A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DCjust in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.


Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

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Final Adventures of Impromptu London

A bittersweet day. 

Today was my last full day in London and while I will miss this amazing city, I am looking forward to being back with my family, friends, and co-workers (yes, I do actually miss my co-workers). 

Despite wanting to catch some last minute sights before leaving tomorrow, I still had a bit of a late start to my day. But once I got going, I didn’t stop until now to write this blog. 

The Barbican Centre was established in 1982 by HM Queen Elizabeth to support and promote the arts of all mediums and also provide a space for conferences and meetings. 


The entire building feels very eclectic, from public art works in large spaces to a hidden conservatory (like a greenhouse) in the center of the complex. I spent over an hour going from floor to floor, exploring all this building had to offer. 


There were a lot of students in the cafe and lounge areas, because the Barbican works closely with (it seems) the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I didn’t get to explore the school, but it seems that this is yet another of the top performing arts schools in London. 


This city is so wonderful for the arts!

For a change of pace, I hopped onto the tube and headed to one of the most famous addresses in history–221B Baker Street. 

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is an interesting combination of fascinating and disturbing. 


Even though Holmes was never a real person, one could be made to believe that he did exist from the way this many leveled house was set up. Period appropriate decorations and doodads that were mentioned in the books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle such as Sherlock’s violin, Watson’s writing table, and, of course, the hats. There were some people in period costume as well who helped encourage the atmosphere of the home/museum.


What made it disturbing, at least for me, were all the life-size figures of  Holmes, Watson, Moriarty, and several other characters from various books. 



I don’t like dolls, or anything that resembles humans too closely but aren’t actually alive. Something about them creeps me out, and being in a house full of them was rather challenging. However, I was able to set my “fear” aside and still enjoy being in the “very place where Sherlock Holmes lived.”

Speaking of, is anyone out there a fan of the BBC rendition with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? I missed seeing the first episode of the fourth season on New Year’s Day, so please don’t tell me anything. I’m looking forward to seeing that soon. 

After inspecting the home of the sleuth, I hopped on the tube once again to head to the Tate Britain Museum, a museum that features British artists from across time. A new acquaitance I had made during my visit here suggested that I go to see a painting called Hope by George Frederic Watts because of how emotional and touching it was. 


It truly was an amazing painting to behold. The blindfolded figure clinging to a lyre that only has one single golden strand remaining. It is dark and sad, yet does inspire hope-there is still another chance.  Very inspirational. 


I loved it so much a bought a postcard with it. 

There were many other wonderful and famous paintings in the museum which I will show below. 


Finally, as my last wish for my stay in London, I actually treated my AirBnb host, Pandora, to dinner. 

She has been such an amazing host. Lovely, through and through. We didn’t always get a chance to talk because our schedules didn’t always match, but it was so nice to get to just sit and chat with her tonight about all sorts of things. I hope that from my time staying here, she can consider me more than just a guest, but now a new friend. 


I have made so many new friends and acquatainces during my time here in London. People met through current connections and others just via happenstance, I truly believe God was at work and will continue to work in my life. 

Coming to London had been impromptu, but it turned out to be an amazing blessing. 

Thanks, London, for being so wonderful. Here’s to the next time we shall meet. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

A Day for Arts and Culture

For those of you have been following my blog, you know that over the last couple of summers I have traveled for internships to fulfill the requirements of my Masters in Arts Management from George Mason University in Virginia. 

My focus during my time at Mason was on international arts management, as I hope to one day move out of the United States and work in the arts or cultural realm abroad. England is a good place to start, I think, for someone who is interested in arts policy and fundraising because, despite still being quite different from the US, the UK has the closest related system that wouldn’t be such a stretch to learn and adapt to. 

That being said, I had hoped to visit several performing arts organizations during this trip and have a chat with some of the administration just to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the UK, and in London specifically. As you know from my previous posts, it didn’t really happen. 

But today I was able to visits several different arts and cultural organizations that have solidified even more my desire to someday move to and work in Europe. 

The first stop today was at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this amazing school that had produced some of the finest actors Britain had ever known, as well as top-level theatre technicians and set/costume designers.

