Wednesday 7 July

Oh the excitement! A day out in London! I went by train from Coulsdon to Victoria, not overcrowded, then on the Victoria line to Oxford Circus, then the Central line to Tottenham Court Road. At every point I thought I might see more people, but no. It was not deserted, but also not heavily used. Basically because there are no tourists and few commuters, although the number is increasing. I never felt that I was doing something risky. One of the advantages of the pandemic is that everything is very clean. The underground is mopped and swept, the public toilets are immaculate.

I met my friend Vanessa for lunch. I have not seen her since December, and normally we meet quite regularly to go to an exhibition and do lunch. So it was serious catch up time. But as she lives in north London, not so far from Wembley, she decided to skip the exhibition and head off home. I was fortunate to walk in to the British Museum to see the Thomas Becket exhibition. The website is very insistent about advance booking but in reality it was easy to walk straight in. There was a steady number of visitors but nothing remotely like what one would normally expect in July. I enjoyed the Thomas Becket story very much. They had some well chosen artefacts, and for once the labelling was clear and well illuminated. I had not realised that within 2 years of his death he was declared a saint, and became quite a cult figure all over Europe.

This was a reliquary made in Limoges. St Thomas was apparently very popular in Norway, second only to St Olav. I loved this Norwegian shrine, depicting Thomas, with some very Viking-looking dragons at the top. Seems a wonderful compromise.

On the lower panel you can see Thomas with swords crashing down on his head. The wonderful thing about these exhibitions is the gathering together of artefacts from all over the world, including private collections. The manuscripts alone with beautiful illustrations are just fantastic. The Miracle Windows from Canterbury cathedral were enthralling as normally they are too high up to see the detail. Three were here.

This shows a leper having his sores bathed, and then being given “St Thomas’ water,” allegedly a mixture of his blood and holy water, which performed miracles.

I made my way back to Victoria station about 3.30pm and already there were shouts of “Come on England,” and “We’re coming home!” so I think it is going to be an exciting and probably sore-headed evening. I do of course have to go and find out what is going on, hence the earlier posting.

The background music to the exhibition was by Thomas Tallis, sung by The Sixteen. Not precisely this piece, but it gives a flavour of it.

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