London – friends, Harry Potter & some history


Where else would we go first?

The line to pretend to push the trolley at the pretend Platform 9 3/4 which is conveniently located next to a HP shop in Kings Cross Station is Potter worthy long. Waiting is long and boring and there is no chance that any person, young or old, who is waiting will give up their place. Julia, who has been challenged with the hub-bub of London stations, is focused and committed. There are two young women taking pictures for the store to sell and they really seem to be making a memorable experience for each person wanting a photo. And to be clear, not every adult waiting is accompanying a child. The noise of the station, regular announcement and travelers, makes for an excellently appropriate background.

We arrived on Thursday and it’s now Sunday. With our Oyster transport cards in hand and a weeks worth of unlimited service in greater London, we’ve been off and around every day. We sleep well in Chistlehurst, the home of an old law school friend, Tim and his partner. The house is lovely and they’ve trusted us to take care of it while they are off traveling for the weekend. Having a space bigger than a hotel room to roam around is heaven. Not that we’ve done much wandering–last night, coming home from a tour of Buckingham Palace, we sat in the living room to watch some olympics. I made it through about 10 minutes, Julia a bit longer before she asked me to go to bed. She had to wake me to get us to bed.

Having hosts to offer advice and give a basic idea of the lay of the land and its works makes the entrance into a new place so much easier. We’ve had that for almost half our journey. In Torino with Sylvia and here with Tim, also in Genoa at our wonderful B&B. Our hotel hosts in Orta were willing to answer questions but volunteered nothing on their own. Certainly, they were not available to be asked an open ended question, and at our apartment with airb&b, we were greeted by a service representative who really didn’t know Milan.  The young lady gave me a map, opened it up to point out where the apartment was located and couldn’t find it. I was prepared so eventually it was all figured out, but there is nothing like a live soul with whom I can interact.

I also tend to be stupid about some things, like phones in England, and to ask Tim twice or three times is very much appreciated. My big failure in London is that I didn’t organize an Internet connection and I don’t have a phone. Of course, I’ve travelled like this before–a map and a travel guide used to be all I travelled with. But times have truly changed and I’ve grown used to having information constantly available.  We’ve ducked into quite a few coffee bars where Internet is available but I will not do it this way again.

So, we arrived on Thursday, walked to see Buckingham Palace while we waited for Tim to finish work, ate at a truly great Indian restaurant in Tim’s neighborhood and talked a lot. I was a bit conversation starved and catch up was awfully fun.

Our formal plans for Friday were to go to tea at —-hotel with Tim. We began the day going to Victoria Station to visit the HP platform and then walking the theatre district to find the Palace theatre where the HP play is showing. Between times we stopped into many bookstores. And then tea. I should have taken pictures. Julia insisted on bring the leftover cakes home. There is a limit to how many rich carbs one can eat at a sitting but it was very, very good.  And more conversation!



When we passed the Palace on Thursday, Julia wanted to go in and so, on Saturday, accompanied by our cousin, Brad, we did the tour. It was crowded and I am sure that in the past Julia would have had a hard time with the number of people. However, the audio tour was very good and the place captured Julia. There is a large display of the Queen’s clothes through the years which Julia took great interest in. Some of the clothing was not as interesting to me but the hats were fabulous!

Sunday, we visited Hampton Court and stayed twice as long as I intended. When I was there with Cheshire 18 years ago, it was a good place to visit but not particularly child friendly. The day we were there they were also setting up for an evening event and we felt rather like guests who had ever stayed their welcome. It was the opposite yesterday. We saw two performances, went on educational and entertaining audio guided tours, played a online kids game and toured some of the garden (missed the maze).m we did not do everything, nor did we find time to eat lunch. There were crowds but it is a big facility and there were a few times when we needed to find alternative activities.

Setting out early and coming in late doesn’t leave much time for the school work that provides some centering for Julia. And it shows. Last two days, more impulsive behavior, less obeying ordinary rules, more obstinence and whining. This morning we are at home until noon. We needed it. Whether it will make a difference is a guess. Another thing to notice. When we’ve been alone, Julia’s all over behavior is better. It deteriorates when I get someone to talk to. This is not new. I see it each week when we have our regular dinner with friends. What I see, and I have no idea if what really goes on in her head, goes in two direction. Julia wants all my attention for herself. She may want some of the other person’s attention also depending how comfortable she is with them. This really plays out whenever the phone rings. She can be in another room completely absorbed in something and hear the phone ring and she has a hundred questions for me and no shushing from me will put her off. None of this means that when she has my attention which is a majority of the time that she responds or initiates conversation.

The other direction is that when my attention is not completely on her, Julia feels all rules are suspended and finds something she should not do.

I know that typical kids behave like this. Even other 15 year olds can behave this way, but not with the same intensity and not as often.

And this is hard.

According to Facebook, in 2010, I left London tomorrow, and in 2011, I had just returned from my summer driving vacation and began setting up the house (after all the floors were sanded and finished). Seems homecoming is what I do this time of the summer.

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