God save… me? (Sung to the tune of America)

This weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a retreat organized by the KCL Chaplaincy team.  The retreat was just a short train ride from Central London at Cumberland Lodge.  (Click here to read more about the Lodge and it’s educational mission.) The beautiful royal grounds (and surrounding Windsor Park) presented an unique backdrop for the retreat’s theme: “Awareness: Meeting God in the Everyday”.  Fun fact: it also served as a nice backdrop for the King’s Speech. The captions in the following pictures tell a bit more of the story.

Click to enlarge and view the full caption.

On the continued topic of interfaith dialogue, I’ll note that KCL is affiliated with the Church of England, and thus members of the Chaplaincy team are Anglican.  As far as I know, Christianity was a common language for all the participants, but the participants’ specific faith traditions varied (many Anglicans, a few Catholics, and at least one Baptist.)  So often we focus on our differences OR overcompensate and create a homogeneous bunch devoid of the flavor by which we are defined.  This weekend seemed to defy that status quo, which is quite in line with the mission of Cumberland Lodge’s mission.

A good example of this was receiving an invitation to attend Sunday morning (Anglican) church service at the Royal Chapel. The invitation to join worship was not contingent on you being Anglican or even Christian* for that matter. The only rules / requirements were:

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Why these rules? For one thing, this establishes a certain request for respect.  When encountering a faith, culture, or even just idea that is different from what you are used to, it is worth refreshing all participants on Michigan’s catch-phrase: “Expect Respect. Give it, get it.”  Furthermore, since the Queen was at Windsor Castle that weekend, there was a good chance that she would be at the church service on Sunday morning. Thus, when we received our clearance pass, we also were given a basic tutorial in the proper interactions with the Royal Family (curtsy, bow, Your Majesty, Duch, Duchess… )

Since the Lodge staff misspelled Berkemeier, (surprisingly not an issue with the 4 E’s this time, but rather with the I) I had to request a 2nd chapel pass since part of the Security check involvedverifying that you had an ID… which matched your pass… which matched the name on the list of attendees provided to Security by the Lodge.  It wasn’t until I was a few yards away from the gate that I realized my second pass also had a misspelling, this time with my first name:

20141025_134027

Too late to do anything about it now!

Andrea: Good morning! (Enthusiasm trying to mask the slight fear of being turned away because of clerical errors…)

Security Guard: (Steps back a bit) Goodness, you sure are chipper this morning!  What are you, American?

Sheesh, just when you think you have stopped sticking out as a foreigner…  Well, if enthusiasm and happiness are the new stereotypes for Americans, I suppose I’m ok with that.

If he noticed the misspelling, he didn’t lead on, and I was soon on the Royal side of the gate.  Another ~1/3 mile walk later, I was at the Chapel.  Upon entrance, I was given 2 worship aids: 1 for the general words used, and 1 with the specific readings of the day.  Although the chapel was rather small, every seat was filled.  I was in the 3rd row on the right side with pillars to my left and a draped area in front: in the theatre, they might consider this restricted viewing.

In “good student mode” I previewed the worship aids and quickly noticed a few things:

  • There were three options for each segment: (1) very formal speech with ~2 paragraphs of thee-s, thou-s, brethren-s, and beseech-ing for each passage, (2) still formal, but less flourishing speech lasting only 1 paragraph for each passage, and (3) direct 21st C language, only 1-2 lines long for each response.
  • There were cues for singing different passages… but no music was given.
  • The service opened up with their national anthem: God Save the Queen.

Since I didn’t know the words or the tune of their national anthem, I was a bit sad that the words were not provided in either worship aid.  Leaning over to a fellow retreatant next to me, I whispered:

Andrea: I’m going to be following your lead on this God Saving the Queen opener… I don’t actually know the words.

J: Ohhhh… that might not be a good idea. I’m not really confident in them either!

“But you’re British?!” almost slipped from my lips, but having just been singled out for being a stereotypical American, I thought it would be rather uncharitable** of me to direct nationality-assumptions on J. Within a few minutes, I had found the words in the Book of Common Prayer located in our pew.  As the congregation stood to sing, I was quite relieve to find that I did in fact know the tune: America, or My Country ‘Tis of Thee!

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen

The whole idea of a monarchy is so foreign to me, so in some ways, I found these lyrics to be quite jarring.  If the Queen is present, would she sing: “God sa-a-ave me-e-e, Long li-i-ive me-e-e” ??? Since the Queen was no where in sight, I can’t confirm the answer based on lip-reading, though I’ve been told she just refrains from singing altogether.

