Friday, September 26, 2008

Browsing around the British Museum

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another perfect day, weather-wise. I couldn't resist the thought of conducting another class in the gardens at Bedford Square, so I marched my students out into the cheerful sunshine and settled down on the grass with them, Vince Libasci lending me his hoodie, a la Sir Walter Raleigh, to spread beneath me! Who said chivalry is dead?

The class went off so well. Earlier that day, Vince had made a presentation on my essay on "Piano and Other Lessons" from The Way We Were and he did a really competent job of it, not to mention the sensitive reading that the students brought to it in the form of interpreting symbols like the piano. I covered the Sepoy Mutiny and together with the information I am gleaning from Dalrymple's White Moghuls, this course is proving to be so interesting to teach and, I hope, to take.

My Writing Class at Birkbeck in the afternoon plodded along a little bit and for the first time I felt that the three hour stretch was a bit much to fill. Still, I think I managed to keep it interesting till the end. The students seem to enjoy the workshopping session best of all as it gives them a chance to review each other's work and comment on it as well as seek ways to improve their own writing through their peers.

I spent an hour in my office (Office Hours) during which time I did internet research on Barcelona where I will be going next weekend. I miss having my local Westport Library at hand from which I used to borrow travel books each time I planned a trip. I haven't even done anything yet with planning our trip in November to Greece, so next week, I will need to get cracking on that.

At 6 pm, on my way home, I decided that since the British Museum had late-evening hours on Thursday and Friday, I would nip in there to spend an hour browsing through some of the rooms. After all, I have been here in the UK for almost a month and I haven't yet visited the British though I pass it regularly on my way to and from campus.

The Hadrian Special Exhibit is on: Conflict and Conquest, but it carries an expensive ticket and I haven't yet purchased mine. I decided to start in Room 1, i.e. at the very beginning since the British is such an overwhelming space and I have seen its highlights many times--the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, the Sutton Hoo Treasures, the Portland Vase, etc. This time, I crossed Rm 1 and went straight ahead to Rm. 2 which houses some of the most important treasures of the Museum that are being held downstairs until moved to a new location. I ended up seeing the oldest item in the museum--a handaxe dating back to 1.8 million years--can you imagine that? 1.8 million years!!! I also saw a carillon clock that tolled the hour with the ringing of musical bells and the movement of characters around it. European Medieval treasures included reliquaries, ivory carvings, and jewelry while Peruvian, Indonesian and New Zealand antiquities were also on display.

In Rm.,1 entitled The Enlightenment, I only had the chance to cover half of the displays as they were too numerous and too fascinating to see in haste. Sculpture from Pompeii (including a Farnese Apollo), a gigantic Hercules and a Venus were some of the items that caught my eye. I was also taken by the fossils, the shells, the lavers and urns all of which represented the personal collections of the museum's earliest patrons who helped start the vast holding with their generous donations. I was sorry to see that many of the items were very dimly lit and I had a hard time reading the labels.

By 7. 30, I was headed out, a bit tired after what had been a long day. Got home to vegetate over dinner and a movie: What we Lost in the Fire with Halle Berry and Benicio del Toro. It was OK, I thought, not wonderful.

By 10.30, I hammered a bit of my blog and fell asleep irritated to find that my back has started aching on the left side--a sort of muscular strain that has me perplexed.

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