Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Greenwich, Just Super!

Sunday's when the BL is closed, and so it's my day to play tourist for real.  I'd never been to Greenwich, and thought I'd spend half a day there, and then go birding at Regent's Park or something.  I didn't.  Greenwich filled the day!

Getting there was a bit confusing.  I looked up and saw there's a bus from Russell Square Station, but it's from the Square, not the station, and I didn't find it, and the tube was there, so off I went on the tube.  I couple changes and I was looking for the DLR, but instead there was a replacement bus, so I took that to the DLR station, and then caught another train to the Cutty Sark station.

When I got off, the Cutty Sark was right there, so in I went.  WOW!  I grew up going to the Balcutha, and this reminded me a lot of that.
 They've cut a hole into the starboard aft section of the main storage deck, and that's where you enter the ship.

You can see how the construction works.  From inside to out: The white painted metal is original structural metal.  Then there's a layer of caulked wood planking, and on the outside is a copper-based metal cladding, which served (before it was copper, I think, but some other metal) to deter barnacles and such from growing on the side, and thus helped keep the ship faster and in less danger of problems (than was typical with unclad hulls).

On the inside, the white painted stuff is original metal, some showing fire damage (from the 2012? fire; I can't remember the date, but it was fairly recent, while the ship was deconstructed a lot, and so the parts that had been moved weren't damaged, but the metal scaffolding inside was).  The darker grey is new structural steel support (more on that later).

The ship was built to move tea quickly during the tea trade, but the Suez Canal opened, making steam ships MUCH more practical, so it moved to the Australian wool trade and such.

Here's looking down the storage area.

It's amazingly large!  You can see some of the displays, which were quite good, informative, and well-thought out.  You go through the main storage area, and then the "Between Decks" storage area, before climbing up to the main deck.  The complexity of the rigging ropes must have been overwhelmingly hard to learn!

 There are several "cabin" areas built on the main deck.  Here's crew quarters, with nice bunks (a bit short, but...)
 And, (if I recall correctly), the steward's area.
 The Salon, what I think would be called a "wardroom" now, where the officers and more highly skilled crew members ate together, and where the master did chart stuffs.

When you're finished looking inside, you exit, and can go down underneath the ship.  Remember those dark grey-painted steel structures I mentioned in the inside?  They're attached to these MASSIVE steel supports all along the outside.  So basically, the ship is supported by an interior scaffolding and hangs on that, and the scaffolding is supported from the outside.  So the hull doesn't have anything but gravity working on it, and thus isn't deformed as it would be if the whole weight were resting on it.  Someone really smart came up with this idea!

From the Cutty Sark, I walked up the hill to the park and observatory.  I didn't take as many pictures in the observatory as I sometimes do, because I was so busy looking at all the cool stuff and reading the information.  It was fascinating!

Here I am, standing over the Prime Meridian.  Somewhere, I've got a picture of me at the "Mitad del Mundo" in Ecuador, the Equator line, so this could be paired with that, eh?
Here's inside the Royal Observatory, which was designed by Christopher Wren.  Damn, he's amazing!
 Walking down from the observatory after, this is another Wren masterpiece, The Queen's House, set against the backdrop of very modern London.

I started out of the observatory about 3:20, thinking I'd still make it to the park, but the National Maritime Museum was right there, free, and open for another hour and a half, so I had to give it a go.  I was glad I did, and could have spent a good many hours there!  Alas, I didn't have enough time, so...

I saw a picture of Sir John Hawkins, who has much to answer for in pursuing the trade in slaves from Africa to the Americas and Caribbean.

And in a different vein, here's the coat Admiral Nelson was wearing at Trafalgar, when he was hit by a bullet, making a fatal wound.  You can see the hole from the bullet, but I think the coat's been cleaned and looks to be amazingly preserved.

When the Maritime Museum closed, I headed back towards the DLR, but along the way, I saw a bus stop for the bus to Russell Square (I remembered the number)!  So I hopped on the bus instead.  And went to the upper floor.

I had a pretty good view for about an hour.  Interestingly (to me, anyway), my university has a tradition of buying used London double-decker busses, so I've ridden them before, just not IN London.  But now I have.  For real.

All in all, this was a GREAT day.  If I had it to do over, I'd leave WAY earlier so I was there right when Cutty Sark opened, and then I'd have more time to see the Maritime Museum.


On Monday, I left the Library early and went to the Tate's exhibit on Van Gogh.  It was just superb.  I had the best time!  If you can get there, go!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Week 52/66: Working at the Library and Playing in London

What a busy time it's been!  Since I last wrote, I had a lovely visit with my cousin's daughter, M, who's studying at St. Andrew's.  (M is A's sister, the ballet dancer I visited in Pittsburgh.)  First, like A, M is wonderful.  Gosh, my cousins have been doing a great job raising kids!  M is kind and nice, also smart, feminist, and fun!

M got here in the mid-afternoon Saturday, to King's Cross, and I showed her the British Library first.  Then off to our hotel.  We had a few minutes in the British Museum (before it closed) and then went and saw The Play that Goes Wrong together, and enjoyed that.  The next morning, we went to see the changing of the guard along with a couple thousand of our closest friends.  I didn't see much, but I hope that M, being a tad taller and nearer, was able to see a bit more.  We walked from there to Horse Guards Parade, which was closed for a service (but saw a band march by), and then on to the Tower!  As usual, the Tower was fun.  We spent most of the day there, and then went over the Thames to Southwark, had dinner, and went to see Pericles.

