Today I would like to have a break from work and tell you about my first free days in London. It all started like a normal working day. I was supposed to work in my computer and wait for Pam to call me, as we had things to discuss about the conference Remembering Yesterday Caring Today, which is going to take place in London in June 2014. I expected to spend the day discussing papers and figures, but Pam suggested that we go to the University of Greenwich, and see the venue where the conference will take place.
It was a wonderful autumn day; the sun was shining and the mild temperature kept our spirits up. We took a walk across Greenwich Park, past the Royal Observatory and the meridian towards the university. Greenwich Park is one of the biggest green spaces in London. It's on a hill and from its top you can see the Royal Naval College and London's new skyline, so different from the one I remembered from twenty years ago, when I studied at the Polytechnic of Central London. Now, apart from the Canary Wharf you can see the new skyscrapers such as Norman Forster's Gherkin, or Renzo Piano's Shard.
As we walked, we discussed how to solve a problem related to the Reminiscence Archive. One of the plays we are cataloguing at the moment, Can we afford the doctor?, has missing material: the transcripts of thirty interviews with older people about what it was like to be ill in the 1920s and 1930s, before the creation of the National Health Service after the Second World War, have disappeared. Each recording, made in the 1980s, is about one hour long, so you can imagine the amount of work it might entail to transcribe all of them. We needed volunteers, and we wondered where we could find them.
When we arrived at the university I was impressed by the beauty of the buildings, all by Christopher Wren. We entered King Williams Court, one of the buildings, as Pam wanted to show me one of the lecture halls where the conference will take place. We got to the third floor to find out that there was a class in progress in that room. I looked through one of the little windows on the door and saw the professor at the bottom, in front of a powerpoint presentation that read: What is volunteering? Pam opened the door a little bit, and of course, the students next to the door moved their heads towards us. In that moment the professor asked: Has anybody worked as a volunteer? Only five or six arms were raised. We could find some volunteers here _ I whispered to Pam. It's worth giving it a try _she said. In that moment, Pam entered the hall saying out loud: Excuse me for interrupting this class, but I happened to hear that you are talking about volunteering and I am here to offer you the possibility of working as volunteers for the Reminiscence Theatre Archive. She gave such a great performance that we managed to get twenty volunteers!! This is what makes Pam Schweitzer so great.
Later on, Pam took me to the amazing dining hall and chapel of the Royal Naval College and we were so lucky that there was a free harpsichord concert by an amazingly talented Japanese performer. Nothing could improve this day: we had sunshine, art, music, we had found the volunteers... And we almost saw the Duke of Edinburgh renaming an ancient ship that had been brought from Scotland and was going to travel all the way to Australia to be repaired. This time Pam didn't manage to convince the security guards to let us in, but she almost did.
That evening we attended the opening of an exhibition of our friend Phil's paintings.
It was a very lively event, full of family, friends and people interested in his art. In the picture you can see me talking to baby Layla and her dad.
The next day, Lorenzo and me decided to become tourists and took a bus to central London, mixing ourselves with the hundreds of Spanish and Italian tourists who visit the area camera in hand.
We saw the horse guard (with two boys marching behind the soldier, as you can see in the picture), a demonstration in Trafalgar Square against the cast system (notice how the protesters are contained by a white ribbon that is moved by the police as they walk on), and a noisy walk in Covent Garden.
We ended up in Green Park, where we sat on a bench eating our sandwiches and witnessed how an English couple had a monumental row. I thought they were two actors rehearsing but no, it was real. Finally they stormed in opposite directions. Viva el amor.Sue, our landlady, has lent us a book called Quiet London, a guide to hidden places where you can find tranquility. I think we'll try one of these next weekend.