Sunday, September 21, 2008

Travel journal -- Sept. 7-10

Travel journal

Thursday, September 07, 2006
Today I went to Buckingham Palace, where there’s an art collection, stateroom, and Queen’s formalwear exhibition. It only runs until the 24th, so it was good to get in. The Tube station lady told me to get off the train at Green Park, which is still about three-quarters of a mile from the palace. The walk was pretty. I got to the palace by watching where the crowds were headed, and arrived five minutes before the time set for the changing of the guard. However, I saw a sign that there would be no ceremony today, so instead we watched about 8 or 10 horse guards ride past us and into the graveled drive before the palace. I finally found a sign for tickets to the exhibition, and stood in a line for tickets, then in a line to get in at the admittance time. They made us throw away any liquids before we entered the security X-ray machines. And then there’s no water until you’re out of the palace, down a half-mile gravel walk, and through the gift shop, to the street, where there’s a vendor to sell you a new bottle.
The long walk through the staterooms (on nice thick carpets laid over expensive thick carpets) was pretty impressive. On the MP3 player provided at no extra charge, was a self-guided tour, provided you didn’t go beyond the stanchions and ropes and uniformed wardens. They had about three commentaries on some of the many masterful artworks. I wish that that was more the point of the tour, because it was beautifully done. We went into a ballroom where they’d set up the evening gown exhibition. The beaded and pearled and jeweled dresses were set up on dress forms, with large photos of Elizabeth wearing some of the dresses on display. I liked the dresses from the 1950s to a few in the 70s. There were some unfortunate taste detours in the late 60s, I thought, and in the 80s and thenceforth, Elizabeth was all matronly, wearing sleeves and high necks, with a thickening waist. (Hey, entitled.) There were two glass safes with some diamond and emerald jewelry suites in them. Those earrings looked really heavy, and I joined in the conversation with some British ladies admiring them. I said that they probably made the ears hurt after a little while, and that she had to keep them on for hours at state occasions. The ladies and I agreed that that was a sacrifice we’d like to try making!
As I stopped to rest on a bench outside, two at-least-75-year-old men were laughing about young people who get a bit of money and spend it immediately on a holiday instead of saving it to put with other bits of money. One old geezer said, “Where can you go on sixty quid, I asked him.” And both men laughed. Eavesdropping from the other end of the bench, I said, “I bet they couldn’t get out of Buckingham Palace for 60 quid!” And they liked that a lot, so we started talking.
Well, after I got some water in me (I was gazing longingly at the duck pond), I looked for a bus to take me anywhere so I could sit for a while, but my destination was near Charing Cross. I was taken to Victoria Station, and directed to take a train from a certain platform. By the time I walked upstairs, downstairs, upstairs again, down a long hall, then more stairs, geez, I could have been in Charing Cross by surface streets! But after all that, I was on the wrong train. So I got off at Westminster station, walked back through the complex, took another bus to Trafalgar Square. That was my destination! I was there to see St. Martin-in-the-Fields church.
I’d been there in 2004, but that was an evening and they had been closed. Today, I walked in, and an ensemble was having a rehearsal for tonight’s Bach cantatas concert. So in addition to taking pictures, I sat for an hour and listened to the rehearsal of wooden flutes, a string ensemble, and four singers. (No alto, but a fantastic counter-tenor who sings higher—and of course far better—than I do.)
St Martin’s was rebuilt after the London Fire, but about 30 years before it burned, my ancestors William Dyer and Mary Barrett were married there before emigrating to America. Mary Barrett Dyer was the only American religious martyr, for preaching Quaker beliefs in Puritan Boston. I have seen the statue to her there facing the Boston Common. Anyway, the decorations at St Martin’s are baroque, not at all what the Dyers would have known, but it was surprising to find a marble baptismal font that they would have known, as well as an oak trunk. Down in the crypt of the church is a pretty big gift store and a cafĂ© that smelled wonderful but looked pricey beyond my means. I found a book that described the history of the church, but didn’t buy it. (Although I read the short section I was interested in!) We tend to think of the crypt or cemetery around a church as being local containment for the dead, but especially during plague seasons, there were thousands of bodies to bury. So all these buildings and streets around the church, as well as Trafalgar Square and maybe the National Gallery, are covering the remains of thousands of people who lived and died in the villages that became greater London.
I walked down to Charing Cross station, with its plinth in front commemorating the resting place of Eleanor of Castile’s casket as it was taken to London. The name is thought to be a contraction of cher reine, or dear queen. Eleanor was married to Edward I, and both of them are my ancestors. Their son Edward II, and daughters Joan of Acre (m. Gilbert de Clare, earl of Hertford and Gloucester) and Elizabeth of Rhuddlan (m. Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford) are my ancestors.
I looked around the shopping arcade on the ground floor, hoping some of the thousands of commuters would get on trains and go home all in a cluster, so I could actually sit on a seat on a later train. It worked. While I waited, I bought a croissant with melted cheese and chicken. Really great supper! But then I had to walk a really long way to the train platform. With all the walking and switchbacks and stairs, I bet it was at least half a mile, all underground. But my nearly-empty train was waiting obediently, and I was able to sit on my own seat for the 50 minutes it took to get back to Eastcote.
I’ve spent the evening correcting photos and writing this journal, and it’s late, so I’m going to bed!

