The Last Bit of Wandering

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June 19, 2011

I made my way back to Speaker’s Corner and spent the morning listening to some very radical points of view.  Religion, politics, and philosophy dominated the soapbox speeches so naturally debate was quick to follow.  Hecklers were more numerous than usual, but civility still ruled the day.  Probably the most interesting aspect this time around was seeing different speakers visit each other and interact.  Virtually the same people come and speak every week, which means they know each other pretty well.  Some are friends, while others have nothing more than civilized respect for one another.  This familiarity made for some interesting debate as each knows exactly what buttons to push to set off the other.  It’s always a show and I do enjoy the free entertainment as much as the curiosity it inspires.

After I had my fill of point/counterpoint I wandered down Knightsbridge and looked for a place to dodge the rain.  Harrods was in sight so I decided to see what all the fuss is about concerning this store.  The place was so packed it was impossible to enjoy anything about it.  From what I could see, there were a lot of people sifting through a lot of over priced stuff.  After fifteen minutes, the rain seemed like a better situation.  A determined shopper, I am not!

I backtracked to Hyde Park and went for a stroll down Constitution Hill and The Mall.  Even with the rain, it was a nice walk.

June 20, 2011

I needed a break from the city, so I stayed in the neighborhood that surrounds the flat where I’m staying.  There’s a lot to explore around here and I’m glad I took the time to see it.  I walked up The Avenue to get to Alexandra Park, a lovely little surprise I wish I had found a long time ago.  Alexandra Palace sits near the entrance, although I didn’t get to see much of it as it’s under renovation.  No matter, the park had plenty of other sites, namely a hillside that offered a stunning vista of the city of London.  After spending so many days in the thick of the urban center, it was refreshing to see it from a quiet patch of grass.

A lake in the middle of the park gave me a peaceful place to sit and write for most of the morning and into the afternoon.  Tall rose bushes and large old trees surround the lake and benches, while ducks and geese swim and play. The picture below was a lucky shot . . .

From the park, I followed Dukes Avenue, which leads directly to the roundabout of Muswell Hill Broadway.  This is essentially the center of the neighborhood and I thought it would be fun to wander down each street attached to the center.  It took all afternoon, but I got to each spoke on the wheel.  In the process, I found a great little local bookshop where I spent a while looking through their shelves.  I walked out with Esther’s Inheritance by Sandor Marai.  The author is one of my favorites and often very difficult to find at home, which made this a pretty exciting find.

I spent the rest of the day at a local bakery café where I indulged in hot chocolate and a homemade doughnut filled with strawberry jam.  As I ate and drank, I started reading my new book.  I took my time and the world seemed to slow down.  For at least a little while, life was as simple as a good story and a hot drink.

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What’s Sunday Without a Little Debate?

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It’s Sunday, so get on your soapbox or gather around to listen.  There are opinions for everything, counterpoints to every argument, and a positive for every negative.  These pillars of debate all come together in a glowing monument to freedom of speech at Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner.  The idea behind this weekly event revolves around the act of speaking, regardless of what is said or whether there is agreement between all groups.  New ideas mingle with radical points of view, while neutral parties watch words exchange back and forth like tennis balls at Wimbeldon.  The process is the absolute epitome of humanity at its finest.  We aren’t meant to agree on everything, but we owe it to ourselves and everyone around us to respect the ability to harbor and express an opinion.

As I listen, I sometimes feel my temper burning and my intellect challenged, but I always learn something.  There’s always something to consider and stoke my curiosity to investigate further.   For some it’s about being right or wrong, but for me its about making the effort to think with a more open mind.

c.b. 2011

A Busy Week in London, Part 2

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June 5, 2011

We got a late start, but managed to arrive at Hyde Park just in time for Speaker’s Corner.  We attended this weekly event last time we were in London and had such a great time, it was all but required to return.  Every Sunday speakers and listeners crowd a small corner of Hyde Park, near Marble Arch.  Everything from religion, politics, history, culture, and a slew of other controversial topics are discussed.  Usually someone gets up on their soapbox and starts giving an opinion and before long a crowd gathers and the debates begin.  It’s a fascinating thing to watch people passionately argue different points of view without coming to blows.

When it began to drizzle, we headed over to Covent Garden to watch the street performers and visit the Jubilee Market.  Once the rain started coming down, it was lucky to have at least a bit of roof over our heads.  We warmed up in a coffee shop and waited for the rain to abate.

The rain kept falling, but we decided to head out in it anyway armed with an umbrella.  We headed towards the embankment and crossed Waterloo Bridge where the rain filled sky made for some amazing views of the city and Parliament.  We walked along the Thames until hitting Westminster Bridge where we stopped to take in yet another gorgeous view of Big Ben.

We circled around Lambeth Bridge and got soaked on the way back to Westminster.  The rain was fun, but my cold, wet feet were not.  I think I know why Europeans hem their jeans so much shorter than Americans – their pants were dry while mine were wet halfway up to my knees.

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