Tuesday 5 January 2016

Food, glorious food!

Dateline: June - July 2015
Place: London and beyond
Time: Throughout the day
Temperature: Variable
Song of the day and night: Food, glorious food (Oliver!)

Okay, so most probably don't take photos of their meals when abroad ... but I ate really well and think of my trip in terms of great food, theatre, music, and libraries (although not necessarily always in that order). A well-presented cup of tea or piece of Victoria sponge can make all the difference to the day!

So I was lucky enough to have a Konditor & Cook bakery just around the corner from the King's College residences ... mouth-watering chocolate croissants and lattés to start the day (although not too often, so I didn't fill my Cake Club card!). I bought copies of the fabulous bookbook for myself, my sister and a baker-extraordinaire friend and hope I can do the recipes some justice.

As we were walking towards the London Library, on a hot London afternoon, my eye was caught by the colourful display of teapots in a shop window ... of course it was the famed Fortnum and Mason "luxury department store." Prof. Welsh treated us to tea and I had my first truly awesome iced tea, made with very, very good Earl Grey loose tea leaves and my first slice of Victoria sponge cake. Perfecto and oh so British (at least for those who can afford it).

My friend Pamela, who is smart enough to spend part of each summer in London, introduced me to both lunch at Garden Museum Café, attached to Lambeth Palace, as well as champagne cocktails at the swanky St. Pancras Hotel, which exits into the international train station.

Our day out to Oxford started with a lovely snack at the Vaults and Garden Café, which is located in the old Congregation House at Oxford University. I finished with a fizzy cranberry juice at a café on the main drag opposite Balliol College on Broad Street, which went down well as I was parched!

In Edinburgh I ate well ... and particularly liked the menu at The Elephant House, conveniently located across from the National Library of Scotland and "birthplace of Harry Potter" as well as perhaps a couple of John Rebus novels by Ian Rankin? I had lunch there with classmates but also felt comfortable eating up at the front by myself--great corn chips!

I also enjoyed a wonderful dinner one night at The Reverie, a café and bar just down the street from Pollock Halls. I tried the soup of the day (creamed leek) and the Sticky Pork Salad along with the Sticky Toffee Cake for afters ... delish!

Going back to London from Edinburgh, my trip would not have been complete without a cup of Yorkshire Tea, which I also drink courtesy of Mrs. McGarrigle's ... it came complete in its own little carry bag, so that I wouldn't spill it on myself or anyone else! I got on the Virgin Trains East Coast train at the Waverley Station and arrived smartly in about four hours.

Eating in Dublin was equally fine ... and the major treat was lunch at Bewley's, which I knew of in the sense that I regularly by Bewley's Dublin Morning Tea at our beloved 
Mrs. McGarrigle's ... had to have the experience in situ so to speak, although finding a Bewley's was difficult as many seemed to be either undergoing renovations or closed. Finally, I found one in Arnott's, Dublin's "luxury department store" and was first famished and then suffonsified.

The hills (and concert halls) are alive with the sound of music and theatre

Dateline: June - August 2015
Place: London and beyond
Time: Throughout the day
Temperature: Variable
Song of the evening: The hills are alive (Julie Andrews)

I had the most wonderful time listening to music is all kinds of spaces, from Van Morrison and Gregory Porter at the Great Court of Blenheim Palace (mentioned in an earlier post) to Kate Rusby at the annual Sidmouth Folk Festival.

I was as thrilled by all the ukeleles I found along the way as I was by the artistry of the musicians I heard ...  plus I took in some really good theatre including The Importance of Being Earnest (with David Suchet as Lady Bracknell), High Society and The Play that Goes Wrong in London and The Shadow of a Gunman in Dublin (appropriate in the wake of a city walking tour that started with the post office and the "troubles" of 1916). 

This on top of The Merchant of Venice in Stratford and Measure for Measure at the Globe Theatre, mentioned in earlier posts.
Ukeleles are making a come back, they say ... I think they're here to stay! In Oxford (left),
London (top right), Edinburgh (middle right) and Sidmouth (bottom right). Maybe it's time I got a colourful uke?

