Friday, October 06, 2006

Wednesday Tourist Highlight

Regents Park at sunrise

I knew my hotel wasn't far from Regents Park, so when I awoke Wednesday morning to discover it was still dark outside, I checked out the time of the sunrise and decided I'd wander on up there to catch it.

Some pictures from this walk are on the Flickr page (link in the sidebar).

Part of the walk was up Baker Street. I was looking at the shops I passed, humming the Gerry Rafferty song, and thinking of Sherlock Holmes, when I noticed I was standing in front of a store called "Beatles London Store." They didn't display any merchandise through the window, and it looked very low end, but I figured the Beatles spent a lot of time here, so why not.

And then I noticed that the shop right next to it was called "Elvisly Yours," and seemed to have the same owner. And a couple of doors north was 221b, famous home of Sherlock Holmes. Which is now, of course, a low-end museum. The guidebooks don't recommend it. They apparently don't keep the fictional aspect of Mr. Holmes in perspective in there, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is not mentioned.

I entered the park. Lots of birds and water and greenery. Pleasant morning noises from the birds, and an occasional jogger on the paths. I saw an ornate gazebo and snapped a picture before going up to read its little plaque. It was built for and dedicated to a group of men who died on that spot in the park in 1982, in some sort of terrorist attack.

I thought a bit about terrorism, and how much America has been obsessed with it these last five years. Britain has of course been the target of bombings and other attacks for a lot longer. They've had more time to adjust to this new element of life. They seem to react as most of us would when an attack happens: shock, outrage, unity. The big difference is how they act when there's not an attack. They act like normal people. They don't spend all their time obsessing about what might happen next. They take precautions, and try to stay safe, but the average Londoner doesn't think about it often.

We were unfortunate in America to have had a leader with so little interest in healing when the biggest attacks came. Someone a bit more concerned with the welfare of the citizenry could have helped us through this time, guided us through it with wisdom, maybe. Or compassion. Or even just genuine leadership.

And still been re-elected.

So, standing there by the gazebo, I became angry at myself for swallowing any of the "post-911" bullshit they've been offering. The somewhat random fear-mongering and the whittling of civil liberties. I haven't been one of those who ever thought any of it was a good idea, but a little of the fear and uneasiness got through anyway.

And then I let it all go: the anger and fear and all the rest of it, and just enjoyed the park until I felt like having some breakfast.

Because it was really quite pretty. And the birds were singing.

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