Day 43 – Wednesday, June 6th

Michael in front of Dickens House

The stage plus “Groundling” area.

Seating at the Globe Theater

Frances in her seat

A view of the stalls

The Carroll’s left early this morning to catch their Eurostar train to Paris and Michael and I caught a train back into London.

We had a stop at the Kings Cross Tube station so decided to try once again to find Platform 9-3/4’s (from Harry Potter). We walked thru all of the tunnels to get from the tube station to the National Rail Station and then across a couple of streets and a few more tunnels. We did find the station where that portion of the film was shot, including the bridge that Hagrid and Harry walk over, however there is NO Platform that has 9 on one side and 10 on the other….there is always a train between the platforms. We weren’t sure that we were in the right place so didn’t take any photos, but looking at the movie we can see that we were right (we may try to go back and take photos). All fun anyway.

We continued our journey to the Charles Dickens museum. This is one of the houses that he lived in for a time and it is part of a long block of connected houses and offices. We almost walked past it!!! The museum was fairly small and very low-key, and was a lot of fun to see. We watched a 15-20 minute movie about his life…I hadn’t realized that he came from an extremely poor family and that much of his writings were political in nature. As we were leaving the house, Michael pointed to a sign just under a large clock….this is what it said…

This clock was the subject of this amusing letter.

My Dear Sir,

Since my hall clock was sent to your establishment to be cleaned it has gone (as indeed it always has) perfectly well, but has struck the hours with great reluctance, and after enduring internal agonies of a most distressing nature, it has now ceased striking altogether. Though a happy release for the clock, this is not convenient for the household. If you can send down any confidential person with whom the clock can confer, I think it may have something on its works it would be glad to make a clean breast of.

Faithfully yours,
C. Dickens

We walked back to the tube station and rode toward the Shakespeare’s Globe theater where we were able to get tickets to see “The Merchant of Venice”. It was a wonderful performance and was so much fun being in this reconstructed theater. We had WONDERFUL seats, up high and just on the right corner of the stage.

Before the play began, several of the actors walked through the crowds and one finally made an announcement about cell phone and photography…..in character of course. He also said …. ”Ladies, Gentlemen (pointing to us in the stalls), and Poor People (pointing to those sitting on the ground by the stage). Poor people…..you must stand up!!!!” The “groundling” tickets were only 5 pounds each, but you had to stand for the entire performance. The stewards would even go up to people who were sitting and make them stand!!

During the play, the actors often entered through the “groundling” crowd, sometimes including them in the performance as well. At one point in the play there were several planes that had flown over and then one very loud helicopter. The character who was speaking at the time, stopped his speech and pointed to the sky and yelled “Santa Maria!!!” which was entirely within character for him. He the went back to his spot on the stage and continued his soliloquy. The crowd roared!!

I was interested in some of the music that was used for the play. There was a xylophone and cymbal set up in the window closest to our seats and I was interested to see that they used a bow (much like a violin bow) on the cymbal and also on the bells of the xylophone to produce a longer, quieter tone.

I munched on chocolate raisins during the performance, and Michael had some red wine as well. We were able to rent cushions to sit on for a price of 1 pound. The man who rented them to us said they were “well worth the price”. They also had blankets to rent, but the woman that I talked to said that it would be fairly warm in the theater….boy was she wrong. We were not in an area that got any sun, so we stayed fairly cool for the first half of the performance. At intermission, we rented a blanket and were much more comfortable for the final scenes.

After the performance, we caught our train back to Oxford and then stopped at the Thai restaurant again for dinner.

When we got back to our house, the street was littered with the remains of “exam celebrations”, including fish heads and feathers. Apparently they had feathered some poor soul! We asked the Warden about these celebrations and she said that they were trying to tame them down a bit, but I am not sure that is really happening. She also said that exams go on here for about 2 months, so there are still a few weeks to go.

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