Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rooting for ancestors -- travel journal, Sept. 3-6

Travel journal, September 3-6

Sunday, September 3, 2006So much to do this morning, and it was really hot and humid, even by 8 a.m., so not that much fun moving plant pots, doing laundry in the garage, hauling Evie’s doggie gear out to the car (in the hot garage), and cleaning house. Mom always taught me to leave the house clean so when we get back home, exhausted from our “vacation,” it would be refreshing to come home to a tidy place.
After a shower, I took Evie and her gear to Bob Johnston’s Dog Spa and Vacation Resort, and came back to finish my last bits of packing. I had the PBS TV station playing some symphonic music while I e-mailed my London B&B hosts. Suddenly I realized what was being played: Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Ironic. Goodbye New World, Hello Old World.

Monday, September 4, 2006
I. Am. So. Tired. I was in transit for 26 hours, two of which were spent sleeping. I left Redlands at 3:30 pm with co-workers Fred and Viveca Hernandez, who taxied me to LAX. I checked in easily with my pre-printed boarding pass. Then my bags were X-rayed in a giant machine and checked in to the British Airways system. They made me check my brass-headed cane as hold luggage, because I suppose I could have bonked someone with it, even though it passed X-ray. I went through security screening with my one allowed carry-on bag, a computer bag with my laptop in it, plus a book, reading glasses, etc. Took my flip flops off, took my laptop out, everything got X-rayed. Went through the metal detector just fine. Put my stuff back together. Went to sit at the boarding gate for four hours.
Only it wasn’t four hours because the plane was late getting in from London (apparently they were torturing hundreds of travelers on that end before they came to LAX to do the same). So we were moved to 10:10 departure, but that was late because of MORE security. They had everyone leave the gate seating, and form lines of men and women/children. (Didn’t the Nazis do this to camp arrivals?) So at my turn, they searched my computer bag yet again, by hand, opening pockets and inspecting various items. While the man checked my bag, a woman motioned me to raise my arms, and I expected to be wanded. But no! She felt me up, front and back, side to side. Guess I won’t need that monthly breast cancer check now.
Got to my seat, a window in row 46, and settled in not for the 10.5 hours estimated on the ticket, but 12.75 hours. As we flew in over southern England, we were put in a holding pattern over Heathrow. Finally, we made a big sweep over London, and I took some aerial photos of London. That was pretty cool.
Because they’d taken my cane, they’d ordered a courtesy cart for me, but someone else was given my place, and I had to wait another 15 minutes for a new “buggy” to come get me for the long, long journey to Immigration. That went pretty fast because the buggy driver expressed me to the first available passport agent.
But then I waited 1.5 hours for my cane and small rolling bag to come out on the baggage carousel. Good grief! I waited another 15 minutes before they took my flight’s number off the carousel board, and I knew something was messed up. I was directed past huge stacks of luggage to a British Airways claim area, and after a search, they declared that my bag never got shipped from LAX. Great. They make you stow all cosmetics and liquids and everything that won’t fit in a computer case, and then they lose it. They will supposedly deliver it within 24 hours, but I’ve already been traveling in the same clothes and melted-off makeup for the last 40 hours. Twenty-four more? Plus they lost the cane’s rubber tip, so it’s useless until I can find a chemist/medical supply place with a replacement.
I was supposed to meet my host, Gary Keshishian, at the Eastcote Underground stop, but because of the late plane and non-existent baggage, I was five hours late. The proprietor of the café called and Gary’s wife Araxi came to get me in her car.
So the first day of my vacation (unless you count this one) will be buying cosmetics and a cane tip, and arranging to get my suitcase delivered. What a waste of time.
As exhausted as I am, I hope I can sleep. The time is 8 hours different from Pacific.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Oh, yes, I slept! After a few tosses and turns, I got up at 6 am. Araxi made a nice breakfast, I toured Gary’s beautiful garden, and they went to work. I walked about a mile to a Boots chemist, and bought eye shadow and foundation to supplement the lipstick and powder I had in my purse (that had been packed in my small bag). So I didn’t look quite as hideous as I had when I woke. The replacement makeup cost £11, or about $25.
My hair was OK when I left the house, but the 10-minute walk to the Tube station, plus the ambient humidity, and the unexpectedly-hot rail car, made me all madly frizzed.
I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral after a few fruitless detours for cane/crutch tips. The entrance fee is £9. I walked around the perimeter, then went down to the crypt, which I hadn’t really seen when I was there four years ago. The architecture is of course baroque period, post-London-Fire of 1666. My ancestors John of Gaunt, his father-in-law Payn Roet, father of Katherine Roet Swynford, and King Ethelred II (d. 1016) were buried and memorialized in the Old St. Paul’s. Ethelred and John would have been in or very near the chancel. I have a copy of an engraving of John’s tomb. But the fire destroyed everything and the church fell down, with only a handful of statues surviving, pretty much in critical condition and unidentifiable. Fairly recently, St Paul’s put up a plaque “replacing” the lost memorials that they knew about. So I took two pictures of the plaque when no one was looking. (All photography prohibited there.)
I was only guilty for a few minutes, because then I went upstairs for the 12:30 Communion service, part of which is confession of your sin and assurance of God’s forgiveness. Then I went forward for the papery white wafer and the sip of rose’ wine. I was particularly impressed with the Anglican priest’s prayer. He prayed for specific missions and religious communities, the Queen, the bishop, some visiting clergy he’d obviously met earlier, for world peace, for wisdom and clarity for rulers and governments, and even parish members who were ill.
