Friday, July 24, 2015
An independent study day!!
And I’m working on blog posts and sending emails.
I did have a couple of fun things planned for today though. 🙂
Firstly, I visited Borough Market. It’s the oldest open air fruit and veg markets in London and still operates Wednesday through Saturday.
I visited on a Friday afternoon in the rain (thankfully it’s partially covered) and the aisles still looked like this:
It’s busy for a good reason though! Everything… and I truly mean everything… looked and smelled delicious. Check out the Food… page to see my venison burger.
That’s only a picture of fruit! There were stalls for cheese, meat (dried and fresh), wine, oil, honey, bread, desserts… the list goes on!
I’m happy and sad that I only found this the last week before I return to the states. I can see why Londoners purchase food for only a few days at a time. The lack of preservatives (*cough* unlike America) makes HUGE difference. I could have easily spent waaaay more than I did. My only reservations were living in a dorm room without pots and kitchen utensils.
Later in the afternoon I visited Charing Cross Road and Cecil Court where the wonderful world of old and rare books lives. Seriously, though, there are tons of little book shops in this area with some great things for cheap… or expensive.
I had to find something… much to my luggage’s horror… and I found a signed, US first edition copy of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I read it several years ago after picking up a copy at a Half Price Books outlet store. Now I have a first edition! And signed!
I like signed books… I have a couple at home. 🙂
Lastly, I visited the Royal Opera House to see the Welsh National Opera perform Peter Pan. Peter Pan was written by J. M. Barrie, a Scottish author, originally as a play. The performance was directed by Keith Wagner and composed by Richard Ayres with libretto by Lavinia Greenlaw.
The production was much darker than I anticipated. The music was very dissonant with many clashing chords; the words sung didn’t rhyme like expected. Peter was sung in falcetto by a man, unlike the musical interpretations where a woman performs the part. Mr. Darling was Captain Hook and Mrs. Darling was Tiger Lily as expected. There were many grownup themes to the opera, which was wonderful to think about. It was commissioned as a part of the Welsh National Opera’s “Terrible Innocence” season… and I think that feeling was carried out perfectly.
Go support your local arts! It doesn’t have to be a fancy national opera house… go see the local high school drama or the community theatre. I think that the arts enhance life and give a new perspective on old stories.
I’ve visited a LOT of places this month and I’m starting to get a little bit of information overload. This post isn’t going to have a lot of technical information, because, well… I don’t understand the technical information.
I use computers.
You do too! Look at you now!
Do I understand them? Veeerry minimally.
The National Museum of Computing has pretty much the full history of computing in their buildings. It all started in WWII when some very intelligent people wanted to beat the codes created by other very intelligent people. Every heard of The Imitation Game staring Benedict Cumberbatch?
That movie only touches on the (somewhat inaccurate) history of computers.
Now for some cool pictures of computer stuff of which I won’t tell you much…
The Colossus Computer is considered the first programmable, electronic, digital computer. It’s program is a paper tape with holes punched in it where the man on the right is. It was developed for British code breakers to help analyse the Lorenz cipher. (Read more on Wikipedia)
The WITCH is next.
What does WITCH stand for you may ask?
It is the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell.
…say that five times fast…
It is the oldest functioning electronic stored program computer in the world… (Wikipedia is so helpful). It’s also very visual with lots of flashing lights which makes it perfect for school children and librarian students.
This is just a picture of what computer memory used to look like…
Later we casually passed by the entire evolution of personal computers. No big deal.
Coming back to Alan Turing, whom Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed above, there’s also a replica Bombe that Turing originally created.
I also got to see my second Enigma machine of the trip… (see the first one in this post!)
The tour guide in Bletchley Park was fantastic. He walked us around the grounds and told us the story of what it was like here during WWII. He made it come alive. So many secrets have been revealed, but so many secrets I’m sure have been kept quiet.
Upon arrive back to London, I quickly scurried over to the Globe Theatre to watch Measure for Measure. It was a great time and I was just a groundling!
