25 June 2016

Day Seventeen: Crowds and Inspiration

I do love the rush of a city. I love the resources and options and culture and life. I love being on the Tube and hearing about five languages and seeing so many different types of faces and cultures represented. I love the food and the museums and the passion.

I am also a certified introvert who craves quiet time alone. I love my house for that - I love that it's clean and decorated precisely to my tastes. I love coming home and seeing everything just so. I love the glorious view of the mountains outside my window. I love how quiet it is. I love watching the deer from my balcony.

Being in London makes our time in the Lakes and in the Cotswolds seem like another life. Was it really only a week and a half ago that I climbed Newland's Pass and felt like the only person for miles? Just me and the sheep and the waterfall for company. (Well, and Greg and Nicole, but still.) That whole world feels like a lifetime ago when you're pushing yourself through the Portobello market.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

(But I'm also looking forward to the lower crowds and more peaceful elements of home.)

Portobello is such a fascinating place. I think if you looked hard enough, you could probably find Mary Poppins' bag there somewhere. You can find practically anything, and much of it at reasonable prices. (Prices do seem to have risen a bit of late - I read that stalls are so expensive to rent that some of the smaller vendors have been pushed out and others have raised prices, but it's still pretty great.) The only problem with Portobello (aside from the claustrophobia inducing crowds) is that there are a huge number of things I want to buy and can't, because who has room for a gorgeous working (almost) grandfather clock in their carry on (unless you can find the Mary Poppins bag)? As it was, I enjoyed looking at all the things for sale (at least for the first hour) and ended up leaving with a present for my sister and (of course) another book for me. Bleak House by Dickens this time - I've been dying to read it. I also got an amazing lunch from one of the street vendors - this potato and cheese and garlic and spicy conglomeration that was probably really bad for me but so good that I really don't give a (insert favorite expletive ((or "expletive")) here).

After the crowds of Portobello, we did get a brief respite by walking through Kensington Gardens. I love Kensington. The last few times I've been here I have stayed in west London and have been a frequent visitor of the parks. This time, staying in Greenwich (south and east), this has been our first time in the parks at all. It was a breath of fresh air to be back with the trees, to watch the dogs running around and chasing the pigeons. I think if I ever were fortunate enough to live in London I would have to come spend time in the parks on a regular basis. One can only spend so much time fighting crowds before one starts going nuts.

Of course my favorite part of Kensington is the statue of Peter Pan. I had such an obsession with Peter as a child. Truthfully, I don't think I can say that it's worn off. There is something so entrancing about that story to me. As a child the adventure and prospect of flight alone were enough to captivate me. I used to keep my window open at night in case Peter came. Even after I grew old enough to know that he wouldn't (because I was too old . . . and because he's fictional), I still kept it open for sake of symbolism alone. I love what that story teaches children about the bravery it takes to grow up. I love what that story teaches adults about the beauty in embracing childhood and not getting so lost in the business of life that things that matter most get shoved aside.

One of the most magical theater experiences I ever had was in Kensington in 2009 when they put on the Peter Pan play. I really can't describe the play in any justice, but it was stunning. The scene that really stuck with me was at the end of the first act. Peter has been wounded in his fight with Hook and doesn't think he can fly. He tells Wendy to leave without him by taking hold of the kite, but she is scared and doesn't think she can fly without him. In the end, he shoves her off the rock and the kite sweeps her away. This is a great scene for Peter, but it's really Wendy's story - that scene meant so much to me that summer. I was just weeks away from starting my internship as a teacher. I was about to be thrown into adulthood in a very real way and I wasn't sure I was ready for it. Peter Pan has always been a story that reminded me to be brave. I have to visit the statue when I come. It's a beautiful thing, set in a lovely location along the Serpentine River that runs through the park. I usually take about a hundred pictures of it, but limited myself to three (ok four) ((ok five)) pictures this time around. Not that I need more. But . . .

