London was cloudy and chilly when the day began but it warmed up considerably by the time the afternoon rolled around. Hurrah for these great days and the joy of the summer sun on our faces!
I awoke at 6. 30 am today and did a bit of research online for the places I’d like to lose myself in as the days go by. Mainly I looked at taking a trip to Dorset today as I am keen to see Dorchester (base for touring the home in which the novelist Thomas Hardy was born called Hardy’s Cottage and then Max Gate–in the same area apparently where he lived as an adult). While there, it is my intention to visit the seaside town of Lyme Regis for its Jane Austen and John Fowles’ connections and then on to the Jurrasic Coast (for I’d like to see Durdle Door and West Bay, the town that was the setting for the TV series Broadchurch). Big plans! I can only hope they will come to fruition.
So before I knew it, I’d booked National Express coach tickets to get to Weymouth (the Dorset coastal town that will be my base) and back and next thing I knew I was booking a room for 2 nights in a B&B. These steps–getting transport then getting accommodation–is so reminding me of the last time I lived in London when such planning had become second nature to me. Hopefully, all will go well…Fingers crossed!
Brekkie and Off:
I had to hurry through a shower (after spending time on my Dorset bookings) as I wanted to get out of the house by 9.15 am. My goal was to get to the Vaudeville Theater on the Strand to snag a Day Ticket to see Martin Shaw in Hobson’s Choice. Because, of course, today is Wednesday—and on Wednesdays, there are theater matinee shows to be had for the asking!
Consequently, I showered, ate a hurried brekkie of toast with Nutella and coffee and was off–at 9.25 to be exact. Shame on me–ten minutes behind schedule!!! It would never do. Still, I thought of how much I had managed to accomplish even before I left the house and it was not too shabby after all.
Snagging Tix to see Martin Shaw:
On the Tube I went to Embankment with a change to the Piccadilly Line at Leicester Square to get to the Strand. I am trying hard not to take the Northern Line as I find its complicated structure causes a lot of walking in the tunnels underground as one tries to change platforms. Hence, from Leicester Square I actually preferred to walk to Charing Cross and take a bus from there for one stop. Having the monthly Travelcard is a real boon as I think nothing of hopping in and out of buses, sometimes for just one stop!
I was delighted to arrive at the theater at 10.15 and find a Day Ticket for just 20 pounds waiting just for me. It was in the very first row and, for a moment, I wondered if it made any sense to buy it. But then I did–and believe you me, it was simply awesome. Again, I caught every line, every expression. Only in my dreams could I possibly get tickets this good in New York!
On the Tube to the British Library:
Since the matinee show began at 2. 30 pm, I would have about three hours of research at the British Library before giving myself enough time for the return trip to the Strand. And boy!!! Did I make use of every precious second. Not only did I have a frightfully exciting time and a very fruitful one at that as I found every reference I was seeking (and then some!) but I was able to use my phone camera to take pictures of so many pages in the century-old magazines I was perusing. I cannot even begin to express how gratifying my research is proving to be.
Right on schedule I finished browsing through my material and feeling hugely pleased with myself and very confident now about being able to start writing my paper for presentation at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland next month, I collected my things for departure. In fact, with the the pictures I managed to collect, I feel very strongly that I should use Powerpoint to make my presentation even more exciting. So there you have it…days of work in the libraries have paid off and in a couple of days, I shall begin working on my paper.
In the Vaudeville Theater on the Strand:
The Vaudeville was packed to capacity and, dare I say it, the average age of the audience was 80 if they were a day! I felt fully at home among these reverent spectators who had clearly come, like moi, to see Martin Shaw with whose work I am familiar in Judge John Deed and currently as Detective Inspector George Gently. Both Llew and I are very fond of him–so I am sure Llew feels a bit jealous to read that I saw him in the flesh this afternoon.
The play was simply delightful. It is an old Victorian comedy that is celebrating its centenary year and every aspect of it was perfect–from the music to the acting, from the direction to the casting. In addition to the widely popular Shaw, there was also Christopher Timothy who had played vet James Herriott in All Creatures Great and Small–many moons ago. He has aged, of course, but he is still lovable and it was absolutely a thrill to see him too. All of the other actors, much younger though they were, did a splendid job to keep us chuckling repeatedly as the plot unfolded in the most charming of ways. Suffice it to say that I loved every second of it.
Covent Garden on a Grand Afternoon:
It was only 5.00 pm when I emerged from the theater–too late to get to the Choral Prayer Service at St. Martin’s-in-The-Field Church that I would have liked to attend at 4. 30 pm and too early to get back home–not on an evening when the sun was still shining brightly and the city was vibrant with excited tourists.
It made sense to nip behind the Strand into Covent Garden–to watch the buskers at work in the main square, to sample teas at Whittard, to nibble chocolate and cookies in the other tea shops that have sprung up, to listen to an astounding classic vocalist sing Nessun Dorma and Andrew Lloyd-Weber compositions, to spritz on perfumes at L’Occitane and Penhaligon and Miller Harris without feeling the pressures of time or the guilt of work left undone. This was why I had worked like a dog ever since January–so that I could enjoy London on my own terms and at my own leisure. I was going to take it easy because I felt entitled to. So there!
Completing a Walking Tour of the East End:
When I’d had my fill of Covent Garden and its pleasures, I jumped into the Tube and decided to get off two stops before my usual one–at Aldgate East. I still had about five stops to finish on the Walking Tour of the East End that I began yesterday. And so right outside the station, I found the wacky building that is the Whitechapel Art Gallery (which I have visited before) and which was closed by the time I arrived there. I found that is joins the old Passmore Edwards Library that once provided reading material for the residents of the area. Most of the community spots Passmore ran have closed down or been converted into centers for other uses.
I then made my way into Brick Lane, a street that all London guides proclaim as a Must See for modern-day tourists, much to the joy of the Bangladeshi tradesmen and restaurateurs who run brisk business there. For me, the area is a veritable treasure house of historic fact and odd detail and I reveled in the collection of churches that became synagogues that became mosques–for the area attracted immigrants through the ages from the Huguenots who arrived from France, to the Eastern European Jews to the Muslims from the Indian sub-continent who escaped the Pakistani Civil War of 1971 to find refuge in this neighborhood. I passed by the ancient dwellings (terraced houses) of the first residents of the area in Fournier Street and Princelet Street before arriving at a mosque that has a separate entrance for women and on to the old homes where Jewish litterateurs once held court. Bagels might still be bought at a bakery at the end of Brick Lane that sells them cheaply…but I was heading towards the end of the walk and did not get that far.
Back home on the bus, I passed the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, one of the oldest establishments in the country that has been in continuous business since the 15th century and which is responsible for casting Big Ben and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Since I had actually paid a visit there, a few summers ago, I did not stop there.
Dinner and Blogging:
It was still only 8.00 by the time I reached home. I had eaten my cheese sandwich in the theater–but was hungry enough to have some soup, risotto and praline meringue roulade before I continued to do some research on how to get to Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill, on Sunday.
And then I caught up with email, watched a bit of TV and decided to call it a day. Another magnificent day–and I can find absolutely nothing to whinge about! Yes!
Until tomorrow, cheerio…