Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ghosts ate my blog

The accompaniment to writing this is the gas metre ticking in the kitchen and the birds outside the window.  We're leaving this flat at 7 a.m. for the infamous Terminal five to continue our journey to Istanbul.  Of course, I can't sleep so am squeezing the last of the taebags into the stimulus for a farewell-to-London blog.

Things changed this week. Rolf arrived last Saturday morning, and after 
recovering from jetlag, managed to get our laptops working properly, fixed the 
shower head, and generally restored a sense of Meindl-over-matter to our environment. The weather, at last, warmed up enough to make it more pleasant to be outside at night, so we walked and walked and walked and walked.  Heaven!

On the way home Tuesday night we stopped and looked back at the tower of London, the full moon yellow above and overshadowed by a few wispy clouds. The sight would have scared me, if I'd been on my own. As it was I turned rather quickly away from it and deliberately put my mind on other things.

I've been disturbed by ghosts since I've been here, felt the presence of the Tower and its macabre history looming, as well as the history of the slums and tenements that once filled the area where we're staying. I haven't known what to 'do" about this other than feel it, and be 
disturbed, but as always, Rolf had a completely different approaach from mine.  While I went to the British Library on Thursday to listen to the marvellous oral histories they have collected, 
Rolf took a tour of the Tower of London, explored it I suppose the way he did 
the shower head before he set it right, and I was happy to get his information second hand, without having to 
cram myself through any dark passageways or duck under any low ceilings with a pounding heart.

London seems to be proud of its violent history. Entering the Tower Hill station you're greeted by the life-sized mannequin of a hooded executioner with his axe poised and ready to chop off yer 'ed. At the London Bridge station, you meet people painted to look like bloody torture victims picking up their smokes or snacks from the vendors' stalls. On their breaks, I guess.  At Smithfield Market a sign boasts that this was the site where people were drawn and quartered, and later, the place where men took wives that they found unsatisfactory, to try and sell them. These violent images are part of the tourist attraction, and I feel like a bit of a wuss, being disturbed by it, a sheltered Toronto girl who wants my experience of history sanitized.  Better to know the truth than have it suppressed, I guess.  But this isn't openness -- it's a kind of glorification and it ...well, it disturbs me.

We did a few more pleasant "touristy" things this week as well, climbed the dome at St. Paul's and looked 
down over London, the old and the new.  All those spiderweb streets that are 
so difficult to navigate, the little courtyards and hidden places that you'd better 
explore the first time because you'll never find them again, and down the centre of it all, the Thames glinting in the sun.  Friday, we took a boat trip on the Thames, 
taking a short stop at Greenwich just in time for the ball to drop that indicates 
"One o'clock, Greenwich mean time" though we didn't actually witness the moment.  
We then continued on to the bizarre, space-age looking Thames barrier and back to Westminister. One of the things 
I love about London is this waterway coming right up through the centre of the 
city, so that in an hour you can see everything from ancient docks to magnificent 
cathedrals.  

We saw overview and cross-section, this week.

And now it's six a.m. and my battery is running out.

In fact, I'm completing this blog in Istanbul because the whole computer went crazy and started giving me strange messages.  As it is, the line breaks are pretty wonky.  One last bit of mischief from the ghosts?

Time to move on.

No comments: