London Day 5: An Ocean of Poppies

Last day in London, and yet no time to stay in bed and get up later than usual. Lots to do and only a couple of hours to do so. My flight was to leave at 20:30 and I decided that I would give myself to 17:30, and then I must be on my way to Paddington and the Heathrow Express. So, I packed my toilet articles in the suitcase as usual, and then rolled down my now very heavy suitcase and carry-on. I had a scale for them and had managed to hang that on the bathroom door, and then with lots of effort, I managed to lift the suitcase on to the scale hook. 16 kilos something and the carry-on was close to the limit. It gave me a tummy ache of worry, but all the same, I left my key and my luggage in the lounge, and headed out for a last day of errands. My first stop would be Tower Hill.

imageI was joined by at least two school classes of German gymnasium aged kids. I don’t know what their aim was with their visit, but mine was to go and see the ocean of porcelain poppies that the British Legion has planted in the Tower Moat, for every single soldier of Britain and its colonies, who lost his life in WWI. By the 11 November 11:00, there will be 888, 246. The installation is called “Blood swept Lands and Seas of Red” and that is what I felt when I stood there. The impact was deep. My first thought was, how beautiful. I happen to love poppies. Ordinarily a little happy flower in my opinion, sticking out of the ground where you don’t expect it, even in very harsh conditions. But seeing it like this, it suddenly dawned on me how many 888,246 really are. The flowers stand pretty close so it looks like an Ocean and yet, you can see each individualimage flower and my thoughts went to all the black and white photos one has seen so far. Of young happy men , no not men, boys, marching off to war, expecting the greatest adventure of their lives. They laughed. Pretended to be brave. Pretended to be MEN. It was going to be fun, right. Like playing with tin soldiers. If one was Kaiser Wilhelm that is. Or playing soldiers on the street in the East End, with  sticks for guns.

But that is not what happened at all. Some barely arrived before they were forced over the top. The horrors of war, soon dawned on them and there was no point of return. They had all volunteered for this. They had chosen to not have a future. At the IWM a sign asks why there was no quick victory, like they all had expected. Both sides. The answer lay in the fact that the modern weapons used, caused enormous numbers of casualties. Who would fight and conquer? The endless marching to find the enemy in the first place and then the fighting, exhausted both the soldiers and the animals brought with them, like “the War Horse”. But worse of all, with these huge armies at their hands, the generals had no means to control them, since the communication was not up to speed and the equipment needed was not there and ready either. Both sides had the same problems and the war just ground to a halt. No way to go home but no way to really go forward imageand win either. Standing there, looking at all those poppies and knowing that each one was a young man lost, who never came home, who probably cried for his mum before he left this world, perhaps in excruciating pain, to go to the next one, made me immensely sad. Not just for his life being wasted but also for all the parents, siblings, girlfriends, wives & children who lost their loved ones. For some reason, in that respect, things were much more sad, than in WWII when people lost loved ones. Because when WWI started, people flooded to the enlistment offices. In just 8 weeks, 750,000 boys and men had joined up. Not so much because they hated the Germans, but because it was an adventure as I said earlier, end of boredom, end of unemployment. The government let them know that it was a noble cause and that they would be home in no time. The pressure was so big to go and the women, pushed the men to go as much as anyone else. That is why it is extra sad. Because they had no idea what they were getting in to. When WWII started, people had seen it coming for years. They were not excited to pick up a gun, they just felt that there was no other option. Big difference.

A sudden applause, from the German youths, interrupted my thoughts, and I wondered what on earth they were doing. What an inappropriate thing to do! In imagea way, the poppies signal a mass grave! And to sit there and applaud. Perhaps their teacher had just held a lesson. Perhaps someone had just read a poem. Who knows, but it seemed so wrong for GERMANS to sit on the stones by all the poppies and applaud. I wanted to turn to them and say “You did this!”. Of course they did not. Not even their parents or grandparents. On the other hand their great-grandparents and grandparents probably did much worse things!

