Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | October 7, 2010

Mug shots in England and Scotland

Greetings!  After an unintended hiatus (thanks to unreliable internet and nonexistent internet), River City Fiction is back with a taste of Great Britain.  My husband, Adam, and I journeyed to England and Scotland for holiday.  Amid sightseeing and copious tea drinking, I did not forget RVA.  James River Writers has a thing for mug shots, photographs of people holding James River Writers mugs in various locations around Richmond.  JRW introduced the new travel mug before I traveled.  How convenient.

We booked seats on a flight departing Richmond International Airport on a Friday afternoon.  Adam and I arrived early enough to snap a mug shot before heading to our gate, where we waited…and waited.  Delta delayed the flight, so I headed to the bookstore to look for books by Richmond authors.  Back at the gate, Delta announced they canceled the flight.  Next scheduled flight?  Saturday.

So we headed to the hotel room paid for by Delta.  Here we tucked the mug into bed.  It was far less grumpy than I was.

Richmond departure, take two.  We got to RIC with lots of time to spare, and arrived in Philadelphia eight hours before our next flight.  Despite time to walk the luggage from one plane to another, no one loaded our bags onto the plane that took us to Heathrow.  At least I stored the JRW mug safely in my carry on.


JRW mug by Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, donated by J. M. Barrie in 1912.

St. Paul’s Cathedral.  In addition to being gorgeous, it includes the tomb of poet and preacher John Donne.  Some how I missed the famous statue of him in his funeral shroud.  Before his death he commissioned a portrait of himself in his shroud so he could meditate on his own death (he was brilliant, but still an odd duck).

William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.  You can’t see me off camera geeking out.   JRW mug in the window where Shakespeare sat writing his earliest work.  Famous writers and statesmen also visited this room, including Charles Dickens, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Washington Irving, and Prince Albert.

That bust is based on the one above Shakespeare’s grave.  The man can influence literature and culture for 400 years after his death, but he couldn’t get a flattering monument.  Let this be a warning to all writers: literary immortality does not make one immune to fugly depictions.

The JRW mug kept its distance from Shakespeare’s grave in Holy Trinity Church so it wouldn’t incur the wrath of his death curse.  We spared you the original painted Shakespeare bust.  It makes the one above look like the cover of GQ.  It is that bad.

While in Stratford-upon-Avon, the JRW also visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage and the site of Shakespeare’s last home.

This icon of English antiquity was actually bigger and more impressive than I’d imagined, even though here it looks about the same height as a double shot mocha.

The JRW mug taking the water at the Roman bath in Bath.  In the upper corner of the photo are the Roman ruins.

This section of the hot springs has been in continual use.   That means Romans used it and Jane Austen used it.  And a JRW mug.  Pretty hot, huh?

JRW mug takes the place of Athena among the gods that ornamented the Parthenon.  They currently live in the British Museum.

The lucky mug also caught a show at the reconstructed Globe Theatre.

This is The Globe stage where we watched Falstaff shake it in The Merry Wives of Windsor.  We were groundlings, mere inches from the stage, which is a little low-class for the JRW mug, but I liked it, and since I was paying and have legs, I won.

This is Canterbury Cathedral, the Canterbury Cathedral, site of St. Augustine’s church and Archbishop Thomas Becket’s murder, which caused the likes of The Wife of Bath and The Miller to hop on their horses and get to story telling.

Left to right: the sculpture above the spot where Archbishop Becket got a sword to the cranium; his name below; the candle where Becket’s tomb sat, note the groove worn into the floor by all those praying pilgrims.

Westminster Abbey forbids photographs inside, so Adam snapped a shot in the cloister.  Behind those walls is Poet’s Corner, resting place of famous writers like Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson and Edmund Spenser and Geoffrey Chaucer, the Geoffrey Chaucer.  (I focused on medieval lit in college, so permit me to gush.)  I’m not a fan of touching things that are hundreds of years old, but I had to touch Chaucer’s tomb.  Had to.  There’s also Milton’s memorial.  Above Chaucer’s tomb is a stained glass window of writers’ names, including Oscar Wilde and Christopher Marlowe side-by-side.  Does anyone else see the humor?

Next the mug hopped onto a train and headed north.


The Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh.

JRW in the Heart of Midlothian (Royal Mile, Edinburgh).

The Elephant House cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the early Harry Potters.  The coffee was good, the Earl Grey great, the pie delectable, and the view of Edinburgh Castle breathtaking.  I’ve been to the sites where the Bard and the Billionaire wrote, yet I don’t feel inspired.  I think I needed more tea.

This is Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye.  I spent a few days with my jaw hanging open as I admired the scenery, but I didn’t think to take a mug shot until the day of our departure.  On the day we tromped around The Fairy Glen in Uig, we found out it was a location used in the movie Stardust, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel.

The JRW mug also saw Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Dunvegan Castle, Leeds Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Tower of London, Victoria and Albert Museum, the white cliffs of Dover, Greenwich, the London Eye, a Fulham versus Everton EPL game, and many other sites I’m too tired to name.

So the JRW mug is home and me with it.  Pardon the unplanned interruption in your regularly scheduled programming.  In the next week, I’ll post an interview with author Diann Ducharme, the final I Love My Librarian, a recap of the James River Writers conference, and a profile of Books on Wheels.  Thanks for visiting.  I missed you, RVA.


  1. Looks like it was an amazing visit…I am jealous of bothe The Elephant Cafe and Stonehenge…I never made it to either. Sorry bout the flight delays but looks like it was all worth it!

  2. Tori,
    It was an amazing visit. We’ll have to discuss trips over coffee. I want to hear where you went. The Elephant House was yummy, but I think the coffee at Stir Crazy is just as good, if not better.

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