Caught in the rain after Kensington, we decided to go to the store to stock up on necessary treats to take home (seriously, America. Get your act together and demand McVities biscuits. They are the BEST EVER) before grabbing dinner and heading to the theatre for tonight's show: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

I first read Curious Incident in high school. I was utterly taken by it - I think I could say that it was probably the first "adult" (non classic) book that I read that was also particularly different. Told entirely from the perspective of Christopher, a boy with autism, I was thrown into a world that was so VERY different from the one I knew. It was magical. It was funny. It was sad and interesting and strange and enlightening. It changed me. It made me want to be a teacher.

I revisited the book in college in a class where we needed to read something about learners with disabilities.  This book was on the list, so I pulled out my copy and read it again.  Reading it from the perspective of a person just months away from working in her own classroom - it really transformed the kind of teacher I wanted to be.  I wanted to protect students like Christopher.  Not necessarily from themselves - I wanted to protect them from educational systems that held them back.

It's been one of my greatest privileges to fight to create a classroom where everyone is welcome.  Some of the students who have found the best success are those that learn in different ways than the "average" student.  (That said, I'd argue that the "average" student is a red herring and doesn't exist, but that's a discussion for another day.)  I've been especially lucky to work with students "on the spectrum".  They challenge me, but I love a challenge.  The challenge is so, so very rewarding.

Seeing Curious Incident tonight reminded me of how special (dare I say even sacred?) my job is.  The show was beautiful.  The technical elements were amazing - I loved the precision of it all, especially given Christopher's personal affinity to maths.  They told the story well and with great heart.  What I loved most of all, though, required no technology at all.  I loved watching Christopher's teacher advocate so fiercely and kindly for him.  That's not to say that Christopher didn't have other advocates - he was surrounded by them.  But in the end, it was his teacher to whom he posed the question "so - I can do anything?"  It was the voice of his teacher that he heard directing him when he was scared.  It was amazing.

You know, summers off are a true perk of my job.  Not that my summers off are ever purely "off" - there's loads to prepare for (especially this year in transferring to a new school and taking on Student Government and the like).  But my job does allow me to take three week holidays in Europe every other year or so if I want to, and that's a pretty big plus.  It can be hard (in June) to even want to think about all the work ahead.  After today, though, I'm excited to get back.  I'm excited to take up the challenge of reaching the student that no one else has quite been able to figure out yet, because that is what makes my job so very, very beautiful.

24 June 2016

England Day Sixteen: Joni Newman and the Practically Perfect Play

Note: As with last night, I'll talk about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in general, non-spoilery ways. You can message me if you want more detail.

We were all so excited by Harry Potter last night that we got to bed much later than normal. That, and the discovery of fans to cool down our stuffy room and we were all asleep until a crazy hour of the almost afternoon. (Sidebar: London had more rain two nights ago than it generally does all the month of June, which meant flooding and crazy closures on the Underground and humidity. Hot sticky days are no fun.) It's alright though - a late morning still gave us plenty of time to do what we wanted to. First, though, we turned on the news. The British voted last night on whether or not to leave the EU and since polls closed at 10:00 PM, results weren't finalized until this morning. Much to everyone's surprise, the leave vote carried and Britain is about to start the process to leave the EU. The media is all over this, of course. What I found most interesting was the press conference held by the Scottish PM. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. Scotland in particular is frustrated - they voted just two years ago to stay in the UK, largely because they wanted to be a part of the EU, so it seems likely that they could vote in the next year or so on the same topic again. What a strange world that would be - a United Kingdom with no Scotland. What would they do to all the regalia that has the Scottish thistle on it? (And can I have it?!) It's a crazy world.

