The London Trip - Day 6 - Earls Court, British Museum, Macbeth

12th February 2003

I was up early, and down to breakfast for another big feed on my own, peacefully listening to the news and watching squirrels bait the cats. This morning another guest arrived and sat where Eric used to sit. Sally arrived, and we chatted a little. She's a programmer too, AS400s and RPG. It was an interesting chat, learning about the state of IT industry and work possibilities.

After breakfast, I told Brian I was leaving and he got the bill ready for me. £200 for the 5 days was pretty reasonable, so I paid in cash, not with a credit card. I packed, came down and said goodbye. Brian was jovial, and said several times that I hadn't been any trouble and he had the money so he was happy. I think it was his standard joke, but I was pretty happy about the whole deal too. The room was superb, the guesthouse and amenities were fine, the breakfasts were great, and Brian and Shirley were excellent hosts. I was really happy with my first B&B experience.

I walked to Redhill Station once again, noisily trundling my bag, and got the train to Victoria Station. It was a bit awkward with my bags, but London people are pretty polite so I didn't get cursed at. Then I switched to the District Line for Earls Court. [Ticket for the day's

Why Earl's Court? Bazza Mackenzie. All Australians used to go to Earl's Court, and I've heard mighty tales over the years, so considered it a nostalgia trip. I got out and trundled my bags around for a while just looking. Right around the corner from the station was a street full of little hotels. I wandered down past them, chose one at random and ended up in the Mowbray Court Hotel. Only £52 pound for the night. Wow, that sounded good to me. I was expecting a lot more. However, it was adequate rental for the room. The room was tiny, a lot smaller than the B&B. It was fine for one night. I thought I could get from Earls Court to Heathrow next morning in plenty of time.

I had a brief chat to the owners, and they told me that the place had been full of Australians years ago, but now there were none. Long time ago, almost all the hotels had been owned by Australians, but those days were long gone.

[Mowbray Court Hotel
  at Earls Court]

[My room at Mowbray Court
Hotel at Earls Court]

By the time I checked in and dropped my bags, it was 10:40am, time to get out and about and see more of London. I thought I better do the British Museum or Anne would never forgive me. And I'd probably kick myself for missing it. So back to the station, and head for Monument so I can get the Circle Line. Some of the signs were screwed up so I walked around for ages before I found the right platform. Then I realised why the signs were screwed. The Circle Line was shut down after some accident last week. They hope to get it running again, partially, in March. Bugger. Back to Embankment and walk. Walked past Charing Cross again, which I had last seen from the bus tour on Sunday. I stopped and had a good look at it. [Charing Cross]

Across the road I spotted an Internet cafe, so I thought I would do a bit of email. I went in and I was confused. It was huge. And automated. I sat down and read the instructions. Create an email address and a password. Log on. Rejected. Create again. Rejected. Read the instructions some more. Look around and see hundreds of people using the systems, so it can't be that hard. Go and convert cash to a little ticket with a number on it. Back to the PC and try again. Rejected. I wasted half an hour trying to follow the instructions, and in the end I gave up. If I couldn't work it out quickly, then sod it, I'll go someplace else. I'm not stupid and I work with these machines all day long, but pathetic instructions are pathetic instructions, and I'm not going to bother with them.

Back on the walking path to the British Museum, and I go past St Martin-In-The-Fields again and head down St Martin's Lane. While strolling down and enjoying the scenery, I spotted a theatre on a side street with Shakespeare's Macbeth showing. This is the one with Sean Bean. I mentioned this at work later, and no-one had heard of Sean Bean. They confused him with Mister Bean. Oh well. Anne had mentioned this play to me a while ago, so when I saw it, I thought I better go see it for the one-up-man-ship of it all. I ducked in to the Albery Theatre and inquired about that night. They had two tickets left - cancellations from a few seconds ago. I took one ticket. £40!!!. Hell. But what the hell. [Ticket for Macbeth
  at the Albery Theatre]

I got back onto my Museum path and kept aiming for the British Museum. After a great number of interesting side-trips down little streets to look at bookshops and CD shops and knick-knacks, I arrived at the British Museum.

[British Museum Entrance]

Inside, there's a fairly new (2000) Grand Court. There was a Kazari Exhibition inside there, but you had to pay for entrance to that and it wasn't my cup of tea really, so I went with the free exhibitions. Anne would have loved to view the Kazari Exhibition. I wandered around the courtyard a bit, and looked around the side corridors and sat down and watched the people for a bit. Then I headed for the antiquities. That's my prime area of interest. [In the new Grand Court of
  the British Museum]

The place is huge. Really huge. So much to see, that I can't absorb it all in half a day. Must come back and visit many times. This time I concentrated on just a few things of particular interest. I wandered through the Ancient Egyptian section. Then found the Rosetta stone. That was amazing. [The Rosetta Stone]

Then I spotted a small Assyrian section, and they had the two giant winged lion statues, and a reconstruction of the gate between them. Very effective. They had the original remains of the gate to the right, but they had used new wood and copies of the gate-bands to reconstruct the gate. The wood glowed with a coppery hue.

[Assyrian Gate]

I found the Parthenon gallery and spent a lot of time there. I watched the film, saw the virtual reconstructions of the Parthenon, saw the analysis of the frieze and the procession. And then I wandered past all the bits they had on display and saw it all. I particularly liked the panels showing the fight between the Greeks and the Centaurs. Good to see the Centaurs occasionally winning.

