Sightseeing in London

Last month, my spouse B, younger daughter T, and I made our first family trip to London to visit daughter E, her spouse L, our granddaughter ABC, and L’s family. After almost three years of waiting, E’s spousal visa finally came through and she and ABC relocated to London in October.

Yes, I am horribly late posting about the trip. I came home sick and had a hard time shaking it and there were holidays and technical issues – I am notoriously bad at dealing with photos – but I’m hoping to get out a few posts in the coming days.

We arrived in the UK on Saturday and did central London sightseeing on Sunday, after attending mass the church where Larry serves as organist and director of the adult choir. We had bought advance tickets to ride the London Eye, also known as the Millenium Wheel.
London Eye

It was nice to see some of the historic London landmarks from above. Here is the Palace of Westminster, where Parliament meets. You can see the clocktower which usually houses Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding as part of the ongoing restoration project.
Parliament

Two-and-a-half-year-old ABC was much more impressed with the boats on the Thames than the buildings!

After our ride on the Eye, we grabbed some lunch and went on a walking tour. On future trips, we may try to tour some of the buildings. We anticipate many trips to London in the future!

Because daylight hours are short in London in the winter, as we walked in the area of Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, we were able to see some of the holiday lights.
London holiday lights

In Trafalgar Square, we were drawn to the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth, part of “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz, a US artist of Iraqi ancestry. It is a replica of Lamassu, a protective deity from the gates of Nineveh in 700 BCE which was destroyed by the Islamic State in 2015. This sculpture is made from 10,500 empty date cans; dates were once a major part of the economy in Iraq, but 90% of the 30 million date trees have been destroyed in the long years of war. Rakowitz is trying to recreate all the art that was stolen from the museum in Baghdad or destroyed at sites across Iraq.  The art on the Fourth Plinth changes every couple of years and this sculpture will be replaced in 2020, so we were fortunate to have seen it.
Lamassu sculpture in London

As we were walking in the Piccadilly shopping district, I was delighted to see this building with Advent calendar decorated windows. It is Fortnum & Mason, a fancy department store. We went in to browse a bit, but it was so crowded we could barely move. We are definitely not used to that!
Advent calendar F & S

It was fun to see some of London with holiday lights. While we expect to visit frequently in the coming years, I don’t know how often we will be able to go in December. Time will tell…

Photos courtesy of B
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Taking down Christmas

Today, we observe Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the magi. It’s also a family tradition to take down our Christmas tree today. Often, B does most of that work, although I think T and I will help today. It’s always a bit sad to take down the tree, although this is longest time we have ever had a tree up as we got it early in order to have it to celebrate St. Nicholas Day in advance of E and ABC’s holiday trip to London. I was afraid the tree would not last all these weeks, but it has held up well, only shedding a few needles. LEDs help to keep the needles from drying out, as they sometimes did with the old incandescent light strings.

Our tree this year wound up being decorated with mostly non-breakable ornaments. There are a few fragile ones in the top third, safely out of ABC’s reach. She was very interested in the ornaments as they were put up, carrying them around and sometimes taking them back off the tree, but once it was all decorated, she (mostly) left them up.

It is probably just as well that she is still in the UK. When she comes back mid-month, the living room will be back to normal, except with a few new toys and books to strew across the braided rug.
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Christmas tree takedown

Over the weekend, B and T undecorated the Christmas tree. We usually do this on Epiphany, but that was when L was flying out to return to London, so it got pushed back this year. Because B and E had cut the tree down themselves in mid-December, it was still in good shape so the extra week in the house didn’t matter.

I admit that I continued my largely hands-off policy with the tree. I didn’t really even look at it that much, other than when I would bring ABC close to it because she enjoyed the lights and grabbing at a few strategically placed safe ornaments. I especially liked that she played with – and could chew on – a red plastic-canvas-and-yarn ornament that was part of a set I had made before ABC’s mom E was born. E and T both played with those ornaments when they were young and I appreciated seeing our first grandbaby doing the same.

The other thing that was comforting about the tree this year was the scent. Even though I didn’t much care to look at the tree and often sat with my back to it, I loved the scent of our Canaan fir. I miss it now that it is gone.

This morning, a truck from the town came by and collected the tree from the curb. It and the other Christmas trees will become mulch for use in the town parks. Having served its purpose at our home, I’m glad that it has been returned to the natural world.
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taking down Christmas

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Yesterday, our church celebrated Epiphany. This is also the day when we usually take down our Christmas tree.

Because this Christmas was somewhat subdued for various reasons, we hadn’t taken any photos.

I did, however, ask B to take the above photo. The carol singers are ones that Grandma, his mom, who passed away in March, had made for us when we were newlyweds to match her own set. B made the church from a kit over thirty years ago. The little Irish church mice are of a similar age.

The barristers and tea cup collection are also inherited from Grandma, with some of the cups originating from prior generations.

The wintry photo is of Main Street in North Adams, Massachusetts and was taken by a shopkeeper sometime in the last decade. We purchased it from him and Grandma displayed it in her cottage at the local retirement village. All four of B’s and my parents came from the North Adams area and he and I grew up near there, too.

It seemed fitting to commemorate Grandma and our family roots in this special corner of our dining room this Christmas.

I expect it to be a new part of our tradition.
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Ending Christmas

Much of the energy expended this weekend has been spent taking down Christmas decorations.

Yesterday, we concentrated on helping Grandma, which is a huge task as she likes to decorate every room.

Today, we packed things here at our house. I’m happy to report that everything is safely stowed in the basement, waiting for December 2016 to roll around. Well, not everything. The tree is out on the curb, waiting for the special collection that will turn the trees into mulch for the parks.

With Christmas things put away, there are few clues as to it being winter. We have had a major rainstorm with temperatures in the 40s F. (mid-single digits C.) We are expecting some seasonably cold temperatures tomorrow. At least we will know it is mid-January without referring to the calendar.
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