London Day 2: In Which I See Everything, Including Michael Palin’s Knickers

And what a view!

I got to see Monty Python with my own two eyes.

Me, Hayley Cruz, born and raised in California, United States, a.k.a. pretty bloody far away from England.

I got to see my comedy heroes perform on stage right in front of me.

Memo to the rest of my life: “Gonna be pretty hard to top that!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Note: I don’t know any of these people.

A new day, a new set of adventures to be had in old London town. If you read my last blog post, you’ll recall that my carefully planned schedule (pfft) had gone slightly off track. In the next few days I was determined to make up for it, but I knew sacrifices had to be made. The new itinerary was this:

  • Day 1 (Wed, 16 July) – SLEEP
  • Day 2 (Thurs, 17 July) – Windsor Castle, St Paul’s Cathedral, Museum of London
  • Day 3 (Fri, 18 July) – Big Bus Tour, London Eye, Monty Python Live!
  • Day 4 (Sat, 19 July) – London Pass: Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe, Thames cruise
  • Day 5 (Sun, 20 July) – Daytrip to Bath (the city)
  • Day 6 (Mon, 21 July) – British Museum, National Gallery, Harrod’s

I had to cut out the National History and Science museums because there simply wasn’t time. I figured I’d have my edutainment fill at the British Museum, and it’s not like the United States doesn’t have its own similar establishments. Today, the 18th, was to try and see as much of the city as possible in the short amount of time I had before leaving for the show tonight.

One of Mom’s work peeps had actually suggested doing one of the bus tours, saying it was a good general introduction to London. There are loads of different bus companies that tour the City, but I picked the Big Bus Tour because it had the best reviews and went round to the most number of places. Your ticket lets you hop on and off at any stop, and there are three walking tours, a coupon book, and a Thames river cruise included. There are two different bus lines: one that has an audio-only guide, in which you are given headphones and you plug them into the back of the seat to hear information about the passing landmarks, and is available in multiple languages. The other line has a live tour guide, who sits on the top deck and talks about everything in a unique, witty way. (We had three guides altogether, and they were all very good and knowledgeable and funny and very English. In short, it was totally worth it, I honestly highly recommend it, and Mom even said it was one of her favorite parts about the whole trip.)

The nearest bus station from our hotel was only a block away, and since we didn’t have access to a printer for an online purchase, we had to buy our tickets in the travel office nearby. This turned out to be a positive boon, because we got a two-day pass for the price of a single, which meant we could ride the buses both today and tomorrow. Sweet.

The live tour guide bus – the Red line – didn’t actually stop here, so we had to take an audio bus – Blue line – to the next available Red station. I had considered just walking there, as it was apparently only twenty minutes away, but a bus was already set to go, so we just hopped on. As it was to be a short trip, we stayed in the lower deck and marveled over how unbelievably insane London drivers are. Even given how prevalent and convenient the public transportation is, there are still a bazillion cars, taxis, and buses on the roads, and of course to us, all the streets are flipped, and many of which are one-way, making it all seem even more cray. But drivers will slide through the tiniest gaps and veer onto the opposite side to go around a slow driver. Yes, even the buses. When we did ride on top, though that position is not particularly precarious, it felt like what riding the Harry Potter Knight Bus must be – except without the magical protection and talking shrunken heads.

We got off near the Marble Arch and though it was fairly early in the morning, there were a number of other people waiting for a Red bus. I assume these tour companies do get very busy and packed, especially during peak tourist seasons, but even so, we never had any trouble getting a seat on the top deck, which is the best place to be for sightseeing and picture-taking purposes.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attraction. I believe it.

Our first guide was a cheerful lady who informed us of not only the passing landmarks, but also the shops. She said that certain stores will only open by appointment and a set price range. (She had tried calling one to visit, giving her budget at around £50 – they said no.) We then passed through Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Haymarket, and Trafalgar Square.

IMG_0194It’s a chicken, I tell ya! A giant chicken!

