Friday, July 15, 2005

I am writing this from a friend's computer in lincolnshire. I had a fun adventure. First, my roommate and I left from Edinburgh on the 11th of July. We were on a Virgin train, which went from Edinburgh to Bournemouth. The ride was smooth until we ended up stopping in the middle of the track for some "minor technical difficulties", which made us late. Then we just started adding up time so we became more and more late as we traveled. We picked up people in Coventry who wanted to get off at a certain stop but then they made a mistake so that they could not stop at that station, which they said was "entirely the signalman's fault". Honestly, I do not care whose fault it is. They should have done something to fix it.

By the time we reached Oxford, we were about an hour late. This drove me spare since I had to get my reader's ticket to get into the Bodleian Library and I had an appointment with the senior manuscripts library at 5:00 and I had expected to be in by 2:45. I did not have much time. On top of that, when we arrived at our hotel, my roommate discovered that she had grabbed the wrong suitcase on the train. So that added to my frustration and unease. I did not know where the library was so I went outside and started to look for a map. I had the directions on email but my school email was not operating when I had left in the morning. Luckily there was a map and the library was about two minutes away.

I went into the library admissions office with all my paperwork. It took a while, which again did nothing for my mood. When the lady behind the desk looked at my paperwork, she said that I had not shown my professor the right spot on the forms so that I could look at the manuscripts. I gave her my letter of introduction, which my professor had given me. She said that it was not looking good but she would enter the information into the computer and see what the admissions person had to say. So I wait a bit more for the admissions person to finish with the people in front of me. When I finally had the chance to speak with her, she said that this was a common occurrence and that professors had this uncanny ability to misfill forms in all the right places. So I now have a fully functioning library card for Oxford University.

I received directions to the Duke Humphrey library and went there for my appointment. When I arrived, I was greeted by the most English English person that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. It was like talking to a real life version of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Oh did you know that there is a St. Giles church and Street in the heart of Old Town Oxford?). The thing that struck me most, other than his innate Englishness, was his enthusiasm for his work. It was such a pleasure working with him and his staff. I cannot wait to work up another excuse to return. I took a quick look at the manuscripts that I wanted to see, just to make sure that I really wanted to see them. Then I left to get something to eat and talk to my roommate.

We were staying the cutest hotel right in the Old Town of Oxford. It was expensive but it was well worth the money. It was near enough to everything so that you could walk and the staff was very kind. The hotel is a converted 17th century weaver's home for Dutch immigrant weavers. You really should just spend a night there if you want to know what it is like.

[note: I am now writing from my flat in Edinburgh] The next day we got up and had the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. I, then, made my way to the library to look at the manuscripts. MS. Ir. d. 5 is actually two fragments from the same page. Fragment A has the inter-columnar space. Fragment B has the outside edge of the page, which means that I have to fill in the gaps in the poem myself. I did a transcription of that, which took about an hour. Then, I got Rawlson B512, which is an extremely important manuscript in early Irish studies. I could not believe when they just handed the book to me without giving me gloves. So I took it to my place on the table and put it on the foam book-holder. I was so scared that someone was going to come by and yell at me for handling the manuscript without gloves that I was constantly looking over my shoulder. First I had to count 116 pages through the manuscript before I could start my transcription. It took me about four hours to finish but it was worth it. Although, I must say that the computer scan of it is much better than seeing it in person. You can focus directly on the letters that you want to see and it becomes easier to distinguish.

After I finished with the manuscripts about 1 pm, my roommate and I wandered around the city, generally causing trouble and taking pictures, which you can see in my Flickr account. It was the hottest day in the UK and everyone was sweating it out on the streets. We stopped in an internet cafe for a bit to send emails. We, then, went out to eat. We got a chance to watch some TV in the room. A guilty pleasure here is the TV show Big Brother. It is a trashy show but everyone loves it here so I watched a bit.

The next day, I went back to the library to look at MS Ir. d. 5 again to take another transcription. I like doing it twice so I am sure of what I am looking at. Sometimes, another look can reveal more than a first time through. You start connecting the dots better. Fortunately, my text is pretty cut up and short and a previous famous scholar in my field left his notes on the manuscript and how they fit together in the folder with the fragments. That helped me understand how the text fit together. The second transcription went pretty quickly so I was done in about an hour.