Friday, September 08, 2006
After sleeping in until 7:40, I had a leisurely morning. I took the train to St Pancras station, which is one block from the British Library. Now that’s a five-minute walk! Not the “five-minute” British version that’s at least a half mile. I stopped in for a cup of tea. The coffee-tea server heard I was from California, and asked if I knew that Arnold Schwarzeneggar was Austrian like himself. Yes, I told him, we call Arnold The Governator, and the man looked confused for two seconds, then broke into a big grin and laughed. He’d never heard that before. Now I suppose he’ll tell all his Austrian friends about the title. So you see, I did a good deed by making small talk with the coffee/tea guy.
I walked into the British Library and asked how to get started. I was directed to a room where I could apply to get into a Reading Room with an ID card, and I had to leave my bag in the cloakroom. Then I went to one reading room where they didn’t have my stuff, and directed to another. Which also didn’t have what I wanted, but I got some very useful info on King Alfred the Great nevertheless. They had a British Library exhibition in 1991 about the Anglo-Saxon England, 600-900. Wish I had the authors’ names, but I could kick myself for leaving two pages of scrap paper with my notes all over it, when I handed in the books at 3 pm. I was searching for mention of a collection of Alfred’s translations of the first 50 Psalms, and the best I could come up with was something called the Paris Psalter. One scholar is positive that the style matches Alfred’s, and wrote a paper/speech about Translation or Transformation. (She was of the opinion that Transformation was what was needed, and what Alfred did.) So I’ll have to Google that when I get home.
Then I visited one of the exhibitions in a side gallery. I wish I’d had time for the British newspapers one, but the other one, on ancient manuscripts, was more desirable and took me until 5:30. They had two of the four Magna Charta copies on hand. I’ve seen one at Salisbury, and one at Canberra, so maybe I’ve seen them all, or the one in Australia was on loan when I was there. They also had Bible codices, including the Sinaiticus from about three-hundred-something AD, which predates Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. There were Bibles from Wycliffe, Tyndale, the King James, etc. Most were open to John chapter one, which was kind of a cool comparison. There were Qurans, Hindu scriptures, and Hebrew scriptures. But I spent the most time with the Bibles, and the time just flew!
They had the illuminated Luttrell Psalter there, which belonged to (probably was commissioned by) Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, ca 1340. (This Geoffrey Luttrell is not my ancestor, but the great-grandnephew of my ancestor Margaret Luttrell Foljambe.)
Finally, I wandered to another alcove, and found original manuscripts for writers Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, and many others. Listened to a modern reading from Beowulf, saw a 1000-year-old copy of Beowulf, and discovered the music case. Saw an original MS that I recognized as a fugue, before I found the explanation card that said it was a Bach fugue. (So nice to occasionally be correct.) Also saw the last page of Hallelujah Chorus, in Handel’s own hand. There was a Beethoven piece, and Lloyd-Webber and some others I recognized. There was a Bullfinch piece for flute and whistle, written in the shape of a birdcage, which satirized George III for trying to teach bullfinches to sing. And there was a table manuscript, with music written in four directions from the center of the page, so that four musicians could stand around the table and read their parts off the same large sheet of music. I guess anything to avoid writing off a bunch of copies and risk getting them lost.
The bookstore had three or four books I really want, but I wrote the titles and authors down for purchase back home. They’re all too big and/or heavy to cart around England and then home. I learned that on the last trip. Because photography was not allowed inside the library, I bought a few postcards of the manuscripts, and had to leave.
Then it was 6:00, and the library closed, and since there is nothing open in town except pubs, I caught a very crowded train to Baker Street and changed for the Metropolitan line, which was not crowded. So after a stop in a convenience market for a cheese sandwich and milk, I was back here just before Friday sunset.
It’s 9:40 pm here, and I wonder what my animals are doing back home, where it’s 1:40 pm. The cats are surely bags of jelly in the hot screen porch. My Border collie Evie’s taking her midday nap at Bob’s, or she’s outside begging to play ball while he does his Friday yard work.

