Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Saga Continues...

By the time I woke up the next day...the day was half gone.  It was noon and there were people arriving in droves.  Well, there were several more of them, anyway.  It was also the first day of the program, so we had class scheduled.  The class:  London Walks.  Yep, that's right.  The main coursework consists of walking, and the textbook is London.  (I'm not sure if it's the most or least expensive textbook I've ever had--I mean, the ticket was expensive! but London is, you know, right there...right outside the door.  I do know, though, that it's by far the largest.)  So we started our walk at Hyde Park, then went to Green Park, through St. James Park, and maybe another one.  You've got to understand, about 1/10th of London is green space.  (Can't find a decent map to show this.)  The parks are really nice, too.  Big trees, nice walks, beautiful gardens, big green spaces, great places.

Y'know, I'm just going to try to rush through this a bit and catch up to today.  So if you want more details, ask.  Don't hesitate.  So...that was Tuesday.  We hiked across a whole bunch of parks, ended up at Buckingham Palace, went a little further down and through arches and memorials (which are, by the way, everywhere), and came to...Westminster Abbey!  Again, yay!  So we hiked through there, up through Picadilly circus where all the theatres are (showing Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Les Mis, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King...yeah, you get the idea),  then headed back. Oh, but this was in the afternoon.  In the morning...well, you know, when I woke up, we had a different walk assignment to find handy-dandy places like grocery stores and tube stops.  Most of which I'd found on Monday...  But anyway.  My partner and I stopped for lunch at Khan's, an Indian place I'd had recommended by a guy at the financial center last time I called there and he found out I was coming here.  He also suggested Mando's for Brazilian chicken and Borough Market (in general, I believe).  Anyway, we split some chicken masala curry and garlic naan bread.  It was most excellent.  Came out to about five pounds apiece.  Ish.

Another thing--I don't know if it's the absence of taxes or that taxes are already worked in, but all the prices are exactly what you pay, which makes things so very much easier.  And if you're looking for postcards, the cheapest I've seen (which are the same quality as many of the more expensive, unless you're looking for place-specific ones like the V&A) are 5 pence.  Which I only found out after I got the slightly more expensive ones, but it was 15/1 pound vs 20/1 pound, so...not too concerned.

So we were all pretty sore from fast-walking across London, but there was a great dinner here (dinner is 5:30, with a small meeting/devotional/we meet and say a prayer at 5:25) of very thick stew.  Everyone collapsed in bed after that.

I lie.

I was up late.

See, there's this library here--it's great, really; we're staying in a 5-storey Victorian townhouse, or rather 2 combined ones, with pretty staircases, lots of dorms, several bathrooms, a studio, a dining room, a living room, a "servery"/informal dining, a classroom, and an office.  And all of the rooms are decorated and Victorian.  I'm in the dining room right now, and there are carvings in a geometric/organic design on the roof (I'm aware that makes no sense) with a gold chandelier dripping crystals and demi-chandeliers on the dark wood walls, as well as an enormous mirror with carvings above and around it in the center of the wall on my left over a fireplace that has carved marble.  That kind of stuff.  (I'll get pictures.  Maybe I'll show you eventually.) the library, there are shelves of books (shocker!) and a few piles of books on the floor...that are free...for anyone to take and keep....

So I picked up one and thought hey, I should see if I'll like this.  Flip open, start reading, consider putting down once or twice, finish at midnight.  ...Yep.  It may not have been the most spectacular reading this side of the turn of the millenium, but it was fun and adventuresome and kind of twisted and it had griffins and dragons.  Good hooks, in my opinion.

So the next day found me rather tired.

Breakfast is 7:30-8:00, cereal and yoghurt (see how I'm using all these British spellings?) and fruit and toast and such.  We finished that up and then had a meeting at 8:30 to describe what we'd be doing that day.  Did you guess we'd be walking?  Good job!  We had teams of 4, randomly assigned, and a route to follow.  Since we were all taking the same route, the teams of 4 thing didn't pan out for a while.  One of the assignments was to find a map of London (accomplished! Yay!) and to stop in an art store which was described as being like one of the shops on Diagon Alley but it was an art store.  So...even better 'cause it's real magic.  And it was kind of like Borgin and Bourkes or some such because it was old, kind of small, had stuff reaching to the ceiling, and was...fantastic.  Anyway, we went in with a group of 8 and four of us really enjoyed looking around and looking around and admiring and admiring and oohing and aahing and wishing and wanting and get the picture.  But four of the others weren't art enthusiasts, so they headed out earlier than us.  Which split the groups pretty well but shuffled them a tad, as well.  We left there and walked to the National Gallery, to make sure we could find it, apparently, then to the British Museum where they had sculptures from the Parthenon and other pretty impressive works.  Most, if not all, were, in fact, not British.  Ironically enough.  Then we went to the Victoria and Albert museum which had an impressive mix of paintings, artifacts and other really interesting things.  Samurai were not tall.  I could fit in that armor.  And kind of want to.  Also, one of our group had a brilliant idea--someone should make a waffle iron using the Indian wall decorations.  (I think the geometric ones would work better.)  We got back around 4, 4:30, tired again.  Lots of walking.  Dinner was rosemary and orange chicken that time, I believe.  Stayed up late again, different book this time, but mostly just not tired.  For some reason.

