À la recherche du temps perdu

news from nowhere

Month: September, 2004

I will write a quick one since I need to tidy up and pack my things for tomorrow’s removing.

Went to Hampton Court today – the greatest palace in England (so it says). I walked over Vauxhall Bridge to Vauxhall rail station and took a SW train to Hampton Court station – my first time taking a train (Actually my first time was in F.3 when the family went to Edinburgh… but I recollected nothing of it so it does not count )

I was there and started with the introductory exhibition, then the Tudor Kitchens, the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s Apartments, the King’s Apartments, the Wolsey Rooms, then the Georgian Rooms. They spent me like half the day – when I was finally out in the gardens it was approaching 4pm

As for the gardens, they followed the Baroque style = very large. My sequence: the Fountain Garden overlooking the Long Water, the Royal Tennis Court, the Maze (I was expecting a real challenge… but I solved it like within 15 minutes… slightly disillusioned ), the Privy Garden, the Knot Garden, the Pond Garden, the Great Vine, the Mantegna Gallery. As I strolled along the gravel paths I imagined myself wearing extravagent court dresses which rustled with my movements; and by my side accompanied a handsome gentleman reciting poetry while we were admiring the picturesque landscape… I am such nuts

Got the souvenirs and took the train home. Later in the evening went out to dine with May at China Town. I insisted to have the bill because May had been so kind and helpful to me these early days at London. And so May said she would pay for the dessert. So I had a really full stomach tonight

Not sure if I can go online the followings days when I am in hotel…

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Today’s weather felt like Hong Kong’s winter Overcast and windy and showered too! Looks like my summer’s clothings are never to be used again now…

Went to see the Buckingham Palace Changing the Guard ceremony – I was delayed and when I got there the brass band was already making music and the gates of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria memorial were piled with tourists With much difficulty I squeezed myself into the crowd and thought to myself next time I MUST come earlier to reserve a better place. All I could do was to hold up my camera, take a shot, and look at what I got

The marching reminded me the days when we the Girl Guides practiced for the Sports Day I like the red uniform and their formality. I am really touched to the quick by anything that is carefully arranged and elaborate. The sense of control. No wonder the Aesthetic Sir Walter Pater said the ideal form of Art is Music – the control of temporal power.

And no matter what people say nowadays, I still adore (to some extent) the national spirit of Empirical England. It is condemned beacuse it led to colonization and the World Wars. But then national spirit, which stresses loyalty to the monarchy, is just the same as Medieval Chivalry, where knights swore loyalty to their lords. People recite these Medieval lores with regret that those golden days are gone, and make all forms of its celebration, and yet condemn nationalism – what kind of reasoning is that?

And then I visited Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews. Went back and out again to Argos to get a duvet set – Argos is such an amazing place! I like it

Soon I will move to hotel… I shall miss this flat…

Suddenly it became so cold today! Really cannot believe it… London weather is so full of changes

Went to Jewel Tower today – not much to see. And then Banqueting House was closed for a lunch-time concert, so I walked over to Wellington Arch, passing Buckingham Palace on the way. A goodlooking Japanese guy approached me and asked me to shoot a photo for him and his girlfriend. His English was really quite good, and he even explained to me how to use his camera – though I thought to myself then digital camera was not such a rare thing now. But I forgave him because he was very polite and goodlooking On the other hand his girlfriend was a bit too plain

But it made me think of this: though English people always mistook me as a Japanese (it happens almost everyday, and the guard at Tower Bridge even sang “konnichi wa” to me ), it was not so difficult for the genuine Japanese themselves to distinguish that I am not of their kind. I think it is just the same as my inability to tell two different black people

When I finally walked past St James Park and Green Park and reached Welling Arch it was closed again I was not aware that it only opens on Wednesday to Sunday. Then I went back to Buckingham Palace and saw that the Changing the Guards ceremony was to be tomorrow morning. I walked on and was back at Banqueting Hall – it was not yet ready, and I walked up to Trafalgar Square and walked back down. Then I was admitted in.

There was again not much to see there – just a hall, with ceiling frescoes by Peter Paul Rubens. Then I walked home by River Thames and stopped by Tate Britian to get some postcards. I had wanted the “Ophelia” poster but it was aligned too uglily and very expensive too, so I gave up. I am looking forward to something better in the National Gallery now.

