The Castaway Hotel: Book 3

Chapter 21: Look Out London, Here We Come

The flight went quite smoothly, although the boys were gradually beginning to suffer from cabin fever. I think we were all quite relieved when we heard the pilot announce we would be landing shortly. We touched down safely, disembarked and made our way through customs. After I showed the assortment of passports and answered a variety of questions, we made our way to our ride. It was now approaching 7:00 a.m. local time and I was glad I thought to have our travel agent arrange for suitable transportation during our stay, which would begin with our trip from the airport to the hotel.

Realizing we had such a large group, I knew it would be difficult for us to get to most places together by the usual means. That’s why the travel agent and I had detailed the entire trip, so she could arrange for similar transportation whenever we needed it. A gentleman in a uniform spotted us as we came from customs and asked us if we were the Curries, which must have been quite obvious from the size of our group and assortment of ages and races. I was sure the travel agent had forwarded that information to everyone we would be dealing with in the UK, but the driver was very polite and asked us to follow him.

After we retrieved our luggage, he quickly arranged for it to be taken from the baggage claim area and loaded into the storage compartment of a small bus. Then we found ourselves getting onto a private tour bus to make the trip to our hotel. We’d be staying here in London for the first part of our vacation, using the hotel as our base of operations. From there we could travel around the city and also take a few day trips to other locations when necessary. We were all led to our rooms and then everyone moved their things in, according to the room assignments we had agreed upon earlier.

We would begin our stay here by going out for breakfast and then spend the remainder of the day waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. During that time we would merely relax and get acclimated to the time difference. Once the last of my older children arrived and we were finally all together, Jordan and Nicky left to spend some time with their folks, since they hadn’t seen them in about a month. This also meant they would be staying with their parents during most of this trip, except when my boys could wheedle them an invitation into one of their rooms.

This time we’d have the typical four rooms for us, but the couples would have their own rooms and Robert would be sharing a room with me most of the time. The arrangement of the rooms would be that I’d have the buffer room, with my older children having their rooms on one side of mine, or occasionally even on the other side of the hallway, while the boys rooms were on the other side of mine. The ‘sex room’ would be the middle room of the remaining three, to isolate the noise and keep the others from hearing what was going on, including Robert.

We all turned in fairly early that evening, since all of us were very tired and not yet adjusted to the new time zone, but I made certain everyone knew our sight-seeing would officially begin tomorrow, beginning with an early breakfast. Although there were some scattered complaints, including a few from my older children, who wanted to know why we couldn’t just sleep in. I then explained the arrangements had been made in advance, so we had to stick to a schedule, which provoked one of them to mutter something about knowing better than to let me plan the trip.

Danny, Brandon, Pat and Carlos were in the ‘sex room’ tonight, but I doubted anyone would have the energy or inclination to take advantage of it. No one should be sexually frustrated or in desperate need of relief yet, after spending time together at home. Therefore, I went to bed with a clear conscience and slept like a log.

Sunday morning I got everyone up early, as I walked up and down the hallway banging on the various doors until each one was opened, although not everyone who greeted me was thrilled to do so. We ate a continental breakfast at the hotel restaurant, before loading into the minibus again and making our way to our first stop, one of the oldest structures in England.

The first site we visited was the Tower of London and I gave the boys their very first lesson in English history. This was because all of them had expected to see a single tower standing isolated from everything else, not the stone fortress that awaited us, so I was eager to explain their misconception.

“The Tower of London got its name, not because of the fact there was a single, prominent tower, but due to the fact it was a ‘tower of strength.’ Many believe there will be an England, as long as this Tower exists.”

I then went on to inform them there had been a Roman fort at this location, just after the start of the Common Era. William the Conqueror later chose this same site, because of its strategic value, and built a wooden structure to begin with. In 1078, William commissioned a stone fortress to be built on the site, replacing the wooden one. It took twenty years to construct that first portion, with successive kings adding on to the structure. Richard I was the one who had the moat included.

“Did the kings live here?” Kevin asked, as he looked about.

“At various times,” I informed him, “the tower has been used as a fortress, a palace, a prison and an armory, as well as for other purposes. The Crown Jewels are currently housed here for visitors to come and see.”

“What are those?” Sammy wanted to know.

“The Crown Jewels includes some of the crowns worn by various Kings and Queens, since they all seem to prefer something unique for themselves,” I replied, “but it is also made up of other precious insignia of the monarchy and priceless treasures.”

The boys seemed intrigued and wanted to go see those items, so we made our way to that area. After a considerable wait, we finally filed through and gawked at all the fabulous items on display there. “Has anyone ever tried to steal all this stuff?” Jay asked, while staring at a bejeweled crown.

