[personal profile] marieldraconis
My trip to London

For those who are interested in a blow-by-blow of the situation in England right now, read below. If not, the summary is: lots and lots of flooding.

July 11th: The Flight In
I love British Airways. The food is good, and I’ve always found it more comfortable than American Airlines. Joe and I arrived in London at 8 pm local time (3 pm home time), and so after checking into the hostel we had dinner and went to the local movie theater. Unfortunately, in London the latest movies end at 10 pm. This may or may not be connected to the shows starting at 7 or 8 pm, but in any case, we returned to the hostel after a leisurely meal.

July 12th: The Day of Foot Blisters
We spent most of the morning in Kensington Gardens. A hint for travelers: if you’re looking for breakfast places, there aren’t any restaurants around the gardens but there is at least one in the gardens. Sites to see include a spectacular fountain, an obelisk memorial to Speke (discovered the source of the Nile, then died in a mysterious hunting accident shortly before presenting a paper to the Royal Geographic Society), a statue of Queen Victoria, and the grounds themselves, which are quite lovely. There was an abundance of dogs with their owners.
I have come to the conclusion that London pigeons are lazy and need more exercise. Over the course of the day I took to spooking them to ensure that they remembered how to fly. I had to stop when my feet got too sore from blisters. I was wearing my hiking boots, which turned out to be a bad idea for traipsing across London.
We exited the gardens by the Prince Albert memorial, which Joe’s guidebook claimed was an example of the Victorian era’s unusual sense of aesthetic. By unusual, I mean gaudy—gold plating, black and white marble, and taller than a three-story building.
We had to change hostel rooms, so we went back to the hostel to do so, then to the movie theater to purchase tickets for Order of the Phoenix. Then we went to Regent’s Park and the zoo.
Several Madame Toussaud’s statues are scattered throughout Regent’s Park, presumably because the wax museum is nearby. We intended to go to the museum but didn’t have any time after seeing the zoo. Does anyone know what the evolutionary origins of the okapi are? They sort of look like a cross between giraffes and zebras. We discovered that in England, African wild dogs are called African hunting dogs. I dragged Joe through the semi-notorious Reptile house, and we also saw several baby Komodo dragons. The zoo’s adult female Komodo had one litter (clutch?) of eggs through sexual reproduction, then had several more the next year through parthogenesis (without requiring a male). Thus, it was through the London specimen that scientists discovered Komodo dragons are capable of both asexual and sexual reproduction. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the older Komodo. She must have been inside for the day. It also turns out that the bite of a Komodo dragon is deadly but not poisonous. They store rotting bits of their meals behind their teeth, which cause bite wounds to turn septic.
We went to see the dragons after the elaborate “Gorilla Kingdom” exhibit. First the gorilla exhibit took visitors through a hands-on demonstration of knuckle-walking, signs of gorilla activity, and nest-making. Then we arrived at the gorillas. The silverback came up to the glass window, then charged up and beat on it three times while we were watching. The visitors were spooked. With all of this, it’s no surprise that we didn’t have time to see Madame Toussaud’s. Instead, we did a paddleboat ride before heading back for dinner and the movie.
The movie...has some serious plot problems. It sacrifices nearly all continuity, conflict, and character development for the sake of including all the plot points. And then it misses out on one of the key plot points! It’s obvious from the use of Levicorpus that someone’s read HBP, so why don’t they even mention Sirius’s little brother? From HBP it’s almost definite that Regulus is important! That said, I’m going to have to see it one more time, in hopes of redeeming deleted scenes but mostly so that I can see Sirius deck Lucius Malfoy again. And don’t even get me started on the problems with the fight scene (and I liked that part).
Also discovered that I can’t carry two sodas and popcorn and ensure that objects stay in my pockets, so I’m not going to do that again. That was far too much stress for one evening.
Final discovery of the day: I like hard apple cider. I think I like it because cider alone is too sweet for me. I normally don’t like the taste of alcohol, either, but the two in combination cancel out the negatives.

July 13th: Last Night Under a Roof
We left early on Friday the thirteenth to catch a train from London to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Our goal, if possible, was to get tickets for Macbeth in the returns line later that evening. It’s not that I don’t believe in bad luck, but I was willing to risk it to see what would happen.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get our tickets, but we found Shakespeare’s grave and made a donation to the church in which it lies. We also found a really cool flower garden which contained riddle-statues. The front of each statue contained images from a play, and the back had a sonnet, its speaker, and the play’s name. We played a guessing-game, trying to figure out the play from the images. The garden also had a memorial to Shakespeare, a statue containing the Bard, two presumed Muses, and the inscription: “He was a man, take him for all in all/ I shall not look upon his like again,” which I found entirely appropriate. Is there something in the water in England that produces so many good writers? Or is it, as Joe claims, the rain?
It rained every day except two out of the three weeks I was there, and five of the days I was on-site it rained too hard for excavation to continue. But they told us that this was an unusually wet summer. My excavation site was in Norfolk, in what is normally the driest part of England, and Tewkesbury abbey in Gloucestershire flooded for the first time in 700 years.
I took advantage of staying in a hotel to have my last bath before the end of the trip—hostels and the campsite where I was going would only have showers.

July 14th: Journey to Sedgeford
I nearly missed the train to Sedgeford. The ticket machines at King’s Cross wouldn’t accept my credit card, so I had to stand in the ticket line, and I think I had three minutes to go when I finally got my ticket. The train was leaving from platform 9b, about halfway down the station from where I was, so I had to run. This isn’t easy when carrying a tote as big as I was, plus two more bags, but I made it. Of course, upon my arrival, I realize that if I’d taken the next train, I would have arrived on time to catch a ride from King’s Lynn train station to SHARP (Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project)’s dig site.
The reason we were so late is that I misread the train schedules, and assumed that a train left Stratford far earlier than it did. If it had, I would have had plenty of time to make my intended train, which may have been why I was unaware that the next one would arrive on time.
After setting up my tent (the tent stakes bit me!), we had a general meeting to discuss procedure on-site, followed by a site tour. I thought this meant that they’d take us around the site and discuss what they were up to, but no. Apparently, “site tour” covers the site and any interesting parts of Sedgeford. To show you the size of the town, buildings of interest were the King William Pub and the church. There was also the new town hall and the old town hall (the latter being where we keep the bodies), and I think everything else was houses. Maybe the town has a school, but even the ever-present phone booths were missing and the town hasn’t had a post office since the person who ran it killed himself last year.
The tour itself included the pub, the church, and:
1) Old Trench and New Trench (collectively, the Boneyard), which covered the parts of the graveyard we were actually excavating. Our site’s research question was studying the lifestyles of the residents of the parish back to prehistoric times, so they’ve decided to stop excavating the graveyard for now. When I was doing excavation, we were working on clearing the abandonment layer between early Saxon occupation and Roman occupation
2) A glimpse of the other trenches on top of the hill. We were in a valley owned by a local farmer/landowner who was nice enough to let the SHARP people work here for twelve seasons now.
3) West Hall, where they’ve started doing some excavation because the owners are going to remodel part of the place.
4) The place where they think, based on test pits, that the d’Sedgeford’s hall was. As you may be able to tell, SHARP has been getting permission to excavate all over the town.
In this entry, I’ll place a lot of emphasis on how tiny Sedgeford was, but it’s also really beautiful. On the way in, we saw the lavender fields, and you can’t believe how gorgeous those are until you see them.

Next time: I might add in some pictures, and I’ll talk about Ray and George Two, the skeletons. Or I might post some of a story. We’ll see.
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