Day 1: British Library

Mum at British Library in London

Directly we deposited our things at Bankside House, Luther and I departed for a brief visit to the British Library, reputed to house writs of fame and import.

Pressed for time, we only visited the display of ancient texts, but as far as I cared, there might be nothing else in the library.  We saw the Lindisfarne gospels and some very old versions of New Testament scripture dating as far back as the 3rd century AD.  There was also a respectable collection of writ from other faiths: the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran, to name two.

The Lindisfarne gospels are an illuminated manuscript .  Being in the presence of the gospels was my primary attraction to the British Library because of my interest in pre-Viking age British history.  The sacking of the priory at Lindisfarne (AD 793) is commonly accepted as the beginning of the (first) Viking Age in Britain.  The gospels aforementioned were produced about a hundred years before that by Eadfrith, who became bishop of Lindisfarne in AD 698.

We also saw writings and musical notiation from the very hands of revered authors, poets, and musicians of the last few centuries, including Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Wordsworth, and Mozart.

I only interacted with three employees at the library and one worker at the food kiosk without.  All four were foreign, which isn’t remarkable, but it is some substance for my surprise at the great deal of immigration in London.

Our visit was curtailed because we had arranged to meet the others at the famed Globe Theatre for a production of Anne Boleyn, a 2010 play penned by Howard Brenton.  More on that in the next installment.

En route to the Globe, Luther and I picked up some quick lunch at a kiosk in a train station.  The fare was better than any other we saw about us, but alas, it was no competition for some good country pub commons.


Image of Lindisfarne Gospels is in the public domain and comes from wikimedia commons {{PD-US}} (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LindisfarneFol27rIncipitMatt.jpg).

Days 1-3: London School of Economics

Days 1-3: 9 July 2011

london bridge station platform

No, it’s not a historic site, but we did spend a good deal of time at the London School of Economics because the dormitories of Bankside House were home to us for three days.  Bankside House stands in Southwark (‘suth·ark), just south of the Thames, a few blocks east of the Globe Theatre.

London is expensive, so it pays to plan ahead and find an affordable place to stay.  We lodged three people per room.

One of the doors in the stairwell sported an Obama ’08 sticker.  That’s worth a roll of the eyes.

No, I don’t have any photos of Bankside House.  Travel was something of a blur with no sleep but a few hours’ doze here and there for 40 hours or so.  We rolled out of bed just prior to 6 am in San Francisco.  When our plane touched down in London Gatwick, it was morning the next day (less 8 hours for the time zone shift) and time to start our first day in England.

My Review:

Cait and Brad in Southwark

Despite how polished the professional photos on the official website make it look, it was spartan and about as pleasant/unpleasant as your run-of-the-mill college dorm, but since school wasn’t in session, we had fewer noisy neighbours and consequently slept alright.  That’s not to say that we didn’t hear the kids making noise outside or playing music upstairs, but such disturbances did not last all night and were more muted than at other places I’ve dwelt.

I thought the beds were alright.  I could feel every bedspring through the matress, but that sort of thing doesn’t bother me greatly—so long as the bed is firm, and it was.

There’s a cafeteria on premises, and breakfast isn’t bad for cafeteria food.  There’s a computer lab in the basement, as well as a bar with billiards and foosball.  The basement provides free wifi.

British crest on iron gates

One of our rooms stunk of tobacco (in spite of the no smoking policy).  Did it come from the kids smoking outside the window?  There doesn’t appear to be a great deal of good loitering real estate anywhere in Southwark (including the market); I saw as many people loitering about outside my Bankside House window as I did anywhere else in the borough.

Days 1-3: London

Continuing my series on our UK Trip: London.  In the coming days I’ll give a description of each of the following.

(Days 1–3: 9 July 2011)
We observed:

  • Bankside House, London School of Economics
  • British Library
  • Globe Theatre
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hyde Park Ward, LDS church
  • St Martin-in-the-Field church
  • Tower of London
  • The Orangery, Kensington Palace grounds
  • King’s Cross station

I’m glad to have visited London.  That’s remarkable because I had no intention of going, and indeed, only Sav’s wish to spend time there drew any of us to the city.

Really, I didn’t care for the city at all, but it was a tolerable evil to be blessed to visit such sites as are listed above.  Still I wish that one could get the Tower of London without the London.

The city generally disagreed with me.  Much of it smelled of diesel exhaust; much of Southward smelled of sewage and garbage.  It was crowded, and there was a great deal of both litter and advertisements to foul up the views.

Passing through crowds, English accounted for not half of the utterances, and what English we heard was from the US as often as from the UK.  This was my experience at Kensington, Hyde Park, Southwark, and so forth. Indeed, my windings through London made it not hard to believe reports that immigration into the country has truly been tremendous.

As one might expect, part of me feels remorse for the changing face of England because if I find myself in the mood for a bit of traditional England later on, it might not be around (at least not in such concentration as before).  Another part of me regrets the change because I believe the reports a significant quantity of the immigration is from people who impose a net drain, arriving and queueing up for social welfare services.

Another part of me is numbly philosophic about it, though.  For nearly as long as the recorded history of Britain reaches, we have one people after another conquering and imposing their ways upon the native peoples: the Romans in the first century; the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in the 4th–7th centuries; the Danes after that; the French in the 11th century… Then things take a turn and from the 17th century through the 19th century, we have the UK conquering other lands and pushing its language and culture on their natives.

Historical things to see in the UK

Taking a trip to England and want ideas for an an itinerary?  Here’s what I did.  What follows is a series on my two-week trip, sprinkled with advice and attractions from England, Wales, and Scotland.

My interest lay in historical attractions, and I visited a good assortment of places dating from England’s Roman age (AD 42–400) to the Victorian age (1850–1910).

The following sites/towns (and others) will be addressed:

  • Globe Theatre
  • Tower of London
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hadrian’s wall
  • St. Martin in the Field
  • Lindisfarne
  • British Library
  • Vindolanda
  • Alnwick Castle
  • Old Gaol at Hexham
  • Hylton Castle
  • Bamburgh Castle

Christine, Luther, Markham at Tower of London

I made the trip with both my parents, my old college roommate, my sister, and her fiance.  We rented a car and did quite a lot of driving.  With six of us and our luggage crammed into one of those wee little UK conveyances, it was quite tight.

Tip: Lighten your packing by bringing only 2 or 3 changes of clothes, a bit of laundry soap, and a clothes line.  Do your washing in the sink.