General

Pre-Birthday London

Yes, today is another birthday for me. To celebrate, the Mrs. had a surprise for me, which she told me about a few days ago only. To get to it, we headed into central London on the train:

[From Blackfriars Station. Photo by me, 2019.]

We traveled from the station near our home here in Bedfordshire (about a hour north of London) into London Blackfriars Station – because we decided to have a walk from that station. It was a gorgeous afternoon.

[From Blackfriars Station. Photo by me, 2019.]

And the station literally is on a bridge. That, and the photo above, is the view you get when you alight from a train. I had never been to Blackfriars Station before.

[From along the South Bank of the Thames. Photo by me, 2019.]

We walked along the South Bank of the Thames.

I have been here a bunch of times and it is always different.

[From along the South Bank of the Thames. Photo by me, 2019.]

As you see, the Queen Elizabeth Tower (right) – meaning, Big Ben – is under refurbishment currently. It looks NOTHING like what you expect.

[From under the London Eye. Photo by me, 2019.]

The London Eye. I went up there in 2004 when it was the British Airways London Eye.

Now, it’s the Coca-Cola London Eye.

Bl-ody Yanks. LOL!

[From Westminster Bridge. Photo by me, 2019.]

Looking east standing on Westminister Bridge, walking across it back to the north side of the Thames.

[From Westminster Bridge. Photo by me, 2019.]

Near the end to the bridge. You see Big Ben (right)… is well, hard to see.

Next to it, on the left, the Houses of Parliament.

A moment of serious.

There is a bit of a political argument (and it seems there may be a snap general election in a few weeks) going on here as you have probably heard as the United Kingdom parliament tries to figure out how to implement the will of voters: 52% in a June 2016 referendum expressed a wish to leave the European Union. That effort is now commonly referred to by its pre-referendum Twitter hashtag: “#Brexit.”

The EU began life in the 1950s as, essentially, a European free trade association. To those who want to leave, it has been becoming much more than that and they feel the time to get out of it is now – before it is too late. What I have heard in various forms from many in favor of leaving is that they had thought the country was joining in the early 1970s merely a free trade association (like today’s USA-Canada-Mexico NAFTA). They fear ultimately the EU is really the beginning of turning the UK within the next century into a province under a European central government run from Brussels (the capital of Belgium, and also the “capital” of the European Union), with their British government – like all other current governments – reduced largely to window-dressing: at best, the level of a US state within a European “super-state.” And lots more. Remaining in it, the country will be destroyed.

But there is the other side. What I have heard in various forms from those who DO NOT want to leave is that it is vital to be part of the European Union because the United Kingdom is too small not to be part of the European Union. They assert that those who want to leave are fantastists, dreaming of a return to the “good old days” of the empire. Leaving will put the peace along the Irish border at risk. Not being part of the EU will leave Britain friendless and at the mercy of Trump and Putin. As a majority in Scotland voted to remain in the EU, Scotland they assert may again – as in 2014 – try to secede from the rest of the UK. And lots more. Leaving it, the country will be destroyed.

And there has been years of LOTS of name-calling of the other side from BOTH sides. It can be VERY ugly stuff.

I will not take a public side. I believe that is improper. I may be here 20 years now; but I still think of myself as a guest here.

[In front of Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral. Photo by me, 2019.]

Praying probably could not hurt. A rather less well-known landmark: Westminster Cathedral. It is not to be confused with Westminster Abbey, which is Protestant Church of England (that was once Roman Catholic, but, uh, that’s another story).

Completed (I think) around 1905, Westminster Cathedral is the center of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. We had stopped nearby to kill some time and have a tea and a cappuccino (I had the cappuccino; my wife, English, HATES coffee). We were planning just to walk through the Cathedral, but she discovered on her phone that there was a 1730 (530 pm) Mass.

We had time: it was only spoken, so would not be more than about 30 minutes. So we attended. I had never been to a Mass inside of it.

Afterwards, we walked down the street to our destination…

[The Victoria Palace Theatre. Photo by me, 2019.]

HAMILTON!

My birthday present.

[Photo by me. Potton, England, 2019.]

Hip-hop, Broadway, pop, and more, all in a clever musical mix (as you may know already) about the remarkable life of one of the USA’s founders: Alexander Hamilton (1755/57?-1804).

It never stops. It is 2 and a half hours (plus a 15 minute interval) of superb. Not a “slow” moment.

It was over in a flash.

[In the program – written for a British audience in London. Photo by me, 2019.]

The program(me) was clearly written with the British audience in mind. The cast also seemed entirely British – aside from “Aaron Burr” who was South African. I have to wager that South African never in his WILDEST DREAMS growing up imagined he would have been in a musical in which portrayed AARON BURR! LOL!

“King George III” appears several times. At one point, he is singing about how US independence would not work. It’s always easy to demand to leave, he guffaws, and now that you have, he sneers, you have to run it yourself. Don’t come running back to me! he declares.

[Pre-Hamilton, inside the Victoria Palace Theatre. Photo by me, 2019.]

Considering the Brexit debates in the House of Commons last night and some street protests outside less than a mile away from where we were enjoying Hamilton, indeed history is ALWAYS with us.

On a Victoria line tube train post-show heading to catch the overground train to get back here to Bedfordshire, a young woman of between about 18-24 (and with a bit of pink hair, as I recall) leaned forward towards me and smiled and said something to me. With the noise of the train and others around, I could barely hear her. Then I realized to what she was referring: she had seen my programme in my hand. She repeated herself, asking if I had just seen it, and I smiled and replied that I had. She smiled broadly in return and said she was going to see it tomorrow night (meaning, now, tonight) and she couldn’t wait. I told her it was WELL-WORTH it and that she would probably LOVE it!

Have a great day, wherever you are. ๐Ÿ™‚

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