Friday, 20 July 2007


We boarded the train at Paddington Station.

REFLECTIONS: We returned today to one of my favorite British cities ( I think I have been in four by now, so I really know my British cities well!)

The train ride was fast, comfortable, and pleasant. There is a lot to be said for the British Mass Transit System, both the underground (tube) and the train. I have never lived in a city which used mass transit much. In Baton Rouge, it seems to be almost only those who have no choice. Here, it is a wide variety of people zooming along together -- in the stuffy tube or the comfy train. I am afraid our country may be too big and too independent for us to use mass transit well unless/until we are forced to.

Hundreds of bicycles filled the bike lot at the Oxford Train Station. Evidently, many combine these two forms of transportation.

Maybe mass transit is one reason that there anything goes over here as far as clothing and hair styles. Sweating in the tube and zooming on the bike make for a interesting appearance upon arrival. Well, come to think of it, maybe that's not the only reason for this wide variety of styles.


A wonderfully-British, white-haired gentleman in corduroys led us around and shared stories. I think he enjoyed it also, as our group was evidently a bit more enthusiastic than some. :) We are pretty enthusiastic about things which others consider quite dry and others might even call dull . :):)

Here, we were allowed to sit on the benches where scholars sat in medieval days as they waited to be called upon for their oral exams. It's hard to imagine or describe the beauty of these ancient British buildings we are seeing, just as it is hard to grasp that young men sat on these same benches hundreds of years ago.

Our walk through the "tunnels" between the stacks of books could be the basis for another National Treasure movie. Our white-headed gent would make a great character actor. When you think of the inside of the buildings, think Harry Potter; some scenes were actually filmed here.

The main research library of the University of Oxford, The Bodleian takes its name from Sir Thomas Bodley who restored the library, re-opening it in 1602. It had been founded in the 1400's.

The Bodleian is primarily for the use of Oxford students and faculty, but also for the "community of the learned".

The Old School's Quadrangle was finished in 1619, and the area around it includes The Divinity School (the University's first examination school), The Chancellor's Court, and The Convocation House (used by Parliament for a short period).

The Bodleian also has seven other sites including a law library, Indian library, and Japanese library.

Standing in The Old School's Quadrangle, one sees the doors which still have the names of their former schools painted on them in Latin.

The "Old Library" across the street houses the tall books, and the "New Library" houses the small library in a shelving system similar, although more antiquated,than the British Library. It uses conveyor belts to send the books to the proper reading room, and our guide did not seem quite sure how the books could be located. He referred to the librarians who located them as troglodytes, and it sounded as if they just were not allowed to die, since no one would ever be able to locate the books if they did.

Although one of the reading rooms was rather utilitarian, the Camera Reading Room was straight out of the movies.

And literally, at the movies, you can get a glimpse of one of Bodlean buildings as it served as the Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

C.S. LEWIS TOUR: Several of my classmates and I took a C.S. Lewis tour in Oxford. We viewed several places Lewis lived, as well as one of the places his good buddy, J.R.R. Tolkien lived. We visited the church Lewis worshipped in as an adult and his grave.

I'm glad I took this tour, but the tour guide gave off negative "vibes" which did detract from the afternoon. I will try to remember how much one's own attitude can affect others.

THE EAGLE AND THE BABY: Now this was really cool! Most of the class, from the current generation.. what is it now? . to us Baby Boomers just happened to show up at the pub where the Inklings, Lewis, Tolkien, and buddies, would gather to talk about their writings, etc., How fascinating to wonder what parts of Narnia and Middle Earth may have been born here! And how cool to remember that they had no idea that we would all gather here years later and think of them. Makes one wonder what group out there might be another group of unknown Inklings...

WORKING HARD - Wednesday, July 18

"Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together."

I used this research day to work on my blog and my stamina. :) I succeeded fairly well with both as I am more comfortable with where I am on my blog, and I am in hopes I will once again be able to rise in the morning. :):)

"There is a time for many words and there is a time for sleep"

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


(The library was a bit more impressive than Blackfriar's, but respecting the library's privacy, I will not post library photos. Plus, the cottage pie was pretty impressive.)

A private tour of a cathedral library may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that's why it's great to do it with a group of librarians, especially who are also library students and are not yet burned out and disillusioned. The library had the atmosphere as well as the beauty which one would desire in a cathedral library: And can you believe the librarian’s last name is Wisdom?
This is too good to be true!

