Monday, March 06, 2006

Weekend of Palaces and Parties

The week after Cornwall being one of my final weeks in the Great City of London, I have been trying to fit everything in whilst still blogging, working, and having a social life. It’s been hectic to say the least… especially since I’ve been staying at work late and going early because of the Self-Evaluation Document that could change the face of the College of Health and Social Care at London South Bank… therefore… yikes.

Tuesday I spent the evening with Meredith, chillin’ down in Shepherds’ Bush.

Wednesday I got out of work and didn’t feel like going home just yet. I started walking. I walked from Southwark to Blackfriars, and then turned left and followed the path of the underground stations and eventually turned onto the Strand, and followed it to Charing Cross road to Trafalgar Square. It was Wednesday so the National Gallery was open late. I entered and wandered around looking at the paintings and listening to music. I saw a few famous Monet’s and Van Gogh’s including Water Lily’s with the Japanese Bridge, and Sunflowers (respectively) and then I got a call from Kristen, so I stood in the gallery stairs and chatted with her for a while. As soon as we got off the phone I stepped back into the gallery and Steph was calling me, so I whispered my hello, and she asked if I was in the National Gallery, of course I was and upon revealing this to her she told me to meet her out front.

She had just been in the gallery as well and was now going to see Night of the Iguana, a west end show written by Tennessee Williams and staring Woody Harrelson. I decided to tag along being that the tickets were only 15 quid. The show was really quite good in retrospect. Depressing, but with some dark humour and mediocre acting. It’s not the worst show I’ve ever seen **ahem Titanic – the Musical** but not the best either. After the show we went out and got some food before heading back to our homes.
Thursday was Heidi’s birthday. After work I went home to shower and ready before heading to Shepherd’ Bush again for dinner. Heidi’s friend Lindsey (I think she spells it differently) was visiting for the weekend from Prague (where she is studying abroad). We all went to a Thai place right down the street from their house and enjoyed a couple of bottles of house wine. We closed the place, being the very last ones there talking and enjoying ourselves as we left. It was a really good dinner. Afterward we all went back to their place and relaxed for a while, chatting and having a lot of fun. What a good birthday I hope she had…
Friday was then the party. After work I went home again to get ready, got pretty, and headed to the party. I was a little worried because Kat was going to be there. I didn’t want to have an awkward encounter with her. Needless to say, I was at home, blogging and working on the computer, so I was a bit late for the party. Not that it seemed to matter; no one was there when I arrived at 9pm…

Not too long after I arrived the party started to pick up with more people arriving and more drinking commencing. Heidi was of course excited that it was her birthday and around 1030 we sang and had cake, which was devoured by the people who were all drinking, and eventually, we were all dancing and drinking to the many different types of music being played throughout the evening. Tegan and I were dancing like crazy, Andy was dancing sometimes, but there were a lot of songs he didn’t enjoy dancing to I guess because he’d been sitting a lot that night. After cake and a lot more drinking there was a kind of karaoke-dancing and whatnot well into the night; the neighbours even had to tell us to be quiet! Around 430am or so, we all went to bed, no one was engaged in any illicit activity, no one was too friendly with anyone they shouldn’t have been, and everyone was happily sleeping off the party.

The next morning we had planned on getting up early and going to the Tower of London. The early part was out, but we did go. The weather was perfect, I have never seen a more beautiful London Saturday. It was so beautiful in fact we actually walked from St. Paul’s to the Tower enjoying the warm sun and the nice breeze. It was amazing. Lindsey, Meredith and I walked by the Thames all the way down to the Tower, paid our entrance and waited for the Yeoman to start his tour.

There is something special that everyone must know about the Tower of London. The tours are not conducted by hired guides in polo shirts, or even general interpreters that were hired to do the job. They are conducted by Yeoman. Yeomen are ex-royal military men who, after retirement, apply to be a tour guide at the Tower of London. The spots are coveted; yes COVETED, because there are only a few, and they can hold them (once they have them) as long as they like – providing they are doing it well of course. So when one decides they are done at the Tower around 600-800 potentials apply to fill the one spot, and of those only 10 are interviewed and only one selected. The Yeoman of course then are allowed to live in the Tower of London with their families and hold this quite fabulous job. Thus, we have covetation.

Our Yeoman guide was fantastic! (As are they all) I learned a great deal, and not just about the Tower, I watched his interpretive style and the practiced grace in which he delivered his superior jokes with a smirk. It was inspiring. Finally, I broke out of my stupor and started to video him doing his job, so I could analyse it later and try and incorporate his charisma and public speaking style into my own interpretation. After the tour (which was just under and hour) I waited to talk with him while Mer and Linz went to wait in line for the Crown Jewels. I asked him about his interpretation, and how it all worked. We talked for a few minutes and once you have the Yeoman position you are required to learn 10 and a half thousand words, 36 pages, and you have a year to do so; though most can do it in 6-8 months. After the learning during this time going along with a mentor assigned to you upon arrival you can eventually do the tours and work your way into the rotation.

