Thursday, October 2, 2014

London-Oxford Sep 2014

It was 1986 that I first went overseas and that was London.  Twenty eight years ago.  London has changed and so have I.  But I enjoyed my week there as much as I did at the start.  Stayed in Russell Square. Walked from Sadler's Wells to Marble Arch to Picadilly.  Managed seven shows, one concert,  one museum and several meals with friends.  I could have kept busy another week.

As I have in recent years, stayed at The Celtic Hotel, a delightful bed and breakfast, costing £61 a night with facilities down the stairs.  I was housed in a smalll but  immaculately clean room on the top floor - good exercise climbing up. There was a choice of hot and cold dishes at breakfast, prepared  to order.  And a comfortable lobby with reading material and brochures for the visitor.  Last time I was there, I was with my niece and we splurged for insuite facilities. 

Two of the plays I saw were  concerning current England.  One a projection of the future with Prince Charles as monarch; the other a commentary on the Murdoch hacking.  Both well done.  I finally got to Book of Morman, which I missed here - and well worth it.  Clever musical comedy without demeaning  the religion. 

I did get to the Sunday morning concert at the Wigmore.  I had chanced picking up tickets and nearly missed out.  But half an hour in the returns line and I lucked out.  In fact, other than two dance events, I hadn't arranged for any tickets.  A friend had purchased a ticket for Balletboyz performancei in the small theatre at the Royal Opera House (they  sold out, on line) and I had called for a seat for Ladysmith Mombassa and the accompanying dance company. Those two movement events were a contrast with an acrobatic performance I attended Sunday afternoon, along with a passle of youngsters:  Nutcracker matinee atmosphere. 

A nearby University museum had an excellent exhibiton on the Sikhs during WW1, the UK being in the midst of celebrating  the 100th anniversary of The Great War.  More Sikhs in attendance than Westerners, which is as it should be?

Got together with several friends from  traveling days. Some  of us have been able to get together  regularly for various trips.  Through them, I always discover new and interesting restaurants. 

London continues to be one of my favorites cities.  More and more, a mix of nationalities, both with residents and tourists.  A lot of restoration and building going on.  Resulting numerous Diversions.    I suspect I could get around quicker than than taxis. 

Always, I do one of the London Walks.  I redid the Spy Walk, same guide from five years ago, and his spiel hadn't changed that much.  The only difference was I was somewhat more knowledgeable.  I also had in hand, Roy Berkeley's A Spy's London - a much more extension review of the where's of the intelligence world. 

Then it was the Oxford Tube (really, an express bus) from Victoria Station to Oxford, where I stayed in quarters at St John's College where the TE Lawrence Symposium took place. With nothing planned for the night of arrival, I scooted off to the local playhouse and saw a nice production of She Stoops to Conquer.  As I walked about Oxford, kept looking for Inspectors Morse and Lewis - no success. 

The next several days were filled with gathering of the devoted: those fixating on Lawrence and his activities.    Surprising number of Americans and few from other European countries.  Half a dozen from the Great Arab Revolt crew. Ah, several wars later, we still dissect TEL, this  idiosyncratic figure from WW 1 Middle East days.

The presentations ranged from excellent or awful.Topics ranged from  the Arab view of the WW1 conflict, TEL's relationships with Thomas Hardy (author) and Lady Kathleen Scott (sculpturess and widow of the Arctic explorer), Lawrence in his early days as an archaeologist, TEL and Lowell Thomas (reporter), private printing presses and lecture circuits. 

Because of acoustics an evening lecture was totally incomprehensible for me.  But the food was excellent.  Accommodations spacious though again, with shared  plumbing.  But remember, for a weekend you are an Oxford student. 

Got to Heathrow via another express bus, early enough for an earlier flight home.  But, no room at the inn!  Full up, so waited four hours for my scheduled flight.  Serendipitiously, had the same two seatmates on the return trip as did going out.  They ad hiked along the Cornwall coast since I last talked with them. 

Not as exhilarating as the first time in London; good enough to keep returning.
No camera this trip around - a real feeling of freedom as I didn't have to consider photo shoots.


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