Even though the language was rather archaic English (minister elected for the 1st version of the service–full of thees and thous) I found the experience to be simultaneously comfortable (the Gospel passage was the same as it was for Catholic mass that week) and novel (there was no 2nd reading, almost everything was sung but no music was provided) which created a unique worship environment.  Contemplating all these thoughts as I left the chapel after service, I almost missed the fact that Her Majesty was walking in front of me!

:O    <– what I would have looked like if my insides were speaking

Her physical attributes are just as they appear on television complete with matching coat and hat. But if I were to describe her aura, I suppose I would liken her to Mary Sue: she displays a warm smile and manages to make deliberate individualized eye contact.  Gives a certain understanding to “the Monarch of the People”. I managed a polite head nod and kept walk so as not to create a traffic jam in front of the chapel.

So… I suppose I can add that to my two truths (and a lie): I’ve been to church with the Queen of England.  😉

* The perceptive reader might challenge that claim by referencing back to my “Christianity was a common language”.  True, but the invitation was given not only to members of our faith based retreat, but also to the University College London students who were at the Lodge for a Physics / Astronomy Society retreat of some sort.

**I’m currently reading CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity and realized this probably scored me some points among my Anglican friends. 🙂  All jokes aside, it is a great read and particularly interesting when considering the content within its historical context: a collection of radio talks given by a non-theologian, during WWII.  Unless you are Joan Campau (one of my close, very eloquent friends), “uncharitable” is probably neither heard nor employed in your day to day life.  CS Lewis gives a thought-provoking explanation in this segment regarding the difference between the virtues of chastity (absolutely, objectively defined) and propriety (defined in relation to era and place): “When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity.  But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners.  When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable.”

*** Correct you are– this doesn’t lead back to *** within the text! I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. 🙂 Remember the draped section in front of the pews on the right hand side that I mentioned? That’s where the Queen sits during service.  She also has a separate side door for entering and exiting the chapel, hence the reason why I didn’t see her until the end.

Featured Image: One of my favorite of the many pieces of art that were hung throughout the Lodge. (#76, I’m not sure who the artist was.)

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Let there be light!

This week’s M&M (Mass & a Museum) Sunday routine was spent in Kensington at the Science Museum and Our Lady of Mount Caramel.  I say routine, but life in London is always full of surprises.  On this particular morning, my walk to the tube station crossed paths with a herd of half-marathon runners.

 

Other than the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum was the only thing on the “Exceptional” / “Worth a Journey” list on my trusty street map that I hadn’t yet visited.  There were enough bio-exhibits to keep me satiated, but in general this wasn’t one of my favorite museums.  (Perhaps my expectations were too high? Or perhaps, with such gems as the Imperial War Museum or the British Museum, my standards have shifted to be quite high?)

 

The one objective bonus of this visit was the other museum-goers: apparently Sunday morning is the prime time for parents with children 4 years old and younger to venture out.  Many a buggy (stroller) to be found.  Though I’ve grown rather accustomed to the British accent, there is something absolutely adorable about it’s utterance in a child’s voice. To get the full effect, you must put on your best English accent whilst reenacting this scene:

 

Boy 1: Mummy! (tugs at the neckline of a darling little sweater) I’m warm, Mummy!

(Mom proceeds to help Boy 1 take off his sweater, take off his shirt, remove his teeny-tiny undershirt, and get dressed again.)

Mom: John (presumably the father) can you check with Henry? He also might be a bit warm.

(Henry, the younger brother who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, trots around the nearby exhibits.  He darts behind a tower of old VWs and, out of direct eye sight from either parent, attempts to get into the passenger’s door of the lowest one. Meanwhile, John lengthen his stride to catch up to the swift toddler, soon discovering Henry’s situation.)

Dad: Henry!  Come out from there! (The space between the Tower of Cars and the wall surely would not have fit a full sized person. John’s voice becomes a bit more stern.) Henry. Come out. Now. No, do not touch the car.  Henry! No, you cannot get in the car… (John continues to rationalize with Henry until the boy surfaces again to the open air…)

 

Perhaps this doesn’t appear to be so humorous to the general populous, but for me, it brought back a flood of memories of growing up with my younger brother, Henry.  At 6’5″, he is now considerably taller than the British Henry that I had the pleasure of encountering this week, but he (17 years old) and my lil sister Geraldine (15 years old) bring just as many smiles to my face.  Special shout out to H & G, who will be heading to the State Championship matches this week for high school Varsity Tennis and Golf, respectively.  I’ll be cheering you on from London!