A noisy, sweaty, but swift tube ride, a private tour at St. Paul's, cottage pie at Blackfriar's Pub and a walk across Blackfriar's Bridge in the strong London breeze preceded a nice afternoon nap to prepare me for an evening of blogging! I did find time for a nice kitchen chat with my classmates, a walk to the store (I love English yogurt--it's creamier than ours), and a little fun computer time (checking my email - did YOU email me? and making reservations to fly from Edinburgh to Dublin!). It was a very good day.

The history of the Cathedral itself is long and eventful. First built in 606, the present building was completed in 1710. St. Paul’s was ransacked by the Vikings to the point it had to be rebuilt, burned in the Great Fire of 1666, struck by lightning in 1651 and was a bombing target during the Blitz in World War II. St. Paul’s Cathedral has seen a memorial service for Queen Victoria and the funerals of the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill, the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, several Jubilee celebrations, and a memorial service for the victims of 9/11. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke there.

But our focus this day was on the Cathedral Library.

To get there, one must have special permission as it is not normally open to the public. Then, one must climb a seemingly never-ending staircase. A person does not enter this library easily!
Not surprising, since it is in the majestic St. Paul’s, the ceiling in this library is extremely high. But this serves an additional purpose according to Librarian Joe Wisdom; this ceiling is high enough that it "allows thoughts to soar," both for "clients" and employees. And it was obvious that Mr.Wisdom's own thoughts soar as he talked about preservation of, conservation of and access to the some 13,500 volumes which live in the solemn room.

Mr. Wisdom also talked about the symbolism of the decorative plaster in the library and other parts of the cathedral as he noted the intertwined books and quills denoting that the library is a place of learning and that St. Paul's is a place where God's Word is read.

The library is "open to all who can make good use of it," but Mr. Wisdom quickly assured us that he is very careful with this collection. One is allowed access to no more than three documents at a time, and a user would not be left alone with many of the items.

The Cathedral Library is fortunate that most of the 300 bugs which live in libraries do not live in England, according to Mr. Wisdom. Even though he is the only librarian on staff, he does receive assistance in conservation from a specialty group which will be funded through a grant and through the assistance of special volunteers.

A related feature we were allowed to view was a model of an earlier replacement cathedral design by Christopher Wren, rejected because it was too "Catholic."

STONEHENGE - Sunday, July 15


It was cool! Both literally and figuratively!

It was hard to believe we were really at the historical and mysterious Stonehenge in Wiltshire, near Winchester, England. Although the fact that it was roped off and that there were hundreds of others gathering 'round it did detract a bit, Stonehenge still resonated of mystery and mysticism, even if a bit less than it must have in years past, when one could walk amongst the giant stones.

It is believed that Stonehenge was constructed in three phases and took more than 30 million hours of labor. Some 25 miles north is another stone grouping, Avebury.

Speculation on the use of Stonehenge ranges from human sacrifice to astronomy. I prefer the astronomy version.

AN EARLY DAY OF REST :) - Saturday, July 14 rest or not to rest, that is the question...

ahh yes, to rest!


Totally majestic both inside and out! The view from the River Thames is amazing; the view from across the River Thames is amazing, the view from the street is amazing, and the entire interior is amazing. I will now watch the broadcasts of the British Parliaments with much more interest as it is now real to me. I do wonder what this trip and these sites mean to the majority of the undergraduates and what it would have meant to me at that age. They will have so much longer to have these experiences be a part of them, to let these experiences affect their lives and the lives surrounding them. Would Tech Rome have changed me much if I had gone when I was 19? Each decision can affect so many things....

Parliament Itself
We were able to bypass much of the queue at here as we had a special tour arranged. Security was tight, and wands were used.
To be continued... I have run out of steam.:)


The British Library is gorgeous, impressive, and massive -- on the inside. The exterior does not appeal to me, not that that matters. :) It is designed to resemble a ship, which does nothing for me. However, once I entered, I certainly did not care what the exterior looked like. In the center of the first floor is the King’s Library, encased in glass, containing some 90,000 items donated by King George III, aka Mad George.It’s also totally impressive to think that one is standing on top of the British Library collection which is stored underneath the front piazza and the building itself. Below sea level, this area is equipped with tanks and pumps which pump surrounding water out to the River Thames.

