Sunday, April 19, 2009
I awoke at 5.oo am again! What's it about this flat that wakes me up before the crack of dawn? When I am traveling, I never open my eyes before 7.00!!! There has to be some reason but I have yet to figure it out.
Anyway, I did not mind as there was so much to catch up with--not the least of which was keeping this blog up to date. I spent a good part of the morning writing a travelogue on my impressions of Belgium and captioning my pictures (because I need to stay on top of that project as well).
Barbara had told me about a church at Soho Square when I had asked her for recommendations. I wanted to attend Mass at a new church each Sunday that I stayed put in London. She did not know the name of the church but had pointed it out to me on the London A-to -Z. When I went online, I found out the name: St. Patrick's Church at Soho Square, and the Mass was at 11am. I walked briskly down High Holborn and arrived there about 20 minutes later--it was a part of the city I had never explored, so I was pleased to arrive finally in the heart of Soho.
The Church was very plain indeed, compared to all the ornate affairs I have been visiting over the past few months. In fact, it looks badly in need of refurbishment (or at least a new lick of paint). Flakes were peeling off the walls and the kneelers at each pew have definitely seen better days. I discovered, soon enough, that there was to be a Christening ceremony taking place during our mass--another first for me! Who knew I'd get to attend a Baptism while in London? The christening party had occupied all the front seats on one side of the church. The rest of the congregation comprised a motley lot--mainly immigrants, it would appear--Filipinos and Indians and South Americans. Where were all the native Catholic Britons, I wondered?
My brother Russel had informed me on the phone in the morning that it was Divine Mercy Sunday--he keeps close track of the Church Calendar! Right enough, the priest preached a sermon about it. Rather frightening it was in its tone too! We must seek Divine Mercy in confession, he said, each time we committed serious sin (which, he said, included, skipping Mass on a Sunday). Uh-oh. With all the travelling I've been doing this past year, that has happened once too often, I thought. I'd better haul myself into that confessional pronto!
The High Mass included sung bits in Latin (the Gloria, for instance)--which, surprisingly, so many members of the congregation knew and joined in. I realized that these English churches have Latin masses much more frequently than we do in India or the States--indeed there is one sung Latin Mass on the schedule each Sunday at most parish churches here--which explains why most people can participate.
Communion was distributed the old-fashioned way too--you kneel along the Communion rails to receive. You do not stand (as we do in India and the States) in a double file. This takes longer but is more solemn. I spied a sign at the foot of the altar that said: "Do not proceed beyond this point. If you do, the alarm will ring and the police will come". Oh my! This was probably intended for the drug-addicts and alcoholics who supposedly hang about the square.
After the Baptism and Communion, two ladies came forward to sing Panus Angelicus. As always happens when I hear this hymn sung well, my eyes welled up with tears and next thing I knew, I was wiping them away. Truly the voices of angels must keep the folks in heaven well supplied with Kleenex! Listening to them sing it so beautifully made my Sunday indeed.
Outside in Soho Square (Barbara was right--a bunch of alcoholics and drug addicts had gathered by the door for the free coffee that followed mass), the sun shone brightly. I entered Soho Park to read the board that gives an account of its history and discovered that Soho Square was laid out in 1680 and soon became one of the most fashionable addresses in London--the Duke of Monmouth owned a house here (in which he kept his mistress). Glittering parties and balls were very much the order of the day in this area as celebrities flocked to Soho in its heyday--well into the late-19th century. It was only in the 20th, that the arrival of Crosse and Blackwell heralded the end of the square as a residential hamlet and its beginning as a commercial one. The park is currently undergoing renovations (its bandstand is all scafollded right now).
It was a little after 12 .15 pm when I walked to Bedford Square to pick up some of my students' papers for grading. Yes, NYU does stay open from 12 noon to 12 midnight on Sundays and Mohammed, our security man, was at his desk when I arrived there. I did pick up a big packet of mail that had been redirected to me from my New York office. Just when you think you've caught up with backlog, more work comes your way, doesn't it? There was an envelope from Aetna Global (my international medical insurance company) reimbursing me by check for the amounts I had incurred on private physiotherapy in London from October until March. Only trouble was I had made my claim in British Pound Sterling--and they sent me a check for the same amount in Dollars! Which means that I have to now contact them by phone to sort out the issue of currency exchange rates!!!
On my way back home (I have finally found a way to get back home from campus that takes me less than 12 minutes!), I stopped at Sainsbury to do some food shopping. Standing on the scale this morning and seeing the figures jump sky high had told me it was time to take drastic measures--so I am back on a low-carb diet again. No more sugar, no more honey in my tea, no more fabulous artisinal bread. This meant that I had to cook, so there I was at my stove making mashed cauliflower with parmesan cheese, sausages with onions and yellow peppers, two types of chicken salad (Asian--the dressing has peanut butter and soy, chilli and sesame oils-- with Cucumbers and Indian--this dressing has curry powder in it--with Apricots). I also made a huge frittata with onions and bacon and sun-dried tomatoes and olives. All this food should keep me going for the next couple of weeks as I froze a whole lot of it. What with cooking and cleaning and trying to take the many phone calls that came through, it was almost 5 pm when I was done and I hadn't yet responded to my email.
Talking of phone calls, I received one from my friend Loreen from Westport, Connecticut, who is visiting her daughter in London for a week. She was hoping to get together with me but I bowed out as I had too much to do and decided that later in the week would work better for me. As it turned out, we both discovered that, quite by coincidence, we had tickets for the same evening to see Judi Dench in Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade at the Donmar Wyndham Theater--this coming Wednesday! So, we will probably meet for dinner before or after the show. Now what are the odds of that happening??!!
Llew and I also talked several times during the day as we had quite a number of things to sort out. Earlier in the morning, I had talked to my parents and to my cousin Blossom in Madras who informed me that she will be in London for 2 weeks at the end of July--but we might just miss each another as it is very likely that I will have left by then. My friend Amy from New York emailed me to find out when she should plan to visit. Everyone wants to come to London now that the weather has turned nicer...only my travel schedule in booked solid and I will only be staying here in this flat till the end of May.
I spent the evening captioning more pictures, then talking on the phone to all the Anglo-Indian respondents who made interview appointments with me, several weeks ago, for next week. This week, I will be traveling to Southall and then visiting someone in Notting Hill as I continue to interview the kind folks who've agreed to meet with me and tell me their stories. In the midst of all of these calls, I forgot that I was supposed to call my high school classmate Charmaine who emailed me to say that she had arrived from Australia to spend two weeks with her parents in London and hoped to get together with me. By the time I remembered, it was almost 10 pm--too late, I thought. I MUST call her tomorrow morning. Fortunately, I do not have my morning class and will only start teaching at 2pm.
Llew called me at 9 pm to tell me that while doing spring clean up in our back garden, he found a dead possum under a pile of leaves. It broke me heart as I had grown fond of the little fellow. He used to live under the deck in our garden and came out rather shyly on occasion to eat the seed that the birds dropped around our feeder. He was a harmless tubby little chap and it was our brutal Connecticut winter this year that probably did him in. Llew called Animal Control who will be sending someone to pick him up.
I tried to call Chriselle for our regular Sunday telephonic catch up session, but I only got her voice mail. Then, it was time to eat my dinner, take a nice hot shower and get ready for bed.
Where had the day gone???