Just before I headed to Our Lady of Mount Caramel, I received a message from my friend, AB: “They’re celebrating Diwali in Trafalgar Square today!” Goodness, and just when you think you’ve made it through the “Exceptional” / “Worth a Journey” list!… 😉

I made it to Trafalgar Square around 2pm, just in time for the public dance performances. Nothing like a good bit of Indian dance music (including Bollywood favorites like “Jai Ho!”) to put a little swivvle in your hips.  Since the music and dancing could be heard from all parts of the Square, I was able to check out the side booths, quickly joining the queue for a free sari.  That’s right folks: they had piles of folded saris (~6 meters of beautiful cloth– it’s all in the way it it tied on you) that they were dressing people in FOR FREE.  The queue looked rather short, but since it takes a non-negligible amount of time to tie a sari, this translated into ~40 minutes.  I passed the time by reading one of the few physical (not digital) books for class.  This one was about Cosmopolitanism, which (as Wikipedia succinctly defines) is a philosophy “that all human ethnic groups belong to a single community”.

 

Considering the circumstances, I couldn’t have chosen a better reading topic.  Here were a few of my main observations.  (Before I get myself into stereotyping situations, I’ll preface this by saying that my understanding of Indian culture is mostly shaped by my travels there in 2013 with the University of Michigan Society of Women Engineers.)

  • Diwali is the Hindu festival of light  that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Like other religious feasts such as Passover (Judaism), Easter (Christianity), and Ramadaan (Islam) the specific date depends on various lunar calendars instead of our traditional 12 month Gregorian calendar.  This year, Diwali falls on October 23, but London got a jump start with their October 12 festival.  (I liken this to having a Christmas parade in early December.)  When I glanced at the announcements from Our Lady of Mount Caramel, I was admittedly a bit amazed when I saw the main article was about celebrating light.  Upon further reading, I realized that they weren’t actually advertising the celebration on Trafalgar Square– rather, remembering the other-worldly solar activity (now referred to in Catholic tradition as the Miracle of the Sun & apparition of Our Lady ) at Fatima in Portugal October 13, 1917.  Though the overlap of events probably wasn’t intentionally constructed interfaith dialogue, it provided an excellent bridge for understanding.
  • India is a fascinatingly diverse country with a cultural color palette that is very different from what I’ve grown accustomed to in the US.  My interest in Indian culture began when my older sister Gretchen spent a 11 weeks working as an engineering intern in Chenai, and incidentally, wore a sari every day.  When she returned home, we attempted to resurrect our childhood days of playing dress up, but despite Gretchen’s best efforts I never managed to successfully make the sari look presentable.  Even when I traveled to India with SWE, the pants, long top, scarf combo of the salva kameez was all that I could handle. Since this (London) was my first experience getting fully draped in a sari, it seemed only fitting that my “blouse” was my Keep Calm and SWE On cranberry V-neck.
  • If the Brits love of queuing is on one extreme, the almost non-existent queuing strategy in Indian culture is on the other extreme.  I particularly remember a situation when I was trying to order food in the domestic airport terminal in Delhi.  Though American’s don’t queue with the same amount of fervor as Brits, I still relied on my American mindset as I approached the display case… which turned out to be rather ineffective: I stood while a steady flow of business men (from my perspective) “cut in front of me”, ordered their meal, paid for their meal, and began eating.  I’m not trying to make a case for either system, just trying to contrast the two.  While proper use of elbows and hand waving are key components of communication in India, I’m pretty sure that would earn you a stern British glare in London.  Such a juxtaposition: forming a queue while women tied saris and men politely guarded the entrances from passersby that tried jumping the queue. (Madam, madam!  The queue is this way!)

 

(Click on photo for expanded view + full caption.) 

The day was made complete by a delicious lunch of chole (spicy chick peas). Though it may not measure up to the dishes that I enjoyed wilst in India, it was indeed tasty.  My task now is to find the restaurants that have made London legendary for having the best Indian food outside of India.