Our first stop today was St. Paul's Cathedral. I think I could say with a certain degree of honesty that St. Paul's is my favorite cathedral. It's so different from the Gothic cathedrals you generally see in Europe. It's white and bright and so very Romanesque. They've changed their photo policy (you can't take pictures inside now) but you do get a very good audio guide for free. The audio guide was a good tool for understanding the history of the building, but also for promoting a spiritual focus that I haven't seen (oddly enough) when being a tourist in other churches. Two of these stand out to me. The first was information about the men who stood as guards of the cathedral during World War II. There was a brigade of men in charge of keeping watch over the cathedral each night during the war. They would sleep in the crypt and patrol the building. What I thought was most interesting was that the night when the cathedral did get bombed, the only note that was made in their logbook was a brief explanation about putting out a fire. I suppose that can be a simple reflection of how busy they were, but it also seemed like a reflection of how normal such a life was for them. I'm so glad bombing isn't a normal part of my life.

There was another interesting discussion on a painting based on the scripture in Revelation about Christ knocking at the door. Similar to the one my LDS friends would recognize, the door in the painting cannot be opened from the outside. The painter describes this door as representing the "obstinate mind", closed willingly to the knocker. Not just closed because they cannot hear, but closed stubbornly. Such things make me reflect on my own mind and the culture around me. They remind me of students I work with who look at a piece of literature or art that I find particularly spiritual or powerful but that they find trivial or annoying or even bad. I don't fault them for this - I could be wrong, after all. And they are young - there are many things I didn't like as a teenager that I have since matured enough to appreciate. But it does remind me of my resolution to actively seek for find things that are virtuous, lovely, or of good report - no matter their source - and do what I can to let those become part of who I am.

After St. Paul's we went to the British Museum. I haven't been in ages and last time I went I wandered very little. This time we stayed for a lot longer and I saw about half the exhibits. I always love the Egyptian exhibit - there's something really fascinating to me about Ancient Egyptian culture, particularly their religious rites (which are remarkably similar to my own). Remember - when Herod started to kill the infant boys, Jesus and his family were sent to Egypt.  Moses and Joseph were both sent to Egypt as well. For hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years, Egypt has been a hub of education for intellectuals and prophets alike. Wandering through the different sarcophagi reminds me of how much bigger this world is than my own existence. (I suppose that's a natural reaction to being surrounded by things that are 4,000-7,000 years old.)

My favorite things to look at this time were in the Greek and Roman exhibits. After looking at the Egyptians and the Abyssinians, there was a marked difference in the art. The other two civilizations have art that is remarkably similar and awkwardly proportioned (especially where the people are concerned) - seeing the sculpture of the Romans and the Greeks are remarkable comparatively.  Less symbolic, more realistic.  The contrast between the two was striking when they were placed so close to each other.

Regardless of the difference, walking through art from civilizations all over the world is impressive and humbling.  It's particularly impressive to see how people have discovered ways of making, say, pottery.  Take the Chinese - their pottery is pristine.  How does a person (or a civilization) gain that kind of knowledge?  I suppose you could say the same thing about things like the iPhone these days.  I guess I'm just impressed by anyone who is able to see the possibility in things and create.  I'm good when I have a script in front of me.  I'm good with organization and detail.  I'm less good at thinking in the abstract.  I admire people who can.

The highlight of today was, again, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I was impressed with how the second part of the show was less focused on the magic and more focused on the relationships of the people involved.  The show felt more intimate in Part Two.  I really enjoyed it.  (So did the girls behind me, who basically spent the entire second act sobbing.  I passed them some tissues.  Potter fans stick together and provide emotional support!). Truthfully, there were some scenes that got to me as well.  The acting was truly on point.  Jamie Parker's Harry is magnificent.  (They're all good, but I was really taken by him tonight.)

My fear with this show is that people will see it (or read it) and want for it to be something it isn't.  Books can give incredible amounts of detail.  They can go into a dozen different plot lines and be extremely long but still maintain interest if they are well written because people leave the book and come back to it later if they need to.  Plays (and movies) are much more limited.  Storylines must be focused and streamlined and paced in ways that are very different than books.  Those used to experiencing the Potterverse through books and love to pick apart every minute detail may find that some points in the play have been rushed or not explained to their satisfaction.  There are some elements that I think could still be strengthened in small ways (and they could be - the show is still in previews for another month, which means changes will still be coming). All the same, I think this is a truly excellent play and a powerful story.  It touched me personally and fits in almost flawlessly with the Potter universe.  I loved it.

