2014 is definitely a breakthrough of my life. From January to December, I had been trying out new things and embarking on brand new adventures, reuniting old and meeting new acquaintances. It has also been a year that I had ever known and appreciated myself.
From January to December, I went to see a stage performance (Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors) on my own, got to Ocean Park and stroked a dolphin, watched some good movies (Philomena, The Invisible Woman, Magic in the Moonlight, Gone Girl, Paddington…) at the cinema that I’ve ever experienced with thrilling emotions. I watched three musicals which all were spectacular shows and won’t be forgotten in a lifetime (The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, and The Phantom of the Opera). Participating in artistic workshops and activities (folk dance, life-drawing, sculptural painting, and five-rhythm dances), concerning self-exploration and spiritual reclamation of one’s own was also an eye-opener.
On reading, I finished 22 books this year, 4 being novels / short stories by Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone, The Law and the Lady, Man and Wife, and The Dream Woman) and 4 being Blandings Castle Series by P. G. Wodehouse (Summer Lightning, Something Fresh, Galahad at Blandings, and World of Blandings), all of which I admired very much and munched in pleasure and leisure.
However, the most memorable and matchless event in 2014 that others could not be compared to for me is my embarking on a journey on my own to Cambridge to attend a weekend course on Wilkie Collins and sightseeing in London for good 10 days, which were the days I always will cherish. During the trip, I found myself much closer to the British culture and its people. I got accosted with both friendly locals and foreigners on streets and other places that I will always treasure. I first set out as a kind of homage to Wilkie Collins (you could say it as an excuse though; I hadn’t been returning to Britain for 7 years already and I miss the place so much!), and I didn’t expect the ramblings and other things I saw would overwhelm me so much! I hope some time or later I could return again to immerse about the places after reading more novels and history about the country!
The night before meeting my friend, I had already seen The Book of Mormon Musical at Prince Wales Theatre. It had been in my bucket list for a few months. It didn’t disappoint me. I can feel the fun, excitement, the energetic moves, body expressions and tap dances of the elders that made the whole audience laugh so much, many people stood and applauded in the end. The only shame is that I had already listened to many of the songs in Hong Kong before the trip, so I didn’t instantly had stitches in my stomach. But still the actual experience is wonderful and fantastic. Although it may not have deep content and you can say they make fun of the religion, it is a good concept and idea of a musical. You will never let down by the songs!
Before the show started, I grabbed myself some fish and chips as dinner (but ate that in the rain)!
So this time I saw Lion King the Musical at Lyceum Theatre. Good one, spectacular lighting system, costumes, choreography, backdrops and songs.
Beforehand, we went to the restaurant nearby and had Bangers and Mash.
At the end of the show and before the farewell, my friend asked me to see Wicked the Musical next time as well as to come to Devon where I had not as of yet been to, and that I said I will.
I got off the station at Piccadilly Circus and walked along the streets of London and roamed along Westminster Bridge. It was a fine say that day. Along the bridge I met a lady and a man clad in tartan with a piper. They came all the way from Scotland, gave me a lucky heather, and godspeed my journey. Of course I was happy but then realised I was obliged to donate some money. I gave some and got another heather for my friend as well. I don’t mind to be tricked or what, it is always interesting to talk to someone along the journey. Finally I got to the promenade.
Greetings exchanged with my friend who woke up at 5 in Devon and got to London at 12, we headed to enjoy the gruesome tour at London Dungeon adjacent to London Eye. It had lots of interaction with visitors which was the best part, otherwise it wouldn’t be so good. There was a boat ride to “the Traitor’s Gate” and be admitted to “The Tower of London”, and then we experienced and learned about Henry VIII and his anecdotes with his wives, the murder against James I on the Gunpowder Plot conspired by Guy Fawkes and the lot, the torture tools and punishment at The Tower of London, The Bucolic Plague, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovette, Jack the Ripper and so on. Finally we were to be hanged and quartered! It’s like the presentation of Horrible Histories.
After the “ghastly tour” we meandered to Leicester Square.
I went to Cambridge to join a course on Wilkie Collins. I hope I could contribute more but my knowledge and reading stock were so limited and others had come up with so much ideas in their heads that they could conjure up with comparisons between other authors and works of the similar genres. But what I have gained is that I had complied a long book list from the discussion! My interests in reading and love of authors would not be diminished in any degree and I’ll just keep pushing up my limits…
To me the places which impressed me the most in Cambridge are Parker’s Piece, King’s College and Fitzwilliam Museum. On the day before my course started at Halloween, I went to a second-hand book sale which held every year at the Museum. Paperbacks are 50p and hardbacks are 1 pound only. I got myself Michael Jecks’s The Sticklepath Strangler and A Century of Spooky Stories (recommended by a helper of the Event). I love how everyone was in all fervour in finding the books they want!
On the third day, I went to Kensal Green Cemetery through the West gate as well as the entrance of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery at 10. With the help from the staff at the kiosk, I got the map and instructions of where to find Wilkie’s grave. It was easy to find provided that it was in line with the Anglican Chapel.
The epitaph is again, commemorating Wilkie Collins as the author of The Woman in White and the Moonstone. It was plain compared to other graves, especially the ones in front of and alongside the entrance of Anglican Chapel, which are just spectacular. Some have extravagant decorations and constructed as mausoleums. It reminds me of the lines of Ezra Jennings in The Moonstone of what he says before his death:
“Let my grave be forgotten. Give me your word of honour that you will allow no monument of any sort—not even the commonest tombstone—to mark the place of my burial. Let me sleep, nameless. Let me rest, unknown.”
On my way I encountered a man walking alone in the cemetery, he asked me which country I came from and mentioned about a cemetery (Carrownanty Cemetery?) in Ireland where many gypsies were buried with so much money spent by their families on the decorations of the graves; they were so shiny and white you had to wear sunglasses to look at them and you could take lots of photos there!
I really wish I could go on the guided tour next time. But be sure to prepare boots for walking! Glad if someone could tell me the background of these notable people resting there!
After visiting Dickens Museum, I went back to Russell Square Station and got on the tube to Regent’s Park Station under some showers and cloudy weather. Here I caught up with my schedule to 96 New Cavendish Street to find that Wilkie Collins’s plaque. It was difficult for me to find under rain. I kept wandering into Weymouth Mews and Hallam Street, still not realising that I had to walk straight down the road to find New Cavendish Street instead of going into the alleys! After 1-2 hours I had found the Street as well as the plaque!
I stood before the plaque to my heart’s content and started my way near BBC headquarters.