THURSDAY: Class with Professor Roach, then to the British Museum with Cassie for a tour of the "Americas" wing, which was small and generally uninspiring, perhaps because we'd seen much of it before? I don't know - the highlight was the series of large carved lintels that featured scenes of bloodletting (pulling a thorny rope through one's tongue, etc.). We walked home and had lunch/recuperated from the bloodletting trauma, and then I napped, showered, and bought a ticket to see the band Of Montreal at a Camden-ish club called Scala. One of the Time Out top 101 things to do in London was "get sweaty in Camden," so I thought it was worth it. Doors opened at 7:30, and Sophie and I got a prime spot in the back of the small theatre on a ledge, away from the mosh misery and with an uninterupted view of the stage. The ur-opening band (Wave Machines) was great, and the actual opening band (Pull Tiger Tail) was just alright. Of Montreal was... ODD. They hail from Atlanta, Georgia, and much of their act featured folks in masks running about with tapestries or crab claws or football pads or balloons filled with glitter that they would pop over the audience. They played music, too. I met two gentlemen standing behind us, who were rather vocal about their initial dislike of the band, which gave way to drunken approval by the end. It was altogether a happenin' scene, and I am satisfied to check Sweaty in Camden off the list.
FRIDAY: Laundry. Oh, oh laundry. It is never easy. New Haven, London - it just don't matter. What can I say, I think a little part of me loves the challenge. Like, come on 5-pence piece... make my day. So yes. Post-laundry, a trip to the National Portrait Gallery. I think I like it better than the National Gallery - there is something wholly engaging in studying other people, in thinking that at one time these great figures actually sat in that way so this artist could... get at them. A photograph of Virginia Woolf and her father, paintings of Sarah Siddons and Edmund Kean, portraits of the revolutionary British intellectuals that were members of the elite Whig Kit-cat Club. Just cool. After the gallery, a walk through Covent Garden to scavenge for dinner - I ended up being un-original and found myself an edamame and tuna salad at Marks and Spencer. It was delicious: sitting on the steps of the Covent Garden "actors' church," watching street performers of questionable talent, eating edamame. Mmmm. Cassie and I walked to our favorite area, the Southbank, and got our tickets for Maxim Gorky's "Philistines" at the the National. We then had some time, and watched the "Watch This Space" pre-show act, called "Funtime with Fluffkins." It was rubbish. I mean awkward and embarrassing and at times uncomfortably abusive/pedophiliac... we thought perhaps it would turn out to be ironic: maybe the Fluffkins were going to rebel and kill and eat their mean talent manager, but.... well. That just didn't happen. In short, not a good Watch This Space. "Philistines" followed, and... it was stunning. It is my favorite thing I have seen since being in London. Funny and philosophical and inspiring and crushing. All those things a great play should be, with some terrific one-liners popping up in all the best places. Just great, I am going to have to buy the script. And the set! The set: had a huge staircase, a main room and dining room, a long hall with a working bathroom at the end, and, out the back of the main room of the house, through the windows splashed with raining wet rain, one could see the neighboring household, and also... THE NEIGHBORS. They put the neighbors on stage. Here and there, just chillin. God Bless a theatre with money. After the play, we wandered back out to Watch This Space for... BINGO WITH MS. IDA BARR (actually man dressed as an aging English woman, innit?). Oh lord. It was just the most fun. Ida R&B rapped her way through the intervals between games, and called the numbers with clues like: "70, 1970, the year of my first hip replacement." and "Idi Amin, 15." In round two, all she would say was: "suck your thumb" and you'd best know that meant 51. Her Bingo calling was merciless, since: "Life's Not Fair, So Neither is Bingo," but at one point, to relieve the tension, she led the whole of the sizable Watch This Space mass in the "Okey Cokey." The Okey Cokey is similar to the Hokey Pokey, but with more movement and more group dynamic. This particular Okey Cokey concluded with a massive conga line - joyful mayhem like I have never seen. No one in our group won a Bingo round, but at the end of the night Ida shared a box of chocolates she'd confiscated from the prize table, which at one time also held a blow-up boat (for toddlers), some Linda Barker DVD's, St. John's Wort, and a small wall clock. We walked home, and talked the whole way about starting our own Watch This Space at Yale. We're gonna do it, and maybe we'll fly Ida out to kick the whole thing off.
SATURDAY: Early breakfast, then a tube ride to Notting Hill Gate for Portobello Road redux: apparently the market is best on Saturdays, and as I'd only been on a Sunday, today was the day. It was nothing short of cloudy with people. Also, it was 80 degrees for the first time since I've been here, and everyone was out enjoying that rarest of temperatures. We wandered up and down the stalls, and I bought a small cameo on a long silver chain. It was cheap, and I'm sure it will fall apart shortly, but I like her. I had a bagel with feta and lettuce and tomato for lunch, as well as some blackberries from one of the fruit stalls. We finished with Portobello, and then walked over to Hyde Park, napping for a bit near some fountains before continuing all the way across the park - it is massive, and much of the time the city is totally invisible. Just fields of alternatingly long and short grass and trees all around. We made it through to the other side, and walked to Harrods, a few blocks away. Oh boy. Portobello Road, but four square blocks and five floors high. Just people. Going up and down the Egyptian escalator (which today featured a woman singing opera live from one of the side galleries), walking past huge trilobite fossils and the neighboring $900,000 dining table, eating incredibly expensive gelatos in the main dining area, etc. We considered having tea, but thought better of it, and walked out past the rather creepy statue of Dodi and Diana, which is captioned with the words: Innocent Victims. Unsettling, to say the least. We had scones and strawberry tarts and tea at a small cafe, and then took the tube home. A Waitrose shopping trip, a tortellini dinner, and some cheese and crackers later, and it's time for bed, as I've got church in the morning.