Thursday, October 28, 2010

Walking Through History

I am a nut for history, especially stories of royalty. London is crammed with historic places.

When I visited Jack and Margaret in London, they were busy with his work and her commitments to other activities. So, for two weeks I left their house in Highgate and took “the tube” into the center of London to go sightseeing on my own in one of the greatest cities in the World.

I made leisurely visits to all the famous places, finding space between the groups of tourists who crowded the aisles of Westminster Abby and taking time to read the inscriptions on the monuments. Then it was a short walk across the square where Margaret told me I could find an inexpensive lunch in the Methodist Church’s cafeteria.

After lunch it was back to the Abby Museum to see the effigy of Queen Mary II (in history books as half the reigning duo of William and Mary). The life-like figure was placed on top of her coffin for the long procession from Hampton Court, where she died, to be buried in Westminster Abby.

Another day I saw non-tourist London from the window of a city bus on the long ride to Hampton Court, where, in the wing added by William III, I saw the small bedroom where Queen Mary II died of smallpox.

In the older part of that huge palace I stood in the chapel where the tiny son of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was baptized, only to die two months later, dashing Henry’s hopes and leading to their divorce.

I walked down the corridor where Catherine Howard, the fifth of Henry VIII’s six wives, ran screaming for him to save her. He didn’t. The guards dragged her away to have her head cut off in the Tower of London.

I also spent a day at the Tower of London. The White Tower is surrounded by a park-like lawn encircled by a high walls with many smaller towers, including the one where Sir Walter Raleigh was confined before his execution, and another where Princess Elizabeth was briefly held until released by her sister, Queen Mary I, who later conveniently died, and the princess became Queen Elizabeth I.

Inside the White Tower is a fine collection of armor, including Henry VIII’s huge and magnificent suit of armor with its beautifully engraved breastplate. On one of the upper floors of the tower is a chapel, “the oldest church in England” (I doubt it), where Anne Boleyn was buried after Henry had her head cut off.

In Medieval Times the White Tower was believed built by Julius Caesar. It wasn’t. It was built by William the Conqueror. Julius was there. A nearby tube station is “Roman Wall” where I stepped out of the underground and saw a fragment of the wall standing 12-feet high, with a modern statue of Caesar in front of it.

Across the street from the Tower of London is an old church which escaped the great fire of London in 1666. In this Medieval church William Penn was baptized into the Church of England. When he grew up he became a Quaker and founded Pennsylvania as a refuge for people of all religions. His descendants reverted to the Anglican church. The font in which he was baptized was brought to America and is in Christ Church Episcopal in Philadelphia. Tourists go there to see the pew where George Washington worshiped when he was first President of the United States.

History is full of twists and turns that kids don’t read about in World History courses in high school or college.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An English Lunch

Americans drink coffee; the English drink tea. Everyone knows that. Right? Wrong! Neither custom is true of either people all the time, or even most of the time.

Margaret and I were friends for more than 60 years, since college in the 1940's. I never drink coffee. She teased me about using only a single teabag to brew four cups of tea. Margaret was a typical American; she was a coffee drinker.

Before I went to England the first time, I wrote to Margaret, whose husband, Jack Cinque, was stationed in London. They invited me to stay with them. I was there for two weeks. Jack and Margaret treated me like royalty on a state visit.

On later visits to England, after the Cinques returned to the U.S., I stayed in bed & breakfasts in British homes. I was surprised how most English prefer coffee for breakfast.

On that first visit, Jack took Margaret and me on a Sunday outing to Oxfordshire. After our tour of Blenheim Palace, Margaret suggested lunch at a famous English inn. It was an elegant place, with linen tablecloths, real silver “silverware”, and waiters in bow ties and short black jackets. I had a traditional British lunch of lamb with mint sauce. Delicious!

When we finished eating, Jack asked the waiter to bring coffee for himself and Margaret, tea for me. Promptly the waiter brought their coffee. Then we waited for my tea. Jack and Margaret finished their coffee. Jack called to the waiter, “Where is the lady’s tea?” The waiter sniffed and disappeared.

We waited. It must have been 30 or 40 minutes before the waiter appeared again bearing a large, two-handled silver tray. He set before me a complete tea service. On this large tray were two teapots (one with tea, the other with hot water), a creamer, a covered sugar bowl, a dish of lemon, and a waste bowl, all in handsome embossed silver, and a single delicate china cup and saucer.

As I stared in amazement at this elaborate production, Margaret and Jack burst into laughter.