You get to stand right next to the stage and the actors even interact with you… if it’s a comedy. I’m sure there isn’t as much ribaldry during a tragedy play.
But seriously, groundling tickets are only £5 and you get to see a world-renowned play in a world-renowned theatre! It’s a no-brainer!
We visited the Barbican Centre in the City of London borough today where the Barbican public library is located.
The library is open Monday through Saturday and is the leading lending library in the City of London. It opened in 1982, though the space was not designed as a library. It was an art center surrounded by residences in a major financial district. There are many online resources and an online catalog, but you have to be a member to access those. Anybody can join to view the materials in the library, but can’t be a member unless you regularly visit the physical library. Financial reasons…
The library has done tons of outreach, but still remains hidden. The Barbican Centre is almost a city in itself, but not everyone realizes a library lurks on the 2nd floor.
Above you’ll see the fiction section. To the right is the London and classic crime collections. Down to the left of this photo you’d find the children’s library (which is booming, by the way!) Behind us is the art collection and movie area. Behind me and to the left you’d find the music library.
The music library at the Barbican is the second largest public music repository in London, behind Westminster, I believe. There are hundreds of scores, theory books, magazines, periodicals, reference works, CDs, and DVDs for people to check out. The CD selection is the largest in London at 16,000 materials. Two pianos are available to use for hour-long periods. There’s even an exhibition area out front (currently being used by BBC)!
The head of the Barbican Library also came to speak with us for a moment. The main takeaway is for libraries to “be relevant.” It’s just that simple. Libraries, especially public institutions, should be something for everybody. She mentioned the Sieghart Report on Public Libraries as an interesting and poignant read.
Our guide was Richard Jones who is the author of the guide book Walking Dickensian London. He’s a qualified Blue Badge tourist Guide and certainly knows his stuff!
We walked and talked for about an hour and a half and visited many sites that influenced and inspired Dickens. He was able to quote from the books, give insights into Dickens’s personal life, and brought London to life through Dickens’s eyes.
The cool part for me was seeing some of the places mentioned in Bleak House, which I read in an undergrad class.
Excuse me, while I quote from Bleak House: “LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth… Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city… The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery. Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.”
Absolutely stinging isn’t it?!
The ticket price was only £10 and well worth it for a little bit of nerding out! We walked quite a bit, but Richard took us to several spots off the busy streets where we could sit and rest for a while. I even got a teacup and saucer at the Museum! One of our group went early to have tea and cake at the Museum. You won’t be disappointed if you like Dickens and choose to visit!
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
We visited Kew Gardens today! Like the title declares!
Kew Gardens is located roughly 10 miles west of London proper (Westminster, the Tower Bridge, and such). We took the overground train from Waterloo to Richmond, and then the underground from Richmond back to Kew Gardens. Those 10 miles took 40 minutes to complete… something amazing for one who lives in small-town Indiana.
Right outside of the actual gardens is the Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives building.
We were lucky enough to hear a presentation on Beatrix Potter in relation to Kew’s Library given by Andrew Wilcher. He knew the man, Leslie Linder, who broke Beatrix Potter’s diary code!
Background: Beatrix Potter is famously known as the author of the Peter Rabbit books.
She also had an intense fascination with fungi and other plants. She drew many illustrations, consulted with botanists at Kew Gardens, and even presented a scientific paper on the germination of spores to the Linnean Society in 1897, though her theories were dismissed. Now we recognize the truth to her findings.
Beatrix Potter wrote in her journal using a completely made up language, though a simple letter for letter substitution. Leslie Linder broke this code and transcribed her journals in 1958.
The key to cracking the code was the phrase “execution of Louis XVI in 1793.” She left XVI and 1793 in plain English for Linder to research! Isn’t that a bit of real-life spy fiction?
The materials shown to us were no less amazing. Botanical texts are always popular because they often have beautifully colored illustrations. We all know that photographs weren’t available before the 19th Century, so accurately depicted plants in books were essential for identification. “If this plant looks like this picture in the book, it’s poisonous and I shouldn’t eat it! Golly gee, thanks for helping me out book!”