Went to Tesco to get some food then went back. May came back in the evening because somebody was coming to pick up the bed. Then we made dinner. And then May went to shower and I sat down to write this entry. Beginning to feel sleepy now…

Finally it became cooler today Gave a call Dad this morning, and then he told me it was 9.12 – the Legislative Council Election… Clearly I have lost track of the going-ons in Hong Kong already

And today May moved her things to her new flat, while I set off to Kensington Palace. If it were not for the GBH Pass I would have stayed and helped. I had wanted to go to Buckingham Palace, but remembering that the Circle and District lines were closed, I changed my plan.

Kensington Palace is a – should I say “humble” – palace. But this palace had housed Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana – so that was what made it so important. I had nothing to say about the architectural design and decorations, but I did like very much the displayed costumes of the royal household and aristocracy. To me, lace making is the greatest invention on earth My dream is to be able to own some handmade lace now

Again bought the guide book, postcards, and a tin box of tea. I am not sure if the tea tastes good (my father spoilt me with a cup of Twinings tea every evening), but the tin box is quite nice – black with gold Kensington Palace print. Another thing to collect – tin boxes

And then I walked out to Kensington Garden and decided to walk across it, over to Hyde Park, and then go home from Marble Arch station. But it was so windy I could not quite enjoy the walk, though it was a very pleasing park itself, extended masses of green with trees and artificial ponds housing many wildlife. I ran into a squirrel that approached me for food instead of running away There was a BBC event in Hyde Park, something like an open-air concert. And there were some people in fancy clothings shouting at the Speakers’ Corner

I went back but forgot it was Sunday and the supermarkets were all closed by the time I arrived. Fortunately there was still something to eat in the house. Most of the things were gone and it became so quiet! I connected myself to the internet and listened to the music I recorded earlier into my notebook. I know I am in a dangerous condition now…

I really had no idea that after 3 years’ absence of religious experience my first mass since F.7 would be the Eucharist Celebration at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral It so happened that when I revisited St Paul’s and after I climbed that 500+ steps to the galleries and back down again, a priest announced that a mass was to be in 5 minutes’ time. I took a seat and remembered the days in SHCC when mass was just a habit. The mass was a short one, lasting only 30 minutes, but was enough to “spiritualize” me. On the way to my next stop – Tower of London, I kept singing the beloved old hymns like “Our Father Who art in Heaven”, “He”, “Mary”, “Pass It On”, “Daily daily sing to Mary”, “Prayer of St Francis”, “Sing a New Song”, etc. Singing them made me happy and forget about the exhaustion of walking

I went to Tower of London and followed the Yeoman Warder tour – a wonderful narrator Pictured the mysterious death of the young princes, the execution of Anne Boleyn, the imprisonment of Thomas More at Bell Tower, “Bloody Mary” Queen Mary Tudor, the to-be Queen Elizabeth I brought in through Traitor’s Gate, the executioner holding the head of the beheaded: “Behold the head of the traitor – Down with the traitors!” Saw the torture instruments of Tudor England Saw the legendary ravens of the Tower of London – legend had it that King Charles II was told that if the ravens ever left the Tower, the Kingdom and the Tower with it would fall, so he ensured that a number of them would be kept there permanently. To this day they remain. I love legends of this sort And my favourite – the Jewel House, got all the royal jewellery in it: Crowns, sceptres, staffs, orbs, swords, rings, altar plates… I love the little diamond crown of Queen Victoria

Again bought the guide books and left. I always believe that in these gift shops only the guide books expecially published by and for the places are worth getting.

When I set off to Tower Hill station, the staff there announced that the District and Circle lines would not be available this weekend, due to “scheduled engineering process” – which I later knew from May happened every once a while But it made me walk back to Bank station and by the time I got back home I was extremely exhausted again And someone came after me to pick up May’s drawing table, she is staying up packing tonight. I would be home alone again soon…

I am surprised at myself too: I walked 5 tube stations’ distance today, which was exactly the two ends of the City of London – and not in a straight line too, but winding around the places of interest. And when I finally declared the end of my day’s excusion, my feet were already so sore that they could not properly bring me to the tube station, and I dozed off in the tube too.

