End of Term

The end of my first term here has come and gone, and I’ve barely written here about what it is I’m actually doing.

So! Conservation. Being back in school has been strange, especially since my first master’s degree was such a joke and required almost no work at all. The course here requires a fair bit of self-guidance. We’re told to read, but not what to read, so it’s in some ways a choose your own adventure course. But I feel like I’ve learned a lot so far! Towards the beginning of the term, we all picked a few items out of a big collection the school has hanging around. We didn’t quite realize it at that point, but I guess the items we picked up then will be with us for a while yet. Anytime we learn a new treatment, technique, etc., we try it out on these items. We’ve worked with various other scraps of text blocks too, things we’re completely free to mess up and destroy. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve all got pieces from an activist’s archive. They wanted some stuff worked on, so we’re helping out with that. A little nerve-wracking to work with actual things, but we can take a long time to do it, and some of the stuff might not require a whole lot of scary work.

We’ve mostly learned about cleaning, humidifying, and washing so far. We’ve also done a lot of examination/identification/documentation. Instead of going into any kind of detail that will make no sense, here are some pictures of things!

First up, a bit of examination type things and some mechanical surface cleaning…

Then we moved on to humidification and washing…

And here is a bit of a print I was working on. It had a gross backing on it, and after a bit of washing, the adhesive loosened enough for me to get it off. But then, because adhesive had been entirely covering the back (the verso) of the print, there was still all kinds of gross residue. So I had to spend some time scraping away at that, and when that didn’t completely work, I had to apply a poultice to the adhesive areas, which sort of activated the adhesive again and allowed me to scrape it off a bit more. A little gross looking, and sort of tedious, but pretty satisfying once it was done.

We have class Monday-Wednesday, and towards the end of the term, we were given work placements. Along with five others (spread over two days), I go over to University College London one day a week to work in their conservation space. We do pretty much whatever they need us to do. Surface cleaning, small repairs, making some boxes, whatever they have. It’s been really nice going there and just being sort of thrown in the mix, working on various things. If it’s something we haven’t covered in class, someone will give us a quick lesson on what we need to do and then let us loose. Which can be a little bit scary! These are real things we’re working on! Not just some random objects from a dusty old collection. We were allowed to take pictures of things for our technical logs for class, but we can’t go around showing the fancy things we’re working on over the internet. But I made this box, and I see no reason why I can’t show you that.

There is also science, which is sad for me, but it’s only once a week so it’s not terrible. I was doing well for a little while! I understood things. Then somewhere things took a turn and I got lost and I really need to spend some time over the break doing a bit of revision, as they say here. We also have preservation management classes, which is a bit of a snooze at times, but still important. Learning about regulations and such. But part of that class is going on visits to museums and archives, which has been great. We’ve been to three so far, and it’s fun to see different conservation labs and learn about how different institutions deal with problems. Also, London Metropolitan Archive has a fancy box making machine like they do at LOC, and the guy there gave us nifty souvenir boxes to keep. That may not sound exciting, but IT IS.

So, that’s school. Otherwise, I’ve been working at the fancy new JCC in north London. It’s ok. I don’t work very much, just usher for cinema and arts events whenever they have shifts open. It’s pretty disorganized? Sometimes it’s fun, but sometimes the events are boring, and other times they mess things up and people (customers) yell at you. It’d be nice to find some other place to work? That is maybe more regular? The other ushers I generally work with are nice, though! And the pay is pretty good for what it is. Not much to tell you on that front, really. It’s work. I dunno, still looking around.

I spent today at the library trying to wrap my mind around some science and figure out what I’m going to write about for an essay we have due in January. Was mildly successful on both points, but I’ve still got a ways to go. I’ve been spending time doing some touristy things, and my sister gets in on Sunday for a week and a bit of fun. Back to class before you know it! Oh noooo….

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Theatregoing

A note on theatre things, because it is fresh in my mind.

I like seeing plays! Often, theatre cheers me up. It’s been a thing I’ve loved since I was a little kid, heading into the city every year with my family around Christmas, to see the lights and a show. Sometimes I get a little silly with it and use it as a reward. Sometimes it is themed. As in, I went to see The History Boys on Broadway the day I finished a British Lit exam. It’s a thing I don’t mind doing alone, since it’s not a social occasion.

I haven’t really seen that much theatre in London so far. I saw a Propeller show in Guildford, The Drowned Man, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. In like 3 months! That’s ALL. 😦 😦 😦

When I was here in 2007, I remember theatre being incredibly accessible, especially for students. There used to be student standby tickets, where you could turn up at a theatre maybe an hour or two before curtain, and if there were unsold tickets, you’d flash your student ID and the box office would sell them to you cheap. I’m not sure if this is still common practice, but I get the sense that it isn’t. Though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go around asking at theatres. Day tickets seem to be the more popular thing–what we’d call rush. Getting to the theatre when the box office opens for a cheap seat. I like that theatres do this, but for more popular shows, it can mean having to line up at 6am or something ridiculous, for a box office that opens at 10am. It’s upsetting to see practices here getting more and more like Broadway, because let’s face it, unless you’ve got money, Broadway is becoming almost impossible. I don’t think top ticket prices are quite as bad here–at least at the Barbican the most expensive seat for Richard II was £55. Some theatres do have cheap seats–the National has £12 tickets available for all their shows, though you have to book pretty early to snag one. Other places have concessions available, which, as a full-time student, I qualify for. I got tickets for American Psycho at the Almeida and was able to pick some good seats for the £16 concessions rate. So there is still hope!

