Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning Mode: ON!

I'm teaching a nice schedule this semester, and good lit, but I've assigned a lot of reading, and it hit home last night that I have to do it all.

Do people who use basically the same text book reread it every term? For example, does someone teaching intro to chem reread the chapter of the day? It's not like intro chem changes that radically between terms, right?

Of course, I'm not teaching the equivalent of intro to chem, more like intro to the next step of chem.

Last night's reading: "The Dream of the Rood" (in translation, of course). That's an amazing little poem. But then, I like dream visions in general.

I'm thinking of talking about two things that really interest me about it. The first is that you have to know the passion story for the poem to make any sense; that is, you have to already be Christian or have been exposed to the big Christian story.

And yet, the Rood tells the dreamer that he needs to go out and tell the story, and in some ways, the poem is the dreamer acting on that imperitive, and so enacting the gospel/good news part. But in order to make sense of the dreamer's vision, you have to already know, so the point of telling the story isn't to convert, but more to see the story from a new angle.

Except for the Ruthwell Cross, it looks like there's one extant MS from the 10th century, which wasn't "discovered" (in Italy!) until the 1800s. It's interesting, isn't it, how many medieval texts that we consider quite important were "lost" and probably didn't have much cultural impact at the time (as they would have had someone been making lots of copies as with, say, Chaucer's texts). I wish I had something intelligent to say about that.

Speaking of manuscrpts, have I ever mentioned that I love some of the manuscript names? I love Cotton Vespasian number so and so. Doesn't that sound like there's something cool there? (I particularly remember the cool name, but don't remember what text I might have read from that part of the collection.)

Okay, after looking at the British Library info on the Cotton collection, I want to go read Ed 6's diary. Has anyone read it? (I know diddly about Ed 6, really, but at least he's not writing an obscure chancery hand!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Make No Sense

I just got off the phone with my Mom. (She's fine. Thanks for thinking to ask.)

She likes when I send her emails. She prints them out and takes them to share with all the other folks she hangs out with at her housing place (which is a nice, wonderful place). She forwards the emails to numerous family members.

Somehow, the knowledge that my emails are shared widely makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

So what I don't get: I blog about stuff and I know perfect strangers can read it, and I'm fine with that. So why am I vaguely uncomfortable that my Mom's friends are reading my emails (which I've been sending to my brother's family as well as my Mom, so they're rhetorically intended for not just one person)?

More understandable: my Mom says her friends really enjoy my letters (hard to believe, eh?) and likes that I write and wants me to write more to her/them. But she doesn't write back much (twice since I left the US), and when she does it's like two lines. Of course, I recognize that it's easier to write if you're doing something new and seeing stuff than if you're hanging out with your usual crowd doing your usual stuff.

My courses are prepped and classes start tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Some Planning

I'm finishing up my syllabi today because classes start tomorrow and I'm being slow this semester.

I'm also trying to do some travel planning. So I'll ask you: if you were me, fairly near a train line in the UK, and able to travel on weekends (with money saved and budgeted for said travel), and if you'd seen lots of what's to see around London and the southern part of England, where would you go? What would you go see? Why?

Let's hear some great suggestions, please!

Friday, August 26, 2011

What to Say

I've gone a bit quiet, because I'm pretty busy.

Do you ever get in those conversations where someone says something and you just have no response? I was in one the other day. The other person said, "I just love [category of people]" and the category wasn't "librarians" or some other profession. (because who doesn't love librarians?)

So fill in your imaginary category.

I decided just being stupidly silent was better than playing some weird one-ups-manship, but really, what do you say?


When I was younger, I would have said I didn't like kids. Retrospectively, I'd say that it wasn't so much dislike, and discomfort, especially discomfort at being expected to adore and want kids, and boredom at being expected to babysit and entertain little kids.

Weirdly, I've gotten much better with kids. There are a couple of kids here, and I seem to have been adopted by one, and it's fine. I credit my nephew and niece.

But I'm really glad I don't have to entertain them a lot, still.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Settling In

I made it to the job site today, and it's amazing. I should call it Northanger Abbey, because I feel like Catherine Morland visiting a big, strange house where I really don't belong. Except I do, and here I am.

Whenever I've read that sort of book, and someone talks about getting lost in the house, I didn't get it. I've never been in a house where one could get lost before.

In the few hours here, I've already been lost inside the house. Three times. Each time I've found myself by going through a door I wasn't expecting to take me somewhere I'd recognize.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Last Day in London

My time in London is coming to an end. Yesterday, I went to Dover. It was raining pretty much the whole time, which limited my picture taking, and probably my enthusiasm.

The keep part really does feel like a medieval castle in the fairy tale way. It's made up to look like it could be a 12th century movie set or something, yet it also feels emptyish. Unlike Windsor, it doesn't feel lively, and I missed that.

The best part was the Saxon church and the Roman lighthouse thing next to it. This picture's too bright, alas, but you can at least see brickwork and mosaic looking walls a bit. I don't know how much (if any) is original, but I'm pretty certain the wooden part isn't.


Today, I went to the Harry Potter platform thingy at King's Cross. There were signs all pointing to it, and a line, which meant I couldn't just get a clear shot.

Then I went to the Natural History Museum. It was a mistake. I used to love the local Natural History Museum when I was a kid, but the last time and this time, I just found all the taxidermed animals and birds utterly depressing. As I was there, looking at the stuffed birds, I remembered feeling the same way the last time I went to a natural history sort of museum, but I hadn't remembered it until then. I wish I hadn't gone; I kept thinking that I should have gone back to the Banqueting House or Pauls. The building is stunning in that Victorian over-embellished way.

As I left, though, I went to the butterfly house. For one thing, it was beautifully warm, which makes everything better. And for the other, the butterflies were beautiful, fluttering around all over the flowers and foliage. It was relaxing. Even the kids were quieter somehow.

Tomorrow, I head off to my next adventure. It's time. I'm pretty London'd out right now.

I think I've discovered to my disappointment that I'm not really a city person. Nor am I a rural person. I'm a suburban person, neither here nor there. The thing is, I don't like being a suburban person. But there it is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Couple of Things

I have one day left in London before I head off to the next adventure.

Any last minute suggestions? (I went to Dover today; I'll put some pictures up tomorrow, maybe. Too tired right now.)

What have I missed? If the weather's good, I may go walk around Hyde Park and such. If not, I'm thinking about the Natural History Museum. I love dinosaurs and such.


Stephen Fry is ubiquitous on TV here, it seems. I've seen him on quiz shows, an interview show, ads for a show on gadgets, and an episode of Jeeves. (As an aside, the quiz shows here are ... popular, different, smart, all at once.)


A while back, I talked about a colleague who'd had a serious stroke. I'm sad to say that my colleague has died. We're going to miss P so much in so many ways. P was one of the people whose institutional memory was helpful rather than not, who shared wisdom when asked, but didn't when not asked, and who contributed quietly as well as publicly.