Saturday, September 9, 2006
Portobello Road, Notting Hill—Traveled on Underground through several detours, because some of the lines were closed for repairs or engineering “works.” So thousands of people crowded onto the remaining lines. It was really crowded. I went first to Notting Hill Gate, because the Portobello Road Market only occurs on Saturdays. It was a lot like Redlands (CA)Market Night, with vendors selling souvenirs, t-shirts, handicrafts, and further down, produce and flowers. It was extremely crowded with thousands of tourists. I think my favorite items were the bent kitchen utensils: bent into hooks for the walls, flattened into business card holders, etc. The vendor was complaining that he barely made enough money to pay his stall rent, and I interjected that he could charge more if he bent the spoons with his mind power! He said that it would also be beneficial for the arthritis in his wrists.
Then I went to the Temple station, between Embankment and London Bridge, so I could see the London City Temple, where my ancestor William Marshall (Guillaume de Mareschal) was buried with an effigy. But the temple is closed for renovation until Sept 17, so bad luck. I am not destined to visit old Guillaume! There was no way to see the exterior from garden gates or through buildings, either. The Justice Courts buildings were across the street, so I took a pic or two of that. Also walked a mile or more along the streets of the Strand and on the walkway along the Thames.
So I got back on the train and went to St James’s Park to while away a couple hours. I walked some more in this park that runs in front of Buckingham Palace, sat on the grass for a while, then walked back to the Tube and went back to Keshishians’ in Eastcote. Had to take four trains to get home, because of the weekend closures.
I sent a mass e-mail to friends and family from my hosts’ computer, and I’ll paste it in here when I get home.

E-mail and responses

Date: Sat Sep 9 18:46:27 2006
From: Christy K. Robinson
Christy's report No. 2: £ versus #
Hello, friends,Trying again on my hosts' computer, and the British keyboard is a bit confusing. They put a £ sign over the numeral three. The @ sign is under my right pinkie, and there's a \ sign where the left shift is supposed to be.