I took in one concert at the 2015 Edinburgh Jazz Festival--I was was lucky enough to be in town when the festival opened. I chose the venue more than the group as the Tron Kirk intrigued me--a decommissioned 17th century church. But the Oriental Jazz Band from Amsterdam more than delivered on it's promise of Dixieland music and the one-hour gig was lots of fun.

Take a listen ....

On my bucket list is to attend concerts in some of the world's great halls or venues ... I managed the Royal Albert Hall and St.-Martin's-in-the-Fields this time. On the program at St. Martin's was the Feinstein Ensemble, which played Bach and at the Royal Albert was the English Festival Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky and Holst while the Really Big Chorus sang The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. Over 2,000 voices colour-coded by voice (soprano, alto, tenor, bass)--superb!

My ticket to the Royal Albert concert led to my one truly "star" encountered: my box adjoined that of Julia MacKenzie, who was very charming and friendly as she explained the tradition of the concert to me (it happens annually) ... 

although I think she was a bit bemused that I didn't recognize her (I had to ask for her name and then Google her afterwards).
Needless to say, I have now watched a few of this Miss Marple series.

So the real ukelele treat was seeing the Great Britain Ukelele Orchestra live (my first post refers to my anticipation of this "great" musical event). They did not disappoint and so they shouldn't after "30 plucking years" performing together!

And the theatre ... I could have cheerfully gone bankrupt attending all the fabulous shows in the U.K. last summer but restrained myself. However, I am still marvel at the fact that programs don't come free with the price of a ticket ... they can add as much as an extra $10 to the cost of an evening out (per person!).

The Shadow of a Gunman was written by Irish playwright Sean O'Casey in 1923, seven years after the takover of the central post office in downtown Dublin--a disturbing slice of Irish history and the lead character, Donal Davoren, was played by Mark O'Hallaron.

The Play that Goes Wrong
is simply (and antidotely) a farce that felt like Monty Python on steroids: deemed delightful by the Telegraph review and I concur ... I laughed and laughed and laughed!

Monday 4 January 2016

Flowers, flowers everywhere

Dateline: June - July 2015
Place: London and beyond
Time: Throughout the day
Temperature: Variable
Song of the evening: Where have all the flowers gone (by Pete Seeger)

Well, maybe a war song isn't what I thought of when hit by the brilliance of colour and bloom but I do love Pete Seeger so perhaps not a bad fit after all.

Being in England this past summer was like being home in Vancouver again except a perfect Vancouver summer--warm, clear, bright and bursting with reds, pinks, greens. London is, of course, a city of large parks in which folks seem to live as much as they can--playing soccer, picnicking, cycling etc. and it was glorious just to be able to walk and walk and walk and take in everything.

Here are just some of what I saw on my travels ... I haven't been able to identify all the species but enjoyed them just the same.

Scotland was different--northern, rugged and yet also like Vancouver: I found a Monkey Puzzle tree, although missed it in my walk through Kew Gardens.

I visit a number of parks and gardens in London (from left to right): Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew),
Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James's Park, St. James' Square (above the park),
and finally Regent's Park new Madame Tussaud's. Here's the interactive map.
Hyde Park
On July 2, I walked across Kensington Road from the Royal Geographical Society
and into Hyde Park via the Alexandria Gate. The famous Serpentine Lake
 was busy with bathers on one side and quietly peaceful on the other.

Regents Park
Commissioned in 1811 by King George IV when he was the Prince Regent, Regent's Park covers
410 acres in downtown London. Filled with grand boulevards, fountains and much waterfowl, it was a lovely space in which to walk at the end of a long day. I should have taken photos of all the soccer players
out on a myriad of pitches--but wouldn't have done them justice.

Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew)
Here is yet another Harry Potter connection (rewatch the repotting a Mandrake scene):
who knew the mandrake is real and documented in the Kew's oldest manuscript?
We were lucky enough to view some of the rare manuscripts in the Kew collection
during one of our field trips.

The Kew Mural by Robert H Games sits near the Victoria Plaza Café and Shop just
inside the Victoria Gate entrance to the gardens
Lush, lush, lush: that's all I can say about the plants in Kew Gardens. I am drawn to lavender and other "foliage" of that colour as well as those I know (such as the purple cone flowers)
but wish I could identify this magnificent tree.
We were treated to a day in Stratford-Upon-Avon which meant a delightful afternoon at Anne Hathaway's cottage as well as tickets to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2015 production of The Merchant of Venice (reviews patchy).
The sweet peas at Anne Hathaway's cottage are spectacular. I bought some seeds and hope they will bear fruit/flowers in my garden--we shall see this summer. The rest of the garden is equally beautiful with roses and daisies galore along with lots of vegetables. It's well worth the visit.
My classmate Kim and I took a boat trip down the Stratford River ... warm, river breeze, golden sunlight and lots of swans.