I've been thinking a fair bit about P, since I found out that ze was just 65. Ze was just at retirement age, and that was the end. Ze hadn't (so far as I know) planned retiring soon, and now ze never will. I find that sad, but perhaps I shouldn't. Ze put a lot of self into the university and department.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stall N9 (10)

I went to Windsor Castle today. I texted the Queen so she'd know I was coming, but she didn't answer. I went anyway, and it was well worth the visit.

It's an impressive castle. It's almost fairy tale impressive. I went through the state rooms, which are impressive. I can't even imagine living a life where I went into those rooms as a participant (rather than as a tourist). (I'm much too uncomfortable with formality to think of such a life fondly.)

I went up to the Round Tower. As you walk up the entry stairs, you face straight into a 17th century canon that sticks through a hole in the wall. The idea was that if people were storming up, that canon would get off one shot as a deterent. It would deter me. The Round Tower, as you know if you've been there, isn't round any more because it was damaged during a seige and then by subsidence.

Windsor suffered two major seiges, both while occupied by John (once as prince, once as king). I was surprised to learn that it was controlled by parliamentary forces during the civil war.

I had a great day. When I was entering, the woman at the ticket counter figured out a way for me to be able to go on a Round Tower tour and a Kitchen Tour, even though I'd gotten there a bit late in the morning. Before the Tower tour, I went through the state rooms, and between the tours, I went through the moat garden, which is just beautiful. If I were a resident, I'd want to visit there every day (with good weather). It's unexpected, at least I didn't expect it, that there'd be this lovely gem of a garden right in the middle of this warish structure.

My Kitchen tour was scheduled for 4pm. When I went up, it turned out I was the only person who'd bought a ticket for that time, so I got a personal tour. It's fascinating. You get to go under St. George's Hall (which you get to see on the state rooms tour). St. George's Hall is near where the 1992 fire started, and which was seriously damaged in the fire. The guide showed me places where the stone walls were still drying out, even now. And he also told me about the area where we were, which had been mostly storage areas, semi-blocked up, before the fire, but which were restored to show the 14th and later walls and such, and made into this one beautiful room with vaulted ceiling, and corridors and such. In a way, the fire provided the impetus for some serious exploration of that area of the castle.

We also saw the main kitchen(s) used to prepare state meals when the Queen entertains heads of state and such. The main kitchen has this huge vaulted wooden ceiling, which was damaged by the fire. And the damage meant that archaeologists got to do the ring-dating on the wood, and discovered that the ceiling was built during the 14th century, and not later, as had been thought. It's utterly amazing to me that a ceiling built in the 14th century could still hold up after all this time. (There are still original timbers in use, where they could use them, and otherwise they put in new timbers.)

It was a great tour, with a wonderfully informative guide.

Since it was Sunday, the Chapel of St. George was closed except for services. So, as seems to be my habit, I stayed for evensong.

I went in, and we were seated in the Quire (choir) area, in the stalls of the Garter knights. How cool is that?

Before the service, I read some of the little metal plates at the back of my stall. I wrote down the few names I could make out.

Arthur Gray, Baron de Wilton, 1572

Thomas Howard, 1625

Robert, Conte de Lecester, 1559

If you look on this list of stall plates, you can tell that I was in Stall N9 (10).

Yes, so I was sitting in a stall associated with THAT Robert, Earl of Leicester. (I don't think the stall plates indicate that the stall was actually that knight's seat.)

I'm sort of clueless about garter symbolism. Most of the stalls had a big crest and such associated, with a helm thing (or crown) and such. But three (I think) that I counted on the far side had carvings of heads only. I don't know quite what that means. And several spots seemed "empty."

On my side, just down the way a bit, I recognized what I thought was the rising sun on a banner, which would be the banner of the Emperor of Japan (if I'm right about the banner and such).

And that was my day at Windsor. I didn't get to visit the various grave markers of Henry 8 or the others buried at the Garter Chapel, nor did I go to the mauseleum to visit Victoria and Albert.

Still, a pretty amazing day.


I've come to the apartment and am watching the television broadcast of the fall of Tripoli. Amazing. (Of course, we won't actually know how things work out yet. Still, amazing.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Self-Portrait (After Miro')

Guess where I went today! It was really fun and interesting.

After the special exhibition (hint in title), I had a snack. It was crowded, so I asked if I could share a table, and it was fine, so I did. I shared with a woman named Alison, who was delightful. We chatted a bit, and since one of her children just got into university (see, I left out the "the"!), she explained to me how the entry system works. It was great, and a fun chat.

There was an absolutely fantastic exhibit of works by Taryn Simon. Each piece included a series of portrait photos of single family members, grouped, with some blank spaces. And then to the right of that part was a list of the people, and then a couple paragraphs in small print explaining some aspect of the family grouping. To the right of that was a small collection of photos of related people or objects.

The idea is that each family group included ancestors and descendents of a person who's talked about in the central paragraphs (along with the rest of the family). So, for example, there's one series that records a family that has lost many members to violence in Serbia Herzogovena. A couple of the portrait photos in this case were a partial skeleton, and then two people were represented by a single tooth.

The photo stuff to the right of that included photos of a death squad killing some Muslim men.

Each family group took up a wall, basically, and it was fascinating putting them together by reading and looking at the pictures.

(If anyone wants to take a shot at my self portrait... go for it!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm Clean!

Well, clean enough. I did spend the day in Bath, and I did try drinking some water, but I did not take a bath in Bath. The water tasted not great. I've tasted worse, but not happily.

I started out by going to the Jane Austen Centre. I want you to know that I hate Jane Austen, just to make that clear. I hate her for two reasons.

1. When I try to teach Austen, I sort of drool stupidly and just repeat, over and over, "isn't that amazing?" and "she's so good" and "isn't that funny?" As you might imagine, that doesn't go over terribly well with students.

2. She didn't write nearly enough. If she'd written just a couple more novels... wouldn't that be wonderful? (Yes, I've read the juvenalia, but seriously, if she'd written as many novels as Shakespeare did plays, what an orgasm of novel reading!)

The center was cheesy (they call her "Jane." Can you imagine a Marlowe center calling him "Chris"?) but also informative. I learned a lot about Austen's biography (I guess I never bothered with that part of the introduction of her novels). The center is just down the street from where she lived for a couple of months, so naturally, I walked up and took a picture of the door. I wasn't alone in that, either. There's some poor doctor whose door stars in a LOT of tourist pictures.

Then I walked to the Assembly Rooms, which feature in Northanger Abbey. (Have I mentioned how hilarious that novel is? Look, it's just...) Oddly enough, the ballroom is hosting an exhibit of award winning movie costumes. It made it sort of hard to get a real sense of the ballroom, but I got to see some fun costumes.

