The week was, however, really good and, if I arriving knowing very little, I left feeling a lot more knowledgeable and with the concern that I really must read every book in the world before the middle of September.
We started the Summer School on 9 July (my birthday, thank you for the messages) and T and I stayed over-night at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury which was nice. The school started with a welcome address and reading from Simon Armitage and then thanks to those providing bursaries. They needed names for the bursaries so some are called after characters from Cats - how wonderful to have the Old Possum Busary!! Then it was time for a reception at which I stood looking stupid and lonely on the side until a very nice lady came & rescued me! Back to meet T and birthday dinner at Carluccio's which was delicious and incredibly reasonable - highly recommended.
The reason for staying over was a 9 a.m. start for our excursion to Little Gidding in Cambridgeshire. Eliot writes a poem about Little Gidding in Four Quartets and this provided us with the excuse to look around, hear Simon Armitage read the poem and listen to a lecture from a Harvard professor. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, it was beautiful whilst we walked around and then poured down whilst we were inside the marquee. I cannot describe to you just how beautiful this little hamlet is. Eliot talks about 'unattended moments' of spirituality and it is really easy to understand how he could have felt like this in a place that is so quintessentially English:
Here the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.
He was writing this in 1942, in the middle of the war, so it is easy to imagine just how afraid he might have been that this England would be destroyed. I have some photos to share with you of the church at Little Gidding and the countryside:
We had an incredibly busy week including 2 lectures every morning, a seminar each afternoon and some evening activities. On Monday night we went to an art gallery just off Regent Street to see artists' responses to the Four Quartets (I didn't buy anything) and on Friday night we went to a reception at The London Library to listen to the poet Craig Raines and to have a look around. This was a bit difficult for me because I would love to be a member but it's a subscription library and the fee is over £400 a year which is a lot for a prospective student. I will try and apply for one of their Carlyle memberships in the autumn which allows for reduced fees for the deserving (hmmm - not sure I count on that score).
The final evening event I (sort of) participated in was a walk around the City. Eliot used to work for Lloyds Bank in Cornhill and included the 'unreal City' and the people who 'flowed over London Bridge' in The Waste Land. I attended the first part of the walk including going inside St Magnus Martyr (which is in Lower Thames Street) and is an amazing church, very 'high'! Did you know that at one time there was a chapel to St Thomas a Beckett standing in the middle of the Thames? St Magnus has a relic of St Thomas and a few days before had taken it onto the centre of London Bridge to venerate it. I must say there is a whole world out there that you just don't see shut up in an office. We went down to the Thames level, some people right down to the river itself but then we were too close to London Bridge station for me to fancy walking up to the Royal Exchange again so I ducked out there. I had walked past St Magnus almost every weekday evening for at least 11 years and never thought about going in - shame on me!
I finished the Summer School with another excursion yesterday. We went to Burnt Norton, another place naming a poem in Four Quartets. This was even more beautiful than Little Gidding and whilst it took us three hours each way it was most definitely worth it. We were even luckier with the weather, the heavens opened whilst we were on the motorway but whilst we were eating our picnic lunches and taking our walk around the estate it was glorious sunshine. Our walk, as a friend from the school (and an extremely wise & well-read lady) pointed out, was like something out of Mansfield Park as we split into small groups of two and three on a rotational basis having the most pleasant and pleasurable conversation and, even if no-one fell in love with a man of large fortune, it was still a wonderful way to spend an hour. We had another poetry reading and lecture about the poem but I think the high point was when the owner, the Countess of Harrowby, told us the story of Burnt Norton. As you might expect there was a woman & money involved, but I shan't tell you more as she is hoping to have the story published next year and this way you may be tempted to buy - it is a great story!
So, as you would expect, a few photographs from Burnt Norton:
|Just like something from Mansfield Park|