I had almost a week in Scotland and was based in Edinburgh for all of that time. We stayed at Pollock Halls, the residence for the University of Edinburgh which are about a 30 minute walk from the downtown. Great breakfasts included in the accommodation fee--a "thumbs up" as a place to stay.
Pollock Halls offered lovely paved walkways bordered by flowers (left) and crowned by a 
Monkey Puzzle Tree (centre). Even wind-swept Edinburgh Castle had blooms galore (right).
Pollock Halls is a stone's throw from Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh. Here I am starting and finishing the 823 foot (251 m) hike up to the top of the Seat--going down was harder and seemed steeper. No flowers but lots of lovely scenery!

We started from Pollock Halls (near the Commonwealth Pool) and took the Blue and Red Routes.
Here are some lovely views from the climb (courtesy of Prof. Matthew Griffis) ... the ruins are of St. Anthony's Chapel.

Hadrian's Wall and Loch Lomond
I was so lucky to visit a couple of World Heritage Sites including Hadrian's Wall--in fact I called Sean when I was on the wall as I wanted to share the experience with someone. Great reception. My friend Irene Hansen, whose parents are originally from Lossiemouth in northern Scotland, recommended the Loch Lomond tour and it was well worth the 12-hour bus ride.

The border between Scotland and England seemed bleak that day ...
but thistly, tough flowers still dot the countryside.

The Wall ... sheep, ruins and my first selfie but no flowers.

The weather at the Wall deserves its own announcement board:

Our first stop heading south was the historic Rosslyn Chapel, complete with model and roaring lions. Then we had lunch in Melrose and walked by historic gardens before getting to Hadrian's Wall and our final stop was Ledburgh, where, even though the summer was cool, flower boxes were riotous (centre photo).

Loch Lomond ... a journey that is only 125 kilometres (78 miles) but lasted the whole day as we wended our way via the Deanston Distillery (site of The Angels' Share which Ian and I saw and loved), Doune Castle (site of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, one of Sean's favourites), the Commando memorial on the way up and then a lovely waterfall lookout in the Straithmashie Forest and Pitlochry for ice cream on the way back. 

Again, not always flowers to be had but certainly lots of green, green scenery.

Deanston Distllery and Doune Castle ...

The Highlands and Commando Memorial ...

The bonny, bonny banks ...

And Nessie alongside our tour boat ... pretty realistic!

And home via Straithmashie Forest and Pitlochry, where there are flowers!

Final floral offerings? The indoor courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum (left) and Buckingham Palace (right) ... such a sight.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Keeping an Eye on London

Dateline: July 6, 2015
Place: London
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Temperature: 24°C
Song of the evening: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

Before I left for the UK, I had lunch with my colleague Andrew Riddle. Andrew went to King's College London and knows the city well and I was hoping for tips on what sights to see.  He suggested a walk along the South Embankment (prescient!) and mentioned the London Eye but not with much enthusiasm.

Here's a shot of the London Eye I took from the north side of the Thames.
The building behind the Eye houses the London aquarium.
However, I couldn't miss the Eye as I walked about the South Bank--to the Houses of Parliament and Lambeth Palace--and it looked like fun, although the prices start at £19.50 so definitely could qualify as a "tourist trap." And if looked like a wonderful way to get a bird's view of the city. So tonight finds me making the short walk to the London Pier and riding along with classmates as well as other British Studies folks.

(Google Maps)

Wow ... what a view!

Starting in the top left-hand corner, this is the screen that identifies all the key buildings looking east along the Thames; top right-hand corner is an early view of the South Embankment; bottom left-hand corner is looking east down the Thames towards St. Paul's Cathedral; bottom right-hand side, of course, is Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Dr. Dave Davies, the chief factotum of our trip (i.e., the prof. responsible for the entire program, not just the library science group) was kind enough to take a photo for me as I'm not too good on selfies ... and he contributed the shot of an Eye pod (sorry, no pun intended). 

