Saturday, July 26, 2008

England Trip - July 26th, 1983

Day three and I lapsed into a British accent. Mark called me on it right away and kept me from going completely Zelig. We took the Tower of London tour this morning and saw the Beefeaters. Perhaps this is why I drank so many Gin and Tonics while in England. A couple of things about the mixed drinks you should know. First of all, if you didn't request ice, they served it neat. Most bartenders figured out I was a Yank and asked me if I wanted ice and lemon. That's right, lemon. No limes with your G&Ts in England. Either way, no big deal, and Beefeater's was domestic there! Bully!

Back to the tower where someone tipped us off that there was a little changing of the guard joke they played on the tourists. The guards marched out and the tourists flocked to the square where they used to chop people's heads off. They stopped and...that was it. They didn't do anything for half an hour. People slack-jawed and rubber-necked and snapped copious photos of virtual statues. The tower featured 500 year old graffitti and the crown jewels. The rudest man in England was the guard who reminded everyone to keep moving while we looked at the crown jewels, and I must say, he was quite nice.

Mark and I visited Trafalgar Square and visited the National Gallery that afternoon. I know I visited once before we left London and once more when we returned. The National Gallery was one helluva museum. So much to see, and this time I stayed, unlike the markers at Westminster. The paintings could not be ignored. Thank goodness it was air conditioned.

The papers said it was the hottest London summer in 400 years. So much for the sweaters we brought with us. I drank a Coke each day as long as I liked it at room temperature. Merchants did not refrigerate the sodas. I wandered into a litte bodega in Kensington and I got very excited when I saw the Coca-Cola in a refrigerated case. I smiled, strode to the back display, and opened the glass door. I expected a cold whoosh of air but the bastards didn't have it plugged in. I think it was another little joke for the American boy from Kansas. I bought it anyway.

Days later when we were out in the provinces, I found an ice cream man who kept a couple of cold ones in his freezer compartment. We were at a castle or country estate and what a treat that was to taste cold soda pop again. I don't drink Coke anymore but at the time it was one of the things I missed most about the states. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to come off as the ugly American. I drank tea in the afternoon with milk and sugar! They put a tea pot in every hotel room I stayed in and I used the shit out of it.

Little bits of American culture made splashes on TV news. The British BBC schedules were littered with popular and not so popular American shows like Flamingo Road and Simon and Simon. I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about topical events. For example, when I chatted with the locals down at the pub in the evenings, only a few knew Kansas City, some had heard of Kansas from The Wizard of Oz, but Kansas City was not on the English radar. I was quite surprised when I looked at the TV set in a pub one night, I do not recall exactly when this was, and saw Kansas City's George Brett freaking out at the Yankees game. It was the Pine Tar game. Yes, the Pine Tar game made the BBC. Regular baseball results and scores were not available, but I was pleased to see my hometown boys get a little air time there.

I have a vague memory of getting my own room at the Onslow Court about now. The previous snafu that lumped Mark, Tom, and I together resolved itself. I got my own room for a couple of days. They had a hotel channel on the tele and the local host advised tourists that tickets to the hot new Andrew Lloyd Weber show "Cats" might be hard to find. Thanks. Another British custom I wasn't used to; the front desk half expected me to turn in my room key when I left the hotel. It seemed weird, but the bonus was they always told me I had no messages when I came back.

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