Yikes! It's been about a month since my last update! Fail! In my defense, I have been pretty busy. I had to start studying for exams not long after I returned from Berlin, then I spent a few days in London visiting my cousins, then back to Edinburgh for a week of more intense studying, then a week of exams, then my computer spent a week in the shop being fixed. But now that I am not besieged by exams and technical difficulties, or off on adventures, I can actually write about it all!
So first off, London!
I went down to London the weekend of Easter to see my cousins Norma, Geoff, and Sonia. Technically, I think they're my second cousins (I don't know what all that "once-removed" business means). Norma and Sonia are sisters, and they're my mom's first cousins (their mother and my mom's mother were sisters); Geoff is Norma's husband. It feels weird to talk about all these people in the third person, when I know some of them will be reading this, but I just wanted to clarify for non-family-members.
I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to buy my ticket, so by that time train tickets were quite expensive (though I'd also forgotten that that weekend was Easter, which probably added to the price), so I opted to take the bus, since it was half the cost. However, the bus ride was 10 hours. The bus ride wasn't miserable by any means, but man it was long.
Norma and Sonia met me at the bus station after my epic journey. I had seen Norma and Geoff at my grandma Gloria's birthday party a few years ago, but this was the first time I'd seen Sonia since my last visit to England, which was about 10 years ago.
Norma, Sonia, and I chatted on the Tube; Sonia got off at an earlier stop, and Norma and I continued on to Totteridge, where Geoff was waiting for us. After a pleasant ride with Norma and Geoff to their house, I was able to take a much-needed shower and meet their adorable cats, Honey and Ginger.
|Honey is the more reserved of the two, at least around me. It was hard to get a good picture of her before she decided I was getting too close and scampered away. She has the most amazing amber eyes, to which this photo does not do justice.|
|Ginger is Honey's more gregarious brother. He was very friendly and cuddly.|
|Regardless of how they felt about me, they were both extremely playful with each other. I have quite shots like this.|
|They're also very affectionate with each other.|
Ok, sorry, I'll stop with the cat pictures. They're just so cute that it's hard to resist!
Saturday, Norma and I went to the National Gallery. To my tremendous excitement, I discovered that the National Gallery houses two of the best-known works of one of my favorite artists, Jan van Eyck--the Arnolfini Portrait and Portrait of a Man (which may or may not be a self-portrait). I also came across Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, which was on the cover of my Art History textbook in high school. Unfortunately, they don't allow photography in the National Gallery, so I couldn't get a picture of myself flailing with excitement in front of the van Eyck paintings.
|Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?)|
|Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait|
After a look around the National Gallery, Norma and I met up with Sonia and Geoff to see a play--Flare Path by Terrence Rattigan. I don't think any description I can provide will really do justice to it, since so much time has elapsed, and Sonia's write-up was better than anything I would have written, so I'll just quote her here:
The action of Flare Path takes place in the residents’ lounge of the Falcon Hotel, in Lincolnshire, during a ‘weekend in Autumn’ 1941. The play mentions Germany of course, and Poland; Couldn’t imagine any sort of context for it for Emily, and couldn’t even remember whether Pearl Harbor was 1941 or ’42, but Emily did: 1941, she told me. Perhaps the action took place before America joined the war, since without checking, think Pearl Harbor was later in the year than setting, November or December. Either way, the play is a great weepie; the older man sitting next to me was unquestionably in tears, I too, and perhaps, didn’t check, Norma and Geoff.
There’s an introduction to it in the programme by Max Hastings, a noted (right-wing) historian, and rave reviews on the internet in The Telegraph. Hastings points out that Rattigan simply had not been able to write for a couple of years; his psychiatrist recommended ‘hard discipline’ and Rattigan joined the RAF, after which he was able to complete this play, drawn very much from experience. First time I ever heard of a shrink helping a blocked writer …
After walking around the city for a while, the four of us went to a very fancy French-Indian restaurant for dinner. The food was very tasty, and I got to order my first pre-dinner cocktail (I don't remember what it was, but it was something very pink and fruity), as well as an Irish coffee flambé.
|Me, Norma, Geoff, and Sonia|
|The waiter preparing my Irish coffee|
The next day, Norma, Sonia and I went to the Tate Modern. Once again, I couldn't take pictures inside the museum, but I found this video about one of my favorite pieces that I saw:
That evening, I went to visit another cousin, Susu (the daughter of another first cousin of my mom and Norma and Sonia) and her partner, Vic, to watch a program on TV about the Busby Babes and the Munich air disaster, starring David Tennant. Susu's aunt (and cousin of my mom, Norma, and Sonia) was married to Dennis Viollet, one of the players who survived the crash (though there didn't seem to be any mention of him in the program).
The next morning, Norma and Sonia saw me off at the bus station. They had each packed me a lunch, so I was very well fed on the 10-hour bus ride home. I had a great time in London, and everyone was so generous and hospitable and fun. I had hoped to take another trip back before leaving, but unfortunately I wasn't able to make it work.
Once I returned to Edinburgh, I had a week of intense studying for exams. There were lots of long days (and nights) spent in the library. I did, however, take a break from studying to go to the Beltane Fire Festival.
The Beltane Fire Festival is a sort of Gaelic-influenced ritual drama involving fire and dancing, and takes place at night on Calton Hill, every year on April 30. There's a whole elaborate sequence of rituals with mythological significance (which you can read about here) but I mostly went for the visual spectacle, figuring I'd be able to take some awesome pictures. Tragically, my camera battery died the second I arrived, but you can see some pretty neat pictures that other people took on Flickr here.
The following week, I had my exams. They seemed to go okay, but I don't want to jinx myself. My laptop had also chosen this time to stop working properly, so once I finished my exams, I spent a week off the grid, while my computer was in the shop being repaired.
Not long after that, my flatmates finished their exams, and much post-exam celebrating ensued.
Right now, I'm at the point between post-exam partying and freaking out because I'M LEAVING THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. GAAAAAHHHH. Seriously, how did the semester go by so fast.
Anyway, this post has gone on so long already that I'll save my thoughts on leaving Edinburgh for another post, later tonight or tomorrow.