After walking around a bit more, I had to head back to the B&B at Eastcote, about a 50-minute Tube ride from central London, because I had to wait for my suitcase to be delivered. It didn’t come until 5:50 pm. What a waste of time, my first day of vacation, to have to go shopping for replacement items, and race home to wait and wait some more. Gary Keshishian, my host, took me to several home-improvement stores, looking for rubber chair-leg tips. We found a pack of four and a package of Super Glue. He cut off the pointy tip of my cane, stuck on the black chair tip, and it’s glued.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Today was my appointment with the London Eye sightseeing Ferris wheel. I got off the Tube at Embankment, walked about a mile over a Thames Bridge and along the south side plaza/walkway. Very pretty. I’m not sure how London commuter-walkers can read a paper while striding along, but they do. If not reading, they’re plugged into MP3 players, or they have a mobile phone glued to their faces.
It seemed like a long walk. I took my online-paid voucher to the ticket window and exchanged it for the ticket. When I was here in April 2004, there were thousands of people snaking through roped-off aisles. This time, I had a 10:00 flight, and was on the capsule by 9:50 and airborne. The ride was really slow, so we had about 45 minutes on the circuit. The capsules are large and one can see and photograph everywhere except through the floor. And that would be creepy, anyway! I took quite a few shots, but mostly just looked around and enjoyed the view of the pretty day.
When the ride was over, I changed out of my flip flops and into my Propet walking shoes. For the clodhoppers that they are, they’re pretty light, and do a good job of cushioning the foot. I walked to Westminster, because I wanted to see if I could get into Westminster Hall, the only remaining portion of the medieval complex, as the Palace of Westminster burned down in the early 1800s and was replaced by a Gothic copy. However, the Westminster complex is the British Houses of Parliament, and there were not only police at the car entrances, and signs saying “not open to the general public,” but one cop had an assault weapon. That’s the one I picked to ask about the hall where the archaeological work is being done. He said I must be confused, because Westminster Palace was Parliament, and not available to me. Actually, he’s the one who doesn’t know the history! And I also know that because of the archaeological work, that the site is closed to everyone in 2006, no matter what. But I came 8000 miles, so I had to try.
I walked over to Westminster Abbey bookstore and checked out their book section. Love their stuff. But I wrote down titles and authors so I can buy them off Amazon.com, instead of paying premium price and hauling them everywhere with me.
By this time, I was feeling crampy and barfy/nauseous, a combination of breakfast not agreeing, and walking/exercising so strenuously. I sat down several times for a total of 45 minutes, and made my way back to the Westminster Tube station. After using the loo, I took the Tube to London Bridge station, a couple miles away at least. The station info person directed me how to walk to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Up the street to the left, cross at the light, turn right into the Southwark Cathedral churchyard, keep going, and you should see it. Yeah, did all that, and I was still a mile away. On my journey, I walked on cobblestones and bricks, saw the Clink Street, where they used to have a debtors’ prison, saw the archaeological dig for the Winchester Palace, home of Bishop Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen. (Also a cousin of my ancestor Matilda Empress.) But the matinee would start in about an hour, so I doggedly kept walking. Walked through alleys and narrow streets, up on the Thames south embankment, asked people where the Globe was, etc. Finally, a lunching Brit told me that if I kept walking under the Southwark Bridge, that I’d almost be there. Trudged past trendy restaurants and cafes, in and out of shade (preferable to hot sun). Finally found it! No time, really, to visit the Shakespeare Exhibition downstairs. Just bought a £31 ticket for the matinee, which would start in 30 minutes. Then I had time for a hot tea. Why hot? Because I was trying to repeat that medicinal effect of hot tea and sugar that I’d had several times before, especially in Jordan. I wasn’t cured, but I was somewhat improved.
I had a front-row seat on an oak bench, with a low wall in front of me, so I took off the hiking shoes and sat barefoot with no one to know. The sun came around and made me pretty hot for about 45 minutes, as the center of the theater is open to the sky. The ushers gave us paper visors.
The play started with minstrels doing 17th century flutes and harps and drums, and Mark Antony strode out and did a declamation. Cleopatra and he did some kissing to let us know that they were an item. The actors were in Stuart-era clothes, with toga wraps around, so it was anachronistic to every time period, but it was probably pretty close to what Shakespeare’s company would have had. I suppose the main difference was that the female characters in this production were played by actual women. All in all, it was a really good experience. The actors played to the whole theater, including the groundlings standing at the stage (not allowed to sit during the 3-hour performance). Being a tragedy, nearly everyone dies at the end. But all were resurrected for the ovation and they did some cute dancing and singing as they took their bows and saluted the audience and the musicians.
Interesting (maybe only to me...) that none of my ancestors would have visited or enjoyed Shakespearean theater. They were either living elsewhere around Britain (Yorkshire, Wales, Essex, Salisbury, Great Yarmouth, etc.) or they were Protestant Separatists (Puritans) who disapproved of worldly revelry.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puritan The Puritans tended to admire the early church fathers and quoted them liberally in their works. In addition to arming the Puritans to fight against later developments of the Roman Catholic tradition, these studies also led to the rediscovery of some ancient scruples. Chrysostom, a favorite of the Puritans, spoke eloquently against drama and other worldly endeavors, and the Puritans adopted his view when decrying what they saw as the decadent culture of England, famous at that time for its plays and bawdy London entertainments. The Pilgrims (the separatist, congregationalist Puritans who went to North America) are likewise famous for banning from their New England colonies many secular entertainments, such as games of chance, maypoles, and drama, all of which were perceived as kinds of immorality.

