ELEVATION: The Tour Diary ("For my sanity and your entertainment," M.) - Page 8
£ Ruby Tuesday
All right. I've already reached the end of my stay in Stokenchurch. The past few weeks have sped by.
Some of you will be amused to hear one bloke told me I'm the most laid back of the folks that have visited from Denver. Which reminds me of my landlady back in Earls Court. There was all sorts of nonsense going on with my fellow students moving in and out (over night, without warning) and we were facing eviction because some weren't paying rent. She wanted to check my pulse because I was so calm. She was dead serious at the time, but it's funny thinking about it now.
I guess the point is this: If you're not going to lead, then get out of my way. Or something like that.
Anyway, due to time constraints, here's a brief update:
£ No Gooooooooaaaaalll!
Went to the England/Holland Friendly match (a non-qualifying competition) on the 15th. It was a great experience! And, truth be told, it makes a lot more sense to call this game "football" than the American version. After all, in the variety out here, the primary contact with the ball is the foot - and the head! Besides, it was explained to me this way: 164 countries play football. One country plays American football.
Additionally, it was good to see real athletes on the field - no Refrigerators need apply to play this game. I was impressed with the athleticism and the pacing - no time outs, the game is played for 45 minutes, then a 15 minute interval, then another 45 and the competition is finished.
Although, due to "congestion" at the North turnstiles, the game was delayed 15 minutes. That was a good thing; we made it in just in time for the singing of the national anthems.
It was quite a thrill to hear the 35,238 sell-out crowd sing God Save the Queen (OK, not everybody sang - a few hundred were Holland fans, clad in orange and black, and mostly relegated to the southwest corner of the stadium). As members of the North stands, we got to hold up sheets of paper that, collectively, formed the English flag. Very nice!
As for the matchup, England played a crap game. David (Mr. Posh) Beckham and company were impotent and England lost to the tokers 2-0. (Come on, England!) Nonetheles, it was a great atmosphere and fun to see all the England jerseys and flags and to partake in all the nationalistic fervor.
Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to be a hooligan and create an international incident.
Speaking of hooligans: On the radio Sunday they were talking about the Germany/England competition coming up on 1 September. They were worried about the hooligans and security was expected to be tight. After all, that day marks the 62nd anniversary of Germany's invasion of Poland...
£ The Weather and My Health
The weather out here has been playing some tricks on me. A downpour Sunday morning lead to some clearing skies, but then occasional showers. It wouldn't be so bad, but the conditions vary such that you can go from getting drenched to baking in the sun to getting drenched again in a few minutes' time.
Regarding my health, there's been a nagging cold that's hit over the past week. While it slowed my pace, it did not keep me down. (How does that song go? I get knocked down, but I get up again - you're never gonna keep me down!)
There are a number of contributing factors:
The office environment: It can be either freezing or overheating in here!
The non-stop activity and travel.
Teaching (I always seem to get sick when I have to teach).
And, conspicuously enough, the cold hit right when my Guinness consumption was down. There was a stretch where too many restaurants I patronized did not serve Guinness!
Oh well. All the above are suspects.
£ Ghost Stories
During the drive from Stokenchurch to Oxford Friday night, I was entertained by this polite English chap on the radio who was oh so enthusiastic to talk about the care and planning for your raspberry and gooseberry plants. (Raspberry, according to him, is the "perfect food"!) He was unintentionally funny.
After almost getting run over by a sidewalk sweeper machine thingy, I took the Oxford Ghost Walk that night. It was a guided tour around some of the more tragic events in Oxford's history.
One lane in particular was said to be the location of a "supernatural impression," such was the intensity of the activity there a couple hundred years ago as troops gathered for the hunt for Cromwell. Locals, the guide explained, to this day tend to shy away from the lane at night, preferring to take the long route to their destinations.
That alone warranted a solo return after dinner.
Other observations during the tour: The site of the first performance of Hamlet outside of London was at the The King's Arms in Oxford, in the backyard. One theory about the Sheldonian heads: They're a sampling of different fashions of beards.
Hitler spared Oxford - he wanted it to be his capitol.
The ghost stories had perfect timing, they started as a chill came over the air. I felt at home, though, decked out in my Oxford sweatshirt. We also walked along the only cobblestone road left in Oxford (just an FYI, I guess).
Catte Street - where cats were burned; their screams were the result of exorcism.
