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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Europe CNY 2012 - Day 15 - Oxford

Europe CNY 2012
Day 15 - 2nd February - Oxford


On awakening I was subject to a demonstration of Hum Sup Guy's torture device:

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Torture Device

He then brought me around Oxford.

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St Hugh's Main Building

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"Help prevent a tragedy. If you see children or adults inside or attempting to enter this substation please call..."
This might be what is called a "safety culture". Or paranoia (the number to call is already on the right).

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"Considerate Constructors. Improving the image of construction"
It's all PR, duncha know?

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We then went to the Ashmolean Museum (the premises were fresh, having been renovated in 2009). Unfortunately due to time constraints I was only able to do the ground floor entirely (and the atrium in the basement), but I should be back some day. When it's not winter and Blenheim Palace will be open.

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"Welcome to the Ashmolean"

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Torso of an Amazon, architectural frieze (Hellenistic style)

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Pottery beaker, Naqada; Decorated bowl (Predynastic pottery - Egypt)

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Two-Dog Palette

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Pottery Lion

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Hindquarters of a Gazelle

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False door stela

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East Wall of the Shrine of King Taharqa

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Head of a granite statue of a vulture

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Bronze mirror case, Bronze klepsydra-dipper (Hellenistic)

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Adoption Papyrus (Egyptian, 20th Dynasty)

Hum Sup Guy highlighted this to me and was very pleased:

"This document, written in hieratic script on papyrus and dating to the reign of King Ramesses XI (about 1104-1075 BC), illustrates the intricacies of adoption and inheritance in New Kingdom Egypt...

Nebnefer adopts his wife as his 'daughter' so that she may inherit his estate, rather than have it pass to members of his family after his death.

Rennefer records that she and her husband, Nebnefer, bought a slave girl, who subsequently gave birth to two girls and a boy (presumably fathered by Nebnefer). Rennefer raised them and eventually adopted them as her own children. She also adopts the husband of the eldest daughter, Padiu (actually Rennefer's own brother), so that he too may share the inheritance of her estate. Finally, she decalres the emancipation of the three adopted children born to the slave girl, and leaving her entire estate to the children and Padiu. Thebes, New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty"

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Fragment of mummy cloth decorated with Anubis in jackal form

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Shabtis

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Painted Plaster Pavement
I think this was the first non-grave Egyptian painting I'd seen

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Sinuhe Ostracon
For limestone it's very warped. "A major theme is the superiority of Egyptian culture over all others"

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Sketch of the head of a King

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Various gods

According to Wikipedia the Egyptian collection is particularly fine. I agreed, particularly in a relatively compact setting.

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Eros (Roman)

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Mummy of a young woman (Egyptian, Roman period)

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Seated Figurine (Serbia, Late Neolithic Village)

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Dionysius (Hellenic)

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I liked this quote on Greek gods: "The Greek gods are... not brave, not self-controlled, they have no manners, they are not gentlemen and ladies." - Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Gods of Rome. Arch of Trajan at Beneventum (Italy)

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"A woman, perhaps Lucina, goddess of childbirth, presents the goddess of love, Aphrodite (Roman Venus) with the beautiful infant Adonis"
Roman painting, which was quite rare. Especially in such a complete state.

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Limestone Bust

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Yakshi (Bengal, 200-100 BC)

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Love scene (mithuna), eastern India, 200-1 BC. Ivory plaque.

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Goddess Hariti

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Grimacing Yaksha (nature spirit)

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"The compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is shown in pensive pose, as he contemplates the suffering of all beings"
Perhaps he can be my inspiration for meditating on the Misery of the Human Condition

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The Buddha, with Greco-Roman influences

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Bronze ritual wine vessel (gu) (China)

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Bronze ritual bell (nao)

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Ivory Dragon Seal

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Scene from White Snake

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Three Heroes fighting Lu Bu

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Zhong Kui the Demon Queller with Five Bats

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Zhong Kui the Demon Queller with sword

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Man and boy watching a crane

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Assyrian horse being led by an archer

The Minoan collection is apparently the best outside of Crete.

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Various items

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Grave monument of Archippus (probably from Smyrna [Asia Minor])

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Tragic masks

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Early Greek kouros (youth)

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Guardian Deity (Tibet)

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Okimono (carved figure) of a man seated on a bundle scratching himself (late Edo-Meiji period, Japan)

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Pair of Boys (early Qing China)

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Double Sided Portrait (not sure why I didn't take the other side). Possibly because it wasn't nice. (Roman)

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Augustus from Prima Porta (plaster copy, painted)

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On painted sculpture

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Assyrian Winged Genie

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Exterior of Ashmolean Museum

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Why is everyone in this picture Asian?

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"Recycle your old bras for charity!"
I'm trying to understand what the business model of this is

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Balliol College

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Alfred Brendel masterclass!