Sadly, my friend Jeniffer and I were not allowed to visit any classrooms, but we did get a chance to speak to a woman who works at the cafe which is open to the public. She was able to tell us a lot about how the school functions and what it takes to be a student at RADA. We would have loved to see a performance, but the school had just opened again from winter break, so there was no chance of that happening. Guess I’ll just have to come back sometime. 



We then returned to the British Museum. The forty-five minutes there the other day was simply not enough to fully grasp the amazing amount of knowledge and artifacts available in these halls. 

Jeniffer and I walked through ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and the empire of the Mayans. There were some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chess Pieces, and the double-headed turquoise serpent. Tons of lesser known, but no less important, pieces grabbed our attention and filled us with wonder and interest. 




We could have easily spent another couples of hours than we did in the British Museum because we didn’t see anything from the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. Such an amazing museum!

Once we left the British Museum, we headed across town by Tube for the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a world-famous museum, yet none of the exhibits really caught my fancy. That is to say, except one in the history of underwear. It was a special exhibit, however, requiring a tickets and I was already spending so much money today that I thought it would be best not to go. 

There were some pretty things-mostly clothing and instruments from the 19th century. But soon we decided to move on to something a little more interesting. 


That something happened to be right nearby. 

Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic performance venue that presents all sorts of acts. The big show they are currently advertising is an act from Cirque du Solei called Ama Luna. 

We didn’t get to go inside and explore, but it was cool to be able to see the venue again and be reminded of good memories from the NEYE 2009 tour. 


One thing I don’t remember doing the last time I was here was walking around the back of the Hall and seeing the monument to Queen Elizabeth as well as the Royal College of Music. 



While we still were not able to explore classrooms and the like, Jeniffer and I were able to see a lot more of the building than we did at RADA. There was gorgeous marble everywhere and mosaic-tiled floors. No performances were taking place, but it sounded like a rehearsal of an opera or something was taking place in the hall. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, the final touch was to see a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. 

Wow. Just wow. 

I was completely blown away by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the orchestra, the actors, and of course, the music. No spoiler warnings, but I will say that it definitely helps to be familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the original book or the 1939 film, in order to catch or understand all the references in this phenomenal musical. 

It was a treat for me (so much cheaper to see it here than on Broadway), but it was an extra special treat for Jeniffer because she had never been to a musical before. What a show to give a first impression of the wonderful world of musical theatre!


It truly has been a wonderful day, my second to last in London. I have yet to see what my final day will be filled with, but I’ll be sure to share tomorrow. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

PS – I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures I’ve been sharing. They were all taken from my iPhone 7. 

Golden Tours Excursion

Today I had the great privilege of participating on one of Golden Tour UK’s day trips to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. 

It sounds like a lot, and it was, but what an enjoyable and amazing day!

I had to meet the tour bus on Buckingham Palace Road by 8:30am, meaning I had to leave my AirBnb before the sunrise to make it in time. Yes, it was early, but I finally had the chance to see my London sunrise.


There were so many people interested in this particular trip, that we were actually divided into two groups. I ended up on the bus with Alton, the bus driver, and Eddie, the guide. They both proved to be absolutely wonderful people and made our day trip everything we could have asked it to be. 

Our first stop for the day was in Windsor Castle. It wasn’t until we arrived at the foot of the castle that I remembered that I had actually been here before with the New England Youth Ensemble when I was in college. Memories flooded back, but I also had the chance to experience tons of things for the first time. 


Sadly, as was the case with the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey, pictures were not allowed to be taken in many parts of the castle. But while I cannot show them to you, what I can saw is that this one of five homes of the current queen is utterly exquisite and ornate. Nothing was left unthought of when it came to materials used and decorations displayed. 

Enormous paintings covered the ceilings of several rooms, featuring individuals who had lived in the castle among the gods. The armory was breath-taking and the hall where royal dinners are often held was quite long. Apparently they have a single table that stretches across the whole expanse!

There was a special exhibit to honor the Queen’s 90th birthday that featured her outfits from across the decades. Riding costumes to theatrical garb to estate dinner gowns. Everything was so beautiful, but one thing I noticed was the height. The Queen does not seem to be, by the looks of her clothes, very tall at all. To me, that makes her all the more charming. 

I exited the exhibit just in time to catch some of the changing of the guard ceremony. Not quite as elaborate as that at Buckingham, and certainly not as crowded, but still quite fun to watch. The musicians accompanying the ceremony were a fife and drum corp, and the fife players were struggling a bit with playing in tune. It was entertaining, but I also felt I could sympathize with them since I play piccolo and know that the cold weather makes it difficult to stay in tune. 

