The Abbey, the taxis and the Troll Samuel Johnson once said of London, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” And so, still rather enjoying our lives, Soo and I were decidedly pleased to return to London for one last night before heading home to the U.S. The cab driver that zipped us through the city to our hotel was, predictably, friendly and efficient. London’s specially-designed iconic black cabs are without doubt the world’s best. They’re roomy, comfortable, can seat five people, and almost always come with an exceedingly polite, friendly driver who knows precisely how to get to your destination in the least amount of time possible. As if out to prove this point, the driver who shuttled us to Piccadilly last night to see Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap did his best NASCAR imitation to get us to the show on time. When we hit fierce traffic and it became clear we’d be late, he jerked the car into a narrow side street, and began whisking us at terribly unsafe speeds through a maze of narrow back-alleys and lanes. A driver in a shiny new Bentley apparently had the same idea, or the same lack of patience for traffic, and rather unfortunately pulled out right ahead of us. He also seemed to have the same destination, and we matched him turn for turn. I’m quite certain the poor chap thought he was being followed; he kept looking back and adjusting his rear view mirror, at first annoyed, then increasingly concerned as he sped up and we kept pace. Had we been in America I’m pretty sure we would have been shot. When we stopped in front of the theater and he sped on, he was visibly relieved, and our driver chuckled, then, in typical British fashion apologized. (The British are polite to a fault – they’re always apologizing needlessly. This can range from “Blimey, mate, terribly sorry we only had twelve hours of beautiful sunlight today” to “Terribly sorry, old chap, but you seem to have shoved your umbrella up my bum.” The one Brit who really should have apologized to me, and quite possibly to the entire world merely for her existence, failed to. I refer to the trumped-up, stroppy, addlebrained woman working the ticket desk at St. Martin’s Theater. We had purchased our tickets in advance, so I merely needed to show my ID, grab the tickets and dash inside for the opening. Instead, said Neanderthal asked to see my credit card to prove it was me. (I guess my passport just wasn’t doing the job.) I don’t sign my credit cards for security reasons, preferring instead for sales clerks to ask for me ID. Since my ID had already failed to impress her, we had a situation. She called over a colleague to confer, glancing at me suspiciously as they whispered to one another. After much discussion, and no small amount of arm-waving, the twit announced that my card simply wouldn’t do, and that I must sign it immediately if I wished to enter the theater. “I’m sorry – I intentionally leave the signature line blank so that you’ll ask for my ID. Would you like to see that again?” “Well I surely shan’t be able to accept an unsigned card. Right, Nigel?” She glanced over her shoulder at her distraught-looking colleague. “Too right, Troll.” (He might have said “Mildred,” but I heard “Troll.”) “I paid for my tickets online. You’ve already accepted the card. Your site said I need only show ID.” “This simply won’t do. You must sign your card. Right, Nigel?” “Too right, Troll.” “Let me understand this correctly. My signing the card, right here in front of you, will somehow convince you that I am me?” “The card must be signed.” “Were you beaten as a child? No? Pity. Either hand me my tickets, Troll, or have your manager hand me my card and a full refund.” Suddenly my unsigned card was quite satisfactory, though she tsk-tsked as she handed the tickets over. She then turned around to Nigel and apologized for his having had to witness such shenanigans. I was, as you can well imagine, in rather foul spirits as we started into the theater. A friendly if somewhat daft-looking usher stopped us at the door and told us that since we were now late we’d have to wait a bit before proceeding to our seats. “Because I’M late???” I howled. We were seated immediately. And the show sucked. And the super-secret ending, about which the audience was implored not to speak upon leaving the theater, was utterly predictable. Soo had it pegged in less time that it took Troll to curl her hairy upper-lip. Our afternoon had been ever so much lovelier than our evening. (“Lovely” is another word the British use frequently, and it can describe just about anything, much of which is not, in fact, lovely.) For our last afternoon in London Soo and I toured ancient Westminster Abbey, for a thousand years the hallowed ground where English monarchs are crowned and buried, and more recently the scene of Prince William’s royal wedding to the lovely (there’s that word again) Kate Middleton. The original Abbey dates from the 7th Century and was the site of the coronation of William the Conqueror when he took the English crown in 1066. Its “modern” incarnation began when King Edward the Confessor rebuilt the ancient Abbey as a royal burial site. It was consecrated in 1065, one week before Edward’s death, after which he took up permanent residence. It was rebuilt again by Henry III, beginning in 1245. The two identical towers, now the famous symbol of Westminster Abbey, were constructed in the mid-1700s, and it was here that the first part of the King James Bible was originally translated into English. Over the centuries the Abbey has played host to many historic coronations, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, and welcomed a host of famous corpses to its crypts, including Sir Isaac Newton, Henry III, V and VII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scotts, Charles Darwin (which is a tad ironic) and Sir Lawrence Olivier, to name a few. It’s a very cool place, and we were humbled to explore its ancient halls. Our only regret was that we walked there instead of taking one of London’s wonderful cabs. I’m forced to agree with Dr. Johnson. I don’t think I could ever tire of London. Unless I had to spend five more minutes there with Troll, of course.