Sunday, November 6, 2016
I survived today on four hours sleep--turned off light last night at 12. 45 pm and awoke at 5.00 am (wretched body clock!)--which explains why I was dozing off each time I sat on a Tube train. Still, undaunted by the early hour and lack of sleep, I hammered out two blog posts and revised itinerary for Llew and my coming travels in France. It seems that Llew is reluctant to drive long distances and buying French Rail Passes might be a better alternative. Checking websites and scouring the map took up a good lot of my time.
Not to mention packing! Yes, I am in Moving Mode again as I leave for Italy early on Thursday morning and will need to vacate my Ealing flat on Wednesday evening--I shall spend that night with my friend Roz in Battersea. So, I find myself once again juggling logistics in my mind and on paper as well as preparing for my talks--two of them: one at NYU here in London on Tuesday and another at the University of Padua later next week. In-between I have travels in Sicily to prepare for and more logistics to sort out--such as getting boarding passes for my Ryanair flights.
It was my goal to get out of the house by 10.00 am for the 11.00 Mass in Kensington. Breakfast done (toast with Nutella, Peanut butter--both almost over--butter and lemon curd with coffee), I showered super quickly and left my flat on scheduled.
On the Tube and off to Mass:
In keeping with my goal of attending Mass at a different church each Sunday, this week I was at Kensington. I had made plans to spend the morning with my former student Elise and her lovely family--husband James and children Thomas and Elektra. Since they attend the 11.00 Mass at Christchurch, Kensington, it was there that we planned to meet. A pub lunch would follow.
Yes, I did get a few zzzzs on the Central Line train--I got off on time, though, at Bond Street and then changed to the District Line going south and got off at Kensington High Street. From the Tube station, it was a pleasant walk to the church which is on Victoria Street on a dead end. I walked past really posh terraced housing under sunny skies on a very chilly morning. It is winter in London already and I am very grateful for my warm layered clothing. It was a joy to pass under a fig tree that had ripe fruit scattered under it. Never in London have I seen such a sight--a fig tree laden with dark plumb figs is something I associate with the Mediterranean--Greece or Italy. This was a cheering sight.
Mass at Christchurch, Kensington:
It was lovely to see Elise just as I was entering the church which is tucked away in a secret corner of Kensington that no one except for faithful parishioners have heard about. It is a Victorian Gothic church, built about 160 years ago--very young by the standard of most London churches, but still deeply atmospheric. It is undergoing refurbishment and extension (as most churches seem to be), but it was still a beautiful space in which to pray.
I met Elise right at the entrance as she walked down the road with daughter Elektra. We hugged and kissed and went inside to find James and Thomas and a number of other people bustling around and getting ready for the service.
One of the things about going to a different church each Sunday--mostly Anglican, sometimes Catholic--is that I have had the chance to see how much church services can differ even within the same church system. In the Catholic church, there are no variations: all over the world, the Mass is exactly the same in terms of the order of the liturgy and emphasis in terms of doctrinal teachings. Of course, there are some variations depending on the circumstances of each church. Some have large impressive choirs, some don't. Some have family masses when children are permitted to come up to the altar during the homily while some don't allow anyone at the altar.
This Mass, however, was what is called a service in a 'High' church. They had a very good choir (many from the local colleges of music as the Royal College of Music and the Imperial College of Music are close by and singers are recruited from those institutions) but their music was Modern--no Gregorian chants for them. This music was almost atonal--not my cup of tea, to be frank. There was also a great deal of emphasis on the Word--Readings were lengthy and from unfamiliar books of the Bible (I have never heard of Habakuk, for instance, and the Word was from him this morning).
As it turned out, Elise did the Reading today--it was her first time, but she did a grand job. The regular pastor Mark was on vacation--the priest who stood in for him then based his entire sermon on the Word with frequent references to specific verses of it. Also, the order of the Mass was very different to what I am accustomed: the Lord's Prayer was said not just before Communion, but right at the end of the Mass. Little things like this made the service extremely different for me. It was a very nice way to begin my Sunday, however, and I am beginning to realize more than ever what a good idea it was to go to different churches and worship in them.
