Having accomplished my weekend goal (getting out of town to see some place new) yesterday when my friend Roz and I drove to Runnymede, I decided to enjoy a leisurely Sunday in London before the pressure of the coming week hit me. So it was very casually (after waking up early to blog and catch up with email) that I had my breakfast and showered and decided to go for the 10.30 am Mass to Westminster Cathedral. Only when I reached Ealing Tube station, I discovered that there was a delay in the departure of the train as someone had messed up two of the seats and the railway’s entire cleaning crew seemed to have been deputed to clean it up. It took forever as they sprayed and scrubbed and did things with rolls of plastic sheeting! Needless to say, this delay would have made me very late for Mass—so thinking on my feet or on my butt (for I was seated in the train!) I decided to catch the 11.00 am Mass at The Church of the Immaculate Conception which is also known as Farm Street Church.
So I got off at Oxford Street and changed to the Victoria Line that took me to Greek Park from where I crossed Berkeley Square on foot and arrived at my destination well in time.
Mass at The Church of the Immaculate Conception:
I have forgotten how gorgeous the interior of this church is—it is pure Gothic Revival. In fact, it is a cross between the Gothic and the Baroque—for while it has a soaring nave and magnificent fan vaulting on the two side aisles, it is an exuberant burst of color and texture in the decoration employed—marble pillars, a stone carved reredos, painting on the ceiling, loads of statuary. There is so much visual excitement when you enter that you are kept awed for ages.
Then, as if this were not enough, it happened to be a Sung Latin Mass—and you had to hear the choir to believe it! I mean they were truly sensational. It was also very easy to follow as they had handy Latin Mass Books that you could pick up at the entrance and with those aids, I found myself fully engrossed. Of course, the Readings and the sermon were in English—but everything else was in Latin. The Church was quite respectably packed and I was happy to see a mixture of ages—from young to very old, participating in the service.
After Mass, we were invited to join in for coffee in the Rectory. It was there that I made friends with a very nice lady from Pimlico called Angela who then introduced me to one of the priests, Fr. Chris, who was a fine conversationalist. With a cup of coffee in my hand and something called a Tunnock’s tea cake (it was a chocolate covered marshmallow on a biscuit base—absolutely delicious!), I circulated and met a few people. The good priests of this church, Jesuits all, were pleased to know that I am from Fairfield, Connecticut, where their famous Fairfield University is located.
On the Bus to the Florence Nightingale Museum:
One of my goals for the day was to visit the Florence Nightingale Museum—because now that I am back in London, I have a few sights I want to complete ‘seeing’. Anyway, I got into the C1 bus near Green Park and hopped off at Victoria and from there I took a 211 across Westminster Bridge that dropped me off at St. Thomas’ Hospital on the South Bank in whose basement the museum is located. I paid the entry fee of 7.50 pounds and then tried to focus on what is a very small museum. However, when I discovered that they had no café inside, I decided to go out and find some food. I was directed to the Main Entrance of St. Thomas’ Hospital where there was an MandS Simply Food from where I bought Scotch eggs that I ate there before I began my exploration of the museum.
By the end of the visit, I was quite annoyed by the place. For one thing, it is really small—one wonders what they are charging 7.50 pounds for—there was really very little to see. A few items that personally belonged to the Lady with the Lamp were the highlight for me—her fire screen, a chair and a parasol. Several diaries, journals and medical note books that she maintained in her time and that are written in her own handwriting in faded sepia ink were also valuable. There were examples of the kind of clothing she might have worn in her time. Another big highlight for me was the actual kind of lamp she would have carried with her as she made her rounds among wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Artists who depicted her presented the wrong sort of lamp in their paintings—a more English-style one, whereas she would have used a typical Turkish-style one as she was based a lot in Scutari and Balaclava.
What I found best about the museum was the information about her family life, her relationship with her sister, Parthenope, why she turned to nursing and how much she did for the profession. There is a section on Nursing since her time (which was very informative) but was shown mainly through pictures. I did not know, for instance, that she was very active in the Nursing School at St. Thomas’ Hospital—which is why the museum is located in its premises. There is also a small section on Edith Cavell who was trained in the same school and became a renowned nurse herself.
Finally, the museum contains a lovely section on Peter Pan and J.M. Barrie’s bequest of all proceeds of the play to the Great Ormond Children’s Hospital because he was closely associated with it during his own lifetime. There is marvelous information in this section on how Barrie came to write the play, his relationship with the children of the widowed Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies and her boys, his special affinity towards suffering children—we all know that for the first performance of Peter Pan in London in 1911 he brought in 25 orphans whose laughter was so loud and so infectious that they completely made the show the hit it became. Over the years, the hospital has gained vast amounts of money (from international productions of the play plus books, film and pantomime versions of it) and although they cannot disclose how much, let’s just say it has almost single-handedly kept the work of the hospital going.
Most annoying about the museum were the gun-throated parents who arrived with children and behaved as if they were in their own personal living-rooms. They read curatorial notes so loudly as to be a huge disturbance to everyone else around and interacted with their children incomplete disregard of the fact that there were other patrons inside who were trying to concentrate on what they were seeing and reading. With no guards in any of the ‘rooms’, it was impossible to seek assistance to get them to quieten down. Overall, among the many museums I have visited in London, I certainly liked this one the least. The staff at the front desk were also not the slightest bit friendly. The one who sold me a ticket in the afternoon was snooty, distant and cold. I have to wonder why they take on ‘people-oriented’ jobs when they barely have the skills to be civil.
Tea with Friends in Chelsea:
It was while I was in the museum that I received a phone call from my friends Michael and Cynthia in Chelsea. I had intended to visit them to pick up some items that I had left in their home for safekeeping. Now that I live in a flat that has super security in a neighborhood that makes me feel completely safe, there is no need for them to hang on to my things. I took a bus across Westminster Bridge, then nipped into the Circle Line tube to get to their stop at Sloan Square from where I walked to their place. It had started drizzling and it is coming home to me that since it’s rather unusually warm and sunny summer is past, England has returned to its regular weather pattern of rain at any time! It might be best for me to keep a small brolly always in my bag!
I had a lovely hot cup of lemony tea with a biscuit at Cynthia’s place where I stayed for over an hour. We left together at about 6.00 pm as Cynthia wished to attend Benediction at nearby Holy Trinity Church and I hopped into the Tube to get back home.
Dinner and Some Blogging at Home:
Just before I got to my apartment, I rang the doorbell of my neighbors’ flat as my landlord Stuart had told me they were from India. I met both Anu (short for Arnawaz—how pleased I was to discover that she is a Parsi!) and Vikram and their little one, Jesmine. Our visit was brief but they were lovely—young, warm and welcoming and wanted to know if there was anything they could help me with! I am sure I will see them again and get to know them better.
I spent the rest of the evening with my laptop as I caught up with more blog posts. About 9. 00 pm, I stopped to have dinner (my leftover Curry Laksa from Hare and Tortoise—so so delicious I could eat it daily!) and while I ate, I continued watching Making a Murderer on Netflix which is getting more intriguing as it goes along. At about 10.30, after reading a bit more of On Chesil Beach, I switched the light off and went to sleep.
Until tomorrow, cheerio…