When the play was over at 5:00, I was dreading the long walk back to London Bridge station, so I asked some locals about buses that would take me to any Tube station. So some guys pointed out the bridge, the stop, which direction to take, and I just sat on the bus until it pulled up at Lincoln-something Underground. I wanted to find an Internet café, but after a couple blocks of painful walking, I gave up and had some gelato: crème brulee, and orange/chocolate. Mmmm. Then I shuffled back to the Tube and took it to someplace--anyplace--I’d have to change, and another one to get back here to Eastcote. I changed back into my flip flops at the station platform. My left big-toe knuckle feels bruised.
I didn’t even take my bag upstairs because I just wanted to be cool. I took my still-warm steak pasty out to the patio table in the garden, where I munched on it slowly. The elderly Maine Coon cat, Tarzan, thought that the paper in my purse, which had held the pasty, was the best scent he’d gotten in years. I didn’t discourage him jumping on the table and begging from me, but he only got to lick my fingers. I was afraid to give him something that might make him sick.
Gary came outside, and we talked for a little while. He invited me to use his computer for Internet, so I sent my first message to my friends. I’m not sure why I can’t use my laptop for that, as it’s hooked up to their Internet modem. But it’s only configured for my dialup at home. My computer is capable of wireless connection, too, but I’ve never tried that. So I’m using it to both journal and download (and correct) photos from my digital camera.

