Monday, July 11, 2005


I spent the morning in Wheathampstead at an interview for an MEd program at Cambridge. It’s a long and twisted, sad and depressing story, but basically, since I haven’t worked here for three years, I will cost the county three times as much as someone ‘from here’ so they aren’t picking me for the program. Yes, I knew that before I went to the interview, but I was still grumpy.

Anyway, having the rest of the day off from school, and being stuck in the middle of Wheathampstead (motto: no busses, no trains, heck…even planes refuse to fly over), I had to figure out how to get back to Stevenage. (The two of us from my school were given a ride there but the return trip was up to us.) We walked to the bus stop (‘It’s in front of the church’ – that’s how small a place Wheathampstead is – THE bus stop is in front of THE church) that turned out to be closed. Lucky for us, however, there was a temporary bus stop five feet away so we waited there and tried not to scare the local villagers who we know will be discussing us at the next village quilting bee or hymn sing or whatever it is they do in Wheathampstead.

We finally caught a bus to St. Albans. (Yes, I know we needed to get back to Stevenage, but you can’t get there from here.) There, we split up. She returned to Hitchin (not Stevenage, but in an odd twist of logic, the bus took her back through Wheathampstead), I wandered the market.

Soon, I found a group of locals clustered around a market stall listening to the radio. The International Olympic Committee in Singapore was about to announce the winner of the 2012 Olympic Games. There was something very British about the whole thing: standing around a market stall with people, all of us waiting to hear the important news. This must have been like before the advent of televisions, the internet and mobile phones. (But after the advent of the wireless receiver. Before that, everyone stood around a market stall and waited for the Town Crier. I suppose.) There was a nervous tension…we all wanted it to be London, but none of us really believed it could be. It would go to Paris, we knew it would. Or to Madrid. But certainly not to London. There was a delay as the IOC President couldn’t open the envelope (a ‘delay’ I’m sure…ho probably planned every minute of it…people around the world hanging on to his every feeble envelope-opening gesture…).

Finally, it was announced that the honour of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games goes to the city of…London! A cheer went up among the crowd. People clapped and hugged each other. And then, horrified by such an un-British display of joy and affection, they hurriedly continued about their business, only now they were glowing with a little added bit of pride.

Since I was in St. Albans and needed to get to Stevenage, I had two choices: the bus and the train. The first choice, the bus, takes more than an hour. The second choice, the train, requires a trip south to London and then a trip north to Stevenage. Really. So, naturally, I decided to take the train. (Oh please, have you EVER known me to pass up a trip to London?)

In London, I headed to Trafalgar Square where the place was full of people celebrating the successful bid. The lone souvenir stand was doing a brisk business. (And never have I seen such a souvenir-hungry, well-behaved, patient crowd.) I bought a couple of London 2012 pins.

Then I wandered down to St. James’ Park to see the World War II commemorative festivities. There was a huge, fascinating Living Museum. There were displays and re-enactments of life during the war, both at home and at the front. Veterans were on hand to share their experiences. Visitors were encouraged to share their wartime memories. I also happened to run into Prince Andrew. Okay, I didn’t actually run into him…he stepped to the side just before we actually made contact. But, yeah.

I had a nice pizza buffet dinner (okay, it wasn’t that nice) and then some ice cream as I walked around Leicester Square. And then I came home. On the way, I got tonight’s Evening Standard and read all about the successful Olympic bid.


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