You’ve got to know how strange it is to be posting this. Being an avatar is supposed to be a job where you take center stage, but Jane insisted I contribute to her blog. That’s like being an opening act for Adele or getting a speaking role with Kevin Spacey. You’ll expect me to be witty and clever, which I can with Jane by my side, but on my own, the best I can be is … me.
Knowing my reluctance, Jane suggested I should maybe do a travelog. OK, what Jane actually said was something like: “My dear, perhaps your understandable trepidation could be alleviated were you to write of our travels.”
OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration as well, but whatever she said, it makes sense. I’ve been able to go places I could only dream about—all over the United States and Paris and Lisbon and even Tokyo, but the place I’ve enjoyed the most is London, so I thought I’d start there with my first trip in 2011. This was when Sanditon was just released (been back twice since and in September we leave for the world premiere of the Sanditon movie) and I was still pretty scared of the responsibility. I took pictures of everything, but I will try to limit it to just five pictures (that’s Melody’s suggestion).
Westminster Tube station
I’m sorry about this first picture, a not very well-composed photo of the down escalators into Westminster Tube station. I promise all the other pictures will be better, it’s just that this picture is a perfect example of the challenges the disembodied face and also how much I had to learn as an avatar. It was the third day of our trip and we’d already had the book launch party. I won’t bore you with all the photos from that event because you’ve probably seen those everywhere.
Anyway, Jane and I had the day to ourselves and I wanted to see London with Jane Austen as my tour guide. I was a little surprised Jane wasn’t as eager and I should have picked up on her uneasiness. I’d been trained at the agency that the disembodied don’t like crowds, but I guess I got into tourist mode. I forgot my first duty was to my client. You see we got onto the escalator at the top and I should have picked up on Jane wanting to use the elevator—I mean lift. (Sorry, it’s easy to forget to talk like a Brit when I’m not on the clock.) But I thought it would be more fun to ride down the incredibly long escalator and besides I thought Jane wouldn’t want to go in a crowded lift and be jostled around.
So we got on and I was talking to Jane and a man ran down right next to me—he bumped into me and muttered “Sorry”—and suddenly Jane wasn’t there. I heard the beep in my earbud that indicated she’d gone offline. You’d think I should have been able to figure out what happened, but I’m afraid my reaction was about the same as if a giant bird had swooped down and carried her off. She was gone in mid-sentence and I’m stupidly looking around for her.
Once I reached the bottom, Jane reconnected and all was well. The rude guy had bumped her off the escalator and she’d slid down the divider all the way to the bottom. I was mortified but Jane said she was all right, nothing bruised but her dignity. After that, I realized being Jane’s avatar means being aware for her as well as of her. I’d gotten to the point that I no longer thought of her as being disembodied. It was more like I’d slipped into thinking of her as being on the phone instead of actually next to me, probably because I’d thought of us as being on holiday.
After this experience, we went everywhere by taxi.
Jane didn’t go with me to the London Eye. I think she’d had enough of crowds by this point and rolled her eyes at the thought of going to such a tourist attraction. OK, she didn’t literally roll her eyes; she used RME, one of the few texting abbreviations she uses, probably because she’s doing it all the time.
I didn’t care, it’s absolutely fabulous. I takes 30 minutes to go all the way around and the view is amazing. Even though I’ve got a little fear of heights, riding in the car was pretty comfortable, other than the noise of all the people going “Ooh, look at that.” (I can understand why Jane didn’t want to wait in the long line, however.) While we were at the top, we were buzzed by a blimp. You can see the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and I suppose way off in the distance the City of London. If that doesn’t make sense, just watch the video below. It was news to me.
The British Museum
There’s something about the name—The British Museum—that’s so grand. It’s kind of like they’re saying if all the rest of the country were to disappear, as long the museum remains, people will still know what Britons valued. Of course, proportionally there’s not too much about Britain in the British Museum, but there’s still the sense that what Britons prize most is learning.
The coolest thing is the atrium or Great Court. The British Reading Room, an awesome domed library, sits in a quadrangle formed by the various wings of the library. They roofed the whole thing over in glass in 2000 and it’s the coolest thing. It’s like Atlantis or something, these Greek buildings surrounding a quad with statues and then plunked in the middle of it is a whole building. I’m not normally that into to museums, but they’re like catnip to Jane.
But even to a ignorant slob like myself, the Elgin Marbles are really impressive in a Clash of the Titans kind of way. It helps that Jane knows her Greek mythology and it’s like having the world’s best tour guide.
The Painted Hall
This building is so jaw-dropping amazing. It was supposed to be the cafeteria for a sailors’ retirement home, but they painted these wild wall and ceiling decorations and made it so fabulous they decided it was too good for the sailors. They started charging people to see it and then turned it into an art gallery. Now it’s all part of the Old Naval College in Greenwich and it’s back to being a dining hall, if you can afford to rent it, that is. It’s so over the top that you feel kind of overwhelmed and they used it for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
St. Martin’s Theatre
It turns out Jane and I shared a common interest. I’d applied for a exchange program that would place an American acting student at St. Martin’s Theatre, where Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has been performed for 38 years (36 when I was there). I didn’t get picked, and I was crushed. Then again if I had gone to London, I probably wouldn’t have been chosen to be Jane’s avatar. Both Jane and I are Christie fans and she used to attend performances before the discovery of the afterlife and before they had captioned performances (still a special event). Because she couldn’t hear what was going on, she had to figure out who done it by reading lips and puzzling out the plot. I guess it took even her a couple of performances until she‘d figured it out.
Sorry if this wasn’t the usual travelog, but it was supposed to be a working trip and these were the things that interested me. I’ll post some more pictures from another city in the next installment. Bye!