The e-mail:Date: Wed Sep 6 17:09:50 2006
From: Christy K. Robinson

Dear friends,

Hello from Eastcote, near London. Just before I left home, I had some classical music playing, and it was a while before I noticed it was the New World Symphony by Dvorak. Ironic, as I was leaving the New World for the Old World.
I had some challenges with British Airways on the way, so I arrived about 5 hours late. One of my bags came to the carousel about 1.25 hours after landing. The other never came at all because it wasn't loaded on the same plane as I was. Luckily, the small bag had one change of clothes and undies, but no makeup or toiletries, computer cord or electric adaptor. It was delivered 24 hours later.
It's really nice weather here, with morning overcast, afternoon sun, and a nice breeze. The subway trains (the Underground or Tube) are generally hot, and my hair goes from groomed to mad frizz in seconds flat. And of course stays that way throughout the day. Thousands of strangers have seen me only as frazzled and perspiring, not as the well-dressed, made-up person I'd rather project!
Some of the experiences in the last couple days: visited St. Paul's Cathedral, where I took three pictures against the rules (no one noticed so I didn't get busted, and I took them before I had Communion, so my sins were confessed and forgiven within minutes!); oh, yes, and I sipped real wine at Communion--shocking, I know; shopping unsuccessfully in 6 different stores for a replacement rubber tip for my walking stick/cane (British Airways made me check it in the hold and then they lost the tip--because the head of the cane could potentially be used to bonk someone, and who wants to be considered a bonker in these terrorist times); walking and walking and walking between sites, at sites, and between Tube stations; flying on the London Eye ferris wheel, walking through narrow medieval streets in Southwark on my way to the Globe Theatre to see the Shakespeare play Antony & Cleopatra; and enjoying a Cornish pasty in the lovely garden of my B&B hosts, the Keshishians. I looked everywhere for an Internet cafe, but no luck. I suppose that everyone has a computer now, or hooks up for free at Starbucks, so Internet cafes are rare now, at least in high-rent London.
Next week I'm going to Paris, and then renting a car back here so I can zip around the country on my own. I'd send some pictures, but I'm borrowing my hosts' computer to do e-mail, and the pix are on my laptop upstairs. If I can somehow connect/configure my laptop to their system, then I'll send images.
Well, that's it for now. Hope you enjoy the messages every few days.
Grace and peace,

Date: Wed Sep 6 20:08:07 2006
From: Bob Johnston

Hi Christy
Glad to hear you’re not a bonker. All is well here. Evie goes with me for a walk in the evenings so she sleeps pretty well at night, which means we get to sleep, too. I’m enjoying the books you loaned us.
Not much news. Have a great vacation!

Date: Wed Sep 6 23:32:05 2006
From: Jan Karlen
Wow, have a great time, wish I were with you, I love England!

Date: Thu Sep 7 16:58:15 2006
From: janet johnston
Dear Christy;
Good to hear you are safely there and having a good time!
I wondered if you were on the tube that had to wait until the sun moved so it could go, a day or two ago!
Love the wonderful sharing of your trip with me. Be safe and happy.
Love and hugs and prayers, Jan

Date: Thu Sep 7 12:04:19 2006
From: Bob McGhee
YOU are one cool lady...........world traveler and all around studdette.............always the love and prayers........stay in touch............the bob

Date: Sat Sep 9 18:33:59 2006
From: Herman Bauman
Hi Christy,
Thanks for the nice note from “jolly old England.” Sounds as though you are having a wonderful time. Be careful about taking those illegal pictures. You don’t want to end up in the Tower of London. Ha.
Continue to enjoy England and then have a great time in Paris. Be really careful there, though. You know those French men are really hopeless romantics. Don’t let anyone sweep you off your feet, especially up in the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Would love to see some pictures.
God bless you, Christy.
You are special and loved,


  1. Hi Christy,

    I am loving the articles on your trips to England. I haven't been to England yet, but hope to next year. I haven't even been on a plane either (can you believe it?). Your problems re your baggage, etc. are a bit unsettling, but on the positive sides give me information on what to think about, look out for, etc. Too bad that you couldn't get into Westminster Hall. Elizabeth Chadwick had a great article on her blog about her trip there. She was on a little tour arranged by an
    usher in the Black Rod Dept. apparently what is or was the Marshal's Dept. Anyway, I would love to see the big statue of William Marshal, as well as Roger Bigod and others, that are there. You also mentioned seeing the archeological dig for the Winchester Palace, home of Henry of Blois. I was thinking that Winchester Palace was in Winchester, which I believe is much more to the southeast of London down in Hampshire. That would be great to see also. Thanks for your articles. I love them

    Marilyn (Smith)
    Your cousin :-) (thru Empress Matilda, the Marshals, John of Gaunt, and others)
    and others)

  2. Hi, Marilyn,
    Thanks for your comments. Glad you like the journals.
    Not only could I not gain entrance to Westminster Hall, I couldn't get into the Temple where the Marshal's effigy is. I tried on two different trips and they had a sign outside that said Closed.
    The Winchester Palace really was on the south bank of the Thames. The earls and bishops named their London townhouses after their earldoms. On the north bank near Westminster and the seat of power, there were a number of residences named for York, Durham, Somerset, Salisbury, Arundel, etc. Here's a section map: http://www.oldlondonmaps.com/newcourtpages/newcourt19.html
    I've seen the great hall at Winchester Castle, in Winchester.

    Enjoy the reading, cousin!


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