Pubs, pounds, spires and SIM cards

The Radcliffe Camera viewed from the spire of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

What is there to do when both of you are staring at the ceiling at 3:30 in the morning?

Time to face the day.
Time to face the day.

There’s an obvious answer to that, but let’s move on to reading guidebooks and Shakespeare while waiting for the sun to rise over the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Shakespeare because we are going to Stratford-upon-Avon soon to see “Henry V,” the last of the “Henriad,” four plays Willie the Shake wrote about the rise and fall of kings, starting with Richard II, on through Henry IV (Parts 1 and 2) and finally, Henry V.

I’m making progress through “Henry IV, Part 2” but decided to get out of bed when I came across these all too-familiar questions about the “characters of age:”

“Have you not a moist eye, a dry hand, a yellow cheek, a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing belly? Is not your voice broken, your wind short, your chin double, your wit single, and every part about you blasted with antiquity?”

Crawling out of bed
Crawling out of bed

No! I cried unconvincingly and sought to answer the question with coffee and more coffee, my usual antidote for any uneasiness, physical, mental or philosophical.

Time to get the day started. That meant a trip to buy groceries, a visit to the recommended neighborhood pub (Rose and Crown on North Parade), a climb up the spire of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, more coffee at The Grande Cafe, which claims to be the first coffee house in England, and then back to the apartment for fried chicken and potatoes (America the Beautiful!).

Along the way we made time to shop for SIM cards for our phones and decided on a Vodaphone plan, which we hope will scare away any international charges from AT&T or any one else.

Newspapers full of horse racing and rugby. Love it.
Newspapers full of news about horse racing and rugby. Outside at a pub. Nothing could be finer.

Also changed dollars into pounds, a depressing venture in finance. The ATM card we were assured would work did not. The credit card didn’t either. I wasn’t carrying my passport to prove my identity to the lovely cashier at the bank so that I could buy pounds on the card. Kathy suggested I try a fourth way: Reach into my pocket for dollars that could be exchanged for pounds. Way to tied up in modern finance to think of a simple exchange of paper.

Even that did not turn out to be as easy as one might think. The bank did not change money. Seems odd given what Willie Sutton once said about banks: That’s where the money is.

But across the street and up an alley was the bank’s partner in making money change color. For every pound today, we got $.62. I turned pale.

Kathy spiraling up the spire.
Kathy spiraling up the spire.

And that was before we climbed the church spire. One guidebook we read this morning said there were 150 steps to the top; another said 120. I counted them going up and down to set the guidebook authors straight. The correct answer is 128 steps up and 119 steps down. Absolutely no doubt about it.

May enroll in mathematics at one of the 40 colleges here tomorrow.

Or get a job fact-checking for guidebooks. But now . . . to sleep, perchance to dream of an end to jet lag.

Kathy at The Grande Cafe, which claims to be the first coffee house in England.
Kathy at The Grande Cafe, which claims to be the first coffee house in England.

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