Featured Image: sunrise from my apartment window

Sex Selection, Organ Allocation, and Other Controversial Topics

As promised, I now return to the continuing story of my curriculum.  I’m going to focus on Foundations of Bioethics and Society (FBS) this time, but you can get an idea of what I’ve been up to in my other course (Foundations of Social Science, Health, and Medicine) by looking at the featured picture above: that was my reading assignment for last week.  Needless to say, I’m getting acquainted with the libraries… 🙂

In Foundations of Bioethics and Society (FBS), we root ourselves in ethics (philosophy) and then apply those ethics to biomedical questions.  Next semester I will be taking an entire course on case studies, but for now we just receive taster themes to stay oriented.

We’ve quickly covered (or for those with a background in philosophy– reviewed) core theories such as Utilitarianism, Consequentialism, Cosmopolitanism, Kantianism, Andreaism… (Ah ah ah!  Testing you… 😉 )  For a new-kid like me, this reading was quite dense.

To help me understand, I picture these theories on a number line where you have the extreme cases (-1, +1) but you also have the indefinite amount of theories that fall somewhere in this spectrum (… -0.0009, -0.0008,… +0.0008, +0.0009…)

Take for example the following set: Moral Realism, Moral Relativism, and Value Pluralism: *

  • Moral Realsim — There are right things, and there are wrong things. This is a fact.  Always.  When we look at history and see that things are wrong that we used to think were right (eg: slavery) we identify this as moral progress; the core morals never changed, we just have a better understanding of them.
  • Moral Relativism  — Defining something as right or wrong depends on a lot of different factors (eg: the time period, location, the group that is being considered, etc.)  Moral progress doesn’t exist.  Just because I define something as right, you could define it as wrong and we could both still be correct.  Situation-based understanding is a must.
  • Value pluralism — Some things will always be right / wrong (like moral realism!), but some things depend on the time period, location, culture, etc. (like moral relativism!)  But how can this be so?!  You identify things as right or wrong by considering different values.  For example, the JUST response is X; the MERCIFUL response is Y.  In some situations justice is more important than mercy… in other situations it is the opposite.

In a classroom with students from around the world, with various educational backgrounds and extra-curricular life experiences, we are able to find people with home-bases set up throughout the entire spectrum.  While thrusting your hands up and shouting Tradition! seems quite enticing at times, it is not altogether beneficial in a classroom.  Instead, we take a lesson from Tevye and practice contemplating what it is like ‘On the other hand’.  This doesn’t mean we always change our minds– in fact, we often do not– but the idea, just as it was in engineering school, is that we will learn to think. 

So what are we thinking about?  The themes presented with lecture (and incorporated into our reading assignments and formal discussion sections) so far have been:

1. Sex selection

Is selecting the sex of your child ever ethically acceptable?  If yes, under what circumstances?

Important notes:

  • When discussing “sex selection” I am referring to pre-implantation embryo selection.  This Wikipedia article gives general info about the most common technique that I’ll discuss– in vitro fertilization / preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or IVF/PGD. Note, to accept embryo selection of any kind as being ethically sound practice, you also have to accept in vitro fertilization as being an ethically sound practice– an admittedly contested practice.
  • “In the UK, sex selection is only allowed to avoid having a child with a serious medical condition; it is illegal to carry out sex selection for social reasons (e.g. for family ‘balancing’)”  (cite: UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority)
  • In the US, sex selection is allowed– not only for selecting against serious medical conditions, but also for family balancing.  However, “the Ethics Committee of ASRM ‘recognizes the serious ethical concerns’ that gender selection raises and ‘counsels against its widespread use'” (cite: American Society for Reproductive Medicine via HRC Fertility Clinic’s GenderBaby).
  • What is meant by so-called “family balancing”???  Good question.  “Family Balancing is the term for gender selection done for the purposes of achieving a more balanced representation of both genders in a family. For example, if a couple has a son and desires a daughter, or there is an otherwise unequal representation of both genders among current siblings, the couple would be appropriate candidates for Family Balancing at GIVF” (cite: Genetics and IVF Institute).

2. Shortage of organs donations

Is there an ethical market for human organs?  What are the ethical implications of an opt-out organ donation program?  Should people who have participated in activities that are detrimental for their health (eg: smokers) be removed from organ transplant wait lists?

