Sunday, 31 January 2010

Fforde Ffangirl Ffrenzy

If I was stranded on a desert island with no way to get off, I would want to take everything written by Jasper Fforde with me. That is how much I love his books. To anyone who hasn't read any of his books before, it is very hard to describe what they are like. They defy description, but if you like laughing and reading, they are fantastic books. Most of the authors that I like reading are dead, so it was amazing that I was able to meet an author whose work I loved.

Jasper Fforde signing books at Forbidden Planet.
I got to hear Fforde speak at the UK release of his latest book Shades of Grey at Foyles bookstore in London. He was as amusing and intelligent in person as he was on the page. His first request was for the audience to "cough politely" if he fell asleep while talking because he had just flown in from the States. He also said that "In every hotel room in the States they have little time machines. The fridges in the hotel rooms have prices set to the amount they will be in 2022." Fforde talked about how he wrote the books and I was surprised to learn that he didn't really know how he wrote the books. Fforde noted that he wrote his books first and figured out how he wrote them afterwards. He said that it was "easy" to write the Thursday Next books (which incorporate a lot of literary characters) because 30% of the work is in people's heads already because he is using characters that we already know.
This statement lead to a lady in the crowd asking "If I'm doing 30% of the work...where are my royalties?" Fforde's reply? "We've actually discounted the book 30%."
However, Shades of Grey was different because he created the entire world on his own. The story is set in a black and white world where people can perceive different amounts of color and pipes feed the green to the grass. It may remind you of books such as 1984 and A Brave New World but Fforde said that he decided to have an oppressive local government rather than an oppressive distant government. The world in this book is governed by rules some strange and some normal. For instance, one rule is that no more spoons shall be made...which obviously results in a spoon shortage. "When you can make drama out of a spoon shortage...yes! That's my kind of drama!"

Fforde also gave insights as to his creative process. He said that his writing process consisted of a "wordage day" when he gets blocks of text onto the page and "combing days" when he does through and works on the bits that do or don't work. Then he signed books.

Fforde's ffantastic autograph!

I had a great time and I was in ffangirl heaven!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum was the next stop on my tour of London. I have to admit that I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with other museums such as the British Museum. The Victoria and Albert seemed kind of like London's attic. Everything that was seen to be of value was stuffed into these rooms. It was very overwhelming.

One exhibit was on fashion through the ages. This was a leather boot from 1900.

This is an evening shoe from 1925.

I greatly enjoyed the purple suit :D

Coats from the 17th century.

Suits from Paris. I loved the colors.

Another Paris cocktail dress.

Another Parisian evening gown.

I love this dress :D They are both court outfits from around the 1800's.

This wedding dress was inspired by Anne Boylen's costume in the movie Anne of a Thousand Days.

A day dress from 1957. I love the pattern.

I loved the "Piano Dress" :)

A "shooting suit."

This mirror has a thermometer and a barometer.

Cool table :D

A statue of George Frideric Handel.

Another lovely mirror.

My future bookshelves! I think I have enough books to fit on half of those shelves ;)

Gorgeous door and walls.

They also had a lovely lift off to the side ;) (it wasn't part of the museum, but I found it amusing :D

More decorative stuff. It got very overwhelming after a while...

As you can see...the stuff was EVERYWHERE!

I assume this was a section on ironwork or something...I was museum-ed out at this point.

Pretty room :)

A hanging sculpture of squished tubas and trombones and other instruments. Erin would have died if they were bassoons :D

A washing stand. The spigot is shaped like a dragon and the bowl flips so you can dump out the dirty water (SO COOL!)

Awesome fireplace. I would love to have this in my house when I grow up!
All in all, there were pretty things to look at here, but there were so many that it felt like my head was about to explode. I'll have to go back at some point but I think I'll recover from "artifact overload" first.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag...

I have to admit that I was not as impressed with Saint Paul's Cathedral as I was with Westminster Abbey. I realize that St. Paul's is larger and grander, but it was boring. Westminster was so haphazard and amazing but St. Paul's was a little too well put together. Ah well, it was still interesting :) This cathedral is actually the second one to stand on this site. The first one burned down during the Great Fire. This cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was completed in 1710. It was the first cathedral to be built after the reformation and split with the Roman Catholic church so it did not have much decoration in it at first. Later, mosaics were added in the 19th century.

Coming around the corner of St. Paul's.

London street life. I've only been on a bus 2 or 3 times!

More pictures of the exterior of St. Paul's.

The most epic trash can ever :D I want one of these for my room at home!

This monument in front of the cathedral was for Queen Anne.

View of the front of the Cathedral from below.

The lovely front of the cathedral.

These are the great front doors of the cathedral. They are 30 feet high and weigh 2 tons each. Just inside the front doors is the baptismal font, the first step on the journey of faith for Christians.

Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles were married in St. Paul's. Winston Churchill's funeral was also held in St. Paul's.

