London - Thursday, August 31, 1995

This has been a very busy day. Here at the guest house (or whatever) I was moved from a double room to a single room across the hall, of course, I was gone most of the day so I had to move all of my belongings to the first floor (I am on the 4th floor, 3rd in number only) – I have really got a lot of stuff now, mostly books – then back up to the 4th floor later in the day (when I got in earlier this evening).

Anyway, after breakfast this morning I caught the Underground to Paddington Station. You know, they are very easy to use (once you have got the hang of the various things, such as ticket purchase and working the machines that take your tickets) to use. Once there, I picked up a walking tour for Oxford, so we caught the train to Oxford and ran about the city.

Oxford is a very interesting place, right downtown it is very congested with people and shopping malls, etc. but outside of that central hub at the various colleges, it is very quiet. This fascinated me, to realize that people are actually studying there, while we are tramping through their courtyards and chapels. With the tour, I was also interested to learn about the education system here, with the guide explaining how school works here in England. I finally know what “forms” are and “A-Levels” mean (well, in principle, I don't think I could explain it, like, here). The entrance to the colleges is fairly straightforward, with a lot of politics involved (it seems to me) above and beyond grades, though they certainly have something to do with it.

I visited the college where Lawrence of Arabia was a student, this was quite a thrill, after having watched the film so often, his character has always drawn me somehow. His statue was just as it appears in the film and, if I recall, the film ends in that very college.

I ran out of film while there and, wouldn't you know it, I did not have any more on me (there is only so much I can carry on a tour like that) so I did get a few pictures of the insides of a few chapels and squares but not much more, I was hoping to get a picture from the top of the Carfax tower but as I did not have any more film… I wish I had when I visited the chapel at Exeter. Quite magnificent, though a bit gaudy for my taste (as in, I would not have it on my house or in my living room, but in a college, it is fine).

Had a nice lunch in the “oldest pub in Oxford”, quite low ceilings but exceptional food, different food (not only Fish & Chips). I had a nice conversation with an older couple from Pennsylvania and this helped to pass the time. It is good to see people from the states that enjoy the British culture, this does not seem to be a common trait. We did get off on the wrong foot when I insisted that I was NOT an American but a Canadian (“There IS a difference”) but that was quickly (thankfully) forgotten.


I do hope I get back to Oxford to take a look around a bit more. I would be tempted to even try get into one of the colleges (you know, there are only about 1,500 students at any one time? Each student has their own “tutor” and there are NO lectures, except for the occasional lecture that is NOT required for student studies. Sessions are about 2 hours in length ONCE a week. I commented that this would make it MUCH more difficult as I found that I sometimes put more pressure on myself, given time, then the professor does. It would also SERIOUSLY increase the pressure to perform exceptionally) but they do not seem to cater to my area of interest, but, then, you never know…I didn't ask…

I made the mistake of going into the bookstore there (Blackwell's, if you must know) and was quite surprised. Coming in the front door, there is a reasonable selection of books, mostly hardcover, ALL non-fiction (well, ok, there was a small fiction section, NO Science Fiction) about the size of a normal bookstore. I happened to notice a staircase leading down so I went down and I was shocked. The size of the room in the basement was ENORMOUS. It, literally, took my breath away. I was told by one of the clerks that there are 5 miles worth of bookshelves in that room alone. I believe it. I did pick up a few books (by UK authors except for one which I am shooting myself in the foot about, but, we all make mistakes) about Physics, reading books, mind you, which is my sort- of hobby on the side (as in, it has always interested me to a certain extent). I also found their Computer Science section exceptional and I did grab a catalogue, perhaps they will here from me in the future…

Once we got back to London (the trip, by the way, was interesting, passed two nuclear reactors (which still surprises me, but it makes sense – what else would they use to generate power? Coal? Too dirty (and outlawed I believe). Hydro-Electric? Not enough water. Gas? Not enough of it here to burn).

I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the guest house (or whatever) so I could catch the show tonight. Well, I did get to the show and I was not disappointed. The Mousetrap was quite good, the acting was exceptional and quite entertaining. The theatre was small but clean and interesting. There were a fair number of people there, though the house was not sold out. I can't remember what performance number it was but it was well above 10,000, it has been playing now for 43 years. It makes me wonder how it can support itself, but the theatre is small, the crowd is regular. I don't know how much longer it will go but I think it still has a few years left.

It is something that I have noticed that there are always signs for “Way Out” as opposed to “Exit”. This throws me for a loop as this is a theme for the television series The Prisoner (now, where have I heard that mentioned before?). Just another one of those things…

There was supposed to be a strike by the underground workers tonight but we were talking to someone and he said that there will be about 1/3 of the trains (as opposed to 0/3) running for 24 hours. It should make getting anywhere tomorrow interesting.

Well, as written down, I hope to get to Buckingham Palace, the Thames Barrier, the London Dungeon and catch a show. We shall see.

⇒ Continue to London (where else?) - Friday, September 1, 1995