This fine blue cock (no, really) occupies Trafalgar’s square famous fourth plinth, used for temporary displays of commissioned artwork, this year’s model designed by Katharina Fritsch of Germany. The next stops were Craig’s Court, Whitehall, and Westminister Bridge.

IMG_0183Out of focus, but look how shiny that bar is!

And for the record, no, I don’t have all this memorized. I’m using the lovely complimentary map to figure out where the heck we went.

IMG_0204I actually wanted to see that play (because Martin Freeman), but it was sold out. 

Now, up to this time, even after all the amazing things I had seen, I still had a hard time believing I was in England. That may sound ridiculous, but it hadn’t really like, hit me that I was in another country, let alone the one I had been dreaming of visiting since forever.

IMG_0228In this picture: the top of a telephone box.

That’s not to say I wasn’t immensely interested by what I was seeing. Again, the BUILDINGS were astounding in their design, and I loved the deep sense of history that is so obviously ingrained in EVERYTHING. Our tour guide was keeping up a lively conversation about London’s past and then rather idly mentioned we’d be passing Big Ben in a few moments. I don’t know if I was distracted or what, but I was not prepared for when it suddenly appeared around the corner.

IMG_0231The awkward angle is because I nearly dropped my iPod.

BAM! It was like a smack in the face: WHOA I’M IN LONDON FREAKIN’ ENGLAND.

IMG_0238Big Ben: Usually accompanied by “Rule, Britannia!

THIS was London. Big Ben is THE symbol of the City. It’s on every stereotypical piece of British merchandise, it’s featured in every movie, television show, or book that takes place in London – it’s iconic!

IMG_0243The Thames is brown and muddy-looking, but apparently free of pollution.

Excitement sparked in my chest, and I finally felt that I was HERE, I had made it, it was real, this was all actually happening! For the first time since I can’t remember when, I actually requested that someone take my picture, because there was no way I was passing up an opportunity like this.

IMG_1318Me and my buddy, Benny.

As you can see, we got off the bus here, because the London Eye was right across the river from Big Ben (!!).

IMG_0505Well, THIS was on the bus. Pretend it’s not, tho.

Still giddy with joy over the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben is the name of the Great Bell inside, point of fact), I practically danced over to the kiosk to buy our tickets.

IMG_0246The world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.

The area around the London Eye also houses the Sea Life London Aquarium and the London Dungeon, neither attraction we were interested in visiting, but undeniably popular. It was definitely the most touristy area we had visited so far. Windsor Castle had been a mix of both foreigners and native-borns, and in our tour group at St Paul’s, there were only about five Americans, including us. Here, I scarcely heard any English people, it was a huge hodgepodge of tourists from all over the world, and we were totally surrounded by a multitude of people and languages. Fortunately, the good people working there know how to handle large crowds for the most part, and it was pretty simple to find where to get a ticket. Mom wanted to splurge on a FastPass, but I insisted it wasn’t worth it; the line wasn’t that long.

IMG_0247Not my hand.

Well, the line was actually longer than I thought, as they split it up into two parts to avoid interfering with passing foot traffic, but once you’ve waited two hours to ride a two minute ride at Disneyland or Six Flags (and three hours just to get a badge at Anime Expo…), queuing for a half hour isn’t that bad. But it was still the morning, around 10:00, so I’m sure it gets far busier later in the day.

In any case, the time passed quickly enough, and as it was quite hot already, stepping into the air-conditioned capsule was a relief on multiple levels. (Mom said without A/C, everyone riding inside would be fried like ants with magnifying glass due to the glass exterior. She might be right.)

IMG_0254Captain, we’re ready for takeoff.

I think we were the only native English speakers in our entire capsule (that could fit at least a couple dozen people), which would have proved interesting in the unlikely event that our capsule broke off, floated down the Thames to the ocean, settled on a desert island, and we had to learn to work together to survive, LOST style.

The whole ride takes about thirty minutes, and it’s a slow, leisurely trip. You hardly feel like you’re moving until quite suddenly, you’re on top, looking out over the entire city of London.