I had planned to go to Temple and see the RAF statues at St. Clement Danes church, and the stained glass windows there. Also head for the Cenotaph and search for the monument of the women who served during WWII. But there just was not time to do so. The clock was just running away and I had some errands I did not want to skip. So on my way I was, towards the tube station, when I saw this big souvenir shop. They had some funny little bags and among some tapestry small cross-over-body bags, I saw one I thought “Cookie” might like. E. was after all receiving a wallet, three blouses and a mascara, I had bought as well, which was “new and great”. The bag is big enough for her mobile and a bus card, possibly wallet too. And it is black with teddies, in all sorts of British outfits, like uniform clad ones with bear skin hats… Morbid when you think of it on a teddy bear! Happy with that find, I headed on to Oxford street to find an H. Samuel’s jewelry shop. This was a very much planned purchase… that went pear-shaped.

Many years ago, I bought a Chamilia bracelet from them. Not realising that Chamilia is not a British brand at all, but the US version of Pandora. Why everyone has to copy cat each other is beyond me. And why they could not settle on the same thickness of bracelet, same size of holes on charms and beads? Why? As it is, sure you can buy Pandora beads and charms for Chamilia, but the holes are too big. Doesn’t matter really, till you want to buy a lock, to keep the charms and beads from moving. Then the lock will not lock on to the bracelet! And Troll beads and locks, have too small holes, so you can not get those at all. They were the original, so why did not Pandora just make their size? For years, I have wanted locks for my bracelet, but have forgot to look the last two times I have been in London. And eBay can not be trusted since too many Chinese fake things are sold there.  This time I was going to look for 1. Locks 2. This adorable new charm with a imagesilhouette of a girl, which can be engraved on the back side. I wanted it to symbolise my lost baby girl and have Serena engraved on it. 3. A pretty charm with scroll imagepattern and your initial.

My first disappointment in the shop was them charging for shortening my Radley watch. (See previous post.)  My second disappointment was that their selection of charms and beads was really, really poor. No silhouette girl. “No, that’s a rare one”, she said. When it is in the new autumn collection? Rare? No initial charms either. Murano glass beads, they only had one of, of each kind. So if one wanted to match and have two, one on each side of something, forget it. The same went for locks. The lock charm I wanted, they did not have at all. I looked at the ones they had and settled for another one. Only to find out they only had one. But then she did go out to the stock room and stayed there forever. Finally she came out happily and said she had found another one behind something. At least some good news. But I must say, that I am not too happy about my initial decision of getting the Chamilia bracelet. It would have been so much easier to have got Troll beads or Pandora. Thomas Sabo has also joined the bead/charm race, with I bet, yet another size. Had they all kept the same size,one could have mixed and intermingled wildly and had a wonderful selection to choose from. As it is now, in Sweden, if you have Chamilia, you have to be satisfied with what charms and beads you have been able to get hold of through the years or buy fakes on eBay. While fakes can be nice, all fakes I have bought have turned out to be of very poor quality. (Not knowing they were fakes until they arrived!) They have been ugly and some things have even rusted. So be aware!

I headed to the Disney store next, only to find out that I could not have the fun T-shirt I was also planning on buying for “Cookie”. They were really skinny, tapered, and they had 1 size XS and 1 size S and the rest were ALL XL. Of XL and XXL. there were about 30 which almost fell down on the floor, as packed as they were hanging. But I bought hers at least. Now my question is, why make a T-shirt to sell in a Disneystore in size XL or XXL, tapered and skinny? Is not the Disneystore basically for children? And fat grown ups are not going to go to Disneystores for their clothes, are they? And especially not for tapered and skinny things. I probably could have got size S, for myself, but I just did not feel like it anymore. Instead I moved on to John Lewis, were I really, really needed to use a loo. I did and then I went to the stationery department, since I had got things mixed up, thinking that they are the ones that sell Belle & Boo stationery. (Another stationery kind that my imagepenfriend frequently writes on.) Not so! Marks & Spencer sells adorable Emily imageButton and Fenwicks sell adorable Belle & Boo, and I was in the wrong place and no time to run off to Fenwicks. But I found Cath Kidston stationary so I was almost jumping for joy. A notebook yes, but if you pull out the sheets and cut off the spiral holes, you have perfect stationery with her lovely flower designs. So, not a wasted visit after all. At this point I could not care less about the weight. I was ready to pay excess weight at the airport or carry everything in my pockets if I had to.

