shopping raven
shopping raven

October, 2018Archive for

Londoners in the Rain and the Tower of London

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

London must have gotten its foggy reputation from the burning of the coal in the olden times, because any time I visited London, I didn’t see the famed fog. Rain, drizzle, cloudy skies, mist, a slight haze, yes; but fog, no.

Usually, we explore cities by taking walking tours, but at this time, we could walk less than we thought we could. Despite the cold and the rain, when staying outside was nearly impossible, we enjoyed London. London in rain boasts of a different kind of splendor, especially when one is inside a taxi or a bus. The drivels of water soften the view of the street from the windows, as if looking out of something frosted but liquid at the same time. The edges of buildings, people, vehicles, street signs blur into each other and the city seems like one framed piece of art.

On one of those really rainy days, we took the bus. Since people wore bulkier clothes, the seats felt smaller, aisles tighter, and railings too slippery to hold. Once we sat down, we observed the people around us, checking their bus route maps. The tube is easier to figure out than the bus routes and even the resident Londoners carry these route maps with them.

Once the doors closed, the floor inside the bus glistened with moisture and the windows fogged up. The bus wrenched and twitched as we pulled out of the station. The driver was having difficulty stopping and starting. Yet, the people knew where they’d get off by the sheer sense of the road from the movements of the bus, as if in time travel.

On such a rainy day, when the bus slowed down at some place, we heard Bible verses penetrating the interior, reminding me of Broadway preachers in New York City. I wasn’t far off. When I wiped the window with the back of my hand, I saw a man under the eaves of a shop with a Bible confronting the passers-by. He had a megaphone in his hand. From their body language, I understood that the people were not very happy about this because the flow of the crowd parted and left this man in the middle, as if to strand him on his own island.

As each old city, London has its share of ghosts and some of these ghosts congregate in the Tower of London. Yet, the Tower didn’t start out to be a supernatural undertaking. Since erecting castles meant marking the Normans’ territory (wild animals come to mind), Norman the Conqueror ordered a castle built by the Thames during the eleventh century to provide a base for his power. The Tower, first, was a palace for the royalty. Later, it was turned into a prison and served as the backdrop for royal murders to take place.

What I saw when we walked through dim hallways and up and down the spooky stairways were not ghosts but excited yeoman warders, drumming up the tourist business with titillating ghost stories as harbingers of an entertaining though a very tiring trip.

The architecture of the buildings, the view of the Thames, and the bridge from the Tower were breathtaking, and the stories told by the warders grabbed everyone’s attention. Listening to them, I thought, “No wonder Shakespeare erupted from England. These Brits know how to ham it up.” To add to this aura, the insides of the buildings were freezing cold, and if we hadn’t dressed warmly, we’d surely have left no matter what the expense.

Our tour started from the West gate, but I wrote down what I could remember as soon as we got to the hotel, regardless of the tour’s progression. The funniest thing was the beefeater with the fur hat standing in front of his black hut without blinking and teens jumping up and down and waving, trying to make him move or blink. I don’t know who was more ridiculous, the soldier doing his duty or the crazy teens.

Not that I’ve witnessed the exact ghosts, but I still remember the bits and pieces of the ghost stories I heard in the towers. Sir Walter Raleigh’s image is supposedly visible on a wall in the Bloody Tower overlooking the Traitor’s Gate. He was held prisoner here and tortured.

At the base of the White Tower, Ann Boleyn was decapitated by a Frenchman and her ghost pays visits there. Another Countess’ ghost whose ghastly murder didn’t quite go right screams on the windy nights but especially during the night of the anniversary of her death. With her murder, the axe-man missed the mark and panicked, hacking her to pieces.

Since the Yeoman Warders live in the buildings with their families, they have become buddy buddy with the ghosts. A ghost smelling of saddle soap, a cavalryman for sure, joins the residents to celebrate their events like birthdays.

At the Martin tower where the crown jewels used to be housed, resides Mary’s ghost who opens doors and climbs stairs. If treated kindly, she’s an easy ghost to live with.