Here's a shot sort of around the costumes. The walls are a lovely light blue, and it's a beautiful space. But it wasn't as big as I would have expected from reading about the Assembly Rooms and all.

Here's the tea room, where all the people who've gone to the ball go to get snacks as 9pm. Supposedly, they served the snacks at that end, under the colonade area.

Look! It's the Roman Baths at Bath! Or, as they would have called the town, Aquae Sulis. (This blog is nothing if not educational!) This is the area called the Great Bath, and back when the Romans were in charge, they had a huge roof over the area, so (according to the guide thingy) the water wouldn't have been as green.

The baths weren't just a bath to get clean, but part of a whole temple complex. This gorgony looking figure was on part of the temple (I think), but aren't gorgons female? So maybe this is a Macbeth witch gorgon? I think I may be on to something here!

And this is the spring fed bath, which the Romans didn't bathe directly in, but the 17th and 18th c folks did. Supposedly, the water line
about midway up the columns was the 18th century level.

Here's a bath that's under the current road. The big modern columns hold up the road. Supposedly, they haven't done archaeology on the whole site, so there may be lots left to learn!

This was an absolutely fascinating place to visit, just amazing. But it felt like I'd visited three very different Baths!

And then when I got "home," I got off the train in Paddington Station to see this:

This is the Great Western Railway Paddington Band, which plays at Paddington Station every Friday from 7:30 to 9pm. How cool is that?

They handed out a flyer thing to explain about themselves, and in case you're interested, it says that "The Band is always looking for New Players. Even French Horn." And gives a number.

It also says that "There are no Rehersals as all Performances are Public Concerts." How's that for playing without a net?

Still, it was pretty cool to get off the plane and hear a band, and then walk forward and see one! (I thought for a bit that it was a flash mob thingy, but it's more a Victorian social leftover.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another Day, Another Amazing Day

First, let me say, I'm so tired of this cold. Bleargh. I don't get colds often, but I'm whiny as all get out when I do. WHINE!

When I went to see the plays at the Globe, I didn't go early enough to go through th exhibit and do the tour and all, so today my plan was to do that and then go to the Tate (very close). It seemed very do-able.

I took the tube (working on it!) to Southwark, and just as I was beginning to feel good and confident about finding my way around, I got good and lost. As those who've biked or driven with me will know, my sense of direction is so bad that if I say I think we should turn left, you can pretty much be sure we should be turning right.

I eventually found my way, and started reading the exhibition stuff while I waited for my tour. Then I went on the tour. It was GREAT!

Here you can see the heavens with the trap door open. Coolness!

We went up into the second gallery, so I got a different view of the theater and stage. This time the stage is set up for Much Ado, which was the matinee.

And look what's there above. I couldn't see this from where I was standing, but from the gallery, you can see the space above. The tour guide talked about making music and sound effects and such up there.

And here's a picture of the seating in the gallery.

So that was pretty good, and I was well-satisfied. I checked, but the performance was sold out, alas. Then I went to the exhibit, which is really good. It's informative and interesting, and has facsimiles of Henslowe's diary and such. It also talked about the Rose, and mentioned a tour in a way that made it sound possible. In the time I'd been in the exhibit, it had started raining pretty well.

Now, I'd read my guidebook, and it said there were occasionally tours, but they had to be done by special arrangement, and made it sound really difficult. But I decided to ask anyway. The tour guide who'd led my tour of the Globe was there, and said that she was scheduled to give the tour, but no one had asked. She seemed a little unwilling, and I would have been willing to let it go, but then she said she'd be glad to take me.

And so she did.

In case you weren't aware, in the 80s, a building that had been built on the site in the 50s was torn down, and because the law had been changed to give archaeologists a shot at any site likely to be interesting, and this one was very likely. So they did an archaeological dig and found the foundation structures for two stages and an outer and inner wall, which is pretty darned amazing. It taught theater history folks a lot about sizes and so on, things we couldn't necessarily tell from the few pictures and stuff we have.

Then, in an amazing compromise, the new building was built over the site, but with an area below that preserves the site. It's now got water on it, to keep it from drying out and degrading, so in order to see it, you have to turn on special lights. The light strings show where the old and newer stages were, and where the outer walls were.

Here, you're looking at the stage on your right. The smaller stage (the line on the right) is the later stage, which allowed more groundlings in the audience. The line to the left is the older stage, which was evidently taken out and replaced by the newer one.

And the outer line is the outer line of the audience area and outside that, the outer edge of the building.

Here's a slightly different view.

It was extraordinary to get to go there and see what's there. There's hope that someday, the Globe Trust will be able to develop the area and complete the archaeology, and make it into a better educational site. Meanwhile, I felt so lucky to be able to go in and see it and learn about it.

I never did make it to the Tate today.


In other news today, I really, really don't understand how university applications and admissions work here, not at all. Today was the day that students found out their A level grades, and so found out if they got in where they thought they might if their grades were good enough, or not, or if they basically have to scramble to try to get a spot in a program. It seems extra complicated because students enter having declared a course of study (a major, more or less), and it's not easy to change. There is much discussion on the news about difficulties, since a lot of students who might have taken a gap year chose to apply this year because next year tuition will be going up hugely. Or something like that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"To the Globe I Rowed"

Not me, but I will happily send someone a very fine and exciting postcard from London if you are the first to identify the source of the quotation. And, I'll send more postcards if subsequent people can tell me cool stuff about the source.

So, I didn't row, but I tool the tube to Waterloo a good bit early to take a walk on the Queen's Walk along the river. Even on a weekday, there's lots happening, especially at low tide. Here's a man making a sculpture on the tidal beach. Amazing and ephemeral.

The theater is such a cool space. The boxes just at either side of the stage are specially painted. I didn't get to go up there, because I am a groundling. Best five pounds anyone's spent lately, I bet.

Here's what the stage looks from my camera held above my head. I'm pretty close, and the sun was shiny which felt good, but made things a little glary for the camera.

And here are the heavens. Don't they look heavenly? Actually, they sort of remind me of the color of the ceiling of the chapel royal at Hampton Court Palace, except the chapel was a slightly different blue. Still, they both have lots of starry decorative stuff.

And here's a straight on of the stage, but you can't quite see the stage because I'm not quite tall enough holding the camera. Still, it gives you a sense, I hope.

I saw All's Well today. The play's not one of my favorites, but then, I don't think anyone much lists it in their top three, even. And it's certainly not as wonderful as Faustus, but then, Faustus is a pretty darned amazing play. (I've never understood why anyone would think that the person who wrote Faustus also wrote Shakespeare's works. They just don't feel at all alike to me, structurally, especially. And surely Marlowe's works are enough of an accomplishment for any writer?)

The standout player of the play for me, though, was Janie Dee as the Countess. She's got real stage presence.

The program did a nice job talking about how the play forces us to question how we like fairy tale endings, which is as good a sense of things as any.