On I went to HMV to try to find first of all “Waking Ned”. A film I love. It is so hilarious and I told E. she has to see that one, only to discover that it is no longer sold in Sweden. And at HMV they told me, it can no longer be had. And it is SO funny! I was so shocked, that I forgot to ask for another difficult to find film, “Saving Grace”, which I also told E., she has to see. But I was able to buy a new “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and a new “Five children and It”, since my children have not put them back in their cases and they are now ALL scratched up and can’t be watched. What was it they said years ago, that DVDs are indestructible? Right! They have not met my children. Nothing is made to last nowadays.

I did want to go back to Cath Kidston one more time, since I had forgot to buy my penfriend Alison a Birthday gift. She looooooves Cath Kidston. But first, I walked by the BHS store and saw a sweater in their window, which I really liked. I had no idea what their prices were like, so I walked in to see if it was in my price range. I found it and realised that I should have shopped and looked around more carefully in this place, because it had nice things and at prices more like Swedish ones. I headed up to the children’s department, just to see what was there and I found two adorable “Minion” pyjamases for “Gubby”. I knew the other two were going to be so jealous, but their sizes were sold out! Everything I found for them, was sold out in their sizes, so finally I gave up. I headed for the loo, before I was going to travel to Cath Kidston’s and then I discovered their cafeteria. They served a nice Italian dish with garlic bread and I started to think that it would be better to eat a big lunch and then just get a snack at the airport! There is no real food for me to eat at the airport, nor the time to sit down and eat anything. So, I was ready to order, when I noticed fish & chips. I had been dying for that, for days or since last time when I was in London with “Cookie” and never got to eat it, so that is what came out of my mouth when it was my turn to order.

It was nice. They could have put more spice or taste to the chips, but otherwise, the meal was fine. I got too full and evacuated the last chips I had swallowed, which was embarrassing, but noone took notice! And then off I went to Cath Kidston. I tried to avoid the Swedish girl this time, since I needed to be quick, but she spotted me and happily showed that they had just got in stationery, which I had been on the look for. I had to disappoint her and show her what I had in my bag from John Lewis! But she helped me pick out something funny for A. I would have liked to have got myself a make up bag as well, but felt too ashamed over how much I had spent in that shop, when she was watching! So I backed off and decided to get it at a later point, from the internet. Silly me! But that is how us Swedes are. By now, I really needed to head to the hotel, but my stomach acted up again. And I had to rush to Waterstone’s at Piccadilly, 5th floor, to get to a loo. Only, a man had locked the door, to clean in there. I thought I would have a heart attack, feeling so stressed out. First of all, I really needed to “go”, secondly I had told the hotel I would be back at the latest 17:30, and at this rate I was not going to make it. When he finally came out, I rushed in and then to my sadness it dawned on me, that I did not get to look at their wonderful book selection this time either. With “Cookie”, I only came in to use the loo as well, and then had to be on my way. And this is the biggest book store in Europe! Two times visiting and only seeing the ladies’! Is that pathetic or what?