Wow, this financial exchange rate is almost 2$ to 1£. So everything is very expensive over here. A paper cup of hot tea is £1.50, so do the math! Between walking 4-6 miles a day and climbing innumerable flights of stairs, and the exchange rate when I want to sustain life by eating or drinking, I should return from vacation about £1500 lighter in the bank account, and 20# lighter in my slacks. If only it were the other way! Dang.
I've continued to explore London, including an art and fashion exhibition at Buckingham Palace; walking along the Thames Embankment; trekking through the Strand at Temple Bar trying without success to access the London City Temple where my ancestor William Marshall (12th century) is buried; and best of all, going to the British Library. This is an 8 year-old facility that is a place I could live in. OK, not comfortably, but certainly happily. I applied for and received a special entry card to a reading room with rare manuscripts, kind of like what we do at the US National Archives. I found some good background material and resources, if not the actual thing I was looking for, for a paper or book when I return to graduate studies in English. I was there for hours, and they practically shooed me out at 6 pm closing time. They had an incredible exhibition of ancient manuscripts on display, including the Codex Sinaiticus (the oldest known Bible), and many illuminated scriptures and texts from many countries. The Bible collection was astounding, and included a Wycliffe, a Tyndale, and a King James (well, duh). There were TWO of the four copies of Magna Carta there. (And yet I've seen the Magna Carta in Canberra, Salisbury, and at least one other place. That sucker travels.) They even had a 1000 year-old Anglo-Saxon Beowulf copy. But I also saw handwritten manuscripts (MS) of authors Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, and others. There were handwritten MS from Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and more modern ones as well. Maps drawn by 12th-century Matthew Paris. If you like writing, reading, graphics, history, and music, you'll know why I spent two hours just in that room. Like you've heard in old movies (maybe the newsreel of the Hindenburg fire?) I'm exclaiming, 'Oh, the humanity!' (Professor Dorothy Comm should get a kick out my pun.) Then I spent another 45 minutes in the British Library book shop, drooling. I had to write the titles and authors so I can get them off Amazon when I return, so I'm not hauling 50 pounds of books around with me. Sure, that'll be easy to drag up and down flights of stairs in the Tube stations. This webmail is tricky to write epic sagas in, because it has a tendency to vaporize, never to be retrieved. So I've learned to select-all and copy into a clipboard before I hit Send. Here's hoping it works again! Much affection to you.
Grace and peace,

Date: Sun Sep 10 00:23:07 2006
From: Kay B

Subject: Re: Christy's report No. 2: £ versus #
Hi Christy,
Good to here about your trip. It sounds like you are having a good time.
My mom told me that your Dad is moving to Pennsylvania. She said he sounded happy about the move, but sounds like a long way from you.
How is Brian doing? Where is he living? I don't have his address and haven't heard any news about him for a couple of years.
I am sending your e-mail on to my parents. I am guessing that you have heard that my mom has cancer. I had always thought that she would live to be a hundred or at least into her 90's but it is not looking good. She is very tiered and for the last week has only been able to eat soup. We are hoping that the medication will start to help. My dad has been really good at helping. he now does shopping, laundry, dishes etc. Of course i worry about him to as he is probably doing more then he should.
Kara is very busy. She is going to grad school/special eduction certificate fork-12 for all types of disabilities. in addition she is working full time. Today she sang in one of her friend weddings .
Franze, my first exchange student ( from Germany)is coming to visit on Tues. and staying for 2 weeks. It has been 5 years since i have seen her so i am looking forward to the visit.
God Bless, keep in touch

Date: Mon Sep 11 15:05:32 2006
From: Bob Johnston

Subject: RE: Christy's report No. 2: # versus #
Hi Christy
Evie is doing well. We played with the basketball by (and in) the pool Saturday. She had a great time, and went in the water four or five times. We’re enjoying the books you left with us. Evie played so hard that one of her nails bled a little, so we only did a short walk Sunday night. I brushed her and she just loved it. We keep two bowls of water in the house for her. She is eating well. We’re going to keep her. Sorry. She can stay with you while we’re in Ireland, though.
Of course, you know I’m not serious, but we do really love her, and if she ever needed a home we hope you would remember us.

Date: Sat Sep 9 20:42:29 2006
From: Herman Bauman
Subject: RE: Christy's report No. 2: # versus #
Hi Christy,
Thanks for the second edition of your England Times. Sounds as though you are having a great time. I can really relate to your enjoying all the time in the library. Books and I are very good friends too. I hope you come up with intriguing and exciting information on your ancestors.
Continue to have a wonderful, safe time. Don’t forget—be careful about those Guys in France.
Love ya,

Date: Sat Sep 9 20:10:06 2006
From: Elda Saucedo
Subject: Re: Christy's report No. 2: £ versus #
Dear Christy: Thanks for sharing with us the wonderful adventures you are experiencing on your trip. May God be with you and bring you back home safe.

