The Misadventures: The British Library and Hampstead Heath

For reasons beyond my ken, I woke up this morning feeling pretty knackered. I found this odd since I hadn’t really stayed up late last night nor did I participate in any kind of crazy strenuous activity like trying to stab Dave in the face. I found this feeling to be most annoying and unfortunate because I was supposed to get up much earlier than I actually did, thus I was probably going to be late meeting up with Fiona.

As it turned out, I got a call from Fiona not too long before I intended to head out. We were originally supposed to meet at King’s Cross-St. Pancras at half ten, but pushed it back to 11:00 instead. You wouldn’t know it, but half an hour really does make a difference. Especially since I arrived at the meeting place at 10:50 AM; I prefer ten minutes early to twenty minutes late.

Neither one of us knew where the British Library was actually located, but I had a chance to glance at a map before walking and for once I did not lead anyone astray. Admittedly, I thought perhaps I had since we seemed to be walking much further than I expected, but then I saw a pretty conspicuous sign for The British Library and felt considerably reassured.

It wasn’t overly difficult to figure out how the library worked since there was a sign pointing to the Ritblat Gallery; also, when we stopped by the Information Desk, a rather enthusiastic librarian explained what we would see in the gallery.

The first thing we looked at was the Literature collection. I drooled over Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and wished I could actually take a closer look at it; I enjoyed Alice’s Adventure Under Ground; and even though I’ve never read Tess of the d’Ubervilles, I wanted to do a manuscript study of the one on display because of the obvious handwritten edits (the most obvious one being the title). This isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate all the texts, but those were the ones that stuck out in my memory.

Of course, the music manuscripts were next. I couldn’t help but smile at Mozart’s Horn Concerto K.477; while it wasn’t the one I played for my audition, it was still one I had played during horn lessons. I remembered my five seconds as a music major ten years ago (dude…that was ten years ago now…) and not for the first time marveled at what these composers were able to accomplish by hand. Of course, the same can be said about all the manuscripts on display, but for some reasons full orchestral compositions seem a bit more challenging to me. Fiona had joined me by this point and we commented on Bolero. “Did you know that when a person auditions for percussion in a professional orchestra, Bolero is a common audition piece for snare?” My former music major self seemed to be resurfacing quite a lot today.

There was quite a group gathered around the Shakespeare display, so I bypassed that in favour of some of the less occupied cases. The illuminated texts were all very impressive; I once again wished I had been given the opportunity to a Classical education since the Latin and the Greek were lost on me (as was the Hebrew and Arabic). One of the things that intrigued me was a book written in the 13th century containing the word “elephant”. I think I liked it so much because the word hasn’t changed its spelling in over 700 years. (Of course, I realize the book I was looking at was written in Latin. But still, I thought it was cool.) I breezed in and out of the Magna Carta room since I had already seen a “better” copy of it in Salisbury Cathedral — it had often omitted Clause 61 included in its text. Although, to be fair, the one at the British Library may have had it as well but if it did, it wasn’t as noted as it had been at Salisbury.

I was finally able to go back and look at the Shakespeare display. There were at least three copies of Romeo and Juliet, all referring to the “O happy dagger” line. I was entertained by this for some reason. It also reminded me about Shakespeare study; I seem to recall a question or debate revolving around the folios, performances, and the publications as to which should be considered the most authentic.

For the most part, Fiona and I were done with the gallery. I was disappointed not to see Beowulf, Cantebury Tales, or Le Morte d’Arthur, but it seems these were out of rotation or were elsewhere. It is also possible that I missed them completely, but I’d have thought they would have been signposted or something.

I had a mad taste for McDonald’s fries, so I persuaded Fiona into eating there for lunch. Remembering when the Road Trippers were here, I knew where to find the nearest one. I’m really not a fan of British chicken nuggets — they really do taste different from America and even Japan — but at least the fries still tasted right.

We hadn’t really planned much else. The day was starting to look a lot better so it was decided that a visit to Hampstead Heath was in order.

Perhaps the best part of this plan was when on the way to the heath, it started to drizzle. I think one of most amusing things about weather in England is the rain; it can rain/drizzle for like ten minutes, turn sunny, then rain/drizzle whilst sunny. This was our experience today at the Heath. It was all five-by-five though because whilst we were chillin’ out on Parliament Hill we got the sun. We sat on one of the benches and had a lovely conversation. There were also plenty of dogs about; that is definitely something I enjoy about England — they seem to allow their dogs off-leash far more frequently than in America. I really enjoyed traipsing around the Heath. Fiona said that it was a very common place for films because of its view of London City.

The wind started to blow a little colder, so we took that as an indication to move on. Fiona had talked up going to The Diner in Camden Town and getting milkshakes so it was back to the Tube Station for us. It’s been a while since I had a milkshake!

The Diner amused me, but then again, most “American” restaurants do. I squealed about the menu, though. They had breakfast, like proper American breakfasts. I was wickedly excited but at the same time annoyed that I hadn’t found out about the place when I was especially homesick. I also got to explain what a Monte Cristo and Philly Cheese Steak were; Fiona seemed a bit unnerved by the Monte Cristo, though. “Like proper deep fried? How does the sandwich stay together?”

Fiona and I ended up splitting a chocolate milkshake and onion rings. I told her that when she and Dave visit Chicago, I’ll take them to Steak ‘n’ Shake. She’s pretty keen about her visit to the States and I hope to be able to take her to a few American restaurants like Lou’s, Denny’s, and Portillo’s.

It was our separate ways thereafter. Fiona and Dave were to have their mates from Australia in tomorrow and I was feeling tired again. It was lovely hanging out with Fiona; she’s definitely good people.

2 Responses to “The Misadventures: The British Library and Hampstead Heath”


  • This post delighted the hell out of me for some reason. (No, not just the library stuff, though I am struck with envy. Wish I’d thought of going there when Yoss and I were tooling about on our last day…)

    The bit about raining while the sun shines, Fiona’s (blasphemous!) doubting of the magic of deep-frying, the little Jessi-isms; somehow, the whole thing reads like a nostalgic retrospective, even though you’re still there.

    Looking forward to seeing you again! :D

  • I like reading about me!!!

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