Saturday, October 06, 2001

The Charm Continues

The Charm Continues
It is breakfast time once again. There are two men here from Sweden and we have seen them in the breakfast room before. They were discussing with Mr. Personality what their plans where for checking out. He made a big deal out of their English and snapped, “If you meant blah, blah, blah, you should have said blah, blah, blah.” Then he had the audacity to ask them if they have ever booked hotels in Sweden asking for the nights like they asked him. I was embarrassed for them being demeaned like this. I also wanted to say, but didn’t “Maybe if you spoke Swedish as well as they speak English, there were not have been a miscommunication, you arrogant bastard.” Where does he come off giving hotel reservation English lessons in that nasty tone of voice of his to these people who are paying him to stay there?
I sensed that this was not the right time for Ron to tell him that he broke the cord to open and close the drapes, but I could not intercept in time. Ron, in his usual relaxed manner said, “Oh, by the way, when I went to draw the curtains last night, the cord broke.” When Mr. Exuberance came back with “When you open or close the drapes, you need to pull the sofa away from them or they get stuck and that is bound to happen.” Of course, I had to get in the act and state that each time I opened or closed them, I did just that meaning move the sofa.” Well not to be out done, he shoots back with “Every time I have been in your room, the drapes have been bunched up. We had rings, but people would fling the drapes and break the rings off. We thought the cords would solve the problem, but obviously not.” It really helps the digestive juices to get in a spat with the hands that set out your food in the morning. Almost immediately after his lecture, he said “Coffee or tea for you this morning?” like a programmed robot. He has no finesse or social skills at all toward any of the clients that we have seen including us. I need to point out once again that for the most part, the people of London have been exceptionally friendly, polite, and pleasant to be around. As the saying goes, there is always one rotten apple…
We had called our friends Anne and Bruce who live in the Brixton area a half mile from us, to see if they wanted to join us for a local dinner some night. Anne had to work on a paper for her doctoral studies and Bruce had put his back out at work. They offered to let us leave our luggage that we did not need to take, at their place. This will save us from putting our backs out for a little while longer.
Our venture for the morning was to go to a famous Hindu temple built in London. It was in our London Pass book, but the entry was free, so we decided it might be worth seeing. Of course it took multiple transportation plans to get there, but it was worth it when we did. It is the Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sonotha Hindu Center. Their religious leader is Pramukh Swami Maharaj who was born in 1921 and the sixth swami of the sect of Hindus. The first decided that the Hindu religion has too much materialism in it and this caused the divisions with the caste system. He founded this branch after becoming enlightened and is totally impartial to race, creed, color, social level, or sex. There are now 1,750 temples of this sect throughout the world.
This current Swami is in the Guinness Book of World Records for building 386 temples in 11 countries over a 30-year span. He is also in another edition of the Guinness book for preparing 1,247 different vegetarian dishes for a Hindu holiday feast. To think that when we were vegetarians, every restaurant we went to only had pasta primavera. This temple is the largest Hindu temple outside of India. It is listed in the 70 Wonders of the Modern World.
From the outside the temple itself looks like an intricate ice carving. It is all white marble until you come to the entrance and visitor center, which is done in teak colored wood. When you walk in, you are asked to take your shoes off and there are places to store them. The main hall is the size of two football fields with room left over. The lobby is a blond wood floor, but the walls and ceiling are as intricately carved as the marble on the second level. The entrance hall is two stories and is completely carved wood, but none of this prepares one for what is upstairs.
When you walk up the marble steps, you enter the main temple where total silence is requested. The entire temple is carved out of white marble that was imported from Italy. It is like walking into an ice palace that was extravagantly executed, but has retained the warmth of love and faith. Giant columns elaborately carved with figures from Hindu history separate the main temple. The carvings continue into a huge domed ceiling. In five different alcoves, there are the major deities of the religion. We were fortunate to have made it there in time for them to be exposed. After we were there for about twenty minutes, they closed the doors on the icons. They are only exposed for certain hours of the day for certain amounts of time. There is a giant school across the street for grades K-12 where not only are academics taught, but also Indian culture, Indian crafts, dance, and the Hindu religion. Although we had been to a Hindu temple before, this was an exceptional experience.
Since we knew the British Museum would be closed on Sunday, we decided we had better get there pronto or lose out. We were leaving London on Monday. Of course that meant navigating a few buses and tubes, but we made it. We wanted to see the real Rosetta stone since we had only seen a copy in the Cairo Museum. We did a quick tour of some African art work and then found the main Egyptian section. We only had an hour and a half in a museum that you could spend days in. A taste was better than nothing at all, but it was still disappointing when the closing bells rang.
Having gotten a taste for the theater here like a dog that gets it first taste of table scraps, we were back at the Half Price Ticket office to try our luck. We had heard some good things about a play called Closer to Heaven, so we decided to try to that. The rains had come again and the wind was fierce. I managed to get four people out of line in front of us when I heard them say that wanted to see The Lion King. My advice was to go to the theater since the half price place did not even sell the tickets. That moved us up the line faster. The rain was really coming down.
We decided we had enough time for a quick snack and then we would run off to the Internet café to do our thing. We stopped at a restaurant in the Leicester area, because they advertised fish and chips. Ron had wanted to try them, so this was his chance. We never came across any fish and chips stands or other places where you can get the fish and chips wrapped in newspaper like you see in the movies or like friends have told us about. That must have gone by the wayside. The other food items that we never found were bangers or a toad in the hole, like you see at the renaissance fairs. I thought for sure that bangers were still pub food. From the looks of pub menus, the food is more upper class now. Even the close to a dive that Hobgoblin is, their menu did not include what we would have thought was pub food, but rather spaghetti and meatballs. We just finished snacking in time for getting back to the play.
There were signs in the tube stop stating that the public transportation system would be striking for two days starting a week from Monday. We feel sorry for commuters and tourists alike. With daily rain, the winds getting stronger, it will not be a pleasure to stroll around jolly ole England. There have been a lot of slow downs due to security alerts or suspected problems on some of the lines. It really causes chaos.
The play turned out to be a better title than a play. There was nothing Closer to Heaven about it. The story was weak, the character development was lacking to non-existent depending on the character, however; the singing was good and The Pet Shop Boys wrote a lot of the music. Some songs we actually recognized. The tickets were reasonable…I did not have to slit my wrists over it. Of course it was pouring rain when we left and the tubes were overcrowded since there are a number of theaters in that area. When we arrived in Brixton, we waited for the bus, but it never showed. Walking in the rain, the wind gusting mightily, our umbrellas decided to do flips and turn outward. It was enough to drive us to the pub for some dry space and a cool one. Which reminds me is another minor disappointment. I thought English pub beer was supposed to be served warm, dark and bitter. What is Miller’s Lite doing on the tap? One beer a day, we have tried several different English, Irish, and Scotch beers, but all are served cool to cold. Even the Guiness is served cold or extra cold on tap.
It is getting close to our time to leave London and we were suppose to look at maps tonight and decide where we were going to go next. Too late and too tired to care, we crawled into bed only to be awaked at 3:30 am by a woman’s voice shouting, “Mind my jacket, mind my jacket.” This went on and on without change of plea or change of rhythm for about forty-five minutes. She was across the street and the B & B is well off of the street, but she was still loud enough to wake us up. To wake me would have been easy if she were speaking a normal tone, but to wake Ron, I knew she was loud. And tomorrow is supposed to be our day of rest.
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