He asked me some questions about my interpretation and where I do it, he said he might come to see it, which made me laugh. Then he said, “To do this job… you have to be kind of flamboyant. But I’m sure you know that!” I agreed, with a chuckle. “Maybe it’s the beard,” he laughed, “I like yours by the way!” I laughed again, we parted ways and he said again that he’d like to come to the island which made me smile…

After the chat I met the other two inside in the crown jewel house, which had held the jewels for quite some time (hundreds of years)… there were a lot of presentations and the line was quite long, but the videos and the presentations were great before the jewels and I have never seen so much gold or jewels in my entire life. There was a punch bowl that I could have easily sat in (cross-legged) and been submerged up to my chest. It was HUGE, ornately decorated and solid gold. To serve punch from this bowl was a massive, solid gold ladle that was formed into a conch shell. It was amazing, and those weren’t even the jewels, just some of the ornamental food-ware…

Oh, and the largest cut diamond in the world... or something… the star of Africa, I think it was… anyway… you can look it up if you like, I am done talking about the jewels stolen from around the world and set onto the stupid head of a ‘royal’ family member who married their cousin so they could be rula’ of all England!

We continued wandering the Tower until they finally kicked us out at 5pm or so, at which point we decided to meet up with Steph and watch Rugby at a pub. I was so tired I just had some food and then went back to Meredith’s and slept again. When I woke up we went out again, but came home early enough that I could sleep (at Meredith and Heidi’s again under their convincing peer pressure) because I was getting up to go to Camden in the morning and then to another Royal Palace: Hampton Court.

Sunday morning we got up around 10 and headed out to Camden after showers and cleaning up. Heidi had cut her finger on some glass the night before and was generally have a pretty bad day on Saturday (she’d had to get 4 stitches in her finger) and to top it off had to be back at work for Sunday Morning even though she was sick as a dog and her finger was swelling… I got to Camden, met up with Steph, bought the sweater-sweatshirt I wanted to buy from the very first week I was in London, bought the t-shirts I wanted to buy from the very first week I was in London, and Steph and I split to go to Hampton Court. Mer, Lindz and Heidi (who had been released from work and although she was feeling horrible, had decided to join us at Camden) I left behind to do their shopping.

The trip to Hampton Court was an experience in itself. It was only £3 for the ticket, but the train only went part way because of engineering works, so we got on a bus, and then another train and then arrived. However, when we sat down on the first train, we sat next to a girl and what appeared to be her mother. They were conversing in low tones, and I heard a slight southern twang so I thought I would be friendly and ask (like a good travelling Mid-Westerner) and they were from Texas in London for the weekend on a deal for $500 each (including hotel!) What a sweet deal!

We talked and talked and got to know Lesley and L... I suddenly forget the other’s name… they were both L’s though. After a while we were walking from train to bus and talking on the bus, then from bus to train again sitting near each other, talking on the platforms while waiting and just having round after round of great communications! What a great couple of gals.

Hampton Court is the Royal home of King Henry VIII perhaps you recognise the name. He was the one with the many wives, and the creator of the Anglican faith (Church of England) he was a man’s man; enjoying hunting, women, drinking and parties above all else. However by the time that he died he was lame of leg, and stout of belly, and no longer was the rich and wondrous king that had rode into France in the early 1500s to meet the newly crowned French King and pledge peace and prosperity forever. Of course just a few years after the meeting King Henry and the King of France were at war… but that is no matter.

I learned this tale from one of the costumed interpreters (first person) that was on the site, and he was excellent as well. He’d been doing it for 3 years, and enjoyed it immensely. He was portraying the King’s Privy Servant… head of the private areas of the household. I forget the actual name, but it does have Privy in his title…

He even went so far (in first person) to tell us of gossip of the castle, which was quite enjoyable. We say tapestries of gold, and beautiful paintings (no photography of course). After the tour we explored the vast kitchens and rooms-a-plenty of the palace (my first visit to a true palace) and then the gardens and grounds. We even saw the largest grape vine in existence which was hundreds of years old… quite large. We spent many hours wandering the palace and the grounds, shopping in the gift shop quickly before heading back to London. We saw the two Texans occasionally in the tour of the palace, but after one random meeting by the chapel we never saw them again.

Sunday night was marked by blogging and relaxation after a long weekend of fun… the weekend of Palaces and Parties… almost like I was royalty myself!


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