Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Of the BL's Treasures and Christmas Shopping on the High Street

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

With most of my packing done, my laundry all folded away and placed in my suitcase, I put together the documents I needed for the Membership Renewal and set out for the British Library. It was such a gorgeous day...yes, I did actually say that! A gorgeous day in London in the winter is as rare as rare can be, so I was determined to enjoy it to the fullest! I didn't have to wait too long before my documents were scrutinized, passed muster, an ID photograph clicked and my new 3-year Readers Card placed in my hand.

I set off straight away to the Riblat Gallery to see the rest of the Treasures of the British Museum (half of which I saw yesterday) and spent about an hour scrutinizing the cases devoted entirely to spiritual and religious manuscripts. Every religion was represented from Sikhism to Shinto. I saw ancient Bibles, including the Guttenberg Bible and Gospels, including the Lindisfarne Gospel. There were Persian illuminated manuscripts, Moghul ones, Maratha and Deccan ones, Sanskrit ones, Hindu and Jain texts--some in the shape of tortoises and cows. All of it was deeply fascinating. There was also a whole room devoted to the Magna Carta and I'd like to go back again, sometime in January perhaps, to study that carefully.

But retail therapy beckoned and since I haven't shopped on the High Street at all since I first arrived here, and with so many gifts still to be purchased, I decided to hit Oxford Street and join the throng of Christmas buyers. I did find some very stylish things indeed for Chriselle and something that I hope Llew will like and then for me...though I did not intend to buy myself anything, it was just irresistible. In the HMV store, where I stopped to buy some audio visual material as gifts, I spied the entire Inspector Morse Collection, yes all 33 episodes of the series at less than 1/3 the price. The Complete Works normally cost 200 pounds and I was certainly not willing to pay that. But when I saw that it was specially priced, for a limited time only, at 65 pounds, well I have to say I succumbed and snatched it up.

My museum jaunt and my shopping spree tired me out and so I stepped into John Lewis (where the Christmas decorations are spectacular) and in the Coffee Shop, I ordered a pot of Fresh and Fruity Herbal tea which I sipped slowly with honey at a window seat while overlooking a lovely garden that stands behind Oxford Street. The skies were a clear beautiful blue and I had to pinch myself to believe that I was actually gazing out of a London window on a wintry day at such an uplifting sight. When I had quite lifted my spirits, I stepped out again and took the bus back home.

Some more packing was accomplished as I had to fit in the luxury Christmas crackers I bought to take home to Southport for our Christmas table. Then, when I was fairly sure that the 50th Golden Jubilee Commemorative tea set that I found for 10 pounds in a charity shop in Scotland was well wrapped and reasonably secure in my suitcase, I sat down to watch Reservation Road which Love has mailed me despite the fact that I have suspended my account for the month that I will be traveling.

And, I could not have watched a more appropriate film. I mean two days before I am back in picture-perfect Southport, I watched a movie that was set on the Connecticut coast. It prepared me for home and made me realize how much I've missed it. Last summer, when my neighbor Trish Donovan and I were on one of our daily morning constitutionals in Southport village, the entire Trinity Churchyard had been closed to the public as a film unit was in town shooting at various locations around the harbor. Trish had informed me that the name of the movie was Reservation Road and I had vowed to see it at that time.

The plot kept me spell bound. It is based around a hit and run accident that take places one dark night. A little boy is killed in a flash and the driver, who hesitates for just a little while, meaning to stop, then thinks better of it, drives away. The driver happens to be Dwight, a lawyer (played by Mark Ruffalo) who ends up taking on the case when the father of little Josh (played by Joaquin Phoenix) goes out to seek justice. As in almost all the movies I've seen and stories I've read about couples who attempt to resolve loss after the death of a child, the marriage goes through a dark patch as the father becomes obsessed with finding his son's killer. With some superb acting and direction, the movie pulls at the viewer's heart strings. You want justice for Josh's parents but because you know that Dwight is not a bad guy and is dealing with his own set of emotional issues (a messy divorce and the shared custody of his son), you don't want him to get caught either. It is certainly a movie worth seeing and one that I think I can include in my course on Grief-Management in Cross-Cultural Fiction. Be prepared to be reminded of another movie with the same theme also set on the North Atlantic coastline--In The Bedroom, which was based on the short story 'The Killing' by Andre Dubus III which is set in Maine and was shot in Camden.

Connecticut formed the perfect backdrop for the film. Not only is it cinematically spectacular, but the quiet suburban lifestyle is shattered by the turmoil created by this tragedy which succeeds in destroying so many lives. I can't wait to tell Trish that I have seen the film, though I am sure she would have seen it herself by now.

And now with only two days to go before I arrive in Southport, I am looking forward tomorrow to the arrival of my friend Jenny-Lou and her daughter Kristen from New Jersey. We have tickets for a Christmas 'panto' (short for 'pantomime') in Richmond--Peter Pan, with Simon Callow (one of the country's best-known actors playing Captain Hook). It should be a really good second last day of the year in the UK.

No comments: