Monday 31 August 2015

My Month in Numbers [and Hamlet quotes] 2015: August

Hello, hello.

It's been quite the month here. So much so that for the first time in My Month in Numbers history [68 monthly installments and counting] I'm not only going to document my month in numbers [as the name would suggest] ... I'm also going to add in appropriately themed Hamlet quotations. Why?
  • Because, Hamlet!!
  • Because since seeing it live on stage 12 days ago I haven't stopped thinking about it. 
  • Because ever since I got back home my old, much scribbled on, copy of the original text has never been out of reach and ...
  • Because you can bet that, whatever it is you've experienced, Mr.Shakespeare's written about it already. So I'm going to let him pull some of the weight this month.
Now, when I said it's been quite the month here, 'here' isn't quite accurate. Of the 744 hours in August the most memorable, noteworthy, stuff took place not here, but there ...

"The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns." Hamlet in Act 3.1. [OK, I did return ... but only just ... you'll find out more later in the post ...]

71.5 hours = the time spent in London
Outside the National Theatre. 
And of those 71.5 hours spent in London it was:

The 2 hours 40 minutes spent watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre that were the most memorable.
If you've read or heard anything of the hoo-hah around the taking of photos / recording during the performance you'll understand why I have no photos of the occasion. They even sent me emails beforehand to remind me of the complete embargo. [Not that I would ever take photos mid-performance!].

And I was already anxious enough about:
  • getting there on time [We walked. Across London. One of us wearing wedges.Guess which.] 
  • of seeing both Cumberbatch and Hamlet in the flesh ... 
  • ... and of being thrown out or having to put a large bag in their cloakroom [as made clear in those emails].
... that I didn't even take my camera with me to photograph the theatre outside of the performance.

So the only photos I have of the entire evening are these, taken by James. But hey, at least my body language didn't give my anxieties away ...
"My fears forgetting manners" Hamlet in Act 5.2.

And as if all the emails, news reports, and signs the ushers were holding above their heads, didn't impress upon me the fact that photos weren't allowed ...

12 inches away = the distance, for the play's entirety, between me and a Barbican employee whose job it was to sit and monitor the audience.
I thought I'd done well selecting our seats, I'd sit at the front, no heads to block my view, and I'd be able to lean right up to the railings for a better look ... and no one would see me crying. [Because, let's face it, I was always going to be overwhelmed. Hamlet means such a lot to me.]

But I'd been eyeing up the stool from the minute we arrived. 

I even said to James "Someone's not going to sit there are they?". And then ... around 3 minutes before curtain up I got my answer. 

The usher approached me to say "I just thought I'd better explain, I'm going to be sitting there. They give me a wooden stool. So comfy!"
And I spent the next 2 hrs 40 watching the stage while being well aware that the watchers were also being watched!

"For some must watch, while some must sleep." Hamlet in Act 3.2.

From Act 3, to the very 1st line then to Act 2 = where the infamous "To be or not to be" soliloquy was moved, and moved again. 
While I'd tried to avoid any reviews about the production beforehand I did hear the furore about how, in the first previews, the most famous lines had been shifted from their original place in Act 3 right up to the very first words out of the gate.

And so, as I sat there in anticipation, as the curtain rose, as I saw the top of Hamlet's head as he sat on the floor directly beneath me ... I was fully expecting him to bust forth with one of the most iconic lines in dramatic history.

But he didn't.

Instead those lines didn't appear until later on - although still not exactly where you'd expect to find them. And while I hate to agree with the critics [I disagree with them about several other aspects of the production] I'm really glad it was moved from the opening scene to a point in the play where you'd had time to really care about whether Hamlet wanted to be ... or not. And I did care.

I always do.

Now here's where, if you're playing a drinking game where you down a shot every time I mention crying, then you get a step nearer inebriation, because it was during that speech that I had my 1st sneaky weep.

Followed swiftly by my first attempt to surreptitiously wipe tears away with a complete stranger [almost] sitting in my lap.