The Salt Tower is the toughest tower to be in, they say, because here Catholic clerics were incarcerated and some words were scratched on the walls by the inmates. Visitors have reported feeling pressure on their chests and not being able to breathe. I don’t know about this. Although I usually suffer from asthma in cold and damp places, I could breathe just fine.

As St. Thomas’ Tower was being built, where St. Thomas a Becket was kept and murdered, the tower kept collapsing due to bad workmanship. So the workers blamed it on St. Thomas’ ghost. We climbed to the top of the stairs in this tower and entered a very impressive room with a fireplace, candelabras, and a chest. The chest stood by a descending staircase. This used to be St. Thomas’ room.

People swear seeing many ghosts dressed in Tudor garb and Yeomen of the olden times with spears inside Traitors Gate, the most disreputable entrance to the Tower. Allegedly, the wives of Henry the VIII, after being brought down the river by barge, entered the tower from here.

The Tower of London housed lions, bears, and until recently, flightless ravens. Flightless because of a ridiculous prophecy. If the ravens flew away, it would mark the end of the royalists in Britain. So they are kept there, fell fed and well cared for but with maimed wings never to experience freedom. Maybe Poe’s “ungainly” Raven had its wings clipped by the British and he ended up “perched upon a bust of Pallas just above Poe’s chamber door” and that’s why the raven kept saying: “Nevermore.”

A London Love Affair

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

When I was 16, I got to take a trip to London. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was. Luckily, I was armed with a camera and a little bit of money, so I was able to walk away not only with some of the greatest memories I have, but also some souvenirs and lots of pictures. I’ve spent years figuring out how I can make my way back there. Even though I had to deal with a missing passport and finding the right kind of electrical adapters, getting to go to London proved to be one of the most inspiring and unforgettable moments of my life.

One of my favorite locations was the Tower of London. I spent a whole day reading about it’s history and seeing first hand what it was like. Probably most well known as a royal prison and place of torture, the Tower of London also served many other uses, from menagerie to stellar observatory. One of the most interesting parts of the Tower of London was seeing it’s famous ravens. The ravens that walk around the Tower have been occupants there for generations. A very old superstition keeps them there, one that says if the ravens leave, the kingdom will fall. The ravens have some of the most royal treatment of the Tower’s inhabitants, with their own personal handler and living quarters.

Everyone knows Big Ben as one of the most iconic monuments for London. Movies, stories, and art have been representing Big Ben for many, many years, and seeing it for yourself will show you why. I also recommend that you visit Parliament. This is where laws, bills, and other legislation takes place for the London government. I’ve really never been interested in the workings of government, but seeing it in action is pretty inspiring. Getting to see the “behind the scenes” government action was really special, and it amazed me how accessible it was.

Alright, I had to get my picture taken with the famous solemn-faced guards. Even though it’s pretty cliche, I just had to do it. I didn’t try to make him laugh or stick my finger up his nose or anything, as they are armed guards I’ll have you know, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stand next to one and have my picture taken. I was surprised how many locations boasted a Changing of the Guards, including the Tower of London. The gardens and parks of London are definitely worth mentioning. As a completely free way to spend your day, I really recommend going. Swans and ducks swim in the ponds surrounded by beautiful banks of flowers in every color. Walking anywhere is very special when you get to walk through the parks.

Being a woman, I of course have to mention the London shopping. I visited Camden Market was blown away by the selection. From designer bags to fishnets, Camden Market has something for absolutely everyone. So get a little bit of money, your passport, and your good walking shoes, and get ready to walk away with bags and bags of stuff.

London holds something exciting for everyone in your family. I walked away from the week-long London trip with some amazing memories, and I still dream of getting to go back there someday. If you’ve never been to London, I very highly recommend it. I promise it’s even worth having to locate that missing passport.

