in London town! (Confused? Watch and learn.)
Yesterday, the Bakestress had her first graduate school audition for her Masters in Voice, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (whose prolific grads include Bryn Terfel [most mellifluous operatic voice in operation today], Michelle Dockery [Lady Mary, anyone?], and my mother [the Violinist]!!). We were up bright and early to beautify. Well, the Bakestress beautified anyway. Need proof? Easy.
A few hours later, we arrived at the Guildhall, an unassuming building in what seemed to be a completely deserted part of the City, just around the corner from Moorgate on the Hammersmith and City tube line. The B’s audition accompanist confirmed the tumbleweedy feel of the place; we warmed to it nonetheless. It helped that we spotted our uncle’s name on the Gold Medal winner list in the entrance hallway. Can you find James Shenton?
On the Violinist’s recommendation, we headed out into the icy wind to visit St Giles Cripplegate. The name of the church alone should have warned us that we were being led down the garden path…
Could you imagine a sadder looking office, especially when offset by on of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals? What’s worse, the building was called Cheapside. Not sure what marketing genius dreamed up that moniker. In fact, the building turned out to be abandoned and shut down. Probably due to years of humiliation in the face of its glamorous neighbour.‘Occupy Wall Street’ takes the form of ‘Occupy London’ here, and we tripped over a sizeable encampment outside of St Paul’s, a paragon of ecclesiastical beauty to which the St Giles Cripplegates of this world aspire.
Shocked by the £14.50 cathedral entrance fee, we contented ourselves with marvelling at the cathedral’s brilliant white interior from the front gate, before setting out on foot in search of Southbank’s Christmas Market. Having worked as a Sausagestress in Oxford’s own Christmas Market, the Bakestress was eager to feel at home again in a new city. We were on a mission, a mission which would soon be declared accomplished. But not before forty-five minutes of wandering Southbank in pursuit, during which we were sorely tempted by this rack of rent-a-bikes.
One of my favorite moments of the day: spotting this ironic gem…
Well-winded at this point, we nonetheless persevered toward Big Ben as the sun stole away. We breezed past the Houses of Parliament, got kicked out of Westminster for trying to peer through the doors without paying, and took off running into the tube station en route to Covent Garden, where we found another Christmas market and a few compelling street acts. Revived by an overpriced and under-pizzazzed muffin, we squared our shoulders and high-tailed it to Trafalgar Square where, the Bakestress assured me, the biggest Christmas tree in the world awaited. Not to mention a certain free National Gallery where we could resuscitate our frozen toes.
The tree was pretty impressive, but I personally was hoping it would rival ole’ Nelson astride his Column in the background. A bigger pipe dream than I realized upon arrival! You may notice the monument rising above the tree in the background…
We found a bemusing nativity scene down in the Square. Can you spot a few oddities?
2) Baby Jesus, certainly swaddled, seems to be lying on a marble slab in the stable.
3) There is a giant sheep, ears perked, looming ominously in his own spotlight. He is definitely larger than Joseph, and looks, well, poised. We see the Savior of the world, he sees dinner?
After regaining our breath from the giggles, we checked the time. With an hour and a half left before our train’s departure, we decided to take in one last London treasure before heading home: Buckingham Palace. The Bakestress placated my protestations with the promise that we would most certainly see the Queen, or at least her front door.
45 minutes later, bedraggled from the freezing rain and be-blistered from the hours of walking, we limped into Paddington and did what any worn-down city slicker would do: ate some chicken at a pub. We boarded the train, waved goodbye to foggy London-town and soon enough were waving hello to a friendly Philosopher we’d hired to taxi us to our warm and cosy Oxford kitchen where, suddenly, all was well in the world again.