Date: Thu Sep 7 01:32:12 2006
From: Tim Evans

Subject: RE: Pic missing on company website
oh get back to your vacation.

Sunday, September 10, 2006
After a late night both talking with Gary and Araxi, and then reading a book, I slept in to about 8:00 this morning. Very nice to get the rest. Went out to the train, taking three trains to Charing Cross station. Luckily, I chose the right street exit, and walked up into Trafalgar Square, which was convenient. My destination was the National Gallery. I got the headphones for the art commentary, and enjoyed it very much. In fact, I was there for 6 hours, from noon to 6 pm when they closed (and sort of shooed me out), and I guess I saw all the things I really wanted to see, but there were hundreds of paintings I passed by, that had commentary as well. I found some Dutch paintings from Leiden of about the time period my ancestor Rev. John Robinson lived there, in the early 17th century.
I purchased a lavender silk scarf in the museum shop, but when I opened it on the train, they’d put in the wrong one. I was very distressed, because I’m not going back into London during shop hours to make the exchange. But Gary offered to take it and my explanatory letter in for me. As a pensioner, he can ride the trains for free, he says.
Araxi let me wash my clothes tonight, which was significant because most of the days in London have been very hot, maybe 88 and humid. So freshening everything up was essential.
I wasn’t able to get Audrey’s response by e-mail, so I called her. She wasn’t able to get reservations to Paris or do the thing with getting to London and parking her car. So I’m going alone tomorrow.

Date: Sun Sep 10 15:25:02 2006
From: Christy K. Robinson
To: Gary
Subject: Incorrect scarf needs exchanging
Dear Gary,
Below is the letter to show to the Museum Shop at the National Gallery, at the top of Trafalgar Square.
National Gallery Gift Shop
Trafalgar Square
Dear Madam or Sir:
I visited the British National Gallery today (10 Sep 2006), and enjoyed it very much. Your gift shop is a treasure trove. However, when I inspected my purchases on the train to Eastcote station, I was very distressed. I had selected a £30 silk scarf, mostly lavender/orchid, with blue ribbon embellishments or embroidery, from a small bench-top basket, and took it to the counter. The shop assistant put my selection back on the shelf and took out a plastic-wrapped scarf, also lavender, but with salmon pink and no embellishments. I do NOT want the one she gave me by mistake. The colors don't suit me, and it lacks the blue tones I was so enamored of. (It's also very plain for the price.)
I will not be in London during your opening hours. Today was my last day. My holiday plans are already booked, and I must move on. My friend, Mr. Gary Keshishian, has offered to return and exchange the scarf for me when he's in London this week. He has with him the scarf and both copies of my receipt. In the terrible event that you have sold the beautiful lavender/blue embellished scarf, I would accept the substitute of the similar green embellished scarf, which I liked almost as well.
Please make the proper switch, and send the correct scarf (and receipt copies) by post to my next stop on my journey. It needs to arrive between Sept. 12 and 24 at the following address: Christy Robinson, c/o Miss Audrey James, ____ Bristol Road, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. (Not sure of the postal code, sorry.) If this window of time is not sufficient, you will need to send it to my home in California: Christy Robinson, Redlands, CA, , USA.
Please do not give Mr. Keshishian difficulties about showing my original Visa debit card and re-charging the new purchase. I need my card with me on this trip, he's doing me a giant favor, and the museum shop made the original error. He has the 'offending' scarf and two sales receipts, as well as this letter with my name clearly showing in the e-mail address. Thank you for your assistance in clearing this up.
Christy K. Robinson

Date: Mon Sep 11 14:37:37 2006
From: Christy K. Robinson
To: Gary Keshishian
Subject: RE: National Gallery London
Thank you so very much. I,m writing from a French Internet computer. Strange keyboard! See you Tues nite.

--- On Mon 09/11, Gary Keshishian wrote:
From: Gary Keshishian
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 16:32:38 +0100
Subject: National Gallery London
Dear Christie
Good news!You will be happy to learn that two kind and gracious young ladies were most sympathetic and helpful. They changed the scarf with the correct colour you wanted to purchase in the first place. Everything is OK! Regards
See you in London

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