Let’s be honest, the piccolo is just hard to keep in tune regardless. 



Just before we had to leave, I ducked into St. George’s Chapel, one of the oldest parts of the castle. It was ornate to the highest degree and also a fully functioning church. I wonder if it is open to the public every weekend and what exactly happens when the Queen is residing there. 

Our second stop was to something that had been on my list for a long time now – Stonehenge!


These ancient rocks, despite all the archaeology and study that has been done on them, still maintain an air of mystery and wonder. 

Visitors are dropped off in the parking lots and then must go through the visitor center before taking the mini-bus up to the path that leads to the rocks. There was also an option to walk a trail to the rocks. It was only a little over a mile, and I would have done it, but the cold was just too nippy. 


The mini-bus leaves visitors just within view of the stones, but as you walk closer, you can feel the whole aura of this ancient place. 

In fact, I made myself stop for just a moment. No pictures, bracing the cold, and took in the atmosphere. Sometimes I’m too “trigger happy” with my camera and forget to be present in the moment. Let me tell you, this was a moment to be present in. 

There are varying theories as to what the stones represent and how they were brought to the Salisbury plains. What is known is that the structure could be as old 5,000 years and that on the summer and winter solsitices, the structure is perfectly aligned with the early morning sun. It is believed that the Beaker people, named for the unique type of pottery they used and the builders of Stonehenge, could also use the formation to predict eclipses. 



Around Stonehenge were various ditches and mounds. The ditches helped outline the perimeter of the ancient memorial, placed there by ancient peoples for purposes not entirely clear today. The mounds are actually burial grounds, where the wealthy and influential Beakers were buried and prepared for the after life. 

There were also lots of birds that inhabited the rocks and the plain surrounding. Jackdaws and rooks were abundant and some of the rooks even were brave enough to land on a couple of the memorial’s wardens. I tried to convince one to come sit on my hand with peanuts, with the consent of the warden, but no luck. 



Our final destination of the tour was city of Bath, once an opulent city when Britain had a powerful Roman presence that fell into disarray when the empire crumbled. However, the rediscovery of the Roman baths in the 19th century brought people back to the city. Jane Austen, British author of the late 1700s/early 1800s, mentioned Bath in a couple of her novels. Her finally novel, Persuasian, took place entirely in Bath. 

It would have been nice to see more of this ancient city, but we were there to see what had started and revived the city-the Roman Baths. 


Wandering through the museum portion of the site and then standing by the large green pool was truly a memorable experience. Once again, I felt as if I had been placed in a time capsule. To think, hundreds of years ago, this was a place where the wealthiest came to worship and relax. 




What famous people must have entered these waters? What amount of people have these walls seen? 

There were pieces of the ancient altars and parts of statues that were revered, including a bust (more just a head, really) of Minerva, the Roman god of wisdom, to whom the baths were built in honor of. (I believe her Greek counterpart was Athena.)


After a quick glance through the gift shop (there always seems to be a gift shop, huh?), we were back in the bus for a two hour ride back to central London. 

I have been on several tours, day trips and otherwise, and I can honestly say that this is one of the best I have been on. The timing of our visits and the travel in between were perfectly calculated to allow us to see all we could want, have us leave wanting more, and still never feel rushed. Eddie, our tour guide, was pleasant, funny, and approachable, making our time together enjoyable. 

If I had the time, I would book another tour that they have down to Kent and Dover, but I believe I will have to wait until I return to the British Isles for that trip. 

I highly recommend Golden Tours for your visit to London, and no, I was not asked or paid to say this. I really just liked it that much. 🙂

Hard to believe I only have two days left before I return home! I’ll be sure to press in as much as possible within the next two days–and then share all about it! Look out for my next blog post. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Cramming in the Highlights

There are so many wonderful things to see in London, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do. 

So I was thankful when potential plans to go out of the city fell through, because it meant I was able to see a few more things I had on my list. 

One thing I had always wanted to see was the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Online I had discovered that the Band of the Scots Guard was going to be participating in the ceremony today, so I knew I had to go. 

