Monday, February 15, 2010

Awakening in London

After traveling for hours from the warmth and beauty of South America, I spent my first day in over forty years in England. The quiet lovesong of the pan flute that had hummed inside me these past weeks and that was Bolivia and the magic of the altiplano, immedately was drowned out by an overwhelming cacophony of modern discordant sounds that defines London.

Surging intensely along its sidewalks or in cars, taxis or double decker buses and, especially on the subways, the city teems with a flotsam of different nationalities in pursuit of the promise of a better life. Gone was any sense of the British Anglican England, I remembered from my youth and of countless episodes of Masterpiece Theater.

On a chilly Winter afternoon amidst chestnut sellers and falafel vendors, together with Tapirgal of Astoria Daily Photo, I took to the streets to acclimate to the new phase of my Amizade adventure and to enjoy some of the fabled sights of this great city.

One the most exceptional moments was emerging from the Westminster tube station in the early evening and finding myself standing below one of London's most storied and historical monuments, Big Ben. Moments later the carillion began to chime its powerful, melodic half hour call. Like a conductor summoning its orchesta to order, the clock's tone imposed its benevolent will over its fractious city. My eyes followed the music across the Thames and over a skyline of graceful stone buildings and churches built for kings. In the impending darkness I stood feeling humbled. Before me was the throne of a once mighty empire which ruled much of the world and still today commanded front row in the international scene. I, a student of history and politics, had come to England to see its renowned sights. Here I was now in its kingdom, a mere vassal, standing awestruck before His Majesty.


  1. Say hi to the city that I called home from 1974 to 1981 for me, will you? Especially if you're in Knightsbridge. Thanks and good luck readapting!

  2. Aunt Jane and I can relate to the top picture of purses, we spend quite some time picking out a new one for me:) I am glad to hear that you two made it there! Have a great time, and enjoy yourself! Hope to hear from you soon!

  3. Great post! Your first paragraph especially conveys the sense of disconnect you're feeling, going from the altiplano of Bolivia to 21st-century London. It must feel like you've suddenly been transported to a whole different universe.

    The chestnut sellers in London are traditional, but falafel London??? That one small detail made it vividly clear how multiculturalism is changing the world our parents and grandparents knew, and that we ourselves knew in our youth.

    The artifacts of that once-mighty empire are impressive, no doubt about that. But I don't think you need to feel too awestruck, not to the point of losing your historical perspective anyway. Remember that empires are very expensive to maintain, and all of them eventually go bankrupt. It will happen to the American empire too, if it isn't (as I believe) happening already.