Passing back under the Bridge of Sighs, I was indeed the lone soul. Well, incarnate anyway. It was the scene of tormented spirits, broken hearts, man's inhumanity to man, human sacrifices, burning at the stake.
Britten's Les Illumations was playing in the Sheldonian that night. Soaked it up while roaming around outside.
A quick plug for the Official Haberdashery of Mattopia. I made it back to New Bond Street, a posh area I don't remember very well. It's where all the high fashion is represented. No trip to London would be complete without my checking on the latest in Burberry wear and I was impressed. The Cherry Creek store in Denver just doesn't cut it!
The new model denim jacket was way out of my price range... but then again, everything was! The cheapest thing I could find was a £30 (45 USD) pair of boxers. Now, I know some of you get all uptight when I start talking about boxers, so I'll just say this: I declined the opportunity to make the purchase.
The old saying "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it" came to mind.
Yikes! I couldn't afford a pair of boxers. How sad is that!! (Note to self: Must work on first million straight away.)
If you're a dedicated follower of fashion, register now at http://www.burberry.com. They're finally getting their own Web site together.
£ Blenheim Palace
Sunday was spent split between Blenheim and Oxford. Winston Churchill was born in the palace and the Duke of Marlborough lives there. I asked the Duke if he knew John Wayne, and he said No. I asked him if he was the Marlboro Man and if this is what they meant by Marlboro Country and he said No.
Just kidding! Stupid jokes...
Blenheim was really cool. The palace had many tapestries (that'll be an inside joke for a couple of you) - some taking 13 years to put together and blinding the weavers in the process. If you've seen Kenneth Branagh's brilliant movie version of Hamlet, you've seen some of Blenheim.
It was also the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Blenheim was displaying a collection of Churchill's paintings - some of them were quite good (my notes made mention of "Bottlescape" and "Statues at Blenheim" as standout pieces). Churchill the Painter once said, "When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable time of my first million years in painting and so get to the bottom of the subject."
Also, it took 11 months to paint the Great Dining Room, which included a 3-D effect of statues at the top of the walls.
£ A Sort of Homecoming for Five Lads
Now, what did I come out here for anyway? Oh yeah. To see a band!
They performed Saturday night in Earl's Court. Right smack behind where I used to live! It turns out my band also lived in the area! As Bono explained, "just two minutes away, around the corner"! Hmmm...
What is that saying about great minds...?
It was amazing how little the neighborhood had changed. Had my pint at the Prince of Wales pub (above which the Mattflat was located).
The stupid little store across Empress Lane with the sign that read "Food served all day" was still closed. Never saw it open...
Had dinner at Da Mario's, down the street a ways in Kensington. Mario would bake pizzas for Diana and the kids back when things were different.
I was feeling drained all day because of my cold, but the show Saturday night fired me up. I felt good - and empowered and inspired! It was quite the sensation (and a testament to the power of the music and the performance - this was, after all, my seventh show on this tour). More about that in the on-line edition later.
Thanks to the train schedules, I had no time for an after show pint. It was cool, though, to leave the arena and jog on over to the South Kensington tube stop, bypass the Earl's Court crowd, make my way up to the Green Park station on the Picadilly line, then transfer over to the Baker Street station via the Jubilee line. A quick jog over to Marylebone and I had five minutes to kill before the train departed! Good stuff.
£€ Zooropa: Better by Design
So. It's been an incredible few weeks and it's equally incredible to think Slane is yet to come.
Here's the itinerary:
Stokenchurch - London (One more "warm up" show with my band at Earl's Court tomorrow night.)
London - Dublin - Liverpool - Dublin (The airfare for Dublin/Liverpool roundtrip was the cheapest I've ever purchased - and half the price of my taxi ride from London to High Wycombe!)
Dublin - London - Paris - London - home (Really? So soon?)
The goal is to go from Elevation to Exhaustion!
I'm not sure how readily and easily I'll be able to access the internet, so the notes from here on out will most likely be less regular and far shorter. (Hey, I hear the applause and the heckling! I was going to apologize for getting "all artsy" on ya, but when I saw Churchill's paintings on display at Blenheim, I changed my mind.)
Quote of the day: "Lord, grant that I might always desire more than I can accomplish." - Michelangelo
So, blokes and lasses, the fun begins NOW. Back on the road with the Elevation Tour...
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