Saturday, 21 July 2007

Upcoming Week July 22 to 28


OFF TO THE 'ATHENS OF THE NORTH'

Well, we're halfway through our program and tomorrow (Sunday, July 22) classes disperse to far-flung spots in Europe to continue their studies! Our group will leave on a coach (bus) at 9 a.m. for Edinburgh. We'll stay in university dorms and our professors aren't sure about computer access. Hmmm... guess we may have to find some Internet caf├ęs. That's one thing that's sure changed since I was last in the ''Athens of the North'' at age 18!

A BUSY WEEK AHEAD!

On Monday, July 23, we'll visit the National Library of Scotland and then the National Archives. Tuesday is a research day and I may go to the Natural History Museum. On Wednesday, the Writers' Museum is on the agenda. Then it's our mini-break, and four of us bought cheap RyanAir tickets to Dublin for Thursday, July 26. I'll just stay a day and a night, because on Friday, July 27, I'm flying to Bristol, England. My friends, part-time Sanibel Island snowbird neighbors Pat and Bert Gough, are going to meet me at the airport. I'll finally get to see their town of Chipping Sodbury, which I've heard so much about! (Including the fact that it's the birthplace of J.K.Rowling!) Speaking of births ... my birthday is Saturday the 28th, and I know I'm awfully fortunate to be able to celebrate it on ''This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle ... This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England''!

Odds 'n' Ends on July 20 & 21


HURRAH FOR THE HARRY HOOPLA


Friday, July 20 was a day for catching up!! -- On sleep, reading, studying, and doing this blog! Of course lots of my classmates went out Friday evening to see the ''Harry Hoopla'' at Waterstone's bookshop in Piccadilly. About 7,000 people stood in a half-mile long queue to wait until one minute past midnight for their copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And many of the fans had been waiting there with sleeping bags for two days! (But that wasn't for me -- I was perfectly happy to see the spectacle vicariously on my friends' cameras, on TV, and in the newspapers.) This morning (Saturday, July 21), I went into W. H. Smith's at Waterloo Station and it is selling two versions of the book -- a colorfully illustrated cover for children and a mostly black cover for adults!


WENDING OUR WAY TO WIMBLEDON


This afternoon (Saturday, July 21) Edie and I took the tube to Wimbldon. (We actually had to walk for about 20 minutes from the nearest tube stop, and most of it was in the rain! Pretty fitting for Wimbledon, I thought.) It's another place I can cross off my list that I have always wanted to see. We didn't have much time to go through the whole museum but we got the gist of the place. It was renovated in November 2006, and also has a snazzy store. Visitors can pay extra to take a tour although we just sort of peeked around the fences, etc... The whole place is pretty gigantic.
(http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/index.html)

Oxford on My Own








On Thursday afternoon, July 19, after finishing our guided tour of the Bodleian Library, we had Oxford on our own. Several of us first had lunch at the Eagle and Child pub, which was the favorite pub of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and the other ''Inklings.'' Then I set out to walk around the city, passing by several of the colleges, including Christ Church (the Cathedral and House). Most of my time was spent at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the next-door Pitt Rivers Museum of Anthropology and World Archaeology.
(http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/) and (http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/)

MOST 'FAMILY-FRIENDLY' MUSEUMS IN THE U.K.

The Victorian Gothic-style Museum of Natural History opened to the public in 1860 and was ''designed as a cathedral to science.'' Last year, a newspaper chose it and the Pitt Rivers as the most ''family friendly'' museums in the U.K., and I can see why! Hundreds of children were running around enjoying well-designed exhibits on fossils, animals, rocks and minerals, and insects. I was a bit disappointed in the mollusk exhibit upstairs. Museum education specialist Chris Jarvis said it hadn't been updated. (Dad, you'd like this huge chunk of pyrite that lots of kids were running by, yelling: ''Fool's Gold! Fool's Gold!'' Photo above shows me by the museum's inevitable statue of Linnaeus.)

'KISSING PIGS OFTEN....'

Chris kindly gave me a copy of the little paperback he recently wrote and illustrated, titled The Life and Times of Carl Linnaeus. The museum gave them out during its fun-filled Linnaeus celebration this past May 31 and June 1. I love the ''Mnemonic for Remembering our System of Classification'' that Chris uses in his book (for Kingdom - Phylum - Order- Family - Genus - and Species): Kissing Pigs Often Feels Gooey (and) Slimey!!!

