Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Day 22 – Bletchley Park

Having read a lot of historical fiction set during WWII in which Bletchley Park and those who worked there played a part, I was excited to visit on Monday with my class. It was a gray London day as we took the tube to Euston and then the train to Buckinghamshire, about 40 minutes away. I was very surprised at how close Bletchley was to the station; I thought I recalled reading about people arriving with luggage at night and not being able to walk there.  Later, I asked one of the guides if the train station was in the same place as during the war and he said yes.  Perhaps the blackout and lack of signs made it seem farther or more impenetrable than it was?
The Bletchley Mansion

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Days 20 and 21 – Visiting Wells Cathedral

On Saturday, I got up hideously early in order to catch a coach from Victoria Station to Bristol, then another to Wells, which I had heard was a lovely place to visit. Due to an ominous weather forecast and having frozen the previous Saturday, I was bundled up and braced for the worst but my timing was perfect - as I arrived in England’s smallest city, the sun came out after what they told me had been a deluge.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Days 18 and 19 – Marylebone Library and Museum of Docklands

Our visit on Thursday was to my friend Nicky Smith’s nearby Marylebone Library, which is a public library affiliated with the Borough of Westminster.
The Children's area at street level

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Day 17 – The British Museum

On Wednesday, Archivist Francesca Hillier took us behind the scenes for a closer look at what is in the British Museum’s collection and we were stunned, not only by the sheer volume and breadth of their archives but also by the modest staff available to work on it. The British Museum’s Central Archive is located in the middle of its Great Court on the main floor: a large, round room that is blocked off to the public and kept locked.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Day 16 – The Foundling Museum

There was a Tube strike on Tuesday, and while their dispute over pensions and job cuts is probably legitimate I can only imagine the negative economic impact of the strike during high tourist season, not to mention lost productivity as workers come in late or not at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Day 15 – The National Maritime Museum and Caird Library in Greenwich

Today we went to visit the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which has its own library and archives. We were early for our library tour so we had nearly an hour to tour the museum. There was a Canaletto exhibition but after looking at a display of elegant ocean liner travel, I headed upstairs to see Britain’s most accomplished naval war hero, Lord Nelson.
Young Nelson, 1992

Day 14 – Sunday in Hampstead Heath

I thought Sunday seemed the perfect day to walk on Hampstead Heath, so first I found a church in the neighborhood and took a bus there. St Mary's was the first Catholic church to be built in Hampstead after the English Reformation and it took until the 19th century. The church is tucked away on a quiet street among residential homes. The Abbé Jean-Jacques Morel, a refugee from the French Revolution, was its first pastor. The little chapel was completed in less than a year and opened in 1816. At that time, most of the congregation were French refugees. During WWII, General Charles de Gaulle worshipped at the church. Another notable, Graham Greene, was married at this church in 1927.
The city is visible in the distance

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Day 13 – Visiting Green Knowe

It was my friend Kathy Baxter who told me she had visited the house upon which The Children of Green Knowe is based and if I had fully grasped how close it is to Cambridge, my mother and I could have gone there four years ago. After rereading the book in August, I was determined to make the Manor at Hemingford Grey part of this trip. I felt shy about writing to Diana Boston, who is the daughter-in-law of author L.M. Boston (1892-1990) and has lived in the house since she moved in to help Lucy after a stroke, but she responded to my email quickly and invited me to come on Saturday, June 18th when she had two tours already scheduled.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Day 12 – Notting Hill

Friday was a free day but it was again very hot so I tried to think of something leisurely to do – Notting Hill and Portobello Road! Notting Hill is interesting because of the movie and also because Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James in Deborah Crombie’s mystery series live there (I wished I had checked my books for the street before I left Boston).

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Day 11 – King's College Library

Thursday began with breakfast in Regent’s Park with Desiree and Erin. We walked in from Marylebone Road, then followed signs for a café and wound up next to some tennis courts. I had a chocolate croissant and inspected the books on a community shelf in the back. I found a book by Annie Groves that looked appealing. The others kept on walking but I returned to the dorm only to learn bad news: one of our group had tested positive and been quarantined in her room for five days. Getting Covid is no joke and being confined to one of these claustrophobic rooms as a heat wave is beginning sounded pretty grim. Everyone was somber when we met for the day’s excursion. We asked Dr. Steele what we could do for the victim and she said a second person (my next-door neighbor) also had symptoms and was going to get tested as well. I had been wearing a mask pretty steadily but now everyone from USM was told to wear one. Apparently, the Gothic Studies group has several people sick as well (I feel there is some significance there but am not sure exactly what).

