Sunday, November 30, 2008

Seats of Power: Whitehall and the Mall

The "Seats of Power" walk is filled with important monuments and memorials that are relevant to British history and continuing tradition. The day that I conducted this walk was very significant because it was Armistice Day. Because there are a lot of military memorials and building in the area, there were poppies everywhere and many people gathered in honor of those who had given their lives in war. When the clock struck eleven, there was a moment of silence observed by all in the area. It was a neat experience to be in an area so magnified by history, while this memorial day was being observed.

The first thing we came across on the walk was the statuary. I have to admit, I wan't very familiar with most of the figures that the memorials are dedicated to, but Bassett assured me that they are very well-remembered by the British people. They mainly include the great war heroes, but there are a few of non-military figures as well. One of these is Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English.
Two of the staues in the statuary were in memory of Air mArshall Lord Trenchard and Lord Portal, who founded the Royal Air Force. They were responsible for the Air Force Branch of military during WWII, and are very famous in British History. The statue above shows a winged fighter pilot from WWII.

If there was ever a respectable British leader, full of character and zeal- this was the one. Winston Churchill is probably my favorite figure in British history. He was a magnificent speaker, and led during the darkest times of WWII and the "iron curtain" of communism in Europe. he still retains a strong presence today just outside of Westminster Abbey.
Guard's memorial stands in memory of those British troops that died in WWI and WWII. The day we took this walk was Armistice day (11/11). It was very moving to see all the wreaths of poppies placed by the memorial and the many people who had come to pay their respects.

Big Ben is probably London's most recognizable landmark. It's tall clock tower marks the location of British Parliament, and of course, chimes the time on the hour.
This monument, the Admiralty arch, marks the official way to proceed to Buckingham Palace. The road is a red color, like a red carpet for royalty.

St. James' Palace is a remaining monument of the Tudor reign. It is the palace where "Bloody Mary" died, and the birthplace of many royalty, including many of Charles I's children. Charles I was living here when he was taken to his execution.
And of course, the climax of the walk-- Buckingham Palace. You can't live here, unless you are royalty. It is still quite a spectacle from the outside as well.

Walk Among the Scholars: Bloomsbury/ St. Pancras

The area of St. Pancras/Bloomsbury had a familiar feel to it, though I had never really explored the area. Oh yeah, this is what a college town feels like! I'm not going to lie, I kind of made me miss Provo a little, which is a strange feeling. There is something interesting about the fusion of the town-and-gown. The college area does seem to be appropriately placed. It is amidst where many of the great British thinkers lived, including Charles Dickens. The streets in the area are literally lined with blue plaques in memory of the famous scholars who lived there. It must be inspiring for students to be studying in area filled with so much scholastic legacy. The very thought inspires me to academic ambition. The walk of the scholars is all of learning and remembering the great legends of Britain.

One of the first things about the area that I noticed was the many small colleges that dotted the area. This one struck me oddly. Goodenough college??? Good enough for who? I hope I would be good enough to get into Goodenough. 

The magnificent British Library. It is HUGE!! I mean, moving from Rexburg to Provo, I thought that BYU's library was rather large. But this is the mammoth of libraries, isn't it? I can't imagine what an amazing resource it would be to have a library like this while going to college in London. It has everything, including some pretty amazing exhibitions...

This was one of my favorite monuments that I ran into on the walk. It sat right outside of the British Library, inviting seekers of knowledge into its doors. The statue is of Isaac Newton. I love to learn about him, because I am particularly fascinated by the study of physics, he could be an ancestor of mine, and the statue is modeled after a painting by William Blake-- one of my favorite poets.
Inside the British library is a grand exhibition of old old old texts. Ancient Bible Manuscripts, an original of Beowulf, and the Magna Carta. The place is just awe-inspiring.
Along with a center of learning, this area was filled with memorials of the many great ones. One of these, is Mahatma Gandhi. Here, in a small garden dedicated to peace, he sits in meditative reflection. He still remains as an example to peaceful causes, and there is still much we can learn from him.

