest home for the next ten blissful days.

Moving forward… creeping actually

Before I get into this week’s Three Word Wednesday I wanted to inform everyone that I am posting daily chapters from my book “Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”. These excerpts are the travel narrative part from our trip to London and Paris in October of 2007. So far today’s chapter is number three of twenty so you have plenty of time to read over the next three weeks. You can find the page with the complete list of current and future chapters at this link.

3ww14

Earnest
Layer
Reactive

“High Society”

rich is all relative
so they say
a million
is only pocket change
these days

said with earnest words
barely scraping by
you should see
the next door neighbor
now there’s wealth piled high

it’s like a cake you see
first one layer
then the frosting
hardly enough
for all the players

we can’t understand
all the reactive fuss
trillions have been lost
only five homes
now for us

By Rose D Kaye, March 25th, 2009