“I’m taking eleven Poles to London,” I messaged.
“Is that a crossword clue?” replied DearHeart.”Does it involve a cricket team?”
This week, we’ve had eleven Polish teachers visiting Thrush Woods. It’s part of some European initiative which translates as ‘Breaking down Barriers’. Teachers looking at, and learning from, each other. Put that in your cigar and smoke it, Farage.
They spent three days in our school, at the end of which they took an assembly and taught us all a jolly Polish song about being your best selves. To the great delight of our older children, each line of the chorus ended with the action of drawing a halo in the air and belting out the word, ‘BITCH!” Having now been told that this is simply a conjugation of the verb “to be”, the teachers, of course, don’t find it at all funny.
Now, I think I’ve mentioned before that ActorLaddie has recently acquired yet another string to his bow: qualifying to be a City of London Tourist Guide. No mean feat. Over a thousand interviewed for the year-long course; twenty five selected; written and practical exams; and on 1st September the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Wolf, will give him his Green Badge, and her husband will give him the time. I’m dead proud of him. ActorLaddie, that is. Not Mr Wolf.
So, when we heard about the Polish teachers visiting, I volunteered AL to show them the sights. During the course of the week, they’d dashed up to Oxford Circus after school most days and sampled the delights of Hamley’s and, above all, Primark. But they also wanted to see the Tower, St Pauls, Big Ben. And on Friday they did, with London looking at her very best in the sunshine. I’m dead proud of her too.
We walked from Liverpool Street to the Tower; alongside the Thames to the Monument; over the wobbly bridge to the Globe and the Tate Modern. Back over the bridge, to St Pauls and then on the top of a Routemaster bus, d’y’mind, clippie and all, to Trafalgar Square. Through Admiralty Arch and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. Up Birdcage Walk to Westminster. Down Whitehall, through Horse-Guards and back to Trafalgar Square. Then back on the bus to Oxford Street and Primark. Of course.
A couple of the Poles translated for the rest as AL gave them a condensed history of London: 1066 and all that. We sat on Tower Hill and heard about Lord Lovat, the last person to be beheaded there. So many people wanted to see that a gallery was constructed for the spectators. Just as the axe was about to fall, the gallery collapsed, killing lots of the crowd. Lord Lovat thought it was hilarious – wouldn’t you? – and, literally, died laughing his head off.
We heard about the Pool of London, between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, where, at its height, there were so many boats unloading goods that one could cross the Thames by foot, stepping from boat to boat.
We heard about the laundry maid who, in 1698, attempting to dry some sheets, got too close to the fire and managed to burn down Whitehall Palace.
I’ve done it all before, of course, and heard most of AL’s stories as he was working for the exams but it was none the less splendid for that. It’s such a privilege, as a Londoner, to be able to share your city with someone who’s not been there before.
We walked across the Millennium Bridge towards St Pauls, gleaming white in the sunshine. Wren’s legacy to us, as he never saw it; the Portland stone already black with soot by the time the cathedral was completed.
“Can I ask you something?” the teacher next to me said, haltingly.
“Of course,” I said, hoping I’d gleaned enough from ActorLaddie to answer.
“Primark – why is it so cheap?”
My attempts to explain about the Bangladeshi working conditions defied translation. Some things cannot be summed up in an anecdote.
Two and a half more weeks before I leave Thrush Woods. Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring. Gulp!
Now here’s a thing. Pa and Ma gave me an Amazon voucher as part of my birthday present and made 45p for Cure Parkinson’s through the Give as You Live scheme. I then spent some of it on a detective book (Peter Lovesey, just got hooked) and got another 8p. All hail, Give as You Live! Didn’t cost us a penny extra and the link to GiveAsYouLive is here.