It was a day of rest, which means I got to sleep in without any wakeup call to disturb my slumber.  The rest was necessary.  We have been going at a fast pace without much time to just sit back and enjoy the city of London and that is what we did yesterday.  For me that meant waking naturally, a hot breakfast and then an adventure with friends to explore the sounds and foods that are around us.

We started off walking to Coven Garden.  There are a couple of metaphysical shops I wanted to explore and besides I needed some supplies for ritual at Glastonbury.  I found my supplies and much to my delight I also found an old-fashioned hour-glass.  Well, a 15-minute timer, but hour-glass sounds better.  Once that task was done and all three of us (yes there were three of us) had made our purchases we decided to figure out how to get to Camden Locks.  Now, this adventure started much earlier at the hotel; we had looked at the computer, the maps, and even discussed what all the information meant.  We had it written down, thought about, and remembered (but not necessarily memorized) so we wouldn’t get lost.  Even if we got a little lost we were good with that; we would get a cab if need be to get us home.  But we figured it out and stood there, compass in hand, deciding that we were at the correct bus stop.  That was our first mistake. As we boarded the bus one of us (not me) had the foresight to ask if this bus went in the right direction – it didn’t.  But the bus driver was kind and told us that we were only off by which side of the street we were standing on.

Across the road we go and soon our bus arrives.  We board, swipe our cards, and find seats on the top-level of the double-decker bus.  A minute or two pass and a “bus officer” comes up the stairs checking tickets.  As it turns out we were riding illegally – our Tube/Bus passes had run out of money.  Well that was a shock.  He explained that it was a £50 fine each for the two of us (I would be one of them) that hadn’t paid for our trip.  We were in shock and he could tell.  We explained that we had no idea that our passes had no money on them and that honestly we had no clue what we were doing!  He sat down with us and inquired about our trip, where we were staying, when we were leaving and then he smiled.  He explained he was a reasonable man (at which point I was trying to figure out how to explain that one of our party was given up as bribe to the bus police) and suggested that we get off at a particular stop and replenish our bus cards.  He smiled and said he would be visiting the States this coming summer and hoped that he would find people as generous as himself if he needed assistance.

We thanked him profusely and did as we were told only to find out the station he had told us to go to was the one we actually headed for.  Kindness was the beginning of the adventure.  We walked the streets with tattoo parlors and punk shops all around.  The imagery was amazing and unfortunately I’m not going to put up pictures, I don’t have time.  But let me say, purchases were made, beautiful things were seen, and street vendors making crepes that you could walk away eating were the focus of our day.  As time progressed we knew that we needed to return to the hotel after all it was Purim and we would be heading to the West London Synagogue to celebrate the holiday in the evening.

The trip to the Synagogue was quick and even the walk from the Tube was short, but we still ended up getting a “little lost” trying to find it.  The map directions were good, but the opening to the Synagogue was truly not evident.  After about 5+ minutes of looking we found it, but only because we saw people in costume entering into what looked like a club with bouncers.  As we spoke with the security we told that the congregation was a Reform Jewish Synagogue and asked if that was okay.  It was, and honestly I had no idea what to expect based on what that meant.  Once again, like at the Hindu temple, our bags were searched prior to our entering, but once in the fun began. 

Children, young people and parents were everywhere.  A table filled with food of all kinds was laid before us; this was for the celebration after the celebration.  The costumed people were all entering the main room of the synagogue so we hung up our coats and followed. We had been told that the service was going to be done in the manner of “Grease”, yes the musical, but that did not prepare me for what was going on.  I had two Tele-Tubbies sitting behind me, a watermelon man across the way, Pink Ladies and T-Birds in full costume, children in batman suites, and noise makers given out to participants – us included.  One of our group had received a king’s royal cape to wear.  And now it began, the Purim ritual – the story of Ester.

It was wonderful and we were not disappointed by false advertisement.  The celebration was a combination of Hebrew and English, proper Queen’s English that is, with the female Rabbi leading the way.  When it came to telling the story of Ester families came forward to take turns reading the narrative. I thought it was over, but no, it has only just begun.  The group dressed in Pink Lady and T-Bird jackets got up and performed (with modified words) the musical Grease in order to once again tell Ester’s story.  What a treat, we all laughed, clapped and sang along.  At the end I understood the need for costumes, everyone who was dressed up danced around the temple together including our student.  It was fun! I can see how families would enjoy being in this place of worship.  By the time we were leaving we all had smiles on our face and laughs in our hearts.  What a wonderful way to end a beautiful day.

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