I walked towards the other tube station on the way out, and saw the actual, real Globe site. There's the place. Right there.

The placard explains the site a bit, and says that there are different colored bricks laid where the archaeological dig found building foundations.

In this picture, I'm trying to show the reddish/brown bricks that denote where the building foundations were.

Pretty darned cool!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Palatially Weird

I went to Kensington Palace today, but not very directly. I started with a look at the book and tube maps and decided to get on the Bakerloo line south to Oxford Circus and transfer there to the Circle line and get off at Notting Hill Gate.

That much went well. I got a little lost around Notting Hill, but that's partly because I was having such fun in the neighborhood. It really felt like a neighborhood much more than where I live does. There were interesting looking stores, ones that look useful for living in an area, rather than just convenience type stores to pick up a quick something on the way from the station, which is what's mostly around Paddington.

I should have had a clue, because just a stop or two before Notting Hill Gate is a stop called Lancaster Gate. But, as usual, I'm clueless.

I finally made it to Kensington Gardens, and stopped for some food. And then I needed a restroom, because life is like that, so I followed a sign that said a restroom was 750 meters on. And when I found the restroom, I realized that I recognized the area, because it is right near Lancaster Gate, which is one of the gates close to where I am living. Yes, like two blocks away close. Duh.

Much relieved, I walked back to the Palace and used my year membership thingy to go on in.

Now, I've been to a number of palaces before, not only in the UK, but in Japan, so I have some ideas about what touring palaces is like. At a usual palace tour, you learn something about the building of the palace, and what important people have lived there, and what important events have happened there. Then you admire the architecture and the art.

This is unlike my ideas. It's not bad, just different.

You see, this is a special display becuase they are doing major work on the palace, so they've done this special display, and you can tell they've put a huge amount of work into it.

They have this handout at the start, and the idea is that as you go through the room displays, you'll read what's there and find seven princesses. And in you go, to a somewhat darkened room labeled something about being the room of tears.

So I immediately think, was Anne Boleyn a princess? No. How about Elizabeth, the Winter Queen! But no, it's someone named Mary. Yeah, no, different Mary, this one is Mary II, and I realize that makes sense because James II had started the building of this palace, so of course they'll focus on recent history. (Well, recent for some of us, anyway.)

But why was Mary II crying into all these lachrymatory? She was queen for gosh sake, and H8 was already dead, so what's with the tears?

Then I read up on the information they had on Mary II and learned about her not having kids and such. And things made sense.

The other princesses were Charlotte, Caroline, Victoria, Margaret, Diana, and Anne. The picture at left is from the display about Margaret and Diana, which the exhibit calls "The Dancing Princesses." As you can tell, it was pretty dark (and was throughout), so hard to take pictures (no flash allowed).

And since I'm pretty weak on British history after, say, 1660, I learned a lot about people who don't necessarily catch my attention (I would have noticed Victoria, though). And that's neat.

What I missed, though, was the usual history of the building and so on. Here's the everpresent Charles I (I think) in one room, barely visible, and not well-labeled. I'm sure I missed noticing lots because of the lighting. And that's especially a shame because this palace felt in some ways the most relaxed. I was standing pretty darned close to this painting to take that picture.

And then I walked home through the park, which I enjoyed a lot. I've noticed there's something strange for me about this park: I usually expect to see lots of pine and other gymnosperms. But I don't seem to see them here.

Still, it's a beautiful park, and as soon as I shake the cold, I'm going to try a short run.

Observations from a Traveler

Guide Book Index!

My guide books suck. Why do they suck, you ask? They're organized geographically, so you're supposed to say, "what do I want to see in the west of London" or "what do I want to see in Wales?"

That's fine as far as it goes, but it assumes the traveler has a sense of the geography enough to know what counts as west of London or Wales or whatever. And for the traveler who doesn't have this sense (and I can't be the only geographically challenged person around), it needs a good index, an index that lists pretty much everything one might wish to find. And that's where this guidebook is seriously lacking. It has an index, but it doesn't show lots of stuff.

And keys to maps should be on the same page as the map, so you don't have to flip pages.


I have two really helpful travel apps. One is CityMaps2Go (I think it was $1.99). It lets you download maps of cities, etc (I have a county map for home downloaded, since my city is too small, and it works fine) ahead of time, so that you can pull them up on the go, without wifi access.

The resizing feature isn't perfect, because just when I can read street names without my reading glasses, it resizes them smaller. But mostly, it's really helpful. Okay, and for London it needs little underground signs!

The other really helpful app so far is a tube map. I got a free one called TubeMap) and it's really helpful. What's especially cool is that when it's got wifi it checks different update things to give information about what lines are doing what, and that's been really helpful with weekend closures!


I am clueless about the specifics of the off-prime and so on train travel. I have a feeling I'm looking for tickets and the website thinks I really want only the cheapest (which would be fine, but not necessary), and says there are none when/where I want to go.


The "I'm an idiot" section: I got something called "fabric conditioner" rather than detergent when I went to get stuff to wash clothes with. Fortunately, I'm more rinsing out the clothes than trying to get out deep stains or mud or whatever. Still, I didn't take time to get out my reading glasses to read the fine print. :(

(I've been handrinsing my clothes since the original three hours to do laundry if the machine is ever free thing. I wash/rinse some clothes just about every day, and hang them and in a day or two they're dry. And well-conditioned, apparently.)


I've been here a while now, taken trains to different places and stuff (and looked out the window), walked around the city and others, and in all this time, I think I've seen one gas station (on the way to Stonehenge).

Where to English people go to gas up?

When I was a kid, I read a second book by the guy who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull about this pilot who was flying around in company with this other pilot, doing air shows, whatever, and he finally realized that the other pilot didn't need to buy fuel for his plane. (And that was supposed to take you to the revelation that the other pilot was the second coming or something? I was a kid, I don't remember.) Anyway, maybe English people are like that second pilot?


I would totally read a blog by a Yeoman Warder or a London Cathedral/Museum worker, like WaiterRant except for folks who deal with tourists in London.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I went to the Tower again today. I was only going to spend half a day, but then I spent the whole day, because there's so much to see.

There's this. It's part of the Overbury display, which isn't nearly as in depth it should be (see, I did that on purpose!) How many other people have spent more than 15 minutes trying to figure out one Frances Howard from another? How about taken the time to figure out that Carr wasn't the Somerset who built/owned Somerset House? Only me?

I didn't take a picture of where Overbury is buried because it's in the Chapel Royal, and the guide said not to take pictures. (And do YOU want to get in trouble with the people who guard the Tower? I don't.)

I also took several pictures of some of the carved graffiti. I imagine some people had a lot of time on their hands, eh? But, they also must have had some fairly sharp objects in order to cut into the stone.

