Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Work at NYU, The City, Bolshoi Ballet

Monday, August 5, 2013
Work at NYU, The City, Bolshoi Ballet

            The morning passed quickly with me putting in about 3 hours at my computer even before I got up for breakfast. I skipped morning Mass as I was so engrossed in my work, I did not want to break my trend of thought.  We had granola cereal for breakfast at the Bishop’s table with tea and then I returned to my work. A good part of the next hour was spent sorting through the vast amount of paper I have accumulated through my handwritten or photocopied notes and research at the British Library. The administrative assistant at NYU-London at Bedford Square kindly agreed to assist me in mailing them back home to the States to save me having to pay excess baggage charges.
            I called Tim to find out if I could get over to his place to pick up the weighing scale he owns and took the bus two stops down to Holborn. With scale safely in my possession, I returned home and continued to cull down my papers. When that was done, I made a bundle of one pile and carried it with me to leave at NYU-London.

Lunch at Hare and Tortoise with my NYU-Office Mate:
            James Polchin and I share a very large office at our NYU campus in New York. Because he is currently posted in London, I have the office to myself and I do miss his presence. We had made plans to meet for lunch and to catch up on all that is happening at our London site. At 1.00 pm, James arrived at The Hare and the Tortoise at Russel Square’s Brunswick Center which has great pan-Asian food. My favorite is the Curry Laksa and I make sure I have it at least once during each of my visits to London. And that was exactly what happened. James ordered sushi and sashimi and I ate my super-large prawn, chicken and squid soup which was as terrific as I always remember it to be. We had a long and very informative exchange of information and ideas and he caught me up on all the changes that have occurred on our London campus since I worked here. We laughed, we joked, we tut-tutted over things and then it was time for the short stroll to Bedford Square. I said goodbye to James there and then settled down in my office to do a spot of photocopying and to print out a number of items that I need to send off to New York. I spent more than an hour getting all this work done and then I was off.

A Walking Tour of The City:    
            A steady drizzle had begun by the time I left my office and since I did not have my brolly—I am getting used to a London sans rain—I hopped into a bus up to Chancery Lane Tube station, then took the Tube to Bank. My idea was to explore the mainly commercial heart of The City of London which comprises banks, financial institutions, etc. and a bunch of beautiful old Wren and Hawksmore churches.
            When I got off the Tube, I was right outside the great Neo-Classical edifice of Mansion House which is the office of the Lord Mayor of London (not to be confused with the Mayor of London who is Boris Johnson—BoJo—and who is ensconced at City Hall, Norman Foster’s overturned glass pudding bowl on the South Bank). Right opposite is Sir John Soane’s Bank of England Building and right next to it is the Royal Exchange Building (the original Stock Exchange Building of London). These structures are fabulous and I do adore them. But with the drizzle becoming a steady shower, I quickly found my way to the Church of St. Stephen Walbrook (on Walbrook Lane) only to be disappointed because it was closed. Bummer!
            Not losing any time, I found the next church on my agenda: St. Mary’s Abchurch which, thankfully, was open. I stepped inside and took in the lovely aged interior with its box pews, superb wood carved altar and reredos by Grinling Gibbons and painted dome (thought to have been the work of James Thornhill but now attributed to someone else).
I spent some time there in prayer before venturing out in the rain again to look for St. Mary’s Woolnoth. This church sits at the cross roads with the Bank of England. It is one of Nicholas Hawkmore’s masterpieces with its two flat spires (reminiscent of Sainte Supplice in Paris). Unfortunately, it too was closed but I could admire its beautiful exterior and its characteristic Hawksmore’s touches—the solid pillars high up near the spires, for instance.
Tired and with plans disrupted by the rain, I rode on the bus to St. Paul’s and got back home about 5.00 pm. Having slept very late at night, I took a half hour nap as I had wonderful evening plans in store—I was off to see the Bolshoi Ballet straight from Moscow perform at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden—a treat, I knew, that would be unbeatable. I simply could not get over the fact that for about 30 years since I have been coming to London, I had never seen a performance at Covent Garden and then suddenly I was seeing two in two weeks (Puccini’s La Rondine had been my first, two weeks ago)!

The Bolshoi Ballet at Covent Garden:
            Cynthia had prawn sandwiches and marble cake ready for me with tea. I wolfed it down and showered and got ready for my night out. On the Tube to Covent Garden and after a short stoll through Floral Street, I was at the theater at 7. 15 ready for my 7. 30 pm performance. The Royal Opera House looks gorgeous at night with all the lights on—the last time I had been for La Rondine, it was a matinee performance and the place wore a very different look. This was far more elegant.
            Well, I had a lovely seat and I settled down eagerly to give myself up fully to the enjoyment of the spectacle. And a spectacle it was indeed! I mean, what can I say except look for superlatives? Everything was brilliant—from the music to the choreography to the technical flawlessness of the ballet dancers as they performed The Sleeping Beauty to the stirring music of Tchaikovsky. For the next three hours, with an intermission which allowed me to stretch my legs and walk to the gorgeous glass conservatory restaurant, I had a simply splendid time. The lady sitting next to me also was alone—she is a ballet freak and extremely well-informed about it. We struck up a lively dialogue and I learnt a great deal from her in a short time. Indeed, I realized that this was my very first full-length ballet ever and what a dream it turned out to be. I could not have been more elated!
            I got back on the Tube to St. Paul’s and walked briskly home at 10. 30 pm when there were still enough people about to not make me feel uneasy. The rest of the household was asleep when I entered, so I tiptoed up to my room and settled down for the night.
            I did not fall asleep right away, however, as I have a problem with my Outlook which is allowing me to receive email but no longer allowing me to send any. I spent over an hour on the phone with a technician before my minutes on my phone card ran out and my session timed out. Overall, a hopeless experience that left me more frustrated and disappointed than over. But tired and upset, I fell asleep and hoped to sort things out tomorrow.
          Until tomorrow, Cheerio!


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