Pericles was very good.  They played it with a cast of 8, which necessitated some cutting (They cut the "read aloud the shield things" for example).  But the energy was good, the audience reactive, and the played moved well.  I thought they did an especially good job with the Antiochus/incest part, and with Pericles communicating his fears about Simonides.

In the age of "Me, too," I was worried that the prostitution part, or the "Marina's too pure to be prostituted" part would feel flat, but it didn't.  Marina was just great at playing that seriously, but not innocently.  She was really good.

The next morning, Monday, we reconvened and M chose the Tate Modern for the morning.  We'd figured we would spend the morning at the Tate Modern and then go to the British Museum for a bit before her train, but the Tate Modern was so good that we spent the time there.  She can come back for more another time.

On Tuesday, back to the Library, except I left early to see a matinee of 12th Night.  This was played by the same 8 person cast that played Pericles, and again, the small cast necessitated some cuts (which I noticed more because I've taught it a fair bit.)  It was very good!  They cross-gender cast the four romantic roles, but not Malvolio or Antonio.  Feste was super.

I walked and ate at The George in Southwark, which is supposed to be one of the oldest staging pubs in London.  The food was okay, the ambience okay...

I have to admit that I like the uneven stuff you sometimes see with older buildings.

That night, I went to see 1 Henry IV, played by the same cast that had played H5, except with a much fuller house, on a nicer evening, and voila, much more energetic performance.  They did the fighting mostly by waving around flags, which I thought worked pretty darned well.  Hotspur was outstanding.  Hal only slightly less so.  Falstaff didn't do much for me.  A woman played the role, but I don't think that was it.  I'm not sure...

On Wednesday, I spent an almost full day at the Library, but then went to 2H4,  and it was a drizzly feeling evening (I don't think it actually drizzled, but if felt like it might), cool, and the crowd was VERY thin (and got thinner after the intermission).  And the play just felt flat.  Hal was very good in the crown scene, but Falstaff wore on me.  H4 was good throughout.  It might be that the play just has never worked as well for me as part 1.

The rest of the week was, predictably, Library time!  And a very good time it was!

I read about this travel narrative by Gerrit de Veer about the exploration voyages of William Barents (1594, 1595, 1596), and read that the Winter's Tale bear eating bit might have been inspired by an image there:  (Sorry to be sideways; I've tried to correct it.)  (Notice the Paddleboarders in the mid-ground!)

This picture is from the 1853 edition.  But I've looked at the 1609 edition, and there aren't any images, certainly not this fabulous bear eating the guy's head.  I haven't been able to figure out where the image came from, or if it's later (as I suspect) and thus couldn't have inspired Shakespeare.

I've been falling into two holes, good ones, I think, one about the bears, and one about arts and such, which I think is actually way more fruitful right now.  I was reading Henry Peacham's Graphice, from 1609, and found some fun additions:

The date of 1678 make this too late for the poet Thomas Carew, but there's a lawyer of that name on Wikipedia active at that time, who died a couple of years later.  I have no idea who the shield thing belongs to, but if anyone has thoughts, I'd love to learn!

Okay, more later on my big Sunday outing!

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Henry 5 at the Globe

I went to see H5 at the Globe last night.  H5 was played by a Black woman, who was very good, very commanding.  Overall, though, it was a cool evening, had rained earlier, and the house was probably less than half full, so the cast had difficulty developing the energy I usually see.  I like to think we're all happy with gender and race blind casting.  I thought I was.  But then the Alice and Princess Katherine scene came, and I decided maybe I wasn't so comfortable as I complacently thought I was.  Katherine was played by a middle aged white man, not in drag; that is, there was no attempt to look "feminine" except that he wore a dress.   He didn't seem to have a wig on (was partly balding with short hair), and he seemed definitely middle-aged. And boy, did that challenge me! For those not familiar with Henry 5: French Princess Katharine pretty much knows she's going to be married off to Henry, the English king; in this scene, she's with her waiting gentlewoman, who seems to know a bit of English, and starts asking for translations of words for body parts.  Hands, fingers, arm, elbow, neck, chin, feet.  For those who have French and English, there are near homophones of "naughty" words in the pronunciations, "dilbo," "cun" "foot" and so forth. Some of the amusement from the scene traditionally comes from watching a presumably innocent young woman talking sexy, and finding the license to say "foot" for example, funny.  With this Katherine, however, the humor there didn't really work for me, which weirdly made the sort of cruel gap of the knowing audience laughing at the innocent young woman stand out all the more.  So that was interesting. And when the courting scene (where Henry meets Katherine and "courts" her, though we all know this is a pretense since her father will decide and she has no choice) came, I didn't feel any of the amusement in the teasing from Henry about language and such.  Maybe the two actors didn't have chemistry, or maybe it was my hangup with the man playing Katherine? Usually, in race and gender blind casting, at least in Shakespeare, you see people of color playing white roles, and women playing men's roles.  On one level, that makes sense because there's a paucity of roles for women and people of color in the plays.  But it means that you have actors from traditionally less powerful groups (people of color, women) playing characters from a more powerful group (white men).  But in Katherine's casting, a white man played a woman, and a woman with pretty much no power at all (since she's basically a political pawn). *** Otherwise: the production seemed a bit rough at the edges, with people either stepping on each other's lines in the prologue, or not quite speaking together (if they were supposed to be speaking together). There were times I really couldn't hear well (I was in the upper gallery for the first time, front row). But usually I could. And I couldn't always understand what I was hearing, and not only because it was French... *** I'm trying to find reviews of this production, but don't see any. I'm wondering how long it's been playing? (It's pretty early in the season, after all.)