I took pictures of armor. When I look at this, I have to ask, how did the wearer see out? (I think actually it's tilt armor, so he'd be on a trained horse in the list, and pretty much run along with the lance more or less aimed.)


I also walked up the stairs to the top of the Monument, 300+ steps in a tight spiral. I have a feeling that restoration folks were quite fit!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

About a Perfect Day

I went to a performance of Faustus at the Globe today. You'll be glad to know that I didn't feel nearly as lost as at the National Theater. The Globe, oddly enough, feels easier for a beginner.

I was a groundling, and went in a bit before the show began.

Words fail. But since words are what I have (I didn't take my camera, but will next time--yes, there's a next time!), here goes.

The building is glorious. It's so fun to walk in and be looking, just about eye level, at the thrust stage, to see the galleries rising around, and to see the boxes painted, the back of the stage painted with trompe-l'oeil decorations. The fake marble columns were my favorite.

I've read, as many of you have, lots and lots about theatrical practices and effects in an amphitheater type space. And there they were, playing out before me. I enjoyed looking around (though, I didn't try to pick any sweet young things up for the evening's entertainment, but only because I have you, dear readers!), watching people getting ready, and later watching people react to different stuff on stage.

I ended up two people back from the catwalk type area in front of the main thrust stage, which was a great place to be. There was lots of action played out there, and you could really see the actors. But I have a feeling other places would have felt as good, because the actors definitely played to the audience around the stage.

There were lots of pissing jokes, what can I say. In fact, the play was funny, almost too funny, through most of it. But it worked. They made the pranks seem appropriately wasteful and stupid. (Because, seriously, if you can do all this amazing magic, how about doing something useful, like curing plague or making good, potable water? Just a thought.)

It's apparent though, that the real meat of the play, the parts that matter most are at the beginning, where Faustus makes his deal, where Mephistophilis tells him honestly about hell (that whole medieval not being allowed to lie or trick you about your soul thing), and at the end, where he despairs. Between one and the other, it's sort of a song and dance to entertain and make sure you realize that Faustus isn't doing anything worthwhile with his abilities.

In some ways, a lot of plays are like that, but Faustus today struck me especially. Is that a flaw or no? Well, in this production, things were well done, so it was certainly entertaining enough.

It also made the Pope especially hateful by showing Bruno's aftereffects of torture.

But by the end of the play, the demons were too familiar, and thus not really horrifying, and the puppet thing was just weird. (The puppet dance at the very end was especially weird, but fun.)

You can tell a good play when the audience is slow to leave the theater, and this audience was slow, and hung about the bookstore in a huge crowd (yes, I was part of the crowd).


The play ended in early afternoon (gosh, I love seeing a play outdoors), and the way back to the subway or tube station passed Southwark Cathedral, and it was open, so in I went. I visited the grave markers of Lancelot Andrewes (you have to love his name! More kids named Lancelot!) and John Gower. And I had a lovely and informative conversation with one of the church docents (I'm not sure what to call her), who told me about a monument to a Mohican (sp?) who'd come to England in the early 18th century to ask the King to keep the colonists from messing with the tribal lands anymore, but who died without getting an audience. The marker was unveiled by E2 and a tribal leader from the Mohicans in 1996, a sort of long delayed (over delayed, no doubt) meeting. It's cool to hear stories like that.

One thing I really love about the docents (or whatever) at the various churches I've seen: they all seem to love their parish as a living community, and are wonderfully informative in such a friendly way.


One last thing. I feel pretentious calling the subway the "tube" and stupid calling it the "subway" because everyone else calls it the "tube." I think there's no way for me to feel unfake or unstupid in some linguistics matters.

I Came, I Saw, I Made it Back

I don't know why I haven't been in more of a hurry to go to Stratford-upon-Avon, but I haven't. I really like Shakespeare's works, after all. They blow me away. But I guess I'm suspicious about the way it's a fandom or something? Or maybe I feel inadequate because I'm lousy at quoting passages (and I know people who don't do lit studies at all and can quote long passages)?

But anyway, yesterday was the day.

Usually, to get to S-u-A from London, you go to the Marlybone station and get on a train to Stratford. At least, I think that's what happens. My guidebook (which I'm liking less and less, alas) tells me that Chiltern offers direct service from London, Marlybone.

However, right now, there's major train infrastructure work going on, and Marlybone station is closed. Not to worrry, though, because there's a sign there, so that I knew where to go when I'd taken the subway to Marlybone: back to Paddington.

I tried to buy a ticket at the machine, but I got confused. (I feel incredibly inadequate about buying tickets at machines, but I did buy my Oxford ticket and have reloaded my Oyster card, so I'm learning.) I went to a ticket counter, and she first said it was 25 L (pretend that's a pound sign), but then said no, I had to go through Birmingham, and it's 40 L.

I got on the next train to Birmingham. Take a moment to look at a map.

The train to Birmingham wasn't, let's say, an express. No. It stopped at every little station along the way, pretty much, even the ones that were too small to have anything more than a platform, a ticket machine, and warning signs about stealing. At least I got to see some scenery, though, right!

At Birmingham, I waiting for the next train, and asked the ticket guy (who wasn't very busy) about return trains, and learned that the last return train leaves at 8:06, and that there are trains for London, Paddington every half hout through the day at 6 and 36. Okay, so that's easy.

I got on the train to S-u-A, and off we went. You can tell some of these are extra small stops because some of them are "request" stops. Someone has to ask the driver ahead to stop there. And we stopped at all of them.

It took almost four hours to get there instead of the usual 2.

But then I was there. Yes, there I was. So I started walking for the church to see the burial site. Along the way, I saw the Hall Croft, one of the houses that the Shakespeare Trust has, so I went through that (very interesting) and got a Trust thing for the houses in town, and a handy map of the town.

I went on the church, and was lucky enough to get there between weddings (because, duh, summer Saturday!), and went and saw the monument and grave marker. I guess I hadn't quite understood. Usually you see pictures of the monument, and some comment about the nearby grave. But the grave marker is one of four family grave markers on the floor, in the usual slap of stone with cut inscription way, and they're right up near the altar.

I like the way the church tries to balance between Shakespeare stuff and itself as a living part of a living community now. So they have these two part displays, one about Shakespeare (his baptism, marriage, burial) and the other about how important this is in the community life of the present church.

I didn't take pictures inside the church. We've all seen pictures, right? Maybe I should have taken one of the grave marker.

I walked on, and saw that the King Edward VI school was open for the day, and giving tours. That's the school that Shakespeare may have gone to, given that it was the only grammar school operating in the area at the time, and his father was one of the town guild guys who were associated with the school. So I donated 2 L to go on the tour, given by a student.

And it was fun, and cool. He showed us the older buildings, but the school has newer buildings, too.

And then I walked on and went to Nash House and New Place. They're doing an archaeological dig at New Place right now!

