Monday, 17 March 2008

Monday: Tower of London

Scrap my original claim that Hampton Court is my favourite tourist attraction – the Tower has usurped it. Having been to both venues in the space of a week I can honestly say that the Tower just shades it. The haunting view of it peeking past Tower Bridge, the view of it from across the river with the Gherkin in the background. So much history brought bang up to date with some handily placed buildings on the skyline. Fabulous.

We were a merry band that crossed the Bridge: myself, Don (in stunning egg yolk yellow shirt and matching trousers), Lorna (convinced that she was going to see Anne Boleyn thanks to Charlie filling her in on my “spiritual goings on”), Charlie herself dressed to kill in all manner of cashmere and Amelia bringing up the rear, chuntering about pigeons. Two rather handsome German gentlemen stopped us and asked me to take a picture of them under one of the arches. With true devil may care attitude they stepped out into the traffic to pose and were nearly squished by a BT van. I remained on the pavement and snapped them quickly – there was a bus coming. Because Amelia was a late addition to the team we had to queue to get her ticket. Well, I had to queue to get her ticket – the others were already running riot around the shop which aggrieved me far more than it should – show me a shop and I’m usually the first one inside.

Straight in to the Tower and the rest of my party decided to get those little walkman things that tell you all you need to know about every aspect of the Tower. Charlie and I spent the rest of the day screeching at them to get their attention, amid Amelia grumbling that the ear pieces “hurt my ears”.

We walked past Traitors Gate, visited the Salt Tower, the Fusiliers Museum and the Crown Jewels Exhibition and the Jewel House shop (replicas of all the Royal jewellery and tiaras and crowns and…..oh, it’s amazing) where I fell in love with a pair of earrings (fleur de lis style) and rang David to see if I could buy them from him as an Easter present/early birthday present as they cost almost as much as our monthly mortgage payment. The choking noises filling my ear told me the answer was in the negative.

Lunch in the Armouries tea place where the biggest shock of the day occurred. Charlie and I had queued and fought ravenous Japanese tourists for the last of the pasta for Lorna. We had made several trips back to the table where the others were seated because there was no carrot cake left for Amelia and I wanted to know exactly what she wanted me to substitute it with – if I’d have turned up with a treacle tart and she wanted the chocolate cake then all hell would have broken loose. I felt like a waitress and fought the urge to yell “one sos, one beans, one tea, table 6” as I made my third journey back to nab a scone, jam and clotted cream.

As Charlie and I sat down and distributed the food, Lorna said to Amelia “She’s an absolute treasure”, gesturing at me. “She is.” Amelia said as she thoughtfully stirred her tea and smiled warmly at me. My food might well have been wonderful but I didn’t taste any of it – I was in shock.

After lunch we went to the Beauchamp Tower, passing the Executioners spot on Tower Green – a sculpture has replaced the metal plate I remember from my last visit – and we all stood for a while reading the inscriptions. “Just think” Lorna breathed “One early morning, a Queen of England stood on this spot where we’re standing right now and had her head chopped off”. It ruined the mood somewhat.

The Beauchamp Tower housed many prisoners, royal and otherwise. The Kray Twins were held here when they went AWOL from National Service. To get to the Tower, you had to climb a long winding staircase. As I neared the top I started to feel sick and tearful which is, as I’ve already explained, a sure sign of something spiritual happening around me. The others were oblivious and were in awe at the graffiti surrounding the walls, all done by prisoners awaiting their fate. I sat by a window feeling sick and dizzy and having my hair stroked and being breathed on. Not by anything you could see you understand. It’s hard to explain what happens because everyone’s experience is different. With me, I get all of the above mentioned symptoms and a feeling of unreality – I feel as if I’m being pulled in many different directions but am stock still. My heart flutters and my breathing shortens – in fact Don thought I was having a panic attack and all but dragged me out into the fresh air.

I still felt wobbly as we went round the Bloody Tower but I think I was still dealing with whatever was in the Beauchamp Tower – our visit around the medieval section (complete with juggling jester) will always be remembered by me because I was being guided round by invisible hands that prevented me stumbling up the worn stone steps. I literally felt my knees go but remained upright. Charlie was not so lucky and then couldn’t get the dust out of her cashmere.

The East Wall Walk next and another stunning view of the Thames and the Bridge – I think I took more pictures at the Tower than I did anywhere else. I will post them all somewhere, I promise. Scaffolding ruined my favourite view of the White Tower but I managed to get a nice shot from the other side.

I was fine all the way home but experienced strange things all evening – tuneful whistling that only I could hear (certainly the dogs didn’t react and they usually go mental at the merest hint of a pursed lip), my hair being stroked and whispers and girlish giggles. My experiences had either encouraged Gladys and/or Mum to put in an appearance or I’d come home with someone other than my mother in law who spent the whole evening moaning about her feet.

Guilt presents: pen, keyring and whiskey marmalade for David, a stuffed toy raven, singlet and sword for Mac and more from the secret stash for the dogs

1 comment:

aims said...

I have just been reading all kinds of fiction based on that history and I am jealous jealous jealous...pea green in fact....

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Nunhead, London, United Kingdom
I'm a mum of one, wife of one and owner to several dogs, a variety of breeds and sizes. I live in the up and coming area (or so they say) of Nunhead and have mad neighbours, strange friends and certifiable relatives. I shop locally, although I do defect to Sainsburys once a week - shoot me now local shopkeepers.