The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 and it now contains more than half a million artefacts. Favorites include Bast, the Egyptian cat god; an Egyptian mummy, and shrunken heads. (Photo at right shows a Pacific Islander chieftain dress of abalone shell.) After the Pitt Rivers, I fast-walked to the Ashmolean Museum, which is the world's first university museum. It opened in 1683 and the current building is now undergoing a major renovation. Before heading to the train station in the early evening, I just had time to see the ground floor, which includes classical Rome and Greece; ancient Egypt; English pottery, and European porcelain.

'Historic Heart of the University of Oxford'












Early in the morning of Thursday, July 19, our class took the tube from Waterloo to Paddington Station to get an express train to Oxford. (It was fun to see the statue of Paddington Bear in the station. A nearby vendors sells -- what else -- the famous books, and also stuffed Paddington toys! He reminded us that next year is the 50th anniversary of Michael Bond's beloved series and said the author plans to come out with a 12th Paddington book.) Carrie Willis, a cyber classmate of mine from Florida State, is shown in the photo at right next to the Paddington statue!


THE BEAUTIFUL BODLEIAN!


Within an hour we were at the Oxford Station, and then all walked to the Bodleian Library, ''the historic heart of the university.'' It is the main research library of Oxford and has nearly 8 million items and its combined buildings have 2,482 seats. We divided into two groups and ours had a very knowledgable young tour leader named Matthew. The tour began in the Divinity School, which was built from 1472-1488 and used as the university's first exam school. It is also where the infirmary scenes were filmed in the Harry Potter films! (Shown in photo at left.)


We then toured the Proscholium, which was built in 1610-1612 below Sir Thomas Bodley's first extension of his library, according to http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/. Next was the much-photographed (no pun intended!) Radcliffe Camera, called ''camera'' because it is the Latin word for ''room.'' It became integrated with the Bodleian in the 1860s. The Clarendon Building (1712-1715) is used for administrative offices. We did tour the stacks underneath the New Bodleian Library, which was built from 1936 to 1940, with the lion's share of funding coming from the Rockefeller Foundation.


BODLEIAN RUNNING OUT OF SPACE!


The average time to deliver book orders from the New Library stacks to a Reading Room is three hours. But the Bodleian is running out of space and the library's new director, American Sarah Thomas, is planning to move much of the colleciton off site. Ms. Thomas, who had been at Cornell University, started at the Bodleian this past February, and is its first woman director.

Friday, 20 July 2007

We Walked for Miles and Miles!




Wednesday, July 16, was a ''research day'' and my classmate Kathy Watson, who is from Kentucky, and I decided to take the train from nearby Waterloo station to Windsor and Eton. Kathy particularly wanted to go because the tiny hamlet of Dorney is near Windsor, and Dorney is where author Susan Cooper grew up. (Kathy is doing her project on Cooper's award-winning Dark Is Rising series.) We were thinking of renting bikes in Windsor to ride to Dorney...

FINALLY GETTING TO SEE WINDSOR CASTLE AND ETON COLLEGE

Windsor Castle and Eton College are both places that I have wanted to see for ages and ages, but somehow did not make it there during my other visits to England. So once again I have such a good feeling of accomplishment about this trip! It was well worth the long queue especially to see Queen Mary's dollhouse, of course, as all the guidebooks will attest. It was a gorgeous day and we spent more time at the castle than we planned. Eton features prominently in so many English books; I am glad that I can now picture it!
(http://www.windsor.gov.uk/attractions/castle.htm) and (www.etoncollege.com)

THE OLYMPICS AND BOTANICAL MISADVENTURES

When we got to the bike rental place about 4 p.m, we found out it closes at 6 p.m. and decided that wasn't enough time to get to keep the bikes. So we walked about four or five miles through fields to see Dorney (not much to see, must admit!). On the way back, we took the Thames footpath and saw the Eton College rowing lake where Olympic rowing will take place in 2012! (Photo above shows the rowing centre.) I also got stabbed in the fingers by stinging nettles and poor Kathy, who wore shorts, got an allergic reaction on her legs from walking through straw! (Photo at top shows Kathy in the field of straw!) But it still was a fabulous day and we felt that ''good kind'' of exhaustion on the hourlong train ride back ''home.''

