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manuscripts and choirs

So, you may have been wondering why I was going to London yesterday. Luckily for you, I’m here to answer that question!

I went to London to check out the Writing Britain exhibit on at the British Library and to see my awesome cousin perform in a concert. Both of these things were exceedingly excellent.

I caught a train at about noon. For some reason the station was packed with guys in top hats (no complaints there) and ladies in dresses and fancy hats. I’m assuming there was a race going on somewhere? Or a wedding? Don’t know, but they were everywhere and it was insane. I was glad they weren’t going to London!

Train down was fine. The Circle Line was being weird and really confusing, but I outsmarted it and managed to get to Kings Cross (which is basically like my backyard at this point, I know it so well). I skipped merrily down the sidewalk and made my way to the library. I bought my shiny ticket and then was off to the exhibit.

Writing Britain is basically an exhibit exploring how the landscape of the UK inspired great pieces of literature, from the rural farmland to the industrial revolution to the wilderness to the cities, suburbs, rivers and ocean. It was quite cool, and I felt very smart because I’d be reading and I’d think to myself, “They have to have something by someoneoranother! That person totally wrote about this!” And then a few minutes later, there it was! Huzzah for knowing my British literature well enough that I could have put together parts of that exhibit!

I was glad that I went to this exhibit when I did. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much before my trips to the Lake District, Northumberland and the Highlands. I was also glad I didn’t try to squeeze it in with Mom. Mom’s what I call a “breezer”–she likes to look at stuff in a museum and move on. When I’m interested in the subject, I like to read every single piece of writing I can find. I like to take the time to study the thing I’m looking at. I like to stroke the glass and smile lovingly down at it. (Okay, I only did that twice. Wait, three times. I was really excited about the Gaskell, Tolkien and Austen stuff, give me a break!)

So, yes. There was the painting of Hobbiton from The Hobbit (by Tolkien). I was disappointed they didn’t have any of his actual manuscripts. There was a clipping of the original North & South (printed in a newspaper) and a letter from Elizabeth Gaskell. There were several Dickens, mostly from Hard Times and Our Mutual Friend. There was the original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and some really interesting stuff about Celtic folklore (and about the Green Man), which I obviously devoured. There were a few pieces from both Brontes, some Yeats, Joyce and Wordsworth. Some Chaucer. They also had a little section on G. K. Chesterton, who my sister is obsessed with. His novels actually sound really interesting. And an unexpected but delightful few pages of Persuasion! I thought it was weird that their website hadn’t mentioned that they had Jane Austen on display. But I was extremely pleased. There was also a few pages from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which I rather liked because Rowling had drawn random swirly things in the margins of her notebook paper, which I also do.

Anyway, it was a really cool exhibit. I exited and found myself in the shop. I thought to myself, “This is a dangerous place. I should leave now.” I stepped toward the way out. I saw a tiny hardback edition of The Hobbit. No sooner seen than it was magically in my hands. It wanted to come home with me!

Then I suddenly had The Man Who was Thursday by Chesterton, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Manners, and two postcards and three pins and another book (present for my mom and dad). I put down the Jane Austen tea scented candle, and the Jane Austen mug, and the London’s map to writers. Very, very painfully I gave up the Chesterton book and the manners book. That shop is so dangerous, and so, so lovely…

From there, I set off to Southwark Cathedral by London Bridge to meet my cousin, Sean. He caught up with me pretty soon, and after hugs and hellos we went to a nearby market to find something to snack on (as he wasn’t going to be able to eat till after the concert). We both ended up getting watermelon smoothies, which were REALLY fresh (I mean, really). We caught up a bit, and he introduced me to several of his choir friends, including the director and his wife. Later I left to go hang out in Starbucks while he rehearsed.

On my walk to the Starbucks, I passed a lady selling artisan breads. If you know me, you know my one weakness is bread (and cheese, and tea, and books, and stuffed animals). So I had to buy a loaf. It was buy one get one free, so I ended up with two. Then the first Starbucks I went to didn’t have a seating area, but I was embarrassed so I went ahead and bought a tea. I went back to the church and nibbled my bread and drank my tea. Then I went in search for actual food and happened upon a real Starbucks. So I camped out there and read and ate and drank tea for a while.

I went back to the cathedral in time to catch the tail end of Sean’s choir singing on the sidewalk (to attract people in). It was a lot of fun. Then we went inside for the performance.

There were several different bands and choirs playing/singing. The cathedral itself was pretty cool, and the acoustics were great. Sean’s choir was easily the best, and I’m not saying that just because he was awesome! It was great.

However, I realized at about 8:00 that I needed to head back if I was going to be able to get to the dorm without any hitches. I wrote a note and sneaked up to where Sean was sitting off stage to give it to him. We whispered hasty goodbyes and I left.

Turned out this was a very smart decision, because the Circle Line was being ridiculous again. At last I gave up on it and took District to Bakerloo, but that was only after several mistakes and delays. (I also got asked for help by a tourist who was with his daughter. I felt bad because it was so confusing trying to explain why the Circle Line makes you get off at certain stops. If I’d thought about it, I would have told them to come with me and taken them to a more convenient stop. Oh well. That was actually the second time a foreigner had asked me for directions that day, funnily enough. I think it’s because I was wearing a pretty hat.)

Anyway, at last I did make it to my dorm. A very fun and successful day!

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