"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Scholar's Journey

Our friends departed London a few days ago. Since then I've upped sticks from Mayfair to Bloomsbury and have devoted myself to scholarly pursuits and pubbing and dining in familiar restaurants.

On my way to one of the reference libraries I frequent when here, I passed Landsdowne Terrace where, much to my surprise, I found goats and a single black sheep grazing!

On arrival I submitted the necessary paperwork and became a card-carrying London historian. While waiting for document services to provide me with a real-life character's 18th century last will and testament, I took a quick pic of my new possession with the web cam on my laptop.

From there I went to the Museum of London. For several years all the exhibition space after the Great Fire of 1660 has been off limits for a major renovation and re-interpretation, and the Modern London galleries opened a few months back.

The Plague Rat, however, is still on view!

I have loads of photos of the 17th & 18th century displays and may do up some webpages. For the time being, here's a pair of shoes that I would dearly love to have in my possession. I'm wearing red rather often just now.

A highlight of the exhibition is now what I can only call the Vauxhall Gardens experience, a re-creation of the famed London pleasure garden. The layout throws the visitor into the midst of the action, which takes place on screens all round in the form of "you are there" film scenarios. Here's the young rogue, a hungry gentleman and his wife and his daughter. Of course the older fellow complains about the expence of the chicken and the thinly sliced ham, and of course the rogue tries to tempt the young lady into the dark alleys. All the while, nightingales pierce the night with their song.

The costume cabinets show the attire of Vauxhall visitors.

The Lord Mayor's coach.

I began my Saturday at the British Library, where I have long held a Reader's Pass.

I accessed some important primary research material for my book, tied up some loose ends from last year's visit. Then I went to see the delightful production of Sheridan's The Rivals at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (where one of my main characters often performed.) The cast included Peter Bowles and Penelope Keith--an ideal Mrs Malaprop--and a most talented and lively and comic group of younger performers. This production, directed and produced by Sir Peter Hall, premiered at Bath (the setting of the action) and has toured regional theatres to great acclaim. It's popularity is much deserved. This is the second time in recent years we've seen Bowles at the Haymarket; last time he was playing Beau Brummell in the waning days of his career, and his sanity.

I happened to be seated by a couple of women who both were positive clones of Sybil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. Their voices, their comments, their attire. I was almost in stitches listening to their chatter before the curtain rose, and during the interval, and as we were departing the theatre.

Every night so far I've dined in Mayfair, very well if I do say so, and despite the transfer to Bloomsbury in the evening I return to the old neighbourhood. Last night I had Spanish food, tonight French at my beloved Le Boudin Blanc. If there was an equivalent of a "reader's card" I'd have one. All we have to do is give our UK phone number, and our names pop up on their reservation computer screen. Bit of a celebrity crowd there this evening, which added to the experience.

One of the art galleries on Curzon Street is featuring these remarkable glittery objects--everyday objects, cameras mostly, refashioned in a very bling-y way. I particularly liked the sparkly typewriters, and one of them might turn into a blog header whenever I get round to it.

So much of England is having extremly heavy snowfall. No sign of it here. I wouldn't mind a bit, but would prefer it visit us after the forthcoming Tube strike has ended. I expect to be getting about on foot more than usual for a while. Apparently it's snowing at the Lodge as well. Well, 'tis the season....

I've got a UK mobile phone and phone number now. Very convenient. The Chap's had one for yonks.

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