Sunday, August 01, 2004

Good morning, everyone. It's warmer in London, up to 85 degrees. We're enjoying the tube, or as some call it, the underground. Think hot, almost airless, and funny crowds of people, trailing kids and suitcases, every nationality using every language, in seemingly hundreds of different directions, up and down escalators and elevators, traffic moving on the left side instead of the right, with recorded messages to "Mind the Gap" on getting off the train. It's a great system with a weekly travel pass. We can go anywhere in the city at any time -- without having to drive, and I will miss it. Of course, we don't need such a system in a small town like Corvallis.

We're truly short-timers now. Only 9 days to lift off at Heathrow Airport. We'll be going up to York on Tuesday morning, and then to Bath, then back to London for an overnight and headed for home on Tuesday morning. Whew! Too much excitement.

Today's our anniversary, so we celebrated 29 years of married bliss by going to a London musical, "Jerry Springer, the Opera!" We were at first shocked, then entranced as profanity gave way to high kicks, and lovely singing and dance numbers, ending up with Jerry Springer hosting the Devil and God, with an engaging Devil trying to get Christ and God to apologize for casting him out. This was not a musical to appeal to the conservative right, but it raised many interesting issues about individual responsibility, tolerance, and forgiveness. But you had to be there to appreciate some of the sarcasm and the critique actually of Springer himself for not taking a stand about the people he hosts, the carnage that results, and the yearning underneath tragedy for a way out of such messes. Sometimes I think we can choose but the reality is probably more complicated, that we make our choices as best we can and then get lucky -- or unlucky. I'd like to believe in karma and healing the world, tikkun olam. Allen would probably tell me I need to be more optimistic. Anyway, it was a wonderful musical and even if it was our anniversary, still a fine gift. Such creativity and energy in the staging, singing, dancing and acting -- it was a spectacle.

Then on Friday, we took a day trip up to Cambridge to see the universities there. Wow! I was incredibly moved by King's College Chapel. We literally walked in and gasped at the beautiful, delicate, stone fan-fold ceiling with stained glass windows on either side reaching up. Equally moving was the music by the King's College Chapel Choir. Apparently each Christmas Eve service, the soloist, a boy about 10, is selected literally seconds before the performance (so he doesn't worry too much about preparing). Another moving ceremony is the investiture of faculty as they put on their robes and march down the nave to the Provost and take an oath swearing to commit themselves to teaching and nurturing the students in their charge. This ceremony is private, in the evening, and only with the faculty and Provost in attendance. But still, we felt a part of this as we looked at the architecture, the stonework, the heavily carved wooden choir -- all from the Tudor era, the 1560s, the earliest of universities. Walking around Cambridge was fun as the town is one that has worked to retain its medieval heritage. Plenty of book stores too, but no stopping as we're too close to going home.

News from home is good. My sister is engaged (hooray!), Rachel and Nick are coming to the airport to get us (hooray!), and we'll soon be back home with family and friends. I'm beginning to think what this trip has meant. I think I may need the rest of my life to figure it all out -- each country has expanded my understanding of culture and history so much as well as raising many questions. Access to good news has been difficult, especially this week as the Democratic Convention has been compressed to 2-3 minute sound bites here, but some might take that as a blessing. The editorials suggest Europe is still very concerned about Bush gaining a second term, but it does sound like Kerry was inspirational. I'm hoping.

Time for lunch. A brie sandwich in Kensington Park. Maybe with peach tea by the rose garden.

Be well. Beth

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