Saturday, December 20, 2008

Top Fives of London Experience


1. Portabello Road
I love markets in general, but this market combines those things which give my life passion: antique books, vintage clothing, young and talented fashion designers, fresh fruit, pottery and flowers.
2. National Gallery
I visited the National Gallery on Sundays after attending church. I love the intimate feel of this gallery and the excellent selections of art. Tears welled up in my eyes looking at the Van Gogh walking away and knowing it was the last time.
3. South Bank of the Thames
The south bank during Elizabethan times was a walk on the wild side full of bear baiting rings, contraband theatre and prostitutes. The south bank provides a pleasant view of the river side, architecture and houses the Globe theatre, Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre. I would walk across the bridge after seeing a play deep in contemplation while the river bank hummed with the activity of an outdoor used book sale, restaurants, skate boarders and adorable couples strolling along hand in hand.

4. 27 Palace Court
My home!

5. Hyde Park
Sunny afternoons in Hyde Park present a microcosm of London as people from all professions, nationalities and races join together to enjoy the weather. I would sit on the grass attempting to read my book and embracing the distractions of adorable children interacting with their parents and pick up football matches.


1. Gelato Mio
2. Amish Oatmeal
3. Fish and Chips
4. Amore yogurt
5. Indian Food

Dance and Music
1. Beethoven's 9th Symphony
BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
2. Bon Iver
It was my first week in London and I went to this concert by myself. We packed into an old English theatre and a hush came over the crowd as Bon Iver took the stage. They asked us to sing the line "what might have been love" during the song "The Wolve". The crowd got progressively louder and the music crescendo until the crowd and band let out a cathartic long winded scream. It sounds odd, but it was a spiritual experience.
3. Swan Lake
Royal Ballet
4. Evensong at Westminster Abbey
5. Beethoven's Violin concerto and Mahler
Royal Festival Hall with the Philhomarmonia Orchestra


1. Hamlet
The production included the two loves of my life: Royal Shakespeare Company and David Tennant. I already dedicated a whole blog/essay on this experience, but I cannot emphasize how life altering the experience was.

2. The Walworth Farce
I went on a Saturday afternoon by myself with the most uncomfortable restricted view I ever endured. The play beings with two sons and a father each consumed in odd activities: ironing a dress with a wig on, staring at a newly purchased sausage with disgust and the father listening to Irish opera while clutching a trophy victoriously over his head. They begin to perform a play for each other; the hilarious dialogue and the stage conventions of playing multiple parts keep the audience intrigued and engaged. However, as time draws on the audience beings to piece together why this family performs this play everyday. The humor progressively darkens shades by shade as the audience ironically becomes more enlightened about their history. Drawing towards the end the audience has been lulled into a foreboding and dark history which consumes this family. It’s the most extreme dark comedy I have ever seen: thought provoking, unsettling and hilarious.

3. Merry Wives of Windsor
Standing as a groundling in the Globe theatre was my first exposure to an excellent Shakespeare production. The light hearted comedy had us singing and dancing merrily after the curtain call. Shakespeare’s rich language often becomes difficult and time consuming to gather its meaning. However, in this production no modern translations were needed as the lines were delivered and enacted in a way needing no explanation. This play began my journey of understanding Shakespeare’s title of greatest English playwright.

4. Ivanov
It’s a lesser known play written by the Russian playwright Chekhov. I had little exposure to Chekhov before I saw this play but was drawn to the opportunity to see the talented Kenneth Branagh. Tom Stoppard adapted the play beautifully and the strong cast achieved a difficult task: performing Chekhov well. The story explores the early nineteenth century Russian dark and existential mentality through the life of a middle aged man who struggles financially and spiritually. I still remember the scene where Branagh crouches on stage cradling his face crying uncontrollably.

5. Love’s Labour’s Lost
Three men in Elizabethan dress lounged under a large tree; the one in blue nonchalantly covers his face with a straw hat. How does the famous Jerry Maguire quote go…"you had me at hello”? David Tennant did not have to utter a word, even with his face covered and the play had not yet began, his playful and boyish charm became irresistible to the female audience. The production was fantastic, but it’s the play where I fell in love with David Tennant and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Random Things I'm Going to Miss

1. Londonpaper

The Londonpaper is a free readers digest of fashion, world politics, celebrity gossip and sport. It gives the perfect amount of information to keep you occupied on the tube and I always feel satisfied after reading it.

