Thursday, July 23, 2009

henry's war


Time again for the Tower of London, which is always a great way to get out and meet a bunch of other American tourists. I feel like I know the Tower well enough that I can now lead “power tours,” and just shuttle interested parties through the relevant parts. But not everyone wants to do that, so we tend not to stay together as a group, and that way everybody is happy. We started with the Beefeater tour, of course. I am happy to say that this year’s Beefeater was my all time favorite. He was enthusiastic, funny, and really knew how to tell a story:

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By the way, did you notice the interpreter? Seems nice enough? NOT NICE. She shoved me out of the way because she needed to stay 1.5 feet away from the Beefeater at all times. Partly because this is her job, and partly because she had a big giant crush on the Beefeater. Looks like Stella got her groove back! Anyway, it was fun to watch her later in the tour when he was telling us gory stories about people being drawn and quartered and she had to act it out in sign language. She was very dramatic – and I would know! I wanted to film her her slicing her guts open and acting out a hanging, but we were in a church when that story happened and that would have been inappropriate.

The History Channel has swept into the Tower in the name of corporate sponsorship and has officially made Henry VIII sporty, sexy, and virile. The exhibit is called Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill. There are now two floors devoted to him, and, as you can see from this media piece, they are definitely trying to give the Tudor king a modern spin:

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It’s actually the same collection of stuff, but now with all new awesome. Our responses were mixed: Sarah-Lucy was disgusted, while Ashley, Aubrey, and Sara swooned. Later in that same exhibit, Jason made an almost fatal mistake:

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Levi made a slight error of his own. A few of us were up on a wall, peering out over the river. Levi, down below, in the midst of a crowd of Brits, yelled "Hey! From here I could get a picture of all of your fannies!" If you are unaware of what "fanny" is in British English, you may want to google that.

The afternoon was a jumble of errands. I put four girls on a train bound for the London Temple, and then ran to the Old Vic to purchase some tickets for a small group who wanted to see The Winter’s Tale, only to realize two hours later that I had purchased tickets for A Cherry Orchard, a play we already had tickets for. Of course, we didn’t realize this until we were on the tube headed for A Winter’s Tale, which wasn’t even playing that night. The shows run in rep, which means they alternate nights. It was really boneheaded of me. I got the wrong night.

So with 30 minutes to spare and some quick thinking, we ran – literally ran – through two tube stations and up several flights of stairs for a production of Carrie’s War, which was on our list of shows to see anyway. I was buying tickets at 7:28, but we made it in our seats just as the curtain went up. Luckily I only had three students with me tonight. A group dash doesn’t work. TRUST ME.


Carrie’s War is based on a young adult novel about London schoolchildren being sent to the country during WWII. Yes, just like in the Narnia books. But in this case they get sent to live with grouchy and mysterious people in Wales, and they find a skull with prophetic powers and steal biscuits and encounter American GI’s played by English actors with suspiciously dubious American accents. I enjoyed the show a lot. It’s very simple, but it’s perfect for young adults. In fact, the audience was full of them – which always enhances the experience.

On the way home we rode in the front top seats of a double decker bus, which always gives you a sense of flying. Though if I could fly, I’m not sure I’d fly through Picadilly Circus at 11 pm. There’s a lot of cigarette smoke wafting in the air, and don’t get me started on the swine flu.