Sunday, October 03, 2004

Historical post: Black Monday (6 May 1998)

This was written during one of the lowest points in our move to London. Because of a conflict between my new job and school, we had to be separated for about eight weeks.

From: Eamonn Sullivan

To: diary entries

Subject: Black Monday, and the rest of the week

Theresa got off OK on Monday morning, despite having to overcome a tremendous handicap (basically, I was hanging on to her leg and wailing).

After she was off, I rode the train back to London in a daze. I went to my room briefly, but deciding staying there would be bad for my mental health. So I took the tube to Tower Bridge and started walking. I walked all day, up the north side of the Thames from Tower Bridge, under London Bridge (yes, humming "London Bridge is falling down" to myself), past Westminster, to Vauxhall Bridge, and then back down the south side of the river. I walked for over four hours, covering probably over 10 miles.

The north side of the Thames is where all of the "London" things are, like the Tower of London, the Parliament building, Whitehall, Scotland Yard and Big Ben. One thing that sticks out in my mind on that side of the river was a monument with bomb damage -- Cleopatra's Needle, it's called. The bomb damage was left alone as a memorial; sort of a memorial within a memorial. It wasn't damage from World War II, oddly enough, but from 1917 -- World War I. The bomb went off in the middle of Victoria Embankment (a busy street that runs along the Thames) and the shrapnel was strong enough to gouge very deep pockets in granite. It probably shouldn't have surprised me that this was damage from World War I, since if a World War II-era bomb had dropped in the same place, there weren't be any memorial at all.

Although the famous sites are on the north side of the river, I found the walk along the south side to be more interesting. For one, you can actually see those famous sites a lot better from the other side of the river. Also, there was a better walkway on that side. Other things that stick out in my mind were the hundreds of kids on skateboards and rollerblades (doing things like leaping over each other), the restored Globe Theater, the Clink (which was a prison in the middle ages and is now a prison museum), a restoration of Sir Francis Drake's ship, and the ruins of Winchester Palace.

Winchester Palace, in particular, dredged up memories from history class. The Bishop of Winchester also happened to be the Archbishop of Canterbury (who is still the spiritual leader of the Church of England) and the entire borough of Southwark (pronounced SUTH-ick), where I was walking, was his manor for most of the middle ages. I noticed that the signs around Winchester Palace don't mention that the place was built largely with profits from the brothels that used to line the river on the south side. A certain assistant to the Bishop who was later to become the Archbishop himself -- Thomas Becket -- even wrote a set of rules for managing prostitutes (calling for weekly medical exams, for example) that held sway for several centuries. (Sorry for the history lesson. I couldn't help myself).

By the end of the walk, I was feeling a bit better. The work week since then, however, has been crazed. Remind me never to complain about an editor ever again. Several times this week, I experienced what the other editors call To-Do List Paralysis. That's when I had so many things to do, all of which depended on each other, that I couldn't figure out what to do next. And we're still just producing a dummy issue that won't be read by anyone. Next week is for real. I'm petrified.

I successfully sealed the deal on the house. Large sums of cash changed hands today and I walked away with a set of keys. Haven't had a chance to see if they work, however. That's on tomorrow's To-Do List, right after I write two news stories, line up my reviews and columnist for next week, open a bank account...

I better go to bed. I miss you all. Terribly.