The Castaway Hotel: Book 3

Chapter 24: A Change of Pace

It was now the weekend and we decided to take a break from our sightseeing routine and take these two days to relax and unwind. We all got together to decide what we wanted to do and we soon came to the conclusion that there were some definite differences in opinion between the sexes. The three women wanted to do some shopping, so we let them make their own plans, while we continued the discussion amongst the guys.

My oldest son and son-in-law were going through a severe case of sports withdrawal and needed a fix. They’d heard about a cricket match that was going to be played in the area later in the day, so they suggested we should go to see it. They thought it would be neat to learn about another sport and hoped it would alleviate their boredom. Many of the older boys also thought that was a good idea and decided to join them. Since not everyone was thrilled about that prospect, I decided to take the remainder of the boys to a movie and then maybe a walk around another section of town. We gave our driver our list of intended destinations and then he made up our route and dropped us off accordingly.

My group watched a movie at a theater located near where the cricket match was being held. The movie we selected was one that would appeal to a wide variety of ages, but this one had an added bonus, it was quite comical. It was about a group of pre-teen and teenage boys, neighborhood friends, who happened upon a crime and showed the wacky things they did to try to stop it. The younger ones liked it for its slapstick routines and humorous dialogue. The older boys identified with some of the characters and I could see them mentally placing themselves in that role, enjoying their favorite actor’s success, as he foiled the criminals’ attempts at pulling off the perfect crime. For me, I enjoyed the belly laughs I got from the antics of the boy thespians, but gained a sense of relief when my boys admitted they’d be smart enough not to place themselves in such potentially dangerous situations.

After the movie, I took the boys for a walk and we came across several interesting places. We were in one of the smaller ‘village-like’ areas, away from the center of London, and it contained a series of small shops that we just had to check out. There was a butcher’s shop, where the owner was busy cutting up a wide variety of meats to fill requests by his customers, but there was nothing else in the shop besides the meat. The boys thought this was very strange, as they had never seen any meat sold except in a grocery store, yet this one didn’t sell any other items. I explained this was how things had been done for hundreds of years, before the advent of the modern grocery store, and the boys began to wonder aloud how people shopped when they had to go to so many different stores to get everything they needed. They concluded it would be a waste of time and liked the current situation better.

Next, we found a small store that might have been the setting for Charles Dickens’ ‘Olde Curiosity Shoppe’. It was an historic Tudor building, one where the upper floor hung over the lower one, and the doorway was short, made to accommodate the smaller size of the people of that time. Some of us had to duck to enter the building and it was almost like crossing a time portal as we wandered around the interior. I purchased a few things for our home, a couple of trinkets for the boys, and a few things for those who weren’t with us. We did strike up a conversation with the shop’s owner before we left, learning about a couple of interesting events we could attend the next day. We thanked him for his assistance and then left his fascinating establishment. I knew the boys would tell the others about this place in great detail.

We also walked through some residential areas, noting that most of the houses were what we would have called two-family or duplex houses, but each family owned its own side. Nearly every home was well taken care of, fenced in and had a garden of some sort in either the front or rear of the property. The English seem to love their gardens, especially flower gardens, and took great pride in making sure theirs met their own rigorous standards. We saw several different period designs among the homes, from Tudor to Victorian, Gothic revival to Jacobean, and Georgian to Queen Anne. This made for some interesting viewing and some even more interesting discussions about their various features.

By the time we got back to the bus, our shoppers were already there and the sports fans arrived shortly thereafter. That group was more than ready to tell us about the unique, if not somewhat confusing, match they had just attended. “It was really strange,” Adrian began. “It was played on a circular field and the batter could hit the ball in any direction. There were no foul areas, like in baseball.”

“Not only that,” Michael added, “but the batter could stay at bat and keep scoring, by running between the two set of wickets, until he made an out. But if he stopped running before he was put out, then he could bat again. In baseball, we think one hundred runs batted in during a season is great, but in cricket, the batter can score one hundred runs in a match.”

“And their bats were funny looking,” Ricky added, making a face. “The handle look like a bat handle, but it was flat, like a paddle.”

“And the guy pitching was called a ‘bowler’ and he had to keep his arm straight when throwing the ball. He couldn’t bend it at the elbow, like we do when throwing a baseball,” Brandon added.

“But I know what is meant by a sticky wicket now,” Michael explained. “At each end of the pitch, which is the long rectangular strip in the middle of the playing field, there is a wicket. The wicket consists of three posts, called stumps, with two crosspieces on top, going between the outer and inner stumps. Those pieces are called bails. Well, one way to get an out is to knock the bails off the stumps, before a batter is safely touching the spot behind it. So if you hit the stumps and the bails don’t fall off, it’s called a sticky wicket.”

