As tedious as the 11 hours on trains, buses and boats was, these past few days were made worthwhile not just by the fact that Rachel and I finally got our passports stamped, but also by our getting to spend a short time with Jenny and Chris.
Chris and Jenny are the couple from the old country who took me in several months ago when I was passing through London.
As always, they showed far too much kindness and instantly offered Rachel and me a place to stay when I first mentioned our coming to town.
We chose this weekend in particular because it afforded us the opportunity to see the Minnesota Orchestra perform at Royal Albert Hall.
Great googly moogly is RAH cool. Despite having been to London several times before, I had never seen RAH until Thursday night. Much of this has to do with it not being a pub, I suppose. But I'd like to think that my boneheaded, uncultured 20-year-old self* would have been impressed, anyway. When you sit down at RAH, something about the place permeates through you and lets you know you are in one of the greatest performance centers on the planet.
Our seats reminded me of a quote from Bob Uecker: "Turn these seats around, we'd be in the front row." But the tickets were only £7 each and you don't really need to see an orchestra to appreciate it.
Proms, for those of you playing along at home, is a summer tradition at RAH where lowly commoner scum are encouraged to expose themselves to a bit of culture. They are so encouraged through cheap ticket prices, the cheapest being £5 for the people willing to "prom," or stand, throughout the performance. Proms at RAH has absolutely no connection whatsoever to the American definition of "prom," a fact that took me a really long time to get my head around. More's the pity, I say. A bunch of drunken teenagers in ridiculously expensive dresses and rented tuxes would add to the party atmosphere, I think.
But there is still a lighter mood than you would expect from such surroundings. Seasoned "prommers" will yell various things at each other and at the performers. When I was there, a bloke shouted in Welsh at the pianist. I was going to yell back, but felt the child bride with her hand on my knee mentally instructing me not to.
We had a good time and I was kicking myself for not having gone to a proms concert sooner, but I think I still enjoyed more the opportunity to hang out with Jenny and Chris.
I learned a fascinating new fact about Jenny: she can play reels and other such traditional Scottish music on the fiddle. Beyond that, she: 1) has a Scottish accent; 2) can make things out of silver; 3) can speak a bit of Scottish Gaelic.
What you have there, boys and girls, is a woman who could make a hell of a lot of money in the United States. I pointed out that she could walk into a place like Mackenzie, or any other British/Scottish/Irish theme pub or folk/heritage festival with her fiddle and instantly be loved by one and all. Especially if she wore a lot of tartan.
"Ach, here's a wee tune from the old country," she could say, and then get to fiddlin'. She'd make ridiculous money and all her drinks would be free. Imagine how great it would be. And I would walk around like the King of America for knowing her.
Somehow, this all led to my explaining what I want to happen at my funeral. I want a procession of actors hired to portray various British Isles stereotypes.
I have mentioned this once before (last bullet-point) -- when I die, I want an Irish stereotype to sing "Danny Boy" while several others weep.
I envision four Irishmen. All will be ruddy-cheeked and stout fellows with big round bellies and bushy sideburns. They will wear tweed jackets and Aran sweaters and flat caps; each will have a flask visible in their jacket breast pocket.
While one of them belts out an emotional, baritone "Danny Boy," the others will slowly lose it as the song goes on. I want at least one of them to say things like, "Jesus, Joseph an' Mary! It's just not fair!"
Jenny later sketched out her vision of the scene, I really like her suggestion that one of the men say: "Top o' the afterlife to ya'!"
She also rather brilliantly conceptualized my coffin with a large Guinness advert on it, adorned with leeks. I think everyone should be given a leek to throw at my coffin.
I am still working on exactly what Welsh stereotypes I would want at the funeral, but I know I want a group of old ladies -- possibly in traditional Welsh garb -- complaining about the food at the wake.
Also at the wake would be a Mary Poppins-style cockney pearly king and queen. One of them would reminisce on some key element in my life, and the other would then lead into a catchy, cockney-rhyming-slang-fuelled ditty about said event:
"Ah, me old China, remember that story of when Chris totaled his father's car at age 16?"
"I sure do, my turtle dove. I know a song about that one."
"I think I know how it goes..."
And away they'd go and it'd be a good ol' fashioned knees up.
As everyone is filing out of the church or pub or bingo hall or wherever, I want a lone Scotsman playing a bagpipe on the roof. Or, if Jenny's still alive, she can play her fiddle and sell some silver items. Ideally the piper, or Jenny, would work the riff from AC/DC's "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" into whatever they were playing.
*Because, you know, there is such a chasm of sophistication between my boneheaded, uncultured 20-year-old self and my boneheaded, uncultured 30-year-old self.