The oldest book in their collection shows what I like to think is a sick man in bed, either from a plant or waiting to be saved by a plant.
For you Harry Potter fans… it also has an illustration of Mandrake root!
The next two show great illustrations of flowering plants at all stages of growth. Photographs can only show a plant at the stage of growth when the photo is taken – drawings can show all stages!
The final is just a really great representation of a title page… and it has to do with plants in America! There are only 30 copies of this book known in the world and each has a different hand-painted title page design.
The Herbarium was also really interesting, though we only got to view it for a few minutes. Think of it like a library for dried plants.
You need an appointment to access this library though.
Of course we had to visit the actual garden area too! It was definitely a highlight and a place where you should visit if you have a free afternoon in the London area.
Montage of flowers… GO!
My favorites in England have got to be the roses…
It was a beautiful afternoon with perfect weather and I highly suggest going! Even the food was good!
Monday, July 20, 2015
“Snap back to reality.
Oh there goes gravity.
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked…” (Lose Yourself by Eminem)
That’s right – I started this post with Eminem… because it fits.
Time to travel back to London.
I shall miss Scotland.
It’s such a lovely place.
The people are wonderful.
Everything is green.
The food was fantastic. And filling. (See Food… page)
Also the lyrics above reference “Rabbit,” which I can only assume is the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland…
…who is having her 150th anniversary this year!
It’s about making connections, people. Everything comes full circle. 🙂
Anywho. Today was a whole day of sitting in the train station and then sitting on the train. It only took about 4 hours to get back from Glasgow to London. Then I went grocery shopping. Yep. It’s an exciting life.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Off to Glasgow today! It’s the largest city in Scotland with over 2 million people in the Greater Glasgow area. The architecture is definitely more modern than Edinburgh, but I only spent a single day there.
We made it the Albion Hotel in Glasgow, the northwest corner of the city, and headed off to breakfast. Check that out on the Food in England/Scotland page. I chose this place because it was near the University of Glasgow and that’s what I really wanted to visit.
In the afternoon, our group headed down to the University and oogled all the buildings.
I popped my head into the Library for a moment, and the security guard was nice enough to let me wander without being a student of Glasgow. Just being a student was enough for him, thankfully. I wandered around, but it was a Sunday and students were only allowed self-service. That’s enough for them, but I didn’t get to talk to any librarians…
We then wandered down to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The Gallery and Museum was opened in 1901 as a part of the Glasgow International Exhibition. Interestingly, the architects focused on Spanish Baroque styles for the building. The collections are found in 22 themed galleries, which include French Impressionists, Scottish art, Ancient Egypt, natural history, and world cultures.
*Side note to my research: during WWII the museum materials were scattered around the country and hidden, which was fortunate because a bomb landed near by, shattering 50 tons of window glass and damaging sculptures in the central hall. Everyone was affected by the Wars…
Upon entering there was a surprise organ concert by John Kitchen! The organ has made its home in the Central Hall since 1902. John Kitchen was a Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh until 2014 when he retired. He now travels the country giving organ recitals and we were fortunate enough to hear him!
I did not get a chance to visit all of the rooms in the museum, but I did see some pretty amazing materials by well known artists. Especially in the French gallery:
The Scottish gallery focused on artists from Scotland and depictions of Scottish events. The gallery held:
The gallery and museum was huge, free, and easy to find. I’m glad I got to spend an afternoon wandering the halls and reflecting on art.
The weather cleared out from the night before and we set off across the bridge to enter. There’s a sort of carnival-esque atmosphere with souvenir booths, food stands, and even a clown making balloon figures! Did I mention there are people in kilts EVERYWHERE?
Those men were a part of the Army… and were extremely kind enough to take a photo with me. 🙂
The events consist of Highland dancing, heavyweight competing, piping, tug’o’war, wrestling, running, and cycling. All are worthy taking a look at!
