Tag Archives | London

RCJ Columns #1 – London Shopping

(published May 10 in the Rapid City Journal)

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Being seasoned travelers, the first thing we do in London (after the obligatory hotel check-in, money exchange, and adoration of the English accent) is head to the shops.  If you want a report on Big Ben, Parliament, The Queen or Gordon Blair, you’ll have to come to England and write one yourself; our highlights are the trio of Oxford, Jermyn and Bond Streets – the holy trinity of London shopping.

We head first to Geo. F. Trumper & Sons, spouse’s favorite men’s grooming emporium.  The shop is the size of an American closet, yet there are 6 sales clerks ready to attend to the gentleman’s every stray hair or colorful odor.  The English upper class can be readily found here, identifiable by their hounds, their carefully tousled “just back from the hunt” hair and their attitude of “please do get out of my way, unimportant person”.  It’s very crowded.

Next, we trot over to Fortnum & Mason, which is to food and unnecessary personal accessories what WalMart is to discounts.  It’s like going to your favorite grocery store and finding that they’ve opened a Saks Fifth Avenue in aisle 7.  The store, unchanged since the days of Alexander the Great, has suddenly decided to remodel (although ‘sudden’ in England implies a decade of passing time).  The results are roomier and much less jumbled, but there is no longer the ever present mass of humanity feverishly snatching up jars of Rose Petal Jam, forcing you to think they’ll run out before you get yours (even though you’ve never eaten it before and find it a very strange idea)

And then there’s Harrod’s.  The Temple of Wretched Excess.  If you don’t need it and can’t afford it, you’ll find it at Harrod’s.  We visit the hallowed memorial to Princess Di and Dodi Fayed.  We titter outside the ‘luxury restrooms’, where for a mere $2.00 you can use the loo (don’t forget to tip the attendant) and we stand slack-jawed in front of displays of fresh fruit where bananas are $14.00 per pound and an apple can be had for $5.00.  Fruit salad or a bank bailout, anyone?

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“Suburban” London

(This is a column that I wrote that hadn’t seen the light of publication… til now.)

Much of London is undiscovered.  Not in the “Send in the explorers!” sense, but in the “tourists rarely go there” sense.  After seeing Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Changing of the Guard and rubbing elbows (literally) with thousands of your fellow tourists, you may find yourself longing for less populous environs.  That’s when you head to the London ‘suburb’ (it was in the 1600’s) of Clerkenwell.

Clerkenwell is home to the Clerk’s Well (London pre-plumbing, clearly) where, in the Middle Ages, clerks performed annual mystery plays based on biblical themes.  Infuriating the Actor’s Union, surely.  The wells, in outlying London, were gathering places even when some office workers weren’t re-enacting the Great Flood.  From the 1500’s, radicals gravitated to Clerkenwell Green until, in the 20th century, the duo of Stalin and Lenin could be found meeting at a nearby pub.  Discussing a passion play of another sort, entirely, I assume.

Clerkenwell Green is also where Dicken’s characters Fagin and the Artful Dodger teach Oliver to pickpocket.  A short walk from the Green is Charles Dicken’s home, where your pocket is picked by a kindly volunteer manning the entrance.  But the price of admission is worth it, even if you’re not a fan of Dickens’ work.  His house remains much as it was during the later years of his life and it’s fascinating to read his correspondence and peek into the closets of one of Britain’s literary giants.

Before you head back into town, make a short detour to Clink Street, the original site of the first prison to detain women.  It’s also the origin of the phrase “in the clink”.  In 1760, the prison was described as a ‘very dismal hole where debtors are sometimes confined’ as opposed to the luxury prisons of today where many creditors should be held.

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This is a “recent” suburban remodel.  Completed in 1899.

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Abusing Roger In And Around London

You teach International Law WHERE, again??

You teach International Law where, again?

Those poor, young law students have no idea what lies ahead!

Watch out, unsuspecting international law students!

Well, this is just a pretty picture of the Tower of London Bridge.  But we know that others have been abused there.

No, Roger is NOT being abused in this photo – it’s just a pretty picture of Tower Bridge, but we DO know that many others have been abused here in the past.

Great architecture in London is all in (or on) your head.

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