With no home repairs to deal with and, sadly, still no home furniture, I was itching to get out of town again. But the weekend of August 4th St. Albans just so happened to be celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. St Albans and the Magna Carta? Who knew? In fact, "St. Albans was a Charter Town because in August of 1213 the Abbey was the venue of the first meeting between barons and clergy to discuss grievances against King John, traditionally known as the bad king in the story of Robin Hood." (Herts Advertiser) A few years later the document was formally ratified, named the Magna Carta (great charter), and dispatched to King John who signed it but then fought it tooth and nail. It is widely believed to be the foundation of democracy, though I snidely commented to C it was really just the wealthy barons trying to protect their assets against a monarchy which kept plundering their riches. But C had just viewed the original document housed behind bullet proof glass in the Abbey and was moved, convinced that without it Nixon would have remained in office and the NSA would be listening to all our tedious phone calls.
The festival sought to recreate the feel of 1213. I thought Z would be interested in the mock medieval village and the battle reenactments. But as we were approaching the park grounds we came upon a distinctly 21st Century bouncy house and a tired carousel. All my hopes that he would become enraptured with medieval warriors evaporated. While I watched him go around and around on the poorly-rendered replica of Lightening McQueen I got a phone call from the Hungarian babysitter who had answered my plea on childminder.uk for someone to come sit while we attended the Royal Philharmonic which was performing in the cathedral that evening. Suzy was her name, a former kindergarten teacher, quick to laugh at her own broken English. Her reference checked out. Z adored her.
So we got to be enveloped in classical nirvana in one of the oldest cathedrals in England. As Barber's Adagio was aching ever upwards, I tried to image the nave collapsing around us as it had nearly 700 years ago, resulting in the distinct differences between the east and west sides of the church. And if you decide to become a classical soloist groupie, there's one woman to watch and that's Anna Gorbachyova. Oh my lord, she could have brought Christopher Hitchens to religion.
The morning after all that history we boarded a train to Brighton and walked smack dab into the epicenter of 21st Century thrill seeking, colorful, swish boy/boy culture. It is the Key West of England. We had missed the Pride parade and all-night party by a day, though same sex couples were still in the majority and pee was the predominant smell down every narrow passageway. I'm glad that Z doesn't even notice gender when it comes to public affection, but then he's still just 4 and there were massive amounts of rides and games along the beach walk to draw his attention. After an afternoon of carnival chaos and an amazing south Indian meal at The Chili Pickle, where Z actually ate an entire bowl of curried chicken, C headed back to St. Albans on the train for work the next day.
Z and I spent Monday and Tuesday walking the cute streets of The Laines. I got him to practically speed walk up and down the residential areas when it became a hunt for the most interesting door knocker. We rode the oldest electric train in the world along the waterfront, enjoyed 3 revolutions in the giant Ferris wheel and waited out a rain shower in the exotic, neo-classical, East Indian-influenced Royal Pavilion, built by King George IV who enjoyed a playboy life and had an underground passage that took him to his lover's residence because he couldn't be seen cavorting with a Catholic woman in public.
I scored some more whine-free hours after we bought a $4 miniature Ferrari with a key chain remote control and headlights that lit up when it was in motion. I indulged Z with more rides on the pier, giant slides and giant ice cream cones. Oh my, I'm a doting mother, I thought. Have I spoiled him too much? Is it my fault that he's constantly asking for toys and sugar? As C reads this, he's probably nodding his head. Are parents these days more concerned with being liked by their kids than being their parents? Do I just want to have fun? I think the answer is mostly yes, but I'm still hoping I'm getting it more right than wrong.
P.S. Sorry about the video not working in the last post. I've figured it out now and you can see Z and his wacky dance by going here.