This trip is my 50th birthday present to myself. And I feel so ashamed about that right now. I have a long list of places I wanted to see–Tate Modern, V&A, British Library, Abbey Road–– and no one (not even me) feels like going. The shingles is wretched today. My entire left thigh feels like it’s hiked for years–tight, achy, disgustingly ugly and covered in huge red welts. Also, it feels like tiny needles poke at it when I least expect it. The meds make me dizzy and nauseated. But we have joined up with our friends from Northampton, and the kids are in heaven until we tell them we are going to the Tower of London. “Noooooooo!” cries the 8-year-old.
I am immediately brought back to my own childhood dread of being dragged around to museums. My grandmother was a great lover of art, and from my earliest memories brought us to art galleries and museums. My mother is an historian, so her bag was history museums and sites. That’s just what we did on Saturdays: trudged around seeing impressive things that made me cranky. So I had tons of compassion for my son. In fact, his proximity made the tower boring to me, and it was my idea to go! Amazing how one person’s attitude can affect me. Two years ago when Tom and I went to Paris with my parents, I couldn’t get enough of the architecture, the statues, the history. I was with people who were as energetic and curious as I was. But now, all I could think was, “So what? I read about the princes in the tower when I was twelve. I know the story. Big deal.”
Part of the plan for this trip was to finally go to Liverpool. But no one wants to go now, not even me. Maybe my parents were right: it’s just a dirty industrial city.
The girls are into the Tower and race around sharing a sweatshirt; they hope to be mistaken for Siamese Twins. I am intrigued by the evolution of the architecture, the incredible ages of the buildings, including part of a Roman wall from the second century. And I have to admit, when I see the staircase where the two little princes’ bodies were discovered in the 1600s, I have shivers. It’s an amazing, tragic story.
I do not care about the crown jewels. What strikes me, in my crankitude, is how strange these royal rituals are, how uptight and tied to the past in ways that seem rigid and meaningless now. Well, to me–an American. But these are my people, my ancestors. I feel a connection, but a very odd one. The are my ancestors, but not my tribe. I miss music. Maybe I can get the kids to busk with me tomorrow.