Shoreditch, London – Well, the time has come. Just a wee bit less than a week ago I wrote about it being the dawn of the third week of my 2013 residency here in London, and the odd thing is that that little ferret called time just keeps slipping away. It’s like Tom and Jerry, no matter how far I chase after it, the mouse just slips from between my fingers.
Still, there are worse things in life, I mean it could really be the Eschaton, and then we’d all be in for it. But instead, it’s just the end of my time here in London with all these amazing new friends. And in some ways, it just doesn’t seem too terribly fair, more cruel in a way. To stick us all together for three weeks and then say, “Well, time’s up. Hope you all had a good time, and safe home.” It’s about as fair as the American education system is functional for setting up the next generation for a bright future (I’m looking at you, House Republicans…)
Of all the things that we have to go through in life, it’s the leave taking that’s the hardest for me. Perhaps that’s why I love history so much, and why I feel like my default grammatical tense is the past tense (yes, I’m a hopeless academic). Like one of my favourite fictional characters, the Doctor, I’m not very good at goodbyes. Still, sometimes they have to happen.
So, tonight is a farewell to all these new friends. True, we may have a reunion of sorts at some point, but at least for now it does seem quite terminal. Though at least we’re going out with a bang.
At 10.00, my friend Abby and I went to the British Library, which is near King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. There not only did we see the Magna Carta, but also handwritten notes of many great people, from Newton to John Lennon. There are some amazing works there, even an 11th Century copy (the oldest extant) of Beowulf, which thanks to a bit of study of Old English, I actually could read. One of the oldest manuscripts there was a Koine Greek codex edition of the Bible, which again thanks to Dr Stramara’s Intro to New Testament Greek, was also readable to my eye. However, sadly we couldn’t find the Babylonian cuineform copy of the Code of Hammurabi, which the Library does have in its collection, but wasn’t on display. To right this, both Abby and I got our very own British Library cards, but didn’t have enough time to use them. I was due at the British Museum, and she had business elsewhere to attend to as well.
I took the tube from King’s Cross to Holborn, and walked first to the O2 shop on High Holborn to sort out my mobile. It turns out that I actually bought the phone and the sim card, so they are now mine to keep. So, I guess I’ll just have two mobile numbers, one with a +1 and another with a +44 country codes.
After stopping off with my British telephone provider, don’t worry Dad I’m sticking with AT&T when in the States, I made the short walk through Bloomsbury, where someday I’d love to live, to the British Museum. My ticket for the Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum was timed for 13.50, so seeing as it was 12.00, I had some time to kill, in a truly Tom and Jerry fashion. This was done by strolling through the Ancient Near East, Classical, Egyptian, and Japanese galleries before making my way down the stairway along the outside of the Reading Room (where the Pompeii exhibit is currently housed), when a rather loud bell started to ring all around me. I began to wonder just what was happening, at first thinking it was an alert for the people going into Pompeii at 13.30, but when I saw the security guards rushing to and fro with whistles blowing in their mouths, waving people towards the main entrance, I knew that something was rather amiss. I evacuated the museum calmly, figuring that if there was a bomb and it was to go off at anytime I’d rather be quite close to it or quite far from it, only stopping once I was at the far side of the North Colonnade standing in the shade with a few other people. For a while there was no news of what was happening, until the Fire Brigade showed up and began to search the massive building. After about 20 minutes we were all free to return to our favourite mummies and statues of long dead Greeks.
I made it as quickly as possible to the Pompeii entrance, considering that it was now 13.55, and my ticket was for 13.50. Thankfully, they let me through and into the exhibit. For the sake of the exhibit, and to help the British Museum with sales, all I will say about Pompeii is this: it was quite well done, and quite thorough. I left that exhibit at around 14.40, and ran to the tube station to once again meet Abby outside our hall.
We had a planned excursion from Central London to the world of green leafy suburbs. Our first stop was a nice house, 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead. The house hadn’t changed all that much since its most famous owner and occupant had died in September 1939. That occupant, who died in the front room, where I did have a rather odd feeling, was a refugee from then Nazi controlled Austria. He and his family escaped to London via Paris, where they resettled, and where many of their descendants remain to this day. This fellow was none other than Dr Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. The house was quite nice, and it did feel like Abby and I were house guests, personal visitors of the Freud family. Though there was a good deal of humour in the air (they sold Freud ducks in the gift shop).
After leaving the Freud’s to their peace, we walked back to Finchley Road tube and headed two stops south to St John’s Wood, where many a music lover journeys to on pilgrimage. This stop was none other than the beginning of a walk that led to the most famous zebra crossing in music history. It’s a bane for drivers, but a bloody good time for Beatles fans to get their photo taken crossing the zebra crosswalk at Abbey Road Studios, but oddly enough it’s still a public street! Abby and I didn’t actually get our photo on the crosswalk, but we did go and sign the fence outside the studio.
We then got back onto the tube, and found our way down to Earl’s Court, where a police box was standing just outside the station. It took us a few times passing it to actually see it though. But a quite nice German couple took our photo with it. For those of you who think I’m mad at wanting my photo with a police box, just watch Doctor Who on the BBC, PBS, or Netflix.
After a long tube journey, we at last made it back home. A sort of farewell dinner began soon there after, comprising of pizzas from the nearby Pakistani owned Great American Pizza restaurant, and a lot of good conversation. So now, it’s to bid you all ado, as I have much still to do if I’m going to be ready to be out by 7.30 tomorrow morning for the hour plus tube journey to Heathrow.
I’ve really enjoyed London, and will be back in two years. Yes, I’m looking at, and with prior advice from a CLC-mate, will be going to graduate school here in London.