Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Zoo! Sun! Warm!

August 17

Even though this is my fifth trip to London and even though I often go back to places I've been before (British Museum, Tate Britain Museum, Westminster Abbey), there are still so many things to see and do that this trip already has a number of firsts: today's firsts were Abbey Road and the London Zoo. I was on my way to the zoo when it occurred to me that my route might take me not terribly far from the Abbey Road studios where the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and so many other musicians have recorded. Well, it was a bit farther than I would've preferred but still in the same general vicinity. One of the outside walls has all sorts of messages written on it from visitors, and there is a shop which sells Abbey Road-related materials to tourists. Remarkably for a tourist shop, they charge less for Beatles CDs than HMV does! They carry some vinyl LPs as well as CDs, and it was fun to see Cream's Disraeli Gears there. Among the various items are coasters and blank books--appropriately decorated, of course--and even a variety of art prints reflecting the studios' history and available only there. LPs cost more than CDs, as in the US, and the box set of the Beatles albums in mono instead of stereo will run you 288 pounds! And of course outside is the street crossing where the Beatles photographed the cover of their Abbey Road album 47 years ago.

Walking from Abbey Road to the zoo I passed through the part of London called St John's Wood, which looks pretty tony. The zoo itself is in Regent's Park, sort of on the northeast corner, and even after I reached the park, coming in from the northwest, I thought I was walking forever to get to the zoo entrance. Wow! It's been a long time since I've gone to a zoo, I guess: the entrance fee was 28 pounds, 10 cents--twice what it costs a "senior" to get in Kew Gardens, close to twice what it cost me to get into St. Paul's. I guess animals cost more to maintain than trees and flowers! It was cool to see some of the really big fish in the aquarium--not shark big, you understand, but big enough to feed a whole family--and the various kinds of coral in some of the tanks are cool to watch as they move their branches in the water. Perhaps the most interesting thing to me in the reptile and amphibian house was a bright blue frog from the tropics. They also had a couple of rattlesnakes and even a black mamba--so named because the inside of its mouth is black, not its body. I hadn't known that!

The squirrel monkeys are also fun to watch, and my mother and my sisters will be pleased to know that one of the gorillas is named Effie and enjoys chasing pigeons. I don't know if I saw her or not. They all look like gorillas to me.

The tiger was sitting on top of some big wooden structure underneath a concrete walkway, so it was hard to see much, but the lions were lying out in the shade, one in the sort of resting but awake pose you expect, the other two asleep on their sides, sort of cuddling, one of them with its head thrown back and it's neck exposed.

There were a number of bright blue and yellow macaws, and an interesting bird called a turaco (do I remember that right?), which had no trouble eating with spectators watching.

In the midst of all this wandering, I had a little lunch of tuna (which I brought with me), a croissant from Pret-a-Manger in St John's Wood, and water, while I sat out in the shade, and then topped it off with a cup of green tea from the nearby zoo restaurant. I did a couple of drawings while in the restaurant, and I'll post those at Facebook and Flickr.

After leaving the zoo, I went south through Regent's Park toward Marylebone Road, stopping at one point to do a little sketch inspired by an old guy I saw off to one side spraying deodorant into his armpits. I guess he'd been running?

Just south of the park is St Marylebone church, just a smidge under two hundred years old, but right next to where a church was first built in 1400 and rebuilt over three hundred years later. That church became a chapel when the "new" church was built, and then was damaged in World War Two and torn down a few years later. One of the notable people buried there was Charles Wesley, brother of John and himself a preacher and poet. And according to a plaque in the churchyard Lord Byron was baptized there. (Some of you will wonder if it did any good.)

I made my way on south down Marylebone High Street, thinking surely I'd spot a good place for tea and a snack, but the only place I spotted was a tiny Pret with inadequate seating so I marched on. The High Street looks like a pretty snooty place to shop so maybe that was the problem! I ended up with tea and cookies at Costa Coffee on Wigmore Street, followed very shortly by jacket potato and apple at M&S, even though it was only a little after three.

My later afternoon was a sequence of bookstores, though I bought nothing. Sotheran's, which I'd been told to visit, is an antiquarian/collectible store just off Piccadilly. Some cool pricy stuff in there. And just a block or so away on Piccadilly is Hatchard's, which dates back to 1797 and is, I'm told, the oldest bookstore in the city--I don't know if it's the original location. Mostly new books, but they too had some collectible used books, none of which I had to have. And not far away, at 50 Albemarle Street, is the office of John Murray, a publisher dating back more than two centuries, which issued a number of Byron's books, for example. Apparently the Murrays (a long sequence of Johns, I gather) are still around, though the company is now part of a conglomerate. Nevertheless it claims to be England's oldest publisher.

By this time I was tired and ready to go back to the hotel. I've said any number of times that, someday, all my joints are going to snap at once when I'm on a walk and I'll collapse on the sidewalk and bleed to death internally before the EMTs reach me. I think that may happen on this trip! And if it doesn't, I think my hands may finally freeze up entirely. On the other hand, today was the third lovely day of this trip, and I think the warmest. I saw a sign at 5 o'clock which read 25 degrees (i.e. 77 Fahrenheit), so it's possible that, an hour or two earlier, we actually nipped up to 80. Wow.

And now I'll close with Renner's fashion tips, which I know you've been waiting for:

For women and men both: The more time you spend trying to look cool, the less time you have for being cool.

For women: Your feet are more important than your height--don't wear heels!
   : You are lovely enough without makeup.

For men: You look silly in flipflops.
   : Keep your beard and the hair on your head no longer than your body hair, and it will look like you have a matching set of fur.


drtee said...

I agree with your fashion tips. I still haven't been to Abbey Road. If you take one of the canal boats, you go under the zoo's aviary, which is pretty cool. John Murray was kind of an ass, but I imagine Byron wasn't that easy to work with. The person on the title page (author and publisher) could be charged with sedition or whatever, so Byron went anonymous. Everyone knew who it was, of course.

Cooper Renner said...

I don't know which Murray it is nowadays, the seventh or eighth, at least, I'd guess. Wiki will probably tell me.

Byron sometimes jumped ship from Murray, but did a lot of books with him, and both of them made money. I think Byron hit him up for cash frequently.

Oddly enough I didn't see any of the boats when I crossed over the canal at Regent's.

This was my only time to go to Abbey Road, and I hadn't known there was a store there, but obviously it makes sense!