LONDON CALLING – Monday, 18 February 2019

Joss barfs on her birthday.

This may be the saddest sentence of a person’s lifetime. Poor Jocelyn. She texts me at 7:30am. “Good morning. Come see me in my room when you are up.” She’s abject and miserable. I help remake her bed with her in it, because she completely mauled it puking all night. I leave her tucked in and go upstairs to make coffee. Ali and Kif appear around nine o’clock and so does Joss. She’s kitten-weak. She shoos us out. “Go without me. I can’t go anywhere.” Sadly, therapeutically, we depart, heading for the Tower of London in the drizzle. This is our first rainy day. 

Tickets are purchased. We walk right in, bypassing the vacant maze of crowd fencing that anticipates a frightful mob. This is the first hyper-touristy British site we’ve visited. Wandering through turrets of the Tower, we encounter many stories, many lives; it’s been in operation for a thousand years and something serious happened here involving just about every monarch. A fortress, a palace, a prison, a treasure house. The rain is doing its annoying best. That wet wool smell coming from my overcoat seems appropriate. 

A twisty line of damp automatons snakes in front of the Crown Jewels. Getting wetter in order to gawk at bijoux is foolhardy, so we search and search, discovering an even more pointless line to join which eventually manipulates us into a tiny room where we shuffle around a hexagonal photo display of all the ‘famous’ prisoners held in the Tower. It’s still raining when we exit. Crossing the yard, we can’t help but notice a mom having her photo taken by her young daughter dressed as a knight. “You have to hold the phone UP so they don’t see my double chin.” “I didn’t know you had a double chin.”

WAY OUT. There has to be a Way Out! It’s through the gift shop, of course, but first we detour to the gift shop that specializes in souvenirs bearing the raven theme. Six of these birds inhabit the Tower on the pretext that if they leave for any reason, the Tower will fall. Never-fucking-more, I say. I buy a fucking mug after scorning the Beefeater neck pillow constructed so two pink demon faces tuck under one’s chin. We escape, parched and famished. 

Following some excellent curry, the three of us continue to hoof through the mist determined to locate St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a grand, gray edifice and inside it praises God. We’re too late to attempt the climb to the Whispering Gallery. Thank Fucking Christ. A boys’ choir is warming up, filling the dome with glory. We exit through the crypt. It’s where churches get all mercantile, down there with the dead bodies.

If we cross the Millennium Bridge, we’ll approach the Tate Modern, that hulking what-the-fuck. The Bridge has a striated, metal surface that makes a kick-ass noise when one slides across it. Children love this. The bridge used to wobble, but not anymore. As we stride across the Thames, The rebuilt Globe Theater is visible in its half-timbered, humble majesty. 

This is the upstart Tate, the one with the cutting edge supposedly. The exhibit in the Turbine Hall (one staggering space) is a horrible low-frequency hum that means something meaningful to its creator, but behaves like a profound nuisance to everyone else. We navigate some galleries, for better or worse. The verdict is the Tate Modern is cool. The shops sure are. I am immediately smitten by a lovely, modest, horizontal print by sculptor Martin Boyce. The words, ‘Remembered Skies’, drift across what seems to be a reproduction of two facing pages from JMW Turner’s watercolor notebooks of cloud formations. This will be my souvenir.

When we get back to 6 Broad Court, Joss has rallied. A less-than-24-hour bug or food poisoning or something. The dining consensus is take-out. An attractive ramen joint on Great Queen Street has appeal. Ali is beginning to cough. We call it an early night.

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