We are here in merry olde England for the holidays with our son Scott, his wife, Dionne and their two boys Aiden(12) and Jack (10).
They live in Wimbeldon which aside from its tennis fame is a suburb about 5 miles from Central London. The flight from Denver on British Airways was 8 hours which seemed like a ride around the block after our South African jaunt.
We of course had many questions about how the Brits and Europe as a whole viewed terrorist activities after Paris. Our driver appeared well dressed and wearing a turban. Welcome to multiculturalism. Walking through the airport we quickly woke up to the fact there were people of every sort from Indian to Muslim to African. How did they let this happen? You only had to think back to the former British Empire which contained some 50+ countries of all nationalities and sizes. London was home plate and presto a melting pot that has been centuries in the making.
People are aware of the possibilities of attack but they seem to take it in stride. Maybe nightly fire bombing by the Germans in WWII inured them to the concept. Even more meaningful is their attitude towards political correctness. It started in Denver as we boarded our flight. A very pleasant woman took our ticket and wished us a Merry Christmas. Wow! I said thank you for saying it and she smiled gratefully.
It was not a single occurrence. Throughout London it has been repeated constantly. There are carolers at the Tube station. Yes, there is a Church of England but it goes beyond that. There are only about 55% of the population that consider themselves religious but that does not hold them back. My daughter in law says she receives greetings from all regardless of age,creed or nationality. Rather than get bent out of shape as to whether or not you are going to be offended, people use the opportunity to carry on a wonderful tradition. Refreshing.
We went to the Orangery at Kensington Palace yesterday. Very elegant and festooned with ornamental beauty that can only be described as neat not gaudy. You had your choice of tea or luncheon served in a quiet but stately fashion. Everything seems more subtle here. Yes, people are shopping of a sort but it just doesn’t feel over the top. Maybe it is because we are on city streets and not mammoth mall parking lots? Perchance it is due to the fact that most ride public transportation and you can only haul so much that you keep it sweet and simple.
You are struck by the minimalistic everywhere. Of course there are McMansions but for the average Londoner space is at a premium and very expensive. Rooms are multifunctional but charming. Everyone shows their Xmas trees in windows but they are not the big fat ones we are used to. They’re just fine. Beyond that, cars are small not only because to the price of gas but they are easier to find parking spaces for. Buses are double decker not for the view but because you can get more people on in a limited space. Lorries are snub nosed to get around tight corners. Their fire engines even seem more compact. Why didn’t we think of that?
The locals do put me off a bit. They avoid eye contact walking down the street or on trains. Even when you buy a cafe`and scone. But there is an interesting phenomena. If you do somehow engage them, they light up and become more than friendly to the point of almost seeming to be bubbly. Now you know TTG is always going to try to make them smile. As I engage this one or that of course my grandsons duck for cover in embarrassment Hey, it’s what I do.
We went to see Star Wars VII in 3D no less. I wanted to wear a Darth Vader mask but was voted down. It was quite a show. Harrison Ford didn’t look too bad but Princess Leiah and Luke Skywalker certainly had put a lot of miles on those bodies. I kept wondering if I showed that much age. As I watched the First Order try to subdue the Resistance and crazy weaponry galore I had to begrudgingly realize that this is probably the way the world is supposed to be. You have got a lot and I want it. There is never enough to go around. It is that simple. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
Kath and I took a long walk this morning. It is a treat to see grass flourishing in December. The trees are bare but the holly and evergreen bushes abound. People walk dogs and kids ride bikes. Couples loll over coffee in the local tea room. By jove, there is even a Starbucks here and there. The tree lined streets could be anywhere in the states. We really have so much in common.
Going back to British Empire, it once held over 20% of the world’s population and a higher proportion of its wealth. It started as a collection of trading posts and colonies. It had the largest navy of the world in the 1800’s. It was not only the world’s greatest power but by default the globe’s policeman. One by one members gained independence and became significant in their own right. Even in a Commonwealth they became desirous of stature. Most times the way that was exhibited was by war or economic dominance.
It makes one wonder if forms of governance are fleeting as we seek the perfect method. Monarchies, totalitarian states, democracies, theocracies, oligarchies all rise and fall. Maybe we just keep tinkering. I love what we have but will we too change as democracy outlives its usefulness? Who knows? I hope not. I am continually impressed by the universality of this place. Christmas is Christmas. No more . No less For now, our very best wishes to all far and wide. Life is good.
Ted The Great
Multiculturalism can be viewed as a strength or a plague. People must be assimilated and a common language is foremost especially as the nation becomes larger. At the same time new settlers bring new ideas and customs. It is a balancing act.
The British Empire had areas as diverse as India, Australia, Canada, Ghana. Nassau,Botswana and Afghanistan.By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time. The empire covered more than 13,000,000 sq mi (33,670,000 km2), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area.
High tea which is usually served at 4:00 PM became popular by royalty. In Victorian times there were only two meals,breakfast and a formal dinner which was usually served at a late hour. Towards mid afternoon the queen was getting hungry and started having tea and sandwiches sent to her quarters. And so it began.
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas It was named in olden days for when the employers gave their staff boxes of goodies.
Love your travel ramblings, TTG! London is super fun! Enjoy your adventure with Scott and his family. Our best to all of you. Expecting arrival of twin boys sometime in next two weeks–grandparents on call and heading back! Delighted! Merry, Merry Christmas–hugs, J&P
Merry Christmas to all the Kennys. There’s green grass here in Scottsdale you might recall.
On the fifth day of Christmas I’ll wish you and Kathy a blessed holiday season! TTG, are you singing “five golden rings” as you read my comment?!? I’ve loved your observations of Christmas in London — Thanks! And Happy New Year!