Sunday, July 24, 2011

sensory sunday

I went to church this morning - the Mormon kind - though it was the singles ward. I feel weird going to the singles ward, for obvious reasons, but the family ward didn't start until 1, and I got stuff to do. Anyway, I was only there for sacrament meeting and there isn't any kind of pre-marital checkpoint before you can get in, so it was fine. Oddly, nobody mentioned pioneers or sang any pioneer hymns. On the 24th of July. Is that just a Utah thing?

We went to church twice today. The second time was at St. Augustine's Church, which is just around the corner from our flats. Some of the students had never been to a non-LDS service, and I heard the bells ringing and smelled the incense, so we went right in. There was a small four person choir who sounded like twenty people - they sang a Mozart mass and it was really beautiful. The church had more people in it than I expected, and the pastor gave a really nice sermon about understanding your calling. He probably wouldn't understand my calling, but most people don't. So two church services, and both inspiring in different ways.

We walked to Hyde Park afterwards and had tea in the Kensington Orangery. It's sort of a Sunday tradition, though we're not huge tea drinkers. You go to the Orangery mostly for ambiance. The food is good but not great, and the service is slow. But it feels like an age gone by, and it somehow manages to be refined and relaxed at the same time. I once went there alone and read an entire newspaper. I had a nice chicken breast which, sadly, had been topped with anchovy skins. NOT ON THE MENU

On our way there we looked at Diana's sunken gardens (NOT A EUPHEMISM) and several schoolchildren had written their wishes down on paper and hung them inside these red glass balls. It was really cool. Some of them were funny, and some of them were kind of poignant. I liked this one:

It reminded me of another little girl who wants to be a cat:

After lunch Zoe, Casey, Dan, Heather and I went to the Dennis Severs house in the old city. This place was pretty incredible. It's an old house - a few hundred years - and it's about 6 stories tall. The idea of the Severs House is that it's a full sensory experience. Every room is decorated in a historical style - it's sort of a time capsule - but it's supposed to feel lived in. The idea is that the family just left the room as you entered - so candles are lit, food is on the table, and beds are messy. Things have been dropped on the floor, and a cat is prowling around. You hear voices talking in the next room and carriages outside, but you never see them. And rooms smell like firewood or coal or oil or any number of things. And you aren't allowed to talk inside at all. You walk around in silence and listen. It's really amazing. I loved it. It's the closest you will ever get to living in the past.

We stopped so we could rest, and talk, at the Water Poet pub. It's right across from the Severs House, but is far more lively, obviously. We had diet cokes and then headed further into Hoxton to find Ryantown, a cool little shop where artist Rob Ryan hand makes these cool cut prints:

After this we were tired of walking, and tired of markets, and tired of the city, so we went to Hampstead. I spent a Sunday in Hampstead last year, and it was maybe my favorite thing I did last year. This year I had company and I was excited to show it off a little. The first thing you notice about Hampstead is how quiet it is. You forget, in London, that life exists without the constant noise of the city. We had dinner at Pizza Express - we sat by an open window and that was awesome. It was a warm day, but then evening hit and everything was kind of perfect. We walked through town - the most amazing little houses here - and into the Heath. I turned on some Bon Iver and had a great little nap in the middle of the park until Daniel's dive-bomb woke me up and scared the crap out of me.
And then the sun went down and we explored the Vale of Health, and just took time to enjoy the quiet. It was just what we all needed. That, and some fries from McDonald's! Not going to lie about that. Thanks, Hampstead McDonalds for being just the perfect crispy and salty!!