Spiritual, Special, and Surreal Tuesday, July 17



VISIT TO ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL LIBRARY

On Tuesday morning, July 17, our class was privileged to have a private tour of the library at St. Paul's Cathedral by librarian Joseph Wisdom (yes, that's his real name!) We met at the west door and Joe pointed out a bas relief of an open book atop the doorway, which he said symbolizes that ''the word of God is preached here.'' We then climbed a narrow, enclosed staircase to where the ''BBC camerman stands.'' The first room we entered houses the ''Great Model'' of the cathedral, made of oak and plaster in 1673-74, that was proposed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. It was rejected as ''looking too much like Rome'' but Wren actually pretty much had his way and the final cathedral looks an awful lot like the original model!

An old, musty smell hit us as soon as we entered the library, which contains liturgies, bibles, and books and manuscripts on theology, canon law, civil law, travel, various Latin and Greek subjects, and even numismatics. The library is now open to ''anyone who can make good use of it'' and Joe works there two and a half days a week, along with a few volunteers. Cathedral archives and diocesan records are held in the Guildhall Library, however. Hundreds of the cathedral's books have tape on the spine, holding it together, yet Joe says the textblock is often sound. He showed us a Bodleian Library (Oxford Univ.) catalogue from 1674, with interleaved pages so notations could be added.

GETTING TO SEE A SPECIAL LINNAEUS DISPLAY

Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., I met a group of people from the Linnean Society, including librarians Gina and Lynda, at the staff entrance to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The museum library's head of cataloguing, Diane Tough (yes, that's her real name!), took us to the Rare Books Room of the General and Zoology Library. It is the site of ''Linnaeus 300: A Celebration of the Tercentenary of Carl Linnaeus'' from May through July 2007. The display features material owned by the museum. It is open to museum staff, learned societies, librarians, and in the case of this exhibit, invited guests from the fields of biolgoy, botany, and zoology. (The room is not big enough or secure enough to invite the general public.)

Diane and four colleagues worked hard to curate the display, which ''is a celebration of Linnaeus' monumental achievement at 'creating order out of chaos.' '' I saw the museum's own copy of the first edition of Systema Naturae! There was information on Linnaeus' ''apostles,'' rare books resting on foam book ''cradles,'' botanical and malacological illustrations, and a contemporary poster of Linnaeus done in the ''Chuck Close'' style (see photo at top), to names just a few of the special items.

A SURREAL TREAT AT THE V & A!

Months ago, I read that an exhibit titled ''Surreal Things'' would run from March 29 to July 22 at the Victoria and Albert Museum. And since the V & A is next door to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, I popped right over after viewing the Linnaeus display. ''Surreal Things'' is an astonishing show and I am so lucky to have been in London for it! (It next goes to Rotterdam, and then to the Guggenheim in Bilbao in 2008.)

The exhibit features two of Salvador Dali and Edward James's famous Lobster Telephones (in white and orange)! It has a wheelbarrow covered in satin by Oscar Dominguez, many familiar paintings by Joan Miro, a Bed-Cage by Max Ernst, incredible dresses by the legendary Elsa Schiapparelli, and even Dali's Ruby Lips Brooch with pearl teeth!!!! And oh, yes, it also has the famous Mae West Lips Sofa by Dali and James! I just wish the exhibit were staying longer so all of my classmates could have time to see it.

Lot More Linnaeus on Monday, July 16!




On Monday morning, July 16, our class had a lecture and tour at the Museum of London. However, that was the only time that Linnean Society librarian Gina Douglas and deputy librarian Lynda Brooks (in photo above) had available for me to interview them for my main project. So Dr. Welsh and Miss Wright kindly let me opt out of the class plan, and fortunately Katrina and I had spent quite a bit of time at the Museum of London this past Christmas!


I spent several hours at the Linnean Library, and it was a very worthwhile day as I began to visualize the ''bones'' of my required long paper. Lynda also gave me a tour of the building and I saw the well-known portrait of Darwin, who first announced his theory of evolution at a Linnean Society meeting. (Best of all, Gina and Lynda invited me to meet them at the Natural History Museum the next afternoon, for a private tour of the not-for-the-public Linnean exhibit in the Natural History Museum Library's Rare Books Room.)


