Tag Archive: london


cheerio

as you’ve seen, england finished well – the pebbles arrived on wednesday the 22nd and stayed overnight before heading down to brighton for two days’ work.  i finished up at bmnh by mid-afternoon on friday, and we met up with pome for a nice pizza dinner before catching a play at shakespeare’s globe theatre, fulfilling a lifelong dream for me.  the production was love’s labours lost, one i had never seen before – one of the lesser-known comedies, with kind of a strange ending, but extremely well presented (as expected), with great music, beautiful costumes and excellent visual add-on humor.  we returned to our little sofa-bed (oh, did i mention this?  that in the kensington hotel the only bed in our room was a pull-out sofa?) and snatched a few winks before another big day.

on saturday we went to leeds castle (as below) and had dinner with some friends in a lovely local italian restaurant (another recurring theme on this trip – but appropriate since one of the friends is italian).  sunday brought brunch with yet another set of kiwi ex-pat friends now in london, plus the ever-present yet still far-too-little-seen pome.  and in the afternoon, we flew to scotland!

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some last londony bits

regent’s canal

stranger in the night

at the risk of channeling mr wickham (‘it was very good of him to entertain us so eloquently with stories about his misfortunes. with such narratives to hand, who would read novels?’), let me tell you a story.  it has a relatively uneventful ending, but once you hear the rest, you will realize that that’s the ideal kind of ending for this particular story.

last night, pome and i went to the open-air cinema in the scoop, and participated in a screening of mamma mia, with about 900 of our closest friends.  and yes, ‘participated’ is the appropriate verb.

 

afterward, we stopped off at a pub for a drink with a friend of pome’s who had also been there, and two very entertaining irish folks.  all in all, a fairly tame but enjoyable evening, which finished around 11 and was followed by a chat to the pebbles and a muse special on tv, putting us eventually in our various beds around 1am.

at 3:44, i thought i heard a knock on the flat’s front door, which is next to my room.  a few minutes later, there was definitely a slightly louder knock, and after the third time i figured no one else was going to get up and answer.  i knew pome to be a deep and oblivious sleeper, and hadn’t heard the other flatmates come in, so had foggy visions of them standing outside, keyless and forlorn.

instead, when i opened the door about six inches, a blond guy about my age stood on the other side, staring at me in an unfocused way.  repeated enquiries as to whether i could help him, and what/whom he was looking for, elicited no clear response at first (although he was not swaying, slurring or stumbling).  i didn’t think anyone was expected in the wee hours, and was extremely loath to let him in.  however, i was also aware that he could easily be a friend of the residents and i’d have no idea, and that in fact a friend of theirs had been recently staying with them.  after several minutes of staring at each other in probably equal confusion, and while i pondered whether to shut the door or wake pome, the guy rallied his powers of concentration and introduced himself as luca, and explained (sort of) that he was only here to pick up his sleeping bag.  this actually seemed somewhat plausible, and i was mollified by the fact that he was already inside the building (front door requires a key), and that he looked like the least harmless (albeit unknown) person i could imagine opening the door to in london at about 4am on a saturday.  so (and yes, in the light of day, all the voices of sanity in my head scream stupid! stupid! at this point in the narrative), i let him in.

well, he headed into my room, this slow, confused person.  although i explained to him that all the stuff that had been stored in there had been moved out, his eyes roved ponderously over the walls and stuff on the floor  (creeped out yet?  i am)  before ultimately coming back out to wander down the hall.  in the lounge, he stopped and seemed lost, and i was on the brink of pounding on pome’s door for backup, when the other two flatmates emerged from their room and rescued me.  repeated questioning eventually revealed that our visitor was looking for someone named jay and was quite obviously in the wrong flat, and once this idea penetrated his brain (wherever it was located, deep down in some alternate reality), he was peacefully ushered out.

and that really is the end of this bizarre tale, except that it took me a good long while to go back to sleep, as i imagined all the other possible endings – for example, headlines reading ‘stupid foreigner lets midnight stranger into flat; four bodies found in the morning.’  pome was untroubled by any such ideas, since he had in fact slept through the whole thing, and the others have been very good about it.  i plan to make a pie tomorrow by way of apology for compromising everyone’s lives; that should about cover it, right?  yeah.

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fiasco

i mentioned before that i may have pissed off some grand cosmic power before departing on this trip.  this theory continues to gain plausibility.  before i launch into the latest installment, though, i’ve prepared a handy visual to put it into scale with the rest of the trip.  (the wollaton hall closure actually happened this morning but doesn’t really factor into the evening’s events – i was just visiting some family in nottingham, and hoped to look around the building, on the one day anyone local can remember it ever being closed.)

useful background information:

1. for the overnight trip to nottingham last night, i traveled light, taking only a backpack and leaving my 23-kg suitcase with the friends i’d been staying with in london.

2. the battery on my uk cell phone, in spite of being essentially brand new, lasts less than 24 hours after being fully charged.