Shakespeare had the house built after he'd inherited the Birth House from his father and had made a boatload of money from the plays and being a sharer in the company. You really get a sense of how much money he'd made from the comparative size of New Place and the old house, which was still a pretty decent size.

Anyway, New Place had had a medieval structure, and then the Shakespeare structure, and then someone had decided to tear that down and put up a Georgian (I think), and then that got torn down, and now, archaeology! In this picture, the gray area in the middle is supposedly the medieval level floor. Below that, they've found regular soil and no more good stuff.

From the Nash House, I went on to the Birthplace Trust and the Birthplace house.

I was disappointed in the Trust exhibit, I have to say. It was way too "crowd control" and way less "look at this and learn something." Maybe that works well for most people. Anyway, you go into this area, and there's a little film thingy, and it tells you about Shakespeare a bit. And then when it's done, and door thing opens, and you're allowed to go into the next area, which also has a film thingy. Some of them have displays. But the areas are dark, and the displays are covered so you only really see them while the light is on them. So you get maybe a minute to look at the First Folio copy they have. Maybe that's enough for some people?

But the film thingy means that everyone gets the same bit of information, and that you can't read a bit more for more information. And I didn't find the information they gave sufficient to give context for what I imagine regular folks would really appreciate (and I've taught for a long time, and have some clue about regular folks, I think).

The house, on the other hand, is cool. And all along, in all the houses, the guides are great at answering questions and providing information. I love the museum guides I've run into. One good question gets them started on interesting stuff, but not too much.

And that was my day in S-u-A. It was almost five when I finished at the house, so I took a taxi (my first, and not a regular looking London cab, alas) to the train station (it would have been a do-able walk, but I wanted time to buy some food).

I got on the train at 5:20. We got to Birmingham, and the next train was at 7:15. Not 6:36 or 7:06. I don't know why. And I got on the 7:15, and then made it back to London at 9:50. So it was a long day, but a very good one, too.

I enjoyed Stratford more than I expected too. It's cheesy, sort of like Ashland, Oregon on steroids, but also less high-falutin' and more a community feel with the church and the school as part of things.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Today, I went to walk through Lincoln Inn and the fields and Gray's Inn, then went to the Sir John Soanes Museum, and finally, back to the British Museum to specially visit the Treasures of Heaven exhibit.

My thanks to those who suggested the Soanes Museum, I never would have found it without the suggestions, but it was well worth the time. Soanes was an architect, and the Museum is notable for a couple things. First, he has bunches of cool Hogarth paintings, including the series the Rake's Progress, which I got to see. The paintings are in a paintings room where there are moveable panels with paintings hung on the backs, and on the front of the next area, and such, and the Rake's Progress are behind one of the panels, but the guard was showing folks, so I got to see.

Second, Soane was an architect, and collected all sorts of architectural models, bits of building decorations, plaster casts, and even the Sarcophagus of Seti I. And through much of the house (which is really three Georgian houses combined now, with additions on the back parts), these things are all over, just all over. (If this museum ever gets together with the Victoria and Albert, there will be a singularity of clutter.)

Third, since Soane was an architect, and a successful one, he built additions onto his house, and then bought up the yard of the next house over to build in, and so on. And he does amazing things with natural light in the spaces he built. There are rooms with a floor above them, but because he's arranged the lighting so well, the natural light is perfectly fine during the day. (Some rooms didn't seem to have artificial lighting lit that I could tell.) It really shows what you can do with well-placed windows (he had some early plate glass ones) and skylight dome thingies.

The Inns of Court, well, I had to visit a couple of these, right? I'm not sure I need to visit the other two, but we'll see. Maybe I'll decide to. I was surprised that I could walk around inside the walls (though not in the buildings). But coolness. Think of all those students from the Inns who went to plays! And the plays written and performed for the Inns' celebrations!

But the relics. The relics. Mostly, there were a lot of reliquaries, many empty, and lots of incredible stuff associated with relics and relic practices.

Best part: I saw a vernicle! (That's a pilgrim's badge representing Veronica holding the cloth with the image of Jesus that appeared after she wiped his face with the cloth. The cloth itself is at Rome, so it was a badge a pilgrim could get when they visited Rome. Sort of like those National Park things people stick on their walking sticks.)

No doubt, you're immediately remembering my stunningly relistic portrait of Chaucer's Pardoner, with the Vernycle on his hat! I thought you would! And now I've seen a real one. (And also badges for Santiago, Jerusalem, and Canterbury!)

Gosh, maybe I should offer to let the British Museum display my picture, so that people will make the connection to Chaucer's pilgrims?

Towards the end of the exhibit, there were several reliquaries with relics of the True Cross (they always capitalize it) and thorns from the crown. The pieces of the cross are always tiny, which surprised me, somehow.

One of the interesting points the exhibit made was that Jesus being resurected meant that there weren't any body parts you could use as relics, except his umbilicus (there was an empty reliquary for that! It showed Jesus as a baby on Mary's lap, and where his belly button would have been was a little red glass? container for the relic! Wonderful) and of course, the multiple foreskins (though the exhibit didn't mention them). There was also a reliquary for manger bits, as if someone had thought to put the manger in their attic, just in case this little baby became important!

And then there were reliquaries with multiple relics, mostly wrapped in a bit of cloth with a vellum or parchment label. You couldn't actually see the relics (except for the cross and thorn pieces, and one supposed skull bit from Thomas Kemp, which were displayed in crystal containers), but only the bit of cloth wrapping and the label (which I couldn't read, but I'm worse than bad at medieval scripts).

And that got me to thinking about what it would take to convince someone that something was really a relic. Chaucer's characters' reactions to the Pardoner give a sense that regular folks could have doubts about the veracity of someone purporting to have a relic.

And then, once you get more than a couple relics in a single reliquary, the importance of naming or seeing any individual one (unless it's a bit of the cross or a thorn) seems to get very low. Now maybe that's just the display, but I would think if I had a piece of St. So and Such, I'd put it on the display card, even in a list, so that people would know. But it's as if at a certain point, St. So and Such just really isn't that important, even though s/he may have a Cathedral or attested miracles "back home."

Finally, there was a small display of secular relic stuff, led, as you'd expect for London, by a lock of Charles I's hair. And other memorial rings and stuff remembering him. (Charles I is way bigger in London than he was in my imagination, I think because of the Restoration and Great Fire and stuff. But then, once the theaters close, my imagination tended to stop.)

Totally Off Topic Advice Asked

I need some help.

I need an idea for a birthday gift. My nephew will be turning 15 soon. Any ideas from London or stuff?

In general, he likes golf, but he has everything golfy he needs or wants, so far as I can tell. My Mom thinks I should go to some golf course and get something, but 1) my sense is that golf courses are mostly not going to be near subway or train stops, and 2) golf interests me not at all.

