But then, today was a good day. Not a spectacular day, just a good one, and you will find out why momentarily.
Yesterday was a walking day. I decided to go on the walking tour of London, which I've never done before, and since the meeting point was at Wellington Arch, just on the other side of Hyde Park, I decided to start my day with a nice stroll. I mean, how far can it be?
Hint: Hyde Park is REALLY BIG.
Because I was clever and left lots of time, though, I actually did have time to go slowly and enjoy the walk, although the pleasure was somewhat curtailed by the fact that it was really bloody cold. I smiled at swans, chuckled at coots, giggled at geese, and bought a map. (A pocket London A-Z, for any Sherlockians. Also, it said £3.99 on the back, but the guy gave me 30% off with no explanation whatsoever. Must be my feminine wiles.)
At the Arch, I met up with the gaggle of my fellow tourists and we all set off in a herd together to hear about London. Pretty much everywhere we went I'd already been--two or three times--but I learned a couple new things anyway. I learned, for instance, that some German guys once camped in the back garden of Buckingham Palace because they thought it was Hyde Park, and that a drunk Irishman (insert your own witticism here) once broke into the palace, thinking it was a hotel, and had a conversation with the Queen. (If you want to LOL a bit at the security guards, here's the Wikipedia page.) Also, it takes a crapton of money to get into and maintain membership in the Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall--if I remember correctly, there's something like a 15-year waiting list to get in, and you have to be recommended to get on the list and pay to stay there (something like £3,000 a year); it's like £15,000 to get in and then £5,000 a year in dues. Damn.
Our route took us to Trafalgar Square, with the leaping fountains sparkling in the sunlight (insert your own joke about sunshine in London here), past a whole bunch of English Civil War reenactors in plate armor with pikes (no joke), and to the Houses of Parliament, where the Clock Tower looked splendid in glittering gold as our guide explained to us, in careful detail, exactly what "hung, drawn, and quartered" means. Lovely.
A group of us then continued on after the official end of the tour to our guide's recommended restaurant for a late lunch. I ate my sausages, mash, and Yorkshire pudding quickly and headed into the wilds of Leicester Square to find a movie theater playing The King's Speech, which took some doing, but I managed it. I had some time until the showing, so I wandered a bit, said hello to Covent Garden, and bought dinner at M&S before returning to the
I'd heard good things about The King's Speech and I wasn't disappointed. It tells the story of King George VI, the current Queen's father, who was thrust suddenly into the kingship after his older brother abdicated to marry a twice-divorced American woman. (Those Americans, my goodness...) Poor King George had a stutter, though, a terror of public speaking (unsurprising), and no real desire to be king, if you can believe the movies. (Advice: don't.) Doctor after doctor had tried to help him to little or no effect, until his despairing wife finds an unconventional doctor who finally manages to do the King some good.
I realize that a movie about speech therapy probably doesn't sound like the best thing in the world, but it isn't really about speech therapy. It's about the lines that are drawn between royalty and commoner, even in the modern world, purely by virtue of birth. It's about the destiny that the then-future King George felt was inescapable, a role he didn't want but accepted anyway, even at the brink of war. It's about the personal courage of the King, a real person with real fears and real problems, and how he learns to make a friend.
Anyway, I'm sure much of it is dramatized, romanticized, and exaggerated, and not being a historian, I can't tell you how much. I can just tell you that if it's at all true, King George's personal courage was amazing, and watching him try to speak around his paralyzing stammer makes you writhe in sympathetic agony. If you get the chance to see it, I recommend it.
After that I went home, ate my dinner and went to bed, which brings us to today!
It took me longer than anticipated to get to the British Library today, because I was determined to take the bus and the bus was late. I did make it, finally, and got to see one of the things I'd been looking forward to this trip: the Evolving English exhibition, about English over the years. There were copies of Chaucer, and clips from My Fair Lady, and sound bytes from all over Britain, and a bookmark from oh-so-long-ago inscribed in Old English runes. It was lovely, and I spent far too much time there--just like last time. I'd been planning to go to the British Museum afterwards, but I was very hungry and rather museum'd out at that point, so I bought a book about British history and curled up in a Starbucks with a nice latte for a while. (No eye-rolling now; this is my first Starbucks since August!)
I bought a Big Issue and asked the seller for directions, and so took another bus to Waterloo Bridge. Walking on the South Bank is something of a tradition at this point, and the clear sky and setting sun made it all so lovely despite the cold. I even, after admiring Ben and the Eye for a while, went back to my Egyptian perch and sat between the Sphinx's paws until it got too cold to not be moving, at which point I came back here to have dinner and relax and watch Top Gear.
Now I've been typing for far too long and it's time for bed. Tomorrow I have to get up early-ish to take a shower and go get in line in the hopes of getting tickets for a musical, then Stephen arrives! Yay!