I started by heading to the Highland Dancing tent where the 4-15 year olds were performing in the morning. Due to UK laws I couldn’t take any personal photos of the underage performers, but I did find this one from the Loch Lomond website! (Note: it’s the 2014 competition photo, but is still representative…)
They. Were. Fantastic.
After watching several rounds of dancing I wanted to see some of the Heavyweight competition and headed back to the main arena. That’s where the big men are…
The events consist of 16lb and 22lb Ball (think shotput), 16lb and 22lb Hammer (a giant hammer), 28lb and 56lb weight (that’s a small child if you think about it), and tossing the caber (a tree trunk). It’s pretty dang impressive.
My photos are from a distance, but so, so amazing to watch!
The final event that interested me was the Tug’o’War. It’s simple but, oh, so impressive… Teams of 5 and later 8 paired off to test their strength against each other by pulling opposite ends of a rope. Easy? Some battles were easily won, but others went on for minutes (a long time to keep pulling!).
This was the “battle” that interested me the most… let me set the scene…
The Army men from above have already competed in the 5-man tug’o’war and fairly easily beaten everyone else. They didn’t really stand a chance, because the Army team (aptly named Highlanders) had a strategy. They would hold their positions while the other team wore themselves out, then easily pull backwards to win. Now they’re competing with 8 of them!
Enter a new competitor. The Moffatt Builders. I would have to bet that the youngest man on that team was no less than 40 and the oldest was in his 70s. My mother thought it would be an easy win for the Highlanders (her favourite team), but I had a feeling that these Builders had a bit of experience on their side…
And, boy, did they show up! The Moffatt Builders had a perfect strategy and execution.! They wore heavy working boots and used the whole side of their foot to dig into the ground instead of just the heel. Then they laid back at a 45 degree angle and were SOLID. No budging! The Army group were pulling and yelling and couldn’t get those older men to move an inch… It was like a perfectly choreographed dance! The Builders used the same strategy of holding while their opponents wore themselves out… they just did it better than the Highlanders!
The Moffatt Builders ended up beating the Highlanders and everyone else to win… for the 12th year in a row!
Obviously brains defeated brawn here… why work harder than you have to? Another thing I learned in drum corps: work smarter and more efficiently.
I had a GREAT time and hope you all can attend a Highland Games in the future! The US and Canada even have competitions! Check out the official website here.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
The start of my non-academic weekend Mini-Trip began with a tour of the Highlands of Scotland.
My Mom, friend, and I made it to St. Giles Cathedral (pause for picture)…
…and hopped on a bus for a 12 hour tour with Highland Experience Tours! (Note to Americans: “concessions” in the UK mean reduced price tickets for students or senior citizens… not food. Love you, Mom…)
I highly suggest the tour if you have a day! I think it’s a necessary experience, but that could be because I fell in love with the place…
I know we went from Edinburgh west to Glen Coe, north to Ben Nevis, Fort William, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness, through Inverness, and back south through the Cairngorm Mountains to Edinburgh.
Get ready for picture inundation:
We even took a 1 hour cruise on Loch Ness!
Such a fantastic day with our driver, Sergio! He’s multilingual too! Technically he’s an Italian born in Belgium now living in Scotland. Don’t worry… he had a bit of a Scottish accent.
We visited the National Library of Scotland and toured the Edinburgh Central Library this day. They are literally across the street from each other on George IV Bridge, just off the Royal Mile.
The National Library of Scotland is another deposit library in the United Kingdom. It receives copies of all books published in the UK. We didn’t get a formal tour of the space, but the exhibitions in the front are free and TOTALLY worth checking out. At the time of our visit they had an exhibit called “Lifting the Lid” that detailed 400 years of Scottish cuisine. Everything in the room was fairly interactive! Tons of cases full of actual artefacts and written documentation. There was an area for children to play and draw pictures of their favourite food. It even touched on the modern day. The exhibition runs until November 8, 2015 so if you get the chance, check it out!
