Farewell to London

September 18
Though we do not leave until late afternoon, we have decided to laze around. It’s a Sunday, so things will not open early, and we need to leave quite a bit of time to get to and check in at Heathrow. Besides, we’ve run around a good deal, so resting does not sound bad.
Morning is consumed by breakfast at the Club, packing and reading. The thought of lugging everything to and through the tubes was more than I could bear, so I’ve booked an Uber (you can book one in advance here) which, God- and Uber-willing will get us to Heathrow. Cost, three times our combined tube fares, but less than half what a car booked by the Club would have been, seems well worth it (about $35).  Well, our Uber never showed and we wound up taking a (very) expensive taxi, but, what the hell, it’s vacation and money you spend on vacation is not real money, anyway.

Though I’ve mentioned The Sloane Club often, I’ve provided no look at the comfortable old English stodginess that we’ve enjoyed.  I love a bit of stodginess, particularly in England, which invented it.

We arrived at Heathrow very early, wandered through a few stores, but not looking seriously.  Have mixed feelings, mainly negative, about the “mallification” of all large airports.

So, a few reflections. As anticipated, the trip did not offer the kind of adventures our recent, exotic trips have held. But it was completely wonderful. Catching up with old friends is priceless, especially when the reconnections were seamless, as all of ours were, allowing us to pick up where we’d left off, hardly skipping a beat. These are the types of pleasures that it is difficult to capture in a blog. But seeing old friends, in its way, is as moving (or more so) than seeing the dunes of Namibia. Both have a certain grandeur, though the latter boasts considerably more sand.
Unlike my other blogs, I took no photographs, other than those taken with my iPad and iPhone. I took my camera and a couple lenses along, but never used it. Somewhat liberating, actually. And there was very little, if anything, that seemed to call for a traditional camera.
The trip was, in fact, somewhat exotic, though. After all, just think about the collection of human animals we encountered: a Hungarian/Australian/English solicitor, a Welsh painter, a U.K. Supreme Court Justice, my former US secretary, who grew up in New Zealand, a Misssissippi-born UK jeweler married to an Austalian solicitor/law professor, a London cabby, a former Tribunal Court Judge, a British children’s book editor, the daughter of Nigerian/American doctors and her husband whose wedding we had just attended in Santa Fe, the former Senior Partner of a prestigious London firm of solicitors, and a student of art history. Could one have encountered a more diverse or interesting group of species roaming the plains of Africa?

And, as if all of this personal contact were not enough, add several dashes of culture in the forms of a wonderful Hockney portraiture show at the Royal Academy, an amazing exhibit of newly-discovered Egyptian sunken cities at the British Museum and four plays (London plays having been an important part of our lives back in the 60s).

What a pleasure and privilege to be able to take a trip like this half a century after our first venture to England. London has worn well. And, everything considered, so have we.
Thanks for following, and stand by for a more traditionally exotic trip next May.

London from Above and Below

Sept 17
Our last full day in London starts with coffee in the Club, then we take the tube to meet Tom and Judith for a brunch at the posh Aqua Shard restaurant on the 32nd floor overlooking London. Tom has set this up long before our trip to treat us to a special experience on our last day. And it was quite lovely. From here you can see how London has changed, as seen by the old, St Paul’s on the left and the high rises that dot the horizon.  

These certainly were nowhere in evidence half a century ago. But, to me, they are aberrations that do not change the overall experience of London, much as the electronic scoreboard does not change the overall experience of Wrigley Field.  The real London is underground in the tubes and on the streets, and that experience remains much as we remember it.  (Cubs win division championship!)

After our excellent brunch, we parted ways and Carol and I went on a rather long, but successful, expedition to replace the seat she uses to avoid back pain, which she had left in Shelby’s car.  She now has a bright yellow one that, perhaps, will be less forgettable.

After returning to the Club for a nap, we met Tom and Judith for dinner at Colbert, a restaurant we’d booked in our neighborhood.  Quite good.  Saw an excellent, thought-provoking play by Suzan Lori Parks, called Fathers Come Home From the War, about the Civil War at the a Royal Court, then went out for coffee, said our good-byes to Tom and Judith and returned to the Club.

Canterbury Tales

September 16
After breakfast at the Club, we take the tube to meet Tom and Judith at St Pancreas Station to board a train Tom has booked to a town near Canterbury, where we will visit Peter and Shelby Fitzpatrick. It’s raining, not great for the day we’d hope to have, but nothing to be done about it. We need to change trains, and our connecting train is delayed, but we finally make it to Sturry, where we are met by Peter and Shelby and walk through a drizzle to their 17th century house.
We’ve been spending a lot of time on tubes. Here’s Carol, holding her blue Oyster train card, and not too pleased at being photographed.

