Wandering Chipping Campden, Back to London, Mice

August 7

Margaret fixed breakfast, then we took a lovely walk together around Chipping Campden, Margaret and Nick narrating the sights and history of this quaint, utterly charming place, and introducing us to neighbors we passed. Wandering around a place aimlessly is my favorite thing to do on pretty-much any trip, giving you time to soak in the environment and culture. When you can do that with local friends, it’s tough to beat. Sure to be one of the highlights of the trip.

Below are a few sights, the local postman, evidence of an old school etched in stone, street signs, a silversmith’s shop, the tomb of Baptist Hicks, Zoe and Phoebe in St. James’ Church and in front of the Wilson’s house, called Stamford House.

We bade goodbye to the Wilsons and drove back to London, uneventfully, to return the car. Picked up some sandwiches which we ate at the flat and then, after a short rest, took off by tube to meet our friends, Joe and Cathy Feldman from Chicago, who are spending a year living in London. We ate at a good, but quite noisy, pizza restaurant so our opportunity to converse was restricted, but it was good to see the Feldmans.

After dinner, we walked to see The Mousetrap, the Agatha Christie play that has been running continuously for 67 years in London and which Carol and I had seen in 1967. The girls enjoyed the play quite a bit, but I had trouble hearing and understanding the words. Still, it was a successful evening.

We returned to the flat and retired.

Chipping Away

August 6.

Breakfast at the flat and a slow start to the day. Carol had planned to visit the Tower today, but when Nick told us that the drive to his house would take much longer than the rental car company had said, we decided to move the Tower to later in the week and set out for the Cotswolds earlier than we’d anticipated.

Enterprise Rental Car picks us up at the flat right on time and drives us to their office, where we do the paper work and go to a very cute restaurant across the street, which has abysmal service and fair food. After lunch, we set out for Nick and Margaret’s. Behind the wheel, I remind myself to stay on the “wrong” side of the road. Actually, I find driving on the wrong side much easier than crossing the street on foot. Driving, you just need to remember to keep the steering wheel next to the middle line of the road. Crossing the street, you need to look both ways, three times. We have been exceedingly lucky, so far, with the weather, only a couple very brief drizzles and very comfortable temperatures. Doing this in the heat we’d thought we might have would have been much more difficult.

It takes us about 2 1/4 hours to get to Chipping Campden, where Nick and Margaret live in a house built in 1705. There are several other “Chippings” around, Nick says, because it means market and the town name signifies that it has a market. The drive is not bad, though we run into some rain. I manage to keep the car mainly on the road though, inexplicably, it occasionally veers to the left and hits the curb, but nothing major, like a tree.

From the outside, the Wilson’s house is hardly noticeable, but inside it’s fabulous, blending original early eighteenth century wooden beams with beautiful modernization. Here’s a photo of the Wilsons in their wonderful skylit kitchen.

Margaret’s impeccable taste is apparent in each room of the house. Perhaps even more impressive than the inside of the house, though, are the gardens, which Margaret attends assiduously and takes justifiable pride in.

We stroll around town seeing the grounds of the house that Baptist Hicks, a 17th century wool and materials billionaire lived. The house itself was burned down

We visit with Nick and Margaret and enjoy an early delicious supper that Margaret has prepared, featuring vegetables and fruits from her garden. We then set out for Stratford, where we have tickets for “The Taming of the Shrew.” Nick, very kindly, offers to drive us the 20 or so minutes to Stratford and to pick us up after the show. I know I should turn down this offer, but, in truth, I’m very happy not to have to drive on dark and winding roads on the wrong side of the road, so I accept.

It’s nice to see the theater (which Carol and I have seen before), and the costumes and production are lavish, but none of us is thrilled with the play. In my characteristicly timid assessment I told Nick that I hated the play, thought it was silly and slapstick, didn’t care about the characters and did not think that the playwright would ever amount to anything.

After Nick drove us home, we said goodnight to the Wilsons and retired to our comfortable accommodations.