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Day 10 – Oxford

Our group was very excited to visit Oxford, city of dreaming spires, and we were pleased that Dr. Davies, USM’s Head of British Studies, was joining us again. He led us to Marble Arch where we could catch the Oxford coach because it has a stop much closer to the center of town than the train. When we arrived, there was time to walk around before our first appointment.
Vaulted ceiling at the Bodleian

Friday, June 17, 2022

Day 9 – Rotherhithe and The London Library

The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library is part of an extraordinary operation located in a former granary in the Southwark neighborhood of London. Established in 1975 as a nonprofit, the Library is available to anyone wishing to do picture research (see website).
Costume hats

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Day 8 – The Royal Geographic Society Library and Archives

We returned to the South Kensington part of London on Monday to visit the Royal Geographic Society Library and Archive (see website). Its headquarters are in a listed building, which means it is of special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and thus worth protecting.
Stanley's and Livingstone's hats

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Day 7 – Sunday including Mudlarking

There is a beautiful Catholic church right in Marylebone where I am staying, St. James's, Spanish Place, which has an interesting history. After the restoration of Charles II, the Spanish Embassy was re-established in London, eventually living in Hertford House, now the home of the Wallace Collection. A chapel was built on the corner of Spanish Place for embassy use. While the local archdiocese took over the chapel in 1827 and the current church was built in 1890, there is still an unofficial relationship with the Spanish Embassy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Day 6 – Stonehenge and Winchester

Saturday was a USM-sponsored expedition that we signed up for and paid in advance and all ten of my group dragged ourselves out of bed for a 6:30 am departure. Some of us were a bit grumpy that the bus didn’t come until after 7:15 and it then took several hours to get there. I sat with Channin on the bus and learned about her work with middle schoolers. When we got to Stonehenge, it wasn’t even open yet (the concept of standing stones being “open” seems odd but it’s an English Heritage site with guards and surge pricing for tickets). 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Day 5 – Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature

Today we returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see a special exhibit, Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, and to hear from two experts, the curator of the exhibit and a gentleman who has written about a collector of Potter ephemera. The exhibit, which had been delayed by the pandemic until this year, was intended to show how Potter’s love of nature informed her work and that although she had grown up in London, she had a strong interest in and knowledge of science developed through family influence, holidays in the country, and the Natural History Museum across the street from the V&A.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Day 4 – The National Art Library

The National Art Library is the preeminent art library in Britain and is located in London within the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, which specializes in decorative arts (see website). It has three primary functions: to serve the public, to provide information to museum curators conducting research, and to support curatorial art and design of book “objects,” of which the library has an impressive collection. The library is 20 years older than the museum and was created independently to support a government-sponsored School of Design in the 19th century. As the school became more commercial and the public’s interest in the arts grew due to the Great Exposition of 1851 and other factors, the library leadership changed the collection focus from instruction to history and reference.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Spell the Month in Books – June

Can you #SpelltheMonthinBooks? What books would you use?
Spell the Month in Books is hosted by Reviews From the Stacks and occurs on the second Saturday of each month.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Day 3 – Channeling Harry Potter and more

Wednesday was a research day and several of us decided to go to a coffee shop to work on our homework, then do some sightseeing. Amanda (Elmira, NY), Erin (Newport News, VA), Desiree (San Francisco), and I walked down Baker Street to a place called Gail’s where they let us monopolize a table for several hours. I was happy with tea and a ham and cheese croissant. Keeping a blog is part of the course assignment so those creating one for the first time were trying to come up with clever names for them.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Day 2 – The Barbican Library

The Barbican Library is a public lending library located in the Barbican Centre in the City of London (see website). The Barbican Centre itself is a vast performing arts complex with theatres, a movie theatre, restaurants, shops, and a library on the second floor. The Barbican Library is the largest public library within the actual City of London (which is just a square mile) and is affiliated with two other libraries. The library serves a residential community of less than 8,000 as well as many who commute into the financial district from the London suburbs and local students.  It was the second destination for the British Studies group.
The library is cheerful and welcoming

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Day 1 – The Middle Temple Library

The Middle Temple Library is located in the Middle Temple Inn of Court, one of four legal organizations in London providing training to aspiring British barristers (see website). 
Dignified enthusiasm for the Jubilee

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

British Studies

As some know, I began studying for an MLIS in August 2019 at the University of Southern Mississippi in an ALA-accredited, completely online graduate school program. What, don’t you have enough degrees already, Constance? Well, there is no doubt about that! My original intention was simply to take a children’s literature class for some mental stimulation.
Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation - from Sorrow and Bliss to Edward Eager's The Time Garden

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason about a woman whose marriage disintegrates, seemingly because her depression is misdiagnosed.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

Title: The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park
Author: Sinclair McKay
Publication: Penguin, trade paperback, 2012
Genre: Nonfiction, history, WWII
This book, published in the UK as The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, is one of several recommended by my professor and Dr. Welsh (who created the British Studies program I will embark on this weekend) to read and review prior to our trip to London. Of course, I have been eager to visit Bletchley Park ever since I first read about it, long before it was actually made open to the public.