“One of the other spectators told us this was just a regular match,” Danny added, “but during the test matches, which are like our playoffs, a single test match could last for several days before it was over. Man, and people think baseball is slow and boring to watch!”

We found Danny’s comment comical, but the entire explanation was interesting, at least to those of us were somewhat athletically inclined. It sounded like it could be quite a complicated game, if we were to learn everything about it.

After they finished telling us about the cricket match, my group told them about the movie and about the shops we had stopped at. We then proceeded to show them the things we had purchased in that final shop, giving each their own small remembrance that had been selected for him or her, trying to match their tastes with the items the shop had for sale. Among the items purchased were pewter mugs and various other pewter pieces, such as small castles, dragons and knights in armor, as well as some elegant necklaces and earrings for the ladies. Everyone thanked us for his or her particular present, before the ladies showed us some of the items they had purchased.

“At least we bought something for everyone,” Kevin teased, after seeing what they had, “but they mostly bought things for themselves.”

“Well, you could have gone with us and bought things for yourself too,” Marie snapped back, not giving an inch. “But you can have the jewelry you bought me, if you think it would look better on you.” The others laughed at his last comment, much to Kevin’s dismay.

That evening we had a rather large meal, in what might have been considered an American type steak house, and passed the time talking about a variety of topics, in between courses. Everyone wanted to know what was on the agenda for tomorrow, but I told them it was to be a surprise. I knew that a couple of the boys had heard me talking about this with the shopkeeper, but I also knew they would get as much pleasure from watching the others wrestle with not knowing what we would be doing, as I would in revealing the surprise to them later. But for now, I would keep it a secret.

We spent the evening riding all over the city on the top deck of a double-decker bus, enjoying the beauty of London. It was quite lovely with the wind blowing in our faces and enjoying the wonderful evening we happened to be lucky enough to have. When we finally arrived back at our hotel, we made our way off to bed because, as the British would say, most of us were quite knackered.

You might have noticed I said most and not all, as the boys in the ‘sex room’ had a little energy left to spare. It happened to be Danny, Brandon, Ricky and Jay again. It hadn’t been scheduled that way, but the boys did some switching and swapping of times so they could be together, since the younger pair had been offered a chance at a repeat performance at anal intercourse. Danny and Brandon had agreed to let the boys do them, as long as Ricky and Jay would let them do something similar between their thighs or in the crack between their butt cheeks. Neither boy had any objections to this, since it hadn’t been a problem for them the previous time they’d done it. However, this time they chose to switch partners from their previous encounter, before having another go.

Once again, it was quite satisfying for all involved, but every time they did it, Ricky and Jay couldn’t help but think about what it would be like when they finally got to do something like this with a girl. Doing their brothers was awesome, which led them to believe that doing it with a female would be even better. Therefore, they looked at this as practice for the real thing, once they met a young lady they were interested in and who was also interested in them and agreed to get intimate.

Sunday morning we had a quick breakfast, before we attended services at St. Peter’s Church, located a short distance behind Buckingham Palace. We hadn’t been sure what to expect, but the service wasn’t all that different from what we were used to. The church was small and wasn’t as elaborate as either Westminster Cathedral or St. Paul’s, but it was a very nice church and had nearly a full congregation in attendance.

After church, we went back to the hotel, changed quickly into more comfortable clothes and then headed to our next stop. Soon we were pulling into a football stadium (that’s soccer for those in the US), as we were going to attend a celebrity-charity game. Now, the celebrities weren’t playing, they were just sponsoring the event, but they were roaming throughout the crowd, as they helped raise money for a small group of needy organizations.

My entire family began the day by trying to see whom they could identify and gleefully pointed out each celebrity they recognized to everyone else. They spotted singers, actors, politicians and other sports stars, not only British, but international celebrities as well. I immediately spotted Pele, and then had to explain to most of the boys who he was – THE greatest Brazilian football player ever.

Just a moment later, my daughter Elizabeth spotted Prince Andrew, accompanied by his two daughters, just before the boys pointed out Elton John and Phil Collins, two well-known musicians. Shortly after that, my daughter-in-law, Andrea, noticed Liam Nieson, the actor. Since we had seen so many already, everyone was busy trying to see who else might be in attendance. They constantly scanned the faces in the crowds, but most of them got into the game once it started. It was fairly exciting, by English football standards, ending in a 4-3 score, the final goal coming only a minute or so before the game ended. After the game was over, we actually could see many of the celebrities waving to the crowd, thanking them for attending and supporting these special causes.

