Saturday, February 28, 2009

Treasures at the BL

My feet are still a bit tender from all the walking, so I decided to start the day with a short jaunt back to the British Library and a look at their treasures. Click here to get to the BL web page about the exhibit. It was jaw dropping. My favorites: Magna Carta, Codex Sinaiticus, Lindisfarne Gospels, Gutenberg Bible, Captain Scott's diary with his last entry, Beowulf, and the manuscript lyrics for the Beatles "Help." But there were lots more. It really was an amazing exhibit.

From there I hopped the Underground (I love my Oyster card) to The Green Park where it was a short walk to Buckingham Palace. (The flag was up; I think that means that the Queen is in residence.) I then walked up Constitution Hill to the Wellington Arch and from there across to Hyde Park and the Serpentine. Then it was over to Knightsbridge and a little wandering around before I came to Harrods. I didn't go in because the crowds in that part of the city were the biggest I've seen. Maybe I'll try again when I come back after Portsmouth. Bryce says I should check out the food court. The sidewalks were packed and I felt like I was shuffling my way back to Knightsbridge. I was starting to get hungry and thought about dropping into a restaurant to get a bite to eat, but wanted to see a few more things before it got dark. So I went around the back side of the palace grounds, past the Royal Mews and Queens Gallery to the Victoria Memorial and over to the Mall. From there I caught a glimpse of Clarence House and St. James palace (complete with guards) and then over to Pall Mall and St. James Square, site of the London Library. Its tucked in the northwest corner of the square. I didn't go in as it was near closing, but may try to visit again. I wonder who the sub-Librarian is? (Those of you who know the Holmes stories also know about Lomax, the sub-librarian; there's also a scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars that's connected with the American Library Association--The Sub-Librarians. They have a meeting every year during ALA's annual conference. This year they'll be in Chicago; Jon Lellenberg is the guest speaker.)

By this time it was getting dark, so I found the Underground at Picadilly Circus and headed back to Russell Square. I found a little food store nearby and bought some sandwiches and fruit. (I've had a real craving for fresh fruit.) Back in my room, I've been checking e-mail, uploading pictures and catching up on the news.

Tomorrow I head to Portsmouth. I'm looking forward to the train ride and a chance to see another part of the country. I'm also looking forward to meeting the folks at Portsmouth and spending a productive week with them and Richard's collection. But now its late and time for bed. I think my body is finally getting in synch with the time change. Pedometer count today: 13,601.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Before the day is done

Its coming up on midnight and I'm not going to write much at the moment. I just wanted to give you a sense of the day. I took advantage of the first day with sunshine and played tourist. Here are the highlights: Temple Church, Victoria Embankment, London Eye, Thames River cruise, Westminster, Old Scotland Yard, the Ministry of Defense, Big Ben, Parliament, and ended the day with an evensong at Westminster Abbey (I sat in the nave, in one of the stalls right behind one half of the choir; it was glorious).

I've got MPR streaming on my laptop. Sounds like its cold going back home. Here's hoping for warmer weather your way.

Its now midnight. I turn into a pumpkin. Goodnight.

PS Pedometer count was 11,327 steps.

One of those cool moments

Just have to share this before I head out and about; its one of those neat web 2.0 moments. With the time shift I've gone through, and being six hours ahead of the folks back home, I'm getting in the habit of checking e-mail at least twice--in the morning and the evening. That allows me to catch most of the people when I need to, depending on what time zone they're in.

But the neat thing is not about e-mail; its about chat. I went on to my Facebook page this morning just to check on things. I really didn't expect to find anybody up back home (it was 4 in the morning there), but noticed there was one online friend up and about. So I checked. . . and it was my daughter!! She has a part-time job sitting desk overnight in one of the dorms where she's a student. It was just so neat to connect. And so unexpected. We chatted for about twenty minutes or so and caught up on each others' lives a bit. That will be a moment I treasure from this trip.

Speaking of time shifts, she reminded me that when she was little (and had an early bed time) she would ask me what time it was in London. (I don't remember the origin of that question; it might have been related to my hobby of listening to shortwave radio broadcasts and her curiosity about time.) Part of the ritual, once we had established what time it was in London (usually about midnight or 1 am with the time shift) was also to say goodnight to Princess Di. It was a sweet time, and a special memory. Thanks, Kissa Who, for reminding me of that when we chatted.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

London Day Two

The British Library, the site of one of my visits today. Before I forget, the pedometer count for today is 13,490, a few more miles! And my feet are telling me the news! Guess I'll rely more on Tube and bus tomorrow.

