Saturday, January 22, 2011

London 31.1.10: Quiet Places, Magic Places

Just boarding the plane in London, and as I write the date, I realize I’ll now have to accustom myself to writing 2111—if God gives me breath up to the new year.  This is another flight (this happened when we flew back from our trip to Edinburgh and the Black Forest) where we find, to our surprise, we’ve been upgraded to first-class.  That previous trip back was the first time I’ve ever flown first-class.

Friday, January 21, 2011

London 30.12.2010: Winston ChurchEEL and Tourist Tat

Back to the Tate: I really liked the neighborhood around the museum.  It’s the most appealing I’ve seen in London, with its red-brick apartment buildings and quiet tree-lined streets.  Is this Chelsea?  Whatever the area’s called, I imagine it’s horrendously expensive to live in.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

London 30.12.2010: Dangling Galeros and Comedies of Error

Yesterday a blur of this and that.  But before I forget, I should mention the nice meal we had Monday evening.  We had seen a small Italian restaurant near the Earls Court tube station in our comings and goings there—Bistro Benito.  It looked inviting, and when I went online to read about it, I read reviews full of praise.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

London 28.12.2010: Pharaoh's Daughters and Refulgent Light

At the Tate Britain: the omnipresence, even refulgence, of light in J.M.W. Turner’s late paintings, and yet its obliquity.  Why both, simultaneously?  Light becomes more noticeable—more a fact of what we see and observe, and not just the precondition of seeing and observing—when its source is masked?

What his critics saw as paintings of nothing were depictions of light itself, attempts to depict its play across impossibly epic screens; light itself is the subject, and not merely what it illuminates.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

London 27.12.2010: Bus-top Views and Droll Children

And what I forgot to say about yesterday: there was a tube strike, so we could get only as far as Hyde Park Corner on the tube, and then had to switch to the bus.  Outside the Earls Court tube station was a transit employee who told us how to get into the city using the buses.

And so we had the unexpected treat of being able to ride the bus, sitting in the top, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, inching along Piccadilly Street, which was very congested with Boxing Day shoppers, both in cars and by foot.

Monday, January 17, 2011

London 26.12.2010: Christmas Crowns and Dr. Johnson's Pigeon

I’ve reached that stage of a trip when journal-keeping begins to seem a chore, a chronicle of this and that.  And so I put off writing, and the unwritten chronicle grows ever longer.

But since we’re back in our room after a long, cold Boxing Day walk and I’ve had a hot shower, I have time to catch up, so let the tedious chronicle begin.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

London 24.12.2010: Verity Vindicated and Disbelief Suspended

Not a great deal to report of yesterday.  After being out the night before to see “Oliver,” I was logy-headed and very tired the next morning.  And, as Steve pointed out, it’s usually around the third day that fatigue seems to hit, when one flies overseas from the west.  He, too, was tired yesterday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

London 24.12.2010: Welcoming Churches and Homeless Wayfarers

Our first stop when we exit the Piccadilly Circus tube station: St. James church, a Christopher Wren church.  We hope its little flea market is open, but it's not, on Christmas eve.

We go into the church.  I'm impressed by a welcome sign in the narthex: "A warm welcome from the church community of St. James, Piccadilly.  St. James is part of the Anglican Communion within the world-wide Christian Church.  We understand ourselves to be called: to gather as a body which welcomes and celebrates human diversity--including spirituality, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation . . . ."

Friday, January 14, 2011

London 24.12.2010: Victorian Christmases and Loving Couples

On the tube just now, heading along the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus, we sit across from an older (truth: probably near our age) gay couple.  And as I listen to one of the two describe an exhibit about the history of Christmas celebrations to the other ("The trees began with Queen Victoria, you know"), I think:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

London 22.12.10: Cockney Sparrows and Charming Shtick

What to say about the man who retrieved us at Gatwick when we landed?  The travel agent made arrangements with a service that meets travelers and ferries them (metaphorically speaking, needless to say) to their destination.  I’ve been putting off writing about A.G., because he was such a caricature of himself, and I suspect a self-conscious, deliberate one, a self-send up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

London 22.12.10: Christmas Markets and Nutmeg Candies

Sitting now in a Pain Quotidien in Covent Garden, waiting for our evening musical, “Oliver,” to begin.  It’s just up the street.  We bought tickets at the half-price booth early today.

We ate in one of these Pain Quotidien places in New York last time we were there, near the Strand bookstore, and liked it.  Getting a table this evening was an adventure.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

London 22.12.10: Mince Pies and Panforte Farces

I have no proof that the young man at the coffee shop yesterday was Canadian.  Save for those shibboleths that supposedly set the speech of much of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and B.C. apart from the speech of the upper half of the U.S.—oot and aboot—the two speech patterns sound much the same to me.  Except that he said bēēn.  And that, of course, could be a self-conscious adoption of the standard English pronunciation by an American living in England.

Monday, January 10, 2011

London 21.12.2010: Second Sleep and Queue Police

Now in London.  We walked a bit in Kensington High Street yesterday after we arrived, and then I crashed.  Slept from 5 P.M. to 8 A.M. with a little wake-up period around midnight, when I drank a cup of decaf coffee and had a comforting tiny dram of brandy, thinking of Pepys and others (Shakespeare?), who write about the second sleep, when people got up in the middle of the night on long nights, ate, drank, smoked, made love, visited with neighbors, and then returned for a second sleep. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

London 19.12.2010: Atlantic Wastes and Lambs of God

Plane, en route to Atlanta, where we’ll board a flight later today for London.

One of the lessons of growing old is that one no longer has the luxury of a wide range of personae to try on in various situations.  This is not due to lack of imagination or opportunity.