I was also impressed that the target (which is usually met) for a person to obtain a reader’s card is 20 minutes, which includes a rather thorough interview. The target is normally met; a classmate reported he received his in about 15 minutes. Being accustomed to seeing delays at our local circulation desk makes me think that the British are quite efficient – not that it normally takes 20 minutes to get a card at our library – but I am afraid that it COULD -- and supposedly we don't have to do a thorough interview at this point.

I also like that the building was designed to last 300 years. Hmm, what might we be learn here?

The Library Itself
The British Library began operation in 1973 with the merging of the library from the British Museum with collections of other institutions. The collection has over 13 million books and numerous other holdings. A person 18 of older, with proper id, may obtain a reader’s card after an interview regarding the person's research needs. After he has searched the catalog which is online, he may request the needed item and can expect to have it in hand soon if it is on site. H must know what he wants and must use it in the reading room. This is not a lending library.

Amazingly, the books are arranged according to size in order to maximize usage of space. and are listed on a grid reference which provides the location.

The current special exhibition is Sacred, which displays numerous important books of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.

Standing exhibits include fascinating items from the Magna Carta to Beatles manuscripts.

Security is quite tight here; other than the airport, it is the only place I have been searched (only my bag here).

I was not able to view the exhibits as I had an interview for my research paper. I hope to be able to return to see at least a little more of the treasures here.

My Interview
For my research project, I had an afternoon long visit with a young guru of young adult services in the UK, Matthew Imrie. Although Matthew’s title is lending librarian at this point, his passion is young adult services and he is being allowed to develop that at his present location. We met at on the piazza at the British Library, had lunch and coffee, lots of talk, and then rode the big red double decker bus to his library some distance a way. As he described it, it is in a somewhat deprived area, but not as deprived as his previous one. It is in a shopping mall which reminded me slightly of Baton Rouge’s Bon Marche Mall at the time of its decline, except it was busy.

His colleagues and supervisors were most gracious, as were the members of his Teen Reading Group which I met. They wanted to know if I was from Texas; when I told them Louisiana, they wanted to know if I knew Brittney Spears. Oh so sadly, :):) I said no, and asked if they liked her. They kind of mumbled negatively and said “no, she changed.”

Matthew was wonderful and escorted me all the way back to Waterloo Station which is by my dorm. It was a great afternoon and it's amazing how much Matthew and I have in common and what we are each doing on our side of the pond in spite of him being a 31 yr old young man from South Africa, and I being Nancy. :)

He was most helpful and we hope to keep in touch. Maybe we can do something internationally with our teens! He will email me photos which I will post later.

STRATFORD ON THE AVON - Thursday, July 10

"... where oxlips and the nodding violets grow..."

Oxford was a hard act to follow, but Stratford-on-the-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown certainly has its own charm. Its only drawback is that the large number of tourists make it hard for it not to be too "touristy". It's almost hard to remember that it is real and old and not a 21st century Disney theme center. I especially enjoyed Stratford as I had recently read Loving Will, young adult historical fiction available at your Zachary Branch Library, told from the point of view of Anne Hathaway. I wanted to see her home also, but I am trying to accept that I will not see EVERYTHING in England. My favourite place was Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare worshipped and where others continue to do so today.

Famous sites I did see in Stratford include the house in which Shakespeare was born, the home of Shakespeare’s daughter and her husband John Hall (Hall’s Croft), and the home of Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth, and her first husband Thomas Nash (Nash’s House), and the foundations of the house in which Shakespeare and probably Anne Hathaway died. (New Place).

Gardens flourish at all of these sites and were my favourite part of each stop.

In Shakespeare’s birthplace, I also liked the room which was used for his father’s glove-making business. What a different legacy WS would have left if he had continued his father’s business.

The Shakespeare Library, located next to the house in which he was born, is open by appointment for scholarly research. With its own cataloging system, this library has a small but gracious staff available to assist.

The peaceful and historic grounds around Trinity Church ,scattered with graves from centuries back, called for me to wander, but time did not permit. Instead, I spent time absorbing the beauty of the 25 stained glass windows. I keep looking for a stained glass window of Job, my Bible hero, but it wasn't here either.

The chapel included copies of parish registers, which document Shakespeare's baptismal and burial. It also featured a 15th century baptismal font in which Shakespeare was probably baptized. At some point it was removed from the church, then discovered in a local garden and returned to the church in 1823. For many, the highlight of the building was the area bearing the grave of William Shakespeare and members of his family, including Anne. He was given this privilege because he had become a "lay rector" .

Moonflowers bloomed over the brick wall of the cemetery grounds as I left Trinity Church.