“I’m sure they have, but I know of no such attempts being successful,” I explained. “Possibly in the past it might have been easier to get away with such an attempt, but as you look around and notice all the various types of protection used to keep these items safe, I think a thief would have a difficult time even getting away with a single item.” I believe they all agreed with that observation.

Later, as we were walking around the grounds, Danny happened to spot something of interest. “Hey, it says on this plaque in the ground that people were beheaded here,” he shouted to the others.

“Yes, not all of the history of this place is very pleasant,” I remarked. “Many executions have taken place here, including the beheading of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. It has also been speculated that Richard III even had his nephews killed here, in what is now known as the Bloody Tower, so he could become King instead of one of them.”

At first the boys had a very disgusted reaction to this information, wondering how an uncle could want his own nephews killed, as they looked at Jordan and Nicky, whom they were so found of. But seeing those two beginning to get upset about this as well, my clowns decided to lighten the moment and went into one of their routines. Ricky quickly knelt down of the grass, above the plaque indicating where the executions were held, bent forward and extending his head. At that moment, Cole gratefully pretended to chop it off and then put Graham in a similar position, so he could do the same thing to him. Cole then switched places with that pair and gleefully allowed his mock execution to take place, which set off a massive chain-reaction.

Seeing this taking place, Dion decided to pretend he was Richard III and started stabbing his nephews, Jordan and Nicky. Soon I had a collection of bodies sprawled upon the lawn, which drew polite chuckles from some of the other visitors, but also caught the attention of one of the Old Beefeaters. Beefeaters make up the security force that patrols this facility, and they are dressed in period costume, from the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. They got their name due to the fact that they were among the few that ever got meat to eat during that time period. Seeing what my boys were doing, he made his way over to me and spoke.

“Pardon me, sir, but if those chaps belong to your party, would you please have them remove themselves from the pitch and stick to the walk ways.” I apologized and quickly made the boys get back on the path.

Even though they had complied with this request, they had drawn considerable attention to themselves by this time. Although many of the people looking in our direction were laughing at the boys antics, there were a few, like the Beefeater, who didn’t find them amusing and considered them incorrigible.

“That guys sure talks funny,” Trey observed, since he had been one of the few who didn’t get involved in this fracas. “What the heck is a pitch?”

“To the British, it’s an outdoor grassy area, such as this lawn,” I told him, “or it can be a playing field for various sports, such a cricket or football pitch.”

“Crickets have their own fields,” Trey countered, confused.

“No, there is a sport that is played here that is called cricket,” I told him, “and it’s played on a circular field called a pitch, and their football pitch is what we’d refer to as a soccer field.” He looked a little less confused, but I think it was actually more than he needed, or even wanted, to know.

After I stopped their hi-jinks, the boys remained unfazed by their detractors and we continued to make our way around the place. The next point of interest was Traitors Gate, which was the low, arched gate leading from the moat along the Thames River, through which traitors were brought into the Tower. This sparked a discussion about who had been escorted through there, so I told them many, many people, including a great number sent there by Henry VIII.

As we finished up there, I felt we’d had a very interesting visit and I think the boys learned a great deal. In fact, I was thrilled to see they seemed quite impressed with all they had discovered about this place and I knew they would always have a whole new set of mental images the next time someone mentioned the Tower of London.

From there we went out to see Tower Bridge, a drawbridge built in 1894 with an imposing tower controlling each side of it. Everyone believes this was the bridge that the Americans who bought the London Bridge, thought they were actually buying. The London Bridge was merely an ordinary stone bridge that now sits in the Arizona desert.

Everyone was getting hungry by now, so I decided it was time to introduce them to real British Fish and Chips, doused in malt vinegar. For those of you that don’t already know it, chips in England are what Americans refer to as French Fries, although thicker and less greasy. The fish is batter coated and malt vinegar is poured over the entire purchase. It is really quite good that way and no one argued about how it was served or asked for tartar sauce (heaven forbid). If there is one food that the English do well, it is definitely their Fish and Chips.

From there we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is really just the current cathedral to St. Paul to sit upon this site. The previous cathedral was a large Gothic structure that burned down in The Great Fire of London in 1666. Later, the noted architect Christopher Wren was asked to design a new cathedral. He submitted three designs, the first two being rejected before his final design was approved. This design was based on a Latin cross plan, with a large dome over the area between the nave and the choir. Construction began in 1675, but the building wasn’t completed until 1708. The exterior is done in the Renaissance style, with massive columns on two levels.