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"Award winning* guided tours
* - The team worn the south East region Marsh Trust Volunteer award 2011"
Truth in advertising

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Bridge

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Bodleian Library
The architecture was quite alien, with the engraved arches and the spikey spires

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Radcliffe Camera

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All Soul's College, through the Readers' Entrance
Yes, you can tell that Class is a big issue in English society

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High Street

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St Mary the Virgin under renovation

We then adjourned for lunch.

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A long list of vegetables: carrots & parsnips; spinach (steamed or buttered); winter leaf salad; buttered sugar snaps & mange tout; mash; chips; green salad

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Risotto with oyster mushroom and parsley
This was vegetarian. I never thought I would enjoy vegetarian risotto that much.

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Confit de canard
Also bagus

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I don't get it. It's a pedestrian zone where cars and motorcycles are allowed at any time, yet where bicycles are only permitted from 10am-6pm.

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Bird Bird FAIL

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St Michael at the North Gate. The Saxon Tower is the oldest uilding in Oxford.

I then went to take my train to London for my opera, after half a day in Oxford.

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Ahh, spelling everything out in Black and White

The cab driver rejected my Sottish £10 note at first, so I had to point out "Bank of Scotland". Hah. I wonder if Northern Irish pounds get this sort of treatment too.

Annoyingly, Scottish (and Northern Irish) notes have a bizarre status. The Committee of Scottish Bankers even has a page on Scottish Banknotes Legal Position:

"Scottish Banknotes are legal currency – i.e. they are approved by the UK Parliament. However, Scottish Bank notes are not Legal Tender, not even in Scotland.  In fact, no banknote whatsoever (including Bank of England notes!) qualifies for the term 'legal tender' north of the border and the Scottish economy seems to manage without that legal protection.

HM Treasury is responsible for defining which notes have ‘legal tender’ status within the United Kingdom and the following extract from Bank of England’s website may help to clarify what is meant by “legal tender” and how little practical meaning the phrase has in everyday transactions.

“The term legal tender does not in itself govern the acceptability of banknotes in transactions. Whether or not notes have legal tender status, their acceptability as a means of payment is essentially a matter for agreement between the parties involved. Legal tender has a very narrow technical meaning in relation to the settlement of debt. If a debtor pays in legal tender the exact amount he owes under the terms of a contract, he has good defence in law if he is subsequently sued for non-payment of the debt. In ordinary everyday transactions, the term ‘legal tender’ has very little practical application.”
(Ref. www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/about/faqs.htm.)

It is also interesting to note that, if the strict rules governing legal tender were to be observed in a transaction, then the exact amount due would need to be tendered since no change can be demanded.

The majority of banknotes circulating in Scotland are issued by Scottish banks. Scottish notes circulate and are accepted quite freely in Scotland and, for the most part, they are also readily accepted in England & Wales, although branches of Scottish banks there may not issue them.  However, you should not rely absolutely on Scottish notes being accepted outside Scotland and this is particularly true when travelling abroad. Our general advice would be not to carry large amounts of banknotes of any description and to make use of facilities such as travellers’ cheques, credit/debit cards and ATM cards for access to funds whilst abroad."

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"Alcohol is a major cause of accidents around the station. Please take care"
Don't Drink and Ride

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"I jsut aeksd to cehck his teikct and he spat in my fcae.
I felt drtiy and huimlaietd.
I was jsut dniog my job.
Hard to understand?
You would not tolerate being abused, threatened or assaulted at work"
At first I thought this was a roundabout anti drinking message, but now I think by scrambling the letters and making it harder to understand, they are paradoxically making it easier for people to remember.
Either that or it's a subtle dig at Cambridge University, since aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

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"Please be aware these toilets are cleaned by both male and female attendants"
No sexism!

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Why do trains need ladders, saws, rope and crowbars? Luckily this is not a plane

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Landfill (?) with nuclear power plant. That makes sense.

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I took this to attach to a foursquare checkin when transiting

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Cheap Coke - 69p

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"Eton Crop" Japanese hair salon
The irony of a Japanese hair salon with a posh British name setting up in London was amusing. The staff and customers inside were AZN, naturally.

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"Traditional fish and chips... serve with chips and peas"

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Freemasons' Hall

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Royal Opera House, Bow Street

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Floral Street bridge

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Royal Opera House Winter Season

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Annoyingly at 4:50pm the place wasn't open yet (I'd have to wait another 40 mins). So I went for an early dinner first.

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"On the one hand we wish to live Communism on the other to spread ANARCHY"
Confused graffiti

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St Paul's Church Covent Garden

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"Salsa di Mostarda
When I want something sweet, I have it with ice cream. When I fancy something savoury, I have it with cheese. It's like nothing you have ever tasted
Ana-Maria, Waitress"
Staff endorsement

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Cheap moules frites or steak frites (for lunch) - £9.95 (with wine!)

