The Prime Meridian

by Rachel on September 28, 2009


Greenwich, England

In honor of my son’s eighth birthday we convinced the wee lad that we should spend the day in Greenwich.  This would allow him, we argued, to have one leg on one side of the Prime Meridian, and one on the other – so that half of his body could be eight while the other half was seven.  This is, of course, a complete falsehood and a reprehensible mangling of the whole notion of the Prime Meridian, but it succeeded in keeping us from a day at British Legoland and was therefore worth whatever confusion it engendered.

It turns out that a trip to Greenwich is a terrific 8th birthday outing. The Royal Observatory and the Planetarium are both fabulous. The astronomer who gave our Planetarium talk spends a lot of time alone in dark rooms and unlike our Windsor guide of a prior day, had a well-developed sense of humor, an affable manner, and an impressive ability to convey complex ideas about the planets, stars and the galaxies in a way that was easily digestible by us mere mortals. Once the show was over we stayed behind while my older son (not the Birthday Boy) peppered the poor fellow with PhD-prep questions. I wasn’t actually aware that he was pursuing a PhD in astronomy, but apparently he started over the summer.

Straddling the Prime Meridian

We did, in fact, straddle the Prime Meridian. Not a single one of us was one age on one side and another age on the other, but the photos are funny which was the only thing that mattered.

We were avid users of Rick Steve’s travel guides over the summer of 2009. Rick, as we came to call him, is particularly adept at recommending restaurants that are not break-the-bank expensive, and feel truly local in their manner and their food offerings. Rick sent us to a tavern in Greenwich that sat right on the waterfront and had been a licensed tavern for longer than the US has been in existence. We had a fine lunch of fish and a thousand chips with sides of mushy peas. They made a birthday cake from scratch for the American Birthday Boy (literally), and the affable Brits joined us in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” My children have moved into a new phase in relationship to alcohol. For whatever reason they now demand tastes of everything. Being generally of the view that forbidden things are that much more appealing, we have mostly adopted a policy of giving them a small sip, if they ask. On this particular day the adults had all ordered beers in honor of the birthday (any excuse will do). The Birthday Boy wanted a taste. Cameras were out since we’d shot pictures of the Birthday Boy blowing out his candles. He grabbed my beer stein and began mugging for the camera. About ¼ of my beer remained at the bottom. And then, with the cameras rolling my 8 year-old child chugged the remainder of my beer. Seriously. All I could do was laugh until I cried. So, there you have it – liberal parenting rather than leading to moderation leads to beer chugging at age 8. I’m a complete failure.

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