Important notes:

  • Wales will be adopting an opt-out program beginning in December 2015.  Read more HERE.
  • Since there are a limited number of organs available, for every person A that receives a transplant X, person H (the next person in line that is a proper match for the available organ X) will go without.  In some cases, this means that person H will die waiting for the next good match.
  • The match system is especially a challenge for pediatric patients.  Take lung allocation as an example: as indicated in the figure below, pediatric candidates will only be at the top of the list for pediatric lung donations.  Makes sense right?  (The closer the match, the greater the probability there is for a successful implantation.)  Except when you consider that the number of pediatric lung donations is dwarfed by the adult lung donations.  Thus, being placed into the queue for pediatric lung donations is a lot like receiving a death sentence.   In 2013 (surrounding the case of Sarah Murnaghan) it became possible for pediatric candidates to formally appeal to be placed in the “adolescent” category, thus increasing their chance of receiving a much needed transplant.  You can read a brief background to this change in allocation HERE.

 

Pediatric Organ List

Figure from Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (part of US Dept of Health & Human Services)

In case it isn’t obvious, I am quite interested in pediatric organ allocation and am considering making this the focus of my final paper for the FBS module.  Are these changes for the better? How receptive should governing bodies (eg: US Dept of Health & Human Services) be to personal pleas to change a patient’s order in the transplant queue?  Considering the influence that we have on governing bodies, what role should we play in participating in these types of personal pleas (eg: social media campaigns)?

Many thanks to all the people involved in organizing and participating in the Notre Dame Medical Ethics Conference (March 2014) where I was first introduced to some of these questions and concerns regarding pediatric organ allocation.

3. Disability and Enhancement

This is actually the name of a module that I will be taking next semester, but we’ve already started conversations on this topic through the Bioethics Film Screening Series that my program jointly hosts with the Department of Film Studies. (Read about this series HERE.)

Last Tuesday we viewed Mandy, a film made in 1952 about the challenges faced by a couple trying to provide the best care for their deaf daughter.  Since my senior design team worked on developing a hearing screening device, I was rather well versed on the topic of hearing loss.  Even still, I learned SO much from the diverse perspectives provided by my Bioethics peers as well as a professor of Film Studies.

Something that felt completely new for me was the question of selecting for deafness.  What?!  you may ask (as seems to be the only response I’ve received when introducing this topic to someone.)  Yes, you read that correctly: specifically selecting an embryo that has hearing loss coded in their genes.  This NY Times article gives a good introduction to this concept of selecting for disability.

From the Oxford English Dictionary

From the Oxford English Dictionary

My questions: In an age that hedges classifying individuals as “disabled”, how do we (and how ought we) understand normal health and the role that medical professionals have in providing healthcare?  If selecting for deafness is ethically sound, can we also support decisions to select for other conditions that are historically viewed as being on the negative end of the “spectrum” (eg: blindness, color-blindness, etc).  What about conditions like Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome)?

This last question stemmed from a discussion I was sharing with a classmate as we discussed the ethics of testing a fetus (via amniocentesis) for Down’s Syndrome.  The rates of “elective pregnancy termination” after prenatal diagnosis with Trisomy 21 range from 50-90% depending on the country, year, etc that the study was conducted. Despite the eugenic-alarm that this type of statistic activates, my colleague defended the stance that access to this prenatal diagnosis should not be limited: information is a prerequisite for making well-informed decisions.  People with Down’s Syndrome are wonderful, loving people with dignity that must be respected AND (even though it is not well publicized in the media) there are families that specifically opt to adopt children with Down’s Syndrome.  (See the website for the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network for more information.)

 

Whew long post! And not many pictures!!

I think that should give everyone enough to chew on for the next few days.  I recognize that these are not easy or comfortable topics, but they are important. If there is something in here that gets you fired up– whether that be in the positive or negative sense– great.  Now do something with that fire!  At the very least, start educating yourself on what is out there by skimming through the links that I’ve included throughout this post.  (I tried my best to find credible sources that were still easy to digest even if Bioethics isn’t your main squeeze.) I know think-time is precious, but just try to ponder some of these ideas as you drive to work, prepare lunch, or brush your teeth before bed.  Though the world of bioethics does not always feature rainbows and kittens, for an engaged citizen to plead apathy toward such topics is at best irresponsible.

ASB

* I had some familiarity with these specific theories before beginning my program but for all intensive purposes, I’m the new kid on the block when it comes to philosophy.  For those of you that are also new to this, I will do my best to distill this down to bite-size chunks. Keep in mind that I am just beginning to study this AND any time you “distill” you eliminate nuances.  If you are interested in learning more, a great online resource is the Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy; it’s kind of like the Wikipedia for all things philosophy.