I’ve been trying to get to more theatre, though. Last week I randomly decided to day ticket at the National. I wound up seeing From Morning to Midnight. I will pretty much see anything the National puts on (and, excitingly, there are a bunch of things coming up there that I really want to see), and this had the added bonus of featuring a few actors I knew and liked (Adam Godley, Gina Bellman, Jack Tarlton). The staging was beautiful, really inventive. The first act was fast paced and funny. Second act got weeeeeeeird. But was still fun to look at. And for the Lyttleton at the National, day tickets are in the front row. Fun!

Last night, I went to see Richard II at the Barbican. A few things to know:
-The Barbican is a massive arts complex that has theatres, a concert hall, cinemas, an art gallery, a library, restaurants, etc. etc. etc. In 2007, I saw 2 shows there, and we made jokes about how everything was in the Barbican–a roller coaster, a petting zoo, barber shop. We thought it was funny. Anyway, I LOVE the Barbican.
-David Tennant is starring in Richard II. In case you didn’t know. I, uh, sort of like David Tennant? I mean, he’s ok, whatever. Totally not one of my fake TV boyfriends or anything.
-Tickets for this went on sale back in March, I think. As I had a job at that point, I bought myself a fancy third row seat for a random night in January. I then freaked the hell out, since I didn’t know what my class/life schedule was going to be like and OH NO WHAT IF I HAVE CLASS/SOMETHING IMPORTANT I CAN’T SKIP so I bought another, cheaper, ticket.

I have no familiarity with Richard II, so I can’t give you a review on whether this was a good adaptation or if they were true to the text or if they completely screwed things up or what. I can’t really give you any kind of review, I’ve come to learn I’m pretty bad at that. I can tell you, however, that I enjoyed it. I can further tell you that David Tennant’s hair, from where I was sitting, was not as horrifying as I thought it was going to be (he has some pretty silly extensions). I have heard criticism of him in general, that he can sometimes overact and plays roles the same. I think that criticism is shit. I might be a tad biased, but I thought he was GOOD and unlike other roles. Also, Oliver Ford Davies and Oliver Rix, man. Sign me up for the York family.

I’m glad I get to see it again, and much closer. The Barbican’s theatre is freaking HUGE. I wasn’t even in the highest section and damn, it was far. Also the woman to my left was a loud breather (sounded like she was snoring the whole time), and the group of girls to my right were a bunch of giggling NYU in London students (ugh, we were that awful at one point…). At the interval, I heard them talking about NYU London and I was like “I went to NYU!!! I studied in London, yay!!” and got a whoooole bunch of blank stares. Oh, NYU. The worst.

I thought about joining the horde at the stage door, even though I hate hate hate stage dooring. I don’t have anything to say to actor people, and I don’t care at all about getting a program signed. I’d go for a picture, maybe. My seat was quite close to the exit, and that exit was right next to the Silk St. exit, where the theatre stage door is. I was probably one of the first people out of the Barbican, but when I looked over to the stage door, there was already a crowd waiting. Which means a bunch of people just showed up for the stage door, not having seen the show. I sort of expected that, but it was still annoying. So I went home. And was actually really sad? Did not expect that. I know other people going other days, so I might go be a jerk and meet them after the show/get a spot at the stage door. I normally wouldn’t, but…it’s David Tennant, y’all.

I’ve gone on far too long here, but one other thing!

Over my theatregoing years, I’ve been able to see a number of fancy actor people on stage. I’m almost always disappointed when it comes time for curtain call. I don’t know who these SUPER IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS actors think they are, really, but they never seem that happy to be there. Jude Law comes to mind, mostly. Saw him in Hamlet and he looked pissed that people were applauding him. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Daniel Radcliffe. Never have seen a person more excited to be on stage. Seemed genuinely shocked that people were there to see him and enjoyed his performance (for real, I saw the first preview of Equus here in 2007, he was so happy). So I was glad to see that Tennant was towards the Radcliffe end. You don’t ever want to find out your fake TV boyfriend is a jerk! He can stay on the list.

An American Thanksgiving in England

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It’s not religious, so I never felt left out, or had to explain to confused friends what it was about. With the exception of maybe a year or two here and there, my parents have always hosted, so I always got to be at home. I’d usually get up early, head downstairs in pajamas, and plant myself on the couch with a warm drink to watch the big parade. Maybe I’d help chop some vegetables, but let’s be honest, I mostly just sat and watched the parade and was all snuggly and cozy while the house filled up with Thanksgiving smells.

This year was the very first time ever I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving. And the first time in many years I haven’t had to strategically plan when to leave work to avoid the biggest crowds at Grand Central and mentally prepare myself to throw lots of elbows and push my way to a seat on a crowded train (pretty sure I had a stress dream about that last week). I’ve also had to explain the holiday to people who don’t know what it is. And it’s also Hanukkah, which noooo one seems to understand. No one even knew what a dreidel was! What is this place! So I was feeling doubly mopey and homesick, doing my best to be excited about two holidays no one in London understands. Luckily, I had a place to go to feel at home, and while it wasn’t exactly like my past Thanksgivings, it was pretty wonderful.

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