VIEWING 'THE MAP THAT CHANGED THE WORLD'


After interviewing the librarians, I popped across the doorway of the Linnean Society into one of the other ''learned societies'' at Burlington House -- The Geological Society of London. There, just for me, the receptionist unveiled ''The Map That Changed the World.'' Simon Winchester's best-selling book of the same name was on our class reading list. That's how I learned about William Smith's extraordinary 1815 map of 'England and Wales with part of Scotland.' While doing research, I found out that a full size replica is on display in the Dept. of Earth Sciences at the Univ. of New Hampshire, my alma mater! (Note to my old UNH roommate Andrea Held: I bet you didn't realize how important that map was while you worked in the Earth Sciences Library during the summer of 1977?!)


'GASLIGHT' AT THE OLD VIC ON MONDAY NIGHT


Monday evening, several of my classmates and I walked to the legendary Old Vic Theatre just a short distance from our dorm. We were thrilled to get last-minute tickets to 'Gaslight'! I've been following Kevin Spacey's tenure these past few years as the Old Vic's artistic director, and am rooting for his success. If Monday night's performance is any indication, he is on the right track! 'Gaslight' is a Victorian thriller and the program says it was first staged in 1938, and won Ingrid Bergman an Oscar for her role in the film version. This production starts Rosamund Pike and she was terrific.

He Doesn't Care What I'm Wearing













BITTERSWEET EVENING

Sunday, July 15, was a ''catch-up'' day, as I first did laundry at our dorm. In the afternoon, I went to the Natural History Museum, hoping to see ''gallery character'' Linnaeus explaining ''how he developed a brilliant idea for naming all living things,'' according to a museum brochure. Unfortunately, I missed him by half an hour and won't be here when he's on view again. I then traveled to the Finchley Road tube to walk around leafy, luxurious Hampstead in northwest London. It was a bittersweet evening because I went to the Hampstead Campus of King's College on Kidderpore Avenue, where Ceci (my late sister) lived during her Tufts University London Abroad program from January to May 1988. At that time it was called Westfield College; about 15 years ago it was taken over by King's College.


ANTONY GORMLEY AND ME ON WATERLOO BRIDGE


Any time is always a fascinating time to be in London, but it seems like the summer of 2007 is an unusually interesting and exciting time! Since early May, a total of 31 life-size casts of and by British sculptor Antony Gormley have been set up on London rooftops and walkways! They are part of his latest work, ''Event Horizon.'' According to information from the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank, the sculptures ''all look towards the gallery,'' where there is also an exhibition of Gormley's work, ''Blind Light,'' on view until Aug. 19. (Apparently when they first were set up, London police received many phone calls from panicked citizens thinking they saw people about to commit suicide.) My friends have taken these photos of me and Antony a few different times when I have been ''walking by him'' (actually, one of his 31 selves) on Waterloo Bridge!





Sunday, 15 July 2007

Saturday Afternoon, July 14, at Canterbury



Magnificent Canterbury Cathedral was our tour bus destination on Saturday afternoon! Pamphlets note it is ''the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury'' (even though he actually lives in London). Of course it is also infamous because it is where archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.

WHY IT NOW HAS TO CHARGE ADMISSION

The additional information that the brochures explain is that it costs £12,000 a day to run the cathedral (more than $24,000 in U.S. dollars at the abysmal exchange rate we have right now!) Because the cathedral ''receives minimal external funding,'' it is now charging admission to enter to look around (not to worship). In addition, it currently has a £50 million campaign under way to raise funds to ''conserve the fabric of the cathedral,'' ''support the music'' and ''develop the experience.'' My £5 student fee will be a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps. (Apparently, when the cathedral tried to just ''suggest'' admission, it averaged only about 12 pence per person!!!)
CHAUCER ON MY MIND

After touring the cathedral, I walked out the back past the library (it was closed at the time) and then saw two picture-perfect wedding receptions under way on the grounds. The cathedral lawns sort of morph into the grounds of King's College, one of the oldest schools in the world. I also loved walking around the surrounding streets of the ancient town, passing through the beautiful arch (photo at left) and thinking of Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. (Edie and Mary are in the photo at right.)

