Well, I’m back. And comforted to know that I have now had 26 consecutive birthdays with rain (in every place I’ve had a birthday, for that matter!). Of course, it was the most uneventful birthday I’ve had as well. I guess that’s what happens when you get older. I appear to have finally recovered from the jet lag and the head cold, although it is lingering, much to my disgust. Now the balancing of redoing a PhD in 18 months, finishing Christmas presents, and trying to break even from the trip become the important priorities.
But, on to happier things – firstly – Photos!!!!
1. British Museum 2.St Martin-in-the-Field 3. Parade Grounds 4. St James’ Park 5. Westminster Abbey
6. Parliament 7. Traitor’s Gate 8. Cannon 9. Tower Bridge 10. St Paul’s from Paternoster Square
11. Fulham Broadway 12. Ben & Jerry’s 13. British Museum 14. Piccadilly Circus 15. Covent Garden
16. Dragon @ Temple 17. St Paul’s 18. Hyde Park 19. Albert Memorial 20. The Old Bailey
21. Wigmore Hall 22. Royal Albert Hall 23. The Globe 24. The Clink 25. Southwark Cathedral
So here’s how it was: 24 hours in the air and we arrived in London at half past five in the morning greeted by rain. A black taxi was part of accommodation package and we were picked up at six o’clock by Cockney gent smoking a cigar, that chatted away about how one day he would visit Australia. There was some pretty impressive traffic for 6 a.m. as a Heathrow landscape slowly gave way to chimney stacks and church spires in the dawn light. Finally, after a few hair raising turns, we arrived at a little place right opposite Stamford Bridge and were given the keys to our new home for next month — it was a lot bigger than we anticipated, this is a good thing — and proceeded to be amused by British cable TV and hot showers.
The rest of the day was spent finding SIM cards, groceries, oyster cards, and our way to Embankment to meet up with the Magpie’s cousins for lunch and wanderings around Covent Garden and Seven Dials, up to the British Museum, through Holborn, back to Embankment, down the Strand to Trafalgar Square and St Martin-in-the-Field. From there it was up through the Mall, along St James’s Park and around to Westminster Abbey, down past Westminster Palace across the Thames to the County Hall, and back again to watch Big Ben chime seven. That pretty much set the tone for the next month: lots to see an even more to do.
I can’t say I found the London paved with gold, only full of cigarettes stubs in the Street and cigarette smoke in the air, hoards of people and drivers that shouldn’t be allowed near cars. I saw a great deal, but unfortunately not inside Westminster Abbey, nor the inside of Harrods — although I’m not sure that’s a good thing — and I didn’t even see Buckingham Palace, but there is always next time, and there will be a next time.
I can’t say I was that impressed with the staff at the British Library — in all its face-bricked glory — but the staff at the British Museum were incredible. If only I had been able to take a photo of the prints and drawings department, it looked like something out of my dreams. I had seen most of the impressive things at the Tate Britain when they had come on tour to Melbourne and Dunedin. The V&A was wonderful, but I need more time to appreciate it. Wigmore Hall was fantastic, but pity the pianist was off his game that night — but the cellist and violinists was spot on. The Royal Albert appeared to be, and no offence to anyone, the place for plebs. This is indicative of the fact that 90% of the people clapped between movements in the organ symphony. Of course, I’d give my back teeth to go and watch the Proms there. We also went and saw the new James Bond at the Odeon Leicester Square, the day after its release and left with the impression that British multiplexes needs to turn their collective sound down, badly. I spent most of the movie blocking my ears, which detracted from getting immersed in the plot, but other than that, I need to see the movie again. We would have seen a West End musical, but with the roller coaster that was the exchange rate, things got very tight very quickly.
On the yarn front, I was highly unimpressed with iKnit, their staff, and the hype that has surrounded them. I got more help from the enthusiastic ladies in the yarn sections at John Lewis and Liberty. I spent a lot of money, but it was still far cheaper than buying it here – even with the bad exchange rate. The only downside is I have to wait until February to get any of it, because its currently on a slow boat to Australia, because that’s all I could afford.
As for the PhD, if I had been doing art history, I would have hit the jackpot at the British Museum. But considering my uphill battle had just become vertical, I had to seriously reassess the situation and my own mental health (thank heavens I was not by myself), I held my breath and changed my topic. For clarification: same framework — theology, corruption, and the human fall — I’m just changing the text the framework will be applied to from William Blake to J.R.R. Tolkien. At least got a pretty hefty chunk of years behind me on Tolkien, things shouldn’t be too bad. I just need to get on with writing that PhD proposal…
Anyway I’ll talk more on Cambridge and Oxford, with photos, later. I leave you with 25 images from the 500-odd I took in London alone. Enjoy!