On the Way to the Emerald City

While in London, it was Father’s Day and Mojo wanted to see Wicked.  Susan and I saw it three years ago in LA and loved it.

Mojo’s college roommate and his family were traveling with us.  We took the Tube to Leicester Square to find tickets.  Rows of shops advertised discounted tickets but we didn’t know whether they were legitimate so we walked to the main ticket kiosk in the Square.

Turning the corner, Spiderman’s London Premiere stage was being set up.  This remake promised to tell how Peter Parker became Spiderman after losing his parents.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were scheduled to arrive around 6:30.  We thought Wicked was playing at the Apollo Theatre two blocks from Leicester Square.  We had time to change clothes, get back to see the red carpet walk-by and get to Wicked by 7:30.

At 6pm, Leicester Square was full of people.  Large TV screens had been set up to show the stars’ arrival.  But that wasn’t good enough for our little friend Max.

An adventurous ten-year old, he shouted “I’m going in” and dove into the crowd.

We stood on the outside of the mob only seeing the actors on the big screen.  A half hour later, Max reappeared having met Garfield.

Looking more carefully at our tickets we realized Wicked was at the Apollo VICTORIA which was quite a ways away.  With only twenty-five minutes before the show, we decided the Tube was the fastest way to get there.


The entire platform was filled with people.  When the train arrived, Max like the Artful Dodger led his family onto the train, leaving us stranded on the platform.

We arrived late.  The ushers let us to stand behind the sound engineer where we waited for an appropriate break.

The performance was fantastic.  This cast was much better than the one we saw in Los Angeles.

The Irish Rachel Tucker shined as Elphaba.  Gina Beck was a superb Glinda. Unlike his LA counterpart, Matt Willis was convincing as Fiyero.

When Elpahba and Glinda sang “I hope you’re happy now that you’re choosing this” tears came to my eyes as I watched the friends say good-bye.

I felt Elphaba’s power when she defied gravity and flew into the rafters singing,

“And no one in all of Oz, no Wizard that there is nor was, is ever going to bring me down!”

Leaving the theater we saw a small crowd standing outside the backstage door.  The door swung open and out stepped Rachel Tucker in her street clothes.


In Oliver Twist’s London, we met two reluctant antiheros in one day.


Westminster’s Big Organ – Music

“What’s next,” I asked as we finished up our Westminster Arms fish and chips.

“Westminster Abbey for the organ recital.”

Both my mother and my grandmother played the organ in church so I have a small appreciation for grand, bellowing organ music.  But I wasn’t certain how I was going to sell Ace, Mark and Susan on the idea.

Leaving the pub, we kissed the Queen good-bye then walked to Westminster Abbey.  Standing outside the front doors, the children surveyed the enormous cathedral surrounded by saints and correctly anticipated TV would not be involved.

I tried distracting them.

“See the Lion and the Unicorn.  The Lion represents England and the Unicorn represents Scotland where your Burns ancestors came from.”

My kids knew when I called up the ancestors it meant a history lesson.

“Why are we here?” they tried not to moan.

“We are going to a concert.  This is where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married,” I began.

Their eyes glazed over.  Only my friend Deborah and I toasted their marriage ceremony last year.

“Queen Elizabeth was crowned here sixty years ago.”

They sighed.

As it happened we were visiting July 17th, a week before the 503rd anniversary of the Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s coronation.

“King Henry the VIII was also crowned here,” I continued.   “Do you remember which wife was made Queen? “  I directed my question at Susan who had dressed as Henry VIII on Tudor Day.

“The first one, Catherine,” Susan said.


Luckily the doors opened and we flowed in with the waiting crowd.

At 5:45 Martin Ford, the Assistant Organist appointed in January, began Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C minor.  Although we could not see him, based on the program, he is quite young.  As the program suggested, at the end of the piece, we kindly reserved our applause.

After the second piece, William Byrd’s Fantasia in A, our friend and his six-year old daughter had disappeared.  During the fourth and final piece, Toccata by Lanquetuit, several people turned around to smile at the sleeping Ace, Mark, Susan, their friend and Mojo.

At least there was no snoring.

Westminster Abbey hosts a free organ recital every Sunday at 5:45.  It’s a nice, civilized way to enjoy the cathedral when you visit London.

Next door is the official gift shop selling royal souvenirs.

The Westminster Arms is a block way on the other side of the park green.

Arriving Late for the Jubilee Ball

It’s a fantastic time to visit London.  Everything has been spruced up for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.

We arrived June 17th, the day after the Big Party.  I made up for missing it by purchasing HELLO Magazine’s Diamond Jubilee souvenir edition.

Through October, you can still enjoy an exhibit of the World’s Most Photographed Woman at the National Portrait Gallery.

A photographic documentary of the last 60 years, the exhibit includes some of the most famous 20th century photographers and artists.   The formal and regal Dorothy Wilding’s and Cecil Beaton’s 1952 coronation portraits to the Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen” album cover and Andy Warhol’s graphic re-interpretation of the Queen are all on display.