I found myself upstairs when the antiquities ran out, and I wandered into the medieval areas for a while, but I was done. I wandered back downstairs, sat in the foyer and thought history for a while and watched the people. Then I took off.

[The Parthenon]

It was too early to go to the theatre for Macbeth yet, so I headed in the general direction and just looked around. It was raining, again, surprise, surprise. I wandered up and down Charing Cross Road, and along Shaftesbury Avenue and spend a bit of time at Cambridge Circus. That's where I spotted this ominous sign.

[Pedestrian Casualty
Reduction Signal Timings Experiment]

Wandered through a few bookshops and looked at all sorts of things. Spotted one bookshop with a book in the window called "Why The World Hates America". I went inside to buy it, but they couldn't find any more except what was in the window. Sold out. Bestseller. And now I can't find it on the Internet at all. Can't find any bookstores, US or UK, that carry it. I can't order it online. I'll have to get someone to find me a copy in London and mail it over to me. Kept walking round, and spotted this theatre, with the play still going. [Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap]

It was getting on by now, so I wanted to get to the theatre. Except I didn't quite know where the Albery Theatre was. So I headed back to where I had started that morning, and stopped at a very upmarket Italian cafe for a restorative espresso and a chance to check my map out of the rain. Aha, I was close. I walked down a bit further, switched streets and came back up and found the theatre. I also spotted the cafe through a side-street so if I had known the area better I could have saved myself some walking. While I was walking around, I spotted the guy with the great metal hole in his ear. That was so distinctive.

I was still a bit early for the play so I sat down on the steps outside the theatre. That was a bit cold on my arse, but I was wet and cold and tired, and I just shut down again and semi-dozed for about half an hour. When I woke up, things had changed. There was a woman standing beside with a funny look on her face. There was a small guy standing near us with an intense look on his face, and a smoothed down scarlet mohawk. And two older people hanging around near him. All were holding things and waiting expectantly. I had no idea what was going on, but I hung on in the cold to see what would happen.

Suddenly this little woman walked past and they sprang into action and she signed some photos and tickets and things, then whisked away saying to the few disappointed ones "I'm sorry, but I have to go have my dinner" and then she was gone. Aha. She was the lead actress in the play, Samantha Bond aka Miss Moneypenny in the Bond films, and these were autograph hunters. The woman near me looked like a fan, and looked like she was more interested in Sean Bean, but the others looked like it was a business.

We waited for Sean Bean. In the cold and the damp.

I stood up coz my arse was froze. I walked around. It got colder and wetter but I wanted to see what the autograph hunters would do. We waited. Someone else from the cast came through and the older guy grabbed an autograph from him.

The lead actress came back and entered the theatre, with a bouquet of flowers. No-one took any notice of her this time. She gave me a funny look as she went past.

[Brochure for
  Macbeth at the Albery Theatre]

I stood up and walked around to warm up. Walked across the road and got a good photo of the theatre.

[Macbeth at the Albery

The autograph hunters started looking despondent.

[Autograph hunters waiting
outside the Albery Theatre]

The others started looking at their watches. And one by one they drifted away. When the young woman near me went away, I went inside and sat down on a bench. It was on top of a radiator. Oh the bliss. I warmed up.

Five minutes later, Sean Bean came in escorted by a minder. He was short and rough looking. The minder left and Sean scooted inside. No-one else seemed to notice. Five minutes after that, the young autograph hunter came in and stood exactly where Sean Bean had knocked. If she had waited five minutes longer or come back five minutes earlier, she would have met him.

Now that I was inside and warming up, I was able to take notice of the theatre. The theatre was an old one, and looked like it had been refurbished recently. It was a very attractive theatre. Time to take our seats and the inside was interesting. It looked like the theatre in the Blackadder shows when he's major-domo to the Prince of Wales. I was downstairs in the flat section, close to the stage and had a great view. There were boxes on the sides, so close to the stage. Confectionery was sold inside. Programs were sold inside. Most of the staff seemed to be Russian.

The play started with a crash, the crowd jumped and oohed and talked, and kept talking till way after the play started. But it did eventually die down. The audience was more responsive, more restive and rowdy. It was interesting to see the difference in audiences between Australia, the USA and the UK.

The play was pretty vibrant. Mostly good actors, but a few duds, but that's just my arrogant opinion, and they probably suited local taste more than they suited mine. Sean Bean panted a lot and sprayed spittle a lot. When he did the topless bit, he was completely shaved, armpits and all. But he was good. Brutal and ambitious and occasionally cowardly. Bean did a good job of it. I don't know much about the accents, but the Scottish accent gave the play more emphasis. I had to struggle to interpret the words at times, sort of like having to concentrate harder when you're watching a subtitled foreign film. Samantha Bond played her part really well. I was very impressed with her work. The play was really enjoyable. I didn't get bored, despite having done Macbeth at school, which is usually enough to kill any work of literature for me. The brutal thuggish killer stood out. He was good. I was a bit taken aback by Malcolm's upchuck after seeing his father's corpse. And I wasn't particularly thrilled about all the modern uniforms. That was a bit too reminiscent of the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. And I felt a bit uncomfortable when there were three guys at the front of the stage aiming automatic weapons into the audience and it looked like they were pointing at me. The three witches were cute young women in evening gowns, and that was a very nice touch. All in all, I liked it a lot. I was really glad I went and saw it.

Walked back to Embankment with the theatre crowd, took the train to Earls Court, set the alarm and immediately went out like a light. Early day tomorrow.

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