Saturday Morning, July 14, at Dover Castle





A CASTLE BY THE SEA


My good luck continued and a seat became available at the last minute for the Saturday, July 14, bus trip to Dover and Canterbury. Even though I've been to London many times, I'm finally seeing several places I had never visited. Now I can check off that I've seen the white cliffs of Dover and its ancient castle! There was a lot of climbing involved on this trip, but the views (not quite to France) were worth it! (Glad we didn't get lost in the medieval tunnels, too!) A falconry show was going on but when I got to the tent, the birds were still inside. It is a great place for a family outing, and there were darling children all over the place. (A photo above shows Edie and Mary with the English Channel behind them, and Mary in one of the tunnels.)

Little Bit More Linnaeus!


On the afternoon of Friday, July, 13, after our tour of Parliament, Edie Daniel (a classmate from Oklahoma) and I tried to visit Westminster Abbey but the last tour had closed 15 minutes earlier. On a whim, we went to Piccadilly to find Burlington House, which is the home of the Linnean Society. (It also houses the Royal Academy of Arts, and four other ''learned societies.'')

It was my good fortune that the Linnean Society was open until 6 p.m. Librarian and archivist Gina Douglas and Deputy Librarian Lynda Brooks invited me and Edie to look around! (I also set up my interview with them for Monday morning, July 16. That was the best time for both of them, although I will have to miss our class trip to the Museum of London.)

A STEP BACK TO THE FUTURE

Burlington House is a Palladian mansion and entering the library seemed to take us back in time! Yet right away, Edie noticed the library's innovative serials table. It has an accompanying drawing that shows where to find current journals on the table. For example, Australian ones go in a certain place, etc... We also played around a bit with the library's computer, but I will find out a lot more information on Monday!

Fun on Friday the 13th


Friday the 13th of July was a lucky day, actually, because our class had a guided tour inside Parliament! It is also known as the Palace of Westminster, and the Queen is allowed to visit only once a year (usually in November) to give her speech. All of the myriad facts and figures swimming around in my head about Parliament were regaled in full detail by our elderly guide, Gerald Burke, who had been for many years a sergeant-at-arms in Parliament. We toured the House of Commons (part of which was bombed in WWII) and the House of Lords. In The Members' Lobby, there are statues of many ex-Prime Ministers. A recent addition is Maggie Thatcher and Mr. Burke told us that at the unveiling, she joked that she didn't like it because it wasn't made of iron!


ABOLITION EXHIBIT IN WESTMINSTER HALL


After our tour, I toured a temporary exhibit in huge Westminster Hall, which was built in 1097 and is the oldest part of the palace. The free exhibit, which runs through Sept. 23, is ''The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament, and People.'' It marks the ''1807-2007 Bicentenary of the British Parliamentary Aboliton of the Slave Trade.'' A pamphlet notes that the exhibit ''examines the pressures and voices both at home and abroad which influenced Parliament, and eventually led to the passing of the Act to abolish Britain's slave trade in 1807.''


There is a disturbing section at the end of the exhibit on modern-day slavery. It made me think of my friend Nola Theiss, the former mayor of my hometown of Sanibel Island, and other women on Sanibel and in Southwest Florida. They are working tirelessly to help eradicate human trafficking, a horror not unknown to Florida even in this millenium.

Seaman Schepps Exhibit in Somerset House


As soon as I got to London, I was thrilled to see posters all over announcing that the New York Museum of Arts & Design now has its acclaimed exhibit about jeweler Seaman Schepps in the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House, through Aug. 27. I am so glad I went to see it on Thursday afternoon, July 12, after our tour of the British Library. As Schepps' daughter Patricia Vaill says, ''Daddy's jewelry was something outrageous''!
I just adore his stuff because he uses ''an astonishing diversity of materials such as seashells, exotic woods, and rock crystal.'' Some of the pieces on view had been made for
the Duchess of Windsor, Doris Duke, Miss America Jinx
Falkenberg, and publisher Alfred A. Knopf's wife, to name
just a few of Schepps' high-profile society clients.
Afterward, I toured the main part of the Gilbert Collection.
There are more than 800 pieces of art, including exquisite micromosaics, all donated by Sir Arthur Gilbert before his death in 2001. Gilbert had been born in London and made his fortune in California real estate.