The city of Edinburgh has 28 libraries. 28! Some of them are quite small, but that’s still 28 serviceable library areas for roughly a half million people. I would consider the Central Library the crown jewel…
Across the street from the National Library you’ll find the Edinburgh Central Library. It’s 125 years old and was opened in June 1890. It’s an Andrew Carnegie library and the architecture proves it.
The library started as a lending library and reference library where gentlemen were separate from the ladies. There are a mixture of lending and reference services; study spaces; quiet spaces; a difficult balance to maintain. Funny enough, I thought the arrangement of collections throughout the building was very telling: it has a fantastic Edinburgh local history collection making up the bottom floor; the music collection is just above that; the lending collection and children’s rooms are on the floor where you enter; the art collection is just above the entry; and the reference collection sits on the top floor. I metaphorically see the local collections grounding the library with it’s roots and the jewel of a reference collection crowns the library with it’s lofty knowledge and information.
Okay. So maybe it’s a stretch… it was pretty when I thought of it. 🙂
The music library collection features biographies, histories, sheet music, reference, and theory books, as well as a CD collection. There is a small teen collection on the same floor, though that’s mainly a test area at the moment.
The reference library on the top floor is original to first construction. It’s filled with rows of books and looks like a typical “library” in my mind.
The area is for quiet study and has many desks in the center of the room. To reach the books up high there are secret doors!
It was magical! It was fantastic! As if faeries were around! Or Harry Potter!
To bring it back to reality, the reference collection is being questioned on it’s necessity. (This, I believe, is a worldwide problem.) Those that hold the purse strings want to know why such a large, beautiful space needs to be taken up by so many crusty, old books that people can’t even take home so what’s the use of them anyhow?
…obviously I don’t agree with this manner of thinking. By using the reference collection in my home library, I can find answers to particular questions (such as: what was the sign hanging over such-and-such printer’s shop who printed such-and-such book 200 years ago?) easier than doing a Google search. Shocking, I know! A librarian should know his or her reference collection – I think having a physical reference collection located in the reading room is a sign of a strong library.
But that’s just my opinion.
The children’s library is tucked around a corner and technically in a separate building, but is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. It was recently renovated (2014) and has separate areas for the under 5 year olds and older than 5.
The area doubled it’s user base in a single year. That’s. Amazing.
The lending collection is located on the same floor where you walk in.The lending library is completely self-service, though librarians still staff the area to answer questions and help patrons. 20,000-25,000 books are issued per month.
Fantastically the staff of the Edinburgh Central brought us back to meeting room and gave us tea and biscuits (cookies)! We then had the fortune to listen to three very intelligent librarians discuss programs pertaining to the library.
Karen talked about collection development – the whole of the library’s collections are available to the public. That was a Carnegie stipulation and different from what I’ve found in other UK institutions. An online catalogue exists, but a card catalogue is still used. The jewel of their library, like I’ve said, is the Edinburgh collections. They’re trying to merge digital with the physical by setting up a website for locals to upload their history. In the past, the people of Edinburgh could donate letters, journals, and photographs to the Edinburgh collections. Since the 1980s things have been digitally sent. People can now go to a particular website and upload photos and other documents to help grow the Edinburgh collections into the new century. Our Town Stories is a digital format for the local history.
Sarah, who has a business/IT background, uses those techniques in the public library setting. She strives for literacy initiatives including programs to help the dyslexic. (Dyslexia-Friendly Resources here) It’s about awareness, engagement, support, and mainstreaming to other branches. Tons of reader development. Brining families together by reading together. Giving 1,200 children books to young children. All great stuff!
It’s a fantastic library… it makes me want to be a part of a public library and help like they are…
The rest of the day was me checking out of the dorms at University of Edinburgh and traveling across the city to meet my Mom and friend at a hotel. Unfortunately their original flight was cancelled so they arrived late and without luggage. We wandered down to Prince’s Street to get them some warmer clothes and had dinner before returning to the Sheraton for bed.