Well I’ve spent my first full day in London and survived with all of my appendages. The temperatures aren’t quite as sub-zero as I had been making preparations for, but it’s still pretty damn cold. I get the chance to see the wisps of the wind twirl around in the steam from my breath for at least a few metres before it loses itself in the cold local air.
We talk about the urban sprawl back home in Perth, but we really haven’t any clue. The greater London makes my home state’s capital look like a quaint seaside village. Thankfully London is blessed with a public transport system with phenomenal scope. The infrastructure is amazing, the buses, trains and trans stretch across the landscape, to say nothing of the mindboggling underground. The Tube has a dozen lines that travel on several levels that criss and cross in a lattice of tunnels. It took Perth three years to build one train track in a straight line, I imagine they might barely comprehend the massive reach and utility that is provided here.
Of course trains and buses aren’t particularly inspiring as far as subject matter, so I should probably waffle about the rest of my day. After the public transport experience, Tara and I met up with her cousin Julie somewhere underground and made our way out to the O2 arena to take a squiz at the exhibition they had on, starring the remains of Tutankhamun. Unfortunately by the time we got there, the only tickets left would clash with the ones we had to go and see the terracotta army at the British Museum later that day. Resisting the urge to spend ungodly amounts of money to join three other suckers on the indoor ‘Ice Disco’, we grabbed some lunch at a reasonably classy joint called The Slug and Lettuce.
After some more public transport we spent some time wandering around one of the university districts since Julie needed to pick up some journals. A short walk later and we turned up at the British Museum to have a look around before our time slot to view The First Emporer exhibition. The inner hall of the Museum is monstrous, it has buildings inside of it, and of course they serve tea and scones at the cafe. Speaking of tea, my coffee intake has plummeted to about a serve a day, but my tea habit has risen sharply to roughly six hundred cups per day. Apparently in England, if you’re in someone’s home and you’re not holding a cup of tea, there is something amiss. I’m actually quite fond of tea though, so it works out remarkably well.
Anyhow, we took in most of the British Museum, and it turns out that mummified bodies and other things involving the remains of actual people kind of creep me out, so missing out on King Tut probably wasn’t too bad a deal. I appreciate the opportunity to see so many things with such a history, but it seems so cold and unnatural in museums like this one. Everything taken from context and placed in glass cabinets, from trinkets to treasures, even entire faces of thousand year old buildngs. It’s more like a giant hall dedicated to booty that England have collected from around the world and refuse to give back (which in some cases causes a mite of resentment amongst the people).
While the Museum had about fifteen soldiers of the terracotta army on loan, there were around about seven thousand found buried in China. I didn’t realise that they were only found just over thirty years ago. The scale of some of the things that rulers demanded of their people out of vanity is incredible.
So we wandered back through several more places I recognise from my Monopoly board, including Leicester Square, which would have been a proper disappointment if it weren’t for the young fellow on the kerb playing The Saints Go Marching In on orange traffic cone. Surprisingly well in fact.
I think tomorrow will be a little slower paced so that my body can catch up with itself before we head off up North for the weekend galavanting about the countryside. I’m looking forward to it, as London is rather grey. Very, very grey.