"Macbeth" at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre finished off the evening and almost finished off me also! In spite of the beauty and histor, it was a bit daunting watching the play from the third gallery and needing to lean over the rail to see some of the action. Needless to say, I missed that action. But action there was! Signs cautioning the visitor about loud noises, and instances of graphic violence and sex had wisely been posted around the theatre. I enjoyed the idea of being in Shakespeare's world, but the play reminded me that I prefer his comedies to his tragedies, as well as why they call these plays tragedies.

It was a memorable evening.

"'s but a walking shadow..."



"There is a great deal of human nature in people."


I came away from this museum with some of what our guide wanted us to, but possibly with some different connections. His messages of climate, river, people, and legacy spread out much further than London for me.

I felt a strange connection to London as I learned about the Great Fire of London of 1666 which had startling parallels to our own year of 2005 with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the breaking of the levee in New Orleans. It literally chilled me to read about the price-gouging and looting of some as well as the heroics of others during the Great Fire, when we lived through the same human reactions to our own disaster along the United States Gulf Coast with Katrina and Rita less than two years ago.. Hundreds of years and thousands of miles apart, and human nature remains the same; tragedy brings out the best in people -- or the worst.

Reading that the mayor of London saw the fire, but thought it would burn itself out, and therefore went back to sleep, reminded me of decisions made related to our trying times of 2005. How many people in positions of responsibility thought there would be more time to improve the levee system? Did the mayor of New Orleans not evacuate early enough? Did our governor think the federal government was sending prompt assistance and as a result wait too long to take more aggressive action? Did we not do as the mayor of London did, thought it would "burn itself out and therefore went back to sleep?"

And what a reminder this is -- both the mayor going back to sleep and the bakery where the fire began -- of how much we affect others and sometimes even history itself. And the examples the exhibit gives of heroism and villainy of 1666 sounding so similar to the heroism and villainy of 2005. All are reminders of how we affect others by our decisions – some made in innocence, some not. There's the legacy part.

Yes, I came away with messages of both London’s’ climate and our own hurricane climate, of the River Thames, and the Mississippi, of the people who, in all places, and at all times, leave a legacy.

The Museum Itself
The Museum of London came into existence when The London Museum (1911) and Guildhall Museum (1825) merged around 1976. It is a non-department public body and is financed by the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport and the Corporation of London. It is a part of the Museum of London Group which includes The Museum in Docklands, the Museum of London Archaeology Service, and the London Archaeological Archive and Research Center. This particular facility has a staff of 150.

One of the most distinctive marketing campaigns ever must be one that the Museum used, driving vans emblazoned with “London Has Only 1 Museum” around London and parking it in front of the other museums.

Even though there are numerous museums in the city, this one is a really great place to start, as it brings the different aspects and periods together.

Joe Cotton, Curator of Pre-history, reminded us that pre-history can be considered that time before written records were kept. In the case of London, it would pretty much be considered pre-Roman.
Thus, the museum’s exhibits begin around 450,000 BC and at this time has the main emphasis on pre-historic, the Great Fire of London, and the Roman era. Other areas are closed with their eras not available due to restoration which should be completed in 2009.

Mr. Cotton emphasized access, community, and diversity. Museum-goers tend to be middle-aged Caucasians (there I am; I am middle-aged if I live to be really old!) even though some of London’s boroughs are 60 per cent ethnic groups. The museum is trying to ensure that it provides what these ethnic groups want to see also, and a special exhibit on India is now on view in the museum

The pre-history area offered a large exhibit which included flint,bone and antler tools, axe-heads, pottery, bear skulls, human skulls, and a human skeleton. The curator spoke respectfully of the human remains and how much thought is put into displaying them sensitively. Whether or not they have succeeded at this depends on the individual .'Nuff said.


"...recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home..."

An afternoon at the Museum of Children was a pleasant respite to thinking about fires and hurricanes. My favourite part was the exhibit of recycled objects in the front lobby. Watch the Zachary Branch Library for a recycling workshop – brought to you by my esteemed colleague, BJ!

The coffee and sausages at the Museum of London were quite fun also!

The Museum Itself
Originally opened as the Bethanal Green Museum in 1872, its focus remained vague until 1925 when the children became the focus. In 1974, it took another step forward , it was officially dedicated to the subject of childhood. It has been and continues to be connected to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and since 2003 has received funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This museum displays numerous toys throughout history from toy trains and Raggedy Ann dolls to an original Playstation, Care Bears, and Weebles (“Weebles Wobble, but they don’t fall down!”).
Oh yes, and Barbie! I never found Cabbage Patch dolls, which was quite a disappointment.

