What a beautiful day. For the past 3 nights I’ve been wakened by thunderstorms. Big booming things. And then today I woke up and we had clear blue skies with a lovely cool breeze blowing. No more heat wave. A perfect day for walking. I’ve been trying to walk to as many places as I can instead of taking the tube. Keeps me exercising but also allows me to see the streets of London, the people.
Today I walked to Westminster Abbey – about 2¼ miles from my room. A lovely walk – takes me through Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square. I walked past 10 Downing Street and The Prime Minister catcalled me! Cheeky bugger. :) Then past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Very impressive. But then I walked past them, crossed the street, and there it was… Westminster Abbey. And I let out a little gasp. The pictures I took can hardly begin to capture the grandeur of this place, but I tried.
You can’t take photos inside, which I was honestly relieved by. Forced me to just focus on the beauty inside, take it all in instead of trying to capture, capture, capture. Really hard to do, though. It’s a bit overwhelming, the Abbey. Lots to look at. Many, many, many tombs, epitaphs, and effigies everywhere. And then there’s the stunning architecture. I saw the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots! Lots of musicians, actors, and poets have memorials or tombs here, too – Laurence Olivier, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, William Wilberforce (the man who helped to abolish slavery in England), Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy, on and on and on. And then of course many kings and queens buried here in some very elaborate tombs. Oliver Cromwell was at one time buried here, but after the restoration of the monarchy his body (DEAD body, mind you) was dug up, HANGED (still dead, mind you), then DECAPITATED and reburied at an unknown location. His head is buried near the chapel of Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge where he studied. Geez. Remind me never to tick these people off.
The really nice thing they do at the Abbey is every hour they ask you to stop and be silent for a minute of prayer. Westminster is an active church, so they hold services every day, and anyone is welcome to attend. I think it’s so wonderful that you can still worship in this beautiful place. I lit a candle in Mom’s memory in the nave of the church, said a prayer for my family, for our leaders. It was pretty incredible to be standing in the very place where William the Conqueror, Elizabeth I, and every single king and queen of England has been crowned since 1066.
I strolled to the garden and sat on the grass for a bit, said goodbye to the Abbey, took a peek at the coronation chair on my way out.
Then I hopped on a boat and took a cruise down the Thames, decided to get off at Greenwich, which is the last stop on the boat, about 30 minutes from the Tower of London. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out the Royal Observatory is at Greenwich, and so is the Prime Meridian! That’s right, this Greenwich is the home of Greenwich Mean Time. And the line in Greenwich represents the Prime Meridian of the World - Longitude 0º. Every place on Earth is measured in terms of its distance east or west from this line! How cool is that? It divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth just as the Equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres. You have to climb a very steep hill to get to the Prime Meridian and the observatory, but by the time I got to the top the gates were closed. I’ll be going back to get my picture taken standing both east and west, though! If you want to know more about all this, check out the observatory site.
Then back on the boat for a lovely sail back up the Thames, and home.
Oh, and by the way, Thomas Hardy's heart is buried in the churchyard at Stinsford in Dorset. hee hee
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.