Friday, June 14, 2013

Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?

"Daddy?" "Yes, Owen?" "Do you remember when there were two outs and I was on second base and there was no one on first base and the one coach told me to run on anything, only I didn't go when the ball was hit to third base?"

Following a day spent touring one of the world's great cities, one hopes one's children will have some great insight or revelation into the day's events or some moment of enlightenment that will have made it all worth it (whatever that means). The inner psyche of a seven-and-a-half-year old boy are where such hopes go to die. Owen is well known for asking lots of questions. Often, they have something to do with the matter at hand, i.e., "why was King Henry mad if someone killed the guy if he said that he wanted to get rid of?" or "what is the tallest building in London?" or "can you get a strikeout in cricket?"

Almost as often, they relate to some experience Owen has had in the past that has entered his thought process at that moment. Feeling compelled to share the thought with you, he will ask (for those he thinks were present for the seminal moment) if they remember when . . . . or (for those not present) if they can guess about whatever random event he is recalling. Don't even try, because you cannot.

There may be no better way to expose oneself to a barrage of such questions than an afternoon spent on a Big Bus tour, one of London's on-and-off guided bus tours. I much prefer to walk, particularly in a city with traffic issues like this one, but in the interest of covering more ground and keeping the children engaged all afternoon, we bit the bullet on the Big Bus. Our tour started around 130 (Owen sleeping off his manic Thursday and the rest of us still a tad jet lagged) at Victoria Station going west towards Hyde Park. We were blessed with a sunny afternoon, one of the few we will see during our trip here.

We looped back east by the American Embassy (a rather unattractive building that Owen declared his highlight of the day because, seemingly unlike the rest of the city, "I've never seen that before") and headed up through Mayfair via Bond and Regent Street. Lauren's ears perked up at the tour guide's declaration that Hamleys was the world's greatest toy store. I am told we will be making another trip back there before our time in London ends.

Down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus which, as always, left me slightly disappointed. When you combine "circus" with a word as absurd as Piccadilly, you expect some outlandish stuff to be going down. In reality, it is a few electronic billboards and the Shaftesbury fountain (again, the name cannot help but to raise one's hopes only drown them in the fountain's waters). It took us another 20 minutes or so to get to Trafalgar Square, during which time I made the mistake of checking my email. As will all things, this caught the eye of the small boy seated next to me. A rule was quickly established that the phone could be used (by either of us) only if the tour guide has ceased talking and we were stopped in traffic. A good part of our trip was then spent debating the meaning and application of those terms.

Down past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (which I am sure you all know refers to the bell and not the clock tower, at least that is what our guide said) and around the south bank to Waterloo Bridge and then back to the north and the City of London, which, our guide explained, dates back to Roman times. The City seemed to have a streak of misfortune in 1665 and 1666. The first year saw the Bubonic Plague wipe out 100,000 people, about 15% of the population. The latter witnessed the Great Fire, which destroyed the homes of probably close to three-quarters of those who lived. I am fairly certain these events gave birth to the now ubiquitous guy on the street corner with the "end is near, repent!" sign.

Our tour went east past St. Paul's Cathedral, again over the river and back again, this time over London's most famous landmark, the Tower Bridge. We de-bussed outside the Tower of London, provided our starving children with foodstuffs (coffee ice cream for Lauren, waffle with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for Owen).

Owen also managed to find an ice cream truck that offered some icee-like concoction. Before I knew it, Owen was asking the truck driver whether his drinks were "italian ices or icees?" I am fairly certain the driver had not a clue as to what an icee was. In any event, he answered the question, provided Owen with a cherry whatever-it-was, and gladly accepted two pounds for his trouble.

We look forward to returning to the Tower next week with Keri's parents for a proper tour. Speaking of which, a major thank you to my father-in-law, Randy, for tending to our goldendoodle, Charlie, and his infected paw pads. We know Charlie is in good hands and very much appreciate your help.

After walking past the Tower, we caught another bus back to Victoria Station, picked up some postcards for the kids to send to friends and, in my highlight of the day, introduced our children to a public house, this one with a basement restaurant. I got to enjoy my first pint of Guinness since we got here and Keri sampled a local cider that, by all reports, was "pretty good." The hamburgers were decent but not great; this is England, after all.

Finally, I need to address a matter of great import. Several of you have been disappointed by the somewhat non-edgy tone of this blog. I will do what I can to add a bit of snark but, as may be evident by now, I am struggling to find snark. Indeed, it may be hard for me to do so after days like today when I can enjoy dinner with my family and a pint of God's nectar in this wonderful city. And yet, the rains are supposed to return tomorrow so, if all goes as expected, there will be at least three good meltdowns and plenty of writing material. Hope.


  1. Enjoy so much picturing all of you! Glad that Randy and Lois will be joining you - soon, it seems. Love from sunny Arizona!

  2. No snark required. I'm enjoying this contented version of my friend Tim. All of life's frustrations will still be here upon your return. Enjoy your time away!