The collection is divided into Moving Toys (Push and Pulls, Springs and Clogs, Circuits and Motors, and Look See which are optical toys) and Creativity (Imagine, Be Inspired, and Explore).

Creativity includes those well-loved Fischer- Price sets, tea sets, Super Heroes (including Star Wars!) and beauties such as a Chinese rock garden. Also under Creativity come Legos,model bricks, and toys made by children themselves.



A tube ride back and a short rest, then it was off to The Old Vic to see the suspenseful Victorian thriller "Gaslight." The play was good, but the theatre was better! There was even room for my long legs!

The Old Vic first opened in 1818 as The Royal Coburg and was badly damaged by WWII bombs in 1941, and repaired and renovated and reopened in 1950.

It has seen numerous name changes (including The Royal Victoria - for Queen Victoria -- and The New Vic), owners, companies, and plays. It has also seen performances byAlec Guiness, Judith Dench, Lawrence Olivier, Albert Finney, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton. In 2003 Kevin Spacey was appointed the first artistic director of The Old Vic Theatre Company. It also was home to the National Theatre Company at one time.

The Old Vic is not government-subsidized and ticket sales do not cover costs, so The Old Vic depends on support from generous benefactors. PICTURES LATER!!

Thursday, 12 July 2007


Dr. Wiest, a USM history professor led a group of us around the Greenwich and Westminister areas. Sitting on the green grass of the parks of London next to the River Thames, listening to the history of England is THE way to learn history.

This three-hour tour took us up close and personal to the horse guard and other royal guards at the St. James horse stables as well as St. James Palace where Prince Charles lives with his family. Further down was Buckinham Palace, saved for another day.

The Brits like their statues and have a large impressive one of Abraham Lincoln -- The Great Emancipator in this area as well as Cromwell and numerous others. It's gratifying not only that the Lincoln statue is a good-looking statue, but that the British have enough respect for him to have one.

My favorite part of this tour was sitting in St. James Park listening to Dr. Wiest's tales of Henry and his wives. As a longtime reader of historical fiction about Englands royalty, it was a treat to sit where some of the action actually took place.

We ended at Trafalgar Square where the legend is that if you have your photo taken on one of the massive lions, you will return to London. The square commemorates the British naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and includes Nelson's Column, honoring Admiral Horatio Nelson, and other statues and fountains. One recent addition is that a previously unused area will now be used as a changing venue for contemporary sculpture. At this time, it features "Alison Lapper Pregnant", a white marble nude sculpture of Alison Laper who was born in 1965 without arms and with shortened legs.

The Trafalgar Square area has includes the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (free admission), as well as pigeons, pigeons, and more pigeons. :)

Monday, 9 July 2007

Where Aaaaaaaaam I???

I am sitting in a computer lab at King's College, London, England, Great Britain, United Kingdom, Europe, Planet Earth and have just created this blog! Those of you who know me (and who else would be reading this?) are properly impressed, I'm sure. :) I personally am properly impressed.

This is Day 3 of "Ms. Nancy Goes to Europe", and so far, so good. I am sooo amazed to be here. There are so many things to REMEMBER, and so far, I have only lost my sunglasses. Of course I have done a couple of dumb "mature person" things which I will not post here, but I have also been able to purchase with pounds, buy an oyster (a tube pass), eat fish and chips while strolling through London, order food and recieve what I ordered (notice there are a number of food connections), enjoy Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at The National Theatre, strolled along The Thames, and made it to my first class on time this morning.

This afternoon we will drift down the Thames River while being entertained by a very personable professor. Tuesday, we go to Stratford on the Avon to tour and view Macbeth. I just learned we won't be back to London until 1 a.m. Wednesday. This will certainly be a challenge for me. I, of course, plan to doze on the coach, but some of you know my secret challenge with dozing in public. :) And my classmates will soon find out!

The diversity of London fascinates me. I think of our Zachary Library as having a nice amount of diversity, but of course it all depends on your perspective. This amount of diversity definitely reminds me of how different God made us all and how we all choose to use what we have been given.

This class is ending so I must close for now, and find some lunch before we hit the river.

I can be reached at and . Y'all keep in touchh too.

Take care; I miss you all, but am so pleased to be here.
More later!