Now, our relationship to Peter and Shelby is an interesting story. Peter was a colleague of Tom Handler’s, a solicitor at Baker and MacKenzie in London, and I met Peter when I first came to London, back in 1967. I’d had a connection to the firm with a client of the firm who was trying to convince me to join Baker and MacKenzie, when I returned to Chicago. Peter, a young associate, was assigned to take me out for a fancy lunch, and we hit it off. Through Peter, I met his colleague, Tom.  (Both Peter and Tom got their law degrees in Australia.)
Shelby is a different story. She is from Mississippi, and was dating our friend, Steve Sugarman, so we knew Shelby originally through Steve. Later, when she began dating Peter, who she met independently, we spent time with them.
We spent many Sunday mornings, buying fresh flowers for a pittance at Petticoat Lane, then often going to hear the speakers on boxes, holding forth at Hyde Park Corner. We’d also take drives in the country to see wooden churches, cathedrals or the flowers along the blossom route. My favorite photo of Shelby is the one below, picking blossoms up in a tree.

We have been in only the most sporadic touch with Peter and Shelby, but were enthusiastic about the opportunity to reconnect on this trip. Though we’d expected to spend a good part of the day outside, the steady rain all day required us to stay inside, which turned out to be a happy “calamity” since it afforded us almost eight hours to catch up on 48 years, which we did our best to do, covering old times, what had happened in the interim and all of our families. In a short time, we were back in the swing of a relationship that had blossomed almost half a century ago.
In 1970, Peter and Shelby moved to Belfast and spent two years in the heart of “The Troubles,” Peter working with local groups. Their daughter, Tesher, was born in Ireland.  They then headed to Papuo New Guinea for six years, where their son, Vagi, was born, and Peter worked with community development groups. After that, they moved back to England, where Peter has taught law at three law schools and Shelby has become a very well-known jeweler.  http://www.shelbyfitzpatrick.com/index.html

After a tasty lunch, prepared by Shelby, we got her to show us some of her highly-creative jewelry and then continued talking. We were all too stuffed to eat more than a snack for dinner, before heading back to the train station, after sneaking a quick look at Shelby and Peter’s lovely garden. Here are assorted photos from our time together.

Took the train back to London, blogged and retired.

Nigeria, Egypt and Faulty Towers

September 15
Quick breakfast at the hotel, then took the tube to the Bloomsbury Coffee House to meet Dayo Olopade and Walter Lamberson for breakfast. Dayo is the daughter of our friends, Funmi and Sola Olopade. Over a year ago, Carol and I attended the wedding of their daughter, Feyi, in Lagos, Nigeria.

For Dayo and Walter’s wedding less than two weeks ago in Santa Fe, NM, we did not have to wear Nigerian dress.

Walter is currently attending business school in London, and Dayo is commuting from NY, where she works for Facebook, having obtained MBA and law degrees from Yale. Great to hear about Walter and Dayo’s hectic, exciting life, and it will be most interesting to see the course that the careers of these two highly-talented people take. (Dayo ran off to work before I realized that I hadn’t gotten her photo.)

Carol and I lingered around the coffee house and then went to meet Tom Handler at he British Museum, where he was anxious to see an exhibit of newly-uncovered (underwater) artifacts from two cities, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, in the Nile Delta in Egypt.  The former was an important trade hub and the latter a major religious center, particularly for Osiris, God of the afterlife.  The exhibit artifacts date from the 7th century BC for several centuries and show Greek and Egyptian art and the influences between the two.  Fantastic exhibit, both interesting and well put together, and an altogether amazing discovery that is less than 10% excavated at the moment.  Here’s an artifact, and one of the divers who made the discovery.  

Lunch with Tom at the museum, then back to the Club to rest up before meeting Tom and Judith for dinner at a hotel, which was part of a 2-hour show based on the British comedy show, Faulty Towers.  We knew going in that this would either be a lot of fun, or stupid.  In fact, it turned out to be very entertaining and fun.  Here are a few photos taken at the dinner.

Took the tube home after dinner, blogged and retired.

Painters, Hungarians and the U.K. Supreme Court

September 14
Overslept, and didn’t arise until 10AM, thus missing the breakfast that came with the room. Damn.
On the last day of our trip to England with our daughters back in 1985, I found myself wandering through an area of art galleries alone. I saw a piece in the window that I liked a lot, so went in and asked the gallery owner whether she had any other paintings by the artist, John Edwards. She did not, but said that he lived not far and they could get other paintings in a couple of days, as they were about to open John’s first one-man show. When I said that that would not do us any good, she picked up the phone, called John and said we could go over to visit him and see his work in his studio/apartment.
So, I packed up Carol and the kids and we went to see John, who lived in a converted biscuit factory in Southeast London accessed through an old fashioned freight elevator. We hit it off with John, who is a very engaging and funny fellow, originally from Wales. He showed us a notebook of drawings he did when he was five, and he tries to duplicate some of that childlike quality in his work. Before we left his apartment, we had guaranteed the success of his first show, as we bought five paintings. We’ve stayed in touch with John, off and on, and saw him twice in Chicago, when he was over to show his work. Here is John and two photos of paintings we own by John. The first large piece, which was one of the pieces we bought when we first met John, hangs in our living room and the smaller, red still life, bought later, hangs outside our kitchen.