The exhibit includes American Annie Leibovitz’ 2007 Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace photo.  This was from the photo shoot which brought about “Queensgate”, a controversy that led to the resignation of the BBC One’s head.  I love this photo.

Leibovitz was given twenty-five minutes to photograph the 80-year old Queen.  All the photos were taken inside the palace.  At the last minute, Leibovitz asked the Queen for a final photo wearing the admiral’s cape but not the tiara.  Her image was digitally placed in the garden photo taken the day before.

I was naughty and took a photo of this great 3-D portrait before the guard swooped down on me and my little friend.

“Madame, you are not allowed to take any photos.”

Really?  It seems I am the first person who is not allowed to take a picture of the Queen.

If you are not in London, you can view the National Portrait Gallery’s 716 photos of the Queen online.

Annie Leibovitz’ other, more formal, photos of the Queen can be seen in her book, Annie Leibovitz At Work.

In this wonderful book, Leibovitz describes photographing Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was a body-builder and not the Governator; working as a photographer for Rolling Stone; and her by-chance opportunities with the aged architect Philip Johnson, writer Irving Penn and artist Agnes Martin.

She took photos of many, many famous people like Nicole Kidman before she had all that work done on her face and Hillary Clinton with short-hair.  Somebody needs to re-send that photo to Hillary.  I think she needs a new hair style.

There is a photo of Carl Lewis taken just before he competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – Yaoo – Za!

Sorry Queen, I got a little distracted.

Don’t Pick Me Up – Eurostar Eavesdropping

Riding the Eurostar through the Chunnel from Paris to London I mused on how technologies continue opening our private lives to the general public.

After thwarting the Gare du Nord pickpockets, we waited in the Duty-Free lobby for our train.  Sipping my latte, I people watched and noticed a young woman.  Her platinum Annie Lenox (who sang at the Queen’s Jubilee Party) haircut and high-heeled boots with 4-inch metal spikes caught my attention.  As she sashayed through the lobby, Mojo looked up from his Ipad.

“The walk of shame,” he grinned, referring to people/women caught in the morning wearing their party clothes from the night before.

Of course – on the train she ended up sitting in the seat in front of Mojo and across the aisle from me.  Mojo again mouthed “walk of shame” as the smell of alcohol wafted in our direction.  I giggled remembering my own days of wine and song.

Fumbling through her enormous handbag that carried everything a girl needed for a quick trip to Paris, she pulled out her mobile.

“Hello Brian.  I just wanted you to know that I am on the train from Paris and will arrive at 10:30.”

“You lost your debit card?…You don’t know where?….So you cannot pick me up.  I don’t need you to pick me up….You don’t have to be sorry…….Brian, I just wanted to tell you, it’s over.  I am tired of it all…..No, don’t pick me up from the station.  I was out last night and I am tired.  I am just going to go home to sleep…..Of course, you go and pick up your card.  I can get home by myself.  It doesn’t matter.  I am done with it all. You and the drama.  I am done.  That’s it…..No, don’t pick me up from the station.  Go get your card.  I am tired, all I want to do is sleep.  I will talk to you after I have slept… I just wanted to tell you I am going to be in London at 10:30.  But don’t pick me up.  I will go home and sleep.  Okay good-bye and don’t pick me up.”

She fumbled through her bag and the phone rang again.

It was Brian.

“Yes?…I don’t want to talk to you until I have slept. …. I called to tell you I am arriving at 10:30.  I don’t need you to pick me up….. Look I am shattered.  And I am sick to death of you and your issues.  I cannot take it anymore.  I am done. That’s it.  Finished……I don’t need this in my life.  You go and get your card.  I am arriving at 10:30 then I will go home and sleep….I don’t want you anymore.  It’s over.  I am finished….I understand.  Go get your card but I am done.  Don’t pick me up.  I need to sleep.  Okay good-bye.”

Ring, ring.

“Hello?  Hi darling… I am great.  How are you?….. I am on the train coming in from Paris.  I went for a quick visit….No, without Brian.  It was great…I will be in London at 10:30.  Sorry, I am exhausted after last night and I need to sleep when I get in.  But I can meet you around 5:30…..Yes, I just need a little nap and I will be fine…. Okay see you at tea.  Bye-bye.”

She turned her phone to silent but felt it vibrating and swiped her finger across the face.

“I wasn’t ignoring you.  I was talking with someone else.”


“I cannot talk to you now.  I am not interested in your drama.  I’m done.  Finished.  I DO NOT CARE.…..Go get your card.  I can get home by myself….I will arrive in London at 10:30…. No – don’t pick me up.  Good-bye.”

Emotionally and physically exhausted, she slipped her phone into her bag.  Lulled by the train, she snored within seconds.  She woke up in time to powder her nose and to check to see if Brian had called before the train pulled in at 10:30.


Tales by Chapter

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