Friday, 8 April 2016
We are in Merry Old England!
And it turns out you can take a tourist cruise on a fake paddlewheeler on the Thames past the meadows at Runnymede, ignored by mallards and a rogue corvid. (Gone are the tensions of King John’s day when this was a less contentious place to meet to decide major matters of state….)
Or drive by this 1887 statue of Queen Vic, seeming more like an especially tall, strangely clothed, traffic policeman than a royal gazing across her territory. And, yes, that’s Windsor Castle in the background, and this is exactly how close we got. Windsor was originally a fortification built under William the Conqueror, one of a ring of forts to protect London; only later did it become a royal residence. Its architectural history is the usual mix of improvements and deterioration. By Vic’s time, it was substantially the way we see it today, although most of the electrification happened after her death in 1901, as she preferred candle-light. Under the present queen, the castle in general and the private rooms specifically have been updated and repaired. At 13 acres, the castle is huge, and today has a staff of about 500 to keep it functioning.
Or find one of a modest chain of restaurants with what strikes me as a name at odds with their intentions. Their marketing people seem to know all the jargon (based on their website; e.g., “We will not compromise on quality or ethics.” Plus be very British….). Anyway, how does the name of a ragtag bunch of colonial upstarts fit this?
And, of course, also gaze at Great Britain’s deep religious history encapsulated architecturally in a massive gothic stone building with the UK’s tallest spire—that is, the Cathedral at Salisbury (consecrated 1258). The wide lawn that now surrounds the structure helps it seem even taller. At least part of that area was a cemetery, now gravestone-less and thus even more mute.
Exiting the cathedral area to the north, you pass through this gate in the Medieval wall. The pasty-white dude, now grey with age and the consequences of air pollution, is King Edward VII (d. 1910). We saw two head-pigeons and one foot-pigeon keeping him company.
Anyway, Great Britain…land of inconsistency? Big dreams?