QXZ's London Invasion, Part Three
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Alone in a crowd. If I could be a camera.
Born down in a dead end town.
Chilly morning. I awake to find Mother TESCO closed! Horrors. Hours are, apparently, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sundays. So, instead, I throw myself onto the bosom of Benjy's Restaurant on Earl's Court Road. Time for breakfast and figgering out just what one can get up to on a Sunday in this town.
Breakfast was the "Builder" plate: 2 toast, 2 sausages, 1 fried egg, 1 piece of bacon, baked beans, french fries and a cooked tomato. Well, the tomato was on the plate, anyway. All that plus a large orange juice for £4.70.
Have decided to get my hat and head up to Camden market...
...which was much like any street market anywhere. I wasn't much in the mood for hip clothing, fun t-shirts, weed paraphernalia or souvenirs, so I contented myself with people-watching. It's gloomy and overcast, which pretty much aces photography for me. Nothing like flat, gray light to make any scenic picture boring.
So, I went down to see St. Pancras Station. It's amazing; really should be called The Cathedral of St. Train the Divine. A Victorian neo-gothic palace, red brick and stone masonry, spires, and one of the largest clocks I've ever seen inside. The place is endless. I went in for a moment and the train "shed" area brought back memories of Summer 2000's Eurail Adventures.
Now at the British Library for micturation and viewing of very important old paper things.
Amazing to see the handwriting of Sir Walter Raleigh and Benjamin Johnson. Mr. Johnson could write in very, very tiny letters. Raleigh's penmanship, straight from the Tower, is not as precise as Johnson's; hurried. Execution imminent?
And William Shakespeare's own handwriting! A page from the excised "May Day" scene in The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore. The label describes the document as "the only literary manuscript to survive from Shakespeare's own pen". His script is barely legible to me, due more to stylization and embellishment than sloppiness. It's painterly, and the ink looks like watercolor these 400-odd years later. Tails of letters swoop and flow down across several lines. Almost arabesque. Beautiful.
So many things... A manuscript of Beowulf, written down in the 11th century. A hand-copied version of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Alexander Pope's handwritten translation of The Iliad, with conceptual drawing of Achilles' shield. Lewis Carroll's handwritten manuscript for Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the predecessor to Alice In Wonderland, with Carroll's own illustrations! His handwriting is extremely neat and precise, and the words EAT ME, from the cake, are visible; open block lettered.
Good lord... Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, handwritten. In pencil, it appears. Words slop all over the page, no respect for linearity, even in penmanship. The pencil grinds into the paper, thick and smeared. Lettering of all sizes. Paragraphs piled, stacked, tumbling. Hasty lines crossing out or pointing to. Joyce.
Gustav Mahler's orchestration of Urlicht from Des Knaben Wunderhorn in manuscript, with handwritten (text) notes.
Beatles. Handwritten lyrics for Ticket To Ride and Penny Lane, A Hard Day's Night (on the back of a birthday card...a boy riding a choo-choo train, waving at us), I Wanna Hold Your Hand, The Fool On The Hill (in orange marker?), and a draft of something on Lufthansa stationary that has lyrics from Strawberry Fields Forever in it. As such, I assume that's Lennon's handwriting.
And, over here, the Magna Carta. Or, at least, various pieces that are, as a whole, the Magna Carta. Underwhelming even to the Library, it seems. The first sentence on the exhibit label reads "Magna Carta is a disappointing document". Essentially, great historical importance with little entertainment value.
The Codex Sinaiticus: the oldest complete Greek manuscript of the New Testament extant (4th century).
One could spend hours and hours just in this room, examining these treasures. I've been here for two already, and it's time to leave.
Oh, but one last thing on the way out: a Gutenberg Bible. Press printed, hand illustrated. From 1454-55.
Picadilly Circus, W1, City of Westminster. As expected, it's a lot like Times Square... yet lower key. Easier to navigate. Noted tourists here, as in New York City, photographing advertising. So I did the "cultural" thing instead and photographed the statue of Eros on the fountain bathed in neon light.
It's fish and chips time. Decided to hit The Shakespeare near Victoria station, 99 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, SW1, for that purpose. The sandwich boards outside advertised "the best in London", so, by God, they'd better be. Hopefully this pint of John Smith's will go well. Table for one: aww yeah.
Springsteen's Born In The USA came on the jukebox while I ate my oily food. I laughed out loud. Fortunately, no one was near enough to hear me.
The Shakespeare's bathroom featured a man trough. And, with that, I'll call it a night and head back to the hostel.
Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/2/2001.
QXZ endorses no one.
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