Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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!

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