IMG_0264I can see our hotel from here!

Though less potently this time, I was once again filled with excitement, and I hungrily stared at the skyline, eager to see more of this magnificent city.

IMG_0271The only selfie I took, I swear.

The journey came to an end, and after stopping at a nearby McDonald’s for a toilet break (Traveler’s Tip #8: In England, they’re not called “bathrooms” or “restrooms”, but “toilets”, or more formally, “lavatories”), we headed back to the bus station. It was a little confusing getting the correct Red bus, as this particular stop is actually made twice, as the route goes in a circle. Since we had come straight here, we wanted to make sure we went on the route that hadn’t yet made that circle, one that was going west, not east. Or something. Luckily, the attendants were able to help us out, and we resumed our Big Bus tour.

IMG_0300People doing things, like walking. 

Our new tour guide was an older gentleman, but with a sharp, self-deprecating sense of humor.

IMG_0327Apologies that I don’t remember what some of these places are called. But they’re pretty!

Our next stops were in Covent Garden and a pass by St Paul’s Cathedral.

IMG_0361The backside of St Paul. (Wink, wink, nudge nudge.)

It was pretty cool looking up at that marvelous dome and realizing exactly how high up I had been yesterday. A (unfamiliar) sense of pride, I felt.

IMG_0397The H.M.S. Pinafore. (Not really.)

A winding route took us over one of the many roads that stretch across the Thames and then up to the famous Tower Bridge.

IMG_0450Another super cool, iconic London symbol.

I was fascinated to learn that despite appearances, it’s actually younger than the Brooklyn Bridge of New York, being completed in 1894. There’s a Tower Bridge exhibition located inside, in which you can climb the high level walkways and see the engine rooms that make the whole raising of the bridge thing work. We didn’t have time to check it out, but it sounded pretty interesting.

IMG_0455It’s a…cube?

One of the most fascinating things about London is that it’s not all old-fashioned and vintage-looking. There are plenty of steel skyscrapers and modern buildings that somehow mange to blend in with everything else. On one side, you might have a church that’s been there for centuries, and on the other, a shapely new age office structure, and yet they don’t seem to clash in any way.

IMG_0507Where’s Benny?

We completed our circle around the south of London, passing by Embankment Pier, Westminster Pier and Bridge, and Lambeth Palace.

IMG_0563Focus on the building, not the arms.

Big Ben fronts the Houses of Parliament, where all the government stuff happens. And anybody can actually go inside and attend a debate, watch a committee hearing, or take a tour, and it’s open for foreigners as well as UK residents.

IMG_0580Deliberately NOT another picture of Big Ben.

It was approaching noon by this time, and though I had entertained the thought of maybe perhaps trying to go to one of the museums today, I was starting to feel the pressure of getting back on time for Monty Python.

IMG_0585A place we planned to visit, but ultimately didn’t.

The tour was nearly over, but we still had to get back to our hotel and also get something to eat. I was also becoming anxious because I was worried about taking the Underground alone. (Mom didn’t have a ticket; she’d be staying at the hotel, watching British TV and eating British sweets.)

IMG_0634Using pictures to break up the tension, yes.

Like most paranoid people, I turned to the Internet for solace, and to my surprise, most people were very encouraging. I didn’t look up crime stats or anything, but by and large, the Tube is safe at night, even for lone female travelers. Veterans gave the basic precautions – Don’t go into an empty carriage. Stay near a group, if possible. Don’t look like a target. Keep your purse zipped, etc. – but since so many people travel on the Underground at all hours and it’s constantly surveillanced with security cameras, the danger rate is lower than you might think.

IMG_0664I think this was a WWI memorial. 

Of course, incidents do happen, and Mom was initially insisting that I take a cab, at least at night. I wasn’t totally adverse to the idea, but I knew how expensive that would end up being, as the O2 was quite far away from our hotel. Our funds were slowly dwindling, and there was still so much I wanted to do. It seemed a shame to waste it on a taxi when I knew the Underground would be so much cheaper. It was just a matter of being confident enough to do try it.