Evidently, I had created a faux pas. For the English, tea is not served at lunch but at tea time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blenheim Palace

Typical of British weather, most days were cold and wet when I visited the Cinques in London in 1980. But it was a delightful day, balmy with sunny skies, on the Sunday that Jack drove Margaret and me into the serene British countryside, where white sheep dotted the incredibly green grass on the hillsides.

In Oxford we peeked into the courtyards of various colleges. Now I see them on PBS tv in the Inspector Lewis Mysteries. Walking down an Oxford street I found a plaque in the pavement where Archbishop Cranmer was burned at the stake. So many centuries ago, the cobblestones are replaced by concrete, but on a nearby door scorch marks from the flames are still visible.

From Oxford we drove to Blenheim, entering a large park and crossing over the marble bridge where Dr. Johnson remarked to Boswell about how ludicrous it was to erect that elaborate structure over what was merely a small brook. Then through the ancient trees we saw Blenheim Palace, a vast, ornate place, steeped in history.

A hundred years before Napoleon, when England was enmeshed in one of the endless wars in Europe, the British Army was led by a Churchill. (I can’t remember his first name.) Anyway, “the first Churchill" was the husband Queen Ann’s favorite lady-in-waiting and best friend, Sarah Jennings. Churchill was the hero of the Battle of Blenheim, at that time a victory as famous as Waterloo would become 100 years later.

In honor of his achievement, Queen Ann created Churchill the first Duke of Marlborough and had Parliament vote funds to build him a home in the country. Sarah, now a duchess, proceeded, with much quarreling with her chosen architect, to erect the grandest residence ever built in England. Queen Ann was shocked by the extravagance.

Blenheim Palace fostered a rivalry among the British nobility. During the next century, dukes and earls built “great houses” all over Great Britain. Most are now “Open to View” several days a week. I’ve tramped through many.

Those old mansions are expensive to maintain and impossible to live in. The grand salons and banquet halls were never used more than once or twice a year for house parties, when guests would come in droves to hunt and engage in “other recreational activities.”

The rest of the time, when the lord and lady were in residence, they retreated to a small private suite, more intimate and livable. Or, as divorce was not permitted, these houses were so large that husband and wife could live under the same roof in separate apartments and never contact one another.

Living in a mansion does not guarantee a happy life. From all accounts, the first Marlborough remained passionately attached to his duchess despite Sarah’s notoriously quarrelsome nature. She even quarreled with Queen Ann.

But their descendants produced a family tree full of infidelities and unhappiness. An American heiress, Jenny Jerome, married a Churchill, whose father was Duke of Marlborough, and found herself locked in matrimony with a brilliant but unstable alcoholic. Their son, born at Blenheim, was Winston Churchill, World War II Prime Minister. He found happiness with his Clemmy, in a much smaller, and much more charming, house at Chartwell.

As Jack, Margaret, and I wandered through the vast rooms of Blenheim Palace, with huge paintings of the first duke's battles, I thought of all the people who lived there, happy and unhappy. I puzzled about what makes a good marriage. I loved my first husband and tried for years to make our marriage work. And failed. Yet here, going side by side through these elaborately decorated rooms, were Jack and Margaret, who on the surface had many differences: she a Texan, he a New Yorker; she a Methodist, he a Roman Catholic; she a Democrat, he a Republican. Yet I never knew a more loving, devoted, and congenial couple.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our English Enemies

People who never travel have images in their minds of foreign countries based on what they have read or seen in movies or on television. I, too, had “preconceived notions” of what to expect when I traveled. Before going on a trip I read as much as I could about the places I was to visit. When I got there, I was always surprised.

In London, entering St. Paul’s Cathedral for the first time, I noticed an unusual monument. On a high marble pedestal stood life-sized figures of two young men in 18th Century military uniforms. Usually statues are of one person; very unusual to see two soldiers standing proudly side-by-side.

Can’t remember the date on the inscription, something like 1778 or 1780. I remember the inscription in the marble said these young men were friends who fought side-by-side and gave their lives for their country “against the rebels in the colonies.”

The date was from the American Revolution. It dawned on me: Those rebels were us! My great-great-grandfather was at Yorktown. Maybe he shot them.

How long has it been since we fought the English? Not since the War of 1812, and we’ve forgotten that. I have friends in England. Maybe they, too, forget that once we were enemies.