The next day was a bit more relaxed.  We're on, what, Thursday?  They'd decided we did too much the day before so they tried to make it (somewhat) shorter.  We had class first, actually; literature class was at 8:30, then our writing class.  Introductory stuff; got syllabus and books.  They weren't very long.  Although they weren't so short that that's all we did, either.  We talked English.  Because we aren't all fluent in another language.  Anyway, once that was over, we were all supposed to find our way to the National Gallery via St. Paul's and the Millennium Bridge over the Thames (where I got a wonderful costume idea from one of the street performers--he wore a suit with gloves, shirt buttoned over his head, and a stick behind it holding up a bowler hat that had glasses dangling from it--a brilliant idea perfectly executed), past the Globe and the Tate Modern, then further on but that's where things derailed as there was construction and some of us went back over the Millennium Bridge and some went around the construction and further down.  {Random plug to see who's reading:  Please comment!  I want to know what you like, what you want to hear more of, etc.}  We all somehow eventually made it back to Trafalgar Square (I assume) and to the gallery.  It's incredible, by the way.  I was standing in front of some of the art pieces I've admired for a long time.  Van Eyck, Renoir, Raphael, Van Gogh, Monet, Da Vinci...shall I just direct you to  I'm going back.  We were supposed to walk through quickly to orient ourselves, then spend a while in front of one piece and look at it for a while.  This is where the staying up too late caught up to me.  I only got a page down in half an hour or more sitting in front of J.M.W. Turner's Dutch Boats in a Gale.

One other thing I liked; while I was sitting there, a lady next to me was talking to her children about the "horse artist," which I assume was George Stubbs, artist of Whistlejacket, a full-sized image of a dutchess's racehorse made for her in celebration of the horse's victories.  They have a book about him at home, apparently (him the artist).  Then she asked them who the painting in front of them was by, and the girl who couldn't have been more than 8 not only knew that it was by Turner, but she almost knew his full name.  Why are there not more mothers like that in the world?

It was about then I headed towards the bus stops and home.  Double-decker buses!  So cool!  And...I'm pretty sure the only way they don't tip over every time they round a corner is having an awful lot of weight under the bus.  We had roast beef for dinner and there was a dressing with the salad that tasted almost like straight lemon juice.  Oh, the night before we'd had a meeting in the evening to meet the resident family at the center--Alvaro and Thais from the city of Sao Paulo.  They told us the rules around here and welcomed us.  She cooks all the dinners and never repeats anything.  Let me just repeat that--she makes dinner.  Every night.  For 30-40 students plus the professors and families.  And *never* repeats anything.  Except by request.  Color me impressed.  And challenged.  (Hey, how hard can it be?  Incidentally, that's why I'm mentioning all the dinners.)  Then representatives from the two nearby stakes came and assigned us to our new wards.  I'm in the Stratford ward.  (Well, actually, another ward wanted one more person and it might be easier (by which I mean cheaper) for me to go there and not spending a lot is something I want to do right now so...)

One more thing about Trafalgar Square then I'm hitting the sack.  Despite not catching up with myself.  There are 4 pillars at Trafalgar Square, most of which have kings or some such on them.  Except for the huge one that has Nelson in the middle.  (Never mind, only one of the others has a king, and they're plinths, not pillars.) Anyway, thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that the 4th had a statue planned for it but it didn't pan out for one reason or another, so they started putting artwork on it.  Currently it has a huge ship-in-a-bottle.  It's pretty awesome.  Also, first time we went there, it was exactly 1 year before the start of the Olympics in London.  They have a countdown.  They also have a Van Gogh-esque painting made in collaboration with GE.  Cool thing about it?  It's made of plants.  Again, pictures eventually.

There's also art classes--Vastu 101 for me.  See also:  Would have been able to be in mixed media if I'd been able to get one or two art classes at school after Vastu 101 which I already took but they either didn't fit in my schedule or were 5 people big or they changed the minor so none of the classes are even offered anymore! *fume*  But anyway...  More introduction to the course, although the blind contour drawing (look at the person in front of you; draw their face without lifting your pencil and without looking at the paper) was fun.  And had the entire front room cracking up.  Which is where we were having the class.

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