Tuesday, May 09, 2006

faces of death

If you think I'm going to dwell on the spiteful, goggle-eyed Priest who tried to kick me out of Westminster Abbey today you are wrong. Dead wrong. I'm not dwelling on it. He politely asked me not to lead my own private tour of the abbey, and I complied. And when I say he "politely" asked me not to do it, I mean he gave me the stink eye and told me to quit giving tours. Not that I'm dwelling on it. I'm over it. Unnerved, I'm sure, by the not-to pleasant light I was shedding on some of England's oldest and toniest shadows, he felt it his duty to snivel up to me, with his big fancy robes and his creepy eyes (ask anyone) and exert his authority over someone who just wanted to show his peeps a good time. Maybe he didn't like what I had to say about that ugly Catholic wretch Bloody Mary, or that skinflint Henry VI, or poor, poor, lazy Richard II. He just wanted me to pretend that everything was wine and roses inside those sarcophagi. I'm really over it, but it seriously makes me mad. Because if I can't show off a little bit in Westminster Abbey, where can I?

Incidentally, he may have heard me talking about the whole Princess Diana death conspiracy. Yeah, looking back I think it's likely that he heard that part. So maybe he had a point. Because I was talking pretty loud. And he's probably pretty testy anyway, what with the Da Vinci Code coming out and all. I forgive him.

But it was definitely a day of death. Just a lot of looking at dead people. And that was just the Tube! The Abbey is always a treat, mostly because I see the ultimate truth behind the phrase:

Ashes, ashes
We all fall down.

Everything comes to naught in the end. We're all going to die. It's there, you know. Death. Just around the river bend. I like to think that Elizabeth I still exists somewhere, putting on lead-based face paint and dancing the Volta. But then I see her in Westminster Abbey, and she's in a big marble box, which, incidentally, she has to share with her half sister, who she hated. It reminded me of the days of my youth when I had to share a bed with my brother Andrew, who hogged the covers and liked to snuggle. I keep imagine Elizabeth and Mary in a similar bind. "Scoot over, Mary!" I can faintly hear Elizabeth cry, "Oh my gosh, you are driving me crazy!"

Though we may have wanted to shake off our mortal coils at the abbey, we explored the avenues of death even further tonight on the Jack the Ripper walk. Meeting at the ungodly hour of 7:30, we followed a Ripper expert named Don down the by-ways and dank alleys of London's bloody East End. A shiver ran up our spine as we watched Don's bushy eyebrows and listened to his gory stories. "Here's where poor Polly's throat was slit," says Don "from neck to backbone!" We heard other interesting and sadly graphic stories which are not suitable for this blog, but trust me when I tell you that Mark Pugh made up a special rhyme about them. That one's better live. We winded around unmentionable streets and eerie haunts, past the Ten Bells Pub and beyond Mitre Square until the tour came to an end with Don reciting this little poem:

I'm not a butcher, I'm not a Yid, nor yet a foreign skipper,
but I'm your own 'light hearted' friend;
Yours truly,
Jack the Ripper

After Don said that, we got out of there like bats out of hell. Not because we were scared, necessarily, but because we didn't want to stick around and feel obligated to buy his book. But we did scurry down an old, musty lane so narrow that you could touch both walls with your hands as you traversed it. And that, my friends, was creepy.