My new friend Jeniffer, whom I had met last week, joined me in the massive group of people craning to see anything of the time-seasoned tradition within and near the gated palace courtyard. 


The soldiers were wearing their winter gray coats instead of their brilliant red uniforms, but the bear hats seemed fluffier somehow from when I had come last time (which had been summer). 


There were no bagpipes in the band, as I had been hoping, but the members of the ensemble were without a doubt amazing musicians and I enjoyed everything they performed. It was kind of cute that some of the instruments, brass mostly, had little leather jackets. I’m wondering if it was to keep the instrument warm or help the player hold it while marching. Probably the latter. 

As I had mentioned before, there were tons of people present to see the ceremony meaning not everyone really had a good view. Jeniffer, myself, and some others nearby started watching everything from some other guy’s phone screen, since he was filming with a selfie stick and was able to stick it through the fence to get a better angle. 


Maybe seeing something like this on TV would have allowed us to have better views, but I actually really enjoyed the experience of being out there and feeling the atmosphere of tradition and pomp. 



Once the ceremony was over, we met another friend, Barbara, by the National Gallery and took a bus to Tower Bridge. The setting sun shone perfectly for pictures of the bridge and the nearby buildings. 




Eventually Jeniffer had to split, but Barbara and I continued our adventure by visiting the British Museum. Hopefully I will be able to go back before I leave London because in the 45 minutes we had before the closing of the museum, we saw some wonderful things and there was so much more yet to see. 





I always love seeing artifacts from ancient cultures and imagining how life must have been once upon a time. Some of the pieces were quite stunning and thought provoking, but the lion from Babylon’s gate had a special sense of nostalgia, bringing me back to my trip to when I had seen the whole Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. 


After the museum closed down, Barbara decided she was ready to head home. I, however, felt like the night was still young and pondered what to do for a while. Purchasing same night tickets for the West End was expensive, there were no movies out that I desired to see, and most everything interesting was already closed. 

Then I remembered that there was a place I wanted to visit that was certainly open – the extravagant and magnificent Harrods department store!

I had been told many stories about this place, so I had to experience it for myself. 

Gracious, it was overwhelming. 


Six floors, plus a ground and basement level, with literally anything you could ever think of. Furniture, books, technology, toys, jewelry, perfume, wine, top-of-the-line (sometimes exotic) groceries, and of course, lots and lots of clothes. 

Each area was decorated to create a certain mood that aligned with the products. I mean, highly decorated. I can’t imagine how long and how many people it must have taken to put this whole thing together. 


One special moment in the store, though, was coming across a memorial statue and fountain to Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi Al Fayed, that supports underserved children in the community that the princess was originally from. It was touching and very human. There was even a condolences book that people could sign. It’s amazing how much Princess Diana is still missed after all these years. 


Wandering through the halls on nearly every floor, I observed the types of things sold and the prices they were marked at. You did not come to Harrods to find something cheap. Even things on sale were pretty far out of my price range, including the groceries section. It truly is a place of wealth and extravagance.  

Literally, there is a restaurant dedicated to all things truffles. 

By that alone, I think you get my point. 

It was only after meandering on most of the floors, that I decided it was finally time to end my day and head home. Besides, tomorrow is going to be very exciting and I want to be well rested!

But I won’t tell you what it is, you’ll just have to stop by the blog tomorrow to find out. 

Hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start!

-Wandering Minstrelette

New Year’s Adventures

Happy New Year!

This was the second time I spent New Year’s Eve outside of the US, and one of the few times (maybe even the only one) that I chose to spend outside in the cold. I can probably now say that I’ve had my fair share of New Year’s celebrations, but am still glad I did it. 

After a lovely church service Sabbath morning at the Hampstead SDA Church, I was invited to stay for lunch where I met a Brazilian young man named Davi, who is in England to study English. He decided to join Bruno, myself, and some others in trying to see the fireworks. Bruno had gone to a different church, so we would have to meet up in the city. 



Figuring we had a good amount of time, Davi and I first explored Camden after lunch before heading in the city center. We found quite a lot of interesting things, too. There were several markets where you could buy just about anything you could ever want. I might have to go back before I leave. 





We finally got into the city to meet up with Bruno and his squad, but we’re having trouble getting to Waterloo Bridge, our pre-selected meeting place. 

