Thursday, November 4
Uneventful trip. Early to airport for 9:10 daylight BA flight. About half full with empty middle seats all over. I immersed myself in the Yangtze boo Mummy gave me for my birthday and six hours later we landed at Heathrow. Breezed through immigration and customs with my carryon, then tubed to Leicester Square, transferred on to Tottenham Court Road and arrived at the St. Giles around 10:15pm.
The hotel is crowded and seems to specialize in European tour groups, but all adults. My room is tiny, but I quite like it. Blonde wood, very simple built-in fittings. Long narrow entry with bright shower and bath by the door. The window at the right end of the room looks out on the bustle of Tottenham Court Road at the second floor level. Soundproof though, with good blinds inside the double panes. The little room has a built-in desk, luggage rack, and hanger closet on the left, with a safe and a row of cubbyholes and shelves above. TV on top. The double bed and nightstand fill the rest of the room nicely. Rather like a snug shipboard cabin. All it needs is a brighter reading lamp.
Unpacked, watched TV and slept around 1am local time.
Friday, November 5
Woke around 9am to a gray, rainy day. Buffet breakfast was crowded but very adequate. Wandered across Oxford Street and through Soho to Leicester Square where I checked the TKTS booth and picked up a copy of Time Out to plan my shows. Sat for a bit in St. Martin in the Fields to browse through the selections. Walked along the Strand to Covent Garden picking up tickets for East, Whistle Down the Wind, and Copenhagen so I’m set through Saturday.
Lunched at Chez Gerard up on the greenhouse terrace of the market. Fine food – veal – amid black suits and cell phones all gazing down at the strollers in the arcades. Walked over to Piccadilly to explore the new Waterstone mega-bookstore. Six modern floors with cafe, juice bar, real bar, and internet stations. Slick and convenient, but everything is looking more and more the safe. Global standardization I guess. Back to the hotel via Charing Cross Road and napped for an hour or so.
Off for a pleasant dinner at Palms, an Italian brasserie (!) in Covent Garden. East, by Steven Berkoff, was a raunchy view of sad East End life. Well acted and beautifully “choreographed.” Matthew Cullum, Christopher Middleton, Tanya Franks, Jonathon Linsley, and Edward Bryant.
Saturday, November 6
Bright day, but chilly with a brisk wind over any open space. Breakfasted again around 9:30 in the crowd. Then tubed to the South Bank to buy tickets for Merchant of Venice on Monday. Front row, center section. Indeed.
Walked along the river in nice sunshine to the Globe. Skipped the tour, but did minor damage in the shop getting postcards and a copy of Merchant to knock off before Monday. Then round the corner to see the site of the Rose, a find entombed in the basement of an office building. The foundations were “found” and excavated in 1989 during construction. They’re sealed up now under water and a concrete lid until the preservation and money challenges can be solved. The exhibition’s a dud, but standing on the site is cool.
Then walked across the street to the markers showing the original Globe site and was astonished to see how close the two theaters were. Can’t be a city block. And each was tall, four or five stories, and held 2000+ people. I’d realized that they were in the same Southwark/Bankside neighborhood, but the same block came as a surprise.
Back for a pleasant lunch at the Globe buffer, then walked back and over Blackfriars Bridge to the theater. Paused briefly for a snapshot of the immense Millennium Wheel ferris wheel overlooking the Houses of Parliament. On to the Aldwych for Whistle Down the Wind a slick, expensive pop Lloyd-Webber musical. No big song which is a terrible handicap. A stunning onrushing train and an impressive fire (lots of special permits!) and a tedious elevator were the principal characters. The sound was overamplified so the lyrics were hard to pick out. Still, it’s a professional team working at the sentimental streak of the audience so moderately entertaining. Big happy reaction from the audience. Jason McCann was the hair-twitching stand-by for the lead. The father (farm bumpkin) was also an understudy whose wife was sitting next to me. It’s a sappy, superficial part, but he played it sweetly. Good dinner at Maggiore’s.
On to theater dose #2 for the day with Copenhagen. David Baron, Corinna Marlowe, William Brand. Complete opposite flavor: bare set, unamplified, mental. Centers around the 1941 visit of German Heisenberg (as in uncertainty principle) to Dane Neils Bohr in occupied Copenhagen. Quite the other end of the spectrum and very engaging.
