Growing up, I remember an awful lot of ministers admonishing us Christian congregates to ”stand in the gap” for others, but I fear that idea could confound a considerable number of Londoners who, as patrons of the Underground, are daily reminded by a fatherly voice “to mind the gap.” If they did, indeed, stand in that gap between the rail car and the platform edge for themselves or anyone else, I suspect they’d find themselves in quite a spot of trouble.
Still, I love the way the British say so many things that strike me as charmingly old-fashioned expressions. In addition to ”mind the gap,” they, when confronted with low-hanging protrusions, mind their heads a lot as well. Instead of ”exit,” most signs proclaim “way out” and instead of ”yield,” road signs caution one to ”give way.” It is nice to be reminded of these linguistic differences that are of little consequence in one’s understanding, but some differences are not as easily deciphered. When we lived in England years ago, a woman asked me if I had family in England. I told her that I didn’t but my sister-in-law’s mother did. She looked at me quizzically and then said, ”No, no, did you bring your children?” It never once occurred to me that anyone would think my husband and I would ever move to England sans our 12 and 7-year-old sons. I soon learned, however, that such an assumption was not at all unusual. Then there was that myriad of clothing items: plimsolls were tennis shoes, a vest was an undershirt, and a jumper was a pullover. Living in England for me consisted often of joy, occasionally of frustration, and every so often of puzzlement—plimsoll, indeed.
Today in England, we spent considerable time minding the gap as we took the different Underground train routes and popped up here and there as if we were living in a game of Whac a Mole. We popped up first this morning in Notting Hill because l’d never been there and always thought I should go. Turns out I was right. There we found a lovely area with shady, tree-lined streets boasting Victorian-era, four to five story row houses; a huge library, municipal buildings; and a famous neighboring park and palace where Princess Diana lived as did numerous other royals of yesteryear and today. On the way to Kensington Park and Kensington Palace, we passed the Russian Embassy lurking behind trees and a lush garden down a gated, narrow road. Later we walked along a wide road of other embassies then made our way to the famous Portobello Market. Bear in mind when I speak of Notting Hill, being absolutely new to the area, I tend to lump Notting Hill, Camden Hill, and no telling what else, all together. In fact, it appears by signs I saw that Notting Hill and Camden Hill are actually districts of the Kensington and Chelsea Borough. Whatever the entire situation, it is a lovely, historic, and interesting area.
When we popped up from the Underground after Notting Hill, we were at Trafalgar Square in Westminster, another beautiful monument to England’s past. From there, we viewed the turrets and spires of White Hall (Parliament) and Buckingham Palace in the distance, and then returned to the Underground in order to pop up at Covent Gardens—a profusion of antique and stately buildings forming open-air market areas, side streets, and a large outdoor square where performers danced, sang, or lay on beds of nails. Eventually, we hit the rails again in order to pop back up at Aldergate and walk to our hotel where a cuppa strong, English tea simultaneously relaxed and fortified us. If one moves quickly enough to elude the whacker, popping up pays many rewards.