I think my body clock's officially stuffed. I used to think that my sleeping in was just because my body was in Adelaide but my mind was in Perth, and I was therefore operating 2 hours or so behind… logically, giving my system a huge jolt like moving to London should set things right ?
Well… I think I got in to Parliament Square yesterday at about 3pm. I was DETERMINED to go to Westminster Abbey, after 'planning' to do it so many days in a row. In hindsight, probably another hour or two would have been good. As it was, the Abbey closes at 4:45 !
Now I'm not necessarily the most religious person in the world, but once again the sheer history of the place overcame me. The Abbey was built, I believe, in 1065 and the first coronation that took place was William the Conqueror in 1066. Most of the abbey was then torn down by Henry III, however the cloisters still dates back to the 11th century.
Many of England's monarchs are entombed at the abbey, and it's amazing to imagine these people – kings, queens, knights, bishops – walking across the halls now chiefly trodden by tourists. The floor of the abbey is a patchwork of tiling and great stone slabs signifying the entrance to a burial vault, and each one is encarved with the name and details of that person. Sadly, the passage of time has eroded many of the details, however it was slightly odd to think that one is walking over graves, effectively. There are also many slabs in the floor decidated to the memory of various people – though their bodies may be interred elsewhere. One corner of the building is known as Poets Corner – I believe Geoffrey Chaucer was the first literary figure entombed there, however the floor bears memorials to many of my highschool nemeses: WH Auden, TS Eliot, Lord Byron… war poets and romantic, all the names are there ! There were a couple of people sitting around staring at the stones as if they were hoping to be inspired by the muse, but really they're only memorials…? Ah, people, I don't know.
Another room I found amazing was the Chapter House – a roundhouse where the monks used to have council. It was later used in the 14th century as the meeting place for the British Parliament before Westminster Palace was built across the road. Later still it was used to store official documents – that's one hell of an elaborate storeroom ! The stained glass windows are extremely ornate, however a couple of them were blown in during German bombing in WWII, so they've been replaced with a stylistically similar tribute to the Abbey's benefactors.
After walking out of the Abbey and being incensed with all this history, I walked through a door and saw… “FRIDGE MAGNETS!”. I know that people are always keen to grab a memento of their trip, but it really seemed quite crass.
Anyway! After leaving Westminster Abbey, I dropped in at The Old Shades for a quick pint, although once inside it didn't seem that old. Then I decided it was time for a coffee, so I wandered over to St Martin-in-the-Fields – another old church, however they've got a cafe in their crypt which sounded like an interesting place to go. It's nothing particularly special really apart from the novel location, and as in the Abbey, the floor of the crypt was peppered with vault stones. It suddenly seemed a touch weird to be drinking coffee in a crypt, sitting on metal chairs which were resting on death vaults… ah well.
Next stop was a spot of dinner, so I dropped in to a 'country' Indian place recommended in my Soggy Planet – it was wild ! Certainly a lot more pricey than I'm accustomed to, however I'vehad a fairly quiet week this week so I thought I'd lash out. I had Khatta Khargosht – a rabbit curry, with powdered mango – as well as saffron rice and Roti, washed down with a bottle of Ambari. I'd have liked to have had a chance to try some of the other dishes on offer – half of their menu is specifically “non-standard” Indian fare, catering for people who love but would like a change from Vindaloo, Roganjosh, Korma, etc.
After dinner I walked back to the Apollo Theatre to see a play featuring one of my favourite actors, Jonathan Pryce. The play was called The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia ? – and I don't think Spiro or the Anstey Lads will have any trouble guessing what it was about…
It was an excellent play I thought – scriptwise and acted. It started out quite hilarious as the main character wrestled with the concept of confessing to his best friend about how he'd fallen in love with a barnyard animal, but eventually took on some quite highly charged emotion as his family came to deal with it. I don't want to write a full on review of the play, but sufficed to say it reminded me of why Pryce is a favourite !
After leaving the Apollo, I caught the 38 bus from out the front back to Islington and then stopped by the Salmon & Compass to see Dingo's new haircut (an INCREDImullet !), and have a few jars. There was a band on that night which Dave said was hip-hop, but I'd describe more as acid jazz. Good atmosphere, good music, and great beer.