Lincoln's Inn (a first). John "No Man Is an Island" Dunne was a preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and the 15 March service was in his honor; the choir sang some of his metaphysical poems. It was also "Refreshments Sunday," which got us into the Great Hall, where we chatted with the preacher, glasses of complimentary red wine in hand. (Guess Anglicans don't do coffee and donuts.)
At 2:55 a.m. on Friday, 20 March 2015, I boarded the N5 bus at Hendon Central (towards Trafalgar Square) in black sweatpants with six Estonians. In 2007, -08, and -09, I also boarded the N5 very early in the morning at Hendon Central with Estonians. Back then, we all got off at Golders Green, and we all took a coach to Stansted Airport. This year, we all rode as far as Euston, connected with the N205 (towards Draper Fields), and alighted at the Liverpool Street Station, but just the Estonians took the 4:11 a.m. Stansted Express to the airport. I boarded the N205 back (towards Cleveland Terrace) by myself at about 4:30 a.m., transferred to the N5 (towards Edgware) and got off at Hendon Central. And went back to sleep.
To the best of my recollection, I had never been on a London Transport bus at 4 a.m. in sweatpants. The week of 15 March in London, although one of many for me since 1982, the sixth with Estonians, the fourth with students from Tapa Gümnaasium (TG), and the second with one of my high school classmates, was a week of many fantastic firsts.
From Lincoln's Inn we headed to the Barbican to see Juliette Binoche in the Ivo van Hove production of Antigone (a first, of course). Now I know of Greek tragedies and I know of Sophocles and Antigone, but I had no friggin' idea that, as the tale begins, Antigone's brothers have been killed, battling each other, and that, in 100 minutes with no intermission, Antigone either commits suicide or is buried alive (on her father's order), her fiance stabs himself to death, and her mother commits suicide. Heavy sigh. Little chuckle.
Mangal, a Turkish restaurant in Dalston, where we were joined by five young men whom I had met in Chicago during the Windsor Fellowship's UK-US Youth Dialogue Programme.
But where are the Estonians, you are wondering? They arrived Monday afternoon, 16 March. I met the six of them, including two teachers (a first) at Stansted, and we all took the train back to Liverpool (a first; in 2007, -08, and -09 we went by coach), where my Chicago friends met us at 3 p.m. By 6 p.m., all nine of us had taken the tube north to Hendon Central, had checked into the London Backpackers Hostel, had gone back south to Waterloo, and had ordered fish and chips from a Polish waitress at the Fishcotheque (another first). So that the Estonians could luxuriate in a proper English accent, one of the UK-US program guys ate with us (another first for Kevin's TG excursions to London).
Poppies in Camden Town (another first). They served them in a box, and while it was a bit easier to eat and walk, I still prefer my take-away in grease-soaked paper.
Tuesday morning, Estonians and Americans together paid a visit to Sir John Soane's Museum. (Be sure to see A Rake's Progress; stay for the presentation if it's given by an elderly gentleman wearing the white gloves.) From the Soane museum we popped over to the British Museum, where I learned serendipitously from a gilded cup that Procopius proposed to Saint Agnes, who declined and was thus imprisoned in a brothel. When determined Procopius tried to rape her, he was strangled by a demon, but Saint Agnes revived him. The story is unexpectedly scandalous for a museum piece from the 14th century, and I stopped to look at it and stayed and read it only because there is a St. Agnes parish in Little Village (although not THAT St. Agnes) and St. Procopius in Pilsen, close to where I work.
Tuesday afternoon, we snaked in between glass office towers on the Docklands Light Rail to the Cutty Sark (a first), and then we walked back to the days of Henry VIII at the Old Royal Naval College. Guided tours can be tedious, particularly when English is a second or third language, especially when there's 600 years of Lizzie Loveridge, however, was as erudite as a Cambridge professor and as candid as Benita Butrell as she recreated the royals' lives along the Thames from memory with an endearing English accent. I tuned in and out as the cast of characters grew and interbred and won and lost fame and fortune. Yet Ms. Loveridge's vivid story-telling, loaded with enthusiasm, as we stood outside, beneath Wren's twin domes with the white Queen's House to the south and the mocha river to the north, eerily surrounded me with people who had been and still were. Nelson, for example, broke through his concrete shell in Trafalgar Square and floated ceremoniously up to the Water Gate in a coffin.
history to go on and on about.
We met Big Ben for breakfast Wednesday morning....