Last Day of Colloquium, Albee at the West End and Long Walk in Whitehall and Westminster

Friday, June 23, 2017

Meeting my Former Concierge Arben:

I did not wish to leave our accommodation in Holborn without saying hello to Arben, the concierge at the former building in Holborn that I had occupied, a few years ago. And so, on my way to the colloquium, I set out just a little early in order to walk to 7 High Holborn. I was delighted to meet him and spend about ten minutes chatting with him and finding out about his family’s successes. Then walking quickly towards Bloomsbury, I arrived at our campus at NYU.

Last Day of Colloquium

            The last day of our Colloquium at NYU dawned in what seemed like a heartbeat. The final panel was as absorbing as the others had been—plus we had a fine summing-up of the day’s many lessons and the things we would take back to our teaching practice. By the time it ended, my head was simply swimming with ideas that I would like to experiment with and include in my own pedagogy. Plus, I had made friends with some really fascinating colleagues whose research interests were a real eye-opener. All of us felt that it had been a very successful conference indeed and we were far richer for having attended it.

Lunch at Pisq in Fitzrovia:

Although many of our colleagues had already started making their steps home-ward, quite a large contingent of us were present for the farewell luncheon that was held at a Peruvian restaurant called Pisq. Now I had never eaten Peruvian food before and did not know what to expect. But being a foodie and always ready for a new gastronomic experience, I looked forward to the meal.

We were offered a few choices from a set three-course meal that was very impressive indeed. I started with the Sea Bass Seviche which was my first time trying seviche. I found it absolutely delicious—soaked in lime juice that had ‘cooked’ the fish to a tender consistency, it was terrific. My ‘main’ was actually two choices—as my colleague Afrodesia and I decided to split two of them: I opted for the Steak Tips and she had the Pork Belly—hers turned out to be better than mine, but they were both palatable (if not outstanding). For dessert, I opted for the Chocolate Mousse served with Matcha ice-cream (the mousse was glorious, the ice-cream was the blandest, most tasteless kind I have had—it was not even sweet enough for my palate). Still, as meals go, it was a treat to share it with my colleagues who were all filled with the sense of recent accomplishment at having made presentations that were so well-received.

Off to the Royal Theater Haymarket:

I did not waste much time after lunch, but walked with Brendan to my office at NYU to meet Quentin from the IT Helpdesk who was helping me send a grant application online. As soon as I managed to get the task done, I left our Bloomsbury campus and took the bus to Piccadilly where I was scheduled to meet Shahnaz who had spent the entire day at the National Gallery taking Highlights Tours, attending shorter gallery lectures and even learning to sketch. Best of all, she had managed once again to get us day tickets to see The Goat or Who is Sylvia by Edward Albee at the Theater Royal Haymarket which she had reached at 10.00 am.

A Drink Before Dinner:

I was much too stuffed with our three-course lunch to even contemplate dinner but Shahnaz was starving (not having taken a break for lunch during her day at the British Museum) and when I spied a “Two Drinks for the Price of One” deal at the Kitchen Market, a restaurant at Haymarket, I suggested we go there for sundowners before the show. How annoying it was to find out that we could not have one drink each for the price of one—we had to each have two drinks and pay for just one!!! The cocktails we chose are far from memorable but Shahnaz did tuck into a Chicken Cesar Salad (which I also nibbled) before we rushed off to see the play.

Damien Lewis, Sophie Okenedo and Jason Hughes in The Goat or Who is Sylvia?

All I knew about this play is that Albee wrote it and Damien (Brody of Homeland fame) Lewis was in it. That was enough for me to feel determined to see it. And at five pounds (yes, five pounds because apparently our seats offered ‘restricted’ views), we were in the theater and seeing what I think is probably the best drama I have ever seen! Seriously! The play itself is perfection in terms of construction, writing and wit. As might be guessed, it is about a middle-aged architect with a very successful marriage and a teenaged son who falls in love with a goat! The consequences of his infatuation threaten to tear his marriage and life apart until the awful and quite unexpected denouement.

The performances were simply unbelievable. Lewis, of course, stole the show…but he was ably matched by his co-star Okenedo (who, I believe I have seen in Selma). Jason Hughes whose performances as Sergeant Ben in Midsomer Murders was also excellent (although he has put on heaps of weight and I had difficultly even placing him). The young chap who played Lewis’ son was amazing for his age and shows all the makings of a future star. Truly, we could not believe that we were enjoying such stupendous theater for the cost of a cup of coffee in Starbucks! It more than made up for our previous night’s disappointment over Annie.

A Walk Along Whitehall and Westminster:

Flushed with the joy of seeing a really superb piece of work, and finding that it was still very bright when we emerged from the theater, Shahnaz and I decided to take a very long walk—we arrived at Trafalgar Square (its fountains and Edward Landseer’s lions beautifully illuminated), turned down Whitehall and stopped to take pictures at the Cenotaph. Across the street, we admired the lovely military and memorial sculptures along Whitehall before we arrived at Charles Barry’s beautiful buildings that comprise London’s Houses of Parliament where we took many pictures with Big Ben in the background. Not content with reaching the banks of the Thames, we walked along the Embankment past Westminster Pier and took more pictures with the London Eye and the Royal Festival Hall in the background. Past Charing Cross we strolled until we arrived at the Theater District. We entered Covent Garden which wore a strangely deserted look and jumped into the Tube for one station as Shahnaz was so pooped, she could barely take another step. She is learning rapidly exactly what it means to take a trip with me! No doubt, when she gets home, she will need a vacation from her vacation.

It was about midnight when we arrived in our room at the hotel—thrilled with the last night of the first lap of our travels. We would be leaving early the next morning for Devon—so we showered super quickly, got our things all packed up and ready, set our alarm for 5.30 am to leave our hotel at 6.00 am to catch the 7.30 am coach to Devon.

Until tomorrow, cheerio.