August 31, 2012

I caught the train back into London yesterday morning, and had some time to kill before the show, so I got off at a random tube stop to look around. This city has so much history (and so much tourism), that it’s easy to stumble onto something cool. And, as it turned out, I had gotten off at Baker Street, and happened upon 221b Baker Street, home of Sherlock Homes (and Dr. Watson, of course). It was actually a lodging house back in the day when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing, and some enterprising folks bought it up and turned it into a museum. Though I’ve only read a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories and would not have necessarily sought out this attraction, I figured what the hell, and went inside.

And, you know what? It was actually kind of awesome. Talk about living within fiction. The study and Holmes’ rooms were set up exactly as they were in the stories, all with age-appropriate furnishings. If nothing else, it was really cool to see a Victorian home as it would have looked at the end of the nineteenth century. It was cramped and tiny and very colorful and exceptionally busy. Narrow creaky stairs, dark wood, lots of rugs, fireplaces in every room. Upstairs, in Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson’s rooms (Mrs. Hudson was the landlady, if you’ll remember), there was a museum of Holmes’ exploits, replete with wax figures enacting scenes from the stories. Totally ridiculous. I chuckled my way through the “exhibits” and then went back down to the study, where I sat for awhile and daydreamed I was a detective, or maybe in need of one.

I then set off for the Noel Coward theatre to see RSC’s production of Julius Caesar. In fitting with the theme of the day, the theatre was very Victorian — narrow winding staircases, elaborate wallpapers, small little plush seats on a raked and carpeted floor, boxed seats with old fashioned lighting. This version of Julius Caesar was set in a nameless African country, and the cast was made up entirely of black actors. The theme worked nicely with the text, and the play was well-acted and well-produced. Mark Antony was ferocious, Cassius was brooding and convincing, and Caesar was just the right mix of strong leader and ambitious politico. I didn’t believe Brutus, though… in order for that character to be successful, in my opinion, the audience has to completely believe his overwhelming love for Caesar (and, also, eventually, for Cassius). Otherwise, it is not nearly so heartbreaking to hear Caesar utter “et tu, Brute” when Brutus delivers the killing blow (nor when Brutus and Cassius argue and then make up in the war tents). Overall, though, it was a very solid production.

After the show I spent a little time in Trafalgar Square, watching a live broadcast of the Paralympic Games on a huge screen, right in the middle of the square. I had thought I would miss the Olympics entirely, but the Paralympics started on Wednesday, so there is still quite a bit of Olympic activity in the city. I watched While in Trafalgar Square, I watched Hannah Russell of the GB team win a silver medal in the 400m women’s freestyle swimming event. What’s interesting about her win, I learned later, was that she is visually impaired, as were the other competitors — usually, at the end of a race, swimmers look directly up a the scoreboard to see the results. But these swimmers, not being able to see the scoreboard, had to wait until their exit from the pool to see if they had placed.

I then went into the National Portrait Gallery for a quick look-around (at my speed), and actually really fell in love with a lot of the 21st century portraits, both paintings and photographs.

And then it was off to meet my friend Thomas for dinner. I hadn’t seen Thomas for four years, and I was so excited when I saw him out on the street that a couple of women actually asked if I was OK. Needless to say, it was so wonderful to see Thomas and get caught-up. Thomas and I worked at Buck’s Rock together and I love him love him love him. He is good people. Very good people.

I slept in this morning, and then took a nice shower and wrote in my journal for a bit, and before I knew it, it was the afternoon. I was at first disappointed that I hadn’t taken advantage of the day, but I then realized that it was probably good to take a break from all of the go-go-go. I nearly nodded off yesterday midway through Act I of Julius Caesar and the bones of my feet are a bit bruised from all of the walking. So I decided to take it easy, plan out the rest of my stay in England, work out accommodation for Paris, and walk into the village for dinner. I ate fish and chips while sitting in a little public garden, watched some schoolboys play cricket for awhile, and then went back to the house.

I babysat for Gracie tonight as a thank you for Elizabeth and Pete being so unbelievably generous in letting me stay here for my full ten days in London. Gracie and I had fun playing with blocks, coloring, and blowing bubbles. She is seriously adorable.

Tomorrow: oh, lots to do tomorrow. Not sure exactly what, but I know I’m going to see Billy Elliot in the West End, and the rest of the day will likely be filled with the British Library, Camden Town, Harrod’s, and an evening ghost hunt.