Sunday, August 02, 2009

London Trip, 3rd Day: British Museum, and early Monday excursions

On Sunday I took a long walk from my hotel with the object of 1. locating the Horse Hospital, where the Monday DNA exhibition opening was to be held, and 2. to pay a visit to some other rooms of the British Museum. First objective was easily obtained, as the Horse Hospital was ridiculously close to where I was staying. I then made my way through the maze of London streets to find Montague and finally Great Russell Street.

One characteristic of moving through London is that everyone sort of moves together, but in a self-contained way. No one makes eye contact with anyone else, or really acknowledges anyone else's existence. Everyone, myself included, is in a hurry to get nowhere. Nonetheless, while walking I find myself people-watching. I do it while sitting in the pubs and cafes as well, and I couldn't help but notice the fashions of the twenty-something and younger girls, both the Londoners and the European visitors. There seems to be a resurgence of the baby-doll dress, along with those footless leggings, with or without lace on the bottom. I wore clothes in this style from approximately 1991-1994, though I think it may have been a trend that started in the late 1980s. In any event--I remember the old dictum about fashion repeating itself every twenty years or so. And when I realize it's been almost twenty years since that time, well...I started to feel a bit old. However, the fresh perspective of looking at a younger generation in those clothes make me realize what a dreadful look it was--not as dreadful as the spiral perms, feathered hair, neon-earrings and shoulder-pads of the eighties, but it really doesn't look so good. I'm rather glad that I've stopped caring so much about what is fashionable, at least in terms of my own dress.

Once again, entering the museum, there was a huge throng of tourists. I decided to check out the Greek and Roman collections first. On my last visit I had looked at the artifacts of Roman Britain. I found myself looking at a lot of tombs and monuments to the dead, and starting having deja vu from my Westminster visit the day before. In a room by itself stood the Nereid Monument, an old Greek/Lycian structure. I'm always fascinated to see these kinds of monuments up close. The Metropolitan in New York has quite a bit of Greek and Roman sculpture, but not anything like this, at least not recently.

I worked my way through these rooms, until I came to the huge statues and reliefs of the Assyrian rooms. These were very crowded, as they were right near the Ancient Egypt rooms, which always seem to be the most popular. I made my way over to the Southeast Asian collection, and was pleased to be looking at Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainist statuary. Among the statues of Buddhist lamas and bodhisattvas, there were images of Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, and deities of the Devi Mahatmayam, including Chamunda and Mahisasuramardini, the fierce aspects of the Goddess. I thought the Orissan sculptures were the most interesting--the portrayals of the deities are slightly different from the usual images, and somehow they felt more "on the mark" in demonstrating the qualities of those deities. Most of the sculptures dated from between the 15th and 18th centuries.

After leaving the museum, I was pleased to locate a pub that did not have loud music blaring, and wasn't crowded. I spent a lot of the afternoon reading and writing, and was tired out pretty quickly by evening.

The next day was the DNA event at the Horse Hospital. I want to blog about that separately, so I will mention my Monday morning excursions here. Some of them are not worth mentioning--however, I did head down to Berkeley Square to visit Maggs, the rare bookseller at number 50. (This was also the site of "the Horror of Berkeley Square". Which is just so awesome...) I'm a danger to myself in rare bookstores. I'd never seen so much original primary source material on things like the Catholic/Anglican split and the Albigensian Heresy. Of course my current writing area is early Church history, and I didn't dare look at those materials for fear I'd buy them. I'd gone to London pretty much on the broke side, and did not need to be racking up another thousand pounds in debt. I managed to restrain myself, buying only one small item that had been re-bound, and hence less expensive. In any case, Maggs is a wonderful place to check out, you just need an idea of what you're looking for in advance so that staff can guide you appropriately. I actually picked up a few books on this trip in general, which explains the bruise on my shoulder from extra-heavy carry-on luggage.

Tomorrow's posting will be on the DNA exhibition opening...

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