Saturday, May 24, 2014

Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and Regent Park

Don't worry, we're not dead! My computer has been out of commission for a few days, which put an upsetting damper on my research (and also my ability to update this blog), but my excellent computer tech friend fixed it remotely and I'm back in commission. In the last couple of days, we've been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and Regent Park, and had the pleasure of visiting a colleague of mine from the music department.

The sheer amount of history represented by Westminster Abbey is astounding and overwhelming. I goggled at the grave markers of Elgar, Stanford, Vaughan Williams, and Purcell. We attended Evensong, and I admired the acoustics, which I thought were better for the choir's balance than those at St Paul's. As at St Paul's, verse anthems were featured, which I suspect supports my view that verse anthems (which alternate between soloists and full choir) were invented in part because they require less rehearsal on the choir's part. On the way to Evensong, we had a spare quarter hour, so we walked around Parliament Square and enjoyed a quiet few minutes in another of London's many wonderful parks.

Parliament
The view across the Thames from the park
The London Eye, which I've never been up and probably won't experience this trip either!
One view of Westminster Abbey - to get in this door after hours, you have to know the password
("We're here to attend Evensong")
At the British Museum, I discovered that I'm a little museum-ed out and also far more logocentric (text-oriented) than I realized, because I had less fun looking at the objects themselves than I did reading their descriptions. We only went through the Enlightenment Gallery at the museum, which displays some of the original collection but also teaches a lot about the original philosophy about the collection and its collectors. One of the men whose collections were featured turned out to be the man responsible for the invention of milk chocolate, so hooray for him!

Today, we met up with a friend of mine coming through London on the way to an academic conference - as husband says, it's not every day that a friend of ours comes to a faraway place while we're in it! It was lovely to visit with her - we showed her the treasures of the BL exhibit and then on her excellent recommendation, walked over to Regent Park.



This park is the home to what might be some of the most spoiled birds in London. Whole crowds of them would flock around the families feeding them, and the birds would barely flap a feather when small children ran giggling after them. We saw pigeons, two kinds of geese, swans, storks (? or herons? or both?) and a few other birds I couldn't even name, all of which were super tame around humans but sometimes pushed each other around in their eagerness for bread. I took LOTS of adorable bird photos, but I'll just post a few here:




  After the park, we were hungry, and in our quest for food we wandered onto Baker Street! We're excited to return and look through the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which, yes, is at 221B. We also came across this plaque, but I'm ashamed to say I didn't know who this composer was. Evidently, he wrote a lot of music for radio, film, and television, as well as a number of ballads. I approve of a country which values its composers enough to immortalize even its not-so-famous ones.

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