It started off with the Shakespeare City Walk. Before going to take the tube I went to post a postcard, and then got to Blackfriars station through Circle line. Today’s tour, including me, had only 4 participants. The guide was a nice man, and a Shakespeare researcher, and he kept criticising the other Shakespeare tours. He talked a lot about Shakespeare’s life – including that Shakespeare was a bi-sexual Also what that part of London looked like during Shakespeare’s time – exactly what I would like to know, seeing that I shall attend a course called “Public and Private Cultures in Shakespeare’s England”. Saw some remains of the Blackfriars, where Shakespeare lived writing Othello… etc. He also quoted lines from Measure For Measure, Richard III, “Venus and Adonis”, The Tempest

And then I went to St Paul’s Cathedral. But the man at the reception said apologetically that the galleries were closed today, and offered to grant me a free admission the other day. This is a replica of St Peter’s at Vatican, but I guess the British Baroque is still subtler than the flamboyant Italian Baroque. John Donne’s memorial contrasted with my idea of the great man Then a choir set to sang unknown hymns at the Crossing, and I sat down under the great dome to listen to the mystical but soothing music echo through the air. Suddenly my mind drifted back to Britain before Renaissance – Medieval Britain, Arthurian myths – an interesting blending of Celtic and Christian cultures. The myth of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. The music had made me think of these – the hollow church hymes with no accompany, reminded one of an Age long-forgotten, when spiritual strength was everything. Then I went down to the Crypt and saw the memorials of Christopher Wren, William Blake, Florence Nightingale, Duke of Wellington, etc. Got a guide book and some postcards and left.

This was the second time I dropped my ticket and miraculously retrieved it. I do not believe there would be a third time that I would be so lucky. Always making the same mistakes, this is the human flaw never got over in man’s history.

As I walked towards Tower Bridge I passed by St Mary-le-Bow, St Stephen Walbrook, Monument, Billingsgate (the first time I heard about this word was from M.M. Bakhtin’s Rebalais and his work in Professor Tambling’s course) and Tower of London. I would save Tower of London for another day since it looked like it would consume a whole day itself. So I went to Tower Bridge – which when small we all mistook it as London Bridge in the child’s tune “London Bridge is falling down”. Looked at the exhibition but it was boring. If I knew earlier I would abandon the exhibition and go to Tower of London instead. Anyways.

When back at home I saw Queen Mary had sent me a letter. My advisor is Dr Jerry Brotton. Calling for a meeting on 23rd – O what will become of it? I am so nervous now

Romeo. If I profane with this unworthiest hand,
              This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
              My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
              To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Juliet.  Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
             Which mannerly devotion shows is this:
              For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
             And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

Yes today I had assumed a pilgrim’s role – I went to Shakespeare’s Globe at Southwark Bankside, and “palm to palm” I kissed the holy shrine. I went by tube and got off at Southwark station, and it said follow the signs from there and I follwed this advice which I soon regretted. Before I finally got to Shakespeare’s Globe I got lost three times and I kept cursing the misleading and ineffective signs.

Anyway I got there and joined the theatre tour which lasted less than half an hour. A small incident occured – I dropped my ticket and when the call for tour came I realized my ticket was gone, and in a fit of agitation I ran back. Thank God I found my ticket lying undisturbed on the floor near the entrance. I could not help thanking the civil people who saw but did not take my ticket. If it was some other place the ticket would be gone forever.

Finally I got to feel what it was like to watch a play by Shakespeare. When I was walking around the stage the centre door on the stage opened – a man came out to sweep the stage floor And so in my Globe photos there is one with this man on the stage of Globe theatre – not acting but sweeping the floor

Spent quite a lot of time in the exhibitions – the more interesting ones included the explanation of special stage effects (the mystery of the vanishing banquet in The Tempest finally was solved)and costume making. And spent another quite a lot of time in the gift shop – got the book about Shakespeare’s Globe, got Dad a Quarto of King Leir (the original version of King Lear), got a mug with the Globe and a A Midsummer Night’s Dream print, got some postcards, got a funny “Quoting Shakespeare” poster, and a DIY paper model Globe

After that it was already past noon and it was so hot and I had a whole bag of stuffs in my hand and so I decided to go home instead of the original plan of visiting Tate Modern. Back there I began to work out my plan of using the Great British Heritage Pass in the remaining 6 days, and also booked the next day’s “The Shakespeare City Walk”. The whole thing had become academic – this year is MEANT TO BE academic anyway