We took more pictures and generally poked around the old town. It is amazing how much park land there is in such a small area. Again, it was really hot out. I was not looking forward to going on the London Underground so close after the terrorist attacks on the tube but I figured that it was going to be more safe now than before for at least a few days. That night I packed all my stuff for the next day so I was not in a rush.

We caught a cab from the hotel to the train station. We had a great conversation with a guy from Pakistan. He was telling us about how corrupt the government and the elites are in his country. He said that President Mushariff is eating the country with his entire body (it seems to be an expression in that part of the world). He said that they elites have multiple ferraris and porches but no roads to drive them on. It was interesting to get a view from someone who actually lived there rather than from some puffed up news reporter. He seems like a genuinely nice guy who did not want to have anything to do with terrorism or anything like that.

I caught my train at Noon. We were a bit late since they had two minutes of silence for all the victims of the bombings. The train on the other track had a scrolling marquee on the door that read "God Bless London". After that, I was on my way to London for an adventure that I did not want or see coming. My roommate returned to Edinburgh as I wanted to see a friend of mine in Lincolnshire.

I arrived at London Paddington Station. I had tickets for the Underground but I was not sure if the line that went to Kings Cross Station, was open or not yet. I asked an attendant. He said that it was not open but I could take the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus then change to the Victoria Line to Kings Cross Station. So I went down to the station and got on the Bakerloo line south. Now, the London Underground is done all in white. White tiles and everything else. It is quite eerie to be honest. It was also extremely hot since they do not have an air conditioning system down there, the air was nearly boiling.

The strangest thing that I saw was the efficientness of the passengers. Everyone took their seats like they were in church pews. Then they were silent as the deepest night. No one talked to anyone else as we watched each other warily. I do not think that anyone was truly scared of anyone else. It was just being quiet and watchful.

I arrived at Oxford Circus and departed the train. I then needed to figure out how to get to Kings Cross on the Victoria line. Well, I became lost while trying to find a map. There were adverts everywhere but not a darn map. I finally had to part a sea of backpacked tourists to the map and find out how to get there. Then it was up and down stairs while trying to miss running into people and keep your breath because it was so hot, it nearly sucked the breath from you.

I got on the Victoria Line train and waited to get to Kings Cross. At Euston Station, I heard someone get on the PA system when the doors started to close and say that they were not going to stop at Kings Cross. So I had to run and jump out of the doors with all my stuff while the doors were closing. I barely made it. Then I had a new problem. I had half an hour to figure out how to get from Euston Station to Kings Cross. I got lost again wandering around looking for someone to ask. I finally found someone but they were looking intently at this black suitcase. He said in a very stern voice just to go up stairs and ask. So I went up as quickly as I could because I was in no mood to find out what was in that suitcase. I asked another guy whom I saw at the ticket collection point. He said that I could go out and turn left and walk for eight minutes or catch the number 10 bus. I went up and out and decided that I did not want to walk around in a strange city so I went to the bus stops. Well, the London buses sell bus tickets through little machines that you put coins in before you get on the bus. It is required to buy your ticket before you get on. So I put my money in and got a ticket.

While I was waiting for the bus, I got increasingly nervous. There were hundreds of cops just standing around and I had no clue where I was going. I dislike these kinds of situations so I was getting more and more nervous as I was waiting. The cops across from me started to stare at me, which just made me worse. Thankfully, the bus arrived about that time so I got on and stood while waiting to get to Kings Cross.

I arrived at Kings Cross and saw the huge memorial which is in front of the main doors into the station. I got off the bus and went inside. It was pretty easy to find my train and it was blessedly air conditioned. The train pulled out of the station with no problems. The conductor could not understand my ticket but let me stay anyway (It was a pretty complicated ticket in the first place so I can understand).

The ride went smoothly until just before Peterborough. The train stopped a few minutes before going into the station because of a security alert in Newark. Oh the fun. I sat back down and waited it out. I ended up missing my connection to Spalding and I had to wait another hour for a train after my train finally was allowed to continue to Peterborough.

I think this post has been far too long as it is. I am going to tell you about my four days in Spalding in another post.

posted by Chris  #10:27 AM | 0 comments |