It’s interesting how some things stand out sharply in my memory, while other things are a complete blur. For instance, the names of almost anyone who went on the trip with me. (Sigh– I don’t know whether it’s faceblindness or self-centeredness or both.) I really did have a great time with all of the classmates who went with me on the trip, and I’m so thankful for them– it’s just that, with a few exceptions, I cannot remember their names. Isn’t that awful? I even have a list of them, and I can’t remember who’s who.
Other things have blurred for me, such as what day things took place on. I talked about getting caught in the downpour of rain on Saturday night, but based on what I wrote on the postcards I never got around to sending, that actually happened on Sunday night. It’s strange that I seem to be able to remember things from early in life better than I can remember things from ten years ago. There are several possible explanations for this, of course:
- My memories from early in life consist of the most memorable events over a period of several years, while my memories of this trip come from a period of just two weeks.
- My brain became overwhelmed by input by the time I was in college, and it dealt with this by not bothering to store things long-term.
- My “hard drive” ran out of memory about when I turned 18.
Anyway, classmates with better memories are welcome to dispute the details of when we did what.
Monday was mostly a “free” day; I think the only thing on our schedule was a visit to the British Library. Among the items on display there were the Codex Sinaiticus (a 4th-century copy of the Old and New Testaments in Greek from before lowercase letters OR spaces were used!), the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, and some of Shakespeare’s writing. All of them much older than my entire country. Pretty amazing!
Here’s an example of how awesome my classmates on this trip were. When we were on the bus tour, they noticed that the Palace Theatre was advertising Broadway musicals like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, at prices that you would never see in the U.S. Several people in the class were interested in trying to go, though it didn’t seem likely we’d be able to get tickets during the short time we’d be in London. But my classmates stopped by and got tickets to see Les Miserables on Monday evening, the night before we were to leave for Paris!
I was excited; I loved the story and had a CD with all the songs on it. It’s one of the most powerful portrayals of Christ-like love and mercy I’ve encountered in art. Our seats were up in the balcony, but the view was fine. The seats cost only 10 pounds, which was about $15. And the performance was terrific.
A few other random memories of London:
- The pavement near the crosswalks had “LOOK RIGHT” written on it in big letters to keep people like me who are used to cars driving on the right from instinctively looking the wrong way and stepping out in front of traffic. That was considerate.
- I liked the simplicity of using the London Underground (the subway) to get around the city. It kept me from ever getting totally lost. I also liked the famous simplified underground map, which I would eventually study as an example of efficient technical communication.
- The British one-pound coins were my favorite coins from the trip. They have a nice thickness and weight that feels good to hold in your hand (appropriate for a coin worth more than a dollar). Like all British coins, the “heads” side has the queen on it, but there were a lot of different designs for the “tails” side. My favorite was a dragon– unfortunately, I don’t think I managed to hold on to that one, because I needed it for a bus ride back to the hotel. It occurs to me that this was before the U.S. started making a quarter for every state in the union; the different designs may not have made as big an impression on me otherwise.
- We walked through Harrods, a famous department store with all sorts of things much too expensive to buy. I noticed a chess set there with an American Revolution theme, with Washington and his blue-clad colonials facing off against the British redcoats. I remembered the old rule “white on the right, and queen on her color,” and looked closely at how the pieces were set up. Sure enough, the red queen was on a white square, making the British the white pieces and thus the forces of good in this chess game.