It is always lovely to go into London. With time to kill, I wandered down south of Euston Road towards the British Museum. First to St Pancras Church, which has two huge sculptures temporarily displayed in the narrow patch of grass between the church and the pavement. One appears to be two men wrestling, with Rodinesque muscly bodies, until you see they share the same head. Inside, the church was dim, like a hall, but has two organs, one against the West wall and one, moveable, near the Sanctuary. There is a notice, do not touch the organ without express permission. In a chapel in the north-east corner, there was a Madonna icon in which the child was off to her left, and low down, and tiny, and seemed odd, but it was the only thing in the church I found beautiful. Some men passed through the chapel, glancing briefly at me. In the nave, a man stood, then ran suddenly a few yards west, then stood again, then ran back. He was still there as I left.
South through the University. I wandered into The English Chapel. It was built by the Catholic Apostolic Church in the neo-Gothic style in 1851-4. I like fan vaulting, but find it pointless- church architecture should have moved on by then. They believed Christ had appointed twelve further apostles, and were a worshipping group until around 1905, when they did not appoint a successor apostle. So now it is a trust owning property, and part of the church, the West chapel, is let out to Forward in Faith for daily services. There are no pews. A man knelt near the west-facing altar. The priest came in from his office and spoke to me, though I said I was half-touristing, half-praying: using the beauty as an aid to contemplation. The stained glass windows, replaced after being destroyed in the Blitz, are lovely. He explained that around the stalls carved into the walls are the heads of English monarchs. One wears a wimple. They were out of fashion when Mary became Queen, and I asked him who she was. Matilda, possibly? He did not know. I spent some time contemplating the carvings, then walked on.
At Friends House I met someone about Outreach, then had lunch downstairs, where I recognised several people. Should I say hello? Someone I know, to my shame, only as “X’s partner” said hello, so I joined her. She has been researching in the Friends House library, and came across a 19th century classification of beauty in three classes: active sublime, passive sublime and “sprightly”. “Your necklace would be ‘sprightly’,” she told me. Well, it is irregular blobs of blue/green glass, so yes. A certain kind of tree is “active sublime”, a certain kind of owl “passive sublime”. Possibly “active” in the kinds of feelings aroused in the beholder. I don’t want to know the classification, it would just be another way I judged myself- I must spend more time with Active Sublime, even if I preferred Sprightly.
A paid worker was kindly eating with a volunteer.
A man talked at me for half an hour about something which stressed him, which was not really why I had wanted to see him, though I had wanted to get to know him a bit. Because I was trying to get a word in, I was much blunter than I would otherwise have been: “Why did I not get an interview for that job?” He gave what would have been an off-the-peg defence to a discrimination claim- because I did not fit a particular essential criterion. Because of discrimination, the selection has to be completely objective and it was, he told me. But, I was not making a claim, just asking.
Signs on the railings said “Please do not smoke in this area or sit on these steps.” Guess what someone was doing. And I saw this sign, which looks official but is a stencil, a graffito stating hope not reality. Those metal gates did not look welcoming. The area is beautiful, but not welcoming.