August 1, 1999

We made it to London and are staying in an enormous flat. It is up a whole bunch of stairs, but is as big as a house. We got the accomodations through a Trust that has them for overseas women graduates doing postgraduate study.  They had a big building on the Thames and that is where Stephanie lived in the 1980's so that is how we found out about it.

Things are going well and after coming over about 3 times now I have managed to quickly adjust to the time difference. Dalton has had the roughest time.   He was up yesterday at 1 a.m. watching telly till morning. He did manage to sleep all last night though.

We are having fun in London but anxious to get on the train north to GOD'S COUNTRY.

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What can I say? London is nice if you are rich, but Scotland is truly beautiful and I am getting in touch with old friends and getting set for another adventure.

Here is a cute little episode that happened in London.  Wednesday was the Queen Mother's 99th birthday.  We were out and about doing the tourist-thing and wandered over to Buckingham Palace, because it was a  day when the changing of the guards could be seen.

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We found ourselves in front of Clarence House and a crowd had begun to form.  This is the home of the Queen Mum and we walked up to watch T.V. anchormen and women reporting for English and German television. This put us essentially in the front row as a throng assembled behind us. We learned that the Q.M. would be coming out of the gates for a walkabout. We had to wait an hour against the barricade with people pushing against us straining for a glimpse. We watched the Welsh Guards come by playing Happy Birthday on fifes and the long red coated men-in-waiting, and the mounted horse guards ride by from Buckingham Palace (just down the street).

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Dalton got tired of being pressed by the mob and went around to the other side of the barricade. They were letting children sit on the curb and many had come with flowers to give to the Q.M. 

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Presently a great cheer went up and the crowd began singing "Happy Birthday" and her she came, riding slowly along on a little golf cart. One of the Corgies was with her. These are the squat little dogs beloved by the Queen. The old dog waddled along quite contentedly with a colorful long-coated chamberlain following at a respectful distance behind.   I think I got some good pictures. The Q.M. rode less than 10 feet away.

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Afterwards, Dalton came and told us that the Q.M.'s Corgie waddled over to him with tail wagging and wanted to be patted. How I would have loved to get a picture of that kid petting the Q.M.'s dog! Dalton did try to shake the hand of the Q.M., but he reported that she was wide-eyed with a toothy grin and too busy pointing at and grabbing presents and flowers from children.

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It was really a funny moment!

We laughed over it during the day and spent the rest of the day wandering through parks, etc., saw Kensington Palace, where Lady Diana lived, found ourselves in China Town and had a wonderful supper. We sat for awhile high on a ledge looking over Trafalgar Sq. and watched the dying of the light of day. 

Making our way back to a tube stop we had another interesting front row moment. We were passing the Haymarket Theatre when all of a sudden there was the sound of sirens and then police everywhere, moving and shoving people back from the theatre. A murmur went through the crowd that someone "important" was going to be arriving to see the play: "The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde.

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We stood across the street watching.  A couple minutes later a Rolls Royce pulled up, followed by a couple limos.  The RR had the Royal Standard mounted on the top, and inside was H.M. Queen Elizabeth and the H.M. The Queen Mother. We observed with great interest that they had to climb out of the back seat of the car like most everyone else.

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I hope the pictures turned out. It was really quite a moment with the crowd breaking into cheers and a chorus of "Happy Birthday." The Queen was quite regal and serene and walked into the theatre and stood just inside waiting.

Her mother, as old as this century and walking without a cane, walked halfway to the door and turned to wave to her adoring public. I understand that she is the most popular of the Royal Family.

Dalton was pretty jazzed about seeing all that as well, although he did his duty as a 10-yr old to maintain a 'cool' composure. I think the biggest thrill for him was seeing the fire juggler and the dude with 3-foot spiked hair a few minutes later in Picadilly Circus.

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It was quite funny to see royals twice, close-up, in the same day. Thought I'd share it with you, and especially those of you who know the ever-lucky Dalton J. Hirst, who himself, got to pat the Royal Pooch.

Then, it was off to Scotland.

Returning to London after the Scottish Games

The band flew out on Monday. We took the train back to London to fly out Tuesday, August 17th. It was a real blessing to have Stewart's policeman friend (who himself is from Glasgow and a drummer in the Grade One City of London P.B.) get accomodations for us in London for one night.

The cheapest hotel we could find was 75 pound sterling, and that with a shared toilet. His friend put us up at the BishopGate Police Station, in the financial district and literally in the city of London, near the stock exchange. They have some very basic rooms and it was a ridiculously cheap price and safe, and quite interesting. They have a bar and a cantina as well and the food was cheap and quite good.

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Dalton, the luckiest boy I've ever met, was at it again. He got to see several members of the Royal Family up close, patted the Queen Mum's Corgie, and found himself very lucky in London again the second time. As we walked across the Tower Bridge, a ship came sailing along and we got to stand on the far side of the bridge and watch it raise to let the ship pass. That was a thrilling sight.

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The next morning Dalton and I sat in the cantina having breakfast. The tables were filled with a few small groups of Bobbies, Inspectors and the like. They were all very professional and put-together and talking quietly. Suddenly, Dalton spied a tiny little mouse sitting quietly under one of the tables, nibbling some crumbs. That really upset the proverbial apple cart. The ladies made haste to remove themselves from the room. The men called in the cantina managers to see for themselves.  They procured boxes and it was quite a fine entertainment to watch these big men in uniforms chasing a little terrified mouse and finally capturing him in the corner. Dalton had climbed onto a table and was electrified to be in the midst of it all.

When I paid the bill and checked out, they apologized about the mouse. I told them it was perhaps the most thrilling part of Dalton's whole trip and that I had assured him they had set it free. They assured me that not only did they set the poor, cute little mouse free, but that they even found a nice churchyard. That's one lucky boy, and one very lucky little mouse. I think the boy is probably luckier. Part of the fun of this trip has been to try and see the sights from his perspective.

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We were quite glad to get home to Tucson at 2:30 a.m. this morning, high and dry. That's the news from Loch Wobegon, and the brave little pipe band that dared to dream big dreams.


Copyright x!99, 2000 William Don Carlos. All rights reserved
Monday, March 05, 2001 10:58:42 AM