London July 25

We’d invited our friend Mo for lunch today on Jan’s  78th birthday, an occasion for celebration and remembrance. She agreed to take the train in from Sevenoaks, her home in Kent.  We’d first become acquainted with Mo through Juliet, her sister, our neighbor in Lund, B.C., the community at the end of the road where we’d lived during our  twenties and thirties and visited annually until 2019. The two sisters, with their chipper spirits and crisp British accents were especially appealing to us two English majors.

The relationship with Mo was rekindled on subsequent trips to London.  In 1978,  our toddlers, Ben and Claire,  played in her kitchen during a three week family auto and backpacking holiday away from the Canadian wilderness.


We stayed in her restored Tudor cottage in 1992, in the course of a five month teaching  stint at Cal Poly in London. While there, she’d given us a tour of Knole House, the Jacobean Royal Castle and park nearby where she volunteered as a docent.  In 1994, after having lived in California for 15 years, we bought a house intended for our retirement perched on a rock outcrop overlooking the ocean near Lund  and named it Knoll House.


We met again in 2000 in the course of a Stratford conference we attended to mark the publication of my book Shakespeare and the Bible and picnicked together at a performance  of The Pirates of Penzance in Regents Park


a meeting rendered more memorable by the entry of  members of the Royal family a couple of rows in front of us.


In later years reprocessing the old slides and snapshots as digital files and recalling our varied associations engraved the distant relationship in long term memory.

Joyful embraces and expressions of how great we all looked for our ages in the lobby of the Bailey’s Hotel gave way to exchanged admissions of the toll of aging and burdensome family history.  The atmosphere lightened during our prearranged excursion to the Museum of Design, a place we all agreed was a paragon of poor design. And it became jovial over good wine and food at Il Portico, the  Italian restaurant across Kensington High Street where we’d reserved a table for lunch.


After the meal we all needed naps. Mo headed home via the metro at Gloucester Road station and we retired to the Bailey’s Hotel. We parted expressing faint hope for meeting yet another time.

The northern summer light was golden when we woke up in the late afternoon. We got on the bus at the stop outside, climbed upstairs and let it take us to whatever its destination and back: a miniature Magical Mystery Tour of the kind recounted by the Beatles in 1967.


The double-decker drove along a narrow street in Chelsea lined with designer brand shops ,


rounded the cafes at Sloan Square


waited at signals behind  bicycle commuters


turned a downtown corner between the Shakespeare Pub and Victoria Station


and emerged into the dazzling presence of Westminster Abbey, its luminescent facade a surprise that replaced my recollection of  its grimy earlier appearance.


The cleansing of all of London’s monuments, we learned later,  is largely due to the financing of international banks and other questionable sources of revenue that now make the City known as “the money laundering capital of the world.”


The view of Big Ben and the houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge again recalled that 1978 visit and the photo I’d taken of our seven year old son, Joe, when, jetlagged after 24 hours of travel, he and I drifted there from the cheap hostel where the four of us had landed.


Leave a Reply