23 June 2016

Day Fifteen: Vintage Ring OR Joni Newman and the Childhood Wish Fulfillment: Part One


Before you read, know that I believe in honoring the request to "keep the secrets" for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I will talk a bit about some thoughts on the show here, but only in general, non plot based ways. If you want to be spoiled, hit me up on Facebook or send me your email and I can send you more specific detail. Any particular questions you have would help me know what to send you - I don't know that I could send you more than a basic plot summary anyway (and I'm sure you can find that online already.)

Today started off with a girl's trip to the Camden Market. Greg got some kind of rash on his legs (heat stroke? Fabric burn?) and he didn't want to walk forever (yesterday we went about 17,000 steps), so Nicole and I set off quite happily for a shopping adventure. The last couple of times I've been here I've been with girls and have made out like a bandit with clothing. This time the only clothing I've purchased was the t-shirt at the play tonight. It was really fun to have some girl time.

The Camden Market is the hunting ground for antique shoppers on Wednesday and Saturday, but we heard that many of the regular shops were still open so we decided to check it out. There weren't as many as we were hoping for, but Nicole did find a beautiful tea cup and saucer from Germany that she was hoping to get while here (not this one, but "a" one) so the trip wasn't wasted.

My mission was a bit wasted. While we were in York, Nicole got a new wedding ring. She liked her old one, but I guess it was rubbing against her finger in an annoying way, so she wanted to get something in England. She did, and it was lovely, and I got jealous. And I had some extra cash that I hadn't spent on this trip in my budget so... I had to, right?  Trouble was, finding a shop was very difficult in London. I wanted something worth the money but not too expensive. I don't need really pricy, I just wanted really old. Everywhere we looked seemed to have small selection and mostly things well out of my price range. In fact, one store we looked in told me I was crazy for looking in the price range I was and that I'd never find something for that (which I knew was crap because Nicole had already done it just days before.)

I was ready to give up the search when, lucky for me, Nicole suggested we walk one more block down the road we were on. There were loads of jewelry stores, so I agreed. Lo and behold, the exact kind of store I was looking for appeared. Specialists in antiques - not just pawn brokers, with a decent (if not huge) selection, and several in my hoped for cost to choose from. I looked at about five potential options, narrowed it down to two, and eventually chose what the clerk called the "bargain of the day". It was priced by his father well below what he would have priced it at (to the tune of at least £100 pounds less) and it was half what I was budgeting to spend, but it was still perfect for me. The ring itself is hallmarked, so we know that it was made in 1915 on London. It's 18 karat gold (never thought I'd have something like that!) with four sapphires and one diamond. It's just on that edge of design between Art Deco and Victorian and I love it. One of these days I'll take it into another jeweler to get some information about the stones, but I really couldn't care less if they are good quality or not. The ring is beautiful, and definitely old, and that's all I wanted. (And if that ends up all being a lie, then I still don't care.) Yay for treating yourself now and then! I don't have anyone to do something like that for me, so I'm going to do it for myself.

We met up with Greg at the Tate Modern after lunch. I love the Tate Modern because it is so different from any other museum in town. You never know what you're going to get. Most of the time I go and could stay forever. This time wasn't one of those times, unfortunately. There were a few exhibits I really liked - mostly a few rooms that focused especially on color.  There were a few other installations made out of unique materials that I enjoyed looking at, but many of the exhibits had an over handed political or social feel that I understand in art but felt a bit oversaturated by. I think such messages and commentaries are important for artists. Art at its best helps us to see things in a new way that we would not have noticed otherwise. It helps us to empathize with experiences that are not our own. Done poorly, art can also be preachy and scolding and patronizing to the viewer. Most of the pieces I saw today felt more in that sphere.