I arrived all sweaty at 17:35, to the hotel and had to re-package things. In order to not get over weight on my carry-on, I had to force my converse back on to my feet, because they weighed too much. I also had to spread around the clothing purchases I had made and store away watch, charms etc. safely, as well. All with a chinese audience of one man and two women. They sat in the lounge speaking in chinese but got quiet when I entered the room, and why? I don’t understand chinese! They stressed me out with their stares, but I tried to keep control of my nerves, who definately are not my friends. And as soon as I could zip up my bags, I got out of there and started my journey towards Paddington. A journey that usually takes 5 minutes maximum but now I had a heavy suitcase which has seen better days. It was ruined last time I flew. They had broken the entire frame that holds up the suitcase and I lifted all the little pieces of plastic out of it, before I packed it, two years ago, with “Cookie”. I chose to fly with that one again, because it could not get more ruined. I thought. On my way to  Paddington, there were some high shoulders on the pavement and on one, the wheels decided to just fold in one direction each. After that it felt like rolling the suitcase with a piece of fabric stuck under it. A struggle in other words. But, the new carry on bag, which I invested in before the trip, was a marvel. It would roll sideways which was a great help and the fact that it weighs almost nothing, helped with my purchases. Inside it, I had my Big Ben tin box full of tiny miniatures, carefully wrapped in tissue paper. My watch, Chamilia charms…

It was awful to try to get to Paddington, but I did get there and I did catch the 18:10 or something like that, to Heathrow. It helped that it is a shorter distance to Heathrow than from Victoria to Gatwick. Walking in to Heathrow was an ordeal though, since it was a very, very far way to walk from the trains. And my suitcase not wanting to come along, but being an obstinate child, made me want to cry. But stiff upper lip. I did get there finally and contrary to Copenhagen, a man walked straight up to me and asked if he could help me check in. Please, was my answer. He was quick and asked me what seat I wanted, showing options and soon I was rid of my 19,7 kilos suitcase. Great, I survived that part. On to security. I told the lady I came in for that she would have to help me with the bracelet and she did. But she did not help me with it afterwards, which meant that I stood there and tried to get it on myself and acted suspicious, which made this security man come up and scan my carry-on, AGAIN! Finally I walked up to some information people and asked if they could help me with my bracelet and they were kind to do so. And what do I discover then? I did not have to go to the Cath Kidston store at all, because they had one at the airport. I could at least have bought A.’s Birthday present there and gone to Waterstone’s instead, at Piccadilly. How disappointing. Now I know!

I bought minstrel bags for all the children and myself, a neck pillow which everyone seem to travel with nowadays, a tiny crisp bag and tiny chocolate bar with Galaxy caramel, which I had not eaten up till then, and then headed for the boarding. No that is not entirely true. Nowadays, you can’t pay at a till with a person, at WHSmith. Hating technology, I hate this new system. I tried to pay for the neck pillow at the upstairs WHSmith and the boarding card, which now is printed on flimsy receipt paper, did not work at shop scanners. So, I had to call for assistance after the machine loudly told me to do so. When I bought the chocolates for my children, at the downstairs WHSmith, I decided that I wanted to get rid of all my British cash, but the lady at the one existing till, would not help me. She told me to go to the machines and sort myself out. I told her that it would not work, that I was paying with two kinds of money, card and cash. But she insisted! So first the machine screamed when it couldn’t read the boarding card code and then it screamed a second time when the machine would not allow me to pay the way I wanted to. They had to come out and help me three times, all in all, so it would have saved them time if they had just let me pay up at the till, they after all had behind a desk. What was that till for then? Ridiculous!

