Monday, July 17, 2006

London Calling

Back from our Highland Fling, we visited Eilean Donan Castle, explored the southwest corner of Skye near a tiny fishing village called Elgol (shown above), toured Inverness, hiked the luminous hills of Glen Affric, and spent our last day in Dunrobin Castle.

The library at the castle featured above (with a portrait of Duchess Eileen by Philip de Laszlo) captured my fancy. I could have lain down on the lion rug on the floor and easily moved in permanently. We also found the falconry show on the estate grounds amusing. "How does one become a falconer?" Joel asked me. Must you come from a long line of falconers in order to take care of twenty-four birds of prey? Watching the golden eagle from Chile consume a rabbit foot made us hungry. So we drove down the road for take-away fish and chips and happily ate on the pebbly beach.

Jane's thoroughly traditional wedding ceremony with hymns and prayers at All Hallows by the Tower (that tis Tower Bridge) was moving. The Americans, Rachel and Nick (my good friends from Chicago and NY and working buddies in London 10! years ago) and Joel and I, stood in the back due to our tardy arrival. The reading from Song of Solomon (I, at first, mistook for lines from Wordsworth):
My beloved speaks to me:
'Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.

I quite liked this stanza:
Set me a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.

Steamy stuff for a proper church wedding! The soloist performed Schubert's Ave Maria in the blacony behind us filling the cathedral with his commanding voice. After the blessing, Janey marched out like a giddy queen to the wedding march. Although we missed her entrance-according to the wedding booklet, Handel's processional is known as "the arrival of the Queen of Sheba." Very grand.

We crossed the Thames on the "wedding special" red, double-decker bus to the reception at The Lansdowne Club. In the main ballroom hung another Laszlo portrait of the Queen Mum as a young woman-known as the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) from 1925 . My friend Eleanor remarked that it happens to be one of the most famous paintings of the Queen. After dinner and speeches, a moptopped band in white patent leather loafers played Beatles and Stones covers as Anna's boyfriend pranced around like Keith Richards. The stately setting, hilarious company of my old friends, and soothing tinkle of my highball of G&T warmed my heart. Congratulations my dear friend!


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