As with most English churches, many notable people are buried in this church. Some rest in various sarcophagi around the structure, while others are interred beneath the floor. In St. Paul’s you will find the final resting place of Lord Horatio Nelson (the British Admiral who was killed at the battle of Trafalgar, during the Napoleonic War), the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley, the Field Marshall who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo) and Christopher Wren (the architect who designed St. Paul’s), among others. The boys wanted to know why they didn’t bury these people in cemeteries, so I explained that it was their way of honoring famous people. They seemed to accept that response and nothing more was said about the matter.

After this, we decided to do a foot stroll around the neighborhood, so we could get a feel for the area. It’s easy to drive through the area, but it takes on a whole new look when you’re on foot. It was not only a pleasant walk, but it gave us some fresh air and a little more exercise. By the time we finished our little stroll, we were all quite hungry, so we selected a nice looking establishment and asked if they could handle our number. After some discussion and rearranging, they told us they would be happy to serve us.

The boys had many questions about the items on the menu, some of which I could answer, but there were others we needed to ask for assistance from the staff. The boys decided to try a variety of things, so they split into groups of four to six boys, and shared the different dishes they ordered amongst their group. That way, they could try a variety of different items, without having to worry they’d go hungry if they didn’t like what they ordered – not that I would have let them starve.

There was some squabbling over who got what, as some items were coveted by all the members of the group, but I tried to stay out of these petty quarrels – which wasn’t always possible. At one point, I did have to summon the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ concerning one particular entree. What I ended up doing was to place another order for the disputed dish, divide it myself into equal portions, and then serve them to the group. There was still some minor grumbling about other disagreements, but we survived the outing. All in all, it was quite a unique dining experience and the boys eventually ate their fill. Once we were done, we made our way back to the hotel and went to our rooms to recuperate.

Tonight it was Cole, Graham, Dion and Trey’s turn in the ‘sex room’ and I figured there might be a little fooling around, but not a lot. It was kind of a relaxed evening and Sammy and Andrew decided to spend the night in my room. Sammy shared the bed with his Uncle Robert and Andrew snuggled with me. It wasn’t that he needed any reassurance or there were any problems, but he did seem to need some extra loving and cuddling tonight. Possibly this was a throwback to what had happened in Houston, but regardless of the reason, I was happy to oblige him. He felt loved and secure with his body pressed tightly against mine and spent the entire evening with his head on my chest and one arm draped over my stomach.

Monday began with a quick breakfast and the boys grilled me about where we were heading while we ate.

“Today, we’re going to see the Houses of Parliament,” I informed him. “You’ll probably recognize the building immediately, at least the clock tower, which is referred to as ‘Big Ben.’ We will go inside and you will be able to see where the two houses of the British government meet.” The boys didn’t look overly enthused, but I hoped that would change once we got there.

The land upon which this historic building rests was originally the site of the Palace of Westminster. The edifice was first constructed in 1050, but destroyed by fire in 1834. Seeing Parliament had frequently met at this location, the current structure was built between 1840 and 1860, incorporating the remnants of the destroyed Palace.

Years later, the House of Commons was also destroyed, during the German bombing of England in 1941. It was rebuilt in a similar style after the war and is what we see today. We went through the various places open to the public and discovered it was an intriguing mix of the past and the present. The boys were impressed with the richness and splendor of the building, and those who weren’t with us when we visited Washington D.C. were amazed by how large the paintings were that adorned the building, unlike the ones we’d have in our homes.

When we went to view the various chambers, we discovered both the House of Lords and House of Commons were in session. We made our way to the Strangers’ Gallery, a balcony running around each chamber, and began to watch the proceedings. The boys soon bored of this activity, since the members were currently making lengthy speeches, so I decided it would be best if we left before one of them decided to liven up the proceedings. I had already heard a few of the older boys making jokes about the various speakers and saw them imitating them, so I was concerned their imitations might get loud and recognized from the floor below. Some of the other tourists were chuckling over the boys’ antics, with a few of them even encouraging the boys to do more animated portrayals of the various speakers. Therefore, making a conscious attempt to maintain the dignity of the chamber, I hurriedly ushered the boys out of the gallery and we made a hasty exit from the building.

They were still considerable buzzing about the various things we’d seen and some of my showmen were even giving us a replay of their imitations of the MP’s (Members of Parliament), as we looked for a place to have lunch. My older children thought the boys were not only hysterical, but also very accurate in their portrayal of some of the rather formal gentlemen who had spoken while we were there, but I begged them not to encourage our comedians further. My adult children all laughed at that as well, but realized where I was coming from and gave me a break.

