London–Day 4: Churchill, a ghostcam, and pickety-boo

Natl Museum entrance
National Gallery courtyard

Well, Duncan and Ellen had to go back to work today, which means Dave and I were on our own navigating London. It may be slower than the Tube, but you can’t beat the top of a double-decker bus for great sightseeing. There is no way on Earth I could have figured out which bus to take because it is truly the most complicated transit system I’ve ever encountered, but Dave got us everywhere we wanted to go.

We started out at the National Gallery, which is free! Unfortunately because of a strike, the museum was forced to make do with volunteers and had to close off the wing housing pieces from the later Renaissance and Rococo, the ones Dave was keenest to see. But I’ll never turn down an opportunity to see Impressionists. I got to rediscover Théo van Rysselberghe and saw one of my favorite Monets, as well as several other lovely pieces.

Our next stop turned out to be a much longer one than we thought it would. Who knew we would spend over two hours in Churchill’s underground war rooms? Of course it was connected to a whole museum devoted to this adored statesman, and it was quite extensive. Several upper-level officers, code-breakers, Morse code readers, and personal secretaries spent day after day underground, never seeing sunlight. In fact everyone was required to spend a few minutes under the sun lamp for health reasons. One woman fell asleep under the lamp and suffered quite a sunburn. There was a sign posted daily below ground to let them know what the weather was like above. The sign that read “Windy” however, came to signify the frequent air raids. Another tidbit: old Winston was a talented and prolific painter. He also took two baths a day and drank Johnny in London phone booth

We arrived at Westminster Abbey around 3:35 but couldn’t find an open entrance or anywhere to purchase tickets for a tour. Apparently, they don’t admit anyone after 3:30, although they don’t close until 4:30. So we made plans to get an early start on Tuesday. Walking among the abbey across from the Houses of Parliament, I heard an American voice declare to his companion, “It’s just more tall, old buildings!”

Walking along the Thames we spotted The Rising Tide‘s four horses of the apocalypse from the other side, only now they appeared to be wading in the water.

I didn’t actually make a phone call from one of London’s iconic phone booths, but I still got Dave to take a photo of me in one.

Morpeth's ghostcamAround 4:00 we were tired and decided to fortify ourselves at Morpeth’s pub, where the floor above was supposed to have a lovely view of the Thames and the basement was haunted. A private party prevented us from checking out the view, but the ghostcam allowed us to keep tabs on any paranormal activity that might be happening below the pub.

That night Duncan ordered Indian food online and had it delivered. (What we call “takeout” in the States is called “takeaway” here. In fact, these crazy Brits have a different word for just about everything. I already knew many common ones, like “loo,” but there’s so much more! Sidewalks are referred to as pavement. Exit signs say “Way out.” Someone who’s really upset is gutted. And my favorite is a fun way to say okay: pickety-boo. I haven’t actually heard that one yet, but Ellen swears her colleagues use it all the time. I’m going to do my best to promote its usage back home. How fun will that be? Let’s start a campaign!


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