30th June, 2011

If only...

It was an early start, for a student in his summer holidays, at least. After getting the train (and catching up with The Economist) I wondered to Oxford street but, the time being around 08:30, not much was open. I went down some of the side-streets and happened upon the famous Steinway & Sons piano shop. I dared to poke my nose into the place where the pianos that the true masters use are sold. If you happen to see any famous pianist playing any time soon, take a look at the name on the piano and it’ll likely be a Steinway. Feeling quite out of place, I wondered around, flabbergasted by the sheer price of these instruments. I met a piano tuner for Steinway and had a nice chat with him. He obviously has the most incredible ear, and he told me about his job – essentially involving visiting many, many manor houses where very wealthy people keep their Steinways! He also, foolishly, said I was free to tickle the ivory. I am no pianist, with only a scattering of grades but this was an opportunity I thought I couldn’t pass up. I felt as if the piano were a towering giant, staring down at me, hoping I wouldn’t bring it shame by flailing my malcoordinated digits on its crisp, perfectly balanced white and black keys. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and, almost certainly due to my lack of skill and ear, couldn’t tell an awful lot of difference from the piano back home! Clear evidence that an £87,000 piano would be wasted on me.

After perusing some of the shops on Oxford Street, and picking up a surprisingly nice £12 chess set, I saw on the map ‘Wallace collection‘. I wasn’t really sure what to expect (please excuse my crippling naivety ), but I thought it would be interesting. Naturally, upon arrival it dawned on my instantaneously that the collection is quite something. For anyone, like me, previously unaware: A man with the grand name of  ‘Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford’ was a renowned art collector, and indeed of many other historical items (the collection has many armouries, galleries, sculptures and much else). He also owned, among other places, Manchester House in London, where some of this collection is kept. The marquess passed on Manchester house and his entire collection to his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace and his wife, upon Wallace’s death, formed the Wallace collection and made it open to the public in 1900. Needless to say, the house looks stunning to this day, and the collection breathtaking. I implore you to visit it if you happen to have some time in the capital.

I then met with the lecturer for a few hours, a very nice chap. I may be able to get some work experience in a lab sorted over the summer. The only thing holding me back is that it is effectively an unpaid 9-5 job all week, and whilst I am over the moon to have the opportunity, and the job is very cool, the cost of going to London and back everyday would soon add up and, as I’m sure you’ve heard, students aren’t the most well off members of society.

Arriving back in the evening, most of my time was spent setting up my computer which I’d brought back from my halls, catching up with today’s events at Wimbledon and guiltily engaging in some Minecraft. Speaking of which, a youtube series that I particularly enjoy is a comedy duo by the name of Simon and Lewis who play minecraft and have an hilarious ‘machinima’ series going on, called the Shadow of Israphel, which can be found here.

Tomorrow I am off to Oxford, and indeed will be for the next three days, to help at an art exhibition by one of my friends, and hopefully find some inspiration!

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