London Town #2

Eventually, we decided it was time to go down to the Temple. We stopped at a little roadside stand to buy some cherries and made sure we picked up our muesli and yoghurt for breakfast. We also found some blue stilton. Then we made our way back to Victoria Station. Through the train window on the 45-minute ride, we caught tantalizing glimpses of the beautiful English countryside. The famous constant rain makes the landscape incredibly lush. We saw mile after mile of light green fields with dark green hedges and little flocks of spotted sheep.

The houses in England are delightfully quaint, whether they are flats in the city or little country cottages. And they take great advantage of even the minutest possible garden spot. Our train dropped us off at a sleepy station in the town where the Temple is located. We asked several people for directions to it, and dragged our luggage for several kilometers before we finally made it to the town center (later we would learn that our first turn after the station had been in the wrong direction, making the walk several times longer than it ought to have been). This time when we asked someone for directions, he offered us a ride. We didn’t even attempt to refuse.

He drove us right up to the gate, where the gatekeeper asked a few questions to make sure we weren’t gypsies sneaking in. Apparently two years ago the gypsies had driven right onto the Temple property, camped out there, and refused to leave. They went swimming in the pond and stole everything they could get their hands on. It took two months to get a court order evicting them from the premises. A couple of weeks ago, they came into town again, and two of them drove onto Church property with a van, and managed to steal several hundred pounds worth of gardening equipment. They were presently camped out just outside, so the Temple was keeping close tabs on everyone who came through the gate.

We probably did look a little like gypsies with all our bags and our children strapped onto us. But we were admitted, and checked into the Temple lodgings just before 8:00 in the evening. It is lovely to be able to stay at the Temple. In places like London, where the Temple serves a large area and some patrons must travel for many hours to reach it, the Church provides very reasonably-priced accommodations right on the Temple grounds.

For us, it was a little like being back at home in San Diego, where we could walk right by the Temple every night. It is like Rivendell, like a small oasis of peace where one can leave the world behind. In the morning, Sarah went and did a session in the Temple, while Tony and Axa and Raj went to explore the grounds and take photographs of the Temple. Unfortunately, as Sarah was leaving the Temple, the electricity flickered and went off. It was Friday morning, and it eventually turned out that the electricity would not be back on until Monday.

This was bad news for us, since our plane left early Monday morning. The five or six sessions we had hoped to do turned into just the one Sarah had already done. It had also dawned on us that there was no possible way we could get to Luton airport on Monday morning to catch our 6:35 a.m. flight without spending the night in transit to the airport. We determined that the best option was to take the train back into London on Saturday morning and get a hotel there. Then we could do some sightseeing and catch an early bus from Victoria Station up to the airport.

Friday evening we took a lovely walk back through the countryside to the center of town, enjoying the lovely scenery. In town we asked for restaurant recommendations and were directed to an Indian restaurant. It was decorated with several large aquariums, one of which was in the floor, and another doubled as a table. It was the best Indian food we had ever tasted. Sarah had a delicious mild coconut curry with banana, and Tony just let the waiter bring his recommendation.

The experience was a little strange. I have never been to a restaurant where the waiters, and indeed all the employees, were so excessively deferential. It was like being in 19th century India. The only thing they didn’t do was actually call me Memsahib. Whether they purposely create the atmosphere because their patrons enjoy it or it’s an inevitable product of their shared history, I’m not sure. It did start me wondering, though. How alive is their empire still in the minds of the modern British? What exactly do they mean when they inscribe “Our future is greater than our past” on a monument to the war dead from all their colonies? And above all, are Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles really shape-shifters in cahoots with the reptilian rulers of the hollow earth, controlling the world through a vast network of international banks?

The last paraphrases the plot of a book by one Mr. Eik, quoted of all places in Sunday School in London. Not a plot that would ever have occurred to me, but then, I’m not British . . .