"What would he do had he the motive and cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears". Hamlet in Act 2, Scene 2. 

Level 9 = the hotel floor we stayed on. 
And this is the globe sculpture we passed every time we went to and from the lift on our floor:
"The earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire." Hamlet in Act 2.2

And yes, it did spin, like a real globe. Thinking about it we really ought to have got on and off at every other floor to check out the other sculptures! Maybe next time ...

The morning-after-the-Hamlet-before my friend, and erstwhile blogging collaborator, Kirsty Neale, travelled into the city to meet me beneath one of the legs of the London Eye [like spies, or people on a blind date].

"But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you to Elsinore?", "To visit you my lord. No other occasion." Hamlet + Horatio in Act 2.2. 

And from there we packed James off to the Imperial War Museum then made our way to the Royal Academy to indulge our mutual love of Joseph Cornell's work. 

80+ = the number of Joseph Cornell works featured in the'Wanderlust' exhibition:
It was well worth the trip as it was a beautiful exhibition filled with collage, collections of  'things' in boxes and amazing uses for ephemera. If you think mixed-media loveliness and assemblage art is a recent artistic development ... then a trip around Cornell's works will relieve you of that: he was born in 1903 and worked throughout the 20th Century

If you're going to be anywhere near London before it ends on September 27th I can't recommend a visit highly enough.  And if you can't make it there Google him instead ... and be inspired.

But if you do manage to get to the RA then, after all that looking and absorbing, you might want to boost your blood-sugar levels by hopping across the road to The Parlour - "a truly decadent ice cream experience" -  inside Fortnum & Mason [established in 1707!]...

2 scoops each = the ice-cream treats Kirsty and I indulged in: 
Kirsty had 1 coffee and 1 salted caramel scoop, while I had 1 honey-comb and 1 rose-violet [oh my goodness .. the rose-violet was delicious. Jean ... you know where you need to go. And Helen ... will ice-cream do instead of cake this month?]

And if 2 simple scoops may seem a little conservative to you then ... you probably haven't seen the price lists! While I was there I also bought 25 Fortnum & Mason 'Queen Anne' tea bags to take back for James as a paltry "sorry I saw Joseph Cornell and ate expensive ice-cream without you" gift.

After the art and the ice-cream Kirsty and I went on 2 boat trips - one to and one from Greenwich - and you can catch up on my river Thames photos in this post from last week  ... here's an appropriately watery-themed Hamlet quote to bear in mind while you do:

"But if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not himself." First Clown Act 5, Scene 1.

... and on the evening James and I ate in the pop up restaurant I talked about here, in a different post. Then, after all of that, it was time to go home ... 

"My necessaries are embarked, farewell" Laertes Act1.3.

3 days earlier the train from Darlington to London took just 2.5 hours ... yet our return trip was quite a different story ...

12.30pm = the time our train was due to depart.

"So fare you well. Upon the platform 'twixt eleven and twelve I'll visit you." Hamlet Act 1.2. [To be fair ... Hamlet isn't talking about a train platform here. Trains weren't invented until 200 years after the play was written. But hey ... I'm doing my best here ...]

12.15pm = the time our train was cancelled due to overhead line failures!
We had been anticipating problems as we'd heard about earlier trains being affected but right up until 'Cancelled' appeared on our section of the board we thought we were going to be OK! 
So we sat there, with no idea what to do next -although Kirsty almost had two house-guests for the weekend ... not that she was aware of that fact!

Virgin didn't announce anything other than an apology and our only consolation was watching writer, and national treasure, Alan Bennett take a seat 2 rows ahead of us!
Then, at 12.45pm I heard them announce ..."The train on Platform 1 is the 13.00 Virgin  East Coast to Edinburgh. Passengers please note that there are no longer any seat reservations on this train".

And I realised that, while this wasn't our train, it was going in the right direction and, if there were no seat reservations that meant they were expecting lots of people to get on board. And boy did they ever!!

