Back on the Museum Trail

27 Dec

Arriving back in London seemed slightly strange after spending six weeks in New Zealand, but we settled back to our touring around the Museums, etc after a couple of days rest.  We went back to the Science Museum as we had only been through one and a half of the five floors!  One of the first displays I saw was a whole section on Uniform Polyhedra, which so reminded me of James.  It is usual for us to spend up to five hours in one building when we find a really interesting museum, so it was really strange to enter the building in daylight but then leave the same building and it is completely dark!  I just can’t get used to the idea that by 4.15-4.30p.m (depending if it is cloudy or not) it is night-time.

Ice Rink outside the Natural Science Museum

James could do this!

I forgot who this chap is but he is made out of pieces of slate

When we left the Science Museum we walked past one of the many ice rinks erected around the city, which are beautifully lit and well attended.  The forecast for Christmas this year did not include natural snow or ice so people are making the most of them.   I am so surprised to see how few shops and houses have celebrated with Christmas light displays.  Apparently, Regent St is the place to go, which have haven’t seen as yet.  But on the whole the bigger stores like Harrods have illuminated their building, and a few other large retail shops have decorations inside their premises, but mostly it’s very plain.  When you travel around the suburban streets it’s the same with the houses.  A few people put in a bit of effort but it is really disappointing.  I saw on the TV news that most Councils have cut down on the expense of public displays, anything from 50-90% down from previous years.  The general economic climate in the UK is pretty dire and pessimistic, much more so than back home.

Olympic venue, covered in a plastic membrane.

Next year London is hosting  the Olympics and just in the next suburb along from Rob’s place they are building stadia for the archery, shooting and I think some of the show jumping and dressage events.  It’s great to see the progress as we bus past several times a week.
We went to the Speaker’s Corner Hyde Park on one occasion but we weren’t treated to a Speaker!  It was so cold out, probably around 4 degrees with a vicious wind blowing!  We did see a beautiful statue of a horse’s head though, that I was particularly taken with.  We only walked down one length of the Park, alongside Park Lane in fact, and saw the memorials to the people who will killed in the 07/07/05 bombings in London.  It is very moving.  When you are so far underground in the Tube stations it can be quite creepy thinking of this.  It is also amazing to be wandering around London and seeing the street signs for streets, train stations, etc, that are so familiar to us from the Monopoly board!

Another visit into London, we went to the Design Museum, just along from London Bridge.   It was pretty amazing really and a welcome change from looking at ancient stuff.

A tree with various birds, made from many layers of corrugated cardboard on their edge (Design Museum)

Outside the Design Museum

Another one made with corrugated cardboard (Design Museum)

This is what I call recycling! Made from old prescription glasses

Each human figure was unique

We spent a few hours at Westminster.  The security was very tight, policemen armed with machine guns, our photos were taken and we had to wear an electronic tag around our necks.  We sat in the public gallery and listened to Question Time  at the House of Commons, which was really interesting.  Dennis and I would often listen to Question Time at Parliament on the radio in NZ when we were busy working at Hurry Up and it was interesting to compare the two.  It certainly is much more polite and restrained in London, they obviously miss Winston or Rodney Hyde here!  We only lasted about 15 minutes in the House of Lords!  I noticed that one of the 10 Lords was asleep as well!  Once again when we went outside it was dark (4.20p.m.)!  We had heard a helicopter for quite some time when we were inside the magnificent building and wondered what was happening.  When we emerged we saw the helicopter hovering directly over Parliament Buildings, it stayed there for probably 30 minutes then shifted to just above 10 Downing St.

House of Commons

Oliver Cromwell

We waited outside Westminster Abbey in the cold until it was time for Evensong.  The officials were welcoming to anybody who intended to join the service but they didn’t want tourists to just wander around the church while the service was on.  This was so much better than at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The service was entirely sung, other than the Bible readings, so the songs obviously, prayers, and benediction, etc.  The Dean held a turning fork and if the choir ended on the “wrong” note he would strike the turning fork and hold it up to his ear, so he could establish the correct note for his singing.  All his responses were held on the one note.   The choir’s singing was beautiful and it was great that the Gospel was clearly given.

A blurry Westminster Abbey

I was pretty concerned when we came out of the Abby that the helicopter was still hovering over 10 Downing St, some of the roads were blocked off and the place was crawling with Police!    It was a bit freaky to go down in the Tube Station right there but of course we were fine but wondered what all the fuss was about.  I waited up for the late TV news to see what the problem was but there was no mention of it at all!  That helicopter was there for at least  two and half hours that we know of!

Inside the Great Hall at Westminster. The Queen gives her speeches before the Parliamentary year begins here

With so many huge deciduous trees in and around London there is an army of workers picking up the fallen leaves!  And they do it all by hand, no vacuum cleaners or machines of any kind!  I find it amazing that along our street five men SLOWLY worked their way down the road.  Previously, I noticed that one chap came around once a week with a little cart to tidy up the leaves and weeds and clips the shrubs in the street.  He would bag up the leaves in clear plastic bags, and leave them along the street until someone else comes by with a truck in a day or two.  In the bigger parks they make up holding pens for the leaves, with tarps and the equivalent of our waratahs.

The Leaf Brigade

We took a tour around the Tower of London and were thoroughly entertained by the particular Yeoman that led our group of tourists.  He was great!  He used to be a Sergeant Major in the Army and he had a very loud voice!  This was the first time we had to queue for tickets, and we waited for about 40 minutes, but it was worth the wait.

Tower of London, the tall building behind is the Gherkin and our church St Helen's is at its base


and monkeys made of chicken wire

While we were still in NZ, we watched a TV programme about the refurbishment of St. Pancreas Train Station in London.  So when we returned we made a detour during one of our trips on the Tube.  What a magnificent building! This is an international station as the Eurostar comes and goes from here.

Hello? Goodbye?

What a impressive ceiling at St Pancreas St

Build in 1867

Man admiring the ceiling

We also visited the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Maybe this was one museum too many but the only thing that really caught my eye was an exhibition by and about Annie Lennox.  Dennis had to drag me away from it.  Fascinating.  A display of various of her famous outfits, personal letters, a short personal history and a HUGE screen with her singing.

Well, Dennis finally came to agree with me that there is more to this trip than traipsing around museums and galleries, (we had made a visit to The Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square, which was great) and he thought a trip in our Motorhome outside of London was in order.  We agreed to travel south down to Lands End.


One Response to “Back on the Museum Trail”

  1. Leen January 1, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    As usual I enjoyed reading your blog very much.

    Happy New Year to you both


    Leen & Alice

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