Sunday, March 06, 2005

Life Through A Lens

Life Through A Lens

For once the Oxford Tube managed to meet its claim of getting me to London in 1 hour forty minutes. The actual tube in London, however, proved to be utterly incapable of getting me anywhere. The circle line was suspended for planned technical work, large chunks of the met line were out, Tottenham Court Road station was closed due to flooding, the central line was experiencing severe delays both times that I had to use it, and we let a tube go at Covent Garden rather than running only for it to emerge that the one behind had broken down and the next one didn't arrive in the station for another ten minutes. And then it was too full to get on. When I did manage to get on a the tube I ended up wedged next to a man reading the bible out loud. And Jesus did not die for his own sins, but for the sins of mankind. All very well but at that moment unless Jesus had something to say about the transport system then I wasn't particularly interested. How we're claiming that we'd be able to manage the flow of transport for the Olympics when we can't even get one tiny cowboy boot wearing woman around London on a Sunday in March I'm not sure.

When I wasn't spending a large chunk of my time at a tube station or pouring over a tube map to work out what alternative route I should take, I ended up eating with Katherine, Sam and Mark in a reasonably priced but rather swanky looking pub in Covent Garden that possessed what is possibly the most manic waitress I've ever had. Everything was done at a speed of approximately 120mph, it was literally a case of hold out your hands and hope that you catch your food. Having managed not to end up with anything on my lap we ended up pottering over to the National Portrait Gallery and marveling over the Tudor paintings. It's rather a thrill to see the paintings which grace all of the history textbooks in reality. Though in my head Shakespeare didn't have an earring. And maybe looked a bit more like Joseph Fiennes. Ok, I know that was a film, but if it's any consolation Marlowe also looks like Rupert Everett too. I also managed to destroy all previous giftshop statistics by being the last of us in there. With any kind of shopping I'm something of a guided missile. I do a lot of it, but I do it quickly. And in giftshops this tendency of mine seems to be compounded. Does the shop have any comedy items? Do they have pens and/or keyrings? Usually that's the extent of my enquiries. However, given that the National Portrait Gallery has lots of interesting postcards, and a buy five get the sixth one free thing going on, I got sucked in to debating who was going to come and grace my room. After much deliberation, I settled on the complete Virginia Woolf set of three postcards one of which I do already have but since it has a little rip in it I felt I was justified in replacing it and one of which is a Vanessa Bell portrait and thus isn't vaguely recognisable as being Woolf. I also got a postcard of the young Byron to go with my postcard of slightly older Byron that lives on my desk. I'm rather glad to have gotten this as in my head - that'll be where Shakespeare is Fiennes and Marlowe is Everett - Byron is resolutely and permanently as in the 1813 picture of him. Clearly he didn't age. In addition I ended up with postcards of Oscar Wilde and Charlotte Bronte, a slightly unusual combination if ever there was one. Though if Algernon and Jane can co-exist in an Oxford exam paper I'm sure that Oscar and Charlie won't mind taking up residence together.

It's odd though to be in a building with all of those faces, who for some reason or another have left their mark, who have become iconic enough for postcards of their likeness to be peddled to tourists. Odd and slightly humbling.

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