Lunch at The Builder's Arms:
Elise's 'local' is called The Builder's Arms--it is a lovely pub. Again, being tucked away as if in secret, I am certain that its traffic is mainly local residents. Elise's family descends upon it every Sunday after Mass for lunch. The children seem to know the menu well and go directly for the Fish and Chips. Since I am an adult and Britain is known for its traditional Sunday Roast, I decided to go for the platter than had both Roast Beef and Roast Loin of Pork served up with Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Potatoes and Carrots and what looked like Bubble and Sqeak--a semi-mush of cabbage and onions--came with it. Gravy poured over the Yorkshire Pudding was flavorful and glossy and a rich deep dark brown--oh and very delicious. It was a feast fit for a king.
Wolfing down pub grub gave us the opportunity to catch up and we chatted non-stop. In almost 25 years of teaching at NYU, Elise still remains my star student. It is a huge joy to be in touch with her after all these years. Today, fully occupied with a lawyer husband and two lively children, she is coping with full-time motherhood as best she can--albeit with more help than most British mothers can enjoy. We talked about the kid's schooling, about the US elections, about the saga of my accommodation situation here in London and the reasons why I moved from the East End to Ealing. Every second with Elise was precious as I get to see her rarely and never leave without feeling awed by everything she has accomplished. James too has become a dear friend through the years--so it is always fun to hook up with him too. As for the kids? Well, they seem to grow by leaps and bounds and their energy never fails to amaze me.
After lunch, Elise suggested we go over to their new home for coffee. It turned out to be one of those lovely terraced houses in Kensington. They now occupy two floors of a three storey home that belongs to James' family. It was delightful to be inside one of these Victorian homes that have broad staircases, ornamental plaster moldings on the ceiling and so much character. Coffee was lovely and although I would have loved to have stayed longer, I had to leave for my next appointment. But not before the children insisted on showing me their playroom and their bedroom. So I ended up getting the Grand Tour of the house which was simply wonderful. Overall, I could not have spent a better morning or been in better company.
Off to the British Museum for Ribeiro Lecture:
I had to rush off after saying my goodbyes to this beautiful family--as I needed to get to the British Museum for my next appointment: a talk on the artist Lancelot Ribeiro with whose work I had become acquainted at Burgh House last weekend in Hampstead.
James gave me directions to the Tube station at Gloucester Road from where I took the Piccadilly Line to Holborn and walked to the British Museum from there. The lecture was in the basement and was given by Nicholas Treadwell who had arrived from Austria where he currently lives. He initiated the first ever Mobile art gallery in the UK and way back in the 1960s began taking art to varied neighborhoods to get common people to buy. He represented the work of South Asian artists such as Sadanand Bakhre, F.N. Souza (Ribeiro's half-brother) and, of course, Ribeiro himself. His talk was very informal--more a matter of memoir rather than an academic or scholarly assessment of Ribeiro's work or the need to re-examine in again after all this time. It was held in an auditorium and had about 150 people in attendance. The session ended with a short film on the current retrospective exhibition at Burgh House and a few thank you words from Marsha, Ribeiro's daughter. She invited everyone to then travel to Grosvenor Gallery at Mayfair for a Reception and a viewing of works by Bakhre, Souza and Ribeiro.
Off to the Grosvenor Gallery to see Ribeiro's Work:
On my way out, I began a conversation with a lady who seemed headed off to the same place--she was also at the lecture. Her name is Devika and we decided to travel together to Mayfair. I spend the next couple of hours with her as we arrived at the art gallery and perused the work on display. There was not a lot of it--a single room had about 35 works on display from all three artists. There were a few Ribeiro Town Scapes on display but there were also several original Rajasthani miniatures on sale.
I had a glass of sparkling wine and a few nibbles as I examined the works on display. Then, I said goodbye to Devika, thanked her for her company and left at about 5. 45pm.
I took the Tube back home (needless to say, I dozed off again!) and reached home at 6.30 pm. I thought I would pick up some chocolates to take to India from Morrison's, but it closes at 5 pm on Sunday. I have to get used to the fact that supermarkets are not open 24/7 in the UK as they are in America!
Early Dinner and Bed:
Feeling quite drained from lack of sleep, I decided to make an early night of it. I surveyed the items remaining in my fridge, fashioned a salad for myself as well as a plate of ravioli with cheese sauce and watched a bit of Only Fools and Horses as I ate. As I was falling asleep by the end of my meal, I merely texted Llew to say goodnight and fell into bed at 9.00 pm.
Until tomorrow, cheerio...