Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Once again, I awoke early (by 6.00 am) and contemplated going for Morning Mass to the Benedictine Abbey which is not far from where I live--but the morning was wet and drizzly and dark and I do believe it might be a better idea to do a 'rekky' of the area first--find out exactly where the church is--before I go looking for it while it is still dark. Yes, autumn is here and the days have closed in: sunrise is later and sunset comes faster now--so I try to fit in as much as I can during daylight hours.
Hence, what I did accomplish, apart from writing a blog post and catching up with email, was the proofreading of one more chapter of my book (as I have an urgent end-October date for submission of the manuscript). I finished most of it before I stopped to have breakfast (fresh toasted croissants with peanut butter and Nutella with coffee) and had a shower. It is great to be able to watch BBC's Breakfast show while munching. I left my house at 10.00 am on schedule and was at NYU by 10. 35am.
Hard at Work in my Office:
I spent the next three and half hours hard at work as I printed out and proofread my chapters (I manage two per day), read and responded to work email as it came in after the USA woke up and began the editing of the vast amount of sightseeing memorabilia that I collect at every venue I visit. Since I wish to mail all this printed material back to the USA, I am trying to cull through it so that only the ones I actually will use in my Travel scrapbooks will make it to America. I am doing it in batches as I intend to go off to the post office at the end of this week and mail some of it off right now. No doubt I shall accumulate a lot more material at the weeks go by--but I shall mail those off later.
My British colleague Valerie Wells popped in to give me an article she found on an Anglo-Indian woman who is compiling a book on Anglo-Indian recipes from her great grandmother who spent time in India. It was lovely to visit with her for a few minutes and to know that some of my British colleagues are aware of the topic of my research.
Off to the Guildhall:
It was a lovely sunny (if a bit nippy) afternoon and I had intended to spend it at one of my favorite parts of London that I have not yet visited--foolishly... as I should have gone there in the summer: the Kyoto Gardens at Holland Park. But then I received an email from my colleague Emma at NYU-London wondering if I could meet her for tea that evening at 5.00 pm at Gail's on Bedford Square. I was keen to do so and re-arranged my plans for the afternoon.
Hence, I decided to go someplace closer (that would allow me to meet her on schedule) and went on impulse to the Guildhall instead. You might remember that when I had visited the Guildhall Art Gallery in August, I was unable to enter the Guildhall itself as it was under major renovation. I was told to return to see it in September, but since I was traveling for most of September, I went today instead. I took the Central Line Tube from Tottenham Court Road to Bank and walked for five minutes to the Guildhall where I arrived at about 2. 30 pm.
Visiting the Guildhall:
London's Guildhall is a secular Medieval building that dates from 1411--it is built on top of a series of medieval crypts. It gets its name from the various medieval guilds that ran the city and has been the seat of government of The City of London since the Middle Ages presided over by a Lord Mayor--one of the most famous is Dick Wittington of story-book fame. The outside of the building resembles a Gothic Cathedral with its towering spire and its elaborate tracery on stained glass windows. It stands in a beautiful square flanked by the modern Guildhall Art Gallery built in the 1960s and the medieval church of St. Lawrence Jewry--so-called because it stands in part of The City that was once inhabited mainly by Jews--and where I have often attended lunch-time classical music concerts.
There is security to go through before you enter the Guildhall. While it is open to visitors today for free, there is only really one large room to see--a sort of Medieval Hall that looks a bit like the Dining Halls at the medieval universities of Oxford or Cambridge. There are massive stained glass windows at both ends of the hall in the classic Gothic arched shape. There are also huge sculptures along the sides--you will easily recognize Winston Church in forbidding black bronze and that of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Trafalgar, in white marble. Alongside him is a sculpture honoring Nelson and his famed victory at Waterloo. And flanking him, on the other side, is a sculpture to William Pitt with one to his son on the opposite side. These huge monuments are wonderful testaments to Victorian sculpting expertise and are worth seeing.
