Ancient Ruminations on London

I have been slowly going through the old posts on my ancient LiveJournal, deleting most and saving some as pdf. There are a few, the rarest of posts, that are worth preserving, so I’ve been adapting or revising them to bring forward to this blog.

One such post was my answer to a question-meme, “If you won a trip to anywhere, where would you go, and why?” While I travel quite often now, that was not so when I wrote this on LiveJournal. This particular LJ post was written before I had ever been to Europe.

Anyone who’s known me for more than a week knows that I want to go to England more than any other destination; <lj user=’raptorgirl’> even gave me a London travel book a few years back as a birthday gift, The Irrevent Guide To London. I just need a travel buddy and a little lead time to put together the money and the vacation request.

It’s true, I used to go on and on about London. By the time I lived overseas, the money and vacation time was no longer a hindrance to going, and I realized pretty quickly that if I kept waiting for a travel buddy, I would never make it anywhere. So, I started traveling alone. And before long, I took that first trip to London- the first of many. By the time I finally made it to the UK, “The Irreverent Guide To London” was wildly out of date, but it was still a fun read. (And for those who aren’t hip to the LJ lingo, raptorgirl is the LiveJournal username of Vanessa, a dear friend here in Orlando. I met her originally when we were both students at the University of Central Florida, and it feels really weird that we’ve known each other now for more than two decades.)

I want to ride the London Eye. I want to see Stonehenge. I want to visit Stratford-on-Avon. I want to see that giant odd looking tower in Cardiff that figures so heavily in the early seasons of Torchwood. I want to see a show in Picadilly. I want to get drunk and lie in a field in Cambridge. I want to ride the Tube and mind the gap. I want to visit a very particular grave in Highgate Cemetary in London. Years of watching British television and reading British authors have given me a laundry list of things to do and see.

I’ve actually decided that I’m going to get there before I turn forty- that gives me just over a year and a half to get my shit together.

I’d like to see other parts of the world too, but that can all wait. London first.

All in all, I did pretty well on this list- In my first trip to London, I managed to ride the London Eye. (And again on a subsequent trip.). I took a day trip from Paddington Station to Salisbury to see Stonehenge. I went to Cardiff with one of my best friends on a subsequent trip to see Roald Dahl Plass, which was used for establishing shots as the Torchwood Hub. (Today is that friend’s birthday, actually- Happy birthday, Lorrie!) We went to the Doctor Who Experience on the same trip- alas, the. DWE has since closed. I’ve watched three different shows in Picadilly. I went to that grave in Highgate. I rode the Tube and minded the Gap. And I did so, so much more.

I didn’t get to go lie in a field in Cambridge, but maybe I’ll manage to do that after this pandemic wraps up. And while I still haven’t made it to Stratford-on-Avon, I did tour the Globe Theater in London, so maybe that’s close enough?

While I was wrong about the sequence – I was living in Germany before I ever made it to London- I did manage to see London before the deadline. Just barely. My first trip there was the summer before I turned forty. I’ve been back a couple of times since though, and there’s always more to see.

After seeing 28 different countries away from home, London is still my favorite place to visit in all the world. I miss it. I hope I can get back there sometime soon.

If you won a trip to anywhere, where would you go, and why?



Danny Elfman In London

The centerpiece of the last UK trip was a show at the Royal Albert Hall, in London.  The first in a small series of concerts around the UK, and a pair of them in Los Angeles.


The show was a concert of music that Danny Elfman had composed for Tim Burton’s movies.


I’m pretty sure that every single person reading this blog has heard at least some of this music-  Batman, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Alice in Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas-  they all had a moment in the program.


The best part of this concert, and the reason that I went all the way to London to see it, was that Danny Elfman himself was performing- his first live performance in 18 years.  I did not take the following picture; I pulled it off the Royal Albert Hall blog.  This is Danny, doing the Jack Skellington parts in the Nightmare Before Christmas section.


When the Nightmare Before Christmas section got to Sally’s song, Helena Bonham-Carter stepped out to do that song, to the roaring applause of pretty much everyone in the theatre.  For the Oogie Boogie song, Danny did the Oogie part, and the conductor in the picture above donned a Santa hat to sing the Santa portion of the song.  Brilliant!

After the show, they brought Tim Burton on the stage for applause and accolades.  Once again, this picture is from the Royal Albert Hall blog; I wasn’t nearly this close. From left to right, Helena Bonham-Carter, Danny Elfman, and Tim Burton.  Tim Burton has really grown into that hair over the years, I think.


This picture is one that I *did* take-  you can see Danny, Helena, Tim, and the conductor standing together.  We were in the 11th row.


What’s the last concert you went to?  Did you travel to see it?

Highgate Cemetery, London

I meant to visit Highgate Cemetery on my first visit to London, and again on my second visit.  It took until my third visit before I managed to make it there.  It’s a little further from the London Tube than Pere Lachaise is from the Paris Metro.  Inside the gates, it’s not as well kept as Pere Lachaise either, but it has its own charm.

highgate01 highgate02

One of the things I like about Highgate is that many of the graves show a bit of the personality of the people buried there.  For example, Gordon Bell:


One of the founders of Foyle’s Books:


Many of the graves were massively overgrown, or sunken.  There are quite a few that cannot be reached easily.


I’m guessing Thornton was a pianist?


It wouldn’t be a trip to a cemetery without spotting a black cat hanging around.  This one wasn’t as friendly as the one in Paris.


The grave of Karl Marx is very subtle.  I almost missed it entirely.


Another grave with a lot of personality.


There were many children buried in Highgate.  Some of their gravestones were unique.


The primary reason I wanted to go to Highgate was to see the grave of Douglas Noel Adams.


I realized when I arrived that it has become customary to leave a pen in the bowl in front of his grave.  I always carry a pen, so I left it there.


I liked this gravestone.  I hope when I’m gone that I’m also remembered as a wise and gentle man.  Realistically, I’ll have to settle for gentle.


This gravestone wins.  If anyone was at all unsure of their status, it’s clearly readable in the stone itself.


Paddington Bear in London

If not for Bevchen of Confuzzledom, I would not have known there was a statue of Paddington Bear inside Paddington Station.  I’ve been in the station many times, and I even knew about the Paddington Bear store,  but I didn’t know there was a statue until Bev mentioned it.

I was in London over the last few days, so I made sure to find the statue for myself.   Here it is, the  bronze Paddington by sculptor and artist Marcus Cornish:

paddington-1 paddington-2

Do you have any favorite statues to visit when you travel?

August Break: Joe Strummer’s Favorite Tube Stop

I’m on an August Break from my regular blogging schedule. Here’s today’s picture.

This is from the middle of July, when I was walking through London with Neo. We had been walking in circles for a while, trying to find Paddington station. Paddington is really designed to be reached by public transport like a bus or the Tube. It’s surprisingly well hidden for such a large station, especially if you approach it on foot.

Anyway, as we were walking around looking for Paddington, this sign caught my eye. I don’t know of any Joe Strummer other than the noted British musician. If it’s not named after him- if it’s named after some other significantly less interesting Joe Strummer, I really don’t want to know.

London Calling is indelibly recorded onto the mix tape of my soul.