(All of the photos in the blog have been taken with my iPhone. I took my good camera along, but have decided that I don’t really need it for the type of photos I’m taking, which are merely intended to document the trip.)

The Queen, the High Court and more friends

August 5.

Breakfast at the flat. Drizzly, gray morning. More Londonish than the lovely and comfortable weather we’ve had since arriving. Explained the difference between barristers and solicitors to the girls, because we’ll be seeing both today.

Went down to our local tube station and set out for Buckingham Palace. Carol had booked a visit to the palace this morning, something that is available only during August. We hadn’t really expected it, but evidently the queen got wind of the girls’ visit and insisted on a photo.

The tour of the Palace was terrific, with wonderful audio giving just enough detail to be interesting and not to bore. No photos were allowed inside, but the rooms were grand and the contents exquisite. One gets a sense of the evolution of the palace and the central role of Queen Victoria. Wonderful tour that I’d recommend to anyone coming in August. Afterwards, we had our photo taken outside the Palace, where, as you can see, it’s turned into a lovely day, with very comfortable temperatures.

Left the Queen and moved on to the National Portrait Gallery, where we had lunch in the lovely windowed dining room on the top floor. Afterwards we had only a short time, with the girls splitting off to look at Tudor portraits that they’d read about and Carol and I looking at fifty portraits, chosen as the best in the annual portrait contest sponsored by BP. Many of them were quite outstanding and the styles represented differed greatly, one from another.

After leaving the portrait gallery, we made our way to the Supreme Court of the UK. Though the Court is not in session during the summer, we had the treat of being shown around for an hour and a half by our friend, Nick Wilson.

I got to know Nick in 1966, when, as a recent Oxford graduate, he came over to Northwestern University School of Law to assist in teaching legal writing. We’ve seen Nick and his wife, Margaret, from time to time over the years, most recently in Chicago, where he was delivering a prestigious international law lecture at Northwestern University School of Law that I had helped to make happen. Nick is known in London as Lord Wilson of Culworth, after a distinguished career as a barrister and QC, is now a justice of the UK Supreme Court. His wife, Margaret, is a distinguished lawyer herself, having served as an Appeals Court Judge. (We will be with Nick and Margaret tomorrow, when we go to Stratford, and spend the evening at their “cottage” not far from there.

Here we are with Nick and Margaret last year in Chicago and a formal photo of Nick in his wig, when those were commonly worn by barristers and judges.

Nick showed us all of the three courtrooms and explained the workings of the court. THe 12 Supreme Court judges generally sit in panels of five. The court was created only some fifteen years ago, having prior to that been a part of the House of Lords. They have been in the building in which they now reside only ten years. Approximately 1/3 of their time is spent hearing final appeals from countries around the world that were formally part of the British Empire, though many are no longer. He showed us the beautiful, bug little-used library.

In his chambers, he served us tea and cake and did not shy away from pointing out how technologically unsavvy he was, showing us how he used the computer screen that the Court had provided him. We said goodbye to Nick (until tomorrow) and returned to our flat for a brief rest and change of clothes, then headed out to have dinner with Andrew and Hilary Walker. As was true of my relationship with Nick Wilson, I got to know Andrew in 1966 when, as a recent Oxford graduate, he came over to Northwestern University School of Law to assist in teaching legal writing. We renewed our friendship with Andrew, when Carol and I spent a year in London shortly thereafter attending many musical events together.

Years later, on leave from his position as Senior Partner at the prestigious London solicitors’ firm of Lovells, Andrew visited Northwestern for several months, which I played a small part in facilitating because of my relationship to then Dean Bob Bennett. At that time, we got to know Andrew’s wife, Hillary, who studied art history, and we traveled with them to the East Coast for almost a week, before they left to return to London. Years later, we spent about ten days, being hosted most graciously by Andrew and Hilary, at both their London flat and their Scottish cottage. We saw opera, both at Coventry Garden in London and at Glyndebourne in the South of England. Here we are with Andrew in formal dress at Glyndebourne (Hilary must have been taking the photo.).