I felt like I was in a very spacious, slow moving ski gondola and I highly recommend being "trapped" by the Eye.

Google Maps. (2015). [Stamford Street to the London Eye]. Retrieved from https://www.google.ca/maps/dir/127+Stamford+St,+London+SE1+9NQ,+UK/London+Eye,+Lambeth,+London+SE1+7PB/@51.5040672,-0.1179752,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x487604b74b8a9af9:0x54b703a8b21d032b!2m2!1d-0.111794!2d51.50543!1m5!1m1!1s0x487604b900d26973:0x4291f3172409ea92!2m2!1d-0.119543!2d51.503324!3e2

Saturday 15 August 2015

Game, set match: taking in a Wimbledon game

Dateline: July 10, 2015
Place: The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (Wimbledon Championships)
Time: 6:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Temperature: 27° C
Song of the day: Anyone for Tennis? by Cream

Wimbledon was definitely on the my "to do" list for London this summer ... but the idea of getting in "The Queue" was not so appealing until MaryRodgers Beal, a classmate, said, "Anyone want to go to Wimbledon?" I said, "Yes!"  

MaryRodgers (left) figured out how to get there (easy train west from Waterloo) and we left this morning at 6:30 a.m. Walking from the train station to the tennis grounds, we began to catch tennis fever. 

Today is the day that Andy Murray plays Roger Federer (spoiler: the game doesn't work out as he plans).

There are flags on many lamp posts throughout town
bearing the Wimbledon standard ... 

we know we're in the right place (Google Maps)!

Hopes are high that Andy will advance to the second round and
fan fever is high (left).
Wimbledon is a lovely community ... and posh (right)!

If you don't have pots of money for tickets (over $1000 for good ones), then your only option is to join "The Queue" so that's what we did--it's so popular with the masses, there is even an online "how to" guide.

There were approximately 2,200 people in the queue with us ...
the previous Friday there had been about 10,000.
This is an amazing experience... we're part of a human snake of a line that beings in a big open field that can hold thousands of people, and continues through archways and past amusements on our way to security and the ticket wicket where we pay our £15 for a seat at any match except a main event, unless we want to pay £35. This is the ultimate temptation of the queue--sometimes seats are still left for "good" games but you don't know until you make it to the ticket

We are issued a queue ticket and a guide book ... but still need to buy
the pass to get into the grounds. Cash only! The tennis ball sculpture?
Clearly waiting in line is a bore so we need entertaining.
Standing behind a row of 10 bobbies, we wait for the official opening and when it comes, everyone is like lemmings to the sea as we rush to get a seat at one of the other games.
MaryRogers and I take the men's doubles invitationals:

Jamie Baker (UK) and Frabrice Santoro (France)
Fernando Gonzàlez (Chile) and Albert Costa (Spain)

Gonzàlez (far left), Costa (near left) and
Santoro (near right) and Baker (far right)
Eating our strawberries and cream, of course and MaryRodgers helps me remember that players have to win sets (best out of 6 games), then matches and then the game ... it's been a long time since tennis lessons! 
My one and only bowl of strawberries and cream
while I was away ... too busy eating cream teas!
And I have never seen so many folks around a court, not playing tennis ... linespeople, ball catchers ... whew! So serious, more serious than the tennis players who are just having a good time in the sunshine!
Martin (left) and me, takes 1 and 2 ... his idea!
An obliging firefighter joins me for a photo and suggests swapping hats. It's been a lovely, lovely morning and I am so glad I made the trek that I call Ian from the train station platform going back to London.

Google Maps. (2015). [Wimbledon Tramtrack Stop to All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club]. Retrieved from https://www.google.ca/maps/dir/All+England+Lawn+Tennis+%26+Croquet+Club,+Church+Road,+London,+UK/Wimbledon+Tramlink+Stop,+United+Kingdom/@51.4272831,-0.2226286,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x48760f345b43f485:0xcee40a1e57bb6a74!2m2!1d-0.2144883!2d51.4342911!1m5!1m1!1s0x487608b74564fba3:0x22621fbdfebb4dda!2m2!1d-0.20579!2d51.42105!3e2

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Advocacy: The importance of professional associations

Dateline: Thursday, July 23, 2015
Place: The Barbican Public Library
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Temperature: 23° C
Song of the day: Respect by Aretha Franklin 

Librarians in North America and the United Kingdom have a long history of belonging to professional associations but not always happily. Out of our visit to the Barbican Public Library emerged the fact that some British librarians are displeased with the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (CILIP) to the point of refusing to be members any longer. I wonder if this contradicts or demonstrates the professionalism of the profession?

