Saturday, May 23, 2009

That Was London Calling

Vignettes from our trip

Day 1 on the London tube, and the girls are suffering from a bit of jet lag. My niece is in the center, my oldest daughter on the far right. My second-oldest daughter (sort of cut off in the photo) is still awake on the left.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

These are some photos from our trip to London at the begining of May. Unfortunately, the quality of most of them is pretty bad, because they were taken on my cellphone. It was a brand-new new Pantech Breeze I was still getting familiar with. My battery ran out long before I expected it to as well, and I had no converter with me in order to recharge it. There are lots of things we saw that we got no photos of... My daughters had a digitial camera with them, of course, but they shoot what they want to shoot. Nevertheless, a few of their shots are in here as well.

That's Newfoundland at sunset, taken from the plane on our way over.

Just after arrival, navigating the Tube from Heathrow to Wimbledon at about 6:00 AM, shortly before the rush-hour crowd started coming on board.

The girls are united with their cousin and are liking their accomodations at Favre House, a Jesuit house that was empty at the time and was kindly made available to accomodate us and a few other guests to the ordination.

Where would we have been without the trusty and timely 93 bus to take us from Wimbledon Village down the the train station? The girls refused to board any bus that wasn't a double-decker, and who would blame them?

Purple shoelaces from the front row of the upper deck, looking out over the Wimbledon roundabout.

Yes, for the sake of the tourists, they still have the red telephone booths around... This was outside Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. I'm glad you can't see the nasty publications and flyers posted inside.

My brother-in-law Joe with Tom Jones (in wax). I took Joe's picture with Tom Jones because he can do an amazingly accurate impersonation of Jones in his rendition of It's Not Unusual.

Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey as seen from the Eye of London. It was a spectacularly warm and sunny day. We were very fortunate.

Looking out towards St. Paul's Cathedral (upper center) from the Eye of London. We did get to see St Paul's later on in our trip, a massive and impressive building. There were services finishing up at the time though, so we were not able to see it from underneath the dome.

My niece and my daughter M on the London Eye.

Looking down at one of the other capsules on the Eye of London.

The Eye of London as seen from Westminster Bridge.

M on the Westminster Bridge.

The Houses of Parliament, from the other side of the Thames.

The entrance to the Tower of London, with one of my fat fingers in the way.

The Tower Field(?), with catapults and other medieval instruments of mayhem being displayed.

An informative and very funny Yeoman running a tour inside the Tower. This is in front of the Bell Tower, where Sir Thomas More was held, among others. The girls were exhausted at this point and couldn't understand his thick cockney accent, so we wound up making our own way...

St Thomas's Tower.

See: St. Thomas's Tower and Traitors Gate

Further along Water Lane on the right is St Thomas's Tower standing above Traitors Gate. The tower was built by Henry III and was named after Sir Thomas Becket who had been Constable in 1162.

Traitor's Gate.

Traitors Gate was originally known as Water Gate, but was later changed when it was used as the landing for the Crown's enemies. All important prisoners entered the Tower through this gate. According to legend when Princess Elizabeth arrived on Palm Sunday 1554 she refused at first to land at the gate, angrily proclaiming that she was no traitor. A sharp shower of rain however, caused her to change her mind. Later when as Queen she visited the Tower she insisted on passing through Traitors Gate. "What was good enough for Elizabeth the Princess is good enough for Elizabeth the Queen", she is supposed to have told the Constable.

The changing of the guard, inside the Tower.

The girls have a photo taken with an accomodating yeoman.

The Tower Bridge, as seen from the Tower itself.

The girls at Waterloo Station. I took this photo because the name of the eatery was the same as the town we live in here in the US, but I messed up and chopped it off...

The organloft and stained glass window over the entrance to The Church of The Immaculate Conception.

The ordination of Charlie and the other new Jesuit deacons was at the Immaculate Conception Church in Mayfair.

From here:

After Catholic emancipation in 1829, when the position of Catholics in England became easier, a plan was conceived on a bold and imaginative scale for a permanent Jesuit church in London. It showed extraordinary vision and courage on the part of the Superior of the English Jesuits, Fr Randal Lythgoe, to have a church built to seat as many as 900 people.

In the 1840s , the Jesuits first began looking for a location for their London church, they found this site in a quiet back street. (The name derived from Hay Hill Farm which extended in the 18 th century from the present Hill Street eastward across Berkeley Square and beyond).

From 1849 until 1966 it was simply a Jesuit church, open to the public but not the centre of worship for a parish. Sacraments such as marriage and baptism could not be celebrated in the church and the reputation of Farm Street rested on the pulpit and the confessionals. It became famous for the work of many Jesuit priests whose guidance given to those seeking advice gently led many to embrace the Catholic faith.

Since 1966 the church has been at the heart of a parish in the centre of Mayfair. The Jesuit community here has always consisted of Priests and Brothers attached specifically to the church, working in other apostolates or in retirement. The Parish is more than a geographic one, attracting its congregation not only from all over London and its surrounds but visitors from all over the world.

This church was opened in 1849 and it was from the start a place of beauty. There have been changes in the adornment of the building and although it has expanded (through the addition of the side-altars and their chapels) the impact is much the same. Generous benefactors made it possible for Farm Street church to become a gracious and peaceful place in the 19th and 20th century.

Deacon Charles with his friends Michael and Dianne.

For me, one of the most enjoyable highlights of the trip was to become acquainted with two academic friends of Charlie's, Dianne Kirby and Michael Mahadeo of the University of Ulster in Belfast. Diane teaches American Studies and Michael is a lecturer in Health and Social Sciences. In addition to being scholars, Diane was a member of Ireland's Water Skiing Team, and Michael has taught and counseled inmates in Northern Ireland's Maze Prison. They stayed in the Favre House where we were staying. We spent many happy hours over dinner and drinks talking politics (theirs is quite far to the left), religion, history, culture and families. We were very glad to have met them and to have become fast friends.

