03 June 2013

European Vacation 15 - In London We’re in the Audience for The Audience

Started Friday in Bologna where I visited their Medieval Museum. I loved it. While there were more of the religious art I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on this trip there were also swords rifles (not exactly medieval but what’s a few centuries between friends?) and day-to-day objects. Plenty to gaze and wonder at objects that were in use before the United States were united or their shores were even invaded by Europeans.

We said arrivedercci to Italy. I hated leaving behind the espressos the gelatos the pizzas the pasta the pastries and the fresh fruits and vegetables. I was glad to be away from all the cigarette smokers that infest the country. You’re hard pressed to walk a busy city block without encountering a dozen or so Italians puffing madly away heedless of lung or throat cancer or heart disease or the annoyance of their habit. At the Milan airport we noted a glass encased room for smokers. It was sad it was funny it was ironic and it was oddly appropriate to see smokers relegated to a room and on display for others to gawk and mock. The US has done a good job of marginalizing smokers. It’s a filthy habit and non practitioners shouldn’t have to be exposed to it. I speak from experience having smoked for many years and then going through the very difficult process of quitting.

The train service in Italy was excellent with the exception of our final experience. We were waiting in a Milan train station for the train that would take us to the airport. Dutifully we watched the board for the platform number. It wasn’t  up 20 minutes before the train’s scheduled departure. Or 15. Or even 10. Or even 5. (And what is with the great secrecy the last second announcement of the platform? Can’t they sort this business out in advance?) Finally two minutes before the train departs the platform number goes up. It’s the farthest one away from our central position meaning for one thing that we must go downstairs. When we get downstairs we have to go up some stairs. We’re running. I get on the train with the missus twenty yards behind. I stand in the door which tries to close. I have to fight it to keep it open while my wife struggles on board. The second she gets on we pull out of the station. I was livid. Hey Milan train station! What kind of bullshit is this? An elderly couple would never have made it nor anyone with a small child or a person with a disability. If you’re going to announce the platform at the last second don’t let the train leave immediately.

From Bologna's Medeval Museum
We arrived Friday night in London for the second time on this trip. Only this time we’ll be staying a few days. The first full day is today Saturday June I. Of course this will be posted later because the wifi at the hotel we’re staying in is not working. I swear wifi has been the bane of this trip.

Wifi notwithstanding what a day we had. First the British Library and a look at the Magna Carta. I’m guessing you’ve heard of it. They also had the Beatles original handwritten lyrics for a number of songs such as Yesterday Ticket to Ride and Help. One written on the back of an envelope another on a birthday card another on scratch paper. We saw a lot more and there was much more to see but we had a theater to get to and will make it back to the Library later in the trip.

The play was The Audience starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth at the John Gieguld theater. It was directed by Stephen Daldry and written by  Peter Morgan. The play primarily consists of the Queen’s Tuesday evening meetings with Prime Ministers from Churchill through Cameron though oddly Tony Blair is omitted -- though frequently mentioned --  one of a handful of the 12 PMs during Elizabeth’s reign that is not depicted. To be honest I was prepared to be bored. In retrospect I don’t exactly know why. In any case I was enthralled. To watch great acting live and in person is a moving and thrilling experience. There were laughs a plenty as well as insight into the life of a monarch (particularly those who ever asked for the position) and British post WWII. As other reviewers have noted  Richard McCabe  as Harold Wilson is a scene stealer. It was also a treat to see Edward Fox as Churchill having seen him in so many films for so many years.

We also went to the National Portrait Gallery which had a wonderful exhibit on Native Americans. The obligatory trip to Buckingham Palace was made after a walk along the traditional route from Trafalgar Square.

This evening was capped by a delicious dinner at an Indian restaurant. And now I’m quite tired.....

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