03 – England, 1981

So, the background to this trip is that we had previously made one trip to Europe for our honeymoon in 1979. Then while visiting Cheryl’s family we talked to Diane Brown, Cheryl’s aunt, and her husband Tom. Tom worked for the U.S. governmment, and their family had previously been in such jet set hot spots as Vietnam and Iran. And if you asked Tom about his job, he changed the subject. I think his job involved Communications of some kind. But the relevance of this is that he was currently working at the U.S. Embassy in London, and he and Diane made a general invitation to any family member to come visit. And I was finishing up my undergraduate work and had been accepted to the Doctoral program in Economics at the University of Michigan for the fall of 1981. Cheryl and I talked it over, and decided we couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. And a good thing too, since, since our next trip was a long-weekend jaunt to Canada for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2004. And we didn’t really resume traveling until 2015 when we went to Ireland for the first time. I don’t know if anyone else took advantage of the Brown’s kind offer, but I am very happy that we did. Having a place to stay made it very affordable for a young couple without a lot of money. We did one thing in preparation, which was to purchase tickets to Evita. My boss, John Marttila, had an account at Harrod’s in London, and through that I bought the tickets so that we knew that there would be one nice night out in the bag, so to speak. Other than that, we tend to be self-starters, so we wouild just decide each day what we wanted to do. I know wew were a bit of a surprise to Tom and Diane, because they were used to having visitors that needed to be shown around by them, whereas Cheryl and I just got up and got out each morning, and came back each evening, and otherwise stayed busy on our own. And of course, I kept a diary on the trip, as I always od. In those days it was handwritten in a notebook, while these days it is Doc kept on my Chromebook, but I have found it is a good thing to do.

Boston, Thursday, 3/12/81

At 4:30 pm we are all packed, in the cab, and off to the airport. At 7:30 the plane took off.

London, Friday, 3/13/81

At 6:30 am London time we arrived, after a six hour flight enlivened by “Oh, God, Book Two” and some rather good food. Tom met us at the airport, where wwe went through Customs and collected our bags. Fortunately, this went quickly. We drove about one hour to get to the Brown’s house, which is in North-West London. Tom made us a good breakfast. Cheryl went to bed at 9:00, and I followed at 11:00, after some conversation with Tom. At 2:00 we got up and had some coffee with Tom, and Diane arrived shortly thereafter. Diane, Cheryl and I went to the bank to change money at 3:30, and then went to a Hungarian shop in Swiss Cottage for some tea and pastries. It was quite similar to the Cafe Conditerei in Vienna. We then returned to the Brown’s for dinner, and went to bed shortly thereafter.

London, Saturday, 3/14/81

We got up around 9:00, and had a wonderful breakfast courtesy of Diane. Tom took us to the Tube stop, where we got a train for Harrod’s, so we could pick up our theater tickets. While we were there we got some tour brochures. We then went for a walk through Hyde Park and down Piccadilly. Along the way we stopped at St. James Church, which is one of the many buildings designed by Christopher Wren. At Piccadilly Circus we stopped for a snack, and then located our theaters and checked on the performance times. We stopped at Leicester Square, where there is a booth that sells half-price tickets for the day’s performances. We picked up tickets for the late-matinee performance (5:30) of “No Sex Please We’re British”. Then we walked over by Trafalgar square. Behind the National Portrait Gallery, under the statue of the actor Henry Irving, we appropriately found over a dozen portrait artists soliciting business from passers-by for a quick sketch portrait. They seemed to be doing well, as almost all were busy. In Trafalgar Square we took a picture of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and a picture of the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column. We then walked down the Strand to the theater. The play was a very frantic comedy, which got off to a slow start, but we had fun. Afterwards we had dinner at a marvelous little restaurant on Bedford Street, just off of the Strand, called the Strand Tandoori. We had Chicken Curry Tandoori, spiced chick peas, Meat Kashmir (Lamb with fruit in a spicy sauce), and Vegetable Curry, with rice spiced with coriander. For desert we had Indian Ice Cream (flavored with coriander and pistachio nuts) and coffee. After dinner we found ourselves very near the Charing Cross station, which is one end of the line to the Brown’s house, so we were home quickly.

London, Sunday, 3/15/81

We got up at 9:00 and had breakfast. At 10:30 Diane, Cheryl , and I went to Petticoat Lane, where there is a street market on Sunday mornings. Many blocks are closed and vendors set up stalls in the streets. The main streets were very crowded. On one of the side streets we found a vendor selling suits and coats, and Cheryl bought me a beautiful, grey, all-wool sportcoat for £19.95 (about $45.00). We then went to Marble Arch and had coffee and cake. At Marble Arch, on the corner of Hyde Park, is Speaker’s Corner. Every Sunday afternoon this is open to anyone who wishes to bring a “soapbox” and address the crowd on any topic. The best Speaker we heard took the point of view that Americans were stupid and the English the superior nationality. He explored variations on this theme while picking on any Americans he could find in his audience, and insulted anyone who answered him. Other speakers we heard discoursed on politics and religion. A number of Bobbies were standing around, although I did not see them take part or interfere in any way. I think they would stop any outrageous obscenities, but anything else seemed alright.

After listening to the speakers we walked along Bayswater Road, where artists display their wares on the street Sunday afternoons. We saw some of the same works that were on Piccadilly yesterday. One or two artists actually did decent work, according to Cheryl (I’m illiterate when it comes to art). We then walked down the Ring between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. We stopped for a wretched lunch at the Serpentine Buffet, and then went through the Alexandra Gate into Kensington Gardens.

Shortly past the Alexandra Gate is a memorial to Prince Albert. It is a very large ornate spire with a statue of Prince Albert seated inside. At the base of the spire, at the corners, are four statues commemorating Manufacturing, Agriculture, Engineering, and Commerce. Around the base of the spire are marble statues, sort of half-reliefs, depicting famous people from history. Steps lead down to the ground from the base of the spire, and at the corners of the steps, on the bottom, are four more statues depicting Asia, Europe, Africa, and America. The memorial over­ looks the Royal Albert Hall, which is across Kensington Road.

The Royal Albert Hall is circular, with a glass dome. It is a concert hall. We couldn’t go in. Next to it is the Royal College of Organists, a building with a fascinating facade, which we took a picture of. Behind the Hall is the Royal College of Music and the Imperial College of Science and Technology. We walked past them and got on the tube to Victoria Station, where we checked on the schedule for trains to Brighton, which we found ran frequently.

We walked down Buckingham Palace Road to the Palace. It was late (4:30) but we thought we would get to know where things are. There were two members of the Queenls Guard in front of the Palace, dressed in grey coats with the big, black, fuzzy hats. They stood perfectly still in front of their boxes, and then suddenly began to march back and forth for a couple of minutes, then resumed standing in front of their boxes. By this point we were pretty tired from walking around all day, so we walked up Green Park to the Underground to go back to Swiss Cottage and plan our sightseeing.

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