IMG_0673The buildings, the buildings!!

Most of this fretting was actually done in the morning, both when I was getting ready and during our complimentary breakfast. I managed to stave off my anxiety so I could enjoy sightseeing, but it was slowly starting to creep back the more time passed.

IMG_0679Funnily enough, I think we personally only passed under one arch the whole trip.

The Red line ended in Mayfair, and we switched to a Blue bus to take us back home. The audio tour was pleasant and informative, and always accurate, even if we were stuck in traffic. Classical music played between the landmarks, which made for a relaxing ride back.

IMG_0701Ignore the pink fuzz that is my finger in the corner.

Upon reaching the hotel, we were both hungry, and I wanted to make sure I ate something before leaving, since I knew I couldn’t eat after the show, as it would be pretty late at night. I don’t really remember what we got; I honestly think it was just sandwiches from Starbucks. (Which actually has an awesome deli/bakery section. Everything has fun names like “Sausage Sarnie” or “Bacon Buttie” or “Great British Breakfast” – and their pastries are HUGE. And delicious.)

Back in the room, we ate and even though I knew I should be getting ready (this was around 16:00, the show started at 19:30, and I wanted to get there around 18:00 to make sure I had enough time to find my seat and all that), I found myself looking at more guides on traveling alone and thinking about how one of my ultimate dreams was about to come true in a mere few hours.

Monty Python - Live Mostly
Monty Python Live! (Mostly) Promotional Image

I mentioned in my first blog post about this trip that the whole reason I got to go to London in the first place was because of my grandfather. He knew I was a big Anglophile, and this was absolutely the best present he could get me, ever. I’ve always loved Britishy things, though I didn’t know there was a term for it until I was older. My favorite childhood authors (and still to this day) were Roald Dahl and A.A. Milne, I loved The Great Mouse Detective (still do), and c’mon, British people had funny accents! It was cool! Though now I’ve a more healthy, all-encompassing admiration for British culture, it begins and ends with entertainment.

In my first year of college, I was watching the live action version of 101 Dalmatians with my siblings, and discovered that Hugh Laurie was actually English, not American. It’s a fact that still baffles people to this day, especially House fans. (I believed him to be a States man from his work on the Stuart Little movies, make of that what you will.) What’s more, though the movie itself was somewhat lacking, he was pretty goshdarned funny, and thus intrigued, I Googled him – and discovered a whole treasure trove of his past work in British comedy. And as I was taking a film class at the time, I had also discovered Netflix, and could, y’know, legally watch most of these new-to-me TV programs. Blackadder was first, and boy, what an intro! (I love that show so much.) That lead me to Rowan Atkinson (hilarious stand upMr Bean, The Thin Blue Line) and Stephen Fry (genius wordplayA Bit of Fry & LaurieQI), and other brilliant comedians (Dylan Moran and Black Books; Simon Pegg/Nick Frost and Spaced/Cornetto Trilogy films, etc.). Another name that kept popping up was John Cleese, who I was already familiar with, though mainly for his voice work. And when I searched for more British shows to feed my ever-growing appetite, Fawlty Towers was always at the top of the list. After reveling in the glory of that show, I wondered what else Cleese had done. Cue: Monty Python.

To be fair, I had seen Python before this, specifically The Holy Grail. In my high school Bible class, no less. And I admit that I wasn’t very impressed with it. Not then, not watching it again later with my friend, not even after watching the whole series. I kept missing the joke. Or jokes, rather. When I watched Flying Circus for the first time, I could see where the funny was, it just didn’t make me laugh. I moved on to the movies, but still nary a chuckle (Life of Brian was, at first, more shocking than anything). But SOMETHING prevented me from moving on to another show. Some aspect of it kept tickling my mind, persisting that there was more, that brilliance was pulling faces behind my back and I wasn’t turning around in time. So I decided to watch the series one more time.

And then it all clicked.

