Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Catching up: a weekend in London

It was a long journey from Aberdeen, in the somewhat northern bit of Scotland, back to London. A seven-hour train ride, to be exact, which surprisingly didn't feel that long. A highlight were the young boys who sat near us for part of the journey, who got very excited when the train crossed bridges along the coast: "maybe there are SHARKS!"

We were in London just overnight, staying with a friend, in order to take a train up to Oxford on Sunday, June 12. But we took full advantage of the brief stint in our favorite city. On Saturday evening, I'd gotten us tickets to see The Sixteen, one of my two very favorite early music choirs. It was a phenomenal concert, alternating Palestrina with James MacMillan, plus a few other miscellaneous works, including the new ornamented version of the Allegri Miserere. Unfortunately, our tickets were fully sight-restricted, but you didn't need to see the singers to enjoy their music.

We spent Sunday morning too with our friend, attending our London church, St. Bartholomew the Great, and then walking over to Lamb's Conduit Street for the celebrations. It was Sunday, June 12, after all--the day when England celebrates the queen's birthday. And the Persephone Bookshop was having a cream tea AND a book sale. How could I resist? My circle of book bloggers, folks who enjoy early to mid-twentieth-century domestic fiction by British women, all adore the novels published by Persephone Books. For us, it's like a literary pilgrimage to visit the Persephone shop. I'd never been there before, and I couldn't stop beaming. Yes, there was tea and scones, but more importantly, there was an entire shop full of the beautifully-produced, dove-grey Persephone books. They're nearly impossible to find secondhand in America. And now, having carefully thought through budgetary and luggage weight concerns, I had the freedom to choose any three I wanted, and start my Persephone collection!

(In case anyone's interested, I selected Mariana by Monica Dickens, and Someone at a Distance and Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple.)

Me being ridiculously excited in front of the Persephone bookshop (and my awesome Husband, the one who has to carry my books home on the airplane)

The whole day felt very, very English. There was a high Anglo-Catholic Church of England Eucharist; there was tea and scones; there were Morris dancers. And then, our train up to Oxford (and when we arrived, it started raining).

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Catching up: Aberdeen

EDIT: Oops! So much for trying to catch up! I wrote most of the below post in Oxford, and now it's a week and a half later and I'm finishing it up in Sheffield.


I write this from the first floor of the Bodleian Library. It's my last day in Oxford, and I've looked at all of the books I'm able to on this research trip. (I had the misfortune of picking the one week this summer where a lot of the books on my list are being moved around and are therefore unavailable to researchers. Oops! I'll come back later this summer to see the last few on my list.) Husband is still working though--it's his first experience with microfilms! I can't help but laugh at his complaints; I had to deal with the same thing two years ago at the BL.

So that's why I'm sitting here on the floor outside the reading room (not on the comfy couches, because the little coffee tables aren't nearly high enough): biding time until the appointed time. In other words, at 4:30 we're going to go for one last afternoon tea at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, before hitting up a grocery store and making our way to the train station. After a week and a half of research in Oxford, plus the earlier week in Scotland, we're ready to go home to Basingstoke. I myself am more than ready for a few days of not looking at sixteenth-century psalters. They're fascinating and I do still love my dissertation, but there's only so much time you can spend looking at different editions of the same book for days on end.

I left off this blog in Edinburgh. Sorry for the long delay in updating! Perhaps not unexpectedly, on research days in libraries, I find myself without much inclination to do more work on a computer in the evenings. Instead, I've been reading The Lord of the Rings, watching Doctor Who (up to season 2 of New Who; all hail David Tennant), and fully enjoying this summer of seeing my husband every day. But now the Oxford research trip is done, and while I don't have a lot of photographs or much to report, it's time to share a bit about our adventures since Edinburgh. Today, Aberdeen; in the next few days I'll line up posts about London, Oxford, and more about Basingstoke.

Aberdeen was a quick little trip. We arrived on Thursday night, I saw a few books at the University of Aberdeen on Friday, and we took our long (seven hours!) train to London on Saturday. Aberdeen isn't a touristy town. I was there for work, but Husband wasn't, and initially, I was worried that he wouldn't have much to do. However, I now have exceedingly fond memories of Aberdeen, because of the tea shop.

Ah, this tea shop! It's called Cup and it's glorious. I picked it for breakfast on Friday, and liked it so much that I insisted we return for lunch. It remains the single best restaurant I have enjoyed, this entire summer.

The best avocado toast I've ever, ever had. And Husband had black pudding for breakfast.

Afternoon tea for lunch! Giving me an opportunity to try a second offering from their extensive tea menu.

Then it was off to the university library to see a book and a manuscript.

Such an interesting building, architecturally

Beautiful stairs. I, however, didn't go up but down into the basement to find Special Collections.

I finished my library work by lunchtime, so we had the rest of the day to not be working. We took it easy, spending much of the afternoon at a coffee shop, and the evening at a pub to watch the first game of the Euros.

My truly ridiculous hot chocolate