There was an afternoon departure to our Aunt and Uncle’s house on the itinerary, but that left the morning for a bit more exploring in London. I’d read about the Type Archive – known as the Type Museum at the time – in Simon Garfield’s Just My Type and of course had been intrigued to see it. By the time I made it to London it still did not seem to be open to the public on a regular basis, but I’d hoped to make arrangements for a visit. I had e-mailed before we left the States, and did not get a response. Then once we were in London I tried calling. No answer, and no machine for leaving a message. Hmn.
I almost just left it, but then figured I’d be kicking myself for being so close and not even trying, and so I just went. I was going to say showed up on the doorstep, except the doorstep was behind a locked gate and no intercom or way to communicate past the gate that I could tell. So I hung around. Finally someone drove up, and I started on my plea to see the type and it turned out they were from one of the other properties behind the gate. But they thought someone from the Type Archive would be along shortly. Which, they were. A bit surprised to be greeted by a random American, but too polite (as I hoped – playing the “I came all this way and this is my last day in London card”) to turn me away.
It turned out that there’s only a few employees, and they aren’t there every day, so I was quite fortunate with my timing. The older gentleman who was kind enough to let me and and give me a brief tour had been an engineer at Monotype – not a printer – interested in “the making of things, and making things work – it might as well have been bicycles” – but it sounded as if he had had a long and rewarding career in the industry, and was getting some sort of satisfaction in this continuation, preservation and passing along of his knowledge, at the same time acknowledging that technology and much of the world has long since moved on.
Besides all the Monotype equipment the Archive has patterns and matrices for untold numbers of metal type faces, and a large wood type and pattern collection as well. In the wood I saw some non-English faces which were just spectacular. There are molds that are hundreds of years old. It was overwhelming. Mind-boggling. One could spend a lifetime there. But my guide had his usual work day to get to, and he’d been so kind to let me in at all I didn’t want to impose on him more, so I went on my way.
I took the scenic route back to the flat from the tube station, seeing more sights along the canal, including a boat going through the locks at Camden! And of course there was trying to, and getting, a treat. We had another nice lunch at the Italian place, and then were about to leave when it turned out that no, we were not going to be coming back to the flat. Oops. Miscommunication. We commenced speed packing of the rest of our things.
We took the Underground to Euston, and then the Overground – I would have called it a train, but there’s the fun of English as a common language. I was nice being above ground and getting to see the sights. One of the stations was “where you alight for Harry Potter” – alight… more of that language fun.
There was a school in between the station and our Aunt and Uncle’s house, and we had the unfortunate timing to be trying to pass by on the not much more than one lane road when alltheparents were there to pick up their offspring. Not so much different from the States in that, or the person who was trying to squeeze in oncoming although there was no place for her to go rather than letting us continue on and get out of everyone’s way. But of course we eventually made it, and unloaded and settled in while my Aunt took my Uncle to an appointment.
When they got back we watched some tennis – Wimbledon was in progress – and there was the underdog match of British player Marcus Willis, ranked No 772 in the world, playing against Roger Federer on Centre Court in the second round. Good times. Dinner was Chinese take away, again with the language, and then we watched Belle, a movie inspired by a mixed race girl who had been brought up at Kenwood House in London in the 18th century. My Aunt and Sister had visited Kenwood House on the day WCN and I were off Tank Festing. It was one of those movies that I never would have heard of otherwise, but I quite enjoyed. It’s a beautiful period piece, and fascinating story. Although I’m sure they took some liberties, it is based on real people and events.
June 29, 2016