Thursday, August 3, 2017

A rose by any other name

We spent our last full morning in London doing more walking. Our average everyday has been well over 15K steps and today was no exception. Regent Park is only a stones’ throw from Camden and provides a picturesque place to exercise. While Geoff ran round the perimeter of the park, the kids and I went back to Primrose Hill where they ran up and down the hill and I people watched. At the top of the hill there’s seating, around which is a quote from Yeats; “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill”. On this beautiful morning you can see why Londoners flock here to picnic at the weekend. It’s like the pinnacle of the city with views out across the whole cityscape. At mid morning on a working day, there are hundreds of people in the park but it’s not at all crowded. There are dogs of every shape and size, making me wonder where they all go when they’re not in the park. Likewise the nannies, with their accents from every corner of the world, calling to children who answer in very British accents, joggers, yogis, serious and not so serious athletes…and tourists, mostly like me, recording the view on their screens, except for one little girl who was sketching the cityscape perfectly with pencil and paper.
Primrose Hill
In the afternoon we took the train to Wimbledon and walked another 20 000 steps looking at the area where Sophie has been living and working.

The first time we were in London we toured the Globe Theatre. We fell in love with the dedication to Shakespeare’s theatre design and vowed to come back in the Summer to see a show in performance. For a couple of Theatre/Drama teachers, watching Shakespeare performed live at the Globe is the ultimate and tonight’s performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” did not disappoint. We had great seats, booked the day the season opened in February, on the top tier, right at the front. From here we had a fantastic view, not only of the stage but of the of the city skyline, the moon, jet trails and planes passing overhead and the rest of the audience, including the groundlings (people who pay for standing room only in the courtyard). It’s quite a surreal feeling to be in one of the most greatest cities in the world, sitting in a theatre built to 16C specifications, watching a play written by someone who died hundreds of years ago, while the 21C flies above you.

This production of “Much Ado About Nothing” was re contexualised to be set in Mexico and it worked perfectly. The stagecraft was incredible – the horses were wire sculptures ‘ridden’ by actors on stilts, the back set provided several levels of entry and exit and the fourth wall breaking was so effective it nearly ended in the demise of a few groundlings who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough! It was a visual feast and the addition of some contemporary music and dance completed the sense of transcended time. I was worried Taine wouldn’t cope with 3 hrs of Shakespeare but he was as enthralled as the rest of us.

We walked back to the tube through the Borough Markets. Even at 11.30 on a Tuesday night the bars and restaurants were buzzing. Eerie to think that just a couple of months ago this was the scene of terror and fear.

With a late afternoon flight scheduled from Heathrow we had just a few hours to kill in London on our last morning and we were lucky enough to spend them with another one of our wanderlust students. Cooper has been busking his way around Europe for a couple of months and it was wonderful to catch up with his adventures over a coffee at the Camden Lock. It makes you realise how small the world really is.

And then it was time to say goodbye to Sophie as well. Dressed like a turtle, she’s off to Croatia/Switzerland/France/Germany and other places from the atlas. Such is the price you pay for raising confident, independent children. It’s been glorious to touch base with her in the middle of her journey.

With nowhere to store our luggage, the easiest thing to do was go to the airport early, a fairly expensive business because our Oysters were empty and had to be topped up just to get to the wretched Heathrow Express. Check in was simple but then our plane was delayed so we had quite a bit of time to waste the rest of our stirling and to fret about making our connection in Zurich. The short hop to Switzerland was dreadful. It was very old plane with lots of people on it, most of whom seemed to be suffering from a combination of the plague and a twitching disease that caused them to bounce backwards and forwards in the seat in front of me. I was tempted to use the rock hard cheese roll snack to disable some of my traveling companions. I had planned to stock up on Swiss chocolate during our transfer in Zurich but there was no time for that as we ran (yet again) to make our gate. We boarded with just minutes to spare, dripping with sweat and looking forward to another 12 hours of close confinement. As it turned out, this was probably our easiest flight; the service was good and because it was late, we all slept for a few hours. Having crossed yet another couple of time zones and lost most of Thursday we arrived in Singapore at 5pm with just enough of the day left to wander through Little India, eat a delicious meal of chili chicken and peppered beef and fall into a stupor in our beautifully soft hotel bed.

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