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August 07, 1976 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-08-07

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Saturday, August 7, 1976


Hoge Seven

Sauda ,Au ut , 1 96H M C IGA D IY Page .IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISevenIIIIMI~ll~l0110

Parliament from across the Thames River

Mudlingthrough London-
a city of fogged-up dreams

"It is difficult /o speak adequately or
justly of London. It is not a pleasant
Place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or
easy, or exempt frotn reproach. It is
only agnificent."
-Henry James
JT WAS COLD in the room. I shivered
and squinted at the still-vibrating
alarm clock. Four-fifteen, and the
streets of Chelsea were muffled in the
silence of a pre-dawn mist.
Twenty minutes later on that chilly
May morning, a small group of Ameri-
can students and three professors, at-
tired in sweaters and tennis shoes, were
making their way down the empty pave-
ment toward the Thames. They talked

underground trains flash, carrying busi-
nesspeople to their modern offices and
stores in Knightsbridge or Piccadilly.
A YOUNG WOMAN in a French-made
denim jumper and rich leather boots
strides by a park bench in Chelsea,
where a tattered old man drowses under
yesterday's copy of the Evening Stand-
ard. An empty wine bottle sits nearby
in a patch of dusty yellow tulips, and his
drooping hand clutches it, even in sleep.
And on weekend trips to the country-
side-Oxford, Stratford, Salisbury and
Yorkshire - we found that, though
more of the past remains there than in
London, much of it, too, lives only in
legend. Nottingham's Sherwood Forest
is gone, except for a few lone stands
scattered through the valley of the
Trent. Robin Hood's greenwood has


have made Sherlock Holmes drop in his
tracks. After three hours of class in
the morning, we would spin out in small
groups to do whatever we fancied-tea
at the Ritz, an afternoon at Westminis-
ter Abbey, dinner in the depths of Soho,
perhaps followed by a play or just read-
ing under a sycamore in Battersea Park.
And when there was nothing special
going on, there were always the mu-
seums and shops to visit.
WITH AS MANY excursions as we
made, the London 'tubes' (subways)
were invaluable. Dirty, noisy and damp,
these sinister black tunnels hum under
every part of London and the surround-
ing suburbs. For various Londoners,
they represent a place to cool off when
the heat strikes, a place to play guitar
for their supper, or just an alternative
to the red double-decker buses that roar
all day on the streets above.
The tubes are also the setting for
the most frightening activity in Lon-
don - bombing. The IRA specializes in
blowing up underground cars during
rush hours, and every wall is plastered
with signs warning passengers against
unattended packages. While we were
there, several MP's (members of Par-
liament) narrowly escaped death when
they got bombs in their mail. Several
other people were killed in the tubes.
In museums and other historic build-
ings, and in concert halls, it was routine
to have bags and coats searched for
guns and explosives. I remember one
night, running tp the stairs in the Rsoyal
Albert Hall fora piano concert only a
minute before the doors closed. A port-
er stopped me for a search.
"You still 'ave toime, luv," he said
calmly. Unfortunately he failed to turn
up a gun on me. If I'd had one, I think
I would have shot him.
[DESPITE ALL the worries about ex-
ploding underground cars, I manag-
ed to escape being blown up. But, as it
turns out, I should have been a little
more careful about transportation than
I was, because it was to be the cause
of the only major mishap I suffered on
the trip.
I had taken the train to Bath on a
cheap; day-return ticket (which means

you are supposed to go back where you
came from the same day). Bath is a
quiet old town south west of London,
with Roman baths, lots of teashops, and
a house where Jane Austen once lived.
Following local tradition, I ate my
way through the day - morning cof-
fee, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner
amidst the Regency charm of Popjoy's
restaurant. Regretfully skipping the
chocolate souffle, I rushed to the station
at 8:00 to catch the last London train,
leaving my friends - Americans study-
ing there -- over dessert. I waited on
the platform, ful of warmth generated
by quiche, chicken with Pernod and t
vintage Bordeaux, but thinking about
chocolate souffle.
Finally the train came, and I got on.
I spent the next two hours writing let-
ters and listening to a bunch of new
navy recruits arguing about a soccer
game. Then I began to wonder why I
hadn't been recognizing any of the
stops. We should be getting into town
any minute now, I puzzled. So I asked
a man 'n front of me how much longer
it was to London.
HE LOOKED at me rather strangely.
"If you're going to London, then
you're on the wrong train," he said.
It was his accent, I reasoned, fight-
ing panic. I had had some trouble in
London, so it stood to reason a Dorset-
shire accent would be worse.
It wasn't. I had gotten on the wrong
train, and was now headed for-Wey-
mouth. I searched my mental map of
England, but no little dot named Wey-
mouth popped out at me.
Snickering audibly, the man explain-
ed the situation: "London is HERE,
Bath is HERE, and Weymouth is way
down HERE," he said, jabbing his fing-
er helpfully into blank space.
By the time we got there, I didn't
care where it was. All I wanted was a
nice warm room with a bed in it. As the
navy recruits dashed off to catch the
last of the soccer game on TV. I tr'sdged
wearily over to the station master and
See LONDON, Page 10
lois foss ur is/> is Costdlditosr of the
Saturday Magazine.

quietly, lest they interrupt the gentle
snores of a comatose giant-London.
We had been in England only a week,
with the English Department's sum-
mer program. There were five more
weeks to come; but we weren't wasting
even a few hours' sleep in our daunt-
less search for British culture. We
were fully aware that every inch of the
great sprawling city was packed with
things to do and see, for, like all large
European cities, London is filled with
contrasts - old customs and political
struggles, new vogues, affluence and
economic misery that rises as the pound
continues to sink.
An organgrinder in a dirty smock begs
for pennies in the old Portobello Rd.
flea market, while below his feet the

indeed gone as Keats lamented a cen-
tury ago: "fall'n beneath the dockyard
strokes . . . rotted on the briny seas
. . ." Nottingham Castle houses a bicy-
cle exhibition and a collection of ghast-
ly Victorian relics. In town the golden
eyes of bronze statue, whose model once
stole from the rich and gave to the
poor, gaze blindly down over rows of
modern storefronts where a man is
hawking flowers in the rain . . .
But, though the countryside had its
touches of sadness for one seeking
Merry Olde Engelonde, London left us
no time for such regrets of things past.
The 21 of us discovered the city's ave-
nues and alleys - aided by the impec-
cable Nicholson's Guide - with a de-
termined, unresting energy that would

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