I've never, well I suppose most people don't either, thought of myself as a flat. Despite the fact I rarely go anywhere. Despite the fact that, given my shut in lifestyle I have about as much street smarts as, well, a middle aged programmer who rarely goes out.
But I am a flat, entirely. First step is admitting I have a problem.
On our way to the bus station, and at NO time did I sense any of this, or even have a sense of anyone being very close to me, both the zippers in my bag were opened, and my rather nice down jacket was nicked. Shameful, I know. But, I suppose, bravo on the thiefs, I didn't feel a thing. And well, I suppose we are going to Italy, so, less to pack? It was a certain jet of anger, I suppose, and befuddlement. But I also was so very thankful I had not lost my wallet and/or phone, both which would require hours and hours of hassle and phone calls to set me to rights.
It might be my stoic optimism is a source of my lack of street smarts. But I'm also not a fan of suffering unduly or for too long over mishaps, I save that for when things really go south. Writing that out I realize I might be more of a pessimist, really.
We took the long bus to the Maritime Museum, which is, as the kids say, absolutely my jam. Tall ships, naval battles, scurvy, saucy words like 'sextants' etcetera. The bus ride is a longish one, we travel through what I think might be the dodgier bits of London, using lack of power washing and graffitti as my measure. There are still vast amounts of historical buildings. I've taken to using Google Lens to figure out what that old looking church there is all about, or that funny looking residential area. So far it's been distrubingly accurate, but my curiousity must be satisfied.
I'm like a mental pack rack, but also someone who will absolutely forget, eventually, that that church was consecrated in the mid 1800's, and it's common was used as a gallows. Or that residential area was name Victoria.. something or other, an alms housing concern that was established with the blessing of .. well, a Queen Victoria from the 1500's.
In any case we make it to the Maritime Museum and it's pretty astounding. I didn't look up anything, just went in blind. But they had a some artifacts I didn't think even existed, like Admiral Nelson's uniform he was wearing when he was shot down in the Battle of Trafalgar. And quite a few other artifacts. Plaques galore, of course. A whole section detailing the Age of Sail in regards to exploration and trade, and not shying from the more sordid aspects, especiallyh with regards to slavery. The Nelson exhibit maye have been a bit more fawning, his god like hero status may have dimmed, but is certainly kept quite alive there.
Eventually Owl Jr sidles up to me and asks him to play a ship simulator with him, I'm only slightly disappointed when I learned it was a modern ship simulator. A set of five screens in which you navigate a rescue vessel. As we were waiting our turn, the five screens certainly gave a sensation of movement, perhaps too much so. The queasiness started to creep in and I was worried I've have to help him navigate with my eyes closed, taking shallow breaths. Never a good thing for a son to see, his father, motion sickness from a video game, in a public place.
But, as with all things remotely videogame like smaller kids were drawn to it, and in their Oliver Twist street urchin way absolutely cut right through the queue. My son, wisely decided to give up our chance to steer the virtual ship rather than be THOSE two, a teenage son and his middle age father, asserting our rights and pushing the small children aside.
At least I lived another day without mortally embarrassing my kids.
We had lunch, and the only notable thing to say is I finally had fish and chips in England, and against all my beliefs, bought it from a pun heavy shop, by the name of Jack the Chipper. But it was quite excellent, prepared fresh, and festooned with all manner of English patriotism that you only usually see with new immigrants. Being the child of some myself, let me tell you the urge to assure everyone I belonged in the country to be a temptation hard to resist.
Last full day in London. We have not quite broke every bone in our feet walking, and we make our way to the Cutty Sark, the fastest tall ship of it's day, delivering cargo in a time when steam ships were taking over everything.
It was the last gasping breath of age of sail. Steel reinforced frame under the wood hull. A worryingly small crew to handle such a massive ship. Here, as in many other museums, they do not shy from some of the ugly truths, like, say, the Opium Wars. It certainly makes for more colourful history, if grim.
And like everywhere we went, we had booked entrance well ahead of time, with time slots and what not, only to find a somewhat puzzled staff member, with no lineup at all, saying, yes, uhm, of course we could go in. Better to safe than sorry.
We have on our checklist to get to Harrods, a place of amusing opulence, and a food court from which we might be able to afford the free sample. We walk, we attempt to get our oyster card topped up, we try and get another bus. But buses are late and cancelled and it's generally complete havoc because today is the day of a Tube strike. Which, in what I would imagine to be a very English way, is advertised and scheduled on their website.
So we rest our tired feet and have a hot drink in a cafe. Finally get to the bus stop, it's delayed again. So we switch tacks, time to go home, but that bus is delayed. And, as the Walking Gods decreed, we walked the jaunty 40 minutes home. Thus bringing out walking total from 'oh this is pretty bad' to 'amputation can be done at home, no?' I must admit by the end my stoic optimism had flagged, if only a bit.
Hey, at least I didn't have to lug a coat around.