Friday, November 16, 2012

Westminster Abbey and Quiz Night

My friend David did arrive from New Jersey as planned on Wednesday night. I retrieved him at Heathrow and brought him back to our flat via tube. It was funny to walk with him through Notting Hill, because he and I visited the Portobello Road market together back in 2003 when we visited London. I never imagined at the time I'd be living in that very neighborhood ten years later!

Yesterday we went to Westminster Abbey, which David, a history buff, has long wanted to visit. I actually went inside this time, since otherwise David would have been on his own, and I must admit it was fascinating. I hadn't been in several years and we spent about five hours there, slowly making our way around the Abbey and having lunch in the adjacent cafe.

Of course amidst all the history and grandeur I couldn't resist this photo of an incongruous, rusty rubbish skip sitting on the grounds.

Photography is prohibited in most of the Abbey, so I couldn't take photos of the interior -- I assume because it's still a functioning church. In fact we saw a service in progress and heard the organ, and as I sat in the cloisters (above) in the evening I heard the boys' choir practicing in one of the adjacent rooms.

There's so much to see inside, like the tombs of Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I, various Plantagenet kings, and dozens of other noblemen and women with incredibly elaborate vaults and monuments. There's the famous Poets' Corner, with memorials to the likes of Shakespeare, Browning, Coleridge, Dryden, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, and even the grave of Geoffrey Chaucer. (Some of the writers, although memorialized in the Abbey, are actually buried elsewhere. Shakespeare is in Stratford-upon-Avon, for example.)

There's also the Coronation Chair, a very uncomfortable-looking medieval piece of furniture still used in coronation ceremonies for British monarchs.

We emerged from the Abbey in the twilight, and headed back home... time to meet up with Dave and go to a nearby pub for Quiz Night! Yes, we finally went. So here's how Quiz Night works, at least at The Porchester: A quiz master distributes a paper answer sheet to all the participants, who each pay £1 to enter. She then reads each question aloud with a microphone, and participants, working in self-defined teams, write down their answers. The teams then trade papers and score each other as she reads out the correct responses.

It's not entirely equitable, because for example our team had three people, while some had seven or eight. And we didn't do that well, partly because some particularly English things we just didn't know.

For example: "Which board game takes its name from the Latin for 'I Play'?" (I hadn't the foggiest idea, but it's Ludo -- which Americans call Parcheesi.) How about, "Author Richmal Crompton was born on this date in 1890. Which series of books did she write?" (Who the hell is Richmal Crompton? Well, it turns out she wrote a series called "Just William," and I've never heard of them!)

It was a fun night, but I kept getting calls for substitute teachers through the entire evening, so I had to keep ducking outside with my phone. The other teams would probably have accused us of cheating if we weren't losing!


  1. You are swimming in history there, aren't you? So incredible.
    I think you'd love what we're calling Trivia night over here. My son Hank runs three a week at different bars and he has very specific rules about how many on a team and so forth. It's hysterical good fun and his questions are fantastic. He does a lot of research to get this thing together every week.

  2. Love that twilight picture of the abbey - very nice.

    I used to LOVE trivial pursuit back in college. I was sort of a trivia queen (maybe a second level trivia queen - I didn't do all that well in literature & that pink category).

  3. so much history there. America is so young and in Houston at least there is no respect for the past. beautiful old building with a deco look? tear it down and build a new one. so many incredible old buildings gone to the wrecking ball.

  4. Envy much!!!That photo of the bin in the yard is art I would love to hang on my wall in BIG! What a wonderful post, sir! You are living the best of all possible lives!

  5. I had forgotten just how exquisite your photography is! I have always been amazed at just how much trivia -- both about the UK and about the rest of the world -- the Brits know. It makes me wonder how their education system differs from ours.

  6. Loved that photo from the cloisters!