A Raven’s Message

Monday, October 29th, 2018

In the middle of a very dense forest far from the view of any mankind there sat a small wood-framed cottage. No paint had graced its walls nor added luster to the inside or the outside. It’s rustic appearance blended well with all the tall pine trees, huge oak trees, round evergreen shrubs and brown fallen leaves. It’s natural appearance had not been planned but with little money on which to live Paudelora became more concerned with getting by day after day than she did the beauty of the cottage.

She had lived alone since her mother’s early death. Her father had not chosen to stay but chose instead to travel the world. He wanted to see what the remainder of the world looked like and he could not do this with extra baggage. Staying in one place was too boring and responsibility was not one of his strong points. He wanted nothing from life but to enjoy it to the fullest and he could not do this with a wife and a child.

Paudelora was the exact picture of her mother. She was a petite lady with simple taste. Not so much by choice but more by the lack of the things most people take for granted on a daily basis. Her rugged life had caused seeds of bitterness and hate to take root and grow. This became a deadly weapon for her enemies.

Paudelora learned of the black raven from her mother. She loved to look at its shiny feathers and the glimmer in its coal-black eyes. She watched the patient way her mother used to call them and then wait for them to trust her. It took years to train one bird to carry a vial attached to its leg to a certain person or place. It took even longer for them to learn to speak. It was difficult but not impossible at all. Cleo was her mother’s first raven and Cleo was one of many that became loyal servants to Pandelora’s mother and then to her. Most folk thought Paudelora was the exact replica of her mother. They both had dark brown hair that swung past their petite waistlines. They both had deep dark eyes and spoke in short quick words. It didn’t take long for Paudelora to train Reao and it didn’t take very long for him to learn to mimic her words. He sat on a perch in the cottage and he watched and listened to her every word. Occasionally he would blurt out something like “To be sure it will” or “The deed is done!” He even learned to sing a tune that went something like this: “Oh Lord won’t you send down your angels to watch over me. My eyes are so tired they can hardly see.” He sang the lines exactly like she sang it even in the same key.

As it happened Paudelora’s mother had known herbs very well and used them for them both since they had no money to visit medical doctors. She had taught all of her skills to her daughter knowing that she would need them at some point in her life. Paudelora had been born in the shanty and had never been seen by a medical doctor. Yet she was uncommonly healthy for her twenty-five years of age. Her skin was as white as freshly poured milk and her lips as red as if she had painted them so.

The shanty smelled of Patcholi and Lavender for those were her favorite body fragrances.She made creams and oils to use on her blemish free skin. Sandalwood, Bergamot, Wild Magnolia and Honeysuckle bottles sat stately upon her old-fashioned dresser. Huge pots of aloe vera grew outside as did wild poppies, Echinacea, garlic and a variety of other herbal plants. She used them to make her potions. Some were for good and some not so good.

A huge thick book lay on the hand-made table. It was a family recipe book of sorts.It had belonged to her grandmother and her mother before her. No one knew exactly how old the book was but its pages were yellow and stained from all the fingers that had turned its pages over the generations. It had recipes for just about anything one might need or use. She left it in the center of the table because she loved to try out new things. Its pages were so tattered they did not need to be moved often. The towns’ folk who were kind to her were given herbs for good health but those who looked upon her with contempt were sent other potions by “Reao” the black raven.

It happened one winter’s day as Paudelora was visiting a few shops in town. A tall burly man who was quite drunk made an unkindly gesture along with some unladylike comments. Paudelora was very embarrassed and her feelings were hurt by the man’s comments. She quickly left the store and headed home with fewer supplies than intended. She was astonished that a man would approach her and say sexually implicit words to her. Her eyes kept seeing his face and his words kept repeating themselves in her ears.By the time she reached the shanty her spirit was in a rage. She had been bitterly hurt by the old man’s cruel words.

Without further thought she headed straight to the herb cabinet and began mixing powders. When she had finished, she carefully tied it in a little cloth and attached it to Raeo’s leg. “Go and do the deed. Drop the deadly seed. Old man Whitford will be no more when this potion enters his door!” She chanted loudly. “Head straight to Whitford’s house and drop the bag where his head will lie.” She ordered as she released the raven.”Go and do the deadly deed. To old man Frank Whitford’s quickly speed!”