He also likes to downhill ski. But no one else in his family does it (for a variety of reasons), so he mostly goes with a school club or when his Dad has a couple hours on a weekend. (They live less than an hour from a small ski place.) We went skiing together one time last winter, and I had fun, and think he did, too. (And he was wonderfully helpful getting me started skiing and stuff, since I hadn't been in ages.)

My idea is to give him a day of skiing at one of the areas not too far from his house.

But I'd love London ideas. Or other ideas.


ps. I love pseudoephedrine. I hope whoever figured it out for cold relief is making boatloads of money because it's the bestest thing ever!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


A quick view of ONE of the several ceramics rooms at the Victoria and Albert. There are a LOT of ceramics in here!

I don't pretend to understand US politics. But I'm totally out of my league trying to follow the political reactions to the London riots. There are so many points of view, and I am only rarely seeing people of color talking from their point of view on TV. (I have seen a couple, just not many.) But I have this sense that recent events look very different from different points of view.

I had a lovely conversation yesterday with a museum caretaker at the Victoria and Albert, mostly about other things to see and such, but also touching on the riots.* I tend to shake my head and comment about how hard it is for someone who's not a Londoner to really understand what's up. And then if someone wants to tell me about their experience, they know I'm trying to understand. The caretaker mostly talked about where he lived, and seeing smoke rising not far from his home.

I've mostly stayed home today (after going out and getting some pseudoephedrine) because I've got such a nastily stuffed nose and a cough, but I may go out for a walk in Hyde Park in a little bit. (I feel like I need a little exercise, but not too much, and not indoors.) But I've watched the parliamentary discussion, and it's pretty interesting and confusing. There seems to be a lot of standard things one says, or asks (such as, "Does the Prime Minister not agree that...?"). And as the discussion has gone on, the room has gradually emptied quite a bit, so that it looks like once people get heard on TV, they feel free to leave or something.

*If things are quiet, sometimes, I say to the caretaker, "Does it ever get old?" with a vague wave around, and sometimes they just smile and shake their heads, but often enough, they talk about what they like best in the museum, and that's helpful to me, especially in a really big museum.

Several people have mentioned the Sir John Soane museum as being really worth seeing, so I'll probably head there. I also want to go to Stratford and Dover, but I really, really don't feel like sitting on a train right now.

(Not to worry: my glands aren't the least swollen, and I only feel totally stuffed up and coughy, but not achy or with an upset stomach. But a stuffed nose is a pain in the nose!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I seem to have caught a cold. My head is leaking. :(

I hope I haven't been passing it along to people ahead of knowing about it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Three Things

I've been getting worried messages on fb and such, wondering if I'm in the riot area. And I'm happy to say, so far, I'm not. That doesn't mean things can't change, but so far, I'm not near.

I went out of town for the day today (more in a bit), and when I came back, having been newsless all day, I was curious about my neighborhood. But there's the usual mixed age, mixed race crowd of people relaxing at the outdoor pub seating (and I presume others are inside), walking here and there, often dragging suitcases, talking on cell phones (I should say "mobiles"), and just being in the area.

My super-duper-please-don't-fail-me-now system of staying out of trouble is to not worry if lots of regular folks are about, and to try not to be where regular folks aren't, if I can help it. And that goes double in places where I'm unfamiliar with things (and I am here, for sure). And if there's trouble, and I don't want to be in it, go the other way. (There might be a time when I really should choose to be in some trouble. I hope I will know that time, and have the courage to step up.)


My day to day was just about as perfect as one could wish. I took the train to Oxford, where Brian and his Better Half guided me around, pointing out the coolness, patiently waiting while I took my usual pictures, showed me around his college (how cool is it to have a "college" at Oxford!), and then took me out to a really good lunch, which set me up for spending more time wandering around and going to see the Ashmolean.

Speaking of trouble (remember, way back when?), this is a marker of where Latimer and Ridley (and later, Cranmer) were burned at the stake during the reign of Mary I. I think I hadn't put together the Oxford where they were burned at the stake with the Oxford that's a place I might visit, somehow. Does that make sense?

Here's a green at Trinity. Isn't that amazing. I got sort of amazed by Trinity for a while, and didn't remember to take pictures. It's so exactly what you might expect an Oxford college to be.

This is part of what was the Divinity Lecture place (if I'm remembering correctly. There's a chair here that was built from Sir Frances Drake's famous ship, The Hind, that went around the world!

Look, a chair! I'm interested in Drake a bit because when I was a kid, Drake was the one English name that made it into my history class other than the 13 colonies and Revolutionary War. So this is way cooler for me than it may be for you.

This is Mob Quad inside Merton College, which, I'm told, is one of the very first of the quads Oxford is famous for.

Here's a message board up at Merton, just to show that there's something in common with the colleges and universities I'm more familiar with: it's an activities and who to call for peer counseling sort of board.

So, those are my Oxford pictures. Way cool, and totally unlike any college/university I've ever been to before.

And once again, thanks to Brian and his Better Half for the tour!


The show! You're wondering how A Woman Killed with Kindness was last night, aren't you?

Mixed. The staging was really interesting. It was played in maybe the early 20th century, with two partial house interiors side by side. On the left, the home of Sir Charles Mountford and his sister, Susan. That side looks sort of Georgian, with that sort of wall feel, rounded stair, and so on. On the right is the interior of John Fankford and his new wife, Anne. This house looks much more early 20th century. I think they're trying to say something about old/not as old money.

I haven't read the play in lo these many years, so I don't remember if there are big dumbshow sequences, but there were in this production. It was sort of effective, but also distracting at times. I had difficulty following what was happening on both sides of the stage at the same time, sometimes.

I was up in the balcony, and also found it weird to look from that angle, and had some difficulty hearing one or two of the actors well.

I guess for me, the biggest failure was that the play didn't hit me.

Let me admit that I'm the biggest whuss in the world when it comes to crying when people die in literature. I get teary eyed just thinking about Cyrano. But I didn't get teary eyed at this play, and I guess it just didn't hit me strongly enough.


I'm a theater noob, and that was brought home to me last night. I can probably count the number of professional plays I've seen without taking off my shoes. I didn't grow up seeing plays with my family (though we did go see musicals a lot, but not plays per se). I remember the first play I saw, with a junior high school program that took us to a matinee of Cyrano. The next time, they took us to Caesar and Cleopatra. Both made a big impression on me, but I wasn't the kind of kid who had a lot of motivation to go out and do stuff like that on my own. (When I was supposed to read Julius Caesar in high school, I got totally, totally confused.)

Back to my noobness. I got to the theater early, and got lost in the theater complex. It's huge. And then I was worried because there was an overhead announcement about the play about to begin, but I couldn't figure out to get where my seats were, and then when I asked, the woman said we couldn't go in yet. And finally I realized that there must be another play in the complex that started earlier. I'm always one of the people at the theater who looks totally lost and out of place, you know? I have friends who always look totally cool and knowledgable, and I'm just not them. (Happily, they put up with me.)

