Monday, August 8, 2016

Research at the British Library and a Walk in Victoria Park

Monday, August 8, 2016

How is it August 8 already???!!! And where did this particular day go? Oh yes, it went while I was swatting in the library--the British Library, that is. Having had a full and fun weekend, I had earmarked Monday for research and since the British Library would probably have all the material I requested in today, it would be sensible to get down to some work. But first things first.

Bookings and Brekkie:
   I awoke at 6. 30 am, lazed in bed for another 15 minutes and got cracking on my laptop. It was as good a time as any other to book coach tickets for Chriselle's and my ride to and from Stanstead airport next month. It was fun (but a little nerve-wracking) to get online again making reservations for coach fares---but it was also thrilling to get such cheap ones. The earlier you book these coach rides from Victoria to the city's airports, the more inexpensive they are. So there. Done and dusted. Now all I have to focus on in getting us accommodation. During the next few mornings, I must attack that project too.
     Then it was time to get breakfast and a shower. I have gotten used to my Sainsbury fruit and nut muesli with honey yogurt and a cup of my Lavazza decaff coffee. Predictable but perfect. Why change a great thing? It was a day for a shampoo too--so with damp strands and my cheese scone with blue cheese filling made into a sandwich and a slice of date and walnut cake, I was out the door with my laptop and heading to the British Library.

At the Library:
     It was beyond impressive how superbly the British Library delivers whatever it promises to! I got there about 11. 30 (after taking a call from my friend Bash just minutes before I put my phone on silent) and for the next five and a half hours, I was hard at work pouring over and perusing the documents and official files from the Records of the India Office that I had requested. Being a Modernist Post-Colonial scholar myself, I am not accustomed to looking at documents that date beyond the 1940s. So you can imagine the reverential awe with which I handled and read documents dating from the 1700s, handwritten on parchment-like surfaces in fountain pen ink with the most graceful penmanship. I also looked at files and letters dating from the 1860s and the 1890s that derived from the Government of Her Majesty (the Majesty in question being not our Queenie but her great-grandmom, Queen Victoria).  Naturally, I treated them with the greatest care and although they are in many cases falling apart, it was a massive pleasure to go over them, take pictures of them, make notes from them etc.  I stopped for a half hour to get down to the cafeteria to eat my cheese scone sandwich and then I returned to work.
      At 5.00 pm, I  retrieved a whatsapp message from my friend Murali making arrangements to meet me at Liverpool Street Station at 6.00 pm. This suited me fine as I had already had my fill of inspecting and interpreting documents and felt the need to leave. I resolved to return tomorrow to go over more of the materials I have requested.  Just before I left, I popped into the cafeteria to have a slice of my cake with a hot tea. I then retrieved my laptop bag from the Luggage Locker and left the library.
     It really was the perfect way to spend a cloudy and rather chilly day. I managed to get so much work done and I tracked down wonderful material that I will be able to use in my conference presentation in Edinburgh in Scotland next month.

Meeting Murali at Liverpool Street Station:
     Liverpool Street Station was packed to capacity with commuters getting home from work after a long day as it is a major train hub. Elbowing through human traffic, I arrived at the Wasabi counter that he chose as a meeting place and after a fond reunion, we decided to get out of the crowds by coursing on foot through the side lanes.
     However, my laptop was not the best appendage with which to be walking around and when Murali suggested that I go home to drop it off, I thought it sounded like a great idea. So off we went on the Tube to Stepney Green from where we walked to my house. After I'd given Murali the Grand Tour of a Far From Grand House, I dropped my laptop off, wore my Dansko clogs (perfect for walking) and off we went.

Exploring Victoria Park:   
     Victoria Park is a vast expanse of green in the East End of London that was laid out in the 1840s and designed by Sir James Pennethorne who was a pupil of John Nash, the architect. In many ways, it replicates Regent's Park in north-west London and is thought by many to be the finest park in the East End. It is massive (stretches all the way to Islington)  and superbly laid out and seems to go on forever, offering a green oasis amidst the urban sprawl. Knowing what I do about the poverty and hardship associated with the East End in Victorian and Edwardian times, I can just imagine what a welcome addition this park was to the plan of the area. Like everything that was created in the reign of Victoria, it was named after her!
     Less than ten minutes after leaving my place, we were crossing the Hertford Union Canal (the one on the opposite side of the Park further in the east is the Regent's Canal) over a small bridge and descending stairs that led to the tow path of the canal and its locks. The water was just as green with algea as it had been at Copperfield Road where the Ragged School Museum is located and where I had walked along the Regent's Canal Tow Path yesterday. And then just a few feet ahead of us were the grand ornate gates leading into the park.
     It is a lovely space and I am so fortunate to have Victoria Park to close to me. When I lived in Paris, my apartment building was directly opposite Parc Montsouris. I had considered myself lucky then...and I am just as lucky now--although truth be told, I have usually already done so much walking all day that most  evenings, I just want to sink down on my bed.
     Still, we circumnavigated the large lake filled with mallard life and arrived at the Chinese Pagoda which I discovered to be a very recent replacement of the original one that stood there in the Victorian Age. It has all the color and style of a typical Chinese pagoda and it was irresistible not to walk right through it. The evening was simply perfect--the weather is holding out and there isn't the sign of a drop of rain at all. After we had walked around for at least an hour and caught up on all the doings in Murali's life and mine, we left the park and walked towards my home and the Tube station (for Murali).  We stopped en route to inspect a small food shop and I ended up leaving with rum and raisin ice-cream by Carte d'Or (earlier I had picked up biscuits) while Murali bought English cherries which are startlingly black but most delectable!
     I warm to this friendship which is a direct result of this blog. Years ago, Murali had been looking for some information about a Gresham College Public Lecture I had attended and he came across my blog post. He contacted me, we made plans to have coffee and our friendship, since then, has grown from strength to strength. It is just fabulous to make a new friend who completely shares your own interests. When he is not traveling or working from Frankfurt, we hope to do a few city walks together as we share a passion for London. Lucky him--he actually lives and works here!

Dinner and a Blogging Session:
     It was time to fix myself some dinner with the odds and ends in my frig. I had a cup of chicken soup, a small portion of my mashed cauliflower (which is still going strong!), a small portion of leftover chicken risotto and half a sausage. For dessert, I had blackberries which I had plucked from the City Farm with a helping of rum and raisin ice-cream.
     Before I called it a night, I did a spot of blogging and then it switched off the light.
     Until tomorrow, cheerio... 

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