This is where I began to miss traditional college. I saw students out and about their studies. Leaving school, buying books at Waterstones, and just scurrying about the urban campus. There is something distinctive about college towns and areas. I think it is because there are so many in such a small area dedicating their lives to learning and building their future. London seems like a great place to do that. I wonder what it would be like to attend school on an urban campus like this one.
Jeremey Benthem requested that his skeleton be displayed in this manner. Strange, indeed. Still, this is considered a sacred shrine to all serious economists. Benthem was considered the father of Utilitarianism and was also involved in socio-political issues. He is dressed in his own clothes, and has a wax head. He continues to grace students with his presence at the University College of London.
This is right near where the University College of London Hospital is located. It is said that Benthem's ghost haunts the place, and chases nurses with his cane. I really enjoy urban-lore, but more importantly it is an institution of learning.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Cathedral was a very different Cathedral experience in London. The exterior, itself, hinted that it was not a typical Gothic/Norman/Baroque style cathedral that most of the Wren-inspired religious buildings adhere to. The cathedral is a large red brick building built in a Byzantine style. If I had only passed by, I wouldn't have known if it were a Catholic church or a Greek orthodox. The style was very unique for this type of Cathedral.
The interior was just as different. Rather than stone, the whole inside was made of green marble with gold gilding.  The set-up of the cathedral was very traditional, but the appearance alone distinguished it from other Cathedrals I have been to. The style had an almost Middle Eastern feel to it. It was very different, but very beautiful.
I also enjoyed looking at the many chapels in the cathedral. They had very detailed descriptions of each chapel, and its purpose. St. Paul's chapel is for those who wish to pray on behalf of missionaries spreading the gospel and those who are persecuted because of their beliefs. Another chapel is for prayer on behalf of those who have passed away, that their  journey through Purgatory might be peaceful and smooth. There were a few people praying in this particular chapel. I enjoyed learning more about these chapels, and their religious significance.

The British Library

(above: Captain James Cooke's Journal)

The exhibitions at the British Museum are truly a sight to Behold. What a wonder it was to lay my eyes on such important and historic texts and manuscripts  on display. I'm talking about all the legends of literature, music, science, and religion and their original works preserved. An original copy of Beowulf, perhaps the oldest piece of literature in English, is displayed there. Original copies of the English Bible are also displayed.
I particularly enjoyed the sections devoted to the legends of music and science. Above is a manuscript of Beethoven's. It is filled with scribbles and corrections. You can almost see his frustration in working the piece into perfection. It was fascinating. They had many other manuscripts from Mozart, Haydn, and other famous British composers as well.
In this above picture, there is a page of a notebook from Leonardo Da Vinci. On the page he is trying to systematically understand the properties of sound and music-- or at least the plaque said something like that. Can we really begin to understand these scribbles that a genius like him produced? Still, very fascinating. In the science section, they also had a book by Galileo, letters from Darwin, and notes written by Newton. Many of the great minds in British history were represented in this display.
Here is the touchstone of them all-- the Magna Carta. There are only about 4 original copies left, and this is one of them. You cannot begin to read anything on the document, but the fact that this thing till exists is pretty amazing. This is where constitutional law began in the English speaking world. Right here in this glass case.

First Stop Liverpool, Next Stop America.

What an awesome experience it was to see and spend time at the Liverpool Docks. This is where my ancestors, the McBrides, boarded the Horizon Half Clipper and set off for the Boston Harbor across the Atlantic. At the nearby Maritime Museum, we learned the rough conditions that many emigrants had to endure for weeks and weeks out on the ocean. As for Heber McBride, who was about nine years old at the time, he described the voyage as "quick and full of good weather." Then again, he loved the sea. He even says in his journal that he was sad when they reached America because he did not want to leave the ship. Though the journey may have gone relatively smooth for the McBrides, the decision to go to America was not without sacrifice. Margaret was disowned by her family who wished never to see her again. They sold their comfortable home and auctioned off their possessions for the money to go. They took many risks in order to go to America to be with the Saints.