For lunch, we decided to try some curry (why not, it had a good name) at a Pakistani restaurant. Of course, I suggested they all order the mild curry, except for Michael, since he loved spicy food. For the rest of us, however, including those who lived at home, I felt the mild would be more appropriate, since I did not use a great deal of spices at home either. I was afraid of what the regular curry would do, not only to their mouths, but also what effect it might have on their digestive systems.

Possibly, I should have let them order without my words of precaution, as it might have quieted some of my jokesters for a while, but I took pity on them and made sure they would have no adverse reactions to the meal. We ordered the curry and chips as take-out, or take-away as the locals refer to it, and found a quiet place to sit and eat. It wasn’t long before nearly everything had been devoured, so I diligently guarded my helping, since I ate slower than the rest of them. It was quite an enjoyable meal and then we walked from there to our next site.

Westminster Abbey was just a short stroll from the restaurant and the Parliament Building. The Abbey is a huge Gothic Cathedral and its location and original construction is largely attributed to Edward the Confessor. The former church, which had previously stood upon this site, according to legend was to have been consecrated by him on December 28, 1065. That same structure was also said to have been the site of the coronation of William the Conqueror, Christmas Day 1066. Parts of the Confessor’s church still remain intact, below ground, but the current structure was begun under Henry III in the mid-thirteenth century. The abbey was finished in the late fifteenth century, with enhancements made in the early sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

“Hey, isn’t this the place they held Princess Diana’s funeral?” Brandon asked, quite excitedly.

“It most certainly is,” I agreed, noting that his simple comment also sparked a greater interest from the other boys. “Although she isn’t buried here, many of England’s Kings and Queens are.”

“Like who?” Pat wanted to know.

“Well, most of them, but most notably, Edward the Confessor, who ordered one of the earliest churches to be built on this site, Henry III, who commissioned the structure you see now to be started, and Elizabeth I, who was queen when the English began exploring and colonizing the New World.”

“Is that guy who overthrew the King and had him beheaded buried here too?” Danny asked, unable to come up with the name he was searching for.

“I think you mean Oliver Cromwell,” I told him, “but he’s no longer buried here. He was at one time, but when Charles II was restored to the throne, he had Cromwell and his followers bodies exhumed, hanged and decapitated.”

“I guess he was more than a little pissed off at that guy,” Dustin commented, but not meaning for me to overhear him.

“Yes, well it was his father who was beheaded by Cromwell, so I guess he thought it was only fair,” I shot back.

“So only kings and queens are buried here?” Jay followed.

“No, there are many others entombed here to,” I responded, “such as Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist, authors Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, composer George Frederick Handel and the British ‘unknown soldier’ from World War I.”

“I guess you had to be famous to get buried here,” Dion stated, after hearing the names.

“Mostly, but not quite,” I stated. “Also buried here is a gentleman named Thomas Parr, who lived to the ripe old age of 152 years and 9 months. He lived through the reigns of ten monarchs, from 1483 until November 15, 1635, and was buried here by order of Charles I, the king at the time.”

“So they have to be really important or lived to be older than you,” Ricky teased, which caused all of the others, including my older children, to giggle at his insinuation that I was ancient.

In the end, the visit was quite inspiring. Not only was this structure different from the types of churches the boys were accustomed to, its splendor was absolutely breathtaking. After answering all of their questions, I was glad I’d done my research before we left home and spent some of the previous evening going over my notes.

After that, we went out to eat dinner and then I took everyone to see a play in one of the marvelous theaters that London is noted for. This was a modern production and somewhat comical. The boys did have some trouble following it, mostly because of their unfamiliarity with the British accent and some of their terminology, but I tried to help explain what they had missed or didn’t understand. For most of them, it wasn’t their favorite activity of the trip, but it wasn’t a total disaster either. For Trey, however, it was a breath of fresh air and gave him a whole new interest.

After that, we went back to our hotel and turned in for the evening. Ricky, Jay, Danny and Brandon had the ‘sex room’ for the night and I overheard them discussing another try at intercourse, without the penetration for Ricky and Jay, the same as they had done before. It seemed to me that Danny and Brandon were the ones to suggest it, knowing the other two were still timid about what might be expected of them in return, but they quickly reached an agreement and went happily to their room.

Cole and Graham asked to stay in my room and their big brother quickly agreed to the arrangement. Graham slept with his older brother, while Cole cuddled up next to me. Sammy and Andrew had gone to spend the night with Dustin, Kevin, Trey and Dion, who were sharing a room, and the older boys were very good at keeping them occupied, while still giving them plenty of affection. When they turned in, one of the little ones slept sandwiched between one of the older pairs, which was a position they seem to enjoy, immensely. I almost wish I could have sneaked in and checked on them during the night, to see their expressions and how their bodies intertwined, but felt it best to leave them their privacy.