Wednesday night (27 June 1917)

In bed at Ipplepen, Devon, where sis Myrtle lives, 6 miles from a railway which is a long way in England.  My wire reached my sister Cora just in time to enable her to dash to the station in a taxi.  We went to Wimbleton where she is staying, thence back to London to her hotel “Berners”.  Thus settled we set about the great task of sight-seeing though it was then 6 o’clock.  Drove about some of the main thoroughfares in motor-buses and by taxi.  Had a look at the “Mall” and Pall Mall, and the Houses of Parliament.  Went into a quaint haunt of foreign shops and had late dinner at a French Cafe where the attendants could not speak English.  Walked in the twilight on the Thames Embankment and looked at the famous old muddy stream below.  This must sound terribly tame, but you can’t imagine what thrills it gave me.  Caught glimpses of St. Pauls, Nelson’s monument, and other famous buildings and finally found our way back through a maze of underground railways, down hundreds of feet beneath the streets, out of which I emerged like a man in one of H.G. Wells’ novels, on a revolving stairway.  When we went to bed close on midnight I couldn’t sleep but lay all night trying to rid my brain of fantastic distortions of the sights of the day.  Away next morning to St. Paul’s.  Explored the Crypt, went all round the Cathedral and then I climbed up and up into the Whispering Gallery where an attendant, hundreds of feet away whispers a short history of the Cathedral, of which every syllable is audible.  Then up again by innumerable steps and stairways to the top of the dome with a large portion of London lying beneath.  Peeped through a small opening in the top of the inner dome and saw the floor, 300 feet below, over which the people were crawling like the tiniest flies.  Then to Westminster Abbey and into every nook and cranny of it.  The wonderful tombs and sculpture and carving of the ceilings baffle description.  In the poets corner, seeing the tombs of Spencer, Milton, Dryden, Browning, Tennyson, Ben Jonson, Goldsmith, and reading the well known epitaphs in both English and Latin that I have so often read in books, can you realise what it meant?  And the great round stained glass windows – the thick stone steps worn right through.  Inscriptions dating back to Medieval times – Tombs of famous kings and forgotten knights – Henry VII chapel is alone worth crossing the world to see.  How I wish you were here.  We managed to rush off and look over the great new R.C. Cathedral and were well repaid.  It is unfinished and will be for many a long year, but the structural portions of the building are there and in many ways it almost rivals St Pauls.  The interior is I believe something like St. Peter’s in Rome and the acoustic properties (so bad in St Paul’s) are perfect.  We were lucky enough to hear the priests chanting in Latin – rich trained voices rolling out in the vast empty hall.

This morning we “did” the Tower of London – a grim old fortress brightened up by beautiful little cottages planted about in its curves and corners.  Here the funny old beef-eaters live and big trees sprout up from the stone pavements to brightly relieve the grey stone turrets.  Here are the Crown Jewels – very magnificent.  Collections of old armour, old guns and weapons of every description.  But the MAIN interest is in the terrible dungeons where the wretched victims of tyranny and oppression languished and were tortured and murdered in the bad old times.  Pathetic little legends, coats of arms, etc. are carved on the walls by prisoners; one by Lady Jane Grey.  To look out of the window, whence she saw her husband led to execution; to stand in the dungeon where the Princes were suffocated – these are the things that leave a profound and lasting impression on the Tower.  You must understand that we also visited innumerable objects of historical interest en route, numerous beautiful churches wedged in amongst modern buildings – many of which you have seen etchings and paintings – such well known buildings as the British Museum (now closed), the Royal Exchange, Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Monument, Cleopatra’s Needle, Marble Arch, streets such as the Strand, Regent St., Piccadilly, Oxford Circus etc.  Also we found time to go through the National Gallery (Tate Gallery is closed) and saw many famous and beautiful pictures – Hogarth, Romney, etc. many of the famous Dutch painters etc.  Visited Chelsea – saw the houses that Whistler, Carlyle and other famous persons lived in, and so on.  A very interesting train ride down here – Windsor Castle with the sun shining on its turrets – Bath (where “Mum” springs from), Bristol, Exeter, and Teignmouth.  I had an interesting travelling companion from London as far as Bristol – a pleasant gentleman of between 50 and 60; and Oxonian, who had been in N.Z. about 27 years ago and still had a very clear memory of our country.  He told me the names of the various places and objects of interest which we passed.  It was a pleasure to talk to him.  Here in Devon the lanes run most of the way between old overgrown stone or brick walls with huge oaks, elms and chestnuts almost meeting overhead; long winding tunnels of greenery.  Ipplepen is the quietest little place imaginable, all amongst the green and fertile hills, with old old cottages, a funny little inn, and pretty square-towered church which is next door to this cottage.

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