After the game, I took everyone to a sandwich shop for a late lunch, but we didn’t actually eat it until we reached Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. The gardens were quite lovely, filled with trees, flowers and a body of water known as the Serpentine. There were boats on the water and other people were swimming or sunning themselves on the shore. We could also see Kensington Palace, one of the Royal abodes and one that had housed the likes of Princess Diana.

We also saw the monument to Peter Pan, the ageless boy created by James Barrie. This created a very excited discussion, especially for Nicky and Jordan, since the Disney version of Peter Pan was one of their favorite videos to watch.

“I like Captain Hook,” Jordan said, with a devilish grin. “He’s funny, running away from the crocodile all the time.”

“Uhnt uh,” Nicky challenged. “He’s mean. He tries to hurt Peter Pan and the lost boys.”

“But Peter tries to hurt Captain Hook too,” Jordan objected, trying to counter Nicky’s argument.

This got more of the older boys involved, as they tried to entertain and amuse the younger members of the group. Soon, we had Peter Pan, the lost boys, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, along with a couple of Indians running through the vegetation chasing after one another. Nicky suggested that papa (that’s me) could be the Indian chief. I thanked him for being so thoughtful of his grandfather, by making sure I had the role of an authority figure, and he and Jordan laughed as I made faces to get into character.

“Ugga, wugga wigwam,” I told them, spouting whatever gibberish came to mind that I thought might sound like an Indian chief talking. In fact, I might have even stolen that line from the Disney or theatrical version of Peter Pan, since it sounded vaguely familiar.

However, I participated for only a brief time, just long enough to give my braves and some of the others a few instructions, and then we left them to their own devices. As the boys continued their little game of make-believe, which they continued for nearly an hour, we grown-ups amused each other. After watching the boys’ portrayals of the various characters and their attempts at what they thought were appropriate accents for each, some of which were quite comical, we decided to just sit and chat.

“Dad, how do you keep up with them?” Marie asked. “They even tire us out.”

“Hey, this old guy can take care of himself,” I muttered, in my best feeble, old man voice. “You young whippersnappers just ain’t got any stamina any more. Well, back in my day…” I stopped there, as they got the idea.

“Pop, I just admire how you get the boys to learn so much on these trips and still have fun,” my daughter-in-law, Andrea, the teacher, told me. “You must have been one fantastic teacher, before you became a principal.”

“I just remembered what it took to interest me,” I told her, “and I try to use that same technique to grab their attention. It doesn’t always work, but they usually humor me, so I don’t throw them to the wolves.”

“Oh, they know you’d never do that, Dad,” Elizabeth offered. “They know you’re an old softie when it comes to them. I’ve heard them say so, but they also told me how scared they got when you got mad at them for having the party at the house and when you thought one of them was a thief.”

“Or when he chewed me out last vacation,” Robert interjected, with a touch of sarcasm.

“They know my expectations of them and do try not to cross certain lines,” I agreed, “although I’ve never threatened to throw any of them out.”

“I think you’re sending Frankie away scared them,” Adrian told me, “because I’ve heard a couple of them say they don’t want to end up like Frankie. They do know you did it as a last resort, but the fact that you DID do it makes them think twice before they’d try anything they know would upset you.”

“I guess I never looked at it that way,” I admitted. “I didn’t do that as a scare tactic, it was just that Frankie left me no choice. He was a threat to some of the others and a thief, but I would have worked with him, if he’d only shown an inkling of remorse. The thing is, I can understand how the boys might also interpret my actions with him as meaning I’d send any of them back, if I got fed up with their antics.” It gave me something to think about.

As our discussion started to wind down, I called to the other boys and told them it was time to move along to our next stop. When they all rejoined us, we made our way to the bridge that crossed over the Serpentine, walking across it to get into Hyde Park. It was then that the boys noticed the huge stack of speakers and other equipment that had been set up and asked me what was up.

I explained there would be an open-air concert here this evening, once again done for charity, with some local club bands performing, as well as a couple of the better known celebrities we saw earlier in the day. I made another donation to the charities, in exchange for our being admitted, and we were soon seated or sprawled out on the grass, waiting for the concert to begin.

A couple of the club bands began the evening, followed by the teenager, Charlotte Church, who can sing with the angels. Another club band followed her, before Phil Collins stepped up and performed a couple of numbers. He really got the place rocking.

After him, another couple of club bands followed and then Elton John took his turn at the mike, doing some of his all-time hits, including ‘Candle in the Wind’. By the time the evening ended, everyone was thoroughly happy with the entertainment we had just enjoyed and the change of pace by doing something relaxing. As the crowd thinned out, we headed back to our hotel and turned in early, because tomorrow we would make our first day trip, this one to Windsor Castle.