The BL is about five to ten minutes from where I'm staying, so it was a breeze to get there. I met Kimberly at the front desk; it was great to see her again. (She's been here for five years; it doesn't seem that long.) She was a fabulous host. After getting my visitor's badge we went down to the lockers where I stored my coat and bag. Then it was a little walking tour through some of the library before meeting her colleagues for a "show and tell" on a project she's been part of. The presentation was very interesting. Basically, security photographs are being made of maps that are part of a larger volume. A number of photographs are made, including a backlit version to show any watermarks and stains. These photographs are then linked to a record in the catalog. The purpose is to be able to show the map within the context of the larger work and to provide proof, if needed (and if the map is stolen from the volume) that this map is the property of the BL. There were a number of BL staff present at the meeting; I'm glad they let me sit in on the proceedings.

After the meeting Kimberly took me to the cafeteria for coffee/tea and a chance to visit a little bit more and catch up on people and happenings back in Minnesota. After our table time she took me to see the Conservation Centre and other parts of the library. The morning went way too quickly, but I'm really glad we had the chance to connect. I didn't have enough time to see the Treasures collection or register as a reader, but I'll probably take the opportunity in the next day or so.

After the British Library I wandered down Euston Road to Marylebone Road. Along the way I passed the Wellcome Library, Park Crescent, Regent's Park and Madame Tussaud's before arriving at Baker Street. The first place I went was to see the Sherlock Holmes statue. From there it was a short walk to the Marylebone Library and my meeting with Catherine Cooke. It was great to see her again and to have the opportunity to view the Holmes Collection. Catherine gave me a wonderful tour, opening cabinet after cabinet to reveal interesting volumes. We had a chance to talk a little shop and I'm hoping we can offer some of the duplicates from our collection to the Marylebone collection. It would be wonderful, as well, to explore the contents of all those file cabinets to see what didn't get included in the DeWaal bibliography, but that will have to wait for a later time. Catherine also gave me a peek at the newly received archives of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. It will be very interesting to see what that collection contains. I'll be getting together with Catherine again during the latter part of my trip, but I was very thankful for the time she gave me this afternoon.

After my meeting with Catherine I wandered up and down Baker Street and eventually found myself at Grosvenor Square and the US embassy. I was tempted to look for the Minnesota flag among the flags of the states, but that would have meant going through security and even then I'm not sure I could have gotten close. So I settled on prowling the square and looking at the FDR and Eisenhower statues.

By this time "my dogs were starting to bark" (as opposed to the dog that did not bark in the nighttime). My feet did take a bit of a beating today (I wore different shoes) so will probably go back to my boots tomorrow and/or rely more on the bus and Tube with my Oyster card.

Well I've been at the computer for at least the last four hours (catching up on e-mail, writing letters and notes, uploading more photos), so I think its about time to call it a day. I think I'm going to wander down towards Westminster Abbey and Buckingham palace tomorrow. I haven't checked the weather yet, but noticed via e-mail that its been snowing back home and that evening classes at the U have been canceled. Must be some storm if the U is shutting things down!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One last note for today

This one's just for the record; I'll make the mileage calculation later: 16,033 steps on the pedometer today. I think that's a few miles.

"What's it got in its pocketses"

Guess I was more tired than I thought! It turns out that I hadn't checked all the pockets in my computer bag (its a new one for me, so I'm not yet used to all its hiding places.) Anyway, I found my missing camera cord!! So I'll be able to upload pictures after all.

I'll probably put the pics in two places: on my Facebook page as a photo album and, for those of you not on Facebook, on my Picasa page. Allow me to collect my wits a bit and then I'll post a link where you can see them on Picasa. If, for some reason, I max out on space in Picasa, I'll put them up on Flikr. Somehow, someway everyone should be able to see my pics from this trip.

Sorry I was a little woozy headed and not able to check ALL the places. But good news in the end. Now, time for a shower and sleep. The first batch of photos should be up tomorrow.

Safe and Sound and Tired in London

Well I made it to London in pretty good shape. I didn't sleep much on the plane, so I'm running a bit on fumes at the moment, but its great to be here. Enjoyed a pasta dinner and "Body of Lies" as my after-dinner movie. We arrived ahead of schedule due to favorable tail winds, so had to wait a little bit in the air until the morning curfew at Heathrow lifted before getting on the ground around 7am. Once at the gate the jetway wasn't working so they rolled up a stairway and we departed the plane via the tarmac. A few flights of stairs later and we were back in the terminal. Then it was a bit of a hike to passport control and customs, but by 8 I was at the Tube station with my newly purchased "Oyster" card, through the turnstile and into the train. I think it was around 9 that I exited Russell Square station and walked a short distance to my accommodation. Check-in wasn't until 3pm so I stored my bags and headed out for a walk.