3. it has been raining cats and dogs in london for a full day.

ready? 

ok.

 i returned to london from notts by train this afternoon in time to meet up with our good friend pome, who was mc at our wedding, and with whom i’m staying this week while working at the museum.  my cell phone battery had begun gasping out its dying breaths last night already, so i turned it on only periodically to check messages, knowing i would need it for meeting up with pome this afternoon and for contacting my suitcase-sitting friends in chiswick.  while waiting to rendezvous with pome, i spotted a cell-phone-charging station inside a vodafone store, swallowed my ire at the £1 fee for ‘up to 30 minutes,’ dropped the coin in the slot and fiddled with four different charging plugs, all of the right configuration, none of which worked.  when pome appeared while i was still uselessly plugging and unplugging, i asked for my pound back and was offered the half-hearted story that the charging station didn’t really *belong* to the vodafone store, and so they couldn’t refund me, but my steely glare ultimately won out.  this becomes important later, since this £1 was the sum total of the cash i carried.

pome and i squelched home to his flat in the ongoing downpour, enjoyed a very civilized cup of tea and a quick chat, and then parted ways, he to an italian lesson and i to retrieve my suitcase from chiswick.  important plot developments: (1) pome realized on the walk to the tube station that he had forgotten his cell phone, and (2) i was the likelier to return to the flat first, so i took his sole set of house keys.

when i got onto the platform to begin leg 1 of the tube journey, the tail lights of an appropriate train were just disappearing down the tunnel.  the next train arrived no sooner than 25 minutes later, and a sorry, steamy, sardine-can of a train it was, too.  (although someone was traveling with an absolutely gorgeous young rhodesian ridgeback.)  so i arrived into the transfer station three stops later, already halfway through the time it was supposed to take me for the entire venture.  i hustled across the street to connect to the other train line (it’s a weird station) and made it to the platform, before an announcement was made that trains to the destination i needed weren’t running. 

well, i was flummoxed.  on one hand, i needed to let pome back into his own apartment shortly (and he had no phone to receive updates; nor did i have the battery to send them); on the other, my friends in chiswick were waiting and i would be appearing very wet and grubby at the museum in the morning if i didn’t manage to recover my suitcase.  £1 wasn’t exactly sufficient cab fare, i didn’t know the bus system, and in this weather, walking would probably have been faster, but carried the risk of drowning.  i decided to gamble with my solitary coin and called the friends in chiswick, who volunteered to throw my gear in their car and rescue me, estimating they would arrive in about ten minutes.  this seemed optimistic given the weather and traffic, but also seemed like the best option, and we barely had time to arrange a meeting place before the pay phone clicked off and left me penniless.

truly at the mercy of the cosmos, i stood hunched under an eave with my cheap h&m umbrella (the kind that turns inside out immediately when you open it; my rain jacket was safely stored in the absent suitcase) for forty minutes.  soaked down to, and up to, the knees, with plunging blood sugar, i imagined a sodden pome pounding on the front door of his own flat, and texted him a heartfelt apology on the off-chance he had been able to get in and retrieve his phone. three lanes of traffic inched forward along the street in front of me (intended for two); it took a police car with lights and sirens a full five minutes to get down the block of road in front of me.  for perspective, i reminded myself that six thousand africans die of AIDS-related illnesses every day and that the scale of my problems was rather miniscule, but i think ‘rapture’ is not too strong a word to describe the emotion that accompanied ultimately climbing into the passenger side of the car when my recuers arrived, lances high and banners (or at least windows) streaming.

and now the story (out of sheer necessity) takes a turn for the better.  we made it back to pome’s without incident, the pebbles called me and heard my tale of woe, making appropriate sympathetic noises in all the right places, and while we were talking, pome himself appeared (none the wiser or wetter for my prolonged absence).  i settled into my room for the next few days and scuttled off through the unchecked monsoon to buy a large bag of greasy fast food, which was deliciously disgusting, and now i have sufficient blood sugar, dry jeans and socks, and the world is a much brighter place.  tomorrow holds an enormous natural history museum with new exhibits, a giant squid, and toad-in-the-hole for tea, so all is ultimately well.

 

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last day in london

saturday the 20th was the only full day i had in london where i wasn't working, so momster and i made the most of it.  in the morning we strolled along the thames and admired the buskers (everything from 'statues' painted in all colors to a cellist to a talking dog to the invisible man) and the sea-serpent street-lamps, on the way to the reconstructed globe theater.  i had been near the globe before but never inside, so we took a tour, enjoying both the exhibit on theater in shakespearian times, including some period-style stage tapestries donated by new zealand (with atlas holding up a new-zealand-centric globe), and the theater itself, with its ornate stage and stalls.

we went to fortnum and mason for afternoon tea in honor of mrs. pumphrey's christmas hampers, then did a little christmas shopping at an outdoor craft market in the gathering twilight, and finished the day with a trip up the london eye.

Globe stageGlobe seatsGlobe

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during my second week in london, i got lots of work done, but also had time to do good things with momster, who was visiting.  mostly she went off on her own adventures during the day, but sometimes she came in and met me for lunch of after work.  our usual meeting place was in the great hall near the big diplodocus skeleton, and over the course of the week i had a good chance to look around at both the curiosities in alcoves around the hall, and at the amazingly detailed carvings on every available stone surface.

MouseGreat hall ceilingEntryCoelacanth

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BMNH

things have been a bit quiet – england is less stressful than france due to the (only semi-)reduced  language barrier, so there are less stories to relate.  also, i have been leading a rather sheltered existence inside this most impressive of edifaces.

this is the part i see the most of:

note  the large numbers of vials and jars of varying sizes and shapes.  so far i have been through about 150 lots, sorting out things i want to look at more closely.  some of the big ones haven't been opened in 40-100 years and present quite a challenge:

  … and when they do eventually open, they often prove to belong to an entirely different group of squid from the one i'm studying.  so far i have come across no fewer than four large specimens marked 'Kondakovia' (a large antarctic onychoteuthid and therefore relevant to my thesis) that have turned out to in fact be the colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis.  i do also have an interest in and use for these specimens and hope to look at them more closely later this week, but right now i have to prioritize thesis stuff.

i do get a little time to wander around the more cavernous front-of-house galleries, though, which are very worth seeing – i plan to do them more completely when my mom is here next week (she arrives tomorrow).

WindowsPrehistoric mammalGrand hall

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