3 times the regular number = how many additional - otherwise stranded - passengers boarded the train. 
By the time we reached the train all the seats were already taken. Not that that stopped us, or dozens more, from boarding. It turns out that that one train ended up with 3 trains worth of passengers [its own load plus that of the 2 cancelled earlier]!!

4 = the number of bottles of water James and I had accepted from the Virgin East Coast staff who were handing them out in the station.
We ended up travelling alongside a thankfully well behaved, middle-class, stag party and I heard one of them say: "You know something's wrong when they start handing water out". 

"We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart" Hamlet Act1 Sc2 175

And that 'something wrong' ... looked like this ...

10 = the number of us who spent the journey STANDING in the wobbly section between carriages C + D: 
Which meant that I spent 3.5 hours on a train ... standing here, in front of the toilet
Fortunately the train was so completely jam-packed it made it near-impossible for anyone to move up or down the aisles to reach the loo anyway! Meaning only 3 people 'paid a visit' all the time I was there! [How's that for a silver-lining?].

And in that small space there stood:
  • James and I.
  • The aforementioned stag-party [drinking beer, red wine and Pimms while talking about volunteering for Water Aid and the best dim sum restaurants in Paris. See? I told you they were middle-class!].
  • A nice, lone, stranger. 
  • Plus all our respective luggage!!! 
Halfway through the trip the nice stranger gallantly offered me his makeshift 'seat' - his large, solid suitcase. I declined, but it was a very nice gesture. The kindness of strangers eh? [And no ... it didn't make me cry ...].

7 hours plus one night's sleep = how long it took for my  head to finally stop feeling like it was in constant locomotion.
All evening, while sitting, then laying, the back of my head continued to feel like I was moving from side-to-side!

But yes, eventually we made it home safely, only to discover that ...
4 screws had been removed from a door lock ... and our garage had been burgled while we were away!
But, it wasn't as bad as it sounds ... fortunately, we keep nothing of any worth in there and only 1 item was stolen. Plus my Dad had secured the doors in our absence and had decided not to tell us about it earlier so as not to spoil our stay. [We've since upgraded our locks, and kept my Dad!]

"Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter? [...] a grave-maker: the houses that he makes last till doomsday". First Clown Act 5.1.

And finally ... so as not to end on a tragic note [although, hello, I am under the influence of Hamlet!] let's finish my August round-up with a bit of fun we had the day after our train trials!

After 3 days in the big smoke I needed some of this:
So we took a trip to the coast where on a whim - although we've been walking past it our entire lives and, to our knowledge, have never been in - we decided that this was the day we visited the Zetland Lifeboat Museum. And the moment we stepped inside one of the volunteers set us a challenge:

How can you balance 6 flat-headed nails on top of 1 flat-headed nail?
We didn't know. But we could have as many attempts as we liked and ... if we wanted to know the answer ... all we had to do was donate £1.00 to the RNLI [the lifeboat charity]. So with nothing to lose, and only charity to gain, James gave it a go. And failed. Lots of times.

In the end he gave in [although goodness knows men don't like to be beaten do they? I thought we were going to have to move in so he could keep trying until he worked it out], we paid our £1.00 and the volunteer took him through it step-by-step:
And here's how it's done.
Apparently there's lots of tricks like that on Youtube. And, apparently, the museum have landed on a great way to raise funds!!

"I shall the effect of this good lesson keep". Ophelia Act 1.2.

And on that positive note ... I'm bowing out of this post, and of August. [This month has taken me almost as long to write about as it did for me to live!].

You're welcome to:
  • join me with your own numbers, 
  • OR to read this post and and smile
  • OR to read this post and question just how much free time I must have
  • OR to read this post today and then join in with a comment and a quote of your own. [Quotes are optional.]
So, that was my August 2015, in numbers ...  "The rest is silence." Hamlet Act 5.2.  [Unless of course you do leave a comment ...].

Julie :-)


  1. I have loved your review of Hamlet, (and the ice cream) and the rest of your trip to London that I hadn't already enjoyed. Thanks, as always, for sharing your month by numbers.