This chapel was made to honor American service men and women killed in the Second World War. You can see, in the lower left-hand corner of this photo, the roll of honor that lists all of the names. The paneling has American birds and fruit worked into it and the bird above the altar is an eagle. A special service was held in this chapel after September 11, 2001.

The dome of St. Paul's was built so that the height of the dome is a reminder of how many days are in a year. The dome was painted in monochrome to mimic stonecarvings of the life of St. Paul. The most fascinating part of the Cathedral was hearing about the restoration work that took place. They had to clean the walls which had become dirty from smoke and use over the years. A section of the wall was left uncleaned. It was disgusting! There was a very clear difference between the cleaned wall and then uncleaned wall.

Memorial to John Donne. This memorial is the only one to survive the burning of the original St. Paul's. When the building collapsed, all of the memorials fell into the crypt and shattered. However, this one survived, probably because the arms are tucked closely into the sides. You can see on the left hand side that one of the urn's handles is broken. The discoloration on the urn is also from the fire's heat.

This is the tomb of Wellington. It was so large that it had to be lowered into the crypt through a hole in the floor. I was disturbed by the fact that the only monument or memorial in the crypt to a woman was to Florence Nightingale. I'm not saying she didn't deserve it, but she hasn't been the only fantastic woman to come out of England.

In the front of the Cathedral there was a plaque for the people who helped save St. Paul's during the Blitz. The plaque read "To the men and women of St. Paul's watch who by the grace of God saved this Cathedral from destruction in war."

When I first arrived at St. Paul's I couldn't help but hum Feed the Birds, to myself a little. I love Mary Poppins and couldn't help but be reminded of the setting for that song when I viewed St. Paul's. (You can listen to the song HERE) Sadly, I did not see anybody selling bird food :(

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey was my next adventure after the National Portrait Gallery and the Cabinet War Rooms. It has certainly been my favourite church so far (including St. Paul's). I had to look online for photos of the interior because cameras were not allowed inside the church.

When I went inside, I got an audioguide narrated by Jeremy Irons which made me rather happy (!!!!). There has been a church on this site since 960 AD but the current church dates from the 13th century. The place was simply LITTERED with tombs and monuments. I had to watch where I was going for fear of knocking into a monument or walking on someone's grave. Call me silly, but I didn't want to step on anyone.

There was a painting of the Last Supper behind the huge gilded altar. I didn't get to see the Cosmeti pavement (a mosaic of semi-precious stones in front of the altar) because people were hard at work restoring it. It was amusing to see people walking around wearing only their pink socks on their feet in Westminster Abbey

This is the place where royal coronations occur. It isn't hard to imagine kings and queens walking down the aisle to receive their official titles as royalty.

The "Quire Stalls" where the choir sings.

The stained glass was gorgeous. The pictures that I found online really don't do it justice. Lovely round window in the front of the abbey.

This chair is the "Coronation Chair" and was designed to hold the Scottish "Stone of Scone." It has been used at every coronation since 1308. I was surprised to see that it had graffiti carved into it and was rather well worn. The audioguide described it as being "knocked around a bit." It made me smile ;)

There were tombs all over Westminster Abbey. This tomb was for Lady Elizabeth Nightingale. She died in childbirth and the tomb was constructed by her husband. You can see him trying to defend her from death as he attacks from below.

This is the "Lady Chapel" or Chapel of Henry VII. The knights of the honourable order of the bath inhabit the stalls. Their flags are located above the stalls. The places for the knights to sit looked like little more than places to perch rather than real seats. No falling asleep here!

This is the Air Force Chapel. It was dedicated in 1947 to those who lost their lives during WWII. A roll of honour containing their names is located in the chapel.

It looked like lace was decorating the top of the Lady Chapel but it was all stone work.

The tomb of Elizabeth I and Mary I. Elizabeth is buried above Mary and her likeness is the one on the tomb.

The top of Elizabeth I's tomb. Mary Queen of Scots was buried exactly opposite to Elizabeth I and Mary I. There was a dried rose on Elizabeth's tomb. I guess some people never really die in the hearts of their people.

Poet's corner was obviously my favourite place in the Abbey. So many graves and monuments to famous authors that I knew and loved. Above is William Shakespeare and Lawrence Olivier was buried near the monument to Shakespeare. Nearly 40 writers are buried here with 60 monuments to writers including Dylan Thomas, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Lord Byron, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Geoffrey Chaucer.

I almost missed Jane Austen's monument. It was stuck under Shakespeare's and I had the odd thought that it was on the ground. But I found it, and it wonderful to see her recognized among so many other literary figures.

When they got to the part in the audioguide about George Frederick Handel's monument, they played the Hallelujah Chorus. All I could see was the silent monks from the youtube video. If you don't know what I'm talking HERE.

The "oldest door in Britain" was also located in Westminster Abbey. It was most likely constructed in 1050 for the original Westminster Abbey. I found it rather amusing because there was simply a door in the hall of the cloisters with a little sign that said "Oldest Door in Britain" next to it.

The tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The part of the inscription that struck me the most was "They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house."

Traffic outside Westminster Abbey.