Thursday, April 28, 2011

Talking Royal Wedding Blues

My wonderful neighbors, Greg and Liza Taylor recently celebrated Greg’s birthday in London (while I chronicled Spring bursting forth in their garden (Bonus shots at the end of the story).  During their trips abroad, Greg has generally produced a daily update of their travels in the form of an ever-so-erudite travelogue. On this short fling in London, he broke with his usual style and interjected a bit of “fluff” regarding his lost invitation to the Royal Wedding.  And I break with  tradition to bring you a story having nothing whatever to do with photography, but nevertheless a story of  true Relentless Pursuit!  You’re sure to enjoy enjoy Greg’s unique brand of self deprecating humor as you delight in sorting the truth of the tale from the historical whimsy!
All the London photos were shot by Liza.

P.S:.  You may need to keep a handbook of British heraldry close to your arm chair.

Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.

  Michelle Alton


April 10

Weeks have gone by and still no sign of the Invitation.  Called the Royal Chamberlain and was told they had no record.  Told them there must be a mistake,and please take more care with the checking.  Transferred to what seems to be their Department of Monetary Affairs for Canada: seemed odd to me too, but then why would there by so much talk in the background about the Loony.  Still no trace.  Nothing for it but to go to London myself.

Leaving from Philadelphia is a vastly more pleasant experience than using New York’s JFK.  Parked right in front of our terminal and walked in; at JFK the parking is in a different time zone, and you need to get shots.  Went to line up at British Air, fully prepared for the usual hour or so among the shuffling damned, and was astounded that the line was us.  Pleasant wait and good seats.  A bit late on take-off, owing to an airline debacle, but an uneventful flight.

Leaving Brooklyn (Photograph by Michelle Alton)
April 11

Breezed through Customs: was ready with Oscar Wilde's "Only my genius" if they asked me if I had anything to declare, but they didn't.  Took the Tube into London, reading "Time Out London" to see what to catch.  Rabid to try "Aida" at the Royal Opera or the new Rory Kinnear "Hamlet."  Short walk to the hotel.

The Montague Hotel on the Garden is in Bloomsbury, across from the British  Museum.  Room a bit small: have to step outside to change your mind.

Hotel Shower

Called up the Palace directly.  Told the Royal Chamberlain that I was here and was not to be trifled with.  Back to Canadian Monetary Affairs, but after assuring them I was not pleased with their level of service, spoke with someone at the top.  He agreed with me completely that sixty years of listening to Gilbert and Sullivan should count for more than an accident of birth, and was as aggrieved as I when a careful search once more failed to turn up my name on the list.  He was, however, delighted to find among guests a hereditary invitation for Gregory, Marquis of Wode, and felt that perhaps it was here that the error lay.  Just a matter of calling up the College of Heralds and confirming my identity and Bob's your uncle {Used to describe the means of straightforwardly obtaining a successful result. For example, 'left over right; right over left, and Bob's your uncle--ed.}.  Promised to call first thing tomorrow.

We spent the early afternoon exploring Bloomsbury.  We love to get lost and wander, since one always fetches up back at the British Museum.  Saw many good  restaurants, over and above the tourist traps, and located Busaba Eatthai, which nicely presents Asian and other foods.  Great lunch.

Spent the remainder of the afternoon communing with the Elgin Marbles and the other wonders of the museum.  Light dinner and so to bed.

April 12

Up betimes {translation: in good time or bright and early--ed.} and called the College of Heralds.  Put through to the Griffin Pursuivant Gules, who is their top man on Invitations snafus.  Told him about the misunderstanding and the need to correct Gregory, Marquis of Wode with Gregory Taylor.  After some whispered discussions in the background, I was given to the Lion Couchant D’or, who noted that we would need a fair degree of follow-up, since while the hereditary marquis got a free pass, the line went extinct in 1321 when the last Gregory was hanged owing to an ownership dispute involving a horse.  Gave him my forebears as far back as I could.  After taking my credit card information, promised to call the hotel shortly with results.