At 81 I probably won’t live to see peace in the Middle East. But seeing those statues in England gives me hope.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Not Eating Oatmeal

Bob sat down next to me at the breakfast table. He looked at the menu and said, “I hate grits.” He ordered oatmeal.

I said, “I hate oatmeal.” I ordered two poached eggs on toast.

Different strokes for different folks. What a dull World this would be, if we all liked the same things.

I would not eat oatmeal, but I cooked oatmeal for my kids. As it boiled, I stirred and stirred until it was smooth and creamy. Until the morning that Karl complained. He said, “You didn’t leave any lumps in my oatmeal.” I never cooked oatmeal again.

When my father was a teenager, his brother, who was twelve years older, bought a ranch in far West Texas. Uncle Dick didn’t have much money, and land was cheap out there. One summer Daddy went to help on the ranch. The family was so poor that all they had to eat was oatmeal.

At the end of summer Daddy went to Kansas City and got a job in a bank. He never ate another bowl of oatmeal for the rest of his life.

Our family went to visit Uncle Dick a couple of times a year. The lanscape I saw from the front yard was absolutely flat. I slowly turned around and saw sand stretching out into a bowl, no trees or houses interrupting the perfect circle of the horizon. The only thing growing in that sand was sage brush, which Uncle Duck called “shinnery” because it didn’t grow higher than his shins. Hereford cattle spread out to find forage in that stuff.

In the evening Uncle Dick saddled his horse and rode out to find the cattle. He let my brother and ride beside him For Lyle riding horses on Uncle Dick’s ranch was almost as good as dying and going to heaven. They rounded the cows up and drove them towards the windmill behind the house. There are no creeks or natural ponds on the plains. The only place the cattle could drink was from the “tank”, a small pond fed by the windmill. The windmill pumped up water day and night.

Aunt Verna went to the windmill and brought in buckets of water for cooking and washing dishes. The ramshackle frame house had no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing. No convenient shopping either – the nearest town was 40 miles away. It was impossible to clean house. The whole house was covered in a thin layer of sand, drifted in under the loose-fitting window frames.

Aunt Verna wore out and died young. Life was easier for Uncle Dick’s second wife, Aunt Allie. The REA stretched electrical lines across many miles of prairie, all the way to the ranch house. Uncle Dick brought water lines to the kitchen and even installed an indoor bathroom – although he continued to use the outhouse.

The one thing our family looked forward to was the home-made biscuits which my aunt baked every morning for breakfast. We arrived one night, dusty and tired after the long drive from Fort Worth in my father’s old Hudson. After Aunt Allie greeted us, she told us she and Uncle Dick had been to town the day before especially to buy treats for us during our visit. She proudly showed us the big loaf of “store-bought” bread.

Even with modern conveniences, in many ways the ranch remained the same. When I went to bed, my face chaffed against gritty sand on my pillow. I drifted off to sleep listening to the metal arms of the windmill turning in the wind, and the clank of the pump bringing up water from far under ground.

Land remained cheap. Uncle Dick bought more and more acreage. After World War II, I overheard him tell my father he bought 10,000 acres for $1 an acre without the mineral rights.

Uncle Dick retained the mineral rights on the rest of the land, Oil companies offered to lease, not the land on which the cattle grazed, but the right to drill for oil which may or may not lie far underneath the surface. Uncle Dick leased thousands of acres for $100 per acre per year.

As an old man, Uncle Dick became rich. Very rich. He and Aunt Allie moved to town. As they breakfasted in that handsome new brick house, I wondered: did they eat oatmeal and toasted “store-bought” bread?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Old Acquaintance

In the mail was an invitation to the reunion dinner for alums of Paschal High School. On the list of committee members I saw a familiar name: Lunda May O’Toole.

I had not talked to Lunda May since August, 1952. Wally and I were married on August 3 and left immediately for Chicago. Lunda May and Bob were to be married two weeks later. While I was living in Chicago, my mother wrote me of seeing her in the grocery store from time to time – I heard that her little boy had polio – but I knew little of what happened to her in the last 50 years.

We were children of the Depression. My family lived on the corner of the 1800 block of South Adams Street. Lunda May’s .father built a new house across the street. Both were small, frame houses. Our old house had five square rooms, with the one bathroom tacked onto the back after the house was built. To take a bath or use the toilet, my brothers and I had to go through our parents’ bedroom. The Keiths’ new house, just as small, seemed much more modern. Its one bathroom was between the two bedrooms.