My original plan was to head west towards Baker Street, but instead I found myself drawn southeast towards St. Paul's. It may have been the threatening weather or my sense of tiredness, but in any event I wandered past the Old Bailey and some other very interesting buildings and streets and soon found myself in St. Paul's churchyard. I took lots of pictures along the way, but had forgotten to bring my fresh batteries with me so the camera gave up the ghost just as I snapped my last exterior shot of St. Paul's. As it turned out, it didn't matter that I was out of juice for the camera because no photography was being allowed inside the cathedral due to Ash Wednesday services. That was fine by me.

So I wandered in and. . . what a space! It was absolutely amazing. And the acoustics are out of this world. Check out the Wikipedia entry for more information on the cathedral. The photo at the beginning of this entry gives you some idea of the space (taken from the WikiCommons image database.) (More on my own pictures later. . .) I arrived at the cathedral during the Sung Mattins and was invited to a seat under the dome. In looking at the program, I saw that there was an Act of Worship scheduled for 11 and a Sung Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes scheduled for 12:30. I decided to stay for both. The 11 o'clock service included readings from Simone Weil and George Herbert along with a reflection by the Reverend Laura Burgess, Minor Canon and Sacrist. That was good, but what I was really waiting for was the organ piece by Cesar Franck. I wasn't disappointed. It was his Choral No. 1 in E major and it was fantastic. The music just travels through that huge space and surrounds you. Earlier, there was another piece by Marc-Antoine Charpentier that was lovely, and played on a smaller organ. I thought of my aunt, Sharon, an organist in Richmond. I wondered, during her organ tour last year, whether or not she was able to play the instrument in St. Paul's. I'll have to check.

The early service melded into the later, with more music by Charles Wesley, Scarlatti and Bach. It was a good way, I thought, to start out this trip. It put me in mind of many things, including Richard Lancelyn Green, the focus of this adventure. After the second service I wandered through the cathedral and came across a list of past Deans of St. Paul's. Now, not to be sacreligious, but there was--surprisingly--a Sherlock connection, if somewhat tenuous. ("You hear of Sherlock everywhere. . .") In the list of Deans I found the following: 1689--John Tillotson; 1691--William Sherlock; and 1707--Henry Godolphin. It was the second name, obviously, that caught my eye.

I wandered back towards my accommodation, without getting too badly lost, and arrived just at the stroke of 3pm. After gathering my bags from the storeroom I headed to my room, where I am now. Unfortunately, it was here that I met with a disappointment. I couldn't find the cord that links my camera to my computer. I'm almost certain that I put it in my computer bag, but when I went to look it was not there. I've been through all my pockets and pouches, but no cord. So at the moment I don't have any way to upload my pictures. I don't see any place on my laptop where I can insert the memory card from the camera, so I'm blocked at the moment. The cord either fell out at some time in the airport or its still sitting at home, left behind. But I'll figure out some way to get my pictures uploaded. But for now, I'm starting to fade, so I think I'll head to the shower, see what's on the tube, and call it day. The rain held off and I think there's sun in the forecast for tomorrow. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

T-Minus 6 Hours

Well we're in the home stretch. Most everything's packed and ready to go, I've got my ride to the airport set up, and most of the last minute tasks are completed. There are still a few things hanging fire, but those will have to wait until later today or tomorrow in London. But I'm feeling good and fairly relaxed. All is in order.

One of the last things I wanted to do before leaving was to make sure I could upload pictures from my camera. I haven't done it with this laptop before, so wanted to make sure everything would work smoothly. And it did. The wizard took me through a few steps once I connected the camera, and the picture went right where I told it to go. I'm probably going to grab a few more batteries before I leave, just to make sure I've got power.

So here's home sweet home, covered with a bit of snow. We had about 6 inches last Friday and Saturday and the temp went back down to near zero. I'm hoping there will be hints of Spring when I return, but Minnesota has a tradition of big storms right around high school tournament time, so we'll just have to see how things unfold. I was reminded yesterday that daylight savings time will go into effect while I'm gone, so I'll miss an hour somewhere along the way. No big deal. We'll just go with the flow. I've been checking the weather in London and Portsmouth and it looks like mostly 40s and 50s with a bit of rain. I polished and mink oiled my boots this morning and I've got my "brolly" packed so I should be all right.

I received confirmations from Catherine and Kimberly for my visits to Marylebone and the British Library this morning, so those pieces are all set. I'm giving myself plenty of time at the airport so check-in and security should go just fine. I'm a little concerned about the return trip as my flight back home leaves mid-morning. I'll just have to make sure I catch an early Tube ride back to Heathrow. But I'm getting way ahead of myself. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride.