Came back to the hotel after ten to the sickening sight of the blinking message light. It was Johnny. Called Philly and talked to Betty who passed on the news that Mummy’s back in the hospital. She was moaning and crying out (“Oh dear”) last night. Daddy was alarmed enough to call 911. No sign of heart attack or stroke. They admitted her and will keep her at least through the weekend. Is it just weakness? And the heavier ulcer and heart drugs? Her tests are clean and the ulcer is reported to be nearly healed. So …? How badly I want certainty. No other news. I’m to check in again before I leave London. November 6 is her birthday too. Stinks.
Sunday, November 7
Slept late this morning then went to Mass at St. Patirkc’s on Soho Square. Second reading was 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, one the Gideons had pointed to last night. Ironic?
Walked a bit through Soho then had an early, utterly mediocre lunch at an Italian spot that looked better than it was. Another nice, sunny, chilly day, so walked across Piccadilly to Hyde Park and around the Serpentine. Great afternoon with some of the rame running, riding, cycling, blading, football of Central Park, though not as diverse (no black soul singing puppets) nor as frenetic.
Tubed back to Piccadilly for tea and scones at Richoux then along to St. Paul’s for a 5pm organ recital by Frenchman Dider Matry. Dark skies outside, only moderate light inside which makes the dome and whole church seem like a vast opera set. A bit of rest – no blinking lights – then a stroll through Soho, Covent Garden, et. al., before ending up at Brown’s on St. Martin’s Lane for dinner. A nice vodka, a good steak, a pile of french fries and I went home happy.
Monday, November 8
A dull, tired day. I couldn’t get moving and the day was overcast enough to not help. I started with a stop at the British Tourist Office on Regent Street to cope out train schedules for day trips from here. I’ve decided to stay put in London rather than drive out to the country. Can’t really tell why, but it felt all wrong. Maybe I’m too tired, maybe I want to stay in easier reach. Anyway, here I stay.
On to the National Portrait Gallery for an interesting exhibit of Faces of the Century. Lunch then at the Gallery café, then a stroll through Lincoln’s Inn before coming back to the hotel for a welcome nap.
Evening meant a nice dinner at the National Theatre café, and a dandy production of Merchant of Venice directed by Trevor Nunn. Featured Henry Goodman as Shylock, and Derbhle Crotty as Portia. 1920s dress, but otherwise straight forward, no set, 250-seat space. Antonio was made ineffectual and quite plausibly cruelly and personally anit-semtic. Bassinio et. al. Were attractive layabouts at least microns deep. Shylock was traditionally, even stereotypically Jewish, but with caricature. He clung more to the lutter of the law to defend his righteousness, while “his ducats” greed was downplayed. Portia was straight up, girly and in love, then desperately disappointed by all of them: Antonio, Shylock and Bassinio. Not a scornful feminist, but a humanist mad at the whole lot of then, but not vengeful herself. The trial scene – long and had as it is – played without a sound, the audience was rapt. The whole thing provocative with no easy answers. Good Stuff.
Tuesday, November 9
A day out of town for fun. Grabbed croissants and breakfast fixings at the Sainsbury’s across the street then hopped a 10:30 train from Victoria to Brighton. It was a bright warm day for walking along the beach. Off season weekday quiet too. First strolled past the ruined West Pier (reconstruction due for completion in 2002) then along the whole front to the Palace Pier which offers, even in November, ball toss stands, palm readings, kiddie rides, arcade games, and full-blown carnival rides. Cleaned up a bit from the tawdry, but not pretending to “quaint.” They’ve struck a good balance well short of camp.
Then through the Lanes which are boring these days with jewelry shops and yuppie tourist fare. It’s not tacky so much as same old, same old. Nice lunch in the Lanes (Italian) then on to the Royal Pavilion which remains an absolute jawdropper of extravagant excess.
Final stroll along the front to watch an unbelievable swarm of bats do wheelies over the ruins of the West Pier while the sun set prettily in the background. On a 4:20 train back to Victoria.
Made a half-hearted attempt to call Jeff who’s absolutely wigged out over the job change, then walked through Covent Garden and ended up with a dandy dinner at Prospect Grill in Garrick Street. Back and to bed early.
Wednesday, November 10
Awful end to a nice day. After dinner talked to Johnny who thinks Mummy “won’t make it through the weekend.” Thinks she’s so weak that everything’s failing. Called BA and got booked on the 11:55am flight Thursday morning to JFK, then I’ll go from there.