2. RSC

3. Adorable British children in their school uniforms

4. "Please keep coughing to a minimum"
They actually tell you this before a performance...

5. Attractive British men on the tube

Art Work

This does not include Paris and is a rough attempt to name my top five...

Pieter de Hooch, "A Boy Bringing Bread"

Wallace Collection

Diego Velazquez, "Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Mary and Martha"
National Gallery
Read A. S. Byatt's story about this painting...

John Singer Sargent "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose"

Tate Britain

Vincent Van Gogh, "Sunflowers"

National Gallery

Mark Rothko, "Red on Maroon Mural, Section 4"

Tate Modern

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finals loomed ahead of us; we enslaved ourselves to the cause and our manners became agitated and testy. At this point of breakdown a wise professor lead us from the artificially lit classroom to the balcony. We sat on grass, the sun reflecting the proof of God’s glory on the gilded roof of the Doom of the Rock. Our mole eyes retracted, blinded with true daylight we had not seen for days. In times of stress, instructed Professor Seeley, we have two options: fall in love or read poetry. He did the later and read the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manly Hopkins and “Jerusalem” by William Blake. With the melodious meters of English poets as our soundtrack we pulled the grass up with our hands to smell the sweet scent of moist, rich spring and viewed the city that still holds a part of my soul captive today. It’s springtime in Jerusalem, the celebration of Easter and Seder; pick the better half.
Looking back I do not remember my finals but this moment; tracing the ancient walls with my eyes desperately trying to seer the image in my mind. This week as finals loom ahead again I find myself tunneled in my bed with the artificial light of my lamp. I then remember Professor Seeley’s wise advice and I quietly scamper on the fire escape with only a thin layer of tights to provide warmth. I see my breath build particles of dew drops in the air. Looking out on the city of London I recite the poem that linked my personal pilgrimage from the Holy Land to London:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.

I prophecy I will not remember the finals that will take place in the next few days. I will recall perching on the cold fire escape reciting William Blake tracing the brick of the city I adore. I will choose the better part.

The Grandeur of God
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Typical Saturday Activities

Portabello Road
A new item sold at Portabello: Christmas trees!

One of A Kind
I happened upon this store. Dresses, hats, purses hang from the ceiling and racks are stacked full of vintage couture clothing. Browsing through you discover that the least expensive items are in the three hundred pound range. With such rare clothing there’s even a specific method to look through the racks to avoid pulling on the material. I don’t know if I looked especially rich yesterday…because for some reason they assumed I possessed a fortune because they honestly believed I could buy. They asked me what colour, material, designer and period I was interested in. I told them I wanted to browse. Later one of the girls who worked there wanted to show me the back room. The “back room” contains the expensive items; thirty thousand pound dresses expensive. Some items are on display but not for sale. For example, a Channel quilted bag (one of the fifty ever made in the world). I dared not touch anything but I asked her about the clothes, the owner and the business. Jeff -the owner who everyone apparently knows- dresses celebrities for the Red Carpet, designers for the runway and magazines. So I have decided to drop out of school, live in London and work for Jeff at One of A Kind. Don’t worry mum I will come home for Christmas before I begin my new job!
British Museum
I took a audio guide tour of highlights of the museum. This included the Elgin Marbles, Assyrian reliefs from Nineveh, Chinese pottery, images of ancient Indian gods, mummies and an Native American headdress. It's ridiculous that this museum contains such a broad range of artifacts. I guess it comes with imperialism...The highlight for me yesterday was a tablet containing the story of Gilgamesh! I got so excited. I wanted to see Cyrus' Cylinder again but it's in an exhibit! I saw King Jehu, but I got scared and could not pluck up the courage to touch him! Sorry if this only make sense to my fellow students in Jerusalem.
  • Tate Modern
Picasso, Girl in a Chemise

Matisse, The Snail
Mostly I enjoy imagining Matisse in his wheel chair cutting paper and yelling at his assistants as they a pin these paper sheets on the canvas

Brancusi, The Fish
Once again the Romanian makes it onto my list!

