bbc proms

Proms

Despite the heavy rain earlier in the day, the afternoon had turned hot. Ros and I carried sandwiches as we walked down Exhibition Road, past the museums. Around the corner and down the street our friends waited for us, already in the queue that stretched from the doors of the Royal Albert Hall to the street. We passed around the sandwiches and waited, chatting, slowly baking and wishing we were in the shade, until finally the doors opened a few hours later. We were waiting for the coveted £5 tickets to the BBC Proms.

Once the doors opened, the queue moved steadily, if slowly. We eventually handed over our £5 notes and made our way up to the gallery. As the auditorium filled with the audience, we settled into our places on the floor, where we still had a good view of the stage. We traded glances of disapproval about others who brought books or laptops into the hall. Would they put them away when the concert began? They might as well as stayed home and listened to the concert on BBC Radio 3! Some joke was being made at Tristan’s expense (or was it Charly’s?) that was quickly hushed as the musicians walked onto the stage. The hall erupted with applause.

And then there was music.

Photo: BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Back from London

My apologies for not posting the last week. You see, I was in London. My writing partner-in-crime and fellow book connoisseur, Kelly is visiting from Texas. So this is what we did:

Monday. National Gallery. Dinner at the Texas Embassy Cantina.

Tuesday. V&A. Lunch at Le Pain. Frozen yogurt from Snog. Bookstore. Natural History Museum. Dinner at Wild Honey. Phantom of the Opera.

Wednesday. British Museum. Picnic lunch. Westminster Cathedral. Dinner at the Crypt in St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Thursday. Sherlock Holmes Museum. Royal Academy of Music Museum. Regent’s Park. The Globe and a tour of The Rose theatre. Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral. Dinner at Wagamama.

Friday. The British Library. Get on train at King’s Cross Station and return to bonnie Scotland.

As you can see, we were quite busy. Summarising it all in detail will simply take too long. I’m becoming quite the tour guide of London, however, so maybe you should just come and visit?

Briefly, London

St Martin in the Fields is a nice little church in Trafalgar Square, London. I made it there with my bags just after the choral concert started, so I lugged them down into the crypt, to sit in the aptly named Café-in-the-Crypt until the interval. The Café-in-the-Crypt is a lovely café/restaurant with a wide range of options to fit most any budget. I myself had a large bowl of soup and a roll for £3.75. Not bad for London. After dinner I waited upstairs until the interval. I found myself standing in the doorway of the church, listening in rapture to the pure soaring notes of Allegri’s Miserere Mei Deus* in one ear and the sounds of sirens and traffic noise in the other. I found Charly at the interval, shared crème brûlée with her dad, and sat inside the church to hear the rest of her concert.

As already mentioned, I spent most of my time in London at the British Library. No touristy things this time. I stayed with my friend Charly and her family, met up with friends for lunch in the BL courtyard, did lots of research, and then jetted off to Oxford.

* For the record, I want Allegri’s Miserere sung as part of my funeral/memorial requiem mass.

The British Library

Well, I’m sitting in the café of one of my favourite places in the UK (if not the world), and since I am now merely waiting until my train leaves (in four hours), I suppose I shall finally update my blog.

Where am I, that it is so lovely? Three floors of reading rooms tower above me; there are reading rooms on either side of the café, and below me is a shop, exhibition hall, and below that is a cloakroom, another exhibition room, locker room, and I don’t even know what else. From where I sit I can see most of the King’s Library collection on display. Where am I? I am in the café of the British Library.

The British Library is a wonderful place. It is a haven in the heart of London. Outside the world is busy, turbulent, always in a rush. Step but through the gates into the courtyard and at once enter the calm: in the courtyard, academics mill about on the steps or the outdoor café, chatting quietly or eating or drinking in silence, often with a book in hand. Enter the doors and you have entered a sanctuary. Oh, how airy and full of light it is! And quiet, filled only with soft murmurings rather than traffic noise. The British Library is a beautiful place filled with beautiful books and beautiful people. I love it.

Part of my trip down south has been to spend a few days here, in the manuscripts reading room of the British Library. I have been consulting the manuscript of my beloved Melusine, tenderly turning its pages and transcribing its handwritten words. Oh, the wonders of scholarship! I live in two worlds: one that holds a 15th century manuscript in its hands and which types its notes onto a laptop computer, connected to the world via wireless internet. I’m here gathering clues for an article or two, and in the meantime, reviving my love for the text of Melusine. There is nothing like paging through your favourite medieval romance manuscript to get you excited about your thesis and the life of a scholar again.

The lockers are nice to use, too.

 

My apologies

I am sorry, dear readers, I have been remiss: I did not forewarn you that I would be away for some days. I am still away – photos and stories upon my return, of course – but let me leave you with a tantalizing glimpse of what I’ve been up to:

I am a pro at taking clandestine photographs in libraries.

Weekend in pictures

The weekend in pictures:

Friday:


Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.


A very bold squirrel that came up to me during lunch in Regent’s Park.


An Asiatic lion in the London Zoo. Isn’t he beautiful?


A Kestrel named Solo and his keeper.
Kestrels are the only falcons that can hover in mid-air.

Saturday:

A day spent in Surrey watching the final instalment of the Harry Potter films and hanging out with friends.


A view from outside the pub we went to for drinks after the film.


An enormous glowing fox outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall.


I seem to have acquired the habit of walking across London bridges at midnight.

Sunday:


Three guesses where I went on Sunday…


Dr. Watson in the sitting room at the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Sunday afternoon and evening were spent promming at the Royal Albert Hall. Over a thousand performers coming together for Brian’s ‘The Gothic’, the longest symphony yet written. The choir alone consisted of over 800 singers. The phrase ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing’ has entirely new meaning for me. It was epic.

A bit of theatre

O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call’d mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

-Henry IV, Part I, I.i.86-89
.

.
So yesterday, Chris and I hopped over to London for the day. We had lunch with Timothy, a former-SCIO housemate who now lives in London, and then headed over to The Globe to see Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. Ever since I toured The Globe during is construction when I was 12, I’ve wanted to see a play performed in it, and getting to see two plays in one day was just brilliant. For the first play we were groundlings in the yard and in the second we sat in the gallery. The rain stayed away, it wasn’t too hot, the acting was amazing, the audience responsive — in short, it was a great experience (even with the annoying teenage girls braiding their hair during the performance!). I loved how we were recreating an atmosphere and an experience that we could share with people 400 years ago, how the jokes were still funny, the grief still poignant. There are some things about human nature that just haven’t changed over the centuries. Except, I don’t think that the people back then had to worry about overhead aeroplanes drowning out the voices of the actors.

Even though it was a really long day, I kind of wish they had gone the whole way and started in the morning, so that they could do both parts of Henry IV *and* show Henry V in the evening. I know, I ask too much.

Chris and I also saw four of the actors at Wagamama’s during dinner in between the plays. We were perhaps a little too giggly about this.

We didn’t get back to Oxford until 1.30 AM, so I slept in and have had a lazy day hanging out with the Hardins and their friends, and enjoying a quiet Sunday evening. It’s nice to be able to relax and have no demands for a little while.

On a side note, I used the ‘I Write Like’ analyzer and found out that on my blog I write like Neil Gaiman. Pardon me while I am not-so-secretly pleased with myself.