London – Day 2: Adventures with 4 Star Hotel Alarms and Other Vignettes (August 24, 2009)

I slept hard through the night last night, only waking up for a few brief minutes to talk to Jessica. It is quiet around my hotel and I was so bloody exhausted from my movie marathon on the plane, it was all I could do to make it to 9 PM. In the end, it seems my entertainment gluttony en route was a blessing in diguise.

I thought I’d start the day off right with a workout in the hotel gym, which would involve getting up around 7 AM. I wanted to leave plenty of time to catch the Tube to Temple Station, where my planned Shakespeare walking tour would depart. However, as I looked about my hotel room, I couldn’t seem to find an alarm clock. Strange. So I had two options. The first was setting up a wakeup call with the front desk. However, these are notoriously unreliable, and I hate talking to strangers on the phone when I am drowsy. My voice sounds mannish. My second option was to use my cell phone, which has an alarm.

I set the alarm for 7 AM, but in my sleepiness, I forgot an important issue: my need to adjust for the time difference. My cell phone plan is not set up for international calling and therefore, I get no service. The clock on the phone is still on Chicago time. D’oh! Somehow, I woke on my own around 8:45 AM. Not enough time for the gym, but just the moment to shower, dress and make a dash for the Victoria Station. Do you like how I name drop different Tube stations now as though I were a seasoned expert?

One of many things I adore about British English: you know how when you take a CTA train, each stop has a recorded message along the lines of, “This is Belmont. Transfer to Red, Brown and Purple Line trains at Belmont?” Well in London, you get that too, but you also receive tourist minded recommendations that let you know points of interest just outside each locale. Here’s the part that really tickles me. Instead of saying “Get off here to see ___” as we might in the USA with our lazy English, the Brits ask you to “alight” at a various stop to see a particular place of note. I am quite sure that 95% of Americans don’t even know what “alight” means and yet, it is common parlance here. That sigh you just heard is Boop’s involuntary reaction of pleasure from hearing “proper” English spoken with familiarity.

Anywhoo, it turns out I was the only one to book a ticket for the Shakespeare Walking Tour today. Lucky me! I had the guide, a fast-walking, poetry slinging, tiny Irish guy named Declan, to myself. This gentleman knew his shit and since I was the only customer, I could ask him as many questions as I could think of, which was quite a few. This tour was not your standard Globe Theater, etc. cliche. Instead, this was a 90-minute excusrion designed to show you the secrets: where Bill lived and worked, his friends, his lovers, out of the way, but important monuments that no longer exist.

Do I even need to say that I loved it? I had about 4 inches on Declan, but had to run to keep up with him, figuratively and literally. I let him know right off the bat that I had a Master’s in English Lit. (of course), but ended up wishing I hadn’t been so quick to toot my own horn. The sheer amount of things I never knew was simply embarassing. For example, I have always bought into the oft-repeated legend of Shakespeare as a starving artist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although he never earned much for the writing of his plays, and there was no modern copyright law to ensure the payment of future royalties, William made a killing at each and every performance, being a 1/8 owner of the Globe, and a 1/6 owner of the Black Friars ‘theater, a second location where plays were performed for the titled and wealthy (never knew this either). So then, as now with modern rock stars, all the money was in the tour, the show, the performance. Shakespeare was one of the richest and most famous laymen of his day, at a time when London only had 300,000 residents.

Other secrets exposed: Shakespeare was a secret Catholic, he was bisexual (this I knew from reading his sonnets during undergrad), that famous line, “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be” was taken from his own life experience as a creditor to many friends and associates.

Declan delivered three monologues during the course of the tour, with plenty of emotion and expression – to my utter delight. I am on the verge of an epileptic fit of joy. Jessica should arrive shortly bearing store bought alcohol (the price of a pint in the pub can be insane, but I’ll get around to that anyway – how could I not?). Let’s see if my plans to run on the treadmill later hold up.

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