That said, there were a few of these social pieces that stuck out to me. There was one giant mess of cardboard stylized in a turn of the 18th century advertisement but with modern messages that reminded me of how some of the problems that exist in the world are trivialized by petty frustrations. There was another piece made of fire hoses that had been used to shoot water at children who had been marching for their rights during the 1960s in America. It was striking to see how many there were. I couldn't fit them all in one picture.

Of course the main event today was the first part of our Harry Potter play experience. Even picking up the tickets was magical, since they are yellow and embossed and beautiful. I think I'll frame them when I get back home. First stop was, of course, the merchandise counter so we could buy all. the. things.  I ended up buying about half the things. . . But I kind of want to buy the rest tomorrow.

As for the show itself - I don't know how to put it other than that it is utterly magical.  Funny enough, I'd forgotten to even consider how they would do magic in the play, but some of the effects are mind boggling.  Some of them I can figure out because of my theater background, but others still have me trying to work them out.  The heart of the story is solid and the acting is perfect.  I'm so impressed with the casting and the design.  More importantly, though, I think the story is excellent.  I think lots of people who are used to having crazy amounts of detail (from the books especially) will be dissatisfied with some elements of the plot (or, perhaps more accurately) will want more detail or development from their favorite characters, but when you let the story be what it is (and not get upset with what it isn't, or shouldn't be), the heart of the story is exactly what all the previous Harry Potter stories have been about - the importance of family and friends. Or, perhaps more accurately, the importance and power of love.  I'm excited to see how it ends.

22 June 2016

England Day Fourteen: Too Many Tourists

We all slept in far too late this morning. Two weeks of non-stop rushing around can take a toll on a person, and today that toll manifest itself in all of us oversleeping.  This left us with a slightly truncated tourist experience, but we still have plenty of time left to see what we want to, so it's all good. After we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, we went directly for the Tower of London.

The Tower has a rich history in Britain with origins in London more than 1,000 years ago. Located right off the Thames, it's a perfect location for many things. It began as a castle for Edward I. Eventually it would be used as an armory, a mint, and, most famously, a prison. The last prisoner held in the Tower was back during World War Two, but the prime of prison use was during the 1500-1600s. Back then, the understanding was that if you entered the Tower by river as prisoner, as many did, you would not leave. Many famous Englishmen (and women) saw their last days in the Tower, including two of Henry VIII's wives - Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

I hadn't been to the Tower in nearly a decade before today. I didn't really enjoy it the first time, so I didn't go on my last trip. That feeling more or less held. I feel like going to the Tower is a bit like seeing the Champs de Lise in Paris. You see it because that's just what you do in Paris, but you get there and the whole thing, while interesting and historic, is so overrun by tourists that it's not a very enjoyable place to be, so you just leave.  I've heard more American accents today since I got to London, and American tourists can be really frustrating after the orderly queuing you see from the Brits. (Yes. I know that I'm American, but I'm also a teacher and a firm believer in taking your turn in an orderly way.) So the Tower isn't my favorite place. It's expensive, but there are some perks. For example, the Crown Jewels are kept in the Tower. You get to parade past priceless jewels that are so enormous it makes you simultaneously sick with envy and disgust of extravagance all at once. One of the diamonds we saw is more than 3,000 karats. Another crown had more than 12,000 diamonds in it (at one point - they were all taken out? I don't remember why.) Such extravagance is hard to fathom. I was struck by the symbolism of the coronation ceremony itself. The process and ornaments that are used and tokens that are given are extremely similar to those in LDS Temples. Hugh Nibley (a Mormon theologian and brilliant scholar of history) talks about how all civilizations are, in one way or another, re-creating the temple, whether they know it or not.  It really was both beautiful and overwhelming to see.