I don’t know when this began, but this year the viewing of the fireworks was ticketed. I almost bought tickets, but missed out back when the second round was released in December. Tickets allowed you to stand in designated spots along the river to get the best views of the fireworks. 

Well, apparently it was for any view of the fireworks. 

Davi and I eventually found Bruno and squad and together we searched for a place to stand that didn’t require a ticket and we hoped would give us a decent view. We finally hunkered down in a spot of Trafalgar Square with a pretty decent view of Big Ben. 



For about three hours we sat and chatted and had fun, but when it cam time for the fireworks to start, all of us in the Square (there were hundreds) were sorely disappointed. 

All the fireworks were happening by the London Eye, nothing was by Big Ben. 

We adjusted our position a little and could see some of the fireworks above some buildings, but not at all what we were hoping. I guess we should have listened to one of the crowd control people who told us the best way to see the fireworks at that point was to just go home and see what it on TV. 



Despite the disappointment, we all felt that what had really made th night special was the fact that we had been able to hang out and get to know each other. 

New Years is not something that I want to welcome in alone, which could have very well happened since I was abroad, but God blessed me with friends to be able to welcome in the New Year. 

However, getting back to my AirBnb at 3am (there was a ridiculous amount of people using public transport, so we decided to wait a bit until crowds calmed down) made my personal tradition of seeing the first sunrise of the new year an impossibility. With the best overlooking views of the city being an hour away by the underground, I knew there was no way I would be able to get up and there in time for the event. Besides, London decided to welcome 2017 in the most British way possible – with rain – so I probably wouldn’t have been able to seen anything anyways. 

Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to get up early after getting to bed so late, I let myself sleep in. Yes, it meant I had less daylight to explore the city, but it also allowed me to get a chance to chat and get to know my AirBnb host Pandora. She is such a wonderful person, very kind and conversational. We probably talked for forty-five minutes before I decided that I should get going. 

Her home has truly become a home-away-from-home for me. Very close to the Underground and the ability to lock the room that I am staying in are just so nice. If you ever choose to visit London, I highly suggest staying with Pandora. 

I left rather late to try and make the New Year’s Day Parade that was happening throughout central London, and I had honestly had enough of enormous crowds for a little while. The weather wasn’t going to help either, so instead I decided to explore northern London – back to Hampstead, where I had gone to church. 

Apparently Hampstead is known as the neighborhood for the wealthy and famous. I thought maybe I would catch a glimpse of someone recognizable, but you know… I think the weather kept them all inside. Shucks. 

But, I did get to see some amazing houses and beautiful doors. 


Once the sun had set, I thought maybe it would be better to be in London proper rather than what is basically a suburb. 

I took the Tube to St. Paul’s Cathedral and spent sometime inside, where they holding a service of Eucharist. I wish I could have taken pictures. It was such an image… The priest (female priest, actually) stood at the pulpit which was on the ground level of the congregation. The eyes are drawn to the magnificently decorated high ceilings. And in between was a cloud of incense that brought a sense of awe. 


I walked across Milennium Bridge, which gave an amazing view of the Shard and the Globe, and walked back across the Southwark Bridge, which allowed for a pretty decent view of the Tower Bridge. 



My night ended with a visit to the Westminster Cathedral, another stunning church, also holding a service of Eucharist. 




So, maybe not everything went according to plans or hopes, but I would say that my New Years experience was a good one, and definitely one I will always remember. 

To each and every one of you, I pray that God will richly bless you in 2017 and beyond. Happy New Year!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Bracknell

Short post today. 

London fog has finally made an appearance. It kind of set the mood for the day as soon as I walked out the door. 


Newbold College is located in Bracknell, about an hour out of London. My journey took much longer than it should have because of uncertainties and second guessing. A whole other hour was frustratingly added to my trip, meaning I wasn’t going to be able to participate in something I was hoping to do, but what matters is I made it. 

Pr. Vili, who I met last night, picked me up from the station and took me to the campus. The fog made it difficult to truly wander and take pictures, so I hung around the church while he packed up a video camera and other equipment he had been using. 





The afternoon was relaxed and honestly kind of slow. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess it was nice to have a change of pace. 

I was definitely given a glimpse of life in England outside the ever rushing London heartbeat. Quaint homes in small villages, big Walmart like one-stop-shops, people knowing all the other people in the stores. It was pleasant and refreshing. 

