Monday, August 12, 2013

Our Last Monday Meanderings

Instead of heading out of the city fifty miles on a train to Bletchley Park,  Loren decided to go to the London Science Museum on Don's recommendation to see the exhibit on Alan Turing. However, he got a little waylaid by going to the Victoria and Albert Museum for a second round to see the Muslim exhibit.

He also came across the Great Bed of Ware!
 Experts now agree that the Great Bed of Ware was built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  It was most probably an advertising ‘gimmick’ to draw travelers to the town after a possible drop in numbers of visitors when Catholics were no longer making pilgrimages to the shrine at Walsingham, Norfolk.

Although it was thought at one time to have been made for a grand local family, stylistic evidence suggests it was more likely to have been made for use in the  apartments in the inns of Ware which were set apart for members of the Gentry.

The Great Bed of Ware is an extremely large oak four poster bed, carved with marquetry, that was originally housed in the White Hart Inn in Ware, England. Built by Hertfordshire carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke in 1580, the bed measures ten by eleven feet and can "sleep" over fifteen people at once. Many of those who have used the bed have carved their names into its posts.

The most famous mention is made by Shakespeare's character Toby Belch in Twelfth Night which was first performed in 1601 "...and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper, although the sheet were big enough for the bed of Ware in England..."

I can't help wondering if this very bed is where our Ware ancestors may have gotten their start!

Loren was so engrossed with the V&A until he realized it was 2:30; he hadn't eaten lunch and he hadn't gone to the science museum. So he went off to the science museum and went in to their cafe.  He didn't want to spend 8.5 pounds on a sandwich, so he went to the children's section and got a cheese sandwich and a yogurt for 4 pounds!  Then he went through the Alan Turing exhibit and had a grand time.

On his way home, he decided to go in to a Casino just to check it out.  The slot machines were nothing like he had seen before and he needed some help which came to him in the size and shape of a young woman who was not very much on the ball. There were lights, and nudge buttons and levers that he just couldn't figure out.  The lady told him what to do and when he put his first pound in, he got four extra turns.  However, when he put his second pound in nothing happened.  He called the girl over again and asked what went wrong?  The girl unplugged the machine and asked him to put another pound in.  "No, I don't want to put another pound in.  I'd like my pound back!"

I wish I had been there to see this interaction!  After much time and discussion, Loren signed some agreement in duplicate and got his pound back!  (That's $1.50!!)

Meanwhile, Don and I headed for Portabello Market via a Tube line that we hadn't taken before to Notting Hill Gate.

Portabello Market turned out to be a really fun place.  It was a very cute and somewhat upscale area.

I couldn't help but think of my friend Arta.  Arta is always fashionably dressed and has a very keen, classy sense of style.  She told me that she gets all of her clothes at used clothing stores and I couldn't believe it.  Well Portabello Market would be a dream-come-true for someone like Arta.  There are little shops, many of them with vintage clothing, adorable dresses, antiques, jewelery and sundry other items.
This clock sold for 12,000 pounds ($18,000) and was designed by the man who built Big Ben.  It is powered by a metal ball that acts as a kind of pendulum.

One clothing store lured us in because there were rows and rows of old antique sewing machines.  It turned out to be a store called  ALL SAINTS.  We talked to a salesgirl who said they were expanding and had stores in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and were possibly coming to San Francisco.  The clothes were magnificent, but I asked the girl if it was part of their brand to have everything in whites, greys, black and muted tones.  She said, "Yes, we have a discerning color palette!!"  Keep a look out for All Saints in your area- you definitely want to have a look.

There were many stalls in addition to the stores.  This lady drew quite a crowd as she cooked up crepes which she spread with Nutella and bananas.

There was one store totally devoted to antique sports equipment.  Don was drawn immediately to the Cricket set which he decided to demonstrate to a group of French tourists!!


It was around 12:30 by this point and Don and I looked at each other and without even saying the words we knew we were both thinking, "It's time for our pint!"  We found a nice looking pub on the corner and went in.  The barmaid was charming and Don charmed her even more.  We ended up taking our pints out to the garden.  It was quite delightful.


