Friday, June 24, 2016

UK Trip IV: Southwark and the London Museum


Whoa, that was unexpected.  I, really pretty uninformed person that I am, thought that the Remain vote would squeak in.  And since I'm not terribly knowledgeable about any of it, I don't feel like I can have a super-articulate opinion about it either, so all I can say is that I'm surprised.

Well, I want to put up at least one travel post per day, plus I have actual books to tell you about, but I've been working all week, which is unusual for me in summer.  We're doing a big weeding project, which is very much long overdue; my library has actually never had a real, proper, systematic weed in the 40+ years of its existence!  At least, not that any of us can figure out.  I've been knee-deep in literary criticism from the 60s all week, and have miles of shelves to go before I sleep.  It's been fun finding hidden gems (or, more often, inexplicable weirdo books such as Cher's Forever Fit or, I kid you not, a 60s manual on containing radiation).  Anyway, on to Day 4....

Inside the Globe



Our only concession to the over-exhaustion problem turned out to be that we slept a little late and got a later start than usual.  Saturday was officially Southwark Day, and so we went to the Globe theatre to start.  We couldn't see an actual play, which I would have liked to do, but we did take a sort of tour.  There's a museum of the Globe's history, and then the tour guide took us into the theater itself.  Of course and as we all know, it's not the original Globe, which burned down long ago.  The guide explained that it's not the exact site of the original Globe, either; that is partly covered by the end of a bridge built nearly 100 years ago.  This Globe was built as close as possible by the actor Sam Wanamaker, who dedicated the later part of his life to rebuilding a replica.  It's all built--as much as possible--in the original way, with wooden pegs instead of nails and so on.  The guide gave us a great explanation of how everything works, and talked about how the theater dictates a lot of how the play is performed.
Flaming tuba guy

Southwark Cathedral

We walked around Southwark quite a bit, which was fun.  It being Saturday, there were random musicians and street fairs happening.  There was a guy whose shtick was to play oomps on a tuba, which showed as bursts of flame.  I don't know how he did it, but he was accompanying jazzy jitterbug recordings.  We got to Southwark Cathedral, which is a lovely building and very well preserved (and which doesn't allow photography), with Victorian refurbishings.  There were lots of memorials--a whole series of windows--dedicated to writers connected with Southwark, such as Chaucer, Gower, Bunyan, Shakespeare, and Dickens.  Gower is especially fancy, because he is actually buried there with an elaborate special memorial, and Shakespeare's brother is buried under the quire floor.

Winchester Palace, what's left of it
We also walked by the ruins of Winchester Palace, which was once the extremely posh base of the Bishops of Winchester.  There is a now a little garden in the area below it, and apparently they actually found a Roman mosaic floor under the medieval garden once the palace was gone, which we saw later.  The site of the Clink prison is also right there, and just along the way is where the replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hinde II, is docked.  She's a modern replica built in 1973, and has sailed all over the world; in fact, I visited her in 1987 when she visited the Pacific coast, so this was my second time--except that we did not go aboard.

The Golden Hinde II

We crossed London Bridge!  This was also my second time, because my husband and I did it once before in the summer of 1996.  Our intention was to visit the church of St. Magnus the Martyr, but alas, we had not reckoned on it being Saturday.  All the churches were closed.  And we had thought we were all prepared and planned!  So we re-thought, and had the happy idea of visiting the Museum of London.  I had really wanted to go there, but it hadn't seemed like we would have time.  So we popped into a Tube station and headed over there.  They were closing off some streets for a bike race (probably a big deal, and we were just clueless).

London Stone

The Museum of London is pretty great.  On the whole, it's built like an Ikea--it just shoves you through a labyrinth, and you progress from prehistory to modern times.  The Roman exhibit was pretty great, and I enjoyed the medieval room, and we said hello to London Stone just like I wanted, but the highlight of the day for me turned out to be the 17th-century room, titled "War, Plague, Fire" and dedicated almost entirely to those disasters.  I was looking at something interesting, and my 13-year-old came and grabbed me, and pulled me forcibly along to a tiny, dim room I might have skipped, because it was mainly dedicated to fleas, lice, and rats, and I already know a good deal about those.  But!  There, in a case with embroidered gloves and shoes, labeled only "domestic items" in order to demonstrate that lice lived in textiles, there was an embroidered casket.

The casket!
It so happens that I'm taking a class about 17th-century embroidered caskets right now.  I was hoping to see one at the V&A, but this was a completely unexpected surprise and I felt like I'd discovered unknown treasure!  This casket was entirely satin-stitched with the story of Esther, and very well preserved.  (You can tell it's Esther from the hanging scene on the left.  On the front, Esther bravely petitions the king.)   I wanted to know all about it, but there was practically no documentation, so my 15-year-old daughter ran off to find a docent or somebody.  She came back dragging some poor hapless fellow who didn't know anything much, but said we should try to find this one woman who took care of that room.  So after I took lots of dim pictures and calmed down a bit, we went through the rest of the museum and enjoyed it all very much.  At the end, I did find that one gal, but she didn't know anything either and they suggested I email for information, which I duly did.

The top: the king meets Mordecai at the city gate

When we got out of the museum, extremely footsore indeed, the bike race had started.  We maneuvered around it and went home, where we tried to figure out how to deal with church the next day.  One kid wanted a homey LDS meeting, the other wanted to attend morning service at Westminster.  So we decided to split up, and each adult would take a kid.


I did hear back from the London Museum people about the casket, but I got the most information from the online catalog after I got home.  Here is the casket's page, so you can read about it.


1 comment:

Joy said...

We really liked the Museum of London -- I'm glad you were able to make it there. We spent so much time in the 17th century London room that we ran out of energy and just breezed past the rest. I need to go back!