I wish they had this in the States!

The way back was probably what made my evening though. Two adorable little girls, aged 4 and 7, sat by me in the train and took a liking to me. The chatted with me, with smiling parents looking on, the entire way back to Waterloo Station. 

Earlier in the day, I was kind of feeling like today was a bit of a loss. There are so many other things I could have done. But then a phrase one of my teachers in college loved to say came to mind, “Not every measure has to be a masterpiece.”

Every moment of every day doesn’t have to be grand and amazing. It would be more tiring and less special if they were. So, I am thankful for today, and for the fact that I was able to come home early to enjoy the beginning of Sabbath and rest. 

And tomorrow is New Year’s Eve! I hope to have some good stories to share with you. 🙂

-Wandering Minstrelette

A Day for New Friends

What an interesting and exciting day!

A good friend of mine told me that a friend of his that he had met while studying abroad was going to be in London the same time as me and decided to connect us. 

Today I met Bruno, along with Barbara and Jennifer, for an amazing whirlwind of a day.We met at the National Gallery and got to know one another a bit as walked through the exhibits. 


There were fantastic paintings from well-know and not so well-known artists. Probably my favorites were Paolo Veronese’s “The Adoration of the Kings,” and Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”



After seeing what we wanted at the Gallery, we decided to head towards the British Museum. Except… I lead us in the wrong direction, and with plans later in the day, we wouldn’t have had the time to do everything we wanted. Thankfully, we ended seeing things that some had not had a chance to see yet. 

We crossed the Waterloo Bridge and then around to the Eye, back across on the Westminster Bridge up into Leicester Square. It reminded me very much of New York City, with all the lights and enormous stores, including four stories of M&Ms! Such a ridiculous amount of chocolate. 


Our group began to dwindle a bit as we began a walking tour. Not even 10 minutes into the tour, the three of us left decided we would rather spend our time doing other things. So we headed to Piccadilly Circus. 

What a gorgeous, expensive, and very busy area of London! If I thought Leicester Square was like New York City, Piccadilly Circus was even more so. The tight, constantly shifting crowd, the bright lights (including Europe’s largest LED screen, smaller only than the one in Times Square), and the shopping were all so reminiscent of the Big Apple. 




It’s this kind of thing that I don’t mind experiencing once in a while, but also makes me never want to live in a large city. There is simply too much going on all the time, and I know I need to relax my senses once in a while. 

After helping another of our friends get home, Bruno and I were left together to meet with Pr. Vili, the director for media ministry of the Southern England Conference and a pastor at Newbold College. 


Pr. Vili absolutely spoiled us by taking us to the largest mall in Europe, a Westfield, no less, for dinner. The shopping center was stunning and the food was fantastic. After spending some time together getting to know each other, Pr. Vili left for home and Bruno and I were left to wander the halls of the mall. 

A macaw made from tiny Havaiana flip-flops!


We popped into some stores and watched people skate in the indoor ice rink, but probably the most memorable moment was at the Sky TV kiosk. They have a machine that showed some well-known characters from children’s films (all of which I know, of course) in different poses that you had to match. It was too adorable not to try, and they had pictures from Zootopia (known as Zootropolis here), so I had to do it. 

On my first round, I had 100% success at matching the poses and the salespeople running the kiosk were so impressed that they decided to buy Bruno and I tea. We were so taken aback, but completely appreciative. 

We ended up hanging out at the kiosk for several minutes just chatting and left feeling like we had made new friends. What a blessing!


Getting home late several nights in a row is starting to get to me, but I am just so thankful for all the wonderful things God has blessed me with and used me to be a blessing to others. I pray that the rest of my time here in London will continue to be the same. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Westminster and Leicester

I didn’t walk quite as much today as I did yesterday. 

Mostly, it was because two of the attractions I went to involved standing in line and the third was all sitting. 

With a rather late start to the day, I decided to pick a point and explore around it. I had mentioned in an Instagram post that I was planning on getting closer to Big Ben today and I very well succeeded. 

The clock tower was looming over pedestrians right at the exit of Westminster Underground Station. 

As the Parliament building was right there, I thought I would visit. It wasn’t something I had done before and was hoping maybe to get closer or even inside Big Ben. 

