Sunday, November 6, 2011

Strange Days In London

Saturday, November 5th - London

 Remember remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason,
Should ever be forgot.

Today was Gena's last full day in the UK until next May so we decided to head down to London and see some things.  Today is also the Bonfire night, so it made for a fun day to see the city.  I've done the tour before, here and so has Gena, here so we're trying to see new stuff this time.
Bonfire night is a UK holiday where everyone shoots off fireworks and enjoys one last outdoor hurrah before winter.  Traditionally it's Guy Fawkes night which commemorates the foiled "Gunpowder Plot" to blow up King James the First (and the House of Lords), install Elizabeth I as the head of a Catholic England.  Traditional folks burn an effigy of the traitor Fawkes during the celebration.

First spot on our walk towards the city center was the Sotheby's auction house.

And then Christie's which was undergoing some cleaning and paintwork.

Down towards Regent Street we ran into the Future Car Challenge, an Eco race from Brighton to London.  This is serious nerd stuff but a 250hp Tesla Roadster is pretty cool (0-60 in 3.7 sec.).

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Along the Grand Mall the Royal Horse Guards returned from the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.  I have a picture of the actual changing of the guards but there were 2000 Chinese tourists between the guards and me.  Versus the guys that were literally in front of the statues above.

 Admiralty Arch at the end of the Mall takes us into Trafalgar Square.

Continuing with the theme (of commerce and opulence) the Olympic clock ticks down.

Admiral Nelson's ship in a bottle.

In front of the National Gallery (in the Square): To demonstrate GE's commitment to helping reduce the National Gallery's carbon footprint we created the world's first "living" masterpiece.

Doesn't change the fact that in the US, the company paid a paltry 7.4% in income tax
The simple fact is: large companies take advantage of a corrupt system at the tax payers expense.  Companies hire lobbyists to write policy, on behalf of highschool-homecoming-king political representatives, that sacrifice work rights, workplace safety and tax obligation. 
That is the argument being lost in this "I'm part of the 99%", "I work for a living" or on a friends recent Facebook post "I'm the 0.001%" (I don't think he was big on statistics when he was working through school).  Unless you're a millionaire, you're in the same boat as the rest of us.

Political diatribe over. 
At St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal church you can eat lunch in the Crypt.  Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of the churches that I've visited have a cafeteria in the basement crypt.
Neat, but they don't serve beer.

Home of the Metropolitan Police Force of London.

A Horse Guardsman outside of the Horse Guard Parade Grounds.  The grounds will host Olympic Volleyball, yay!

Next door at 10 Downing Street it looked like someone was trying to break in.

I took this picture for my mom, mounted police and a double decker bus?  How's that for timing?

There's a quiz show over here that I like called QI (quite interesting).  When someone gives the commonly held (but incorrect) answer a buzzer goes off, lights flash and they lose points.  The tension is like waiting for the duck on You Bet Your Life.
Why amy I talking about QI now?  Because this is the clock tower at the Palace at Westminster.  Big Ben is the bell inside.  buzz, buzz, buzz

Along the Thames, the RAF memorial. 
Never was so much owed by so many to so few.

The London Eye, 4th trip down and I still haven't been on it.  Interesting (to me) fact: my company's processors control the wheel.

Over on Embankment, the Socialist party was organizing a march for jobs back to Trafalgar.

At St. Paul's Cathedral the Occupy London protest was on-going.  The group was working to create a comprehensive and cohesive platform to present.  As crunchy speakers kept the masses entertained, an increasingly militant group was advocating a march on Parliament.  Celebrating the opportunity, they wore Guy Fawkes masks!  Most joined the Socialists and ended up in Trafalgar but about 10 were arrested outside of Parliament.

We, on the other hand, were headed back to the Cheshire Cheese, London's oldest pub to rest our feet for a bit.

Along Fleet street the Royal Court of Justice was closed for the weekend.

But human rights protesters were parked outside.  One girl was handcuffed to the fence.  Police waited patiently for the speeches to end before carting her away.
What strikes me is that these people are brought together by their shared disenfranchisement.  This isn't a cohesive movement but several different smaller special interest groups.  In that regard they're similar to the Tea Party movement, allied by their shared frustration.  The difference is that they're not blaming economic failure on immigration and social welfare.

In perfect contrast, Gena dragged me to Harrods for capitalism at its best.  Expensive, pushy, snooty, crowded....  We did what everyone else does; tried not to look too out of place in the high-end galleries with the security guards.

I tried to sneak a couple of pictures.
Earlier I was informed that "this would be your last picture" by a mall cop in Ireland after this snap of an "American" diner. 
Last month a man was threatened with prosecution under anti-terrorism law for taking a picture of his little girl eating an ice cream cone in a Scottish shopping mall!  I can hear my dad's voice saying; "how did we get so fucked up?"

Inside the Harrods Christmas Market.

The awful and creepy Diana and Dodi memorial.  Their intended engagement ring was displayed in a glass Pyramid below (owner Mohammad Al-Fayed is Egyptian) but it was tough to photograph.

Harrods was also where Christian the Lion was purchased by 2 roommates in London.

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