The Tower

A magical day.

For we awoke knowing that at the end of today, a room awaited us in a London hotel; that I, and Maddie, and Felix, would be able to indulge in a common passion: our favourite city. London.

We had an agenda. Today, the Globe, tomorrow, the Tower. Whatever else came our way, these were fixed. We walked the dog, visited Granny and then set the internal compass for the city whose streets are paved with folkloric gold.

It never takes long: a train ride to Waterloo, and then our feet do the walking. The wide brown Thames is the very best of tour guides and it’s but a hop, skip and a pricey lunch from Waterloo to Sam Wannamaker’s ship of dreams, a faithful reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatre which nestled on the South bank with bear baiting and open fields, centuries ago.

The open fields may be long gone but the party atmosphere, the feeling that this place is for leisure: that is ever-present, perpetuated by the street performers and the jaunty boatmen, and that beast-turned-beauty, The Tate Modern. In her frumpier days she may have been bullied mercilessly, but my, how the tables have turned. Daily she hosts great men, artists, the bohemian and the mildly curious, a jewel to dazzle with culture where once only bears could satiate.

We passed her and the footbridge which arches its spine towards The City and St Paul’s Cathedral and strode purposefully into the Globe.

But the Globe was busy, hosting a matinee, despite its protestations that it is not a working theatre. It was the best of excuses, accompanied by an offer to see the foundations of Marlowe’s theatre, the Rose, just down the road. But Mad had come a long way for this, and the Rose would not do. The Globe would be there for us tomorrow morning: meanwhile, the Tower was lowering at us, waiting for a chance to intimidate someone new.

We took a bus. We irritated the bus driver beyond words, asking at each stop if this was the one. We knew our stop instantly because there was an enormous great tower swaggering next to the road. We are no strangers to its formidable exterior; but we’ve never been inside. Inside has a sizeable price tag. Today, we stumped up.

The architecture is famliar to us. We know castles, and throne rooms, and winding staircases. No: it was not that ancient bricks and mortar that dazed us.

It was the names.

Traitors’ Gate: today I saw the steps she walked up, knowing how fragile her hold on life must have been. We saw The Bloody Tower: miserable rooms for so many, filled today with tourists and dappled sunlight.

We filed obediently past Henry VIII’s voluminous armour. The bottom had to be seen to be believed; but in that getup I wouldn’t have quarrelled with him. It was redolent of a raptor.

The resident midnight corvids capered around, and I wondered how they persuade them to stay. With the fate of Kings resting on their small forms one must sometimes simply want to fly away from it all.

But my heart hammered, for what reason I could not say, when my children stood artlessly talking and sketching at a window in the tower.

For in distant times two small brothers must have stood at the same glass, gazing on a not dissimilar prospect. The Princes in the tower were first seen often playing outside, then glimpsed occasionally from these very windows. Finally, they disappeared all together.

We came away dazzled and delighted, and bussed and tubed our way to this lovely room. It has a birds-eye view: we picnicked gazing at rooftops and landmarks, and then took a walk in the Lebanese quarter, watching restaurants with hookahs as standard, and their clientele taking long draws, talking animatedly in the twighlight.

Now the children are asleep and I gaze out over the lights of a vast city, hugging the night to myself.

Tomorrow, the garrulous affability of Speakers’ Corner and a tour of that round white riverside theatre: tonight, a delight in a rather glittering moment.

Sleep well, Friends.


22 thoughts on “The Tower

  1. Oh, I’m so envious Kate – London is such a cultural and historical treasure trove to explore – thanks for bringing it to us in this way – looking forward to the next episode down here in the Antipodes later today

    1. Penny, I wish you had been there: the stories step out of the wall at one! I remember you writing about Emerson’s pond and striking a very similar chord of yearning in me. One day I’ll get there…

  2. How lovely! I use the word “lovely” on purpoe – it describes one of the “Days set apart” that I talked about – truly some holy time.

    It is a dream of mine to visit London – all of our sons have been – plus I want to spend a lot of time touring the rest of the British Isles. We have long considered doing a “house exchange,” but I’ve researched it only briefly. Maybe some day! How about your family? Interested in staying in a 3 bedroom, 1-1/2 bath, 111 year-old farmhouse in the mountains of Western North Carolina? It’s fully modernized, yet we have kept its historic charm intact. We also have a hot tub on the deck. . . You can take care of Princess and Justin, and we will take custody of Mac!

    Hope the Globe is all that Mad is expecting! Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!

    1. Thanks Paula, and what an attractive prospect a house swap would be: When I have decorated the house top-to-toe and vamoussed the ironing pile, I’ll get back to you:-D I loved that post of yours: these times are so special .

      1. Shoot, Kate, don’t worry about the ironing pile! Ashley loves to iron, and anyway – did you notice anywhere in my comment that I said our house was clean and orderly? šŸ˜€

  3. I am so jealous! Visiting the Globe is in my ten favourite things I ever did list. I am desperate to do it again.

    I love London. Enjoy it for me!

    1. You will not beLIEVE what they offered us as we walked in, Tilly: a years readmission!! Just for filling out details for a covenant!! We said hello to the Globe on your behalf, and can see precisely why it’s on your top ten list. Brilliant day out…

  4. I have never been to the Globe. Shame onme.

    When we visited The Tower Techie knew his way around as though he had visited it before.

    He’d played a video game, called I think ‘Traitors gate’ – and it was an accurate representation of the place!

  5. Lovely. I’ve never been to the either. The Globe wasn’t built when I lived in London and the Tower has always been expensive. Beautifully written.

    1. The Tower is very pricey. We have walked past it for years saying no, but it seemed a good time to bite the bullet, take out the mortgage and buy the tickets. It was, though, awesome…

  6. Oh, Kate! How I loved the Tower. Haunted, romantic, frightening, strange. I loved it. I went alone while my friends attended their University courses, and I was completely enchanted.

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