However, admission only allows so many entrants every 20 minutes and since I had come by lunch time, a good portion of the day was already full. The next available entrance time was three hours or so later. 

I took it anyways, figuring I could fill my time with something else nearby. And of course, right next to the Parliament Building is Westminster Abbey. 

I can’t remember whether I went into the Abbey last time I was in London. Since no pictures are allowed inside the space, I have nothing to reference. We must have gone in, but I thought it was worth to go just in case. 


The Abbey is an interesting place. The hall for worship is beautiful and the sections where the choir sings, coronations take place, and the most recent royal wedding happened are exquisite. The rest is an interesting mixture of tombs, memorials, and out of the way rooms for prayer. 

Some of the most interesting for me were G. F. Handel, David Livingstone, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Purcell, Charles Dickens, all three Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and sister queens Elizabeth and Mary. There were many musicians, literary artists, politicians, and of course, members of the royal family from across (literally) centuries were represented there. 


Westminster is an active church, holding services every Sunday and holding moments of prayer every hour throughout the week. How interesting it must be to attend a church with so much history and that most people view only as a historical symbol. Also, I can’t imagine working at the Abbey. 

Residence in the Abbey of an Abbey staff member. I wonder if all clergy and worship leaders are required to live there.

To be in charge of music (official title being Organist and Master of Choristers) or even to be a member of the Abbey choir must be such an amazing honor and a heavy burden, knowing the great standard of musicianship that is expected.  

In case anyone is interested, there is an annual apprenticeship position in the Abbey to work along the official Organist and Master of Choristers and their two assistants. There are also other vacancies In case anyone is looking for something new and interesting to do. 

Taken with my iPhone 7, thank you very much.

I left the Abbey with just enough time to grab a quick sandwich, crisps (chips), and a Kinder Egg (illegal in the States, so I had to get one) before making my appointed time to the Parliament Building. 


The surprise from my Kinder Egg!

Now this building I know I had never been in before, and I’m so glad I chose to spend the couple of hours walking through and listening to the audio tour to learn more about how the United Kingdom’s government developed and functioned. 

Part of the tour included visiting the rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons function and debate. Everything in the hall for the Lords was red and for the Commons green. Made for some interesting items in the shop afterwards. 

There was a story shared about the position known as the Black Rod (House of Lords), which is like the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons. Back in 1642, someone from the House of Lords wanted to arrest five members from the House of Commons, but the members of the latter house refused to let it happen. Since then, there has been an annual ceremony of the Black Rod coming to the House of Commons to summon the MP’s to the State Opening Speeh of Parliament, but the door gets slammed in his face. This is supposed to represent the autonomy of power that the House of Commons has from the House of Lords. The Black Rod then has to knock on the door three times with his staff before he is attended to and finally can make the proper summons. 

It’s an interesting display of tradition and ceremony that I would like to discuss further, but not at this time. 

The Parliament Building overall is very grand and majestic. Sadly, we weren’t allowed nearer or inside Big Ben. I also don’t have too many pictures to share because like the Westminster Abbey, photos were allowed throughout most of the building. 

Westminster Hall – at the time it was completed, it was the largest hall of it’s kind in Europe. It’s ceiling/beams are very special and unique.

St. Stephen’s Chapel

Grabbing a hot tea in the cafe before leaving the Parliament Building, I was able to ask one of the staff what I should do with my evening (that didn’t involve drinking – he found that amusing). After thinking a bit, he suggested I go up to Leicester Square where I could find some cinemas that screened a wide variety of blockbuster, independent, and vintage films. 

I made my way to the square and passed by yet another throwback to memories from 2009 – Trafalgar Square, the Lord Nelson column, the National Gallery, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Maybe I’ll be able to go back there tomorrow for a proper visit!

After walking another 10 minutes or so, I finally reached Leicester Square and started looking for the cinemas. Kind of hard when they are not clearly marked on maps and you don’t have cell service… But as I wandered around trying to find them, I noticed posters for different theatre productions. Then I realized the street name on one of the posters was the same as the street I was on and it hit me – I was in the West End!



Forget the cinema, I instantly decided I was going to see a musical. 

I had to make a decision fast – performance started in roughly 45 minutes and there were so many to choose from! I wanted something that wasn’t going to be easy to find in Broadway or the Kennedy Center and that had a distinct British flavor to it. 