Joined Simon at China Town at 6:30pm. This was the second time I saw him and the first time I saw him in daylight He showed me Covent Garden and a restaurant called “Belgo”. We talked excitedly about travelling and other things. It is curious that we seem to share more interests than I with most of my girl friends… He showed me shops and theatres and cinemas – there was one selling really cheap tickets, like 1.5 pound. It was called Prince Charles and it was showing “Infernal Affairs” I & II

Funnier still Simon said he would show me the National Gallery, and we actually plunged into the neighbouring National Portrait Gallery 45 minutes before closing time. He said there was an adjoining door linking the two galleries but we could not find it. Guess it was barred because the National Gallery was closed already. So instead we walked around the halls full of portraits of famous people in British History until we were ushered out. Saw Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, and E.M. Foster and D.H. Lawrence

Then when we intended to leave Simon suddenly asked if I wanted to buy some instant food, and brought me to two Japanese stores at Soho. I bought some instant noodles and then we set off to Piccadily Circus. We parted there – so the happy evening ended. Thank you Simon… I hope I did not bore you

Today I decided to walk over Westminster. I made the correct decision to walk there along River Thames so that I discovered with surpirse the Victoria Tower Gardens which joins the Houses of Parliament and which made an excellent shooting place ; and I made the wrong decision not to have charged my digital camera battery so that the camera went off in the midst of my elevated mood due to good weather and good pictures as a beginning of the day .


Frowning all the way I got back by No.24 to Victoria and went to Tesco to buy food for the following days. I changed my plan to charge the battery and avoid the midday sun, and then continue my excursion. The cashier woman was a fat black woman and I could tell clearly that she despised me, for no other reason but that I was Asian. I didn’t feel too offended – it was just expected . But as I walked home I thought to myself, I speak three languages and have been to most countries in the world including Turkey and can afford myself to study a master degree overseas; and unless you are sure you are better than these, you have NO RIGHT to despise me .  


And so the morning plus the afternoon I had been to St John, Smith Square, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Pier, Westminster Abbey (outside), St Margaret Church (run into some important occassion too), Parliament Square, Cenotaph, No.10 Downing Street (actually just peering from the gates – seemed something was happening too), Horse Guards (missed the first Change of Guards in the morning, but got to watch the Dismounting Ceremony at 4pm). Will go inside Westminster Abbey and the Cabinet War Rooms when I got the student ID card   


Went to see the modern art section of Tate Britain before returning home. Still got no time for souvenir hunting… May be I should wait till the last day. Tried to make some rice but it sticked to the bottom of the saucepan   And then Simon called – we are to have dinner together tomorrow night at Covent Garden ! Let me see how I will spend the morning… want to make everyday as full as possible!

The third day was devoted to visiting Tate Britain (just round the corner from May’s place). Of course one cannot compare it with Louvre of Paris or Prado of Madrid, and afterall British Art is really a bit less exciting compared to her continental counterparts – quite in accordance to their national character. Anyway I spent the whole day in it, until I was driven out when the closing time had come.


Though it was not that exciting – and at some point I found it quite boring, I did find some paintings to my liking. Like Mallais’ “Ophelia”, and Waterhouse’s “Lady of Shalot”, and the British school paintings of Stuart England are quite interesting too. A large section of the gallery is devoted to Turner and I found the so-called “later-Turner” quite fascinating. Otherwise there was not much to mention. My back ached with long-time standing…  


I had not time to go through the modern art sections and most importantly, the souvenir shop. There are some famous modern art works which I must not miss (though I am never able to appreciate them), and I would like to get myself some postcards and a poster, preferably “Ophelia”, that I may put in my room, to enhance the atmosphere of Renaissance and Shakespeare  (Oh I miss my “Venus of Urbino” I got from Prado… ) And I want some of the books published by Tate too. So I must be there again at least once more before moving away – no admission charge anyway  


Later I took the No.88 bus to Piccadilly to join May for dinner. We went to China Town and I had a curry rice. Then we took the No.24 bus home. Lying on the couch I went through the pamphlets I got the day before, and checked the list of places included in my Great British Heritage Pass. I guess I won’t use it yet… I have half a year anyway. Accompanied or not, I would go outside London and then I will be able to use the BritRail Pass and the aforesaid pass. Escape from the decaying city to the rustic countryside… It is for the Green Britain I have come. So much for the third day.

