…to visit the Queen

I know I should be writing about Bangalore, but today I’m writing about London instead. Tom is attending University of London to get a PhD, he goes to London once in awhile to meet with his advisor, take a workshop, or other occasions. Usually, I don’t go with him, but sometimes, I do. Then he has fun, otherwise, he just studies the whole time. I went with him once in March and again in June.

Here I am on the way to Kew Gardens. We went on the most perfect, lovely, English June day you can imagine. Now I understand why people put up with the deadly and dreary December days.

We stay at the Goodenough Club on Mecklenberg Square in Bloomsbury. Yes, Goodenough is pronounced “good enough”, and not something like “Gadogho” as you might expect. The Goodenough is an academic residence, they have short and long-term rooms available. We get to stay there because Tom is a student. There is a lovely dining hall, a garden, a bar, and a lot of interesting talks and concerts you can attend. Here’s the dining hall:

This looks exactly like every English movie or TV show you’ve ever seen. The hall was built in the 30s and includes great furniture and pictures of the Queen and dozens of College trustees.

The food is good too. We eat breakfast there every day. A couple more visits and I will start looking like Henry VIII!

The best thing about the Goodenough Club it its location. It is just opposite the Mecklenberg Square Resident’s Garden. Now, if you are a devotee of Dorothy Sayers and her sleuths Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, as I am, you’d be able to see Harriet’s flat from your Goodenough window. The first thing I said when we got to our room was “Oh Tom, I can see Harriet’s house!” He had no idea what I meant. I just blurted it out without giving any preparation. I spent the rest of my first visit with the “Mystery Reader’s Guide to London” clasped in my fist. I did all the Bloomsbury and Piccadilly walks where Harriet and Peter hung out–or as Tom says “would have hung out if they’d ever really lived; but they’d be dead by now”. I don’t care. Other people have Harry Potter; I have Harriet and Peter! Humph. One thing I liked on my walking tours was reading the blue historical plaques on the houses. So and so lived here 18xx–19xx. Here is my favorite, of course:

We have several plaques on the doors at the Goodenough Club. Some houses have three or four! Unfortunately, fictional characters don’t get them. Humph again. I really loved seeing the places where the stories took place. I went on a ride down the Thames on my second visit. The guide pointed out the venues for many novels, including the docks where Oliver Twist took place. This same ride took me to another of my favorite spots in London. The Tower.

When Tom and I went to the Tower in March, we got to meet King Edward III (I think). There are several living history scenes in the Tower. You can ask questions and talk to the actors. The King was really good. He talked so well about “his era” that you had the impression you were really back in time. He also delighted several French children by talking to them in French. “Mais oui, je parle français! Je suis le roi! Je suis français.” (But yes, I speak French! I’m the King! I’m French.) He was bilingual and could give all the historical details in both languages. The kids were surprised to find out that, in olden days, everyone had to speak French just as now everyone has to speak English.

While we’re on the topic of History, let’s not forget food. Let’s combine history and food. Tom and I had a great meal at Rules (established 1798) in Covent Garden. It is the oldest restaurant in London, and one of the most celebrated. Plus, Harriet and Peter used to eat here (if they’d really lived, etc.). Read more about Rules at their web site: www.rules.co.uk

And here we are:

Of course, you can’t eat at Rules every night or you’d go broke. We often eat at another old, but much more modest, establishment; The Lamb on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. This excellent pub is only three blocks from the Goodenough. The food is lovely. One night we shared “1797 Celebration Pie”. It was full of steak and mushrooms. I asked the waiter what was the celebration, but he didn’t know.
There may be a lamb on the sign, but the pub and the street were named after philanthropist William Lamb. In 1577, he improved the conduit that brought fresh water to the people of the area. The pub was built in the 1720’s but was “improved” in Victorian times and much of the original structure was lost. What remains is a fine Victorian pub. (This note from pubs.com)

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I called this entry …Visit the Queen, when she isn’t on the page at all. I bet you think I never met the Queen! Ha! I did go to her place though, along with hoards of other people. Here she is:

I found the perfect tea and coffee set for our family. We’ve got the Queen and her dog, some cats, a couple mice, and a great poem. I wanted Tom to have something to make him smile when he was doing all the boring bits in his research.

He’s been reading the blog over my shoulder and has a complaint: Why have you got two pictures of china and only one of important sights like Kew Gardens!

Simple. It’s easy to find fantastic pictures of Kew, but impossible to find pictures of this unique and fun beverage service. I just love it—so jolly. The shop, Cosmo China, sells designs from a small group of artists and accepts commissions.

In case you’re in London and want to have a look, the shop is just off Southampton Row. cosmochina.co.uk

Just to remind you, this is England, here is a picture of one of the many sheep grazing in Coram’s Field playground just ‘round the corner from the Russell Square tube stop. Coram’s Field is the site of the first orphanage in London. Handel and Hogarth supported it and gave their compositions and drawings to it. Those two got to visit whenever they wanted, but if you want to go, you have to bring a child. A big sign on the gate says “Children only. No unaccompanied Adults.”

Too bad Bach wasn’t English—Sheep May Safely Graze.

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