QXZ's London Invasion, Part Seven
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The all-being master of space, time and dimension.
The play is the thing...

Had vivid dreams last night for the first time I've been aware of on this trip. Primarily wandering around in some fantastical version of Westminster Palace, which also happened to contain all of London. Probably triggered by cramming in all this touristy stuff in such a short time. Before I left home I dreamed about using a tunnel under the Atlantic to drive to the UK in five minutes.

Also dreamed that Britney Spears' song Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know was actually about masturbation. Or, at the very least, Britney was jilling off while singing it. I don't think we need to look too deeply for the source of that dream.

Two curious turns of phrase at TESCO. Firstly, they advertise their photo processing as being "cheaper than boots"; I'm not sure if that's just literally true, or if it's an idiom with which I'm unfamiliar. Second, the store's motto is "every little helps", and my brain always screams at me that it's meant to read "every little bit helps". What's going on?

Got to The Royal Greenwich Observatory by 12:45 via the Docklands Light Rail. The DLR is an elevated (mostly) railway which services points in (surprise) the Docklands. Several highrise buildings are being stacked up towards the sky in the Canary Wharf area, so I assume things aren't going too badly for the monied in the area.

Greenwich Centre is pretty cool. It's what a middle-aged, white, suburban woman might call "funky". Basically, it's a college town.

Right... final push up the hill to the Observatory, then.

Set my watch to the GMT clock; shame my watch slips about one minute per day. Oh look: yet more more schoolchildren.

Saw the time ball drop at "exactly" 1:00, alerting ships in the area as to the time.

Paid my £1.00 for my certificate stating precisely when I was at the Prime Meridian. Ha! My feet straddle the hemispheres! I am huge!

On the way out, I noticed that my watch had lost five seconds just in the two hours I spent at the Observatory. Some accuracy, Hamilton.

I can see a smoke plume from what looks like a very serious fire somewhat west of The City. Occasional bursts of flame from the base of the plume. Hey, if nothing else I guess I was here to see one of London's many fires.

Used the foot tunnel from the Cutty Sark to cross under the Thames. I think that tunnel was the first ever bored tunnel under a river, but I could be totally wrong.

Stop looking at me like that. I tried to find somewhere else; you know I did. There wasn't anywhere. Please.
Penance is sitting facing your reflection while you eat.

Back at the godawful Barbican, waiting for the doors to open for Hamlet. I've noticed over the past day or so that I'm talking to myself on the street considerably more than I usually do, and often in one of several bad British/Scottish/Irish accents. Good thing I have this notebook with me or I might go crazy. Well, no, but I'd probably be talking to myself a lot more, and I'd look completely crazy, anyway.

Bought the first things that can be considered souvenirs: a Royal Shakespeare Company t-shirt and a poster for this production of Hamlet. I'd wanted to buy something at the Greenwich Observatory, but they really didn't have anything cool. I've realized that I'm not much for souvenirs, and it's hard to look for things to bring home to people. However, I really should get something for Charmayne at the least. If I'm luck, I might fulfull Tara and Rene's requests, but I'm just not going to buy Rene's dad those stupid collectible spoons he wanted. Okay, I should got check my bag.

Hamlet was outstanding. I think it really helped that I hadn't read the play before I saw it. I wasn't anticipating lines or scenes; the whole story just unfolded in front of me. Wonderful production. Ophelia may have been a tad weak, but Hamlet was so good no one could really shine beside him. Minimalist set, tasteful modernizations (props and costuming; a lot of people dispatched with gunfire instead of stabs), innovative lighting. The majority of the play felt very honest; the emotion and the heart of the story were coming from the characters via the actors. Every moment was clearly understood by the cast. This is the first professional Shakespeare I've seen, but that's, in my experience, rare. There was no coasting on the weight of the language here. As much as the words are art, it was true dialog for these characters.

A group of girls was huddled by the stage door, waiting for the actors. Or, more likely, the actor: Mr. Samuel "Hamlet" West.

I'm surrounded by Americans tonight. Groups of what I assume are college girls, families, business people, middle-aged friends. The RSC got me, so I guess maybe it's a tourist magnet like theater is in most big cities.

And what's with the coughing phenomenon in theater audiences? Are there really that many people in a given crowd with bronchial distress? Some people, I think, simply become uncomfortable if they're quiet for too long. One cough or sneeze breeds another, like yawns. A study should be done.

Ack! Trapped on the Tube! We've been sitting here, yards out of Blackfriars station while the cops remove an unruly passenger on the train ahead of us, for fifteen minutes. If the District Line has stopped running by the time we get to South Kensington, I'll just have to walk from Gloucester Street. Stupid non-24 hour subway.

Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/6/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.

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