This is my third morning in London. The first day was so tiring that though I could get connected to the Internet with May’s (Jessica’s cousin) PC, I had no strength to write the diary, however much I wished to do so.

I was at Heathrow Airport like 5:35am and I picked upmy luggages and got on the car I pre-ordered in Hong Kong until I finally got to May’s house it was not yet 8am. I called back home to say I was there. I got a couch to myself and May went back to bed. I unpacked and packed and unpacked my stuff, checked emails and MSNed with Jessica, took a shower, sat down, tried the SIM card May gave me, and read my maps. Then May got up and we set off to lunch at Regent Street, since there was a festival. I bought an Oysters card (like the Octopus card in HK – the curious “O”) and we took the tube from Pimlico to Oxford Circus by the Victoria line. There are much more lines here in London but it isn’t too difficult actually. Later I learnt that bus costs much less than tube and I decided I would take buses as often as I can And I prefer walking anyway – keeps one fit and feeds the eye.


A friend of May’s joined us and we ate at a Japanese restaurant. I had a Cha Shu Men. Eating (everything,in fact) is so expensive here We walked down Regent Street and then onwards to China Town and Soho. It was so hot! Drained out all my strength, when there had not been much already. I was in my Lovers Rock jacket and new trousers and VANS then, and the girls alongside wore tube-tops and mini-pants and sandals. Is this London? The cool and wet and depressed London? It was hot and dry and bright! Totally unexpected


May asked me if I would join her in her friend’s BBQ and I declined – we went back by bus but then the route was altered because there was a bike match and the bus driver hit another car and I got stifled in the bus (they don’t have air-con here in tube and bus  ). But it was good because then the bus passed by Trafalga Square and Waterloo Station and Big Ben and Parliament House so that I kind of previewed some places of interest. I went back to the house and slept until 9:30pm Then I woke up, took a shower, May was back, and I slept again… So much for the first day.


The second day was same as hot  I had wanted to set out early but it ended up when I finally set foot it was already 10am which meant the midday sun would soon kill me. I think I ought to give a BRAVO to myself. I decided to walk a station’s distance to Victoria instead of Pimlico and so May and I parted at the junction, and I walked on by myself. I queued and bought some stamps in the post office  And then I went into Tesco and bought some bread and fruit juice for the day  


I walked on to Victoria station and the funny thing happened. It seems that whenever I am going to a new place, it happens that I, the foreign, am the one to answer the inquiries of the locals, instead of vice versa  When I was on the platform a black woman asked me about the next train and an elderly woman asked me another train and then a third elderly gentleman asked me about another station – it was curious and more curious that I was able to answer them (except the third one)  


I was taking the District line from Victoria to Mile End as I was surveying my future school. I walked past the building and then suddenly I saw the board with “Queen Mary Arts Research Centre” and I halted. I walked around and I should say I was disappointed  The campus itself was nothing beautiful… I began to miss HKU Main Building then. I finally found the Residences Office and handed in the deposit. But when I got to Stocks Court I got disappointed again. The surrounding was so shabby I thought regretfully why hadn’t Goodenough given me a place and still more that why hadn’t  BRISTOL given me a place… And then I consoled myself that I would spend my time outside class to go to see all the beautiful places in the country…


And then I caught a No.25 bus to Oxford Circus and walked all the way down Regent Street to find the Britain and London Vistors’ Centre. Finally I got there and picked up some pamphlets and went to find a bus home. It again took me some time walking around finding the right number and station. When I was wandering to and fro I was again acosted and misrecognized as a teenage Japanese  Then I remembered that cool-looking guy who stopped his car beside me at Amsterdam  I should really say hi to him but I was so taken by surprise then. English men here look and wear better than Americans generally, but then the men in Madrid and Amsterdam are really hot!


So I took the No.38 bus back to Victoria and walked down back to Tesco to join May. And then we went home. At first I wanted to change my shoes (the narrow-tip of my Katie Judith hurt) and then set off to Tate Britain. But then I was so tired after a whole-day’s walking and sun-bathing and I finally “tart-payed” and watched “Weakest Link” and ate corn with butter with May instead. Dinner May made spaghette and I fell asleep before 8pm again. Woke up at 10pm to take a shower, read the guide book, and then slept again at midnight. So much for the second day.