Maybe it was because by this time, I knew more about British history and culture, so the jokes made more sense. Maybe it was me finally letting go of my American prejudices against men dressing up as women. Maybe it was because I was in college, a time when everybody rebels authority and becomes more open-minded and starts forging their own identity, their own sense of humor. Maybe I was just plain stupid. Whatever the reason, I laughed until my sides hurt and tears ran down my face. At last understanding the genius of these six men, I learned as much as I could about John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin (my favorite). I watched the series again and again, watched the movies (Life of Brian is now in my top five of the best films of all time), listened to the albums, read the books, saw the musicals, joined the Tumblr fandom, and overall enjoyed the plethora of entertainment and knowledge that Monty Python had given to me.

So when I learned that they were doing a reunion show, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest.

I had given up hope that I would ever be able to see any of them in person, let alone all together. I have friends who live in England (lucky bastards) who have met some or all the Pythons through one public event or another. Gilliam is always promoting his films, Palin his books and travelogues, Cleese doing his one-man shows, and Jones gives historical talks at times. (Idle actually lives in LA, so I’m still hoping to cross his path some day. …In a non-creeper way, of course.) In any case, I knew about their recent legal troubles, but I don’t think anybody thought they would do something like this, and also be so refreshingly blunt about it. They needed monies, why not put on a show? It’s a testament to their character, multi-faceted as it is, that it wasn’t the sellout that many people expected it to be. Money played a big factor, but there was heart, too. A big love letter to their long-lived fan base. They’d never admit that, of course, cos that’s as cheesy as hell. No hugs in Python!

IMG_20140718_193920This doesn’t count.

My grandfather’s London trip offer, though made in June 2013, was an open ticket, I could pick whatever date I felt like. I kept putting it off, because what I wanted more than anything was to see something Python, anything. I figured my best bet was to wait until Michael did one of his book tours (and I’m still sad that the upcoming one is UK only). But then, THE REUNION. It was a year later from then, in July 2014, so I had plenty to time to take care of all the essentials, namely getting my passport and buying my ticket for the show.

And then it sold out in 43 seconds.

Well, that’s that, I thought, heartbroken. I tried. But I should have known that capitalism will always win out in the end! More dates were added, and although those seemed to sell out quickly, too, over the following months, tickets kept being added and seats opened up, and in early 2014, I was finally able to secure a pass for the 18th. Game, set, match. Passports were purchased, the hotel reserved, flights booked, suitcases packed. It was all happening so fast, and the next thing I knew, I was standing in our hotel room, dressed in a Monty Python shirt and shaking like a leaf.

IMG_1317Got it from Redbubble!

I wasn’t so much nervous as finally getting to see MONTY PYTHON, but rather of getting mugged or killed (or worse) on the way. Everything obviously turned out okay, and it seems so silly in hindsight, but that’s all I was thinking about as I bid Mom farewell and made my way to the Underground station.

I wasn’t actually sure how much monies were on my Oyster card, so I took Mom’s, too. I didn’t want to fumble around with cash at the machine in my anxious state. I had Googled and used the Tube’s website to check which lines I ought to take, and yet I still ended up going on the wrong one. Not necessarily the wrong direction, but the train I got on ended way before my stop, so when we got booted off, I had to use one of the ubiquitous handy-dandy maps to figure out the rest of the way. In the end, it just meant I didn’t get to the O2 in Greenwich until around 18:30, and by then, my nerves had actually calmed down somewhat. It helped that the Underground was full of people, loads of commuters heading up (peak hours, remember) and then to my delight, I saw a couple wearing Monty Python shirts. My peeps! I figured they knew where they were going better than I did, so I followed them at a discreet distance when we reached our stop. Turns out my stalking was for naught, as the Greenwich station leads straight to the front of the O2.

I had made it.

IMG_20140718_181522The clerks were wearing lumberjack shirts!

The first thing I saw (besides the impressive structure that is the O2) was a gift shop! I had no idea if they would still be selling stuff afterward, so even before getting my ticket, I hopped in line.