Lunda May and I went to different elementary schools. (Mother transferred my brother and me to a school near my grandmother’s house, as she went to her mother’s every day.) But we were together in junior high and high school. We both played in the junior high orchestra. Even then she was accomplished violinist. I attempted the cello, but played so badly that I gave up when I entered high school.

By that time my family had moved to a larger house. Lunda May’s family remained on South Adams Street. But we both went to Paschal High, where we ate lunch together every day.

I was a good student; she was a better scholar. She was salutatorian of our graduating class. The girl whose grade points were barely higher than Lunda May’s was given the valedictorian scholarship. She did not need it. The girl was the daughter of a physics professor at Texas Christian University. Lunda May’s family struggled to pay college tuition. (The next year Bob Adams received a scholarship to Harvard and gave up the honor of being valedictorian so that the second ranking graduate could have the scholarship to a Texas university.)

After high school, we saw each other now and then. We went to different colleges. I don’t know what she did after graduation. I became a reporter for the Fort Worth Press.

We sent each other wedding invitations. I remember she and Bob O’Toole came to our house to bring me a wedding gift. It was the first and only time I met him. Lunda May and I left him alone in the living room while we went back to my bedroom where I showed her my wedding dress. I wondered if he was a good person, or if, like me, the starry-eyed romance brought years of living with a difficult man.

The alumni association sent me her address and phone number. I picked up the phone and called her. Lunda May's voice sounded as cheerful and full of life as when she was a teenager.

While I married, divorced, remarried, was widowed, and lived in various houses and apartments in five states (and for six weeks in a house in England!), Lunda May and Bob also lived in several places, but always in the Fort Worth area.

They’ve been married for 58 years. Their son, whose left arm is useless because of polio, has a successful career. He and his wife, whom Lunda May adores, live in a beautiful home on a nearby lake. Lunda May and Bob also have a daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They fill her life with joy.

Belief in God is the sustaining force in their lives. They use their love of music in service at the Assembly of God Church. Lunda May switched from violin to cello, and continues to play at age 81. She sang in the church choir, which Bob directed. She sounded as busy and enthusiastic about life as the girl I remembered.

At our age, when tragedy marks the lives of friends, many are dead, and all who remain suffer from some ailment or another, it was great to connect with this old friend and to hear that, staying right at home, she indeed has had a good life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking Surveys

Every few days the mail brings a questionnaire. The Republicans take a survey. Then Democrats take another, and the two come up with entirely different results. This week the dialysis center asked me to complete a six-page questionnaire of “Your Health and Well-Being.”

“Did you have a lot of energy?” I have very little energy. What do you expect? I am 81 years old.

Questions 2 and 3 asked if my health limited me (2) from moving a table, pushing a vacuum cleaner, bowling, playing golf, or (3) climbing several flights of stairs. I marked “no” on both these questions because I do not do any of these activities.

I can’t move furniture or push a vacuum cleaner because of the lymphoma in my right arm. In this retirement home a nice lady named Gloria does that for me.

I never bowled. I never played golf.

I never climb stairs. I use the elevator to get to my third floor apartment. When I traveled, I asked for elevators, even in places where most people are required to climb stairs. In Rome I avoided climbing the long marble stairs in front of St. Peter’s when a monk in a long cassock took me up to the church in a private elevator (perhaps the one used by the Pope).

“During the past four weeks have you felt calm and peaceful?” “True or false: My kidney disease interferes too much with my life.” “Do you feel washed out or drained?”

I’ve adjusted to going to dialysis three days a week. I feel utterly drained after each dialysis. I sit in my recliner and watch television. The next morning I feel fine and with enough energy to do whatever I want to do. In this retirement home I don’t have to cook or clean house.

I had a setback when my access became clogged in June. Dr. Cook put a new graft in my upper arm. It still is not healed. I feel good. As long as I am not in pain, I don’t worry. Soon I will be back on the regular routine. I “go with the flow.” I’m in better health than other people on dialysis. Better health than most people my age. I have excellent health insurance.

No complaints.

“How much does kidney disease bother you in your ability to travel?” I don’t get to the Dallas Art Museum or meet my friend at the Kimball in Fort Worth. That’s because on my “good days” I write my blog. It’s a choice, not because my health interferes.

I won’t take any more trips to Europe. Now I write about my travels on my blog, and tell stories to old ladies who have never been abroad.

