Railway, The V&A; Gone Tomorrow, Here Today

Monday 16 March 1998 Back Next

[Sorry for the crap title. It's all I could think to rhyme.]

The last thing on my to-do list is to visit the Victoria and Albert museum in London. And for this excursion, the most interesting this is the way I got there. Check this out:

<Picture of a Travelcard> This one mag striped card gets you to and from London by rail, and is also good for the London underground. All day. I've no idea what "Valid off peak as advertised" means because I didn't see it advertised anywhere. From Camberley to the South Kensington underground station, to the V&A, I had to see (walk under) sky only once, to cross the street. Whether this is good or not, I don't know. When it's raining (which it hardly ever does when I'm here), I think it'd be a boon.

So what to say about the Victoria and Albert museum? Saw some lovely 16th and 17th century Persian rugs. And some astoundingly large plaster casts of a column in Rome and Michelangelo's David. And some Beatrix Potter sketches (the real things, not plaster casts.) And a lot of very dull ceramics, glass, and iron work that I couldn't skip fast enough.

After a bit too long, I nipped over to the British Museum of Natural History which was much more to my liking. Dinosaurs. Earthquakes. Models of whales. Brightly lit exhibits. You know. Like that. There was simulation of a Japanese grocery store that shook according to the same seismic data recorded from recent Kobe quake. A trio of video monitors showed the security camera footage from the store as the shelves lurches and tins of food spilled into the aisles. (In the simulator, nothing actually fell, bit it did shake fabulously.) The dinosaur gallery was exceptional. You start on a catwalk that runs the length of the hall, down the middle. A number of skeletons are suspended at eye level, all well lit and well posed. On ground level, you find out how they liven, what they ate, how long they might have lived (est. 70-130 years given their size), what diseases may have affected them. And like that. On the way out of the gallery, there was a final lucite case with a model of a dead dinosaur in it, about the size of a dog. It's not obviously part of the other exhibits, and there's no placard to read, so I almost passed it by without a thought. And then I saw it twitch out of the corner of my eye and realized that it was breathing. A napping dinosaur. Great.

Compare and contrast the V&A, the BMNH (15 marks)

The trip back to Camberley was one of great velocity with very little time between trains. Until Ascot, when we heard that something had broken down on the like ahead and so the service to Camberley was cancelled, to be replaced by a bus. We left the station, hot on the waiting bus, and were on our way immediately. Had it been Canada, I feel certain we would have been left to stew in our own juices, stopped on the tracks in the middle of nowhere, for hours. No one on the train would have told us what was going on, there'd be no alternative transportation, or if there was, we'd have to wait an hour for it. So if it wasn't already clear, I was really quite impressed.

Skip and I go out for Thai food, then delve a last time into Riven. Any attempt to get to sleep at a reasonable hour are scotched, and we make do with about 5 hours.


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