Monday, July 21, 2008

British Culture Update and Our Travels

British Culture and Sports Update
We were awakened at 7 AM today by our two girls, who came to our door in near hysterics, after watching 30 minutes of
Teletubbies. This programme (as it is spelled here) is know to induce hysteria in teenage American girls, I guess. The British certainly know how to do children's programming. Pictured at left, the girls with a Figaro. This car reminded me of the last time I visited Rome, in 1987.

Before I regale you with tales of our travels, I must first offer first a quick update on the England - South Africa Cricket Match, something I know you all care greatly about. I agree completely with Simon Hughes, who says, quite succinctly, in today's Telegraph:
" The South Africans excelled in their crease occupation and in their careful accumulation on a Headingley pitch which rewards patience and punishes extravagance. Despite their colossal score at Lord’s, the England batsmen have still not acquired the art of consistently selling their wickets dear."
Well. Yes, of course! I could not agree more. Never sell your wickets dear, I always say. If there is anything I will not do, it is to sell my wickets dear.

The Day's Travels
Our day started at the Tower of London. The most haunting portion of our visit was reading the actual graffiti left by Tower prisoners during their imprisonment or in the days prior to their execution. At left is the door through which a good number walked before execution. Quite sobering.

Next off to St. Paul's Cathedral, the historic spiritual center of London. More on that soon, perhaps.

And, to end the day, while Nancy and Heather headed off to do the "tourist thing" at the London Eye, Kelly and I spent a good hour or more at The Cabinet War Room. This was actually good timing with my 17 year old, as she just finished this material in her honors history class this past year. She absorbed much of the information; to see this history for real was quite meaningful for her.

I visited this same place 26 years ago, during my last stop in London, and was no less impressed upon my second visit. The whole nature of a World War being run from a basement by a nation, and more particularly a leader under siege is stunning. The courage and determination of the British people is really quite something to remember.

From Churchill's address to the House of Commons, June 4, 1940, following the Battle of Dunkirk:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
At the end of the War, on V-J day at 5 PM, it is said that the officers and clerks in the War Rooms, simply put down their pencils, pushed back from their typewriters and maps, turned out the lights, and left the building, never to return. Through the review of a large collection of photographs taken during the war, the rooms have been painstakingly returned to their exact condition during the War.

That we could all push back from our own "little battles" of life, of conflicts with those that annoy and trouble us. Push back, turn out the lights, close the door and never return. I would not even want photos to remind me.

London Day 1

One 10 hour plane ride, and the Family Norris is in London!

Its hard to believe, but a couple of years of dreaming, months of discussions of places to visit with friends, checking of reservations, cashing-in of flier miles, and planning have brought us here, safe and sound.

Well, maybe not so sound. Heather kept commenting at lunch, "I just can't wrap my mind around this whole time change thing". This was after not sleeping a wink on the plane, and witnessing her first "two hour night", as we chased the sun across the Atlantic. The first photo at right illustrates our two girls on the London double-decker tour bus a bit after lunch time today. The second photo is just about 45 minutes later, after the full effects of no sleep and an 8 hour time change have begun to work their magic on Heather.

But after a two hour nap, and a good dinner, we are heading to bed looking forward to a fun day at the Tower of London, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey tomorrow. Well, at least three of us are. Heather slept through dinner, God bless her.

An amazing city. Amazing girls to travel with. What more could a guy want?

P.S.: I know there are several people reading this in order to follow our travels, and you people are often lurkers, who do not leave comments. Lets make this interactive people; leave some comments - the girls would love to hear your thoughts!
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