Through the providential collusion of streams of my life, I find myself visiting London a few days prior to taking a week-long course on the spirituality and theology of the Wesleys; meanwhile, at the same time I am joining with others in “141 Days of Wesley” to read through all of Wesley’s sermons.
I’ll admit it – my boots are not the best walking shoes for warm, sunny days. (I packed them expecting cool, rainy days! [At least I persuaded myself to bring a light jacket and leave my trench coat at home!]) By the time I returned to my hotel on Friday evening, I was tired and fagged out, as after a prolonged squawk. My calves and lower back ached. So, seeing that the next day was going to be another warm one, after my morning reading I retired my beloved boots and reached for my Chuck Taylors instead…
Saturday: The Other Doctor (Wandering Toward Westminster)
(What I was reading: Sermon 6, “The Righteousness of Faith”)
Saturday was a much more leisurely day; leaving my jacket, I was better prepared to just wander in the warm, sunny weather. I did, initially, have a handful of postcards; and though I was surprised to learn that the post office(s) are closed on Saturday, I was still able to procure appropriate postage and post all three. (They should go out Monday; it will be interesting to see whether they, or I, arrive first!)
I wandered along toward the SoHo neighborhood – stopping at two nearby outdoors/camping stores (still looking to repair my backpack, unsuccessfully) – toward my only aim for the morning: Forbidden Planet, Britain’s largest comic book chain. I arrived at the flagship store, and quickly found myself lingering at the entire side wall of Doctor Who merchandise: Doctor and Dalek action figures (along with other characters); coffee mugs; T-shirts made up to replicate each of the 11 Doctors’ styles; plush Daleks and TARDISes (Lynn and I had a conversation about how does one pluralize TARDIS?); iPhone and iPad skins; LEGO-like building sets and mini-figures; and much, much more.
A nearby shop had an advert on the window that indicated they offered “free shipping on any order of 50 or more. I did not see such an offer at Forbidden Planet, which is probably a good thing. Had I, I very likely might have given them my clothes to ship so I could re-pack my backpack with Dr Who toys! Thankfully, good-sense (or the voice of my wife inside my head) won out and I managed to leave the store with only a single mini-figure packet. (Though, truth be told, I will be returning next Saturday, as the shop is hosting a special launch party for a new Doctor Who television remote control – though I don’t plan to get the remote, I’m interested in the costumes and activities they may have going on…
I wandered into the SoHo and Leicester Square areas for lunch, past theater after theater of live shows and also the Odeon theaters for films. I contemplated seeing an afternoon show of… something. Perhaps Les Miserable? Or Spamalot? Or Phantom of the Opera, still playing at Her Majesty’s Theater. I opted not to, with the thought that I might not have another such sunny day to wander London, and I could always get Lynn’s input on which show to see next Saturday (and thus feel less guilty that I went to one without her!)
I walked through Trafalgar Square, past the Mall (the Mall is closed for the duration of the Olympics and ParaOlympic Games), and down toward Westminster. I walked by the Imperial War Museum – Churchill’s War Offices – with the intent of returning next week.
I found myself beside Westminster Abbey, but rather than paying to visit it again, I walked across the square and instead went inside the Methodist Central Hall. Built in 1812 – to belatedly celebrate the centennial death of Wesley – Methodist Central Hall is not only home to a Methodist congregation, but is the largest conference center in London. The United Nations had their charter meetings here at the Hall, which can seat 2,000. There was no museum nor much to see, though I did get to go out on an upper balcony and look down upon Westminster and out across the Big Ben.
There was a statue of Wesley in the entryway. Produced in the early 1800s, the sculptor had hoped it would sit in Westminster along with the other memorial statues there. However, the archbishop at the time refused, stating that Wesley was and had been too “factious.” Today there is a plaque memorializing both brothers in the Abbey, but the statute, after sitting years at the entrance to a college for clergy, stands in the Hall.
He was a short man, by the way!
Not long after I made my way along the Houses of Parliament, then caught the Tube back to my hotel.
Like many other large cities – perhaps most? – London is an eclectic architectural mix of buildings. There are ancient walls built in Roman times and still in use; medieval churches supported by tourist dollars and fortifications repurposed to other use; Renaissance, Reformation, and modern all side by side…
And that was Friday – quiet; leisurely, a nice day walking about in the city.
Why subtitle it “The Other Doctor”? Well, one of the exhibits at Wesley’s Chapel was a discussion about one of Wesley’s most popular books from his day, Primitive Physik. It was a book Wesley printed and made sure every Methodist pastor had a copy of; for beyond just caring for people’s souls, as the likely most learned men in their respective communities, these pastors were also approached to help people who fell ill. Wesley was very interested in medicine, and published this book based on his many readings and personal experiments in the area. Wesley, of course, would refer one and all to the Great Physician, for the cure and care of our souls. Not that I would equate the Doctor with Jesus, but the connection came to mind as I wandered Friday…
An interesting observation from Thursday that I had not mentioned: my tour guide at Wesley’s Chapel made a point of showing us the men’s bathroom. Built in 1899, all the fixtures in the bathroom are original, making it one of only three working Victorian era bathrooms in London. He pointed out the imprinted “Venerable Throne” inside of the bowl; as well as the name emblazened upon the tanks and pull chains, “John Crapper.”