Friday, May 13, 2016

Worcester and Worcester Cathedral

The library at Worcester Cathedral holds the only known surviving copy of a thing I had to see for my dissertation, and it became the first of this summer's many archival research trips. Worcester isn't close enough to Basingstoke to be a day trip, so the trip became an overnight. I hopped on a train (well, two trains actually) to Worcester on Wednesday afternoon. One of the great things about England is that generally, both the train station and the cathedral are close to the city center. It didn't take me long to find my hotel, and I could use the cathedral as a landmark, because it turned out that my hotel was right across the street.

I checked in and set off to find some dinner. I was surprised at my apathy. What I really wanted was some sort of familiar coffeeshop/bakery, to get a panini and a salad, but any place like this had already closed for the day. So I wandered around aimlessly for a while, looking at restaurant menus posted in windows. I wasn't on any sort of schedule or in any hurry; in fact, I hoped to kill a lot of time that evening with dinner because (gasp!) the hotel didn't have free wifi! So it was okay that locating dinner took a while. I did wish that Husband was there; it would have been much more fun with him.

I finally found a pub with an appealing pie menu and wifi, so I settled in with an asparagus and mushroom pie (with cheesy mash and mushy peas) and some amber ale. Thus far, I've found a beer I like at every place I've gone (what a great change from North Carolina, where I'm often disappointed not to find anything I want at local breweries). Yay England!

Then I stopped at a grocery store to buy a bag of satsumas on the way back to the hotel. I spent a very laid-back evening munching oranges, drinking tea, and finishing Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (which is SO much better now than when I enjoyed it as a child...the whole book is one big love letter to the city of London and especially the Underground, and I know those places now).

Thursday in Worcester was equally laid-back, and a really wonderful experience. I had breakfast, including a fabulous chai latte, at the coffeeshop across the street. I spent the morning researching at the cathedral library. This library was a beautiful, narrow and angled attic room accessible via a steep, stone spiral staircase. It felt like ascending into another world--what a marvelous (and problematic) image for scholarship. Lunch at the sort of local coffeeshop/bakery I'd been craving the night before was splendid:

Flatbread and hummus, an amazing bakewell tart, and a pot of darjeeling earl grey, accompanied by L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea.

Because I'd finished up at the library by lunchtime, I had the afternoon to explore and enjoy myself. I lingered over lunch, simply because I could and because the tea was so delightful. I spent a lot of time playing tourist in Worcester Cathedral. King John (of the Magna Carta) is buried there, as is Prince Arthur, elder brother to Henry VIII and first husband to Catherine of Aragon. There's also a really pretty memorial window for composer Edward Elgar, who (though Roman Catholic) was closely tied to Worcester and its cathedral, and who premiered a number of his works there. I don't have any photographs from the cathedral (they won't allow it unless you purchase a photography license) but I do have one of the Elgar statue just outside:

Finally, I had time to walk along the river and see the famous Worcester swans. It was a bright, warm, sunny day, and the folk of Worcester were out to enjoy it to the full.

Finally, I arrived (far too early, as usual) to the train station. I bought a bottle of water, sat down at a table to drink it, and promptly had a dissertation revelation. "There's nothing stopping me from pulling out my laptop right now," I thought, beaming, and I proceeded to think that for the next several hours, at two train stations and on two trains. By the end of the journey, I'd developed a plan for a new chapter, which will function as my book's conclusion. I also revised my dissertation outline and its title. A great day's work! Thanks so much to Worcester Cathedral, whose "only known surviving copy of a thing" helped me figure all of this out.

I'm in "not very trendy" Swindon now for the weekend, visiting friends. It looks like it may become a binge of board games, which will be absolutely splendid. Perhaps I'll convince them to let me do some baking as well.

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