I had a significant amount of cash with me, because I still hadn’t decided if I was going to take a taxi home or not. The calculator on the official London cab site estimated that lengthy journey to be about £80, which was mind-bogglingly pricey. Mom had told me to do whatever made me feel safest. I also had spending monies, but I would have felt so much better about using it if it wasn’t for the blasted cab. So it was around this time, looking at all the wonderful things to buy, that I pretty much decided to take the Tube back. I made sure to conserve at least the £80, just in case, but now I was feeling good and happy and excited, and taxis be damned.

(For reference, I bought the tour book – which is TOTES AMAZEBALLS and not a cheap throw-together, it has new material and it’s HILARIOUS – a poster, and a t-shirt that has the tour dates on the back, which I specifically wanted because well, I was actually there!)

Monty Python - ShirtThe quality is terrible, but the shirt is AMAZING.

After making my purchases, I sauntered (yes, I was that cheery) over to the ticket booth with my purchase confirmation I had printed before leaving California. I’m not gonna lie, most of the people I saw were significantly older than me. There were people my age (and younger!), but it was easy to see which age group makes up the bulk of Pythonites. I mention this because the elderly people in front of me were a little confused about the concept of online check in and what exactly was supposed to be presented at the kiosk. But then, I really shouldn’t judge, because it turns out I had actually printed my real ticket, and I could’ve just walked in this whole time.

Technology befuddles anybody and everybody.

IMG_20140718_184016Balloons! (Yeah, I’m running thin on captions, so sue me.)

By the way, I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. I had been using my iPod (actually a decommissioned iPhone) to take pictures this whole time, but due to my frantic photography earlier, it was completely dead. I charged it while I was getting ready – and then forgot it. So I had to use my phone this evening, which doesn’t exactly have the best camera. Still, better than nothing!

IMG_20140718_184032The sign says, “Stuff for Money”. Oh, those wacky Pythons!

I went inside, and I guess I should’ve looked into the layout of the place more, because I had no idea how absolutely HUGE it is. It’s more of a complex than a single stadium, and I didn’t realize how much there was to see until later. In any case, I got my ticket checked, my bag examined by security, and then followed the signs to where the proper section. I was in 111, Seat 365, which was unexpectedly much lower to the floor than I had assumed from the seating chart.

IMG_20140718_185114#nofilter

As you can see, the “ground floor” was literally a single step down, and the stage a comfortable distance away. Of course I wished I was right in front so I could, y’know, see the sweat on their faces, but this was better than I had been expecting.

IMG_20140718_185126An attempted closeup of the left screen with the Live! (Mostly) promo image.

It was only about 19:00, and as I didn’t have any interest in the stadium food, I stayed in my seat and looked around.

IMG_20140718_191845Fun fact: Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” was playing as background music. 

Though the O2 can seat about 5,000 people, it really doesn’t seem that big. Some poor saps were in the buttend of the place, and I can only imagine how tiny the performers must’ve looked, but overall, it doesn’t have the feel of a theatre. The seats were comfy enough, but the concrete floor and the fact that people were walking around selling ice creams from trays strapped to their chests (that they weren’t selling albatrosses was, I felt, a wasted moneymaking opportunity) made it feel more like an outdoor stadium. With a ceiling.

IMG_20140718_192504MONTY PYTHON!!! *fangirl squeal*

I read through the tour book to pass the time and had just deemed it a totally worthy purchase, when a few scattered bits of applause went up. The conductor had come into the orchestra area, and with a shock, I realized it was John du Prez. (It was the ears.) He’s not a Python, but HOLY SHIZ, John du Prez!!

I was starting to get a sense of how unprepared I was.

IMG_20140718_193638The spotlight shining on Mr Conductor

Before I could breathe or even think too hard, with much instrumental fanfare of familiar Python songs, THEY came out.

The Pythons.

IMG_20140718_193913John Cleese…?

They came out one by one, until they were all standing on stage and waving to the audience.

IMG_20140718_193909MICHAEL PALIN!