We had a very pleasant dinner with Andrew and Hilary, introducing them to the girls and catching up on recent news (to the extent that we could in the rather noisy restaurant).

We tubed back to our local stop, having topped up our Oyster cards (the cards one purchases to ride on the underground, which can be added to– or topped up–when they get low on funds). Near as we can figure the cards are named for the phrase “the world is my oyster,” since the card gives one access to the world. After 11, so retired in preparation for what promises to be another full day tomorrow.

Tom

August 4.

After a much-needed sleep, we’re feeling human again. Breakfast at the flat (we’d stopped at a grocery store on the walk home yesterday), then off to the tube to meet our friend, Tom Handler. We actually have a very nice, large sun-filled room in the flat, which I did not explore yesterday, because it’s up another damn floor. Pleasant place to sit before setting out for the tube.

Tom Is a close friend, who we met when we lived here in 1967-68, when he was a solicitor in the London office of Baker & MacKenzie. Born in Hungary, Tom and his family moved to Australia, where he grew up and went to school, before moving to London. Carol and I used to picnic and go to concerts with Tom, often accompanied by our friend and my law school classmate, Steve Sugarman, who teaches law at Berkeley, but who was living in London at the time. We got to know Tom’s lovely mother, Lily, who lived in Australia, but came over to visit Tom. Here’s Tom and Lily in 1968. We also met Tom’s brother, Leslie and, later, got to know his Hungarian-born wife, Adrienne, and met their daughters, Sophie and Rebecca. Tom speaks only Hungarian to his daughters and grandchildren, keeping his heritage alive. Here’s a picnic photo taken when we visited London with our daughters. Tom (with sun glasses) and his daughters are in it, as is Adrienne on the far left. Below is a much more recent photo of Tom and a grandson..

We have stayed in touch with Tom over the years, and managed to see him from time to time. Tom is a sensitive and lovely human being, and we count ourselves fortunate indeed to remain connected to him. Carol and I used to relish his handwritten letters on thin blue paper, which gave us his news, often reflected upon, philosophically. Somehow, he manages to preserve the spirit and intimacy of those handwritten letters in his emails. In more recent years, we’ve gotten to know and love his close lady friend, Judith, who we hope will be joining us for a day later in the week.

We spent a delightful day with Tom, covering a lot of ground, most of it on foot. We started at Petticoat Lane,which was not as lively or colorful as Carol and I remember it, but still fun.

From there we went to Spitalfields Market, once a large flower market and now converted to the kind of upscale area one finds in many cities around the world, with open air restaurants, trendy and crafty shops and stalls and a good deal of buzz. Nice enough, but not particularly my cup of tea; been there, seen that kinda thing. From there we went to lunch at Flat Iron, a steak house, which was quite good.

After lunch, we went to Dennis Severs House at 18 Folgate Street, an 18th century house created in meticulous detail by Severs, complete with artifacts, sound, smells, half-eaten meals, creating the sense that the imaginary silk merchant couple has just left the room before you enter. You walk in silence through four floors of rooms, as if wandering through a painting. Severs called it “still-life drama” and tried to provide visitors with a rare moment to become as lost in another time as they are in their own. No photos were permitted.

We walked slowly through streets, observing and stopping at one point for half an hour to rest and have a cold drink.

After that, we took a tube to the embankment, walked across the bridge and along the Thames, looking at the many skyscrapers that were not there in the late 60s, walking past the Royal Festival Hall, where Carol and I had gone to many concerts when we lived in London, stopping for dinner at one of the many restaurants that now line the Thames, none of which existed in our day. At dinner with Tom, we discussed the meaning of friendship and partners, as well as other topics.

After dinner, we walked back across the river with Tom, as night began to fall, to the tube station, where we said goodbye to Tom and returned to our flat, ready to turn in for the night.

Getting to London

August 2-3

Zoe and Phoebe fly in from Atlanta, meeting us at O’Hare around 4 PM. We have more than 4 1/2 hours to kill before our 8:55 flight to London. Meeting up is a bit of a logistical challenge, because they have round trip tickets between Atlanta and Chicago, and need to get from Terminal 3, where they arrive, to Terminal 5, where we leave for London from, and we have the e-tickets for all four of us. Our timing was perfect; we arrived at Terminal 5 about 45 seconds before Zoe and Phoebe did.

