Sunday, June 16, 2013

father's day in greenwich

"Stop being such a martyr," I was told. "I'm not being a martyr, I'm being a father, I responded." And so went the discussion about how we would spend our day. In the end, I won out (depending on your definition of win) and picked a destination that I thought would please the entire family -- Greenwich. The results were solid, but not spectacular.

Greenwich sits at the east end of metropolitan London. Not just any suburb, though, Greenwich is famous for two things -- the Greenwich Observatory and the Old Royal Naval College. The former is home to the Prime Meridian, the line from which all countries on earth set their clocks. The latter is a really beautiful set of buildings and grounds that overlook the Thames. The college itself ceased operations in 1998, but the buildings remain, some open to the public and some used by another local college.

We began our tour of Greenwich by doing a walk around of the Cutty Sark, a 150-year old tea clipper that has been encased as part of a small, stand-alone museum. No one in our party was sufficiently interested in seeing the display up close to warrant the steep admission fee, so we settled for the free view, which was still pretty good. Hard to imagine that old wooden ship made multiple trips back and forth to India and Australia. I'm nauseated just thinking about it.

We then hit the grounds of the Royal Naval College. Owen was taken by the display of a large cannon, near the college gates, leading to the following exchange:
Why do they call a cannon a gun?
Because a cannon is a type of gun.
Could you stop a cannonball with a shield?
No, you could not, as this cannon shot weighed 150-pounds.
But you weigh more than that?
Yes, but the force would be far greater than even my weight.
Could the cannon destroy the sun?
Keri . . . 
We walked through the yards and then into the chapel and the Painted Hall, a truly impressive set of rooms that were intended to serve as the dining hall in the naval hospital that was on the grounds prior to the college. My own college has a famous Orozco mural, Prometheus, which is nice. It pales in comparison to these murals. Perhaps that is why the Painted Hall ended up not being used for its intended purpose, lest the murals there suffer the indignity of having a waffle thrown at it by the occasional miscreant college student. Not that I would know anything about that . . .

We wandered into the small town that abuts the college and grabbed lunch at a Spanish restaurant that Owen endorsed based on its purporting to serve fish sticks. (Note: Owen loves fish sticks. Left to his own devices, he would eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some weeks ago, Owen suggested that he would fill a cooler with fish sticks to take with us. We have a lot of bags with us, so it's possible he pulled this one off.) Owen's palette finely tuned to the frozen, processed American fish stick, he found unsatisfying the fresh fish version he was served today. Fortunately, that did not stop him from downing his 438th glass of apple juice on this trip, excusing himself, belching, and giggling with glee at what he had just done.

Another selling point for this place was the Free Drink for Dad's sign in the window. I was slightly troubled by the poor punctuation but, I figured, the restaurant may not be run by native-speakers, so I'll let it pass. Excited for my drink, I ordered a pint of Guinness. Minutes later, they brought me something that was most definitely not a Guinness, and announced that this was the free drink I was getting to honor my patriarcal service. I suspect the look on my face was one crossed between disgust and shock. Keri said she would do me a solid and handle the umbrella drink. Even she could not get past the second sip.

Lunch behind us, we walked up the hill to the Greenwich Observatory where we learned that one had to pay admission and that the Prime Meridian itself was locked, safely, inside some gates, lest someone come and steal the damn thing. We further saw that there was a long queue of people who had paid that admission and were waiting to stand and have their pictures taken with the metal strip that had been placed inside a brick yard and which symbolizes the imaginary line that we use to mark time. For our part, we crossed the same imaginary line by walking across the front of the building.

We then hit what is effectively marketed as "London's Only Planetarium," which sits just behind the Observatory. I had frankly not thought that London would be a very good city for astronomers, given its flat terrain and abundant city lights. So, had we found that there were no planetaria, I would not have been moved. As it was, this marketing gimmick was pretty good at selling Lauren and Owen, both of whom deemed it a must-see. The show and exhibits were decent, but certainly do not compare to others we have seen in the States.

A relatively uneventful trip back to Victoria -- i.e., Owen got some kid on the DLR train in trouble for reasons that are still unclear to us but we think involved an emergency call button an instruction not to say anything to his parents -- and we decided to finish off the day by going our separate ways on meal choices. Keri and I opted for Indian, which we love and which we have been wanting since we got here. Lauren tried a little chicken tikka and went for her standby -- bagel and cream cheese. Owen, because he seems to know how to get what he wants, got nine McNuggets and french fries.

All in all, a pretty good father's day. I got to spend the day with my three favorite people, two of whom still call me daddy (note from Keri: I never called him daddy). Everything else is gravy.

And so, I want to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the fathers and grandfathers out there. A special greeting to my own father who, 33 years ago, walked the same Greenwich grounds that I did with my children today. I hope you have a great day, Dad.


  1. More smiles from me to all of you, along with love, of course! Happy Father's Day, Tim!!

  2. Happy Father's Day, Tim! No comments from me for awhile as I will be on vacation. (as if I need one!) Love Baba