Monday, January 26, 2009

Nursing a Cold and Haunting the British Museum

Monday, January 26, 2009

Having a cold that has left my head weighty, my nose runny and my throat raspy is hardly the way I'd have wanted to start my week. But in addition to all the typical symptoms of a persistent cold, I also have a general sense of weakness that has made me lethargic. I decided not to cancel classes but because I could scarcely speak, I moved my classes to the British Museum--thank goodness for the fact that it is located just behind our campus building.

My students were delighted--as it turned out it was a spectacular day. Where was this kind of day yesterday when Stephanie and I would have been so grateful for great weather in Rochester?? Though I was rather shaky on my feet, I joined my class at the Museum but set them free to explore as they wished with the instruction that they should provide me with a two-page report when we next meet on their visit--on the galleries they covered and the items they sought.

I myself went to the Main Information Desk (the Museum was almost empty a little after 10 am when it first opened) and on the Map asked for the locations to the Museum's Highlights--in a horrid whisper. The girl at the desk was extraordinarily helpful and guided me to the Treasures of Sutton Hoo (a medieval ship that had been buried with a king in a mound in Suffolk and was excavated to reveal a massive treasure), the Portland Vase (that inspired Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn, reportedly), The Treasures of Ur (in Babylon) and A Sri Lankan Buddha in the South Asian Gallery. I also passed through galleries that housed the most brilliant collection of clocks with their complicated mechanical workings that I found quite fascinating. Clearly, I need to turn my attention to the British Museum now that my study of the National Gallery is almost accomplished.

Then, I returned to my office to print out all the documents I need for my trip to Berlin and back. I am a little nervous as I am reaching the city at about 9 pm--I hate arriving in a new country after dark. And not speaking any German whatsoever, I am afraid of not finding my way to the apartment that has been arranged for me by Anja Brug, whom Llew and I met and got to know only very recently on our travels in Greece. At 2 pm, I made my way to Birkbeck College for my next class where I handed out the same assignment--a self-guided tour and report on the British Museum--to be brought in to our next class.

I myself decided to take a bus to the National Gallery to finish the last 6 galleries there but I hopped into the wrong bus and landed up at Piccadilly instead. A short walk took me to the British Tourism Information Center where I picked up a vast number of brochures, flyers and leaflets on the different regions of the UK that Stephanie and I are now planning to cover by road. Then, in the process of trying to find my way to Trafalgar Square, I got hopelessly lost and walked along Pall Mall and arrived at St. James' Street and then hit Piccadilly which meant that I had merely walked around a block--or several blocks! And that with a heavy load in my hand. My doctors will not be too pleased at all! Clearly, my mind was not working today and you could tell that I was sick. Needless to say, I did not reach the National Gallery at all and shall try to finish the last 6 galleries tomorrow morning.

I did finally manage to get into a bus and got home rather early--by 5. 30 pm by which time I felt quite wiped out. I sat and drafted one of my monthly newsletters and began to study the maps of Berlin so that I could find my bearings once I arrived there. I used Google Earth to find the location of the apartment at which I will be staying and then dozing myself with loads of paracetemol, I curled up with dinner to watch Part 2 of Nicholas Nickleby which I had begun watching yesterday.

I had called my parents in the morning and found out about funeral arrangements for my Uncle Alex in Bombay (which I then conveyed to Chriselle and Llew) but they did the speaking and I listened. I will now call my cousins in Bombay to condole with them when my voice feels better. Meanwhile, I have heard that there will be a quiet private funeral for my friend, Prof. Sally Ledger in her family home in Herefortshire and a memorial service will be planned for a later date in London--which I shall be sure to attend if I am in town.

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