Class Trip to the British Library

Thursday, July 12, was a terrific day because our class had a fantastic guided tour of the British Library! (The photo at left shows several of my classmates in the lobby on a unique bench that is a sculpture of a book!) We divided into two groups and my group's guide was a darling young German woman who has worked at the library for a year. (Her English was superb. Just one time she couldn't remember the verb ''comply,'' as in ''to comply with copyright''!) She explained the magnificant building officially opened in 1998. (The library is located next to St. Pancras Station, which peeks out from the upper right of the photo with me in front of the library.) It is one of the ''world's greatest libraries ... along with the U.S. Library of Congress, the National Library in Paris, and the State Library in Moscow.'' The library collection has more than 200 million items (the LOC has 250 million) and it exists for ''everyone who wants to do research -- for academic, personal, or commercial purposes.'' Registering for a Reader Pass gives free access to the 11 Reading Rooms.

WIDE RANGE OF AMAZING EXHIBITS

Our guide wanted us to see the Foyle Visitor and Learning Center inside the new Centre for Conservation, which opened in May. But unfortunately, it was closed for ''installations'' on Thursday. We did get to tour Sir John Ritblat Gallery's ''Treasures of the British Library.'' It has the incredible ''Turning the Pages'' interactive display system developed by the library and Microsoft. By just touching the screen, you can virtually turn the pages of 15 important and treasured books, including the original Alice in Wonderland and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci! And of course our German guide made a point of showing us the library's copy of The Gutenberg Bible.

I made a beeline for the permanent philatelic section downstairs. As all my longtime Kiwi friends know, I particuarly enjoy New Zealand stamps. (Alas, I don't get too many anymore because of email!) The Pearson Gallery features temporary exhibitions and it currently has ''Sacred: Discover What We Share.'' (''The world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy books.) I loved seeing a piece of the Dead Sea Scroll, which apparently is the first time it has been exhibited in the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Another London Alive! on Wednesday, July 11

LONDON DEAD AND ALIVE

Wednesday afternoon's agenda was to pick another London Alive! program, and I chose Dr. Andy Wiest's ''Death and and Mayhem in Westminster.'' It featured a walking tour around Southwark, Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, the Royal Horse Guards, St. James's Park, and Trafalgar Square.

We were regaled with stirring and/or sordid stories behind many of the statues, monuments, and buildings, such as one of my favorites -- the bronze statue, above right, of Queen Boudica (formerly known as Boadicea) by Westminster Bridge and Parliament. We also discovered this amazing ''tribute,'' above left, to the Tour de France in St. James's Park!

LITTLE BIT OF LINNAEUS

(The morning of Wednesday, July 11, had been set aside for research time, and I am getting background information on my main project, which is the Linnean Society Library. I plan to visit the library next week in Burlington House in Piccadilly. This is an exciting time for Linnean fans like me, because his 300th birthday was celebrated around the world this past May 23. Starting last Sunday, and continuing through September, a man dresses as the character of Carl von Linnaeus every weekend at the Natural History Museum. I hope to see him this Saturday!)

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Tuesday Trip to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon




A TASTE OF OXFORD

On Tuesday, July 10 (sorry to miss your birthday, Norm!) our class and the undergraduate theater class boarded a fancy motor coach a little after 7 a.m. and traveled to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. We just had a few hours in Oxford but I am so happy to finally be able to say I have been to the City of Dreaming Spires! Yeah!!!! (Luckily, our class is going there again next week to have a tour of the Bodleian Library.)

Several of the ''mature'' students -- Nancy, Edie, Mary, Kathy, and I -- had tea and scones at the Oxford Buttery and then walked around. Next week, I want to check out The Museum of the History of Science and also the Ashmolean Museum, with an exhibit on ''Britain at the Beach.'' We spent quite a bit of time in Blackwell's bookshop, which opened in 1879 and is Oxford's biggest. (Edie and Kathy are shown in the photo above on Broad Street in front of the bookshop.)

BUSY TIME IN STRATFORD

Tuesday afternoon and evening, we had a jam-packed itinerary in Stratford-upon-Avon. I hadn't been there since I was 18 and went on a University of New Hampshire trip to England during the month of January 1975. (Uh-oh, now I have dated myself that I am eligible to join AARP!) Things are quite different compared to the '70s when you could drive right up to the front of Shakespeare's Birthplace. Now the road is a wonderful pedestrian zone, or as I like to say, a ''walking street.''