I can't leave off without commenting about the characters of London.  At first I thought it was an anomaly, but it has happened almost regularly that I am beginning to think it is part of the British character.  There was the lady with a cane who we met as we were waiting to get a cart at the grocery store.  Don announced, "I don't have a pound."  (You put a pound in the cart and it releases it's chain, then when you take it back to the cart station you get your pound back.)  Well the lady putting her cart back said, "Oh I just put my cart back or else you could have used mine.  It is hot today.  Well just tow weeks ago it was my birthday and my uncle got cremated on my birthday. It was so hot I couldn't stand it."

In an effort to hurry the conversation along, I said, "Well Happy Birthday to You."
She looked a little quizzical and said, "Oh, is it my birthday?"

Then there was the one-toothed lady who without any solicitation approached us in the grocery line and said, "It's disgraceful; it's horrible.  There just isn't enough help here.  We shouldn't have to wait in line.  When I asked he if she had ever tried the self check-out that was open right next to us she said, "No. Never.  I lose money when I go through that line.  They take my money,"

And today Don and I are sitting outside in front of a cafe eating our lunch when a lady comes right up to us and says, "I think it's going to rain.  I always bring my umbrella with me but today I left it at home and it's going to rain."  Then turning to Don she says, "Oh you're a naughty boy aren't you?  Didn't I see you last night at the strip joint?  Well you know I shared a womb with a boy but he died.  My older brother told me I killed him because I kicked him.  I told my older brother that was rubbish.  He just died.  And if my older brother didn't stop saying things like that I was going to cut off this third leg."

Now I could not make things like this up!

And then, on our way home as we pulled in to the Kensington Station and the doors opened. there was this old guy in a red uniform.  "Is that a Beefeater?" I asked Don.  An older woman on the train said, "No, he's a Chelsea pensioner."  Of course I had to look up to see what a Chelsea Pensioner was and it says:

During the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II, the Royal Hospital was still under construction, so they introduced a system for distribution of army pensions in 1689. The pension was to be made available to all former soldiers who had been injured in service, or who had served for more than 20 years.

By the time the Hospital was completed, there were more pensioners than places available in the Hospital. Eligible ex-soldiers who could not be housed in the Hospital were termed out-pensioners, receiving their pension from the Royal Hospital but living outside it. In-pensioners, by contrast, surrender their army pension and live within the Royal Hospital.

In 1703, there were only 51 out-pensioners. By 1815 this figure had risen to 36,757.

The Royal Hospital remained responsible for distributing army pensions until 1955, following which the phrase "out-pensioner" became less common, and "Chelsea pensioner" was used largely to refer to "in-pensioners".

Upon arrival at the Royal Hospital, each in-pensioner is given a "berth" in a ward, a small room (9 feet x 9 feet) on a long corridor, and is allocated to a company. In-pensioners surrender their army pension, in return receiving board, lodging, clothing and full medical care.

The size of the hospital berths has increased over time. There are 18 berths to a ward.

To be considered for admission as an in-pensioner, a candidate must be:

    1.  A former non-commissioned officer or soldier of the British Army
   2.   In receipt of an Army Service or War Disability Pension
   3.   65 years of age or over (this may be waived if a candidate is suffering from a seriously disabling, incurable but not immediately life-threatening condition requiring long-term care)
   4.   Free from the obligation to support a spouse, partner or family

So there is your history lesson for today!

There are definitely unique characters of London, but we have also noted time and time again about how pleasant, helpful and upbeat the Citizens of London are.  Take the young man going up a large flight of stairs in the subway.  When we asked directions to the Picadilly Transfer he came down the stairs and walked us to where we needed to go - obviously out of his way.  There is most assuredly a positive energy;  Londoners seem like a very happy, enthusiastic and happy people.

We shared our last home-cooked dinner together:  Don's mushroom chicken delight.  Tuesday, our last day, we have dedicated to packing and cleaning, so things are winding down.


Anonymous said...

What will I do without my first thing in the morning history lesson and entertainment, while drinking my coffee ?
You better stay longer
Or are you ready to go home ?

Essie said...

I agree with Emmy! But I read in the evening when I'm winding down, like reading a favorite book. Would love Don's chicken/mushroom recipe!

Safe travels....xo