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Shopkeeper trying to chase out an errant bird

Dinner was at Four Seasons, home of what was supposedly the best roast duck in the world.

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Other people having dinner at 5:25pm

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While the food was very good, it was not quite as good as I'd been led to believe.
In fact the skin of the duck from 2 doors down (which I'd bought almost 2 weeks back) had way beter (I'd stolen some of the skin while it was fresh); in fact here it was kinda cold and most of the skin was hardly crispy (and the parts that were crispy felt a bit overdone). The skin did not separate from the fat cleanly, though the fat was light and sweet (personally I prefer my fat more robust like other places). This was possibly partly because they gave me what seemed to be the duck backside (buttocks), since I'd ordered a meat combination rather than just duck.
The roasted meat did, however, have the best ever balance of crispiness and moistness.
The sauce was also really good - simple but it worked, a sweet soy sauce with a light accent (versus Singaporean style which is heavy)

Naturally the rice was too much. They also gave me three slies of orange for free. Maybe if I'd spoken in Cantonese I'd have gotten free soup and dessert.

Interestingly they played Mandarin songs as well as Cantonese songs. And two waitresses spoke Mandarin, not Cantonese (it's not all in the family anymore!)

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Meat closeup

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Mints. Hah. Who would take more than 2-3?! Do they recycle untaken mints? That's surely against Health and Safety regulations.

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"Jackfruit (not ripe yet) Display Only"
-_-
I wonder why the Durian is non-exchangeable

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Choose a colour for tofu firmness: soft to extra firm. One colour is missing though.

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"Padded Bras. Smooth Cups. Cleavage Enhancing. Up to TWO CUP SIZES"
This had to be in Chinatown
Also, a Chinese Massage does not inspire confidence

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Salvador's Festive Cabin

Appropriately, the Royal Ballet School was beside the Royal Opera House.

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Besides the sheer number of students, this is also an instructive illustration of the dynamics of racial integration. Though a couple of the "men" are actually women, the gender ratio is not as imbalanced as one might expect.

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Ballet Graduates

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La Ballerina restaurant

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Possibly inspired by Johnny Depp

The Royal Opera House had a tribute to Dame Joan Sutherland who had died just over a year prior.

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Anna Bolena

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Lucrezia Borgia

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La Traviata

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Social area

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Information sheet for opera: Così fan tutte

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"Coughing Please let us help you get your cough under control. Cough sweets are available at our sales desks - just ask."
WIN

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"Please be aware that the terrace becomes extremely slippery when wet.
Ladies in stilettos please take extra care"
Ahh health & safety regulations!

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Stage, with Royal Coat of Arms

My seat was good: middle block of the amphitheatre. It was the third level of seats. The balcony seats (the very cheapest) were actually alright, being benches with backs and not standing room (there was standing room too though).

The interior was actually very well designed for affording good viewing angles. My seat cost £81, but I think the £18 seat would've had an acceptable view. Maybe not for the £9 though.

Così fan tutte was staged in a modern setting. So the harpsichord plaed the Nokia ring tone in one scene. Hah.

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"Programmes and ice creams"
The perfect combination for an opera

The music to ask you to return to your seat at the end of the interval sounded hideous. But I guess that was the point.

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Side of interior

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Roof, with microphones hanging

It was quite stuffy and so hard to concentrate during Act 2, but the opera was so good I didn't doze off. Near the end someone realised it was stuffy and it got better (when we were leaving someone remarked that it was hot inside, so it wasn't just me).

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Cast taking bow

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Colin Davis and orchestra. Davis looks very fragile.

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Joan Sutherland as Olympia

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Queen of the Night

Unfortunately when I got up after the Second Act my foot had flared up with a vengeance, so I had to hobble back to the hostel. Luckily I was prepared for such an eventuality.

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Immature mannikins

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"War Horse
The Romance of India's Cinema
The Magic of Indian Cuisine"

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The Plough at Bloomsbury where lots of great people lived and cavorted

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A Bibimbab Cafe

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Good Ole Phone Booth Ads. A third are for transsexuals and a third are for black ladies. I wonder if that is telling.
The ad for the transsexual says she is "English" and many of the ads say "Local" (though maybe that refers to the phone number). Clear evidence of anti-foreigner sentiment!

The transsexual at the top right, Lucy Browne, has a website http://www.lucybrowne.com/. On it, one notices "three very different girls to cater for whatever you're into". Namely, Lucy Browne Transsexual; Mature Katrina; Very Naughty Melanie. Presumably Lucy Browne is the owner (she seems pre-op). So even among Sisters, Patriarchy prevails. In any event, Very Naughty Melanie is the only one out of the three who is not "English".
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