Library associations have been around a long time: the ALA was formed in 1876, the Library Association (of the UK) began in 1877, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) came on the scene in 1900 and the Canadian Library Association (CLA) was formed in 1946. 

Advocacy for the profession is a traditional responsibility for each of these organizations and has been achieved with varying degrees of success. The work of ALA has ensured that there are professional training standards and accredited more than sixty library schools in Canada and the US while CILIP has accredited more than fifteen programs. 
Melvil Dewey, founder of the ALA
Dr. Freda Waldon, first president of the CLA
(Hamilton Public Library)
The Canadian Library Association, pushed for a National Library, which was created in Canada in 1950. 

The Barbican Centre is located on the north side of the Thames, near St. Paul's Cathedral and the Museum of London, both of which we visited earlier in the month (Google Maps).
However, while these organizations are described as "national voices," they are not always successful in advocating for the professions or libraries. Currently, the work of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has changed: it no longer is the main collector of Canadian materials nor does it offer interlibrary loan services. 

Despite these fundamental changes to the LAC mandate, advocacy campaigns by library associations such as CLA and OLA have not been successful in reversing what many see as a trend towards less access to information nationally. The CLA is mounted one advocacy campaign but Canadian librarians don't necessarily see the organization as having a strong enough voice to mobilize public opinion for a change public policy. Likewise, Barbican librarian Jonathan Gibbs is discouraged by the lack of support given to public libraries by CILIP.
The Barbican Library is one of the organizations housed in the Barbican Centre. The day we were there, so was Benedict Cumberbatch--rehearsing for Hamlet!
The library entrance is tucked away on the second floor and librarians would prefer greater visibility.
As Johnathon explained during our visit, public libraries in the UK have undergone major budget cuts since the last stock market crash in 2008, despite the important role these institutions play in so many communities. The Barbican, for example, offers not only basic lending services but also has a vibrant children's library as well as a well respected and popular music library that services the community, students at the nearby Guildhall School of Music and Drama and visiting professional musicians. 

When cuts started happening, "CILIP did not have a critical voice," says Johnathon and thus did not advocate on public policy. As a result, he has withdrawn his membership and is much more supportive of organizations such as the Association of London Chief Librarians because he believes that these organizations are doing a better job of advocating for changes to public policy. This advocacy is important at a time when further austerity measures are being introduced in the UK.
Librarian Johnathon Gibbs (left) and a display in the Music Library--a jewel in the Barbican crown--featuring the BBC Proms, a seasonal smash hit.
This raises some interesting questions: Is it professional to be political? Should we take sides and be radical or are we just biting the hand that feeds us i.e., local, provincial and/or federal governments? And, if so, how do we do this?

I think the answer is yes, we need to be political and that we can do so, in part, by supporting the organizations that we think best represent us. In Ontario, the OLA is a well organized group and I have been active in the Ontario College and Academic Libraries (OCULA) division for six years. OCULA is the academic library division of OLA. This group keeps its "ear to the ground" and is very responsive to provincial and national issues, such as the censorship of academic librarians by publishers. I will continue to support this organization, although as I wrote in an earlier post, I am considering how to get involved with CLA given that I live in Ottawa, where CLA has its office.

But I also think that other groups, like unions are critical. Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug Ford, backed off from making cuts to the Toronto Public Library in part because the staff unions mounted a very successful campaign to fight against the proposed changes. Being professional can also include belonging to a labour organization.

Dr. Freda Farrell Waldon. (n.d.) Hamilton Public Library. Retrieved August 11, 2015 from 

Google Maps. (2015). [Barbican Centre]. Retrieved from https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Barbican+Centre/@51.5200768,-0.093263,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x48761b56fb64b275:0xc756e26675d21f40

Melvil Dewey. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 12, 2015 from