Like The Queen
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Thursday, June 05, 2003  


Day 6

Today we are off to Gravesend to see the burial site of Pocahontas, with a stop on the way home at Greenwich, where time begins. A says she will stay home and I am tempted to stay with her because I’m getting a little tired, but then she says she feels a migraine coming on and I am sure the last thing she will want is company - even if I were to stay in my room sleeping and reading. Besides, I think about how long it has taken us to actually make this visit to England - and how long it may be again before we come back - and decide I don’t want to miss a single moment of the adventure.

So it is back to London - with a transfer to the train that will take us to Gravesend. The trip across Kent is the least bucolic view I’ve yet seen of Merrie England. The landscape toggles between industrial and suburban and there is a big ugly quarry just as you pull into Gravesend. We are greeted there by a mural of Pocahontas meeting King James, painted on a wall across from the station, so we know we’re in the right place. D had arranged with the church to have someone give us a bit of a tour. We arrive before the Sunday service is over and D & I slip quietly into the back while BigDarling stays out side taking what turns out to be rather an inordinate number of photographs of the church and yarn. This is professional activity for him, though. (hmmm wonder if this trip can be deducted?)

St. Georges Church, where Pocahontas is buried, is the only COE church in the town. It’s just a block or so away from the Thames. If you know your history and NOT the Disney version, this is where she was to set sail for Virginia after her visit to her husband’s home, to meet the in-laws, of course. And no she did not marry John Smith and no there aren’t either any waterfalls in Tidewater Virginia, nor are there raccoons that talk, nor did Ratcliffe have a pug dog. She married John Rolfe and had one son and everybody in Virginia would claim descent from her if he could.

The church is well attended. There is a cute little toddler with his papa, who has lots of gurgling opinions. The choir is extremely good and there are several musicians accompanying them. D takes communion and all sorts of people take my hand to wish that Peace be with me. After the service we are given a little tour of the church. I snap photos while BD and D talk Jamestown.

We are assured that this is where Princess Pocahontas was buried - it was well documented when the new St. George’s was built in the 18th century.

After our visit we wander down to the Thames to see the shipping. Gravesend is somehow not very pretty - though, perhaps it is the rainy day that makes me feel so. We have lunch at a little diner where I have my only diet Coke on this trip - and it tastes different from the ones we have at home - more English.

("What can she mean, more English?" they whisper, so I suppose I mean the water has more of an alkaline taste to it so everything tastes softer.)

Back to the train station and up the Thames we go to Greenwich. This is a real BigDarling sort of place, for he is the sailor, he is the astronomer, he actually enjoys looking at a chronometer museum! First we walk down to the dock -

Here people are gathered, on this windy cool wet day, eating ice cream, playing with children, touring the Cutty Sark. The round building on the left of this sketch covers the staircase to the Thames Tunnel - a footpath beneath the river!!

We stroll past the Royal Naval Academy and up the glorious grand expansive hill to the Royal Observatory.

Here are children playing, pick-up soccer games, strollers, lovers, dogs and owners. A group of 4 girls lie on the ground at the top of the hill, each behind the other, holding on to the ankles of the one in front. At the count of 3 they all start rolling down the hill. I want to be 10 again - or even 20. Just not 50, and not in the rain.

At the top is a museum with free tours. An armillary sphere tells time when the sun shines, but it's a drizzly day today and instead folk beneath umbrellas have photos taken as they straddle the division between western and eastern hemispheres.

I confess – I am not in a Bess sort of place – but with sketchbook in hand I can record images, thoughts and ideas. From the window of one room in the museum part of the observatory you can look across the Thames to the high rises on the other side.

This, though, is a great treat for BigDarling and the museum shop is one of the few places he actually buys anything on the trip. About 6, when the place begins closing up we head back to the dock, take the underground pedestrian tunnel below the Thames and catch a millennium train – a little 2 car thing that just goes around the dockside, built to meet the tourist traffic of Y2K. It’s a wonderful look at London shipping with a cosmopolitan clientele.

This lovely African girl chattered in French the entire trip – and stood, though there were plenty of seats.

At Paddington Station we hope to find something to eat.

Alas – on Sunday evening none of the restaurants are open – except Burger King – yuck. But back home an hour later, we need not have worried – for A is recovered and has had fun in the Kitchen. She had prepared Monday’s roast today and we dive in, hungry, weary, and ready for bed before we can have a second cup of tea.

posted by Bess | 11:12 AM