I was greatly touched by Sister Wimmer's devotional that she gave at the docks by the memorial that our church donated. She spoke of the tremendous desire these people had to go to America to be with the saints. There was nothing that they wanted more, and they risked so much to make that journey. "They wanted so badly to be in a community of saints in Zion and you are their dream," said Sister Wimmer. This made me very grateful for the sacrifices that these people made, and the incredible devotion that they had. Our group then sang "Come, Come Ye Saints, " and I think we were all very touched by the spirit as we sang there.

Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell -
All is well! All is well!

And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell-
All is well! All is well!

Preston: Truth Will Prevail!

I loved the tour that Peter Fag gave us in Preston because it really brought all that we had bee learning about in class to life. We walked to where the missionaries, including Heber C. Kimball, lived and heard the tales about their experiences there.  I enjoyed visiting the site of the Vauxhall Chapel, and hearing the "dusting the feet" story associated with it.

I particularly enjoyed visiting the River Ribble. I knew it was special, but I didn't know it was going to be so beautiful too! I could almost see George Watts racing down the hill, so he could have the privilege of being the first saint in England to be baptized into the church. This is also  where my ancestor Robert McBride was baptized. It is probable that he was there watching when Watts and the very first members of the church were baptized. He was baptized on the second day of baptisms, and proved to be a faithful member of the church ever since. He was among the truth seekers at the Vauxhall Chapel, and I believe that he found the truth he was looking for.
My impression of this place, and our guide's information that he have on it, was that it was prepared for the work. The people in Preston were searching for truth, and their hearts were open to the message of the gospel. When the missionaries arrived, there was a large banner for elections reading, "Truth Will Prevail." And considering the overwhelming success of the missionaries there, I think truth did prevail in Preston.

Quarry Bank Mill

I admit, the idea of visiting a textile mill did not sound very exciting to me as we were sitting on the bus on the way to the North. Though I had to drag my tired body off the vehicle all the way up to the museum to engage my mind on cotton and its production, I do not regret that I did it. I had never in my life visited anything like this place. Learning about the Mill's history and the development of cotton production was areal eye opener for me.

I could not believe the conditions that these people worked in for hours upon hours at a time. I imagine the quality of the air must have been horrible, which led to related sicknesses. The chaotic noise that the machinery made must have driven everyone mad if not made them deaf. I can't fathom a day when children would work hours as long and hard as their parents did, and were expected to keep up. The very idea of this place running in its day seems to be something of another world, but I guess its not far from a correct statement. It was a different world back then.

On a lighter note, learning about how the cotton was produced was quite interesting. It was enlightening to see the genius developments that took place during the Industrial Revolution. To watch the old, clanking machinery spinning the thread in perfect synchronization was awe-inspiring. I really had never seen anything like it before. As loud and rackety as this machinery was this was the beginning of mass production and the growth of businesses. They proved to be pretty successful too. At least from the looks of Port Sunlight, the mansion filled with the Mill owner's extensive personal art collection, business must've been pretty good at the Mill!

This is Speaker's Corner

I recently took the trip to Speaker's Corner when I had a free morning on Sunday. I arived there pretty early, so there weren't many people out yet. But it wasn't long before the crowds and speakers began to develop. I stood listening to a religious man who was holding up signs that said, "The Blood of Jesus Christ" in bright red. His message was that there will be an evil force coming to this world in these last days. It will seem good, and we will want to accept it, but it will ultimately destroy us. The only way we can save ourselves is through Christ. He was a little over the top at times, but most of his commentary on the prophecies of Revelations I actually agreed with.

Next I listened to man who had plastic devil horns glued to his hat. He spoke about how we should eliminate descriptive color words that refer to race from our language. We should not call someone "black" or "white" because that is not what they are. We should only describe someone by their personality. One younger black girl was getting frustrated with him, and he called her and her friend racists. It was all very interesting.

I think my favorite person was this old, hippie man who was just walking around making commentary on everyone else's points. He had long hair and dressed in ragged clothing, and had buttons on his jacket that said "One People." He was a peculiar sight, but when he spoke he was remarkably eloquent. To me, he was the epitome of a "street philosopher." 

