Touring Before the
all the time planning and talking about the trip to come, July 11th came
all too quickly. We drove down to Newark Airport and boarded our Virgin
Atlantic/Continental flight at about 6:00 PM. The Scouts were much taken
with the small TV sets in the back of each seat, and the big bag of
amenities - eyeshades, slippers, pads and pens and even a toothbrush with
a small yellow rubber ducky. Needless to say, despite all my warnings, the
Scouts were much too keyed up to sleep, and as dawn broke over Ireland,
were still awake and excited to see the first landfall under our wings as
breakfast was served. By 6:00AM, we were on the ground at Gatwick Airport,
and went quickly through baggage reclaim and customs. I bought tickets for
everyone on the Connex commuter train to Victoria Station, and we carried
our loads downstairs to the railroad tracks.
Then we hit the first glitch of the trip. In running to get to the Connex train, we got split up. All unknowing, I rushed into the train, settled into my seat with a sigh of relief - and then discovered I had less than half the group with me, and none of the other leaders. Everyone else was still at Gatwick. We had the ham radios, but had never discussed what frequency to use, so I had no way to contact the rest of the group (lesson one: coordinate communications before you leave) . We arrived at Victoria, and waited at the platform for the next train. And waited, and waited. Finally, I contacted the station staff and had the group paged at each end of the run. Nothing. Eventually, I called Dockland Scout Project - the rest of the group was just arriving at the boat. As it turned out, when our train pulled out, the rest of the group ran back over the overpass to the Gatwick Express, and were put on the next Gatwick Express train - which was faster than our train, and didn't stop between the airport and Victoria. They had arrived first, waited around, then ran into a group of Scouts from Nevada and went on to Dockland. (lesson two: always have a meeting point when using public transport). Oh well. Off to Dockland on the Underground and Dockland Light Rail to meet the rest of the group and take a kidding from the Nevada leaders.
Dockland Scout Project is the Sea Scout Base in London, on the "Lord Amory" moored in the City Canal across the Thames from the Millenium Dome. We checked in with Tony Ford, the warden, and got the lecture on boat safety ("keep your hands out of your pockets"). Then, back on the DLR and Underground to Southwark (pronounced "suthark") and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
The Globe is an accurate reproduction of Shakespeare's theatre, rebuilt in the late '90's about 100 yards from the original site (which is now under the footings of a bridge). Other than a few required modern amenities (sprinklers hidden in the thatch, electric lights for night performances), the Globe tries to be as authentic as possible, with considerable success. The "groundling" tickets are a real bargain - only five pounds (about $7.50) - and allow the best "seats" in the house. Well, not seats, really - "stands" is more accurate. We stood right next to the stage for an entire performance of "The Tempest", featuring a knockout performance by Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero. The rest of the cast was of equally high caliber, if not as well known - Jasper Brittan as Caliban was particularly good. Left: Dave, Nick and Rob during intermission.
Once the performance ended we split up into two groups to get dinner, arranging to meet at Tower Hill Underground station afterwards. When Tony's group arrived we discovered that they had had their entire meal paid for by a former Scout eating at the same restaurant - "many thanks", whoever you were! At left, Rob and friend at the remains of London's Roman wall, Tower Hill station.
Our evening program was a "Jack the Ripper Haunts" walk, guided through London's East End by one of the "London Walks" guides. The walk leaves from the Tower Hill station, and heads off through an area which is nearly deserted at night - largely filled with post-WWII office buildings and the like. In Jack's time, 1888, this area was a rabbit warren of tiny, narrow, winding streets inhabited by over a million of London's poorest citizens. As our guide put it, the area was subjected to large-scale redecoration by Luftwaffe bomb, and little remains that Jack, whoever he was, would recognize. Still, the walk was interesting and informative and (of course) gory in the extreme, as we followed the steps of the mass murderer and discussed the victims and the suspects. Was he a sailor on a butcher boat? Doctor Cream? The Duke of Clarence? James Maybrick? Despite over a century of conjecture, Jack's identity remains unknown, but one thing is certain - whoever he was, he's dead by now.
Along the way, in Mitre Square, Anthony put his camera bag containing his new camera and lenses down and forgot about it as we listened to the details of the disemboweling of Catherine Eddowes, Jack's fourth victim. We went off along the trail of the Ripper, and somewhere around the pub stop across from Spitalfields Market, Anthony discovered his loss. We completed the walk, and Anthony and Tony set off to retrace our step and see if they could find the camera bag. Miraculously, they did. Truly, Someone was looking over us on this trip.
Tired but satisfied, we rode the DLR back to our bunks at Dockland, with just time to take a few night pictures before collapsing into bed.
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- Last update January 7, 2001