 We had arranged to meet John at The Sloane Club at 11. John has been through a lot since we first knew him, including a divorce and two quite serious bouts with cancer. While he, like we, looks 30 years older, as we began to talk, it was clear that his former spirit and sense of humor had survive in tack. For the first time in well over a decade John felt healthy. We talked about what he’d been through, which he wrote about in his book, How Cancer Saved My Life. He speaks widely on creativity and illness, is involved in public arts projects, such as murals, is a consultant to a large estate in LA regarding the valuation and sale of their art holdings and continues to paint himself, as he arises at 4 each morning. As our discussion ranged widely, first over coffee and then over lunch, we felt fully reconnected with John and his life. After about three hours, John needed to take off for a meeting with a publisher that will be doing the new book that he is working on.

Oh, yes, and here’s a photo of the painting that John will be sending us when we return home.  

Carol and I took a short walk around the fashionable Sloane Square area in which we are staying, ducking into air conditioned stores to avoid the heat of the hottest September in London in more than a century. Returned briefly to the Club to change, and then set off by tubes and bus to Tom’s house, where we visited with Tom, his younger daughter, Sophie, an architect, and her two children, Lucas and Eva. Except when talking to us, Tom and Sophie spoke only Hungarian to each other and to the children. I’ve had some trouble deciphering/hearing English accents, but that pales by comparison to how I do with Hungarian.

From Tom’s we took the tube, and got rather lost, going to visit Nick and Margaret Wilson in their flat in historic Lincoln’s Inn, which houses barrister offices, and some barristers. Nick and Margaret recently sold their house and are living in Lincoln’s Inn, where they will live until Nick retires at 75.  Meanwhile, they are searching for a new house in the country, at which they will spend weekends and holidays.  The Lincoln’s Inn building has no elevators, and there are 75 steps up to the Wilson’s flat. But we got even, because Nick had to come down to meet us when we got lost, and again to walk us to the tube station (at his insistence), when we left.
Nicholas (Nick) Wilson, was the other Oxford graduate who taught legal writing at Northwestern, along with Andrew Walker. Because Nick did not share Andrew’s passion for music or bridge, and because he stayed in Chicago only six months, rather than a year, and because he is a good deal more reserved than Andrew, we did not get to know Nick as well as we knew Andrew. But we certainly did get to know and like him in Chicago. We saw some of Nick in 1967-68, and again on another visit to London in 1985, when we had a lovely dinner at their house and a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit afterwards. Our friend, Steve Sugarman has remained in much closer and more regular touch with Nick, so I’ve stayed up to date on Nick and his family, through Steve.
Nick and Margaret are both barristers, and neither has done too badly. Before retiring from the court, Margaret was a Tribunal Judge. Nick (Lord Wilson) is one of twelve judges of the Supreme Court of the U.K., having been elevated in 2011, after a distinguished career as a barrister and trial and Court of Appeals Judge in the family law area.  Here is what Wkipedia says about Nick:

Nicholas Allan Roy Wilson, Lord Wilson of Culworth PC (born 9 May 1945) is a British judge. On 26 May 2011, he became a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, having previously served as a Lord Justice of Appeal since 2005.

He was educated at Bryanston School and Worcester College, Oxford. Wilson was called to the Bar in 1967 (Inner Temple), and became a Queen’s Counsel in 1987. He was appointed a Recorder the same year. In 1993, he became a bencher and was appointed to the High Court, sitting in the Family Division, whereupon he was appointed a knight bachelor. He was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2005, at which time he was also appointed to the Privy Council. On 26 May 2011, he joined the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, succeeding Lord Saville of Newdigate and gaining the courtesy style “Lord Wilson of Culworth” for life.

The original plan had been to go out to eat with the Wilson’s, but Nick emailed this morning that Margaret had decided to “knock up some supper,” so that we should just come up to their flat. Amid drinks, and lively conversation that included a heavy dose of disbelief in Trump’s success and commentary about what an embarrassment he is to us, as well as similar discussions about Brexit, we ate the delicious dinner that Margaret had knocked up. We talked about my blog and, looking at yesterday’s post, Margaret immediately caught a misspelling of “chauffeured” in the title. I told her that I’d give her a shout out in this post, so here it is, Margaret. In all, it was a delightful three hours with Nick and Margaret, and we vowed not to wait so long for our next visit.

Here is Nick in somewhat less casual garb.

And here is a photo Margaret took of Carol and me.

In walking us to the Temple tube stop, Nick gave us a bit of history about the buildings we passed. Back home, blogged and retired.  Cubs shut out Cardinals, magic number down to one (don’t want you to think that I’m not on top of the important things).