August 25, 2015
Clint Pickett

Summer in England means there is a chance of sun ... and with the chance of sun comes holiday ... and with holiday comes everyone.  Over our first weekend (my wife and daughter are with me on the HKS Xchange) we took in the 'Changing of the Guard', together with a couple thousand of our closest friends from around the world.  On workdays, my walking route takes me in front of the Queen’s palace, and I, like everyone else, pass on without a nod. But as the course of the day changes (and the clientele), the aura of the place takes hold and transfixes all to its black gates, culminating at around 11:00 am with ‘The Changing."  Free entry with selfie stick.

I got sunburned that first weekend as my family and friends walked in a trance from the Palace through St. James Park, to Westminister, Big Ben … The Eye, Thames, then looping back to Trafalger and, exhausted, home again.  We rolled along with the throngs as if on a slow Disney ride that warmish day.  Taking photos at the required spots, I raised my hand high with iPhone trying to hold, click and aim before jaywalking with the others.  At midday, and it was a beautiful day, Big ol’ Ben having struck 12, with one consciousness, we all turned our thoughts to lunch and conveniently, there lay before us a Tesco (grocery store).  So with flailing arms signaling to our group to swim through the crowd to the left, we arrived at the door and stepped in.  Tesco is owned by Walmart, but in this place we met the anti-Walmart.  There was no aisle upon aisle and acres of low-priced products to lose yourself, rather just an aisle – one – uno – ek – un.  One way in and one out.  Look left – look right, sandwich, chips, drink, Cadbury, McVitie, and then the pay machines with friendly people to help you sign your receipt when the red light flashes.  The same voice calls to you from the machine as in Dallas, but this was no Walmart.

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Turning from tourism to a serious subject, this WW1 memorial grabbed my attention.  In America, WW1 does not have the place in our national consciousness that it does here in the UK and Europe, and this soldier holds the gravitas of the subject.  Standing in repose, confident and powerful, yet downcast and draped, weighed down in the gear of war.

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On from war to school, and not just any, but the most famous secondary school, Eton, lies in the shadow of Windsor castle, and if in doubt of the effect that name can have on your career, consider that 19 British PMs attended the school.  Zoom in on the photo I snatched through window (it was closed for tourists) … over 600 years of boys bored of Latin, carving deeply into English Oak. 

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Central London feels so different than most cities in the U.S.  It is a sea of 3-4-story buildings, with streets carved into that mass.  And with that, are all kinds of unusual spaces, like this one below grade, the St. Martin's in the Fields 'Cafe in the Crypt'.  I haven't been in many crypts, definitely never a cafe in a crypt, but what a great space for a delicious buffet before going upstairs for your Baroque concert.

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Final shot for this first post is a look up inside a small town church.  No major cathedral here, not the prestige or size of Durham or Cantebury or Westminister, and it is just a wood roof, no stone vaulting.  But, I love the wood to white wall contrast and the painted ornamentation on the beams with angelic accents. 

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Cheers!


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