For the record, the day was pleasant. I headed off to the Tower and, when the Dockland’s Rail trains turned out to be out of service for a computer glitch, I walked around St. Katharine’s Dock, across the bridge, and along to London Bridge. Tubed to Canary Whary and switched to the now-functioning DLR. What a wasteland: office parks and anonymous housing.
At Island Gardens there’s a foot tunnel under the Thames that leads over to Greenwich. Funky, domed round entry at either end. Opened in 1902 and similar to the feel of the Underground. Meandered around the Cutty Sark and Gypsy Moth IV, then walked uphill through a great green park to the Observatory. Fun being at THE Greenwich Meridian.
Lunched at the park café, then boated back to Tower Pier and tubed to Knightsbridge for tea at Richoux before going back to the hotel.
Called Jeff and dined with Him and film producer Jill Samuels who’s partnering on a charity event with Prince Edward. She was quite nice, the restaurant was chichi, and I ate and drank more than I needed.
Back at the hotel after talking to Johnny I tossed and turned for maybe three hours’ sleep.
Thursday, November 1
Dull dreary transit. Cabbed to Heathrow, changed the tickets, waited an hour to check in, then wandered around Terminal 4. It’s Armistice Day so at 11am (on the 11th day of the 11th month) the entire terminal froze for mournful military taps-like music, then two minutes of silence. Eerie and moving to see thousands of people stopped in absolute stillness like tiny toy figures.
Now on a packed 747 by the window trying to just get to JFK.
Thursday, November 11 continued
Arrived JFK around 3pm. Mobbed. Taxi line in chaos. Called Tel Aviv who picked up in five minutes. Home, numb, emptied suitcase, repacked, munched on raisin bread. Waited ‘til 6:15 to pick up car in order to miss the rush. On the road by 6:30. Found oldies stations and blasted music while I drove. Music helped barricade my thinking. Called Johnny and Larry from the car, but kept music booming. Straight to Baystate.
Mummy looking gaunt and ill, but awake and clear. Daddy, Johnny, Betty, Brian, Laura, Peggy all there. “Thank God you’re all here. I don’t have to worry [about anyone traveling].” Left about 10. Mummy went around the group telling each “Godspeed, Katie” etc. LDW arrives at home late.
Friday, November 12
At Baystate mid-morning. Mummy awake, praising doctors Nu (beautiful Chinese woman), Monserrat (cute young man), and medical student Eric. She seemed to be “making conversation” so we left here to go to sleep. Not really awake rest of day. Peggy returned to DC.
Saturday, November 13
Larry proposed on the way to the hospital. I said yes. Apparently asked Daddy yesterday, who said he was pleased but, “it’s really up to Katie.” At Baystate, nurse says Mummy was awake early and had received communion. Sleeping, so we didn’t disturb all day. Dan Finn visited.
Sunday, November 14
PJ came to Ainsworth St. distraught after going to the hospital without having any warning. After mass at Holy Name we all went to hospital around noon. Awful;. Huge change, though we’d thought she was on the verge before! Unresponsive, sunken face, mouth fixed open, breathing labored through mouth. Read 23rd Psalm aloud. Finally lunched, then others sat in lounge while Larry and I sat with Mummy. Around 3, no next breath. Waited, my breath bated, then a sort of “relexive breath,” then nothing. Signaled Nurse Leilani who confirmed, sent Larry to others. All had white-faced sorrow burst in the hallway. Drs. Nu, Monserrat, and Eric came to confirm and comfort. At Leilani’s suggestion, I sat with Mummy for a few minutes. Nurse retrieved wedding ring. I kiss, said “Goodbye Mama” and home.
Monday, November 15 Funeral home for arrangements and visit with lawyer.
Wednesday, November 17 Wake 4-7pm.
Thursday, November 18 Mass at 12:30 at Holy Name. Tommy Veto and Bobby did music including “On Eagle’s Wings” and “Like a Shepherd.” Closed with classic. Father Brady gave wonderful homily about Catholic belief in resurrection and described Mummy’s regular presence at Mass, the best preparation. Completely avoided sentimentality or false intimacy with Mummy. Many people commented that the Mass “was just like Nancy.” Lunch afterwards at the Fort.
Morning begins with leaking oil tank and having to clear piles of oil-soaked lumber so that leak could be patched. Bob Sullivan sends team after Mass to cart off all the lumber. PJ arrives next morning with his pickup to cart of the rest of the miscellaneous cellar junk.
Friday, November 19 Burial at St. Michaels at 2:30 with Daddy, Johnny, Betty, Laura, Brian, Larry, Peggy, Mary Brauer.
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