Wwoofing Adventures #5

27 July 2011

By that morning, our third day in England, I could feel myself adjusting to the time change and even to life as a tourist. We had much to do in this our last full day in London--tour the British Museum and the British Library, search out our midday meal of fish and chips, breeze through Regent's Park, and arrive at the Globe Theatre in time for our much anticipated production of King Lear*. LeeAnn was also itching to return to the theatre set exhibit at the V&A, having stumbled upon it only five minutes before it closed the previous day. She lives and breathes theatre. With all that, we also rather hoped to take a jaunt through an open-air market before the show.

Such are the unrelenting plans of the optimist.

Although the Museum proved surprisingly difficult to find, we selected the exhibits we wished to see with relative ease by confining ourselves to the 100 Objects tour on the first and second floors. As an English major, however, I made sure to visit the Brownings' wedding rings again, and we all paused before the Elgin Marbles with Keats's famous poem, "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles for the First Time."

As I wrote during my last visit, it was amazing to set eyes upon things--statues, tools, jewelry, pottery, &c--that have existed before the momentous events that we have defined as history, touched by the hands of those completely different from our own. So many of these things were created before the incarnation of Christ himself, the Lord and Savior of the world. Shadow of a magnitude indeed.

taking a breather at the British Museum
But time waits for no one, particularly the traveler, and we found a small restaurant serving the next item on our agenda. The three of us disappointed the waitress by ordering only one (albeit large) plate of fish and chips and mushy peas to split among us, relying on its full fat content to hold us through to a light supper before the play. After our grocery-store meals of bread and cheese and fruit, it felt good to sit down in an classy establishment and eat a hearty meal. We even ordered a dish of hazelnut ice cream (to split of course) in a moment of delighted spontaneity.

Thus refreshed, we wandered further through London in search of the Library which we found only after a good deal more twists and turns past boiled-peanut vendors and souvenir tea shops. We ended up forgoing Regent's Park, in spite of my stubborn remonstrations, wisely concluding that it would be foolish to hurry across London in order to rest at the Park. Part of traveling is figuring out what you have time both to do and savor; capability is only half the equation. Nevertheless we did speed through the unimaginable riches of the British Library--Queen Elisabeth I's signature, Shakespeare's handwriting, Jane Austen's desk--in order to return to our favorite haunt at the V & A. In our rush I neglected, once again, to take my picture on the incredible book bench. We breezed through the theatre exhibit buoyed by LeeAnn's pure delight before snatching bread and cheese from a convenience store by the station (not knowing what kind of gory interpretation of King Lear was in store for us, we wanted to keep our fare light). Then, situated just across the Thames from the Globe, we found a bench and pulled out my tiny Complete Works of Shakespeare to review the play.

My only concern as a groundling was my [lack of] height, and I feared being squashed behind some tall broad man for the two or three hours of the play only catching the occasional "Wherefore..." or "Bethink..." As it was I needn't have worried, for we wedged ourselves in right next to the stage--within spitting distance of the actors, as they say--sufficiently drawing us into the play so that we even forgot our tired feet. At one point, characters from the play processed up to the stage and passed right by us.

Unfortunately, the Birds' Nest is a ways away from London proper, and by the time we left the Globe that evening the few Underground lines linking us and Deptford were closed, some right as we entered the station. One staff member took pity on us, however, and directed us to a bus stop serving the last bus to Deptford. I write "directed" kindly, for minutes of circuitous wandering failed to reveal what he had glibly waved us toward. Spurred on by terrible visions of taxi fares (which I admittedly supplemented with the idea of walking to Deptford in spite of the rather rough area in which our hostel was situated), we at last found the bus stop where I discovered I had lost my Oyster card**. Now, I am the sort who obsessively checks for my keys before shutting my car door and checks for my library or credit card before getting in line; all through London I kept my Oyster card easily accessible, only reassured with the occasional pat to verify that it was still in its proper place; this, therefore, was especially frustrating. Frenzied rifling, desperate coin-counting, tears, the odd "damn it," &c, however, and I finally found it just as the bus pulled up. We arrived at the Nest an hour later.

*Never actually been a fan of King Lear--in fact, for the longest time this play represented everything that repulsed me by Shakespeare; but such was the 2008 summer schedule at the Globe
**Underground and bus fare

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