Monday, July 18, 2011

Parents' Visit!

In April, my parents came to visit us in London!  This was a very special visit because my parents were deep in the midst of planning and executing (simultaneously) a move from Toronto to Geneva, Switzerland.  My Dad has been appointed to a new position, at the World Council of Churches (more on this to come).  Despite the major effort involved in making this move (David's advice to them when we were living with them in the summer was "start packing now"), they took time out to fly to London to see us in our new space and have some fun.  My Dad was actually en route to a council meeting in Yerevan, Armenia - he has a cool job.  :)

Lucky for my parents, they were welcome to stay with our friends Sue and Mark at their home in Dulwich, where David and I stayed when we first got to the UK.  (This meant they didn't have to sleep for two weeks on an air mattress in our living room.)  I'm not sure which arrival Mark was more excited about, my parents or my Dad's guitar.  I hopped in the car with Mark to go and meet them at Heathrow (which I'd not been to before, since we flew in to Gatwick), and we met them at the gate.  That was a happy reunion!

We had a nice afternoon/evening in Dulwich of catching up, and the next day it was time to start exploring.  We met up near Trafalgar Square, had a peek at the concert offerings at adjacent St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and then headed to my cultural pick, the National Portrait Gallery.  

The gallery is a wonderful array of portraits of the people who have shaped England, from the Tudors on up to the present day.  They have that super-famous portrait of Anne Boleyn and of Queen Elizabeth I standing on her empire (the whole world, ha ha), and on the other end of the timeline a fabulous portrait of Dame Judy Dench looking every bit her fabulous self in a long cream jacket.  I loved it!  And of course I was able to continue catching up with the fam (Sue included) as we took in all these famous people.  I was sad not to have seen the portrait of Christopher Smart that is held there, but maybe it's not on display.  I had corresponded with the NPG librarian with regards to using the image in my article on Rejoice in the Lamb which was published by the ACDA in May - but they wanted to charge me about a month's rent to use it, so.... no.

I also enjoyed seeing a wonderful set of images they have to do with Gilbert and Sullivan.  I'm hugely fond of the film Topsy Turvy, which shows the machinations backstage and in the drawing rooms of the high point of G&S's popularity.  I was surprised and delighted to see photos from the first production of The Mikado, and to notice that the costumes depicted in the movie are exactly the way they looked in the production, and in fact that there are certain shots in the film that they must have set up to evoke these production photos.  How neat!  I was reminded that Sullivan really felt that all the operetta writing was beneath him, and that he owed it to his country to write a grand opera.  (Ever heard of Ivanhoe?  No?)  He also wrote hymn tunes, perhaps the most familiar being ST. GERTRUDE ("Onward, Christian Soldiers").

After that, I had to introduce everybody to a lovely coffee shop David and I had happened upon on an earlier adventure, Cafe Vergnano, which David and I tend to just call "1882."  The first time we went there, I got a latte to go, and they did my coffee up all pretty just like the one above - and then stuck the lid on top!  Ha ha what a waste.  So I really wanted to go back and have a sit-down coffee, and enjoy the pretty chocolate lettering more fully.

Catching up!
Here we all are in London!
After that, the party moved to scenic Tooting, where David and I were excited to show off our flat to my parents.  I made chicken curry and we enjoyed being all together... and then I persuaded everybody to watch Topsy Turvy.  (Chelsea and Chris, if you are reading this, I realise this is like exactly the same as one of the evenings when you were here... I'm such a loser!!)

David had even scored a bottle of ginger beer for my Dad, which he was quite excited about:

On another day, we all met up for a nice afternoon walk through St. James Park, which is right by the Mall and Buckingham Palace.

This street was part of the route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey on the morning of the royal wedding - look familiar at all?  On the left is the Horse Guards Palace.

St. James Park on a sunny (for now) afternoon.

We wandered about and had some ice cream.  I think by this time, my Dad and Sue were starting to compare notes in terms of their approach to their jobs, both of which are quite bespoke positions.  (There's a little UK vocabulary for you.)  Sue had some great wisdom to share with my Dad, and he was able to bounce some ideas off of her in terms of his hopes for his new task, and for the new relationships he's working to shape.

Lounging in front of Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace!
Beautiful pond and greenery at the edge of St. James Park.
After that we had another lovely meal all together in Dulwich, and sang grace in 4-part harmony.  There was also lots of guitar-ing and singing after dinner, with Dad continuing to try to pull off "Wichita Lineman" at Mark's request.  Mark also asked Dad to explain the church modes to him.  Big mistake!!  David says Dad and I were fighting over who got to explain.  Hmm...

Looking forward to more time with family and good friends during this nice long visit!

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