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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015

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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Sightseeing in London

Well, for two and a half days, I received intensive one-on-one instruction for the certification course that I'm taking and I'm a lot more confident that I'll be able to pass the exam in June. (Assuming I finish studying the books!) I'm going to put in some cuts because this sightseeing narrative takes space.

I got out early enough yesterday to get a ticket to a matinee performance of Tennessee Williams "The Glass Managerie" starring Jessica Lange. It was quite splendid. She was great at the level of greatness I would expect from her. There's really nothing more to say about that. But the young woman who played Laura, Amanda Hale, was nothing short of astounding. She is new on the scene (I think this may be her first professional outing). You can read her bio at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at Amanda Hale and hear a sound clip of her voice and see her picture. Her vocal work was superb, maintaining a neutral accent against the forced southern accents of Tom and Amanda Wingfield. But her presence on stage was astounding, and the required scream at the end of the play pulled my heart out by the roots. I've seen two or three renditions of the play, and countless auditions where people have used this as their reading. This was by far the best Laura Wingfield I have ever seen and I can hardly wait for Amanda Hale to make it to the big screen. I hope she will bring the vibrancy and emotion to performances there that she does to the stage.

Had a lousy night's sleep last night. Woke up at 3:00 a.m. again and then someone was apparently leaving the hotel at 4:00 with their suitcases banging down the stairs. I didn't get back to sleep until 6:00 and then slept until nearly noon. So I rushed into my day of sightseeing. The British Library was wonderful. I spent about an hour in the Treasures room looking at things like the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, and one of the oldest manuscript books ever produced, a gospel from the fourth century. Could have stayed hours, but I was off on a walking tour of London. I've yet to take any public transportation other than the train from Heathrow to Paddington Station and the taxi from Paddington to the hotel. Everything else I've done has been on foot. Today I logged several miles.

My first goal was the Temple Church. If you recall, that is where Robert Langston thought the knight interred by a Pope would have lain in "The DaVinci Code." It was a beautiful place to visit, but the rotunda was blocked off for repairs. That's where the actual tombs that lie on the floor are located. It was very interesting, however.

Then I toured up Fleet Street, including a quick lunch of Bangers and Mash at Ye Old Cock Tavern. Then I hiked up to Gough Square to the home of Dr. Samuel Johnson and took the self-guided tour of that. It was really quite remarkable to get a look at the first dictionary of the English Language, compiled by Johnson over seven years in the mid-1700s. That volume did more than anything else to standardize spellings and definitions of words and make English a literary language and ultimately the language of science.

I walked down to the Millenium Bridge, electing not to visit St. Paul's Cathedral. Crossing the bridge, I went into the Tate Modern and spent the rest of the afternoon there. Last time I was there I saw only two of the main galleries. This time, I took the time to walke through and absorb all four main galleries. I didn't bother to book a ticket for the special exhibition. I was there for at least two hours, maybe more. I completely lost track of time.

Back outside, I walked along the Bankside past the London Eye (or eyesore as some call it) and then crossed the Westminster Bridge toward Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Tomorrow I hope to go back to tour the Cathedral, but for tonight I contented myself with walking up Whitehall past 10 Downing Street and the Whitehall Horse Guards. I remember when I was in London thirty-some years ago seeing the horses come out of Whitehall on their way to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The white-plumed guard in the red tunic stood immovably at the entrance with sword on shoulder at full attention without moving. People took pictures, stood with him, etc. and he just stood there impassively.

Speaking of pictures, my camera has ceased to work, so although I snapped several today, all of them turned out as little black squares. The lens cover retracts and it focuses and flashes, but the eye does not see the picture. So, I'm afraid that the virtual tour that I started posting Sunday has ended.

While walking around London, I was struck with an idea for a novel for this November. It will require quite a lot of research, but might be fun to write. I bought a little pad of paper at a souvenir shop and sat in an Indian restaurant eating and writing a quick (400-word) synopsis. I've been toying with the idea of doing something historical or literary next year and this fits the bill in both regards. Plus it would give me a new kind of challenge for my writing. If you are interested, you can read the brief synopsis on my Noveling Notes site where I've posted it.

Now for the big news. I totally scored theatre tickets for tomorrow night's RSC performance of "The Tempest." I walked by the theatre tonight and saw that it opened its first preview this evening. But get this: Prospero is played by Patrick Stewart. I get to see Captain Pickard play Prospero! Woo Hoo! I called the box office and asked for a ticket and the woman was skeptical, thinking it was sold out. She asked how many, I said just one. There was nothing in the orchestra stalls. Then she said, "Oh my. I have one seat in the Queen's Circle. It is in the very middle of the front row." First balcony, front row, center. Hot damn!

Well, that will be my last big treat in London. I'm going to see Westminster, the Borough Market, and do a little shopping along Oxford St., then RSC The Tempest. Now if I can just sleep through the night, I'll be able to sit through the show without sleeping then. I fly home about 5:30 Saturday night (get home an hour later).

I'll post again after I've seen the show.

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