However, the most famous of the sculptures in the Guildhall belong to Mog and Magog who stand high up on the balcony and look down at the frequent official proceedings. They are medieval knights dressed in the garb of Roman soldiers. They strike wonderful figures in stone and fresh gold paint. Indeed the very structure and shape of the Guildhall reminds you of knights and you can easily imagine a time when they came right off horseback to participate in Round Table-like meetings in this wonderful space.
This space was also the spot of various important trials through the ages. Some of the cases that were heard here and some of the people that were condemned to death were poor Lady Jane Grey (rightful heir to the British throne who was killed on false charges so that she and her line could not succeed to the throne), Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey( yes, the Elizabethan poet), Archbishop Cranmer (from the era of Henry VIII), Henry Garnett who was one of the co-conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot (although, for some reason, Guy Fawkes is much better known) and a bunch of Roman Catholics who preferred to hang on to their own religion. So. history and great sculptural art coalesce in this space and I was happy to peruse it.
Victorians De-Coded at the Guildhall Art Gallery:
My friend Barbara had suggested we see the exhibition entitled 'Victorians Decoded' at the Guildhall Art Gallery and since I was so close and had a bit of time on my hands, I popped in there. The exhibition is at the basement level of the Gallery (which I have visited frequently over the years). It is based on a connection between forms of telecommunication in the Victorian Age and the paintings in the Guildhall's collection. The most famous and beloved of them is Lord Leighton's Music Lesson which most visitors photograph because it is a classical Victorian work of art that captures so beautifully the intimacy of instruction between a mother and daughter. The background (an elaborate Turkish villa) with its architectural details and the grandeur of the clothing they wear, make this a stunning work of art in terms of its marvelous use of color. There were other major works, of course, but I have to say that oftentimes I could not see the connection between the concept of 'signals' and the works on display.
I also used the occasion of my visit to browse through a few of the paintings in the permanent collection upstairs before I left the Gallery for my next appointment. I love this part of London with its financial air about it and the purposeful looks on the faces of almost everyone on the streets as they go to and fro from their high-powered offices to the streets below. I am sorry that since I will not be in London that day, I will miss the Lord Mayor's Procession that takes place once a year (this year on November 12) when the Lord Mayor goes forth in a grand golden coach drawn by handsome horses and preceded by his Guardsmen from Mansion House (his home and office) down Cheapside!
Tea with a Colleague:
I took the No. 8 bus terminating at Holborn and got off at Bloomsbury where, for just a few minutes, I popped into the Cartoon Museum to see if it was worth visiting. There is a 7 pound entry fee--so I might just keep it for later! It has a very nice shop, however, and I am amazed that people still find it--being that it is tucked away in a corner between Coptic and Museum Streets on Little Russel Street in front of the British Museum--a very witty location. For the grand British Museum in on Great Russel Street!
I was meeting my colleague Emma who teaches at NYU-London and who had an hour-long break between classes. She suggested we meet at Gail's Tea Room where she arrived a little after I got there. We shared a pot of peppermint tea and caught up on her publications. She has just had a novel published (Owl Song at Dawn) and has a second book on Literary Female Friendships coming out early next year. Hence, she is hard at work meeting various deadlines. It is inspiring to be in the company of other women who are also working on books and, like myself, are juggling research and writing schedules as we work towards deadlines.
Back Home for Dinner:
Emma had to leave for her class at 6.00 pm and I left soon after. I took the Tube from Tottemham Court Road and got home at 6. 45 but was surprised by a visit from the local realtor who brought two young men in to see my flat which goes on the rental market after my departure.
When they were gone, I got ready for dinner--I had a chicken and gravy pie that I bought from Sainsbury and I ate it with a lettuce and corn salad and a bowl of chocolate ice-cream for dessert while I watched TV.
I had a fairly early night and was in bed by 10.30 am when I fell asleep almost immediately.
Until tomorrow, cheerio...