Hogsmeade (Cambridge) in the Rain

The International Student House (ISH) organizes a number of events designed to help international students get acquainted to life overseas.  This includes a “travel club” with weekend outings– sometimes just a quick ride to a nearby city and other times to a different country in Europe.  I’m a bit skeptical of most tours, but ISH manages to put some pretty neat outings together that cost less if you just sign up and show up than if you were to do the work in organizing your own trip.  The “Candy & Cambridge” trip caught my eye, and I decided that the £25 investment was about as risk-free as I could get for a pre-planned Saturday getaway.

Our group of 14 students from various London universities met at 7:30am which required a 6:30am sunrise walk for me.* We took a large van, which felt quite odd since it had been nearly a month since I had been in a “proper vehicle”.  I’ve summarized the day through pictures below. Be sure to open the pictures to view the captions!

Part 1: Strolling the park

We arrived a bit before our punting trip was scheduled, which gave us time to stroll in the nearby park.

Part 2: Punting!

I originally thought this punting business was reserved for gullible tourists, but it turns out that it’s a rather common past time for students, too.  In fact, most of the colleges that have river frontage own their own rafts for the students to take out by themselves.

Note: I say college because Cambridge is made up of many different colleges which are similar to a fraternity / sorority house… or, let’s be real, one of the 4 houses at Hogwarts.

Part 3: Foot tour of the city

The rain began just in time for our tour.  I was very happy to have my umbrella with me, but my feet (in Birkenstocks) were about numb after a few hours.  Nevertheless, walking around the city was time well spent!

Awesome Prank: Car on the Senate House

The engineer in me was thrilled to see the Cambridge kids know how to put those physics lessons to good use. Read this article to learn more about how 13 students managed to get a vehicle on top of the Senate House (probably most comparable to UM’s Michigan Union)… in 1958.

Most adequate engineering principles at use. (Courtesy of Daily Mail)

Part 4: Honeydukes

The last part of this tour was spent making fudge at a local fudge shop.

The trip home passed rather quickly– as does most any activity when you attempt to participate whilst in a sugar coma.   Twas a wonderful (but quite wet) day, and I definitely hope to return to Cambridge again!

*Tangent Re: Transportation

Though public transportation runs reliably and frequently, in general, I walk unless my commute is going to be more than an hour.  Even though the tube ride would have only been a few minutes, by the time you:

  • walk to the tube station (4 minutes– I’m lucky enough to live next to Waterloo Station which is a pretty big hub, with connections for ),
  • walk through the station to the correct platform (6 minutes),
  • wait for a tube (2 minutes… up to 10 minutes if it is on the weekend when the routes run less frequently OR during a peak time when the tube is more packed than a Bursley Bates during lunch hour requiring you to wait for a few to pass before there is enough room for you to squeeze aboard),
  • ride the tube (7 minutes),
  • walk through the station until you are above ground (6 minutes), and finally
  • walk to your intended destination (5 minutes),

the ~45 minute walk looks quite pleasant.

 

Notable exceptions:

1. Don’t attempt to walk if you wish to look presentable and it is currently or will soon be raining. For all you London weather savvy people, you’ll realize that this instruction is a bit silly– how should this principle guide your life if:

  • a. the sky looks to be threatening rain ~90% of the time
  • b. the weather report is about as reliable as looking at the clouds
  • c. the rain swiftly changes from drizzle to very windy downpour and then back again.  This was the demise of my umbrella:

Feeling quite like a wet cat...

2. Don’t attempt to take the tube when there is a strike.  The next one has been announced for next week (Oct 14-16); read more about it in this article which states the reason for the strike as Tube ticket office closures.

“The axing of ticket offices and station staffing grades would render the Tube a no-go zone for many people with disabilities and for women travelling alone. The cuts ignore the realities of life that we saw when services broke down last week and the recent surveys which point to an increase in violence and sexual assaults.”

– James Rush, The Independent

Hmmm… any Tube traveler can tell you that some stations are quite unfriendly for people with disabilities regardless of whether or not there is someone in the ticket office.  (Recall my move-in adventure with 2 bags and multiple flights of stairs without an escalator or lift.)  Compare this apparent apathy with the care that the museum directors take to make culture accessible to people of all different backgrounds and abilities. I’ve been pondering this rather stark contrast over the last few weeks and will update you if I distill further thoughts…