Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A day out in London

What a day! Lots accomplished and lots experienced. I ventured into the city today, armed with my Oystercard, heading Overground to Waterloo, and then descended into the entrails of London, also known as The Underground (aka ‘the Tube’). Fortunately I had had a few trial runs at this on previous visits, and made my way unerringly to Bloomsbury. I staved off getting lost by memorising my route and muttering to myself ‘Northern Line, Northern Tottenham Court Road’ then ‘Central Line, Central Holborn’.

My main goal was to view a number of apartments. One was over a Japanese restaurant, one block from the British Museum. Another was in a divine little Georgian Crescent which had been spared the bombs of WWII. However, I can report that Georgian can be very attractive on the outside and very decrepit on the inside. I sent Pandora a postcard of a red London bus, and checked out one of the cycle 'docking stations', where you can pick up a bicycle and ride it to the next 'dock' and drop it off. The first half hour is free, and 24 hours costs 5 pounds. And no one wears helmets. This could be cool.

I lunched in a square behind The London Review of Books Bookshop(bangers & mash), then shopped for a Philosophy text - by A C Grayling:  Grayling is Birkbeck’s ‘celebrity’ philosopher. As chance would have it, I noticed his name on a poster advertising a debate tonight, run by something called The South Place Ethical Society. What an interesting-looking institution:

South Place Ethical Society was a progressive movement founded over two centuries ago. Today the Society is an educational charity whose aims are:
  • The study and dissemination of ethical principles based on humanism and freethought;
  • The cultivation of a rational and humane way of life;
  • The advancement of research and education in all relevant fields.
The subject of tonight’s debate was “that the Pope’s visit to the UK should not be a state visit”. It seems that the Pope is turning up here in about two weeks’ time, and views on the subject differ. I felt very tired by the end of the day, but couldn’t pass up this opportunity. At half past six in the evening on a Wednesday about 400 people crowded into Conway Hall on Red Lion Square, where the motto over the stage is "TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE", and listened to a very lively debate; the liveliness of which was only exceeded by the outright furore that erupted once the microphones were given over to the audience. All the foibles and failings of Catholicism in general and Pope Ratzinger in particular were debated with vigour. The ‘humanists’ did not have it all their own way. A very feisty Franciscan monk, in full black robe, did a bit of shouting of his own. Someone had the temerity to question Professor Grayling’s grasp of logic (!) but was soon put in his place (I thought). I had a wonderful time.

Humanists and Catholics go head to head in Bloomsbury

During the day I also managed to visit Birkbeck College itself and do a few administrative tasks. I identified the location of the Philosophy Department, so that is next on my list for a visit.

But of course I have saved the big news for last – I found an apartment I like very much, and have applied to rent it! I’ll put some pictures in a separate post. *very excited!*

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