My last days in England

This past Friday was our Open Conservation Day at our church in Inglesham. I have to say, it was a real success. We had 28 people turn up, and no one had a negative thing to say. We started out with a short introduction to the church and it’s general history and architectural fabric from Dr Rushton (Neil), followed up by lunch outside in the beautiful sunny weather. (Thank you Weather Gods!) I had for weeks decided to take care of prepping the lunch myself instead of paying someone to cater it, especially because we had no real idea of how many people would turn up. So I made enough food for 30. In addition to fruit and veggie platters that I put together, I made about 50 mini quiches, half meat-friendly and half veggie-friendly. They were a hit at the lunch and all the older folks told me it was a clever idea to make finger food. Hah. I also had a dessert platter with a few pre-made cakes and biscuits (cookies for y’all Americans lol). And we served only water to drink to avoid any potential sticky spills.

After lunch we split the visitors into two groups. One group was on the ground floor learning about mixing mortars and grouts with Claudia and Christine, who also took them over to the practice wall to show them the fillings they had practiced. The second group went up the scaffolding with Jane and was able to get a close-up view of the paintings in the chancel/sanctuary area and could drill her with all their questions. I think Jane secretly loved it…even though she would never admit that to me.

After twenty minutes the two groups switched, and when the second twenty minutes was up, we had a few closing words from Jane before everyone headed out. We had all the visitors sign the visitor book, and got a really decent amount of donations from everyone who came. Half of the donations were put in the box in envelopes, so there is no way to estimate the real amount until the keyholder comes to empty the box, but if we got less than 200 pounds, I would be really surprised. We didn’t charge admission, and we only spent 60 pounds on the food…so that’s a 140 profit in addition to 28 people having a much better understanding of wallpaintings conservation, as well as the other work the CCT does. So I’d say it was a good day. Here are a few pictures:

After all the visitors left, we took a group picture with me, Neil, Jane and the interns, and then I left with Neil. It took about two hours to get back to Glastonbury, and when we did I set about packing my suitcase and carry-on bag. We had a dinner reservation for Neil, Sarah, the boys and myself at the Hundred Monkeys at 7pm. I told them I would meet them there, which gave me a chance to get my last-minute thank you gift for them. I got them a gift certificate to their favorite Indian take-away place, since ordering Indian food on a whim became somewhat of an inside joke while I was there. So I enclosed that with a card and gave it to them at dinner. I think they appreciated it. And I emphasized how important it was for me, to have had my accommodations taken care of it for this 8 weeks. Without that, I would never have been able to do this internship.

After dinner I more or less went to bed early, in preparation for a long Saturday. Neil and Thomas took me to  the Castle Cary train station Saturday morning, and I caught the 9:40 train to London Paddington. On the train ride, I sat next to a guy named Nigel. He’s in his late forties or so, and grew up in Australia. But he currently lives in Madrid and plays sax for a living. I have to say I’ve met some really interesting people during my time in England. The train a bit delayed, so we got into London just before noon. I lugged my suitcase and carry-on (definitely packing lighter next time, even if it means doing laundry more often) down onto the Tube. Unfortunately for me and my weak arms, I had to switch lines once, which for those familiar with subways usually means going up a set of stairs, crossing various platforms and going down another set of stairs… But I survived and I found my hotel on Great Russell Street really easily. I am so glad I booked the hotel I did: Radisson Edwardian Blu in Kenilworth. It was literally 200 yards from the British Museum. 🙂

The hotel staff was great and I would absolutely stay there again. I dropped my stuff, grabbed my purse and my camera and headed out on my last-day-in-London marathon of walking. I started at the British Museum and spent about two hours inside, which included lunch at the Court Cafe on the second floor. I saw the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles of course…but spent most of my time in the Hall of Enlightenment, and in the much smaller Mexican gallery with their amazing turquoise Aztec artifacts. The last of this next section of photos shows a human skull that was covered in the tiniest pieces of turquoise…the whole thing is really really creepy! 🙂

After the British Museum I took the Tube to Leicester Square and walked down to Trafalgar Square and took a pretty quick tour of the National Gallery. Visitors aren’t allowed to take photos inside, so I have no actual evidence of me being there. I didn’t buy anything at the gift store either. But I appreciate the moments I spent staring at a few Turner paintings and then was on my way. Outside in Trafalgar Square they had a big jumbotron set up for passers-by to watch the Paralymics Live. The Olympic spirit was still very much in the air, and I loved it. I headed toward the Mall from there. The Mall itself is currently barricades off for the marathon events, so I had to take a side street to Buckingham Palace.

From Buckingham Palace I sort of backtracked on myself, down the other side of the Mall, down toward the building of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I took a few last touristy photos of Big Ben and then ventured underground into the Westminster Tube station and headed back to my hotel. I grabbed a jacket at my hotel and then walked back toward the British Museum. 6 years ago, when I visited London on a school trip in March of 2006, a group of friends and I went to dinner after our British Museum adventure. I remembered exactly where that particular Korean restaurant was, and remember eating jelly fish for the first time…which at the time was probably in a quest to impress my then-crush, Matt Cooper. LOL. I headed down the same street and found a decently priced Thai place for dinner, and indulged in some Massaman Curry before heading back to my hotel. I could have stayed out much longer…there were so many more things I wanted to see. Particularly, Piccadilly Circus at night with all the lights. But I knew I had a really long day ahead of me, so I went back to the hotel and got ready for bed.

Sunday morning I got up at 6am, and was checking out of my hotel by 6:20. While I was checking out, I met a fellow American who was also headed for Heathrow Terminal 3, so we decided to split a cab and save each other some money. She’s an architect who currently works for Facebook designing data centers. She was a pretty cool lady, and I didn’t mind spending the 30 minute cab ride with her. At the terminal, I was happy to be rid of my heavy suitcase and did the usual security stuff and found a place to settle down inside the terminal. There was a small Harrod’s inside the shopping area, and I bought two last minute souvenirs, and at 9:30am, I boarded the plane.

The flight was decent. To my left I had a Scottish couple who have seen more of the US than I have. And to my right across the aisle I had a mother and her baby. She’s English, but she married an American. And I discovered she was also on my connection from Chicago to Nashville. I was really happy to see Mom and Vanessa when I landed in Nashville, and it was a little bizarre driving on the right side of the road again. I spent all of yesterday recovering and trying to set my brain straight again…and today, I’m getting back to work for Dr. Willumson.

It’s been a whirlwind. I’m not sure it’s hit me yet, that I’m back. But it’ll have to hit me  soon because I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Onward!

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