I do think my kidney doctor should have let me go to India before going on dialysis.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our Amazing World

As a child, I thought I lived in the modern World. During World War II, I wrote to my cousin Richard, fighting in Europe, and the letters flew over the Atlantic in less than a week. In World War I, Hobbs, New Mexico, did not hear of the end of the war until two weeks after the Armistice and the guns fell silent

Oh! We were very up-to-date. We didn’t have a telephone, but our neighbor did. When something happened that was really important, we used her phone to call my grandmother.

Long distance calls were expensive and reserved for major emergencies, like when a call came from West Texas that Uncle Dick’s horse fell and punctured his intestines. My parents called back to say they were leaving immediately, hoping to get there before he died. He survived and lived for another 60 years.

Last week, as I left the doctor’s office, my cell phone rang. My brother Don, who lives here in Garland, Texas, half a mile from the medical center, told me, “I just saw on Fox News that a plane from Aero Club Airport in Naperville, Illinois, crashed onto a third-story building.”

My daughter lives in Aero Club Estates in Naperville. Her husband keeps his plane in a hanger in their backyard, and he flies out of that private airstrip. I called Martha. When I told her there had been a crash, she said, “What?” I’d heard about it in Texas before she did, even though she was less than a mile away – almost close enough to hear the crash.

Later she e.mailed me that the airstrip was there long before the three-story building was erected just off the runway. The plane failed to gain enough altitude before hitting a tower on top of the building. There was no fire. Fireman put ladders up to the roof and rescued two people. The pilot, a neighbor, broke both legs and was released from the hospital later that day. His wife, also a friend of Martha and Don, was badly injured and remained in the hospital.

On Sunday my son David called from California. I asked if he heard about the plane crash in his sister’s neighborhood. He said, “Just a minute.” Maybe 90 seconds later he said, “I found pictures on the internet. I’ll send them to you.”

Two minutes later on my computer in Texas I had pictures sent from California of the plane crash in Illinois.

This is an amazing World. With cameras on cell phones everywhere, news travels around the World instantly. There are no secrets. The government can’t hide what is going on in Afghanistan. That’s good.

A home invasion in Connecticut and old ladies in small towns in Texas lock their doors and go to bed afraid. A child is abducted in California and mothers all over the country get in their cars and take their children to school, afraid to let them walk three blocks alone. Nineteen Arabs crash into the towers in New York, and people in Iowa don’t want Turks building a mosque in their small town. Living in fear is not so good.

Friday, October 8, 2010


On the radio this morning I heard a male voice announcing a choral Evening Prayer service this Sunday at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.

Before my first trip to London, a clergyman in Downers Grove, Illinois, told me, “After you’ve seen the Westminster Abby, be sure to go back at five o’clock, when the church is closed to tourists. Tell the guard at the door you want to attend the service of evensong.”

A tall gentleman in black escorted me down the long nave and up into the choir, where I was given a seat near the high altar. A few minutes later the organ filled the great vaults with majestic music, as down the center aisle came a procession of about 20 boys in crisp white tops over floor-length red cassocks. The choir boys were followed by an equal number of men in black robes. The choir took places behind me, a 40-voice choir for a congregation of perhaps 25. The combined voices of men and boys sang familiar hymns, moving me more deeply than any choir I'd heard in Episcopal churches in Illinois, Michigan, or Texas.

The Evening Prayer service was especially beautiful in that magnificent church. I was grateful to the Illinois clergyman who told me about it. Ten years later when John and I were in London in July, it was a different choir. After the service, a verger apologized,.”Westminster School is on summer holiday. In summer we have guest choirs from throughout England, and sometimes they are . . .”

“We attended a church service in Ipswich,” John said. “The 14th Century church was beautiful, but the choir. . . “

The verger just shook his head.

One reason I enjoyed traveling was the serendipity. As a student of history, In Europe are many places where I felt I was stepping back into the past. But even in Westminster Abby, surrounded by a thousand years of history, the experience was different each time I visited. I learned to “go with the flow.” Still, without the Westminster choir, attending any service at Westminster Abby was exalting.

My initial feeling was that it was too bad most tourists do not know that evensong is sung every night in all the cathedrals in England, usually to congregations of fewer people than are in the choir. On second thought I realized, selfishly, with few others praying in the majesty of those ancient spaces I felt the Holy Spirit, which I never felt when surrounded by hordes of other tourists.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Westminster Abby

Every tourist who goes to London has to see Westminster Abby, if only from the windows of a bus.

