Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Waking up in this new place feels rather strange to me. It takes me a few seconds to realize where I am. It was 6. 45 am when I awoke and since I wanted to get to Osterley (close to Heathrow airport) in time for a 10. 30 am appointment, I showered really quickly, ate my cereal breakfast, made myself a ham and cheese sandwich and left at 8.30 am. I had to find out where the nearest bus stops are as well as the routes that serve this area. I guess I will have it all figured out in a few days.
Getting out of Theobald’s Road and arriving at Holborn Station takes the longest time in the bus what with all the traffic snarls and the peak hour rush. Despite changing three buses, I arrived at Osterley Tube Station earlier than I expected and called the Anglo-Indian gentleman who had agreed to speak to me. He picked me up from the bus stop in his car and took me to his home where we settled down with a glass of water that I requested. His wife was also supposed to speak to me as part of my project; but I sensed her reluctance right away and when she agreed to answer some questions only and did not sign the agreement giving her consent to the interview, I politely declined. In the end, I spoke only to the husband who had rather interesting views which he shared very frankly with me. He told me later that his wife had completely conflicting views and did not wish to air them in front of him as they differ widely on the subject of their decision to emigrate to the UK and the manner in which life has treated them since they arrived in this country 20 years ago.
Still, despite his misgivings, it is impressive that three of his four children are university educated and that too in the cream of the country’s institutions of higher education such as Cambridge, Oxford and UCL. Their last daughter is taking her GCSEs this year and is also headed towards what we, in America, would call an Ivy League school. This man was so different in attitude and behavior from the couple I met yesterday. Thus, though I have spoken to over 35 Anglo-Indians already, I do not find my work repetitive as each of them tells me completely different stories and has inordinately different views.
A Visit to the Museum of London:
Back in the City, I went straight to NYU to settle the last of my utility bills and then I was on the bus heading to the Museum of London. This one, together with the London Transport Museum, is still on my To-Do List and I decided today would be a good day to go out and explore it. It is located near the Barbican and has a very interesting architectural design. Built in close proximity to the old London walls (the base dating from Roman times), they make the perfect backdrop for a place that traces the evolution as this city from 43 AD to the present date. The only misfortune is that the entire lower level is under refurbishment and closed to the public (which means I shall have to make another trip to London sometime to see it!) but the top floor contains interesting artifacts that span several centuries right up to the Great Fire of 1566.
I watched two rather short but fascinating films—one on the Great Fire, another on the Black Death (the Plague) that ravaged Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Then, my exploration of the contents began. Among some of the most notable things I saw (and not necessarily in any order at all) were:
1, 2 Roman leather bikinis that would have been worn by dancers—it is remarkable that they have survived despite being made of leather. There are only 3 Roman bikinis in the world and 2 of them are here in this museum.
2. A set of Roman gold coins, excavated in a single hoard, featuring the heads of every one of the most significant of the Roman emperors. This must have belonged to someone very wealthy who buried his treasure hoping to retrieve it someday but never got back to it.
3. A fragment of a marble tablet on which for the very first time the people of London have been named as Londoners (Londiniumvernis, I think it said).
4. The very first fire engine ever used in England.
5. A spectacular Roman mosaic floor found intact in a house in Bucklersberry near London in the late 1800s.
I did not finish seeing all of the museum. I have yet to see the exhibit on the Great Fire of London which was crowded with a school group, leading me to postpone my visit there.
I took the bus and returned home to Denmark House to find that my friends Paul and Loulou had arrived there from Suffolk to spend a night as they do once a week. It was great to see them again but we did not have a chance to spend a whole lot of time together as they were off to a party and will return late tonight. I tried to set myself up once again with the wireless connection but failed. Will try again tomorrow. Hopefully, Tim will be able to walk me through the process.
I ate my dinner while watching a program called Come Dine With Me—in which four strangers are thrown together to cook for each other and put on a complete meal for the other three. It made rather interesting viewing but because it was an hour-long show, I saw only a part of it as I wanted to get back to writing my journal for my blog.
I was pleased before I went to bed to review the comments in the evaluation sheets left for me by my students and to discover that they were very complimentary indeed and said a lot of very positive things about the courses I taught them this past semester. I am very pleased that the year I spent teaching in London was beneficial to them and that they enjoyed my classes.
I also began the next novel in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which I hope to finish in the next couple of weeks so that I can start the last and final one and return the last two books to Barbara who lent them to me. When I have finished all of them, I can cross out yet another item on my To-Do List: Read all 7 Harry Potter novels in London!