    1. That's so nice of you to say Helen - it's good to know someone else has enjoyed it too!

  2. Thank you for a very entertaining Month in Numbers - I loved the quotes too.
    That was a truly eye watering amount for 2 scoops of ice cream - do you get to keep the bowl and cutlery? I think I WOULD have cried just from having to stand outside the loo for 3.5 hours on a train, someone offering me their 'seat' would have seen me really snivelling, so well done you!
    Huge applause that you could concentrate on the play with an 'audience spy' that close to you - I hope he wasn't really in your view of the stage, that would have made me so uncomfortable. I am just off to google Joseph Cornell ... his work sounds very interesting.

    1. Thanks Louise, thankfully no, the usher didn't spoil my view ... just my notion of solitude! And yes, definitely investigate Joseph Cornell - his work is just wonderful!

  3. I've been reading all the reviews with great interest. Not sure how I feel about the moving around of the I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that the live show eventually makes it to TV. I'm smiling at the thought of the usher spotting your eyes flicking towards the seat

    1. I'm torn about so much in the production that I can't bring myself to write a proper review of it! To be fair, where 'To be or not to be' sat when I saw it did flow well and make sense [it way have changed since then, ours was still considered a preview] so much so that it wasn't until later I realised it was still not where it 'should' be.

  4. Such a clever post this month! I'd read the review of Hamlet in the Times just before you came to London and I had my fingers crossed that you would completely disagree with the critic. We had similar problems with a train journey to York a few years ago, although I was able to get a seat (in First class), but with The Boy Child on my knee for an hour or so. That was the day that ended with the hotel's fire alarm going off at 4 in the morning!

    1. So he was a little bit smaller then ... but still, that's a long time! And travel certainly broadens the mind [and shows you just how everything can go wrong!!]. I've agreed with some reviews more than others - but I never going to *not* enjoy it was I?!

  5. This is going to be a tough one to follow! Wow, Julie! What an incredibly exciting August you had - memories for a lifetime and then some. I'm not much of a Shakespeare buff (mainly obligatory readings in school) but I was totally entertained by your descriptions, quotes, etc. Thanks for sharing this adventure. My August, I'm afraid, pales in comparison - not that anyone is comparing here! �� Will have that in a couple days; have to get this house cleaned! Happy September!

    1. Thanks Hazel - I hadn't studied any Shakespeare in school until I reached college and university ... where I got hooked!! But Hamlet is my absolute favourite, there's so much in there for a modern audience to recognise. So much!

  6. I think this is the most amazing post you've ever given us! Certainly the cleverest MINs :). Your knowledge of the play is truly staggering ... and I felt sorry for you on the train. I've stood all the way from London to Edinburgh as a student and can remember how it felt :(. You look a great deal more composed and svelte than I was, I have to say ...

    1. Oh, thank you Alexa. It took a while to put together! And I did have the text to hand [although pretty soon I probably will know it off by heart. I can't stop reading it!]. The stag party we were near were heading to Edinburgh too - I'm just glad our trip was shorter than that! Funnily enough I felt fine while on the train ... it was just when I got off I felt the results of all that motion!

  7. Yay! My Lord Batgirl! I made it into MIN. And in some pretty stellar company, too. When I first started at the NT, Alan Bennett's Wind in the Willows was on in the Olivier. He was supposedly a very nice man (I'm guessing he still is), as evidenced by the afternoon he spent sitting on the floor behind the till in the bookshop signing copies of the play for any random future customers who wanted one but hadn't managed to get to his live signing event. Also making things pretty tricky for the bookshop staff trying to work around him, but that probably wasn't the point.
    Thanks for including me, thanks for the most fun I've had all month (even without BC. Bugger - should we have invited him along? Oh, hindsight...) and I'm sorrynotsorry you almost got stuck here. xx

    1. You were genuinely my first thought when we got stranded! It wasn't you who damaged the overhead lines was it? We should definitely have invited him. Then he could have paid ..

  8. Here are my numbers for August -


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