Now all the raven had to do was to pull the ribbon with his beak when he reached the exact spot in Whitford’s bedroom and release her potion. The deed would be done! He would pay dearly for his uncouth behavior! As Paudelora planned, the deadly curse was put into motion. About an hour later Raeo returned and flew to his perch. “The deed is done!” He cawed loudly repeating the line of words he had heard Paudelora say so many times before. Paudelora handed him a special seed stick and returned to her kitchen duties.

Paudelora sat at the table quietly allowing memories of her childhood to bleed through her mind. Oh how she would love to be a child again. Oh how she would love to see her mother again.

“Paudelora! You had better be a good little girl or the devil will visit your tonight and he will bring along his big pitchfork!” Her father scolded as he displayed an evil look upon his wrinkled face. “He loves little dirty girls and you have not had a bath today!” He smirked. Those words had sent chills through her tiny body for years. Few people knew who her father really was or what had happened to him but the ravens knew.

The howling sound of the cold north wind broke the trance quickly reminding Paudelora of the need for more fire wood. She would feel the chill coming through the cracks in the walls and around the aged window panes. The winter months were horribly cold. Snow and ice visited nearly everyday. Wood had to be cut and brought inside for the fireplace. It was her only form of heat and there was on one to lend a hand. Food became scarce but warmth was always Paudelora’s main concern.

Whispers came within days that old man Whitford was ill and by the end of the week his funeral had been announced over the small radio.

“People must be accountable for their words and their behavior in this life or they will be snatched away to another life as quick as a wink.” Paudelora mumbled out loud as she refilled her bottles of powdered herbs and spices.

The rabbit traps made of odd pieces of wood helped provide meat and fur for her pillows as did all the other wildlife in the forest. The wood in the fireplace crackled and popped as the flames added heat to the shanty. Paudelora hung a big black pot over the coals to cook a stew for dinner. It would make several good meals for her and warm her from the inside. The red-hot coals reminded her of the burning desire to have a sense of peace in her soul and love to fill her heart. She had not felt love at all since her beloved mother had passed away. She longed for a man to hold her in his arms as only man could do. After all, she wasn’t such a bad person or was she?

Day after day she scribbled notes to herself on paper. She asked God to send someone into her life to change things and to forgive her for her wrongs. She asked for her loneliness to be removed and her heart to be filled with peace, joy and love. She watched as her fingers wrote the words “I need the love of a righteous man.” Silently she hoped that writing it down might be more effective than just reminding God in her prayers. Over and over she scribbled her secret desires and earnest wishes. Then suddenly feeling disgust, she quickly swept all the papers off the table and onto the floor. Leaving them there, she stepped into the kitchen to prepare herself a cup of chamomile tea. Perhaps it would calm her nerves and help her to sleep.

She did not see Raeo take a strip of the paper in his beak nor did she see him leave the window with it. Was Raeo seeking love for his master? Did God speak to Raeo?

Early the next morning a bank president heard a rat-a-tap rat-a-tapping on his window. Upon investigating he noticed a black bird with a paper in his mouth. Slowly he made his way to the window lifting it gently to see what the bird would do. Raeo flew immediately inside and deposited the paper on the desk. As president Harriston moved towards the desk, Raeo flew out of the window and was gone. Stunned, Mr. Harriston sat down to look at the paper deposited on his desk. Somewhat bewildered by what he had just witnessed, he began to read the handwritten note before him.

Weeks passed before Mr. Harriston finally found and met Paudelora. They were two people from very different walks of life and they had been introduced by one of God’s small winged messengers. Paudelora found the love she so desperately wanted but continues to live in the midst of the huge forest. The only difference is that now she is living in a big white colonial home with the man who had taken to time to read her note and seek her out.

Raeo continues to live with Paudelora and serve those in the community with herbal medicines. He gives to the rich and the poor, especially the poor!

Lives are changed daily by the actions of one person. Are you that one person?