Arise around 9:30, I think, and feel the pain of last night. Errrrrgh. As one heads to Caffé Nero for e-mail, etc., the face of the most notorious punk band in the world appears on a billboard advertising butter. Yes, Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols shilling for Country Life Dairy Products; and he’s wearing an excretiable red plaid jacket. Surely this is one of the signs of the apocalypse?
Breakfast out of the way, I seek an alarm clock so as to ensure catching my flight in a couple of days… Hang on, Jennifer’s note mentions picking me up at the airport Friday afternoon, which is excellent… but, erm… FRIDAY?!? Wasn’t it Saturday…? Shit!
I rapidly e-mail a few people pointing out that they now have a 36-hour window to meet me before I leave the country at an abominable hour Friday morning.
Back to hotel we head, after buying a newspaper for the sole benefit of confirmation of today’s date (and ensuring that there is a world outside for which to return), then check my printed flight information and itinerary. Friday, yes. Good to know that now. It might have been a bit of a problem had I got it wrong by a day.
Right. So off to Soak-Up Culture of Great Worth: the British Library to wander and stare at Really Old Books and Papers. These include (but were not limited to only):
- The Magna Carta: negotiating notes (quite clear), version presented to King (very blurry), Pope’s acceptance (somewhat legible), final revised version (fairly clear)
- Beethoven’s tuning fork
- original lyrics scribbled on envelopes for:
- “A Hard Day’s Night”
- an un-used poem by Lennon (John) which was either at the start of a melt-down, or the cause of it; he spirals out of control by the time it finishes, reducing his worth as a human to zilch (and which nearly causes a tape or two in my read to start whirring away)
- application by Lenin (Vladimir) for access to the British Library Reading Room, using a false name
- First Folio Shakespeare
- Lyndesfarne Gospel… and so many other editions of the Bible as well as this, it ends up being a blur after a bit
- many Qu’rans of beauty… gorgeous lettering and illuminations a-plenty
- charts for a Mozart piece, possibly written by Wolfgang the Flatulent
- a page of the play Sir Thomas More most definitely written by Shakespeare the Word-Forger
- many, many more things
The whole building is a beautiful thing, and rammed full of every book one can conceive of being important. Therein lies the problem of the thing, though: it’s so damned full of great things, it falls into the same category as the British Museum or the National Gallery: where does one start and what do you look upon at the expense of the rest of the collection? In the case of this building, I wandered in the bookshop and then the gallery on the mezzanine which has a semi-permanent display of their collection’s ‘highlights’. Also wandered was a display of material from the 1960s (images projected on the walls, sounds, multi-media presentations on computer screens in the middle of the room) and was stunned at the breadth of the news photos from around the world they had, both iconic (the London peace riot in the mid-60s; Paris Student Riot, Castro speaking to the UN with a gun tucked in his belt), and the views of normal events (Camden Town on a Market Day, someone being fitted for a suit, a nude mother and baby wading in the water). The narrative of the exhibit was a bit weak, but perhaps the lack of purchasing a guide book for the display (or simple fatigue) was the cause of this.
Later, I find that noise cancelling headphones are great when used in cafés, but they’re not not able to cancel all the things I would call noise. Inane conversation about nothing in particular, for instance; especially when frequently punctuated with the phrase “y’know whatta mean?”, sometimes as often as thrice in the same sentence. The ability with which they filter out humming and rumbling of traffic and air conditioning, however, is gasp-inducing. It’s only when they’re turned on that the amount of aural rubbish is really grasped. The amount of acclimatisation the human body is able to manage is re-assuring and disturbing at the same time: yes, it’s good we can, but should we become used to the amount of sound around us? When did we decide that this amount of sound was both acceptable and endurable?
Meanwhile, the laptop (netbook, notebook) has become regularly annoying when it’s used, mostly due to track-pad being so damned sensitive (which is me, not the equipment, but…). I’ve used enough to start becoming sloppy, and the keyboard is just a tiny bit smaller than the one on the desk at home, and the rarely-used keys — such as [ESC], [DELETE], and [END] — are almost in the same arrangement without being in the same spot the fingers fly to when working at speed. This, coupled with the track-pad being located where my thumbs typically are rested, so the cursor suddenly jumps to another spot on the screen for seemingly no reason, causes every time a note or other function is needed doing becomes another experience in frustration and adjustment. Grumble.
Getting together with Luke is arranged for tomorrow evening at Smithy’s Pub.
I am tired. And sore. And sleepy. ‘Perhaps it’s the weather?’, someone suggests to me when I mention it to someone in a restaurant or shop or pub or something. Maybe… It may simply be that the end of the visit is coming because the experience of a new town is fading.
I have dinner at an Italian place called Mediterraneo across the corner from the hotel, with food which is simple and nice. “Fettuccine Alice” (oil, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, those little fish) and a ½ bottle of Valpoliccela. Not outstanding, hardly fantastic, for that matter, but it’s better than locating either another café or a McDonald’s. And back to hotel for bed and Blakes 7 by 8:30. Fuck I’m old and tired… time for going home soon, probably.
Table of contents for the series “UK-tober-Fest”
- What I’m Doing in a Fortnight’s Time
- One Final Sleep in Our Bed
- Friday, October 10th, 20:15 ~ YVR… still…
- Friday, October 10th, 23:50 ~ somewhere over the NWT probably…
- Saturday, October 11th ~ Arrival & Warwick (Day I)
- Sunday, October 12th ~ Warwick (Day II, part i)
- Sunday, October 12th ~ Warwick (Day II, part ii)
- Monday, October 13th ~ Warwick (Day III)
- Tuesday, October 14th ~ Warwick (Day IV) to London (Day I)
- Wednesday, October 15th ~ Canadian Election Results [an Aside to London (Day II)]
- Wednesday, October 15th ~ London (Day II)
- Thursday, October 16th ~ London (Day III)
- Friday October 17th ~ London (Day IV)
- Saturday October 18th — London (Day V)
- Sunday October 19th — London (Day VI)
- Monday October 20th — London (Day VII, part i)
- Monday October 20th — London (Day VII, part ii)
- Monday October 20th — London (Day VII, part iii)
- Tuesday October 21st — London (Day VIII)
- Wednesday October 22nd — London (Day IX)
- Thursday October 23rd — London (Day X)
- Friday October 24th — London to Vancouver (Day XI-XII)