Early hours tour of the ancient Greek world, BM style. A few details that caught my eye…
A man tying his sandal.
A hedgehog perfume jar.
Sea nymph in a wet toga, so technically not naked.
Spartan girl dancing or running away from an amorous god, or competing in gymnastics. You decide.
The docent told us brief, memorable versions of Paris abducting Helen of Sparta, how Paris was awarded Helen by Aphrodite, the bizarre circumstances of Athena’s birth, and how Athena persuaded the Greeks to name the city after her, make her their patron, and build her the Parthenon.
I followed the tour with coffee and a little sketching and then hightailed it to British Library.
Eduardo Paolozzi’s bronze statue of Sir Isaac Newton based on an image inspired by William Blake,
I’d nearly given up on fitting this into the trip, but so glad I didn’t miss out. Walking inside was an olfactory hit as evocative as Proust’s taste of a madeleine. The air was laced with the odor of ink and paper. It’s something I’ve missed now that my reading is done on a screen with kindle pixels. The smell went straight to the emotional memory of falling in love with stories and the people who wrote them down.
Here’s just a taste of the Treasures of the British Library. The Magna Carta, the document that established equality before the law,
An Illustrated manuscript page of people making bread.
Christine de Pizan and friends. “Just as women’s bodies are softer than men’s, so their understanding is sharper.”
Here were John Lennon’s lyrics to A Hard Day’s Night, scribbled on the back of his son’s first birthday card, the splash and dash of Dickens’ scrawl penning a page of The Pickwick Papers, the precise copperplate script of Jane Austen on a letter placed on the writing desk her father gave her.
It’s something about knowing their fingers held the quill or pen or pencil. That their wrists pressed against the paper, that they positioned the foolscap just so. If you are not a constant reader like myself, I doubt I can adequately convey the intoxicating sense of connection. Maybe this is how true believers feel about proximity to a saint’s holy relics. I can’t even begin to describe seeing the open folio of Shakespeare. If you know, you know.
On the way out I saw this witty bench. Put me in mind of the restless grimoires in the Unseen University’s library. Ook.
The quality of their postcards was very satisfying. I was a little surprised they had no teeshirt. I would have snapped one up.
A sharp wind waited outside. I Googled nearby restaurants and by pure luck had a marvelous meal of moules frite and panna cotta in a small family-run Italian place.
All the other diners were speaking Italian, a man with a baker’s forearms kneaded his dough and the female waitstaff were so eyewateringly luscious Raphael would have swooned.
It was a long hike back, but Uber did not let me down.