It's an emotional experience gazing at a Rothko. To understand Rothko you have to see his work in person; the texture, richness of color and the way the light reacts to the painting cannot be recreated in an replica. It nearly brought me to tears. Genius.
I realize at this point it's about ten thirty and I have not eaten since breakfast. I grab a few yogurts at Tesco with digestives and call it a night!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Best Day of My Life!

Abbey Road
The most famous album cover ever produced.

Outside the studio on Abbey Road is a concrete whitewashed wall that fans can sign. It's difficult to think of something to write when they said so many wonderful things! I settled on "Come together right now" world, because "all we need is love". Not that original...
221B Baker Street
The most famous detective Sherlock Holmes lived here. No, I know he did not exist...however, some other people seem to miss the fact that he is a fictional character. When Canon-Doyle killed Sherlock the papers wrote a obituary. That is the only bit of information I have gleaned from my British Mystery class.

Lighting of Christmas Tree
Ever since 1947 Norway donates a tree to the city of London. This Christmas tree symbolizes the friendship especially during WWII. I did not see the lights turned on because....I HAD TO GO TO HAMLET!

Royal Shakespeare Production of Hamlet
Starring: Patrick Stewart and David Tennant

I caught myself listening solely to the phonetics and pronunciation of words; they were memorizing. Accentuating syllables or consonants brought a richness and depth to the words; “incestuous sheets” never sounded so perverted and disgusting. Beyond the sounds of the words was the descriptive and spell-binding diction and syntax of William Shakespeare. These melodious words described eternal themes that absorb our beings. The language and themes are carried on the shoulders of the director, costumes, lighting and the actors.
The modern dress costumes and setting displayed a cold calculating political family. The producer beautifully deconstructed these superficial relationships to reveal deep feelings and connections between family members. The bedroom scene with Hamlet and his mother -often is ruined by Freud’s oedipal complex- displayed a passionate scene that did not have any Freudian undertones. In fact it almost mocked such ideas. The scene ended up being one of the most touching as Hamlet and his mother break down facades and see each other truthfully. The tone of Ophelia and Hamlet love is established in the opening scene when a simple knowing clasp of comfort between the two characters.
Each character actor performed phenomenally. Ophelia, Gertrude, Claudius (Patrick Stewart) were wonderful to watch. And David Tennant…what can I say about David Tennant? Brilliant, ingenious, fantastic…From the opening scene he bewitches the audience. He brought a boundless energy with the stage as his jungle gym, leaping, sliding, and running about playing the mad fool. He also accentuated the wit and humor along with the sorrow and deep reflection of his soliloquies. The humorous interpretation of particular lines allowed the audience to release pent up anxious emotions. I’m a sucker for dark comedies and Tennant played it more that way. Ah…I must stop myself; I could go on forever!
After the performance Katie and I just sighed, smiled and looked at each other in disbelief. It was the highlight of the program and a night we will never forget. When I read Hamlet’s soliloquies I’ll see David Tennant in an empty black stage, not reciting, but being Hamlet. Not a bad image to dwell on…he’s quite fit.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ice Skating

My mom put me in ballet to develop grace. I got the grace but, it does not excuse my talent to fall and run into things. So, putting me in a pair of ice skates does not sound like the best idea. However, I did not fall once; beat that Oksana! It’s magical to go ice skating in your local park. I love Hyde Park!
Sitting excitedly on the tube!

Blades of Glory
Chazz: This guy could not hold my jock sweat.
Jimmy: I could hold it all day long, try me!
Chazz: Maybe I will.
Jimmy: Maybe you should.
Chazz: You challenging me, princess?
Jimmy: I'm not inviting you to the Skating Federation's annual Christmas party.
Chazz: Then bring it on!
Jimmy: It is on!


I’m awkward around guys; I know this. However, little interaction with the opposite sex for the past few months has intensified my inability to socialize with males. There is only one male in our study abroad and he no longer really even counts and British men are too private to even make eye contact (at least that is what I keep telling myself for comfort).
Today I got my father’s Christmas present and a male - somewhat attractive and under the age of thirty – politely began to talk to me. He asked me non-descript questions about what I was studying etc. I began to blush! I blushed for no reason! It was terribly embarrassing! This ugly event hopefully does not foreshadow my semester back at BYU. BYU boys, unlike the British, are not so private and definitely will try to talk to me. Let’s hope I improve before January.