We left the Tower in search of food and a change of plan. We'd stayed so long that our plan to visit St. Paul's would need to be postponed. Our substitute plan was to go in search of chocolate. I did some research on the best chocolate boutiques in London, and we settled on one that is run by a man named Paul A. Young. He is, according to what I read anyway, supposed to be the best chocolatier in London. The store was small but completely enticing. It smelled amazing and looked even better. I love the detail of design that gets put into really good food. When presentation matters, I assume that the product is worth my while. (You can totally judge a book by its cover. Be superficial!) I haven't been disappointed. So far I've had one of the four I bought (don't ask how much they were!) ((Ok. They were about £2 each.)) The one I tasted was kafir lime and ginger. If you haven't had kafir lime before, you're missing out. It's got a delicious tart flavor, but mellowed slightly and creamier. It was heaven.

Our show tonight was The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk at the Wannamaker Theatre (just behind the Globe). It was the "wild card" show that we picked. There is precious little to be found about it online - all we knew was that it had been performed with success elsewhere, that it was about Marc Chagall and his wife, and that it was produced by the RSC. We figured that even if the show was awful, the production value would be solid. We were definitely not disappointed. Truthfully, I don't know that I have words to adequately describe what it was to experience this show. The music (two live musicians playing klezmer inspired music) was beautiful. There are times when words aren't necessary (or even damaging) to the message you want to present. Theater is so often guilty of talking when words are unnecessary. In musicals they sing to fill these voids, but even then the words can trivialize the purity of expression. This show was a master class of stillness and patience in allowing and trusting the audience to follow the story, even when there aren't words to tell it.  The story of the life that Marc and Bella shared together was told through a series of vignettes interspersed with music - the whole night was mesmerizing and magical and lovely.  I'm dying to get my hands on this script. The last time I saw an RSC show in London, it was released on film.  Maybe the theater gods will smile upon me and release this one too so I can share it with others.  I'm so glad we went.

21 June 2016

England Day Thirteen: Nothing Unlucky About "The Play That Goes Wrong"

I love London. I love the energy of a big city. I love the history and knowledge right at your fingertips. I love the amazing restaurants and the feeling of being in a place where amazing things have and are and will happen. London is a dream.

Today we kicked off that dream by visiting the museums around Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar is one of the most recognizable places in London - the huge monument to Nelson, the National Gallery behind you and the Houses of Parliament visible in the distance - it's a crowded place, but a magical place all the same. I love this city.

The National Gallery was our first stop of the day. It's a rat's maze of a place that's fun to wander. Unless you buy the map (£1), you really don't know what you're going to find, other than a general era of artwork. I actually prefer it this way. When I wander an art museum I like to go in blind. I like to walk a gallery until something peeks my interest. If I find something great, I stop. If I find something really great, I can stay for ages. I don't know enough about art history to really critique a piece. I know the names of many great artists (largely thanks to my mother), and I know a lot of history, but in general, I go with my gut reaction. The National Gallery is really suited to an experience like this. There are so many brilliant artists on display that you can't "showcase" them all. Sometimes you turn a corner and find a recognizable piece on a back wall surrounded by works you've never seen or heard of. Or the piece is in a corner you'd never have noticed. The surprise of it all is appealing to me.

Today I was particularly taken by the works of Monet. All artwork is better in person, but I think Monet is especially so. I love getting so close that you can see the individual brush strokes. Up close (to quote Cher), Monet is a mess. I love taking a step backward, then another, then another, and so on as the painting comes into view clearly. The farther back you go, the more beautiful it is. I like that as a symbol of humanity. Sometimes I feel like I look at myself (or others) I only see the little pieces. It's when I look back on the whole of my life (or the lives of others) that the beauty becomes clearer. It's the same when I look at the experiences I've had or the places I've been led that haven't made sense. Viewed from a distance, their purpose in the grand design is clearer.

