Day Six: In which your correspondent does a little bit of work and then goofs off

I will be brief this time, because I didn’t actually write notes for most of the day, and indeed had very little that needed note-taking. Because today, it was not so much with the hard work.

Which I probably needed.

The morning was work, of the awesome sort that is one of the key bennies to this job: I arrived at the Monument a little before 9 to be let into the basement room, where formerly there was a laboratory. It’s a lot smaller than I expected — maybe seven feet across — so it’s good I went down there, or I would have misrepresented it entirely. While down there, I realized I’d forgotten to consider the possibility of also going higher, but the fellow who’d let me in handed me the keys willingly enough. So up the 311 stairs I go again, for the second time this week, to the gate that blocks the part above the observation deck. After wrestling the lock open, I climb another thirty-odd stairs, to the point where I can’t really stand straight because the column narrows sharply into a cone, with a ladder climbing upward into the cylinder that (one presumes) leads into the copper urn of fire that tops the Monument.

. . . and, not realizing that was the case, I hadn’t really asked how far I could go. But for once, self-preservation wins the day; it’s raining and quite slippery out there. And I don’t want to impose on the generosity they’ve shown me already by going some place they never meant to let me in.

I don’t climb the ladder.

Which is a damned pity, because when I get to the base of the Monument, the guy said he totally would have let me do it. But I have a train to catch at King’s Cross, and I am not going to climb that bloody column twice in fifteen minutes, and so regretfully I hand the keys back and head on my way.

Yeah. I’m still sad I didn’t go all the way to the top. Damn my sense of self-preservation.

Onward to King’s cross, and thence to Cambridge, where I am met by a horde of police screening passengers out of the station, apparently because they’re worried people will bring drugs to the Strawberry Fair (a big hippie to-do the first Saturday of every June). Having escaped them, I’m met again, this time by la_marquise_de and her other half, who proceed to give me a guided tour of Cambridge. I’m really there to look at Trinity College, where Newton was, but since his rooms have been substantially altered during the ensuing centuries, that doesn’t take the whole day. The rest of it is filled with the Strawberry Fair, entertaining anecdotes about the conflicts between the colleges, and a variety of things that fundamentally amount to me goofing off. I feel I’ve earned it, since I’ve done pretty much everything useful I can think of in London except a few matters that will fit very neatly into Sunday.

The most delightful part of the day was going back to Trinity, where LMD’s Other Half (does he have an LJ handle?) waved his “I’m a member of Trinity” card, got us a boat, and punted us up and down the Cam. I was more than happy to let him take competent charge of that, so I could enjoy the spectator sport of watching professional chauffeur punters, show-off undergraduates freed from their exams, and inept tourists form traffic jams on the river. There were duckies, and geese, and some amount of sun, and it was ridiculously idyllic. I can see why people have fun doing that — and not just tourist-people, but actual Cambridge folk, too. (If I come back someday, though, I’m totally bringing a change of clothes, so I can try my hand at punting and have something dry to wear after I fall in.)

Now it is late. I will send to people a few things that need to be sent, and then I will sleep the sleep of the not-terribly-virtuous.

0 Responses to “Day Six: In which your correspondent does a little bit of work and then goofs off”

  1. april_art

    Being punted about, idyllic. Punting, for me: total fear trip! But at least I’ve never fallen in.

    Sounds like a nice break. And no walking involved. ^___^

  2. desperance

    LMD’s Other Half (does he have an LJ handle?)

    I don’t believe he has an LJ, unless he keeps it phenomenally private (which might defeat the point?). We just call him the Marquis.

    And yay for being punted. Last time I was punted was in Cambridge, and my old friend Helen did indeed fall in. Twice.

    • la_marquise_de_

      The marquis is technically but he has yet to post. He lurks, and occasionally surfaces to talk about maths. (Should you wish to learn to punt, oh , he’d be happy to teach you!)
      We had a lovely day.

  3. shui_long

    It isn’t actually obligatory to fall in whilst punting, though it does add to the public entertainment value… once you’ve got the knack of handling the pole, it is even possible to punt without getting your arm soaking wet.

    I understood that the underground chamber at the Monument was part of its intended use as a zenith telescope – the ladder apparently leads to a small platform inside the “flames” to allow two iron flaps to be opened and the telescope objective lens mounted, so that an observer at the eyepiece in the chamber below could measure the movement of stars overhead. Unfortunately the expansion and contraction of the pillar, and the vibration of traffic, meant that the very accurate measurements necessary could not be achieved.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes on the zenith telescope (which is actually why I needed to get in there — the limitations won’t interfere with what my characters want to do). Thanks for the info on the flaps; that’s exactly why I should have climbed the ladder.

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