I understand why missionaries do not use this as a venue for reaching the gospel anymore. It is a unique place, but not a spiritual environment for teaching the gospel. Still, I had a very memorable time here.

Old Old Old Church

My excursion to St. Bride's Fleet Street Church was definitely of note. I was interested in the name, first of all, because I know that St. Bride, refers to St. Bridget. This is the saint that McBride, a prominent family name of mine, comes from. An old church with her as the patron saint was definitely of interest to me.

Upon entering the church, set in the middle of a busy part of the city, I had no idea just how old the church was. The site that the current church is set on is one of seven in that have occupied that very spot for about 2000 years. That goes all the way back to the Celts, Romans, and Anglo Saxons! In the Crypt there was a an exhibit showing the history of the church. If the church could speak, I'm sure it could give a very extraordinary biography of London, because it has seen it all. It saw the Great Plague, the medieval version of the church was consumed by The Great Fire, this was followed by witnessing Wren's genius in rebuilding the new church. This church saw  the bombings of WWII, and other important events in history. This church also has strong ties with the history of the printing press in England, which has continued to abound on
Fleet Street for the last 500 years.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kensington: The "Regulars" at the park

On my late afternoon stroll in Kensington Gardens, I decided to go solo. It was the ideal place to gather my thoughts and some peace of mind while enjoying the lovely Autumn scenery and fresh air-- the kind I just can't get in Arizona. I realized though, that it was the fashionable hour when all the "smart" Londoners are out on the promenade-- to see and be seen. Consequently, I ran into some old friends and a few of the "regulars" of Kensington Gardens. Without fail, you can always count on casually running a few of them.

Peter Pan usually hangs around the Serpentine, playing his little flute for any passerby. He is kind of a show off.
Albert himself, in his golden image, is a little bit unfortunate. He does not get to enjoy the lovely view of the park since his golden chair is always fixed toward the city.
Watch out for this guy. He's cute and friendly, but he only wants your Hob Knobs.
It's always an awkward encounter when I run into this guy-- the naked horseman. Are there any indecent exposure laws in the park? A dress code, perhaps?
Rude. Everyone knows that this is my afternoon bench-- right by the flower walk. This is bad form on the part of my feathered friend.
Queen Victoria is always at the foot of Kensington Palace. I tried to avoid conversation with her though. She is really a bore. All she does is talk about the weather.
This group looks very familiar to me. I always see them at the Park, but I know I've seen them elsewhere. A London cocktail party? Maybe it was the Royal Opera House?...  Odette!
William III on his usual pedestal is actually a charming greeter at the gates of Kensington Palace.

The Museums of South Kensington: A Center of Culture and Learning

Exploring the streets of South Kensington was a fun adventure. Not only are the streets lined with fashionable shops and restaurants and attractive buildings, but the most attractive ones offer free admission. I speak of the huge museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, and Natural History Museum. The Royal Albert Hall is just around the corner, and across from it is the Royal College of music where you can often hear the students practicing. The smaller streets are lined with national embassies ornamented with each country's flag. In the same vicinity, blue plaques mark the homes that once house famous Londoners, such a Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf. The overall impression of the area, is a curiosity of the world and culture extremely magnified in these few blocks.

London's huge, interactive science museum that offers free admission, which is more than I can say about the science museum where I am from. I agree that we should be free to explore the complexities of the world around us.

The V&A offers a wide variety of exhibits, bot old and new. One of these includes a model of the statue of David. Again, free admission.

The very impressive Natural History Museum-- impressive in size, architecture, contents, and price. Again, free!

Geological Museum. Here one can learn about our Earth's infrastructure. Free!

Lines and lines of buses bringing swarms and swarms of school children to the free museums to learn things for free.
The Royal College of music houses the great musicians of tomorrow. Here they study, and often can be heard practicing from the street. We had the privilege of hearing a wailing female opera voice.

This must be where the Royal College of Music students go when they graduate-- across the street.
This area was full of famous residents-- Winston Churchill, Dickens, Woolf and her family.  There is just something attractive about South Kensington. It is an area for learning, exploring, experiencing culture, and remembering the great ones.