I'd like to say that the whole of my experience in the museum was profound and thoughtful, but I also really love finding doppelgängers for modern humans and looking at bizarre religious art. Oh, Medieval and Renaissance artists. Bless them. They weren't really allowed (at least legally) to study the human body, which means that much of their art is a disproportionate mess that gives me the giggles. It's undignified, but it sure is fun. Today I found a dead ringer for Mr. Bean, a baby Jesus that Mary certainly didn't give birth to (it was ENORMOUS) and some other great, if bizarre, works of art. Maybe you had to be there?

After the National Gallery we walked down to Westminster to tour, but decided against it. Ticket prices have raised to £20 a person (that's half a day pass to Disneyland) and we decided we'd rather save that £20 for Cursed Child swag. We are hoping to attend an evening service there on Sunday so that we can get a peek inside for free. (It probably won't be quite so busy then either.)  I've been before though, so it's all good. (I guess this means we've reached the part of the trip where yet another amazing and historic church is just sort of "meh". Bit sad.) We did have a look around the grounds, though. There are a few things on the grounds I like to visit, especially the statues dedicated to great world leaders. We didn't get to see them all today, but we did see a few. The Abraham Lincoln one is my favorite, partly because of the legend behind it. The story goes that America agreed to have a statue of Lincoln near Westminster, but only if he were placed on American soil. The statue, then, is on dirt that was (at least many years ago) shipped over from America. The great part of this is that, according to the legend, if you are an American in trouble with British law and you go stand by the statue of Lincoln, you are technically on American soil and the British can't do anything to you. I don't know if anyone has tried this.

One feature on the grounds today was a huge pile of flowers and a banner for the recently slain MP, Jo Cox. She was killed a week and a half ago outside the library in her constituency in an act of violence that has shocked the country - gun violence is really rare in the UK. Every news channel I've watched has been reporting on updates regularly. The more I've learned about her, the more I've grown to respect her. She seems like she was a truly wonderful woman who worked hard for her people. It's really impressive to see the different interviews of people in her district - they all seem to have great affection for her, and many have personal experiences or anecdotes about how she has personally influenced them (either directly or indirectly). She was heavily involved in causes of humanitarian aid. Many of the tributes on the flowers outside Westminster were personal cards from her friends within Parliament.

In addition to these tributes, there have been many tributes to the victims of the Orlando shooting and Oxford had a display in show of support to victims of sexual violence, many directed specifically to the Stanford rape victim. Walking down the streets here I see people of all races and languages and religions. It's striking to me how different societies that are inherently diverse have far more dominant attitudes about acceptance.  I'm sure that there are those who are on the opposite side of that - the murder of Jo Cox is proof of that - but walking around London reminds me that who I am, the ideas that I have, the place where I live - it's all just a piece of a puzzle that is much bigger than I am.  It really is important to look outside the microcosm of life you live in now and then and see the world from a different lens.

Given that Westminster was crazy crowded (and pricy), we decided to head back to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Portrait Gallery.  I love this one - it sounds a bit boring, but I actually really love the chance to see portraits (some familiar, some unfamiliar) of people I know about and admire.  My favorite of the day was a portrait of William Wilberforce.  He was the man behind the push to abolish the slave trade in Britain back in the early 19th century.  He campaigned tirelessly throughout his life for social reform.  He, to me, is a person who wore out his life in well-doing.  It struck me that his portrait was unfinished.  It suggests, as the plaque next to the painting pointed out, that Wilberforce led a life that was always in progress both as an individual and representing the work he strove to accomplish.

The show tonight was The Play That Goes Wrong.  It was compared to Noises Off, which is always a good thing, and it won the Olivier Award (British version of the Tony) for best comedy in 2015.  That was about all I knew about it going in - we were not disappointed.  After some dark shows (Faustus and 1984 aren't exactly sunny), this show was a breath of fresh air.  We laughed from start to finish.  Definitely a show to remember.  I bought the script so I can read it again (and convince some theatre back home to do it).  If you get the chance to see it, or if it ever makes it to the States - see it.  You won't regret it.