Friday, July 25, 2008

England Trip - July 25th, 1983

Today was our first full day in London and we started a walking tour at Buckingham Palace. We watched the changing of the guard and took pictures of the British palace guards in their Q-tip hats. They ignored us. The threat of terrorism simmered in England in those days but we didn't encounter any bombings or anything unusual. There was a visible military presence in some instances, and signs on the tube warned us to report unattended satchels and briefcases. All standard post 9-11 protocol over here.

We enjoyed a lot of freedom for a group tour. We travelled together and ate our evening meals together. We took group tours sometimes. The protocol was issued with suggested activities for each day, but we were free to do as we wished, on our own if we liked, as long as we returned for supper.

The suggested activities today included a stop at Buckingham palace - gobs of tourists included a young lady with orange hair in a leopard skin print t-shirt. I thought she was a punker and compared to 1983 Fairway, Kansas, she was, but in retrospect she was tame. I noticed throughout my journey that wild hair colors were in style. I saw young adults in business attire but with bright purple hair, combined with half-shaved hairdo's. It was fashion. I sat next to a real punk couple on the underground. They had spiked mohawks, doc martin style jackboots and the clincher for me, self-mutilation scars, presumably from razor blades, on their arms. The tube was fantastic. I loved the London subway. Matt warned us that we'd lose a little of the geography by prairie-dogging around the city, but it was the best way to ride. I purchased a four day pass today and the South Kensington station became our base of operations while we were in London this week.

We also walked around Big Ben and took in the Westminster Abbey where Lady Di and Prince Charles tied the knot. Lots of famous people were buried there. Poet's corner contained the graves of serious heavyweights: Charles Dickens, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Edmund Spenser. Ahem. Yeah, baby. They charged extra money to walk around that part of the Abbey. Well, F-you Thomas Hardy, Ben Jonson and Geoffrey Chaucer. I said forget it. (What can I say, I was 18 years old).

Free time after dinner meant pub time. The British liquor laws allowed me to drink legally. Mark and I scouted pub candidates during the day. Side note: in 1983, British pubs were required by law to close after lunch for a few hours. But we'd usually find a pub within walking distance of the hotel and check it out in the evening.

Kensington had several laid-back neighborhood pubs. I wasn't hip to how breweries controlled the brands of beer, nor did I care. I ordered a pint of lager. Free houses served beers from multiple breweries. Guess what? Jack Daniels and Budweiser are imports in England. Obvious? Yes. But everything is a wing-ding revelation when you're a high school kid away from the states for the first time. Three more instant observations about pub life. You can bring your dog to the pub in England, at least to the neighborhood pub we visited that night. The pubs had nudgie machines, and I'm pretty sure that's not what they were called, gambling rigs, kind of like slot machines, 25 pence a play. Three wheels spun a combination and if you stopped close to a payout, the nudge button allowed you to bump a wheel one way or another and collect a few coins. The third observation was that the pubs closed at 11pm, early even by Kansas standards, where 3.2 beer taverns stayed open till midnight.

Mark knew what to do. We returned to the hotel pub, but it was also closed. We went up to our room where we ordered room service. Mark talked the bartender into bringing up a final round of drinks and trained me in the art of gratuity. We gave him a nice tip for his late night, after-hours service. The first day of London, as best as I can remember it 25 years later, was in the books with this night cap. Tomorrow: The Tower, royal jewels, and more cocktails.


Steven said...

Loving the travelogue, 25 years later, Fowler.

Fowler Jones said...

Thanks Steve. We're just getting started! I don't return to Kansas City until Sunday August 14th, 1983. I'll have a new entry for each day, so get ready, chappy.