After a fortifying breakfast we walked in unaccustomed sun and then took the Tube to Pimlico for the Tate.  We very much enjoy their pageant of English paintings, and I particularly like the Pre-Raphaelites.  Their Recent Acquisitions left much to be desired, however, as one involved a Murano glass chandelier the size of a well-fed studio apartment, which blinked on and off without pattern.  Probably defective wiring, but for what they paid, they should get it fixed.

Yorkshire Pudding for Breakfast?

On a more solemn mission, we took a double-decker bus along the Thames to Westminster, then the Tube to Tower Hill.

We had promised our neighbor, Jeff, that we would look up the monument to the Merchant Marine.  Jeff's father had been First Radio Officer on the Almeda Star, lost with all hands in 1941{torpedoed by U-96 in the North Atlantic, in January--ed.}, and there is a memorial we wanted to see.  The monument sits in its own park, covering several blocks of well-kept grass and plantings, the former of which was well used by Londoners delighting in the weather.

Tower Hill Park
There is a handsome columnar monument to those lost in the Merchant Marine in the Great War, and a (sadly) far larger one for those lost in the Second World War.  It beautifully anticipates the Vietnam Memorial, listing those lost at sea on bronze plaques in a sunken space below ground level.  When we got there, the memorial was closed for care and cleaning.  It was heartening to see the scrupulous attention paid to its maintenance, but we despaired of getting a picture of the plaque honoring Jeff's father.  Liza was equal to the task, however, and dodged the barrier to show the workers her information on the Almeda Star and the reason for our visit.  They could not have been more obliging, and although there are nearly 24,000 names, they walked her directly to the site. Got a clear picture.

Alton, T. F.  Father of neighbor, Jeff
Lunch today was at Murano, an agreeably spare restaurant in Mayfair, the labor of love of Angela Hartnett.  It had come highly recommended and our concierge was at some pains to get us a late reservation.  Wonderful menu (a copy of which Liza had signed by the chef) and a delightful lunch, details of which upon request.

After walking around Mayfair we tubed to Covent Garden.  It was the work of a minute to find the Royal Opera House.  As luck would have it, they did indeed have tickets to "Aida" tomorrow night.  Our soaring hopes, however, were dashed when we did the quick arithmatic and found that seats in the Second Balcony (all that was available) would separate us from 540 dearly loved dollars.  Wondering if our accents suggested idle wealth, we sadly departed.  Walked back,
delighting in the neighborhood and the hustling crowds...

After a light dinner (all we could manage after the splendid lunch), an early evening.

April 13
The sun is shining in England and nowhere brighter than Bloomsbury, where good news wings its way from the College of Heralds. Unsleeping labor has been crowned with success, as they have closed in on Gregory, Marquis of Wode.  The call this morning said that they were back to 1535, with Harold of Scode, a distant ancestor of mine.  While not himself a clear descendent of our illustrious borrower of horses, they said that his coat of arms was breathtakingly similar.  If one replaces the lions rampant with  ducks couchant and the eagles with spaniels, and changes the gules for argent, they are virtually identical.  Harold was an Oxford scholar, who achieved fame by debating Henry VIII on the proposition "Resolved, the King can do no wrong."  Harold took the off side, and while the King won the votes of all those courtiers present, it was considered a spirited debate.  Never one to hold a grudge, the king showed his puckish humor by having Harold parboiled. The College felt strongly that they were closing in on Wode, although their zeal had apparently maxed out the credit card I had given them.  One does not count nickels at a time like this, and I gave them two more.

"The King Can Do No Wrong" (Google Images)

We had labored for weeks to get into the highly fashionable restaurant "Dinner", the masterwork of Heston Blumenthal.  Our efforts were crowned with success and we had a luncheon reservation.  The restaurant's premise is to use recipes from years past (try 1585) in the preparation of modern dishes.  Liza, never one to shy from a challenge, had an appetizer that involved a ragout of pig's ear (nor could I restrain myself from comments involving silk purses).  I had a wonderful lemon salad.  Our entrees involved an exquisite salmon dish and splendid quail.  For administrative reasons, we were obliged to have four desserts, and barely left the place without help.  Thus fortified, Liza put Knightsbridge to the sack, and thus sated and laden we repaired to our hotel.

