Woke up and ventured once again into the medieval dungeon that is the Hughes Parry shower inferno. The water stays on for an average of 17 seconds before one has to push an eye-level knob to get more. Said knob sticks out two inches from the hot and cold water pipes which flank it on either side, which is unfortunate, because the water tends to run from the shower head straight down onto the knob in a half-hearted spraytrickle, which is much more trickle than spray. So in order to clear the shampoo from the top of one’s head, one must put one’s head perilously close to the brutal, bruising metal push button. If one hits one’s head and tries to comfort oneself, one runs the risk of scalding one’s hand, ear, or cheek on the furiously-hot hot water pipe. I may find myself in the floor “Bathroom,” which contains only a rusty bathtub, literal and lonely.
Breakfast was standard and fine, then to The Paul Mellon Centre for our first Modern British Drama class. Joe Roach is just sort of magical. He says things in a way that gives a large percentage of folks goose bumps. We talked about the nodes and paths of London, and about the incredible feeling of walking on history everywhere in The City. The second half of class was devoted to talking about John Osborne’s revolutionary “Look Back in Anger,” and the meeting finished with a reminder that we are seeing OPENING NIGHT OF ST. JOAN AT THE ROYAL NATIONAL THEATRE tomorrow night. I guess that’ll be fine.
For lunch Cassie and Jenny and I stopped by Pret A Manger, which is foreign to us and therefore still delightful, and returned to the Paul Mellon Centre for a quick tour of the PMC library. Then the whole gang trouped over to the University of London’s library, where we took a long and very thorough tour of different floors and computer catalogs. The British Museum was our planned activity for the afternoon – we entered a doorway guarded by a pair of impressive stone lions only to be informed we’d come in the back door and that it was best to start in the main atrium. Passing hurriedly and with self-imposed blinders through a few amazing exhibitions to the front entrance, we found ourselves in the magnificent, marbled, monochrome “Great Hall,” built as part of the Millennium Celebration of 2000. The Hall was incredible, and we decided to start our tour in the Egypt room. That section began modestly enough, with THE ROSETTA STONE. Just sitting there. Whatever. The exhibit continued, room after room filled with huge and stunningly ornate tablets, statues of gods and men and animals, basins and painted cosmetics jars, massively tall columns, and a mat made from human hair. Then the death rooms: the museum does seem to have a surplus of sarcophagi – section after section packed with decorative coffins, some with vacancies, others without. The cat mummies were in, but there was plenty of room elsewhere – I guess it pays off to be imperialists in the end, as there is a lot of free swag. We had all that we could handle with Egypt alone, but since the museum is free and extensive and just plain incredible, we’ll probably visit Iran tomorrow.
We came home and rested for a bit before heading over to the British Library, literally next door. The Library is stunning, and stunningly also boasts no admission charge whatsoever. The feature exhibit is “Sacred,” which profiles in detail the faith, living patterns, celebrations, leaders, chronology, etc. of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The exhibit is incredibly well put together – the curators developed a gentle spatial flow and mellow/cool lighting design that creates a sacred space for the exhibit itself. The extensive and interactive background information was accompanied by an arsenal of holy books from the British Library – everything from Sultan Baybars’ gold-filigreed Qur’an to a piece of Dead Sea Scroll dating from 50 AD. And I thought the Gutenberg Bible was cool.
The exhibit closed at eight, and upon returning home, Cassie and I cooked penne with tomato pesto. It was not too shabby. Tomorrow is our class discussion of St. Joan, and potentially another day at the British Museum, followed by some… evening activity.