London, England. So said Samuel Johnson, and we have always felt him to be absolutely correct. We could never tire of this city, but we do have to leave it on occasion. Our month here has now ended. It was all too short, but just long enough to make us feel so at home in the little corner we have occupied.
We traveled a lot outside the city, but over the years we have wandered through so much of it that we feel less like tourists and more like apprentice residents. What a great feeling.
Today we topped off our trip with some local spots, starting with Southwark Cathedral, which has been a place of Christian worship for more than 1,000 years, and a cathedral since 1905. Between 1106 and 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory, The modern protective entrance preserves some of the ancient artifacts under the church,including remnants of a Roman road. The present building retains the basic form of the Gothic structure built between 1220 and 1420, though the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction.
So many are honored here, including, Shakespeare, whose brother is buried in the church, Lancelot Andrewes, who was one of the translators of the King James Bible, John Gower, poet to Richard III and Henry IV, and a close friend of Chaucer, and assorted other notables.
Nearby is a bit of an oddity – the Old Operating Theatre Museum, one of the oldest surviving operating theaters, located in the garret of St. Thomas’s Church, on the original site of St. Thomas’s Hospital. The church was built at the end of the 17th century and in 1822 part of the garret was converted into a purpose-built operating room. The patients were mainly poor people who were expected to contribute to their care if they could afford it. Rich patients were treated and operated on at home rather than in hospital. The patients at the Old Operating Theatre were all women.
In 1859, Florence Nightingale became involved with St Thomas’s, setting up her famous nursing school on this site. In 1862, the operating theater was closed and lay undiscovered until 1957. We are so lucky to have our modern medicine, but the people who worked and suffered in these rooms deserve much of the credit for what we now have today.
And then for something entirely different, the “Swinging London” exhibit at the Fashion and Textile Museum. Focused on Mary Quant and Terence Conran, the show reminds us of the impact of the Pop revolution, begun right here in London. Colors, styles, merchandising and marketing – all was fresh, all was different, all was young and all was full of energy.
The exhibit reminded Don that when he was working in book publishing in the mid-1970s he rejected Terrance Conran’s The Apartment Book. (“The pictures were too small and the rooms were ugly.”) And what was selected instead of that best-seller? An oral biography of Pancho Villa. Don left book publishing shortly thereafter.
We’re off to Paris tomorrow via the Eurostar. Lots to pack up, and time to say au revoir to this fabulous city. Hope we find our way back here soon.