No trouble getting through security. Surprisingly good dinner at a small Mexican restaurant. Carol talked our way into a BA Executive Lounge, which is especially good since our flight has been delayed an hour. Carol and the girls play boggle, while I email and blog.

We’ve already had several small world experiences on this trip . Our Uber driver is from Ghana and is shocked to hear that Carol and I have been there six times. We have plenty to talk about in the heavy traffic to the airport. Earlier in the day, I’d had three emails from Ghana from Daniel Kwarteng, who took time out from running his pineapple farm a year and a quarter ago to show Carol, Phoebe and I around Ghana. He said to be sure to say hello to his “sister Phoebe,”. En route to the airport, I get a call from my former client and friend, Paul McLoughlin, who I had not spoken to in many months. We talked about our families, including his son Tully who, on graduation from Yale spent time abroad in, of course, Ghana. Here’s Tully when we saw him on one of our trips to Ghana.

On our way to the Mexican restaurant in the airport, a man calls out to us. It is Sanu Raja, father of the Nepalese student, Nirajan, who Carol and I sort of adopted while he was at Northwestern and whose wedding we went to in Pittsburgh this June. Sanu Raja, Sunita, his wife and her mother and sister, all of whom we’d seen at Nirajan’s wedding, were at O’Hare, having just flown in from Pittsburgh and about to return home to Nepal. We’d spent time with Sanu Raja and Sunita before, both in Nepal and in Chicago. Here we all are.

Flight is a breeze, with some watching, some listening, some eating and some hanging out. I’m amused by the exit signs on the plane and tell the girls that they need to exit in that position. They’re not nearly as amused by this as they should be.

Passport control asks us for a letter from Wendy giving us permission to take the girls, but they let us in without it. We’d been aware of this requirement in other countries, but not in England. Takes a little while to get the luggage but not an excessive amount of time. We head out and pile into a black London taxi, the driver calling me “mate” and the girls looking a bit tired.

We arrive at our flat, which is not elegant, but will certainly do for our stay. It’s most prominent feature is the three flights of stairs we need to ascend with all our bags.

After settling in, we venture out to the British Museum, intending to go by bus, but winding up taking a taxi after several false tries by bus. Drove through fashionable London areas, giving the tired girls a quick look. Arriving at the British Museum around 4, we are overwhelmed and tired so settle for looking at the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon marbles, certainly worth the trip.

From the Museum, we descend the long escalator at the tube stop.we get off at a Earl’s Court (pronounced Ellscott) and walk to a pub, where we have quite an acceptable dinner. After dinner, we take a much-longer-than-I-needed 35-minute walk to our flat, where we trudged up the three flights, dumped ourselves into refreshing showers and are about to crash for what I hope will be a good, long time.

Generally, I start out a blog to a country by recounting a brief history of the country. But English history has so many kings and queens, often with the same names (a bit like traveling to Atlanta and being directed to Peachtree Street, except that instead of being called Peachtree, they’re all Henry), that I’m going to just hit the highlight—they used to rule us until, long ago, they charged us too much for tea, so we revolted. And now, almost two and a half centuries later, both of our countries are led by narcissists seemingly determined to drive their countries into the ground. So, anyway, we’ve got that in common to help cement our “special relationship.”

Normally, I take the laboring oar in planning the exotic foreign trips that Carol and I take, but Carol, who enjoys puzzles, has been fitting the pieces of this trip together for weeks. She’s done a masterful job. You’ll get some idea of the puzzle as you read this blog, starting tomorrow.

We’re very excited about this trip with Zoe and Phoebe. Being with them for a week and a half in Peoria, IL would be wonderful.  Seeing London, Stratford and all our friends with them is over the top. As one of our friends, wishing us a good trip, wrote, “this is precious time.” Indeed it is.