And a Nelson reigns over them all — to this day I’m not at all sure what borders Trafalgar Square. I’ve seen the buildings enough times and all, but they just seem sorta there, you know — big slabs of marble that I’m sure are important and were pointed out to me accordingly (isn’t one of them a university? do they fit universities into one building any more?). I suppose I should genuflect if I really cared, but I’m American, so no.

My dad, however, was quite happily entranced by the major distinguishing feature of the Square in the eyes of many, namely that big ol’ tall monument with Nelson up top looking out into the middle distance and cursing himself for not having ducked at just the right moment. Or perhaps that was just the wind playing a trick with my eyes. My dad’s a Navy man, y’see — ours is not a Naval family by any means, he was the first person to join the service to anyone’s knowledge and quite possibly he’ll be the last for a while yet. But he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1962 and served a long and distinguished career in the fleet, retiring with top honors just a hair’s breadth away from the admirality — had he really wanted to push for that job, he would have, but at the same time he knew he’d be doing so almost on his own as a mentor in the service had died of a heart attack some time beforehand. So he set aside internal office politics and squabbles in favor of finding other pursuits in life, to my mind an admirable goal in and of itself.

He’s visited London a number of times due to his Navy work, but mostly that was to do with finding a place to stay to talk NATO business and the like. But in 1991 he and my mom took an extended vacation to London, and he got to unwind and see a number of things, and the column was near the top of the list. As my dad liked to say when it came to public monuments that he noticed in the city, “It’s great — you’ve got your local merchants, then higher up in other places some barons and dukes and bishops, bigger monuments still for princes and things, then some kings and queens, and then tallest of all, Lord Nelson! That’s how it should be!” And hey, who could blame him?