Our same group of ''mature'' students had a triple-bill ticket to see Shakespeare's Birthplace, New Place/Nash's House (''where the Shakespeare story ended''), and Hall's Croft (the home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, and her husband, Dr. John Hall). The non-profit Shakespeare Birthplace Trust operates the properties. We also toured Holy Trinity Church to see the graves of Shakespeare and family members. It is also a charitable trust. (The photo top right shows my classmates on the ''new walking street'' in front of Shakespeare's Birthplace.)

A VERY SPECIAL LIBRARY

Best of all, the five of us had the good fortune of going to The Shakespeare Centre Library, which is near the Visitor Centre and Shakespeare's Birthplace. It is operated by the non-profit Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. We were treated so kindly by an assistant and also by head librarian Sylvia Morris. They explained that the Reading Room is open to the public but the collections are in strong rooms in the basement. According to a library handout, ''the Royal Shakespeare Company's production and administrative archives form a major part'' of the collection. Appointments can be made to have a tour of the collections. We all picked up several pamphlets detailing how to use the library in person or online. (I took the photo top left of the library's Reading Room.)

DINNER AT THE DIRTY DUCK

Well, we almost didn't find the legendary Dirty Duck pub and restaurant, which had been recommended to us by Prof. Welsh and Miss Wright, and is conveniently located across the street from the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre. Why the trouble? Because its original name, The Black Swan, was on the side of the sign facing us as we walked by!!! (The other side says Dirty Duck.) Once we were finally ensconced inside, we had a nice meal and good time continuing to get to know one another better.

MURDEROUS MACBETH

Wow! What a powerfully memorable production of Macbeth we EXPERIENCED at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre!!!!! It is directed by Conall Morrison and I am relieved that as I entered the theater, I saw warning signs saying: ''Please note this production of Macbeth contains some graphic scenes of a violent and sexual nature.'' That gave me a clue that it would be an unusually visceral interpretation of Macbeth -- and it was!!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Academics and London Alive!




This morning we had a class meeting to go over the itinerary. Best of all, I started this blog!

Then I took part in London Alive! during the afternoon, which are a series of professor-led trips around London for the entire group. I joined the group that took a breath-taking boat ride down the Thames to Greenwich. We didn't have time to stay long in Greenwich, however, because we had to get back (by train and tube) for our King's College welcoming dinner. (Fortunately, our class will be going to Greenwich again for an entire day.)

The welcoming dinner took place in the overwhelmingly beautiful King's College Chapel at the Strand. Several colleagues noted that the Rev. Ditchfield reminds them of Father Tim in Jan Karon's Mitford series! (The photo above shows colleague Mike Key and me in our dorm courtyard before the welcoming dinner.)

What a Weekend!


SUNDAY IN THE CITY

Spectators were lined up on Waterloo Bridge waiting for the Tour de France as I and dozens of the 200 students in the entire program walked with several professors to St. Paul's Cathedral for the morning service. It featured St. Paul's Cathedral Choir and the City of London Sinfonia, celebrating the centenary of the birth of organist-composer Jean Langlais. Afterward, I walked with a few other grad students through the empty City (financial section) to the impressive Guildhall. (This photo shows me in front of the Guildhall.)

We had a big-group orientation on Sunday afternoon until about 5 p.m. I then fast-walked to the Imperial War Museum and had nearly an hour to see exhibits. After that, I took the tube to Sloane Square and walked down the King's Road to Oakley Street, then along the Thames all the way back to Waterloo, which took nearly five hours! (I paid for that little adventure with a few blisters -- but apparently I am not alone!)

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS -- 07/07/07!!!

Great to arrive in surprisingly sunny London and feel the excitement of so many things happening -- Wimbledon finals, the start of the Tour de France (for the first time in London!), and a Live Earth concert. The dorms and computer lab at King's College Waterloo campus are perfectly suitable for our needs. Professors Dr. Teresa Welsh and Miss Melissa Wright, and my 16 graduate student colleagues and I went for a late afternoon orientation walk around our neighborhood (the South Bank). Then Nancy, Mike, and I walked on to the Globe Theatre, London Bridge, and London Bridge tube.

LONDON CALLING!

The start of the London Libby adventure! On Friday, July 6, 2007, I flew from Fort Myers, Florida, to Newark, and then to Heathrow overnight. I actually slept a little bit on the plane, which is most amazing for me! (Many of the passengers were students on this University of Southern Mississippi British Studies Summer Program.)