Friday, March 20, 2009

Our London Weekend

Sorry to be so late with this, but I’ve spent the past week clearing up grading prior to spring break which comes, for us, starting the 25th.

During break we will be going to Germany for the Köln Penshow and then on to the Pelikan factory in Hanover and from there to Berlin.

We spent last weekend with some old friends, Sylvia and Ray Atkinson in Petts Wood, Kent, outside of London. Our friendship with Ray and Sylvia goes back a bit more than thirty years when we first met through our friends, Lynn and Ron Gelfand.

After having lost touch for some time, we got back in touch at Lorin Gelfand’s wedding in 2007 and when Ray and Sylvia heard we would be in England they got in touch and we made plans to spend some time together.

We had planned to take the train to London, but because that is a heavily used route and we did not book early enough the train actually cost more than renting a car. Since driving here holds no terror for me (other than the habit of slamming my right hand into the door from time to time when changing gears) we jumped into the Enterprise Rental Nissan Note and headed out on M4 to London early Friday.

After losing our way on the M25, which seems easy to do and getting ourselves lost (who is stupid enough to drive on unfamiliar roads anywhere without a map??) Ray came and got us from wherever we were and led us to Petts Wood.

I should explain here that by trade Ray is a London taxi driver and has “the knowledge,” that intense training in the geography and topography of London that makes her cabdrivers miracle men.

We spent Friday catching up with Ray, and when Sylvia got home from work catching up with her as well. We had a lovely dinner at Trencherman’s in the centre of Petts Wood.

They had asked how we wanted to spend Saturday and what sites we wished to see. We settled on a tour of the south bank of the Thames, featuring a tour of the reconstructed Globe Theatre, a walk and then a ramble through London before settling on dinner in Chinatown.
Sunday, of course, we had to return to Bath for work and classes, but not before a mini-tour through Greenwich.

The first image, the most important, of course, is of Harry, Sylvia and Ray's King Charles Spaniel. Sadly, just weeks earlier his companion of fourteen years, Sally, had died.
Sylvia and Sharon
Sylvia, Ray and Harry. Sharon and I are cat people, but even we were not immune to Harry's charms. Sharon says there is a dog in our future, though not a spaniel, since they need more exercise than we, who are still working, can give them. Ray and Harry go out for nearly an hour each morning.
We took the train from Pett's Wood and came out on the Thames Embankment near Borough market.
Sylvia and Sharon contemplating a possible purchase.
I did not know that "the clink" referred to a specific prison.

The following images are of the museum and the recreated Globe theatre. The project was started by an American, the actor Sam Wanamaker, who was driven out of the US during the McCarthy era. (No political comment follows.) (I lie, Americans tend to be idiots on the subject of security, then and now, failing to capture real bad guys and making uncomfortable people of conscience. Sorry)

Our guide for the tour, whose name I do not recall, was brilliant, as have been so many of our tour guides.

I remember only the colloquial name for this millennial bridge, nicknamed the wobbly bridge. When it opened it had to be reinforced. Still, pretty, especially against St. Paul's
A walk down Fleet Street, not just famous but also where Ray once worked before all the newspapers left the area, took us on an unanticipated Dr. Johnson tour.

We took a cab over to the incredibly posh Burlington Arcade. There I met Joanne, Andrea and Karen at Penfriend. They were kind enough to show me a number of exquisite English pens, none of which, sadly, I could afford. The entire area is filled with upmarket (make that posh) shops. Too rich for our blood, so we trekked over to Soho and Chinatown, had dinner and returned to Kent.
But not before I had my picture taken with two of my heroes.
Sunday morning, Sharon showed Sylvia, who is an unabashed Amerophile, the website of The Vermont Country Store.
And then we went for a drive to Greenwich and a stroll before heading back to Sylvia and Ray's. It was the first real spring day. Hooray!!

A final image of the four of us in the Atkinson's garden.
This weekend stands as a highlight of our trip. A public thank you, Sylvia and Ray, for a grand weekend and for your enduring friendship over the years. We will see you again, soon, in a few weeks.

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