And then we finally got in, and that was cool.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Big City Living

The other day walking in the subway station, I saw a big poster ad for a Toulouse-Lautrec show at a museum at Somerset House. Being me I thought, Robert Carr's house still survives what with all the scandal and all? But no, different Somerset. And it's not really the same house, I think, so much as built up in the same place with the same name.

Still, it's a Tudor era palace (or was), started by the Duke of Somerset (Carr was an Earl, I think?), then taken over and used as a house for Princess Elizabeth (before she was Queen Elizabeth), and then by Stuart queens. Eventually the navy took over, and now it's this big museumy complex thing. And way cool.

What you may not know is that I really, really like Lautrec's works. I do. Even though he's practically still alive and everything.

So I put it high on my list, as in, let's do this in the morning, because Monday's are free. So that's where I started my morning this morning.

And it was very good. The Lautrec exhibit was just wonderful, and put together very well with lots of good pieces and helpful descriptions.

And as I was walking through, I thought a lot about how very lucky I am to be in London right now when this specific exhibit is happening. Let's face it, exhibits like this get put together and sometimes travel, but only to pretty big cities. And I don't normally live in a big city.

I do live only a few hours by car (and I have a car in the US) from a couple of big cities, though, and I bet they do have good visiting exhibits. And it's my own damned fault that I haven't gotten to know those cities well (or even at all). With my horrid sense of direction, I'm lousy at finding my way in new cities. (But I can follow a transit map!) I really should, though, just get a friend or three together and visit shows just to do it. (Then I saw that New Kid has a post up about a Chron article about someone visiting a small town on a campus visit, and I hope I wasn't being as obnoxiously condescending.)

The museum had a fair bit of other stuff, including one of the really great Van Gogh pieces with his ear bandaged, a Picasso that was stunning, and so on.

As I was walking through that part, I saw a familiar face and thought, hey, I know that guy! (Well, "know" in the sense that I've seen the painting before.) It took me a moment, and I realized it was a portrait of Castiglione. (The Wikipedia page shows Raphael's portrait.)

But, I thought, shouldn't that be in Italy? But I went closer, and learned that it was a copy by Rubens (gosh, maybe I'm getting him confused with Rembrandt? I think by Rubens.)

I don't know if it's Castiglione or Raphael's talent (or Rubens' talent in copying Raphael), but since I've seen that picture, I've always thought the Castiglione would be an incredible person to have met or had a conversation with over dinner (well, were my Italian better, anyway). There's just something about the eyes and the way they work in his face.


After visiting the Lautrec exhibit, I went on to an exhibit about the Tudor palace and the barge, and they have an 18th or 19th century naval barge on display there so that people can see what a barge for important people travelling on the Thames would have looked like, and it was so fancy! So now I have that in mind when I think about Wolsey or H8 going down to Hampton Court Palace.

Then I was going to walk to the Embankment station, but along the way I found this little Embankment park, and stupidly decided that I'd walk to my second stop of the day, the Imperial War Museum. Now, I'm ashamed to say that I could get lost in my own closet, so of course I didn't find the most direct route. (I'm not really sure there's a direct route anywhere in London.) But I finally made it, had some lunch, and looked at WWI and WWII stuff until I had had enough of war stuff and came home. I'm not much good for tanks and such, though I'd be more interested in armor and such. I did see a rifle that was presented to (and used by) Lawrence of Arabia, and I went through the Children in War exhibit, which was pretty good. I couldn't bear to go through the Holocaust exhibit. I get too emotional (and have been to a couple Holocaust museums) and I just didn't have the energy to do that today.

And now. Now I am refreshed a bit, and rested, and about to go out for night life! Yes, I'm heading to the theater to see A Woman Killed with Kindness! (I know! I'm excited!)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Tudor Living

With friends like Henry VIII, who needed enemies? So it went for Thomas Wolsey.

As you'd expect, I went to visit his house. Except it wasn't his house for long, though while he owned it, he did some building (or hired people to do some building), because Henry decided he'd like it, and that was apparently that. But Henry didn't like it well enough, so he, too, built more, and made it even more splendid.

And then, of course, Henry died. Time passes, and William and Mary added a whole big wing, changed the gardens, and changed it from a Tudor feeling palace to a Tudor plus palace.

At any time, though, people need to eat. Here's a picture of a kitchen fire area. It was lit, and really put out a lot of heat!

I was interested to see the soot marking up the side, and well to the wood beam looking ceiling. It's a wonder it didn't burn! (Maybe it did, and more than once? I don't know.)

And here are plates. They served something like 600 people at a time when the king was holding court. And then the local resources would run short, and he'd go off to another palace. Life was tough... for the people who had to pack and manage things!

I love ceiling decorations, and this place has the most amazing ones. The best are in the Chapel Royal, but you're not allowed to take pictures in there so I don't have pictures from in them. (But I found a link! And it's official!)

This is a picture from the big Tudor room where courtiers would hang out, hoping they could beg the monarch for whatever favor they could get. It's huge, just huge, and the ceiling is amazing.

And then you get to the later part, the part that William and Mary had built. This is from Mary's apartment, the room where her guards would have hung out. Check out the supporters (?) for the fireplace.

And here's where William sat. (They ruled jointly, but they had separate apartments. Totally outside my experience of married folks I know.)

And here's a totally different sort of chair.

And a garden. I asked a guard, and they have a garden staff of about 40 all year around. Wow. That's a lot of weeding and planting, isn't it?

If you look carefully at the center of this picture (you might have to click to make it bigger), you can see some costumed performers. It was a special day of stuff celebrating the William and Mary era, much of it in the gardens.

Then it was time to go home. To get there, I went to the Waterloo station and took a separate train that ended right near, and walked over a bridge, and there I was.

But here's the Thames! I'm guessing Wolsey would have taken a boat of some sort up and down, and it would have been quicker than a wagon or carriage, right? (And probably more comfortable.) I'm grateful to have subways and trains, since I don't think anyone would want to row me up and down the Thames on a whim.

A cool thing: I finally realized that if I buy a year's membership, it's cheaper (assuming I go back to the Tower) than buying separate tickets to each of the four royal palaces. So that was good!


Today, I went to have lunch with the cousin of a friend, and it was lovely, and nice, and in all ways a wonderful way to spend the day. They took me to see Kenwood House, which has a wonderfully intimate art collection. It's the perfect size, small enough to walk through and take time, and big enough to totally engage the mind. I love seeing pictures of people I've read about! There was one of Richard Sackville, the wastrel gambler first husband of Anne Clifford! And he looked every bit the fop! (In fact, here's a link to the picture I saw! Check out the shoes and stockings!)


ps. For anyone who's worried, I wasn't near the Tottenham riot last night. I only found out about it on the TV.