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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 35, September 3, 2007, Article 12

WAYNE'S LONDON DIARY 30 AUGUST, 2007

Dick Johnson writes: "Here is a London joke from Reader's Digest
website: 'When I was in London, I went to buy some chocolates.
The cashier was like, “That will be ten pounds.” I’m like, “Rub
it in, why don’t you?”'"   Well, I really did stay away from the
beer most of the time, but I think this stint in London has added
at least eight pounds to my frame despite all the walking I'm
doing.  Time for a fresh diet when I get home.

Timothy Cook writes: "I am really enjoying your London exploits.
However, being a collector of English hammered coins and books
about them I am usually very jealous after I am done reading them."

Well, I wish you all could be here with me almost as much
as I wish my family were here.  I'll be heading home soon,
but I hope my London Diaries have given you a taste of what
it's like here; perhaps some of you will have an opportunity
to follow in my footsteps someday.  The British are a very
welcoming people, and London is, well, just awesome.  As
Samuel Johnson once said, "If you're tired of London, you're
tired of life", and it's just as true today as it was in the
eighteenth century.  I'm tired of being so far from home, but
I doubt I would ever get tired of being in London.  Anyone
with half an opportunity to visit owes it to themselves and
their family to see it at least once.

Thursday morning I found myself on a train to Milton Keynes,
forty-five miles northwest of London.  We were heading to another
important meeting with our clients.  I had been in the office
until 11:30 Wednesday night preparing and didn't get to my hotel
until after midnight.  But dammit, we were ready.

Later I read up on the town and learned that it was formed as
a planned community in the 1960s to relieve housing congestion
in London.  The area had been mostly farmland and a few scattered
villages.  Street plans were laid out and a train station, modern
office buildings and housing popped up.  But the town must remain
close to its rural heritage; stepping off the train we could smell
only manure, reminding me of the time I stepped out of a plane in
Davenport IA.  At our meeting one of our British colleagues said
that Milton Keynes "must be the most boring place in England."

Our meeting went so well we got a round of applause at the end.
Great!  Now leave me alone so I can get some rest.  I got back to
the hotel at the ungodly decent hour of 5pm and didn't quite know
what to do.  I got out of my suit and dress shoes, showered and
changed, then went out for a nice Indian dinner at Maharaja.
Wanting to get some exercise I headed up Queensway, crossed the
street and entered Hyde Park.  I spoke to my wife on my cell phone
while walking aimlessly along the Broad Walk.  I came across a
phalanx of media vans with satellite dishes pointed skyward.
So what's going on now?

I looked around and saw some people gathered by the gates of
Kensington Palace, the former home of Prince Charles, Princess
Diana and their sons Princes William and Harry.  It was August
30th, ten years after the Paris car crash that killed Diana.
People were coming from all over, like they did in 1997, to lay
flowers and candles and post pictures, cards, notes and letters
to the palace gates.   People stood reading the notes and looking
at the pictures and flowers.

I called my wife back, since she'd always been a big fan of Diana,
Princess of Wales.  I told her where I was and what I was seeing.
I read a couple of the notes and poems, but kept choking up.  It
was such a tragic loss, particularly because of the two young
sons she left behind.  The pictures of D,PoW with William and Harry
looked for all the world to me like pictures of my own sons with
their mother, whose name is also Diana (although she goes by Dee).

As I walked away I passed an older black woman who touched a
Diana photo with her hand.  In what sounded to me to be a
Caribbean accent, I heard her say, "I bid you goodnight, Diana ...
until tomorrow."

By now it was dark.  Rather than retrace my steps back to my hotel,
I turned onto Kensington Palace Gardens, a street I'd discovered
by accident while walking around the neighborhood when I first
arrived in London.  The half-mile long tree-lined avenue is among
the most exclusive addresses in London, long known as Billionaires
Row.  My favorite house is number 18 (actually 18-19 Kensington
Palace Gardens).

I guess I have Good Taste.  When I looked up information on
the street, I discovered that the house is owned by Lakshmi
Mittal of Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel company.
Mittal is one of the richest men in the world.  He bought the
house for 57 million GBP (over $100 million), making it the
world's most expensive home.  It has twelve bedrooms, a 20-car
garage, Turkish baths, a ballroom, an oak-paneled picture
gallery and an ornate basement pool.  It's decorated with
marble taken from the same quarry that supplied the Taj Mahal;
people have nicknamed the place the "Taj Mittal."

I crossed the street and made my way back to my one-room
hotel "suite".  I wonder if Mittal collects coins?

For an account of events at Kensington Palace at the time of Diana's death,
see: Full Story

To read a New York Times article on the 10th anniversary of Diana's death,
see: Full Story

To view some images of the Kensington Palace gate memorials, see:
Images

For a picture and more information about the Taj Mittal, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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