London

August 19 to 30, 2003



Seattle to London

*airtrip
*London
*Lindisfarne Gospel Exhibit
*Tea at Brown's Hotel


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Tuesday August 19th which without due notice became Wednesday August 20th

Another bad night with my cough and little sleep, which is the theme of the last week. Spent the morning assembling my packing. Mom had already packed up her stuff, so she helped me pack everything into a barely big enough suitcase. I should remember it's not a great idea to begin a trip with full luggage, but I thought I was taking enough to leave with Christina that would make a little more space in there. Foolish me. Anyway, I should say the truth: Mom packed for me, while I watched. It wasn't a two-person job and she's so great at it. I did feel guilty and asked her if her back was okay, but she was absorbed with it. And so I was packed. If I forgot anything I still haven't figured out what it is.

Right now I'm sitting in the tiny but pleasant hotel room in London. I can't sleep. It's 3:30 am. Jetlag or my cough or both, I don't know, but I can't figure out why I'm not sleepy. There have been a lot of people talking outside my window, but they're not bothering me exactly--more that I couldn't quite make out what they were saying unless I paid more attention than I really wanted to.

This room is very small, but of course being in London it has a high ceiling, which make it quite pleasant and non-claustrophobic. A room this size in a North American hotel would feel like being shoved in a shoebox. The only thing that is alarming about its size is how the TV looms over the bed.

The flight here was quite tolerable. I had an aisle seat and the seats had little TV screens and there even was a movie on that I wanted to see, I Capture The Castle. I had been talking about going to see it with Mom and Jim, but because my cough would bother the rest of the audience, we never went. So I got to see it anyway, such as seeing a movie is on an airplane--never quite satisfactory, despite the screen. It's mostly that it's noisy enough that I can never quite hear all the dialogue.

I slept a little, but not enough. I was totally grateful for the two bottles of Odwalla's Strawberry C Monster juice that Mom made me take on the plane. Remind me to do that next time I travel. It really helped.

The plane was early, but had to delay in the air a little, and then we sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes, waiting for a place to dock the plane and let us off. By the time I got through Immigration and got my luggage, Christina had been waiting an hour. Ugh. It was wonderful to see her!

We took the fast train into London, then a taxi to our hotel. I got my stuff thrown in the room, and then Matt showed up from the British Library, which is right close by. He went out and got us tea from a shop nearby, and we sat and exchanged all the things we had for each other. Christina and Matt had made me a scrapbook of my trip to Bulgaria and Turkey with them last spring. What a wonderful, delightful thing to do! It's full of all sorts of funny comments, lovely pictures, and memories of the trip.

Christina also bought me a dalek [1] that can talk--or at least could if I put batteries in it, and a lovely book of Morris designs that has the designs and little histories of them on facing pages.

After tea we went to the British Library, where Matt went back to work while Christina and I looked at the lovely Lindisfarne Gospels exhibit. The exhibit is fascinating, and shows examples of the cultures that influenced the art of the gospels--Celtic, Coptic, Islamic, and book arts from Japan and Europe--but the gospels still stand out as such an amazing individual accomplishment, shining out from whatever inspired them.

I was a little fuzzy, but basically okay, and so we went on to Brown's Hotel for tea. It's funny, I've never had a proper tea in Britain before, and in fact only once before (I think) have I had it, and then in of all places, Seattle, when a group of us went to tea in one of the hotels in town. I can't believe it was long enough ago that it's not in my journal, but so it seems.

Brown's is a lovely old hotel, and tea at Brown's has been mentioned in several novels I've read over the years. The tea room has dark wooden paneling and comfortable chesterfields and chairs, and you choose your kind of tea and they bring you each a pot, and then a tray with sandwich fingers (no crusts of course), scones, and pastries. It was restful and charming (even the bathroom was lovely) and I managed to stay alert enough that we mostly could have a conversation.

Afterwards we took a taxi back to the hotel. Christina repacked their bags for tomorrow. Matt returned from his work, and we talked and watched TV (a show about snoring, though we were hoping for the news) until 10:00. I came back here and slept until 2:00. Woke up and read for a while, dozed a little, and finally woke up irretrievably at 3:30. I'm going to be a basket case sometime soon. So now I type and listen to the noise from the street (now it's the early risers rather than the late-nighters), and worry about being a wreck. Maybe I'll read for a while until it's time to see if Christina's awake. It's 5:00 now, so in a little over an hour I can check.

Strange being in London again. This is my fourth time here, so I should know it better but I've never really learned my way around, especially above ground. Of course, the truth is that I've never spent much time here. My first trip was when I was in high school. It was only on my second trip here with Christina and Jim in 1991 that I spent any time here, though in my third trip in 1992 I spent a little time, but this is the first time I've been back since then. No wonder I don't know my way around! I feel I should, though. And London feels different to me now that I've been to Istanbul. I'm not sure I can quite articulate how. In any case, I feel that I should know it better, but I don't.


Notes

1. They are the Doctor's evil enemies from the Dr. Who TV series. They are always trying to take over the universe and run around saying "exterminate" and "I obey".

 


Les Semaines 03.08.17 § Les Semaines Index § 03.08.21

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