April 14

No word from the College, we spent the morning at the British Museum.  Oppressed by battalions of foreign students, who seemed interested only in getting their pictures taken in front of one splendor or another before moving on.  Still, what can you say about being able to see large pieces of the original Mausoleum.  You don't get an Ancient Wonder of the World every day, and we enjoyed it.

Transferred after noon to the Mandarin Oriental, which is in Knightsbridge across the street from Harvey Nichols.  The location was not lost on Liza, and our clothing was barely unpacked before we were walking down Sloan Street in quest for a sale promising ruin to the venders.  Took a wonderful double-decker down Kings Road, and spent a useful and constructive time putting Britain back on the gold standard.

Putting Britain back on the Gold Standard (shot by an obliging tourist in front of "Vic 'n Al")

This can only take its toll, so we went directly to Wagamama for noodles and beer, at prices normally associated with lobster and champagne.  Stopped off at Harrods food court for provisions and dragged them back to the hotel for a splendid dinner.

Tomatoes at Harrods
Epilogue:  Talking Royal Wedding Blues

Well, the Dragon Puissant {Powerful Dragon--ed.} finally got back to us as we were preparing to bid a fond farewell to the Mandarin Oriental.  Seems there was good news and bad news.  Never one to back down from the worst, I took the bitter first.  Their research finally explained the origin of Gregory of Wode's hereditary invitation.  Seems he was hanging with the Prince and caught him about to shag the tavern wench.  Put him wise that she had the most clinically interesting case of clap in Worcestershire, the kind where the doctor tells you up front that the good news is that if he cures you, he's famous.  Appalled at the narrow brush he had had with a loathsome disease, the Prince stated then and there that Gregory and his line in perpetuity would always be welcome at the royal weddings (anticipating, not without reason, that a discerning eye as to social diseases might come in handy before the nuptials).  All very interesting, of course, but when I asked Puissant to cut to the chase, the bottom line was that Wode's misunderstanding about the horse caught him short one heir.  The line is extinct, even for ready money. 

My disappointment can only be surmised.  Ever one to take the rough with the smooth, I asked about the good news.  Learned that I was only two virgin credit cards away from being declared the true and rightful king of Latvia.  Thanking the Dragon, I took a pass, the underground to the airport and the next flight home.  I will watch the wedding on TV, but if there's a guy there named Wode, I want my money back.

Disappointment  (Photo by Michelle Alton) [a section of mosaic flooring at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens]

  All photos by Liza Taylor unless otherwise specified.

Greg Taylor Bio

Taylor was raised in coastal New Jersey (not the Jersey Shore) but left as soon as he could spell carcinogenic.  After happy years at school in Virginia and eventful years at school in Boston, he settled in New York's Brooklyn Heights for a blameless career as a securities attorney.  Now retired to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he works as a harmless drudge in the Sisyphus-like labor of planting his garden faster than the deer can eat it {Sisyphus was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.--ed.}  Sometimes gets to travel.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me
 with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me [at this moment there are only two stories still on tap--we need YOURS!]. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


Bonus:  Taylors' Garden, Photographs by Michelle Alton
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Taylors' House

Gardener Greg
Day Lillies in the Night
The Apple doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

Alliums and Rhodos

Bee in Fox Glove
Echinacea Gulch

Dogwood Berries


Astilbes Roadside



Dave Phalen said...

A wonderful story told with a proper amount of self effacing humaor. Loved It!!

Michelle's photos of the author's home and gardens are, of coure, outstanding.

Joe DiGilio said...

A fine story indeed Greg. I can tell you had a good time writing it. I heard the English weren't the best of cooks but you make it sound pretty good. Too bad they changed they postponed the wedding date until after you left. Bad form and all that. Nice pictures too. Wonderful thing you did visiting the WWII memorial Jeff's father's name is inscribed on. I heard your garden is magnificent. All the finest deer around eat there.

Carolyn McIntosh said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this . . . being Canadian and all and more than the average interest in the Royal Family (have a letter from the Queen, you know) and having been to London, I could identify with the places you were writing about. Aaaaaand, I love your sense of humour . . . wicked!!!!!