Sunday, July 15, 2007

After Britain Yearly Meeting

May 8-10, 2007 – Tour of Britain
Audrey and I returned to her apartment after leaving yearly meeting sessions early. Originally we were going to spend the afternoon with her family, but the weather was rainy so the picnic was canceled. Instead, we took a bus down to the Thames River and walked around. It was nice to get some exercise and see some of the typical tourist sites in London.

The first place we went after getting off of the bus was to the Somerset House, an 18th century palace-an imposing mansion built in 1547 by Edward Seymour, 'Protector Somerset' to the Tudor King Edward VI which has been turned into a major cultural hub, where we walked across the court yard through the unique water fountain.I am sure many people over the years have enjoyed walking in the water through that courtyard on a hot summer day. However, as you can see from the above picture of Audrey, it was not a warm day, so I walked carefully doing my best not to get wet. However, this walk brought us closer to the Thames. In fact we were on a bridge that was built across the river. I took several photos as we walked across the bridge. As we walked across the bridge we noticed some unique artwork.

As we walked across the bridge we noticed some unique artwork. We noticed a life size sculpture of a man on the bridge and posted on several nearby buildings. We counted around 20 different figures on various buildings. They clearly were recently installed.
After crossing the Waterloo bridge we walked along the Thames. Many people were out doing the same thing. It was not what I would call a warm afternoon, but the weather was clearing and the sun came out. There were teenagers and young adults skateboarding. People were riding the colorful carousel as others watched. A few feet away from the carousel we came upon a woman who was posing as a statue. She was spray painted gold and bronz with metallic paint. I gave her a pound for taking her picture. I thought it was fair because I knew she was an artist trying to make a living by posing all day.

The next item we came upon was the British Airways London Eye. I had seen it a couple times from a distance, this was the first time that I was close enough to ride on it. It looked like a neat ride, but I was not going to stand in a long line and pay $30.00 to ride on this large and flashy ferris wheel.

To the left of the London Eye was the London Aquarium . It was a huge building with lots of room for all types of aquatic marine life. If we had had more time I would have paid the $27.00 fee to see what they keep inside. The building was so large that I needed to wait until we got on the other side of the Thames to take a photograph of the entire building. At the end of the aquarium we needed to walk up a set of stairs which took us up to the street. There I had a chance to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey up close and personal. Both buildings were so
beautiful and large. I was sorry we would not have time to explore them. If I ever get a chance to return to London I will definitely plan to reserve time to explore the aquarium, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. I never got any closer to the palace then the cab ride from Victoria station the first day I arrived.

On the other side of the Thames we came across a memorial to the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940). It was several life size bronze and stone structures. The main piece had a soldier bursting out of it. Someone had placed a silk red flower in the soldiers hand. After spending time reading the inscriptions we continued walking. Next we came upon another monument, this one was for the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force.

As we continued walking we saw an obelisk and sphinx. These were unusual finds to me, so we stopped and read the inscription. It turns out that the obelisk was presented to Britain in 1819 by Mahommed Ali Viceroy of Egypt.

We completed our walk and ended up back on the bridge we were on earlier to catch another double decker bus back to Audrey's home. We arrived at Audrey's apartment feeling good that we had been able to get some exercise.

When I awoke the next day I planned to spend that morning writing my article for The Friend. I was hoping to visit the Victoria Albert Museum in the afternoon. My friend Liz told me about an exhibit at the Victoria Albert which she had found very powerful and knew I would like to see called "Uncomfortable Truths." The exhibit contained a series of contemporary works in the Museum's galleries and public spaces that raised questions about the haunting and ambiguous legacies of slavery. I was looking forward to seeing it. However, ended up spending all of my first free day writing the article for The Friend instead of touring London. The article was published in the May 18th issue. The important thing is that I was faithful.

On the second day, I took a train to Brighton where I worshiped with Friends during their midweek worship. After worship we ate homemade soup with some of the Friends who remained for lunch. I was not able to eat the bread or dessert available because they were not gluten free. Harvey Gillman gave me a tour of Brighton in the afternoon. Despite the cold and rain we walked around the town. During the tour we walked by Momma Cherri's American Soul Food Restaurant, visited The Royal Pavilion, the Pier and the library. We met Colin (Harvey's partner) for tea in a shop that served gluten free cake and herbal tea. On our way to Harvey and Colin's we stopped at the market to purchase some soy yogurt and gluten free pasta for Harvey to use as a substitute in the dish he was making for dinner. Harvey fixed us a delicious dinner. They have a really nice apartment with a terrace which is covered with flowers and looks out on the town and the ocean. Harvey had a meeting at the meetinghouse at 8:00 PM, so Colin walked me to the train station to catch the train back to London.

On Thursday, the next day, I caught a bus to the tube, to the train station where I bought a ticket for a train to Bristol. I was invited by Marian Liebmannan to see an exhibit marking the bicentennial celebration of the ending of the slave trade at The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum. The museum had an exhibit called "Breaking the Chains - The Fight to End Slavery." The museum was right next to the train station, so I was able to walk there. I found it a very powerful exhibit and highly recommend seeing it. Marilyn and her husband Mike met me at the museum. They were running late so we only had time to eat lunch and have a conversation in a café next door. Before I knew it Marian and Mike were walking me to the train station to catch my train back to London. They were allowed to walk me to my train.

The next day I took the train again, but this time to Gatwick Airport and flew home. In many ways my time in Britain was full and I was really ready to go home. However, I found myself feeling sad on the train ride back to London from Bristol. I had done so much, but there was so much more I wanted to accomplish. I know that if I was meant to do those other things, way will open for them to happen another time. Now it was time for me to return home to my family, friends, colleagues and cats.

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