Tag Archives: london

The Grand Adventure begins…

with a headcold.

This just goes to show the power of negative reinforcement; my worst fear is to get sick the day before leaving, and lo! I got sick the day before leaving Braidwood for London. Left work early Thursday because my head was so stuffy, and by Friday morning I was ready to cancel this trip of a lifetime. But I couldn’t cancel or rearrange the schedule. However I wasn’t the only one sick on the plane, and I managed to sleep most of the way.

So. Here I am, again, five years later. This is where it all began.


Senate House and its Library, home to the London Rare Book Summer School.

I spent a few hours wandering around Malet Street. It was university Open Day, so heaps of parents with child in tow, or was it the other way around, were visiting various departments, and talking about the future.

I found Waterstones, which I can’t believe I had never seen before. I spent some happy hours browsing the shelves and the internet, and getting high on caffeine. And listening to some accordion.

My student accommodation is highly recommended and the best place for me to be. It has everything I need except for a kettle. Breakfast is better than at a hotel and you get to meet some strange and interesting people.

Do not go to the British Museum around lunch, if you want lunch; you can’t find a seat. I was surprised at how warm the rooms were. Too many tourists. I think they really should cap the number of visitors to these places, because you can’t see the exhibits. Also, many tourist sights have given in to security fears, and every where it seems your bags are searched. There are long queues just to get into the venues. I did go to see the mummies, and have learned that part of my course takes me to the print and drawing room, which I may say is a haven in the tourist madness.

I walked around over the Saturday and the Sunday getting my bearings. Following advice from a nice young Italian boy, I walked all the way to St Brides; I realised that by catching the Tube, you miss the sights. So summer Sunday afternoon in London CBD can be relatively car-less and quiet.  I went to find St Brides

I kept walking even though it was quite summery, and I had intended on resting before tango. I found St Paul’s and St Paul’s Churchyard, which to my surprise was just a lane. Foolishly I thought it was going to be a churchyard, and could never figure out where the printing shops might be. I take things a little too literally sometimes. In this new and refurbished lane, I tried to imagine what it might have once been like to live and work there.


St Pauls, with its churchyard and gardens behind.

To finish off the walking, I found a very retro French cafe with Brazilian waitresses, some of whom appeared to just be over this tourist season, and doing their best to ignore the customers sitting out on the street.  Cafe Boheme in Soho. Well refurbished, it did give off a nostalgic sense of la Belle Epoque. Nice haven from all the tourists with a very small but nice menu.

The day, ended with tango of course. You’ll need to go to the other blog for words on that!

See you tomorrow!

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Booksleuthing some more in an Australian colonial library

Booksleuthing; how I love that term. Yes I feel like a detective of books, finding out about how they were made, who printed them, and the significance of their images. I was never very good at symbolism, and this is a great big learning curve of imagery.

A few months back I visited Sonia’s library at Bedervale. Here is a reminder.

I returned this week for champagne and cheese, and while passing by the library, I couldn’t help but take a few more pictures and search some books.

I found a nice, if not somewhat worn, example of tree calf marbling:

This is a tricky process process involving water and ferrous sulphate being dropped on a piece of leather already attached to the covers. That is a very simple explanation indeed, and there are many articles written on the subject, one of which can be found at Hewitt’s website

However, this article is not about tree calf marbling, rather about discovery.

Lesley had been completely entranced by a travel guide to Syria and Egypt, printed in 1788. Using my handy phone torch in lieu of light sheet, I found these fleur de lis watermarks at the gutter and on the edges of the pages.

The above watermarks reminded me of these below:

This is the first time I have been able to find the same marks in differing books. The one above are in a book printed in 1810 in London,

Introduccion para la historia de la revolucion de Espana bound with An exposure of the arts and machinations which led to the usurpation of the crown of Spain. London, 1808. (RB CLI 3320)

Note that the mark on the left is most similar to the ones I found in the colonial travel book as it is positioned between the chainlines.


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Day 1: Reconnaissance

Saturday was pretty much a write off; the trip was long, I had too many bags to pull and when I got to my very bijoux room I realised I didn’t bring enough shirts. No, I did not go to tango.

Ping 4am sunday morning I’m awake. I’m glad to have brought the laptop because I was able to map out my day (and evenings).

Senate House is not very far, but this part of London is a maze of streets and little garden squares. I feel like I’m on a living Monopoly board.

The loop today would encompass the British Museum, Shepherd’s Store (for papers) and Senate House. Found a neat little french patisserie called Les Deux Amis on my way. I’m hoping to have breakfast there every day, but things don’t open until 9am!

Good coffee

So, as directionally challenged as I am, I made it to Russsell Square, found a shopping mall and continued onto Shepherd’s only to find them closed!

Store number two, closed on sundays, despite what the website says

Didn’t matter; plenty of time to return. On a sunday morning the streets are eerily empty. Which is great and I made my way to the British Museum, which was not empty at all. I’d been there twice before, and I couldn’t remember anything. Where did I go first? Actually I went to see the Mummies second. The first place one comes to is a hall with plenty of books.

Yes that is me touching the (replica) Rosetta stone

Lots of Books and stuff

I spent a few hours there, and had I more time I would have maybe read the labels as well. I kind of intuitively made my way around the building. Had a cup of tea, wrote some postcards, tried to avoid tourists. The only two places I deliberately went to where the Egyptians mummies (bring back childhood memories) and the hall of clocks. I took lots of photos for Dad because he used to make clocks.

I thought I’d stay up a bit to get used to the time difference and made my way to the V&A.

I can hear you say: Where are the books, where are the books? I saw some at the Museum, and by the time I got to the V &A I was a bit tired. I saw ball gowns and thought of Jac.

I thought I was in a period movie

I get a bit frustrated at tourist places, so lucky for me no sooner had I left my things in the cloakroom that the fire alarm went off. Not much happened; you couldn’t actually understand that the loudspeaker was saying (isn’t that always the way?!) Crowds didn’t really move or seem worried. But I figured I’d best get my packages (oh yes on the way there I went shopping) and coats before i got stuck outside without them.  I wove my way around through the bewildered crowd, and soon enough there were attendants shepherding people to the exit. There was a queue at the cloakroom – frankly I would have thought they’d make us leave without our things. Still, I didn’t want to risk it, so I grabbed my gear and left on the nearest bus.

London is gearing up for the Olympics, although you wouldn’t know it from the state of the airport (ie dull and boring)

With the sun out it is all cheery

The transport system is terrific. And the top of the bus is the best way to see any city. As the afternoon wore on, crowds were evident, especially from up high. I got caught in a few sudden showers. I took the bus all the way to King’s Cross and to my new favourite tapas bar Il Camino.

at Il Camino a very atmospheric bar in Bloomsbury

I went to tango on Sunday night. But that’s another blog!

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