Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Going Underground

Sometimes it is best to go underground. For instance, when London weather devils decide to punish the 'bangers and mash' eaters with March-ending daylong cloudbursts, you take to the underground even if it is only from Victoria Station to Westminster. Despite yesterday’s very wise purchase of chic designer outerwear at Bromley’s Monday madness sales, we were warmer but not prepared for a typhoon that struck as we exited the train station. We were well aware that during the WW II bombing of London folks retreated to the underground, so we thought there was no safer place to hide from the liquid bomblets that fell from the merciless skies. It was the smart thing to do, especially given the cold that was rapidly conquering every square inch of my skull.

This decision proved especially prophetic given we were headed to Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms near one end of Whitehall (a street and not a building), just off Great George Street (not to be confused with nearby Little George Street). It was, of course, underground. From 1941 – 1944 it was the nerve centre of the British Second World War effort. Despite its importance, it was relatively small. It was secret. Few people were involved in the most delicate bits of war business. But there were enough of the right people to plot the seemingly impossible defence of a small, vulnerable island floating rather brashly within eyeshot of enemy-occupied Europe (although that would require a clear day, which I estimate occurs once every Royal wedding). It was a superb example of what a few defiant souls could do when given tough-talking encouragement in words. Since this blog has previously drawn wisdom from the wily and witty wartime leader of this webfoot nation, I found myself thinking of the underground itself. There time was spent in safety, planning and marking the gains and losses of the war that threatened the United Kingdom and probably much more.

I found a message in this for those of us facing an enemy like Parkinson’s disease, or even the inclement conditions that confront us from time to time. Sometimes it is better to go underground rather than stand shaking our fists at the sky and the damage that rains down on us. Sometimes it is wise to go underground to plan and measure out the war we wage, surrounding ourselves with those who understand (like we did at dinner tonight with the Stamfords). We can’t stay underground anymore than you would pitch a tent on platform 6 at Charing Cross, or anymore than Churchill stayed in his underground bunker (he slept there only three nights). There is living to do and a war to be fought. Just the same, sometimes it is smart to go underground.

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