This is Raquelle's account of our day:
Today began in a bit of a flurry. Due to a miscommunication, several of us got up too early and were ready early. So the rest of us scrambled to catch up. Have you ever noticed that in the fabulous suitcase that you packed everything so carefully in with such buh-rilliant and scientific planning and foresight, is suddenly an utter maze of disorganization and you can NOT find one single solitary thing that you're looking for?????
In the rustle and confusion, Mom tried to call over to Grandma and Gramp's room for something. She inadvertently dialed the wrong room. A man answered and his voice was indistinct enough that Mom thought it was Gramps.
"Hi, it's ME!" she said cheerfully.
"Well, hello, how ah you?" the man responded politely, in a decided English accent.
"I--I think I have the wrong number," Mom apologized.
"Ah well, very nice call," he said courteously.
I bet he got off the phone and thought, "Who WAS that bahmy woman?" :D
After figuring out how to turn on the iron (you have to turn the plug on TOO) and dumping the granola out of Heather's suitcase (her bag of granola burst open) and other sundry cultural experiences (and stoopid experiences), we were ready to go.
We walked outside to the nearby tube station, called "Swiss Cottage station," so called because of some cute little building nearby called Swiss Cottage. I think it's a restaurant. We got on the tube. I began looking at the people around me. People are so entertaining. For one thing, English people don't smile. So I get a kick out of smiling at them just to see what they do. Yesterday I smiled at a SCOWLING young boy in the airport. He flicked a puzzled eyebrow and kept SCOWLING. I tried it again today on a cute little black girl sitting right across from me on the tube. She was sitting next to her mom, who was reading a book. She had her finger in her mouth, making her lips form a perfect O. I smiled. She looked at me with eyes that made a perfect O and then looked away. I smiled at a lady next to her and was rewarded with a brief, terse smirk.
Everyone on the tube looks hopelessly bored. They read or they stare into space. When the train jostles roughly it always startles me but everyone else still looks utterly, hopeless, incurably blase. So, after entertaining myself by smiling at people, I attempted to look cool and casual and as utterly, hopelessly, incurably bored as everyone else. When in Rome do as the Romans do, see.
Our first stop was the Imperial War Museum. We split up upon entering. The guys went off to look at guy stuff and we gals headed for the gallery (which was closed, to Grandma's disgust) and then to the section on "The Secret War"--all about spies and military intelligence and all that nifty stuff. It was Vastly Cool. All that stuff in cheapo detective novels about microphones hidden in, say, shoelaces, is not really exaggerated. We saw pens that were bug devices and cigar cases that had secret compartments and soap with invisible ink in it, you name it!!!
We took a brief look at the Home Front section--all about the lives of English civilians during WWII. One of the things that was entertaining was the "Squander Bug"--a government-created cartoon used to encourage people not to waste anything useful. It was a very large leering beetle creature with swatiskas on its ugly fat belly. A cartoon showed it luring a woman into buying something unnecessary and expensive and then chortling with laughter about it.
Of course, the museum also has a lot of planes and guns and all that stuff. They had an ENORMOUS periscope that you could look through, several stories high. You could see treetops and part of St. Paul's Cathedral just from looking through it in the museum lobby.
From there we went to lunch. Lunch is always decided by a committee vote, which means we all politely say, "I don't care, what would you like to do?" for five minutes and then lick our thumb to see which way the wind is blowing and choose a restaurant in that direction. :D :D :D The restaurant we chose was innocuous enough but ended up being a Chinese restaurant. I can guarantee the Committee of the Whole would never have chosen had we known, but oh well....once you're there, you're there. The waiter wrote down our orders in Chinese on his notepad.
Fortunately the food was decent--nothing too exotic or of questionable origin. :D After the meal was over, Grandma and I went to the ladies room to freshen our lipstick. We opened the door and were immediately confronted by a dark, dusty, crowded broom closet. Hmmm, doesn't look promising. Oh! There's another door after that. Being the sort of intuitive geniuses that we are, we went through the other door and found the restroom. After prinking for a few minutes we attempted an exit. I pushed heavily against the door, as most doors are heavy. This one, however, was not. I just about fell through it and was aided in this encounter with gravity by a three-inch slope down. Grandma was behind me and together we had a most exciting, if brief, set of interesting calisthenics, smirked at the broom closet on our way by, and then serenely exited into the restaurant, looking cool and collected. :D
After lunch we took the tube to the Underground Cabinet War Rooms. This was one of Churchill's headquarters during WWII and was a secret underground bomb-proof complex. Much of it is left exactly as things were during the war. After taking FOREVER in line to get tickets (it was a short line, they just do things so unhurriedly over here) we got out audio guide earphones and began. One of the first things we saw was the stairs to the very undergroundest spot, used primarily for sleeping. They don't let you actually go down there but the audio guide read a quote from a young woman who was a secretary of some sort and slept down there at night. There were no amenities whatsoever--basically just cots. She complained that when you got up in the morning looking absolutely terrible and still in your sleeping clothes as you scurried to the upper level to get ready for the day, you inevitably met the most polished, dashing officers. Oh sigh! :D
We also got to see the map rooms, which have walls covered in maps with small pushpins ALL over them, indicating various enemy and Allied positions. And we saw Churchill's bedroom and a tiny kitchen and many other things.
As we were browing I was looking at the guide book offered for sale. It had a lot about Churchill and I chanced upon this humorous quote "All of us are worms, but I think I'm a glow worm." :D
From the War Rooms we got back on the tube and something astonishing happened--a gentleman actually got up and gave me his seat. I have been a little disgusted with the way the men over here will sit (looking utterly hopelessly, incurably bored) and let women--including older women--stand.
Now, it so happened that there were two problems with the tube--one of the tube lines was severely delayed due to a signal failure along the tracks and several of the other tube lines were planning to go on strike that evening. Oh splendid. (Don't you love socialism???) So we got partway to our destination but when we went to switch lines and saw the ENORMOUS crowds and jam-packed buses, we decided to walk the rest of the way.
So we walked to Herrods--an enormous multi-storied department store, where we were going to have High Tea.
Oops, it's bedtime. Dadgum. And I had so much more to SAY!!!
Bullets: Went to Herrods. Had high tea. Good scones. Nasty sandwiches. Browsed around. Saw clothes, jewelry, handbags, Christmas things, every kind of food imaginable (including "jumbo quail" the size of a tennis ball....yeah right, JUMBO...), and even cats and dogs! (Note from Heather: the cats and dogs weren't food) They have a small pet shop in the place, where they sell various creatures including British Shorthair kittens. Oh man, they were SO CUTE!!!
Gramps bought some "Gunpowder Green" tea and says he's going to put some of it in his gunpowder reenacting case and take it to reenactments. When he pours stuff from it into his cup and his buddies bug their eyes, he can say, "Walsir, I'm jest drinkin' gunpowder tea!" :D