Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Research at Queen Mary College Library and in Theaterland

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Resuming Daily Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral:     
      Seems I am quickly getting over jetlag for I fell asleep at 12.15 and slept almost right through to 6.45 am. There was enough time for me to get ready and leave for 8.00 am Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral. If you get the right bus-Tube connections, I realize I can get there in under 20 minutes. And that was where I found myself in good time for the start of the service by the Rev. James Mille. As always, it is a great thrill to walk through the great pillared portals of Christopher Wren's Neo-Classical masterpiece and to make my way to one of the side chapels. I chatted with Rev. James when Mass was done and took myself out again into a grey and drizzly morning. As always, I missed my friends Michael and Cynthia with whom I have often attended daily Mass at St. Paul's. Back home in Connecticut too, I am a daily Mass goer but there is no way the quiet little church I attend can compare with the magnificence of this edifice and it never fails to evoke in me an even deeper feeling of devotion.

Research at Queen Mary College Library:
     After having made inquiries yesterday about obtaining a Visitor's Card for Queen Mary College (QMC) Library, I figured that on a rainy day a library would be the best place to spend time. I decided to start research for my paper on Indentured Labor from the Indian Sub-Continent which I will present at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland at the beginning of next month. So, after breakfasting on Sainsbury's Fruit and Nut muesli in yoghurt and a decaff coffee, I showered and shampooed my hair and set out for a morning of research.
     QMC, part of the University of London, is only two stops away on a bus down Mile End Road or a 15 minute walk. I took the bus and soon found myself presented with a Day Card at the Main Reception area (until a permanent Visitors Card with my picture on it is made available to me). In no time at all, I was on the second floor at the stacks seeking out the books I wanted. It was about 11.00 am when I arrived there and it was exactly 3.00 pm when I wound up--having made about 22 pages of notes! Certainly a morning very productively spent and such a great way to have beaten the rain.

Home for Lunch:
     By the time I got back home, it was 3. 15 and I was starving. I rustled up a grilled cheese and ham sandwich which I ate with something called 'pickle' (Cheese and Pickle sandwiches are very popular in the UK). Except the 'pickle' is not the kind we eat in India (hot and spicy and highly salted) nor is it the kind of pickle we eat in America (cucumbers in brine). It is something known as Branston Pickle--and I was introduced to it for the first time. It is more like a chutney with some chunky, crunchy bits in it (I am not sure if these are onions or mango!) Very likely this was an Indian chutney recipe pinched by some ambitious colonial named Branston who marketed it to his compatriots as a 'pickle' with much success. Anyway, the combination of chutney and cheddar was superb and I can see why 'cheese and pickle' sandwiches are such a hit here. I also ate a bit of salad and, because I could not resist it, a thin slice of tiramisu. It made a very delicious lunch indeed and yet required minimal cooking.

Off to Theaterland:
     Since I am not comfortable at the thought of coming home alone late at night, my friend Cynthia gave me the idea of getting to the theater for the matinee shows--a brilliant idea, methinks! And since Matinee shows are only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I think I will try to see a matinee show each Wednesday by obtaining 'Day Tickets' which are sold at 10.00 am on the day you wish to go (provided tickets are still available, they sell no more than 2 per person in the queue).
     My aim was to find out if Day Tickets would be available tomorrow morning for The Go-Between at the Apollo Theater--a musical that stars Michael Crawford (whose voice I love) and who is a very well-reputed actor (he played the Phantom in the original London version of the play The Phantom of the Opera!) Well, yes, tickets were available for tomorrow and I was advised to get there at 10.00 am but with no need to rush.
      That done, I wandered around the heart of the theater district around Shaftesbury Avenue and Cambridge Circus to make my way to the Palace Theater where there is a great deal of hoopla with the staging of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which opened yesterday. I understand that all tickets have gone until December and that there are none to be had at the Box Office--a fact that was confirmed by the Box Office clerk when I arrived there. I took a picture outside the theater as that is probably the closest I will come to seeing the play!
     A little later, I arrived at the Garrick Theater as I found out that another one of my favorite actors is soon going to be on the stage there. As Chriselle will be here in September-October, I decided to book tickets for us for the show--but I would like it to remain a surprise--so I am not saying which show or who the actor is; but I feel certain that she will be pleased. With the tickets and receipt in my bag, I walked off and made my way to the Strand to find out if Day Tickets were available at the Vaudeville Theater where another favorite actor of mine is currently to be found--Martin Shaw is in Hobson's Choice. I loved him in every TV show in which he stars (not the least being as Detective Inspector George Gently which is still running). In addition, Christopher Timothy also has a role in the play--he played James Herriott in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small. It was confirmed that Day Tickets are available; so, I shall probably come back next Wednesday for the matinee. It seems as if I have a wealth of quality theater from which to choose--I will need to plan judiciously and make certain I see all the ones I want to without breaking the bank.

Exploring Foyle's, Covent Garden and Stanford's:
     In-between weaving myself through the maze of streets that make up Theaterland, London, I popped into two book shops: Foyle's on Shaftesbury where I was delighted to find Owl Song at Dawn, a wonderful memoir by my friend and NYU (London) colleague Emma Sweeney. I will be accompanying her later this month to a reading at the sea-side in Margate--so I had better read the book before that day. What a joy to find a book by a good friend on the shelves of a well-known book store!
     And then, one floor up, I found The Tree-Climber's Guide to London by yet another one of my friends, Jack Cooke, whose work has become a bestseller and for whom I am absolutely thrilled as this kind of great success could not have come to a nicer person. Splendidly produced as a hardbound edition with the most exquisite accompanying illustrations by his wife, Jennifer, I was so struck by the quality and contents of the book that I wanted to buy it right away. It is only the fact of not being able to carry any extra weight back home that deterred me. I am sure I will find it at a local library and will enjoy exploring London with this tome in my hand. I still cannot get over the delight of finding two great books by two good friends in a major book store in a major city in less than half an hour!
    The second great book store I entered was Stanford's, on Long Acre Road, which seemed like a practical idea as I needed to do some research on a trip that Chriselle and I are planning to take in Central Europe late next month. I have bought books and maps galore from this specialty book store that only carries books and articles pertaining to travel--so it is a globetrotter's dream--and one of my favorite venues in London.
     After I found what I was looking for, I decided to try to get the books from a local library--again, I am loathe to buy books that will only add to the weight of what I am already carrying.     

Back Home for Dinner:         
     It was about 8.00 pm with a slight spritz of a drizzle still in evidence when I jumped into the Tube at Leicester Square and headed home. Just a half hour later, I was inside my door and thinking about dinner. It was going to be a salad with a curried yoghurt dressing, a slice of toast with mushroom pate and a cup of asparagus soup. As I rustled it up, I thought of the folks I need to call as I now start to make plans to meet up with friends.
     I watched a bit of Mary Berry's show on TV on her family's favorite dishes and after writing this blog, set off to go to bed.
    It has been a swell day--so much work was done and so much fun was had while crowds of tourists swarmed and swirled around me, undaunted by the weather, in some of the most crowded parts of London. It was grand to feel part of that energy.
     Until tomorrow, cheerio...

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