Saturday, 18 September 2010

What march?

It's been a very beautiful autumnal day. A watery sun has been shining on London almost permanently and the tourists are out in force. I've spent the day with my family; a belated birthday treat for Edward, who opted for Arabic food in Souk Bazaar followed by a trip to the Tower of London.

In the meantime I'd decided to go to the anti-pope rally, but unfortunately I failed miserably to do so! I sort of hate myself for missing it. I thought I'd be able to join the march somewhere along its length, but walked across half of the capital and couldn't find anyone anywhere en route from Hyde Park to Westminster. I did, however, come across hundreds and hundreds of policemen putting out barriers on Pall Mall and assumed it was for the demonstration. "Where's the march?" I asked one of them. "What march?" he asked. "The one against the pope. Is that not what these barriers are for?" "No" he said, laughing, "these barriers are for the pope himself. At 6 o'clock he's gonna drive down here on his pope-mobile. I didn't know there was a march." So I walked away with my angry tail between my legs, marvelling at how many policemen had been employed to make sure the pope had a safe journey in his bullet-proof ice cream van. But where on earth was the march?

The Tower of London wasn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped it would be. I think the more inherently interesting a place, the less they bother to make it user-friendly. There was lots of climbing up and down flights of stairs, jostling crowds and glass cabinets scantily filled with things that weren't properly labelled. Way too much militia. Way too many suits of armour; and on top of all of this, some horribly rude beafeaters. Sadly, this wasn't exactly a surprise.  I visited the complex a year and a half ago to record bells for my Oranges and Lemons project and met some very snippy men dressed in little red dresses! I went up to one of them today and asked if he knew where Pepys had been held during his short time in the Tower, but he just stared at me like I'd just made a bad smell, and then walk away without saying a word. His rudeness almost took my breath away!

Still, the buildings themselves are extraordinary and my Mother and I were both simultaneously floored by the weird atmosphere in the White Tower, which is deeply sinister. Standing at the spot where Anne Bolyn was beheaded was also a rather strange experience. I was surprised to discover that so few people had actually been executed in that place. All in all, less than 50; and a surprisingly high percentage of those in the First World World. Of the few that were beheaded there in tudor days, the large majority were women; a fact I also found slightly shocking.

Pepys spend the morning, 350 years ago, "looking over" the workmen in his house. After dinner, he headed to Westminster to attend a parliamentary committee who were meeting to talk about the horrendous debts of the Army and Navy. According to Pepys, one Colonel Birch was "very impertinent and troublesome."

The two Sir Williams went home by water, but Pepys stayed behind to drink at the Rhenish Winehouse, and later walked home, buying a hat band "and other things for my mourning tomorrow" en route.

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