My next post will probably be from London. More later from across the Pond.

Monday, February 23, 2009

T-Minus One to London

For the next sixteen days or so I'm going to turn this blog into a travelogue or diary of what went on during that particular day during my travels in England. I've been sharing my blog url with family and friends in the hope that this will be a fun way to share my experiences in London and Portsmouth. I hope you enjoy the ride and will feel free to share comments along the way. You might have a favorite site that you'd like me to see; send it my way. Each evening I'll be planning my "attack" for the next day and would be delighted to get your feedback and suggestions on places I should visit.

At the same time its fair to say that this trip is not totally "free-form." I've been thinking about this trip since before I sent in my application for a staff development grant and have a number of activities planned already. Indeed, I've been thinking about this trip since I missed out on the chance to attend the unveiling ceremony for the Holmes statue in London some years ago. My thanks, again, to the staff at Portsmouth who have been very helpful in putting together a meaningful and productive itinerary during my week on the south coast. And my thanks to Phil at the Campus Club for his suggestions related to my accommodation in London. My supervisor, Kris, has been very supportive of helping make this trip a reality. My friend and brother in the faith, Bryce, has been a wonderful help and given me some great ideas. Also, it feels good to be able to get away for a couple of weeks knowing that the office will be in good hands through the work of my colleague, Jean, and our student assistants. Thank you, all (and others not named), for making this trip possible!

All right, I'll step away from the Oscar-like thank yous and give you some sense of what's ahead. I spent a good chunk of today trying to tie up as many loose ends as I could at work, touch base or get notes to everyone I needed to talk with or, in other words, nail down as much as I could and make sure the work continues while I'm gone. I'll be finishing off a few other projects at home tonight and think about getting around to packing. Generally, it doesn't take me too long to get my bags together; I might even leave that for the morning (depending on what else needs doing tonight). I'd really like to finish off my taxes before leaving; I'm close, so that will be one of the main priorities tonight. Thank goodness (and the IRS) for e-filing. My aunt gave me a little note case for Christmas; its been getting a good workout today as I've been jotting down little reminders (e.g. don't forget the cord for downloading pictures from the camera; make sure your ATM will work in England. And don't forget your passport!)

My flight leaves late in the day tomorrow. I'll spend the morning finishing off anything here at home, have lunch, and then get to the airport. I arrive early Wednesday morning at Heathrow. I'm planning on taking the Tube into the City and then walking a short distance to where I'm staying. Check-in isn't until 2pm, but I'm going to see if I can get in early or else drop my stuff off for storage and come back later and get settled. After that, unencumbered by my bags, I'm going to go walkabout, scouting out the area and maybe make my way over to Baker Street. I'll stop back at my digs, take a short break, and then head to St. Paul's for an Ash Wednesday service. After that I'll probably look for something to eat, head back to my room, update this blog, check e-mail, and do a little work on my Facebook page. By then I'm sure I'll be ready for sleep.

On Thursday I have an appointment in the morning at the British Library with a colleague who used to work here at the University. She's setting up my visitor's pass and I'll have a chance to meet some of her colleagues from the Rare Books department, find out about a digitizing project she's been working on, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Library. In the afternoon I'll wander west to Marylebone and get my first look at the Doyle Collection. Thanks, Kimberly and Catherine for these opportunities on Thursday!

Well, that's how the first couple of days are shaping up. Time to get to the taxes and the other odds and ends here at home. Oh, and since my wife is working tomorrow, I need to call my sister and see if she can take me to the airport. Or my folks if my sister is busy. Here's to family (at home, work, and play).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Planning for England

Two weeks from today I'll be in London. I'm really looking forward to the trip, funded in part by a staff development grant from the Friends of the Libraries at the University of Minnesota. The trip will have three "legs": the first leg is in London, from my Wednesday arrival until the weekend. During that time I'm planning on meeting with my colleague, Catherine Cooke, of the Marylebone Information Service and viewing their Doyle/Holmes collection. On Sunday I'll take the train down to Portsmouth (the second leg), where I'll be for the following week, looking at the Richard Lancelyn Green Collection and getting to know the staff who have worked so hard in making Richard's collection accessible. The following weekend its back to London and a few more days of research and visits before heading home on March 12.

I'll be posting to this blog during the trip--I hope every day--and probably putting stuff up on my new Facebook site as well. So, if you're interested, you should be able to track my progress day-to-day.

Now on Facebook

All right, I took the plunge. I don't know why, exactly, I was hesitant, but I'm now on Facebook. Maybe it was just something about not wanting to invade my kids space. But as other colleagues and friends are on FB it seemed the right thing at the right time. Maybe its one of those generational things (I'm not that old!). Anyway...deed done!