When I saw them, tears came to my eyes. I literally almost started bawling in the O2. They were alive and real and right in front of me! It was so surreal (fittingly so) and amazing and I couldn’t believe it. Then the caption, “PHOTO OPPORTUNITY” flashed on the screens, and there was laughter, and I knew we were in for a wonderful night.

IMG_20140718_193904Terry Jones!

I’m not going to make this into a review of the show, since so many people have already done that way better than I could, but there are some things I’d like to mention.

(A quick aside about Graham: I think they did a wonderful job keeping him a part of the show with video clips. I felt quite emotional seeing his face, forever young, on screen, and though they might’ve added more, it was all very tastefully done. Even Graham’s stand-in for the Christmas song didn’t feel so much a replacement as a tribute.)

IMG_20140718_214944This shiny thing came down during “The Galaxy Song“. 

I admit to being kinda nervous about the musical numbers, because well, I wanted to see the Pythons, not a group of strangers dancing around and singing, especially when I saw the promo pics of scantily clad women who looked to be pole dancers. But I’m a real sucker for musicals, and I loved Spamalot and Not the Messiah. And that’s what these felt like: very Eric, very Broadway, and yes, very good. If singing and dancing isn’t your thing, that’s fine, but I found them to be quite enjoyable, especially since you know they were created as filler to cover the costume changes since they couldn’t rely on showing old Flying Circus clips the whole time. “Sit on My Face” and “The Penis Song” I could leave or take, though I enjoyed (blushingly) the new Vagina verse. “I Like Chinese” was fun, though a rather odd choice (I would’ve preferred “Finland” myself), and like one lady near me observed, the lyrics were altered, obviously to make it less racist. The others – “Every Sperm Is Sacred“, “Christmas in Heaven” (though Graham was sorely missed), “The Philosopher’s Song“, “Silly Walk” and “Nudge Nudge” (yes, turned into dance routines), “The Galaxy Song”, and of course, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” were wonderful homages to the underrated lyrical side of Python. Eric’s hand was very clear in the overall production, and though there were indeed sexy girls everywhere, there was plenty of eyecandy on the male side of things. (Say no more.)

IMG_20140718_214949A stunning lightshow!

During the intermission, I tried to find someone to talk to, someone to share my excitement with, but I felt horribly shy, and again, not too many people were my age. I had actually rather hoped to find good conversationalists and y’know, make friends with fellow Pythonites, but I couldn’t work up the nerve to just go right up and talk to anybody. I did chat for a bit (the conversation lead-in was my little albatross joke I made above) with a nice couple who remarked on my accent and my age – “You’re too young to be here!” – and I rambled a bit about how I found Monty Python and what the typical American perspective on it is (The Holy Grail, and virtually nothing else). The man started telling me about something related, but then the music started up again, and I got a little distracted. I felt kinda bad afterward, because I hadn’t even said goodbye or anything. But the music! They were all instrumental pieces, and all from the Python library in lovely new arrangements.

Monty Python - Live
Monty Python Live (Mostly): Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

As for the sketches, they were exactly what I was expecting. You can only listen to the records and watch the concert film so many times before becoming very familiar with its form, and there were no real surprises here. Spanish Inquisition was a fantastic inclusion, and I love love love so much that Carol Cleveland (who looks amazing, btw) was a significant part of so many of the sketches. I did feel a bit sad that Terry J’s memory is obviously not what it used to be, as he had to rely on cue cards for his lines, but the performance was still there! But truly, Michael and Eric were on top of form, fully engaged in their own performances and with the audience, and even remaining as professional as possible, still completely enjoying themselves and what they were delivering to their fans. John Cleese seemed to be happy, and he almost had a Chapman air about him, in terms of how he seemed to have wandered onto the stage and hello, yes, we seem to be doing a show, jolly good, while still knocking it out of the park, even riffing with Eric a bit when the latter flubbed his line during the Pope sketch.

