Yesterday, many online newspapers carried a story about how the Beefeaters too will lose their jobs like so many many people around the globe. This is one example of the news I am talking about.
In a flash, I remembered my trip to London back in 1997 and I felt a bit bad, a bit sad and very very nostalgic.
It was a work trip and a colleague and I had to visit our Principals in Munich and London to undergo a training course. Our boss was such a cool guy for those times and also one of the better bosses in our entire office across all the different teams. He was very encouraging, open to ideas and always listened. I was relatively new at the job but he seemed sure it would be worth sending me with this colleague (who was in the business far longer than me) so that the experience would enrich us and help us at work.
Since it was a first trip ever to Europe for both of us, our cool boss made sure that our tickets were dated in such a way that we got to spend a weekend each in Munich and London. A weekend is not much, but we were grateful that we got to spend some time in both the cities. In those days pictures were taken on a camera with a roll of film, printed and saved in photo albums. I dug mine out and here are some pictures from that trip. The photo album has a small comment space and I have added descriptions to the pictures 🙂
In London I remember taking a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to get an overview of the city. Among the few places that were on my ‘must-see’ list were the Madame Tussaud’s Museum and the Tower of London. There was a long queue at the ticket office of Madame Tussaud’s that had spilled on to the pavement outside. It was raining and cold and being able to get a ticket would take forever. So we decided to give it a skip.
In my head, the Tower of London was a place for executions and that is reflected in my entry against the photo (see below) of the Tower, I have called it ‘infamous’ 🙂 And the other thing I knew back then was that it was the home to the Crown Jewels. Ask any Indian and s/he knows about the Kohinoor diamond and how it is now part of the Crown Jewels. I was curious to see it. The Jewel House is a high security area (obviously!) and one has to move on a travelator and see the jewels on display. Unless you know what you are looking for, it is easy to miss the Kohinoor.
The Beefeaters are the Guardians and official tour guides of the Tower of London. I honestly did not know much about them then. They live on the premises and are chosen from among retired officers of the British Armed Forces who have put in 22 years of service and must have been a Warrant Officer or a Senior non-commissioned officer who holds the ‘Long Service and Good Conduct Medal’. While their official name is ‘Yeomen Warders’, no one really knows for sure how they came to be called ‘Beefeaters’. They have been around for nearly 500 years and never in their history have they ever needed to face redundancy! So the news of them losing their jobs now during this pandemic tugged at my heart. This wretched virus seems to spare no one! In another story I read about Bali, Indonesia, another place that I visited a few years ago. Bali’s economy is primarily dependent on tourism. Now almost everyone is out of job. Most have returned to their villages and taking up fishing and farming.
I do not know how many fewer Beefeaters will continue be at the Tower of London. I remember being so shy to ask for this picture (above) to be taken with a Beefeater! I will hold on to this memory for a long time to come! I continue to be hopeful for all our sakes and theirs and hope they can all be back at the Tower of London in their full strength – 37 of them all (that is the current number!).