Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two princes

So last night I went to a dinner at the Tower Of London.

I'd not been there since 1980 when we took our German exchange person to London on a day trip. He said he wanted to go to Stonehenge, being a bit Nuklearfission? Nein danke!, but dad wouldn't hear of it, he said it was too far away, although it wasn't, so off to London we went. Lipps Inc's Funkytown on the radio every half hour it seemed. He sulked the whole day. In fact he sulked the whole 10 days.

Anyhoo, I suppose we must have seen the crown jewels back then but I don't remember one single thing about it. So it came as a surprise to me just how interesting it all is. It's steeped in history at every turn. 'That's where Elizabeth I was imprisoned,' said the beefeater, 'and Anne Boleyn walked through that arch over there. In those towers the Krays were kept after going awol from the army.' You could feel the ghosts. It was a hauntologists dream.

It's so huge as well. At one time 5000 people lived there and there were more than 20 taverns. It's like a little other world. I once worked with a woman who lived there because she was married to a Beefeater. She had nothing but bad things to say about it, but frankly when it was all empty and floodlit it was quite beautiful. So clean and green and really...old. And I mean really old. No wonder Americans love it.

So we had a private view of the crown jewels, which was great not having to fight to see them through throngs of tourists - the excess is breathtaking. But the skip-sized gold-plated punchbowl would make any shindig go with a swing. Each scoop from it is a bottle-and-a-half of claret. 

We had dinner in a tower, haunted apparently by Thomas A Beckett, and then got to see this ceremony where they lock up. It's all very atmospheric in the dark, whith no tourists around so it's all quiet and echoey. They do this every night I hear, whether there are people there or not, but if a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it... I love England.

I'd also never seen a raven before. They're huge and make a strange, almost tropical noise. There they were, all tucked up in bed, just in case they fly off and disaster subsequently strikes.

I used to walk past the Tower every day for two years when I worked round there, and it never crossed my mind to go in. When you live in a place you rarely make best use of it. It made me resolve to visit things like this more.


Cocktails said...

I won tickets to the Tower last year and had a fabulous time. You can feel the history - just! The sheer volume of visitors tends to take the edge off a typical trip I think. Your evening visit is definitely the way to do it.

Didn't you find the crown jewels just a bit... well, tacky though?

Five-Centres said...

Well, kind of Cocktails, but the amount of gems and the size of them are staggering. You can keep all the gold stuff though. What next, gold taps?

Mondo said...

I first visited during the mid-70s and like most educational trips then seemed a bit dry, dusty and Blue Peter meets Encyclopaedia Britannica. My main memory of the day is the shock of seeing Marvel Comics London office with a Spiderman motif on the wall. That, and no one else took any notice of it.

We re-visted a few years ago, and hopped on a Beefeater guided tour - what a difference. The entire estate came to life and we left boggled and full of beans.

apparently the Beefeaters also do Jack the Ripper tours. Got to be worth a go

Ishouldbeworking said...

Isn't it brilliant? I went a couple of years ago with a friend-in-the-know, and we got a few 'extras' like you did. When the crowds have gone, the atmosphere of the place is palpable.

I love London, me.

Electric Blue said...

You had dinner in the Tower of London? Do you have any idea how jealous I am?