Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It was difficult, this morning, to snap out of holiday mode and resume the tenor of working life. But get back into the saddle I did this morning as I set off, on foot, for Bedford Square to teach my two classes. My students regaled me with stories of their respective vacations in exciting European venues--Athens and Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin, Madrid and Rome and Venice and Bruges. It seemed they had been everywhere. But with midterms cleared and the end of the semester staring them in the face, they are cranking up the pressure upon themselves to produce the best work they can in the remaining weeks before we close shop for our winter break.

Classes done, I kept office hours during which I had a meeting with David Crout to plan our field trips for next semester. I am hoping to take my students to Cornwall and to Portsmouth and Winchester. Then, I left work to return home to Llew. He had spent the day taking a self-guided walk in Belgravia based on my book 24 Great Walks in London and had traipsed through the homes of Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, novelist Ian Fleming, author Arthur Conan Doyle and had seen some tiny pubs in out of the way places that made his wanderings rather wondrous, he said.

Our plans to walk along the Thames Embankment in the evening after night had fallen to take in the illuminated monuments had to be nixed as a steady drizzle throughout the afternoon made it unpleasant. Instead, we sat at home and watched the opening scenes of Todd Haynes' film I'm Not There based on the life and music of Bob Dylan. Because we were so cozy together on the couch in our living room, Llew actually commented that it felt as if we were back home again in Connecticut--I actually dozed off in the midst of the movie--just as I do at home!

A half hour later, we dressed and left our flat to join my colleague Karen Karbeiner and her husband Douglas at The Bleeding Heart Tavern, a recommendation of my next-door neighbor Tim Freeman who together with wife Barbara has tried out most of the eateries in our area. This old establishment is hidden away in a secret cobbled courtyard in Holborn and boasts a colorful history. Associated with Lord Christopher Hatton (after which the adjoining street, Hatton Garden is named), consort of Elizabeth I, and his wife Elizabeth Hatton, the watering hole was frequented by many an Elizabethan rake at a time when the street was known as Charles Street and the public house also went by another name. Then, it is said that Elizabeth Hatton was dragged dramatically out of the tavern by a jealous jilted lover who spirited her away. The next day, her body was found torn to pieces, her heart still bleeding hideously over the cobbled stones of the courtyard which from that time onwards bore its arresting name.

On that ghastly note, we ordered our drinks and dinner from a small but very impressive menu. Karen and Llew went for the lamb burgers, Douglas chose the whole roasted baby chicken and I opted for the Traditional Fish Pie. The fact that we polished our plates so thoroughly makes no other comment about the food necessary. Though the noise in the tavern was rather loud and we had to strain our voices over the din, our conversation was scintillating throughout as Karen and Douglas told us all about their recent travels in Turkey--they went to Istanbul, Anatolia and Troy--and wanted to know all about our holiday in Athens and the Greek Islands. We had so much to tell each other about the culture, the people, the history, the food and the traditions we encountered. Then, because it had been a long day for Karen and me, we called it a night and Llew and I were delighted to be back home in exactly five minutes.

As Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is a another day"...

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