Once I was on a bus tour that started in London. We were given a half-day tour of the city, and as we drove by, I looked out the window as the guide said, “That’s Westminster Abby, where Queen Elizabeth was crowned.” Then the bus drove out of the city and on to Harwich to board the ferry, which took us to the Continent and more half-day tours of other cities. Not the best way to see Europe.

On my own I’ve spent weeks in London. I loved walking around in the dusky light beneath the Gothic arches of Westminster Abby, circling groups of tourists to find quiet corners to read inscriptions on plaques, on statues and in the floor. The Abby is crammed with monuments to all kinds of people: royalty, novelists, statesmen. Many people are buried inside the church. I heard a guide say that Winston Churchill is buried there. There is a memorial to Churchill in the Abby, but his body is in a country churchyard near Oxford.

On a high marble platform in a side aisle Queen Elizabeth I lies, hands folded in prayer, as if the great queen fell under a spell while resting and, enchanted, was transformed into white marble. On the opposite side of the nave Mary Queen of Scots rests in marble effigy on a similar monument.

Standing before those marble figures in Westminster Abby, I remembered the history of these two queens. Throughout her reign Elizabeth was troubled by Mary, who besides being Queen of Scotland, also claimed to be the rightful queen of England. Men died plotting to put Mary on England's throne, replacing Elizabeth. Some endured the horrible death of traitors, "hanged, drawn, and quartered", cut down while still alive, their bowels cut out before their eyes, and than hacked to pieces. Elizabeth's cousin, the Duke of Norfolk, was executed for plotting with Mary. Finally, Elizabeth allowed Mary to be beheaded.

Ironically, when Elizabeth died, Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, became James I of England, peacefully uniting two countries which had battled for centuries. He had his mother’s body brought from Ely Cathedral, where she was originally buried, to lie in equal state with Elizabeth.

The two queens, antagonists in life, now lie serenely beneath the shadows in the great church. They lived in troubled times. We also live in troubled times. If only our troubled world could find peaceful solutions as easily as England and Scotland united under one king and we could honor the vanquished as equals to the victors.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Going to London

Dr. Johnson said, “He who is tired of London is tired of life.”

I returned to London several times and each time found new and interesting things to do. And always left wishing I had more time to see some of the things I missed.

The first time I went to England, my Texas friends, Margaret and Jack Cinque, were living in London. I wrote them that I was coming. They not only welcomed me into their home, but also let me stay for two weeks, treated me like visiting royalty, and even invited me to come back again.

It was a schizophrenic experience. Here I was in a foreign country but staying with Americans. I would go sightseeing in the city, evoking history in Westminster Abby and the Tower of London, then ride the “tube” out to Highgate to enjoy an American dinner with the Cinques. One night Margaret cooked tacos.

Their house was not a typical London row house but a red brick house on a big lot, looking much like the two-story, four bedroom “Colonials” built in the 1960's and ‘70's in suburbs all over the U.S. Margaret was proud of her big “American” kitchen, with lots of cabinets and a huge refrigerator, while upstairs the bathrooms were English-style with a little room for the tub and a separate closet for the toilet.

Jack and Margaret were suburb hosts. Busy people, they went about their usual activities, while I went sightseeing on my own. They had lived in London long enough to advise me about how to get the best out of my London experience.

Margaret took me to lunch at the Tate Museum (now the “Old Tate”) where she introduced me to the whipped cream dessert the English call “trifle”. Afterwords we went to a play at the theater in Convent Garden where Liza Doolittle met Professor Higgins. Then it was home again, for a typical American dinner.

I was there in late November. The Brits do not celebrate Thanksgiving. For them it is just another work day. My hosts told me about a special service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In that magnificent church where Charles and Diana were married, I sang American hymns (“God Bless America”) and heard our American ambassador address a congregation of ex-patriots.

That evening Margaret and Jack invited friends to come after work for a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie, just like our fellow Americans were eating at that same hour back home in the U.S.

The Cinques alerted me to the day when Queen Elizabeth was to open Parliament. They told me exactly where to stand: in the park after the turn from the Mall. “Less crowded there.” I stood in front, just behind the barrier set up by the police, and saw the Queen, in coronet and little white ermine cape, drive by in her golden coach. She wore long, white gloves. She turned her head, looked at me, raised her right hand, and gave me one of those little royal waves.

When I travel, I don’t want to be “the ugly American”. Even in London, where they speak English, I was aware that many things were different. In foreign countries I am the foreigner. Still, on this first trip to London, having American friends to shelter me and advise me was extremely comforting.