Hello everyone! I’m finally well!
I’m pretty sure that I had strep throat. Either that, or a virus leading to days of unrelentingly painful sore throat and fever that finally ran its course about 12 hours after I decided to start antibiotics. Yesterday I was able to graduate from watching Downton Abbey and the BBC version of Pride and Predjudice to stepping out onto English pavement and attending the Tower of London and Westminister Abbey with everyone, and today we all went to the Victoria and Albert Museum of Toys and then the Museum of London.
We walked into the Museum of London just a few minutes after a tour featuring the Roman history of London had begun, so we quickly joined that and it was fascinating. The tour guide was passionately obsessed with Roman history and his enthusiasm was contagious. He seemed genuinely appreciative of the German Air Force for “rearranging the city,” as it was only due to bombing damage that many of the Roman ruins here were uncovered.
As hoped, playing the board game History of the World with the boys before this trip has given them a scaffold of historical knowledge, and they’re excited about learning history. They know a little about a lot of different empires and historical events in ways that feel personal to them (Kieran was excited to see the Black Death featured in the museum, because he’d played that event card to good effect, and they all appreciate the massive power of the Romans because that empire grants you a whoppingly game-dominant 25 army pieces.)
We saw a lot of wonderful artifacts, learned about Roman delicacies such as sauteed milk-fattened snails and stuffed dormice, and in general got to appreciate the amazingly sophisticated levels of urban technology that the Romans brought to the area and that largely disappeared from the area after they left. The sophistication of their water systems, for example, stood in sharp contrast to the Tower of London’s description of how a thousand years later its own 120-foot-wide moat served as a massive cesspool, and the garrison had dreadful health issues due to the “giant open air toilet on its doorstep for 500 years.”
All in all so far, however, I’ve found Westminister Abbey to be most striking experience. It was a quick breeze-through, as we were all exhausted from spending most of the day outside in the sun at the Tower of London beforehand, but wow. I wanted to see it because amazing architecture and because Royal Weddings! but I had no appreciation of what a crypt it is. Over 3000 illustrious Brits are interred there, and it was awe-inspiring to go through it and in a whole 45 minutes have walked past the massive, ornate, royal tombs of the likes of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, over floorstones beneath which lie Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill and countless other historical greats, and numerous elaborate marble memorials dedicated to others who are actually buried elsewhere (like Shakespeare, who is at Stratford-on-Avon). The remains span so many hundreds of years, right up to six weeks ago when Stephen Hawking’s ashes were put under the floor. The awe and humility borne of walking through a building so palpably rich with history, contributions to humanity, and the greatness of one’s countrymen and women who’ve walked before stood in sharp contrast to the brevity of our own Western American culture. (Have we cultivated these giant, sensitive patriotic egos in compensation, or is it unrelated?) I spent a lot of time thinking about what it must be like to be British and to visit that place, and the sense of being a part of something great that must cultivate. Or to be William and Kate, saying their marriage vows as the future monarchs of that massive empire, surrounded by the greatness of those lives that helped shape it…
All right. Time to put my nightly 3am insomnia bout back to bed…