New Loves In Old Haunts

Gower Street Scene (Framed)I didn’t quite go into detail here previously on the massive holiday I was planning, apart from the Thurston Moore squee, so I should state briefly for the record that I spent about 6 weeks from mid-October to early December trying to be young again across London, Montreal, New England, New York City and Berlin. A wise man would stake no money on the chances of me blogging about that in any comprehensive way, but I do usually manage the first few days! So here’s the first day I spent in London, and let’s hope I’ll get to a few more later on.

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Grant Museum of Zoology, London: The Lovely Bones

I’ve long run out of humorous excuses for neglecting this blog, the pathetic truth being that I neglect it because I don’t think many people read it, which of course engenders a chicken-and-egg problem which is so totally first-world I’m ashamed to even be talking about it. So let me launch right into the good stuff, and by good, I mean good if you’re into skeletal remains and cute furry things entombed in glass formaldehyde coffins.

Anyone who understands London at all will know that you can live there for years and still only scratch its surface, unless you happen to be Peter Ackroyd, in which case I want to transplant your brain into mine. The Grant Museum of Zoology is a classic example of how I managed to live five minutes’ walk from an intimidatingly long walrus penis bone for four years and not know it. It’s one of UCL’s museums, small but very charming, and of course like almost every other museum in London, you can enjoy it for free – something I always appreciated about London, but even more so after I’d visited New York. I realize that as someone who used to enjoy taking spontaneous detours past the Rosetta Stone or Elgin Marbles on the way home from lectures or shopping, I have been extraordinarily spoilt, but that’s just what London does – it spoils you for anywhere else.

But I digress – onwards to the walrus schlong. (Actually, don’t get your expectations up too high, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, it’s big, but I shamelessly exploited it to sucker you into reading a post about a dusty little zoological museum.)

Here’s a thumbnail gallery to help with page loading time, and so that the full-size horrors of the Surinam Toad or the Jar of Moles aren’t plastered across the front page of this blog, but the full post follows under the thumbnails.[slickr-flickr type=”gallery” search=”sets” set=”72157628495925387″ flickr_link=”on” descriptions=”on” size=”m640″]

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British Museum (Africa Galleries)

I will slowly conquer the British Museum, bit by bit. I will. I can’t leave here saying I lived a stone’s throw from the British Museum for four years and didn’t.

The first problem was that every time I used to go in, I’d get sucked into the Egyptian or Greek sections, and get absolutely exhausted by these alone. The second problem was that they had to go and make that wondrous Great Court, and I started wandering in simply for that, cutting through the museum on my way home but not actually seeing exhibits other than by Norman Foster. The third problem, well, there is no third problem. I’ve just taken it for granted all these years. (No doubt because it’s free. When I went to the Louvre I was determined to get my money’s worth, and nearly had to be carried out.)

So on Friday I headed to the Africa galleries with Russ (just one part of another happy leisurely indulgent-yet-frugal afternoon. We had lunch, went to one of the greatest museums in the world, and spent hours reading in the Borders cafe. I think we spent about £5). Apart from the incredibly beautiful artefacts on display or the fact that I learnt a lot, what really struck me was how appealingly everything was laid out and presented. Throwing-knives encased in a wall of glass. Shark masks used in traditional masquerade ceremonies suspended in the air, as if in water. Brassworked panels dominating one side of a room, the stark, simple blocks of shadows they cast on the walls only emphasizing their intricacy. Everything meticulously labelled and explained.

Duly wowed. Next stop: the Orient.

Bloomsbury In The Snow

There were all sorts of snowmen in Tavistock Square yesterday. One ambitious effort towered over me, wreathed with maple leaves. Another only came up to my knee, but with his glinting 5p eyes and mouth wide open in a silent wail he was as scary as knee-high snowmen can be. I got there late, when most of the activity had died down and the light was beginning to go. In the expanse of white and grey, Gandhi remained quietly hunched over the parched flowers in his lap, snow on his bald head and bare skin.

I moved on to Gordon Square, where I met Avril, and we built our own snowman. He looked comfortable on the park bench, although the legs we made to dangle off it were rather too spindly for his portly frame. When a group of guys initiated a snowball fight, I realized that I do, unfortunately, throw like a girl.

At UCL, one of the naked male statues on the facade was sharing his pedestal with a snowman. Another truly impressive (and unmistakably male) specimen lolled back on his bench and watched the goings-on with a broad, sculpted (no twigs involved!) smile.

By this time the light was dying fast. I took my last photograph, moulded my last snowball, and went slip-sliding all the way home.