Okay, jumping the gun. I am not in France yet! And yes, lots has changed in England, but much has remained the same.
It is cold, rainy, damp…just the kind of weather no one ever wants. So not a lot of meandering in sunny parks. Instead we visited Pollocks Toy Museum – a very enjoyable way to while away an hour – and then went to see a play.
Theatre in London continues to be excellent. Saw a very funny production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties at the Apollo Theatre with two of my room-mates from Atlantic College. All three of us were avid about theatre then and comprised about 3/8ths of the Drama club at the school, so appropriate that we seized the opportunity to see a play written in 1974, just two years after we finished school. Only one of us sure she’d seen it before (and that was not me.) Great performances and such a clever, entertaining piece. The Apollo has plenty of gilt and balconies but is altogether quite small compared to many London theatres, so we had a great view. And a lovely walk to Leicester Square tube station through Chinatown.
I guess one of the things about traveling in your oh-so-golden years (!?!) is that if you visit friends, you do a lot of both catching up and reminiscing. Kate, Scarlett & I were all roughly 16 when we met – both of them Brits, very bright and totally aware of the rigors of the British education system. Which is to say, they did well at school (especially Kate!) and I barely passed. Now we are all in our sixties, all have children, Kate & I grandchildren – but only I am “retired”. We talked a lot about our children, the way the world has gone to hell in a handcart, what we think our last years might look like … and politics, oh the agonies of Brexit (they are both serious Labour party supporters, not happy about anything right now) and of course the orange nightmare in America.
Following on the unintentional theme of returning to our youth, we visited a wonderful exhibit at the V & A entitled “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970”. We were at school 1970-72, but the music we listened to was from the late 60s, so this exhibit was basically created for us. Beautifully curated. Upon arrival you donned headsets which automatically played music/soundtracks appropriate to each piece/room as you approached/entered. The exhibit totally captured the enthusiasm and sense of hope and transformation that characterized the era, the idealism and determination to make the world a better place by rejecting the establishment and celebrating free love, rock n roll, and EVERYONE’s rights – not to mention the crazy (and pretty comical now) fashions. In one of the last rooms, the film Woodstock ran on a loop, projected on 3 walls – people sat cross-legged on the floor to watch. Perfect.
It made me a bit sad, to recall so intensely the fervor of those days – and the profound hope – and realize how much it is all just history now. What happened to all those dreams and crusades? What happened to us?
Well, we grew up – and the world changed, but not quite the way we imagined it might.
The first week of my travels has gone quickly. I had work to do (editing a book, just finished), and mostly spent time catching up with Scarlett and getting over jet lag. Tomorrow the adventure really begins. I fly to Madrid and then on to a whole new experience volunteering with the Diverbo Pueblo Ingles program. It sounds like there are close to 20 volunteers. We all got the go-ahead final details email last week and since then there has been a flurry of emails between volunteers, introducing themselves, discussing possible get-togethers in Madrid. It will be interesting to see who all is involved (I suspect many will be …er…younger, but I could be wrong). I’ll get to meet everyone at a reception on Thursday – at a restaurant where we will dine on paella and (maybe) see flamenco dancers. Bring it on!