The best part of all was Michael and John’s adlibbing during the Parrot Sketch/Cheese Shop bit. As there are videos and reviews from every night to prove it (and if anyone has a video of the 18th, please let me know, I’d love to see it!), that they go off on that little tangent was scripted, but I’m pretty sure that what either of them said wasn’t. The fact that John reportedly corpsed every single night is a good indication of that – and of how funny Michael is, of course. During this show, Cleese went off on David Beckham, commenting on how he never smiles or talks, and kept going on about it until Palin finally interjected with, “No wonder he never says anything, you never give him a chance?” or something like that. That got John rolling, and it was the highlight of the evening.

Other remarks: I really liked the running gag of the kangaroo, especially when it popped up during random sketches. The special guest star during the Blackmail segment (another great addition) was…someone I didn’t know. He was some sort of British celebrity, because a huge roar went up when he was unveiled, and his “confession” that he “had been lying to the British public all these years and he was, in fact, straight” got a huge response. (Except from me and a group of Americans sitting behind me, who also had no idea who he was.) A bit disappointing it wasn’t a celebrity that I knew, though I think I saw Eddie Izzard walking around.

 Overall, for me, it was the experience of the whole thing – that OMG I saw a Python show and it was amazing and I can die happy now. And it was over all too soon.

Monty PYthon - Live 2
Monty Python Live! (Mostly): Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

They bowed and waved goodbye to their adoring audience before slipping away backstage. The customary farewell – “PISS OFF” – flashed on screen, and everyone laughed and then slowly began the slow shuffle outside.

Here’s where I realized how enormous this place was, because it took us a good fifteen minutes of steady walking to get from the exit doors back to the front. We passed through shops and restaurants and exhibits, but unfortunately, most of them were closing down. It was after 22:00, after all. Not that I could have stayed for anything, of course. My whole plan of going on the Underground this late hinged on the security of doing so with a large number of people.

And as you might have expected, virtually EVERYBODY headed for the Tube. The remaining mass of people went toward the bus and taxi areas, and I figured I would be waiting for a long while to get a cab, so the Underground was obviously the better option. The staff was obviously accustomed to to dealing with crowds, and even there was even a sort of fancy concrete awning that led from the entrance of the O2 to the entrance of the Tube. Which was nice, because it had started to rain. Not heavily, but enough to make you feel wet and uncomfortable should you be exposed for too long.

The queue slowly moved forward until I was finally inside. I doublechecked the directions and strode confidently to the gates – only to find that my Oyster Card was empty. I tried Mom’s, but nada. (Later discovered this was because she had forgotten to “tap out” when exiting yesterday, and the system wipes the card when you pass through the gate as a penalty.) The attendant kindly pointed out the ticket kiosks, and flustered and embarrassed, I simply bought a single travel pass, as I didn’t want to deal with loading up both cards again.

Money problems sorted, I got on a train. And it was a singularly uneventful journey, though very humid. The carriages were packed, even the further I went, as there were people coming home from working late, and it was also a Friday night! Peeps were going to or leaving pubs and parties and other theatres at all hours of the night. It was mostly empty by the time I got to Paddington, but there was still a significant amount of people around, and even though I was desperately sticky and exhausted, I never felt unsafe at all. Everybody was too hot and tired to do anything other than stare blankly at the car walls, waiting for our respective stops.

Paddington actually has three Underground entrances and exits, and this journey ended unexpectedly at one of the further ones, which meant going all the way through the train station. I didn’t feel too concerned, however; I stayed near other groups of people, kept up a brisk walk, and next thing I knew, I was in the hotel elevator, suddenly overcome with emotion of what an amazing night I just had.

Mom was relieved to see me back safe and sound, and wanted to hear all the details, and I told her what I could before she got distracted with a phone call. She’s not a Python fan anyway, it was more that she wanted to make sure I had a good time.

That, I definitely did.

(Tomorrow: the schedule must be rearranged – again.)

[Author’s Note: Another late post! Better than never, right? Ha ha ha…]

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3 thoughts on “London Day 2: In Which I See Everything, Including Michael Palin’s Knickers

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