Friday 2nd October – Global travellings

Yet another behind the times blog. But at least I’m up-to-date now. Except for the photos which will have to be slipped in later.

2 October 2015

This is something I thought of the other day, but have only just remembered to jot it down, principally because we’re sitting in a train heading out to Maidenhead with our cases packed around us.

England has a great rail network. Fast, efficient, and the underground is fun (so long as you’re well clear of rush hour), but their luggage storage options are rubbish. The train from Portsmouth to London – which is a tourist train as well as a commuter train (think commuting from Thames or Ngatea to Auckland), and it carries a lot of people – especially as it goes through Gatwick – but there is nowhere to store large bags. Even New Zealand’s meagre rail system offers a baggage car on the tourist routes and plenty of room between seats on the (Auckland at least) commuter trains. I know this because I managed to squeeze the case that’s cramping my legs between the seats from Papakura to Britomart.

Anyway. Back to the day.

Breakfast was the same options as yesterday and I’m all baconed out, so I had baked beans on toast.

The Belmont allowed us to store our cases in their reception, so we were unencumbered for the day.

We wandered through Kensington Gardens again and saw a couple of parakeets having a discussion with a couple of magpies. I don’t know what over, but they seemed evenly matched.

We saw the exterior of Kensington Palace (which I think is the present residence of the Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and where Queen Victoria had lived in her younger years.)

We tried to get to see the Derry and Thoms’ roof garden (I’d seen it in Agatha Christie TV mysteries and I wanted to see it for myself), but they had a function on and wouldn’t even let a visitor from halfway around the world have a sneak peak.

I was still hunting for cloth patches for my bag so we went to St Martin in the Fields (love the café in the crypt. I had a very good lunch there last time.) And then we headed towards the Embankment.

On the way we saw a “Gordon’s” shop next to “Watergate Walk”, which seemed very appropriate for Thunderbirds Gordon, so I got some photos. The shop next door was an interesting shape too.

In 2010 I’d tried to get a decent photo of the Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the Embankment, but it was too dark. This time he was too overgrown. But I managed to peer under the trees.

Last time I was in London I’d walked past the Millennium (former wobbly) Bridge many times. I’d walked past on the South Bank. I’d walked past on the north bank. But I’d never walked on the bridge. So this time I did.

Our options for the day were to see the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, or the Globe Theatre on the South Bank. I can’t say that Shakespeare does anything for me (we studied Macbeth and King Lear at school. Neither of which are a barrel of laughs), but I thought seeing a modern reconstruction of the Globe would be interesting… And it would spare you more photos of pulley blocks for Alan C.

We joined a tour of the Globe (after I’d nearly lost the tickets when I’d put them down to sort myself out as Pen went to do what no one else could do for her). We have yet to work out why our guide looked like a pierced 1940s housewife, but she was good value.

She didn’t tell us about the making of the Globe, nor the plays that go on, nor the story behind the reconstruction, but she did tell us what it would have been like to have seen one of Shakespeare’s plays in the original theatre.

If you had a little bit of money you could sit in the covered seats for 2p. The hard wooden seats. You could hire a cushion for an extra penny, but they were never washed (as were you – just about) and were filled with fleas. So you had a choice between sitting on a hard seat for a three hour production, or itching and scratching your way through a three hour production.

Toilets were provided by a wooden bucket that was handed down the row for you to use.

If you were poor, but could afford 1p, you STOOD in front of the stage and endured the weather. (There’s no roof and no protection.) If it was stifling hot you got sunburn and fainted. If it rained you got soaked. If you needed to “spend a penny” you did it where you were standing. That coupled with the fact that people ate raw garlic, drank beer, and only bathed about once a year, must have made it very smelly.

The extremely rich people (who paid 4p?) sat behind the stage. They didn’t go so that they could enjoy looking down on the back of the actors’ heads, but so that the lesser mortals could see them in their finery.

The original Globe Theatre was destroyed in a fire. The actors, who were creating their own special effects, filled a cannon with gunpowder and let it off inside the room above the stage.

The original Globe Theatre had a roof made of flammable thatch.

The original Globe Theatre had 3000 people crammed within its walls for the show. Guess how many died.

None.

There was one casualty however, and that was a man whose trousers caught fire with some sparks. He could have jumped into the Thames, but that was the city’s sewer and not good for anything much, except spreading disease, He only had one pair of trousers and didn’t want to lose them, so they put his fire with ale.

After the loss of that Globe, they built another. After the loss of that one, they didn’t build another until American actor, Sam Wannemaker (Zoe Wannemaker’s father) started pushing to have a venue suitable for the works of Shakespeare.

After the Great Fire of London an ordinance was passed decreeing that no thatched roofs were to be built within the city limits. It took a lot of advanced technology and persuasion of the powers that be to allow the Globe number three to be thatched. The rest of the building was made as close to traditionally as possible. The walls were lined with slaked lime and fine goat hair. The building’s held aloft with oak beams and where possible they avoided modern machinery.

The theatre was also offering people the chance to dress in theatrical clothes. Earlier I’d watched a school group as one of their pupils (a boy) was transformed into the leading lady of one of the plays. In the afternoon we were given the option to try ourselves and although an Austrian man was very keen to give it a go, it was one of his female colleagues who found herself corseted. And they showed off their corsets. They cost money and weren’t to be hidden under layers of other clothing. They also weren’t as shape changing as those of the Victorian era.

I made a point the embroideries provided by the Association of New Zealand Embroiders’ Guild.

We were about to leave when we found the museum, so we had a look at that until I checked my steampunk watch, which said 4:10pm.

We were going to get caught up in the commuter crush!

So we took off with a detour to another building that had a roof garden. It was a very popular restaurant – probably because it was the only place in the country where you could legally smoke yourself and your neighbours to death as you enjoyed an expensive meal.

It wasn’t Derry and Thoms, but it was a nice detour.

We got to the Underground and caught the train. It was then that I noticed that their clocks were all saying 16:10. My steampunk was saying 6:30pm and we hadn’t been out that long.

I shoved my steampunk watch out of sight.

We were going to change trains, but by now the commuter crush was starting. Deciding to catch the next one ten minutes later, we sat and watched as people tried to jam themselves into the metal tubes, and wondered how much would be remaining outside when the doors closed, when there was announcement that there was a breakdown further down the track and there would be a delay.

We decided it would probably be quicker to walk.

After an over-ground train trip to Maidenhead, we arrived at the Holiday Inn, meeting Dawn Cummings in the foyer. Once we’d got ourselves sorted we had to walk through the lounge to the lifts to our rooms I saw that Matt Zimmerman – Alan Tracy – was sitting there. Walking back to register for the convention and I saw that Shane (and Shelia) Rimmer – Scott Tracy – was sitting with him. Next time I walked past I realised that the other man with the two of them was David Graham – Gordon Tracy/Brains/Parker/Kyrano. They were all here! And even Jeremy Wilkin – Virgil Tracy season two – turned up!

It was all tremendously exciting. At last the reason why I’d travelled halfway around the world was here!

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