On the airplane, after boarding, this US lady sat by the window and I sat by the aisle, noone between us. It was 20:30 and I was starving hungry by now, even though I had been so full after lunch. So I sat and ate my tiny crisp bag and I swear that woman sat and looked at every single little crisp I put in my mouth! I hate when people make me feel uncomfortable about eating! I drank of my Pepsi and put on my neck pillow, strong pink with white polka dots, and waited for take off. Then she threw her gigantic shoulder bag, as big as a suitcase but baggy canvas, under the middle seat, so it tipped over on my feet, because it was so big. After take off, she ripped up a big laptop, from it,  which she put on the middle seat’s food tray and then she put up an iPad on her own and sat and ate these icky smelling cheese rings, for probably half an hour. I did not stare! But I wondered at her staring at ME earlier? Then suddenly she put down her electrical equipment and ordered a large whiskey. Right. I am not allowed to eat my crisps, but she can sit and eat bad smelling cheese rings and then sit and booze beside me? I still was a little bit hungry, so I broke off a piece of my chocolate, but she stared so much that I decided to eat the rest, after arriving in Copenhagen. I guess her rule was that she can eat trash but her fellow passengers can not? She got a Kindle out, drank her drink, ate some other crap and I fell asleep till my ears started to hurt, which they always do half an hour before you land in Copenhagen, the descend being so steep. I was only half awake till we landed, and then I got a phone call from T. saying that he was outside the airport and where was I? I had to tell him that the plane had just landed and that I was not out of it yet. The woman gave me an ugly stare. Sorry for existing lady!

She got her punishment though. When we got off the airplane, I headed for the loo, since one usually have to wait a long while for the suitcases, but when I came out, I saw my own sailing by, so I grabbed it and organised myself to go out through customs, phoning T. saying that I was on my way out. Everyone had grabbed their bags, except the lady. Hers was not there. Haha! Served her right. She looked all lost and just sat down on a bench. That is where I left her and walked out in to the cold night. It was summer in Britain, but it was NOT summer in Copenhagen, so the first thing I had to do was put on my jacket. I could hardly walk. My feet had got very swollen from sitting still and my poor toes and heels hurt me so much that I limped worse than ever. Then my husband comes limping towards me.

Did I feel compassion? No! Because he always hurt himself, doing stupid things or hurting himself when other men would never do so. I had begged him to do two things when I was gone, except taking care of the children. 1. Take out the winter clothes for “Gubby”, since he only had shorts in his drawer, when I left, except for two thin trousers and it no longer was shorts weather in pre-school. I did not want to get scolded like another mother got, for bringing her daughter there with shorts on. 2. During the summer, someone opened the bathroom window upstairs, where we have sloping roofs, and did not close it again when it started to rain. In that bathroom, which people only use in desperate cases, when the other one is occupied, we for some reason have ended up having some black garbage bags with outgrown clothes or wrong season clothes. I am not sure who put them in there, but I guess “Cookie”, because she has learned to clean from my mother, meaning as long as something is out of view, behind doors, it is clean. Who put the clothes in garbage bags? My husband of course, because it is easier in his view to have them there???? Anyway, the clothes got rained on since the bags were not sealed and now it stinks in that bathroom. Something has rotted in the bags and I begged for my husband to deal with this, since I have a hyper sensitive nose and vomit from strong smells. He only needed to empty the bags and find the root of the evil.

When we got home at 00:30, I noticed that our walking machine was out in the garden. Seriously. Our neighbours already hate us! And inside I found that “Gubby’s” clothes had not been brought out. The next morning, the smell from upstairs was overwhelming, when standing at the bottom of the stairs. Disappointed I asked D. what his dad had done when I was gone and his answer made me so angry that I wanted to scream. I left Thursday morning. Friday he went out to the storage room and decided to clean out there. His thoughts were that he could put outgrown clothes out there, to make more room in the house. But he soon pulled a muscle and could do nothing more. He just laid around in bed, for the rest of my trip. Sunday he went to church, but while I had asked him to teach the children the lesson on Isiah, he just let someone else go in and teach it, who had not prepared at all. And they had dumped “Boo’s” class in there as well. I felt so upset since I felt I had not asked him to do a lot for me. Just bring out the garbage bag containing “Gubby’s” winter clothes, that he put away and I did not know where, since all bags look the same. And to find the rotten things and wash them or throw them away. That was all and teach my lesson. And he did non of it. As usual, I can’t ask him to do a single thing for me. I have to do everything myself. That is what it is like to live with a grown up who has ADHD. You are on your own, ALL THE TIME!

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