The girls were dressed up a bit for this. Later we went shopping on Oxford and Regent Streets.

A crappy cellphone picture of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, taken from a bus. I just wanted to capture one of the massive lions, and so I did.

Another highlight of the trip was to meet and speak to Father Gerald O'Collins, SJ.

After the ordination, the Jesuits in Charlie's community made dinner for the visiting families, as well as breakfast the next morning. Father O'Collins, who is a reknowned theologian, known principally for his work in Christology, is in community with them. He's an immensely humble, kind, and sociable Australian, and we had a very interesting conversation about biblical scholarship, new books about St. Paul, and certain scholars on the scene such as John Dominic Crossan (he's not much of a fan) and Luke Timothy Johnson (he a big fan). It was interesting for me at least, but he truly seems to relish talking over these things with laypeople... I'm now on a Gerald O'Collins reading binge. :)

At any rate, it was humbling to have a theologian of his repute clearing my plates away, topping off my glass, and jumping up to help his brothers scrub the pots and pans in the kitchen. The Jesuits were extremely hospitable and patient with us, and we were very grateful for it.

We also heard the Jesuits say a beautiful Latin Mass (in the ordinary form) at the Sacred Heart Church in Wimbledon (see photos).

And finally, my niece C undergoes a beheading at The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs, a tourist trap near Waterloo Station. It was very cleverly sold to us, since we were actually heading to The London Dungeons, but the "Experience & Tombs" had an aggressive group of street performers who hijacked us. We were impressed by the work ethic, so we went along with it. Joe, especially so, since he's in sales.


Garpu said...

Sounds like a great trip! No Doctor Who filming report spoilers? ;)

Jeff said...

Hi Jen,

Doctor Who! Nope, I don't recall seeing film crews in the area. :)

Maria said...


That looks like a wonderful trip. Wow... you managed to do and see a lot in a few short days.

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts.

Figures Jen would ask about Dr. Who. ;-)

Jeff said...

Hi Maria,

Jen is the definitive Doctor Who philosopher and theologian. :)

Garpu said...

Well, Cardiff is closer to London than Boston is to Cardiff. ;) one of these days I'd like to take a trip to mecca^H^H^H^Hthe UK to watch them film.

cowboyangel said...

Favre House.... Heh.

Looks like a great trip, Jeff. I've been to London a couple of times but have only seen a little of it. Makes me want to go back.

Jeff said...


I would never let my daughters and my niece set foot in Brett Favre's house, although I'm sure it would be safer than Mark Chmura's house.

Funny thing about kids. You mentioned before the exhibit at the Tate Modern Art Museum. Joe and I figured that they wouldn't want to go to something like that, but on the last day, when we were pretty much out of time, my daughters expressed real disappointment about not going there.

shera10 said...

Wonderful trip and lovely girls.

“…when we were pretty much out of time, my daughters expressed real disappointment about not going there.”

This is a very well-known phenomenon of kids:)
Two years ago I visited Prague with my students. They didn’t want visit the beautiful cathedral because the line (short). Then we went in Monaco and the guide told us : “we are going to skip the visit of the cathedral because it was rebuilt after the war, and it isn’t interesting.” And my students: “ No, no we want absolutely to visit it!”

Jeff said...

Hi Cristina,

Thank you. :)

Right, you never can tell... Just as an example, they refused to go into Westminster Abbey, but they insisted on seeing Southwark Cathedral when we went past it. In the first case, I think it was just because there was a long line (queue) to get in. Sometimes you just have to keep on suggesting things to them.

crystal said...

Nice photos! It looks like everyone had a lot of fun. What was it like at the Jesuit house? I've never visited a religious community.

Jeff said...


Spare, simple, and clean. Comfortable, but not full of extravagances... My feet were hanging over the edge of the bed I was given, and I'm not quite six feet.

Good food, though, and wine. Europeans drink good wine with their meals. :)

shera10 said...

yes we drink very good wine!
Actually I have 5 or 6 bottles of red wine in the kitchen, and I always have 1 or 2 bottles of very good white wine into ny frig :)

Jeff said...


Maybe I'm a barbarian, but I prefer my red wine chilled too. :)

Are you a schoolteacher in Milan?

shera10 said...

no, I live among the mountains.
I live in the smallest italian regione, Aosta Valley, and the 4 higher mountains of Europe are in my region.

Aosta Valley borders with France and Switzerland. Actually the nearest big town is Torino, but i "hate" the Juventus team.

Jeff said...

Ah, you should read Frank Schaeffer's novel Zermatt.

How long would it take for you to travel to Lake Maggiore? My wife and I spent the last day of our Italian honeymoon in Stresa. Very nice. We were tempted to keep going straight on up into Switzerland.

shera10 said...

An hour and a half.

Lake Maggiore is perfect for a honeymoon:)

In July B16 is going to come here in Aosta Valley for vacation,as did JPII.
I'm really not looking forward to meet him ;)

I have never read a Scaeffer's novel, maybe it is time to begin.


portinexile said...


Good to see you're still posting. Looks like a great trip, and especially nice that you were able to meet with Gerard O'Collins. Never been to London, but hopefully we can stop by next time we go back to Ireland. Although, to be honest, if we had the time and $ we'd rather check out Spain first. Anyway, stay strong and keep shining your light.

Peace, Kevin McM
[old blog: strangerinastrangeland]

Jeff said...

Hi Kevin!

Good to see you again. Why so little activity at Stranger In a Strange Land? I still have you linked.