Back from a weekend trip to London. First, I have several declarations to make upon reëntering France:
- I am not dead of bad cuisine.
- This doesn’t quite count, because I ate only once at a British British restaurant. For Saturday dinner I had nasi lemak (here), and for Sunday lunch I had dan dan noodles (here), both in Chinatown near Leicester Square station. By the way, I officially like both dishes. At the first place, I was afraid nasi lemak would be tame in spiciness, but despite the one chili on the menu, it was enough for me, so I didn’t need to order a laksa soup to get something spicy.
- Though what I ate was reasonably cheap for London, it was far from cheap to an American.
Worship at Westminster
Having made those obligatory food remarks, I want to say that I absolutely recommend that people going to London at any time try to make at least once sung worship service at Westminster Abbey. I joined them for sung matins and sung Eucharist today. Hearing the choir sing and joining with prayer in the heart may not be an intense experience, but I found it excellent to do just this while gazing at the face of Christ depicted at the centre of the rose window in the south transept, although I admit it probably takes experience and practice for this kind of worship to become second-nature.
And now, for something completely different
But I had a rather interesting experience between matins and Eucharist. As I walked out of the abbey church after matins and into the cloister (they escorted people out after each service, probably because sightseeing admission’s £15), an older man who’d been sitting in the same row struck up a bit of conversation with me. As part of the British army, apparently, he’d been to Hong Kong in 1965. And a bit more talk.
Finally, we reached the outside of the premises and he asked me where I was off to next. I wasn’t sure, I said. Well, as we shook hands in parting, he leaned in toward me. It was obvious to me, it seemed, what this was – hey, I’m in France, and I have no problem even with Argentine custom, though I thought this wasn’t very British – so I put out my right cheek and then my left. Both my cheeks then felt chin stubble as I reciprocated air kisses. Strangely, he continued after two, and by the fifth I felt I was almost dodging what otherwise would be a full-on mouth-to-mouth.
This was in front of Westminster Abbey, maybe 10 m from the street. Perhaps it drew looks: I have no idea.
I was slightly unsettled by it having been so close to a mouth kiss, so I walked slowly after that and reflexively wiped my lip with my finger when I’d turned around. He came back to me and apologized profusely and wanted to be sure to leave amicably, even though we probably would never meet again on this earth. But of course, sir. As I walked from there toward the Thames (and Big Ben), I started to think. I think he had no wife. Yes, this could have been traumatic for me. But I thought more of how hard it must be for him to suffer with these desires – if it was that kind of thing. Pray for him if you will, for I think it must be very lonely.