All that in more was in the delightful show, “Half a Sixpence.” For £25, I had an amazing seat in the Noël Coward Theater to a show I knew nothing about and ended up thourougly enjoying. Sweet, heartwarming, and filled with fun songs and breataking choreography (especially from the lead actor), I could not have picked a better show to be my first experience on the West End. 


If you are, or will be, in London in the near future, absolutely come see “Half a Sixpence.

I hope in my time here I will be able to see some other performances, including something in the Globe and at the Royal Albert Hall. If I plan things right, I might be able to even meet with some of the administration of these organizations. Making connections is always a good thing. 🙂

A full day is gone and another is just ahead. Keep a look out for tomorrow’s post and don’t forget to check out my Instagram: @wanderingminstrelette

-Wandering Minstrelette

Into the City!

It was a bit hard to get out of bed this morning, the warmth of the electric blanket just kept making me doze off. I should buy one for myself at home. 

But I was excited to spend my first full day in the city, and felt doubly blessed that I was able to spend the day with my friend Brianna, who happened to be in the area visiting family for the holidays.


The day started with one of the things I had been dying to do since I came in 2009 – ride the London Eye. 


Let me tell you, it is so not worth buying a ticket and then waiting in line for a printed version. Being one of the most popular attractions in town, it really makes sense to ask for the ticket to be electronic to just get into the queue for the Eye itself. Thankfully, I thought to take a screen shot, because not having constant service or wifi can make downloading things online rather difficult. 

The view was wonderful. The late morning sun shone a golden touch across the Thames and the buildings, including the iconic Big Ben, stood proudly in its light. 


Thankfully, the wheel turns slow enough that everyone in the glass enclosed pod can walk around and have a 360 degree view of the city with fighting for window space to snap a photo. 




I’m so glad to now be able to tick that off my bucket list. 🙂

Lunch was spent in Box Park at East Croyden where I had the chance to meet with Richard Daly, director of Hope Channel UK. What a pleasant gentleman with a true heart for ministry through media! It a pleasure to hear about his plans for the channel and its programming here in the UK and discuss ideas of how to make it happen. I pray that the Lord will bless his efforts and those of his team as the move forward in this amazing and important project. 

Box Park is like a covered, but open air food court with all sorts of delicious options. They even had heat lamps to keep the cold away! Very cool find!

If you are interested in seeing any of Hope Channel UK’s programming, you can find them on Roku or on Sky 581, Revelation TV.

By the time Brianna and I were back on the train to Central London, the sun was already setting. But 4pm was simply too early to call things a day, so we decided to continue our adventure. 

And what an adventure we had! We passed well known and lesser known landmarks of London. We, of course, had to stop by Buckingham Palace, where I attempted to recreate a photo from when I had come before. 

My friend Michael and I in 2009


Then we came across two war memorials. The first was fairly new, unveiled in 2012 at HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to honor the British and other Allies bombers who served during World War II. The detail in the statues was simply remarkable – they almost looked alive!

This memorial touched me because my uncle served as a tail gunner in a bomber during WWII. I’ll have to be sure to show this picture to him once I return to the States. 

The second was for those who had served and died in World War 1, and had become a place to honor British soldiers across the years who had lost their lives serving their country. It became especially sobering when we came across a wreath laid on the steps of the memorial for a Tom Sawyer. His young face in the photo made it all the more poignant. War is so awful…



Not wanting to end our evening on a sad note, we walked past Wellington Arch to Hyde Park that had been completely bedazzled in order to become: WINTER WONDERLAND!


I truly have never seen a fair of such enormous proportions. There were lights everywhere, with more food and rides than anyone could ever know what to do with. 




There were sections of this pop-up theme park: Santa Land, Bavarian Village, Ice Mountain, etc. Everything was so absolutely extra, it was nearly overwhelming. 

Brianna and I decided simply to walk around and take in the sights (as there were so many to take in), stopping periodically to eat or take a closer look at the craft stands. We got into the park at 5pm and didn’t exit until nearly 8:30pm. And we might still have not seen everything, although I’m pretty sure we saw a good 98 percent or something. 

We would have stayed longer, but by 8:30pm, the cold was starting to settle in, encouraging us to say that now was a good time to call it a night. 

Truly a fun and blessing-filled day. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow!

-Wandering Minstrelette