Jay and I took the train to London a couple of weeks ago. He had the choice of doing anything at all: the London Eye, the Tower of London, the Science Museum, Buckingham Palace, Hamleys, just wandering around, a riverboat trip – what did he choose? The Natural History Museum 🙂 He chooses it every time, and I’m not complaining, it still being one of my most favourite places to go in the capital.
One of our favourite parts of the museum is the vast rock and mineral room and we spent an hour or more poring over the glass cases.
It is a magnificent place, ancient fossils and gems, stones of every colour and hue, even iridescent rainbow coloured…
There was a meteorite that had fallen to Earth earlier this year.
Jay had a great time with the camera taking photos of everything from the mosaic flooring to the stone monkeys that climbed the great pillars, even the drinks collection in the café… he took over 300 pictures that day!
We meandered around the museum as statues, busts and pictures of explorers, discoverers and scientists looked sombrely down on us.
There is a weightiness in the atmosphere here – from the sheer size of the building to the weight of centuries, millennia that it contains; the dustiness, the heavy locked doors, the cavernous corridors, the agéd taxidermy, crumbling skeletons, the datedness of some of the exhibits. There is a separation between the past here and the modern and rather gaudy interactive displays, and overstuffed multiple shops and eateries, which does not seem natural at all. The faces of the ghosts of the past peer out at us: the fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning caught my eye as the crowds milled past her photograph. A few stopped to have their picture taken in front of her. I wonder what she would make of this place as it is now?
While there, we didn’t get to see half of what we might have… and yet still I felt a pressure to move on, to see ‘more’. Maybe I am romanticising a bit too much, but I want to feel that reverence for life that I sense existed in times past, that is often missing in modern life. A respect for and interest in the world around us, be it man-made or not. A sense of wonder, and wanting to slow so I don’t miss the hundreds of little things that might escape my attention if I am continually moving on to the next thing.
The crowds got to both of us after a while (wouldn’t it be wonderful to roam around the London museums after closing time?), so, after a wander around green park and a trip on the open top bus we headed back to Paddington station.
On the train back we passed fields of tents, and thousands of people gathered for the Reading Festival. A long weekend of music, partying, drinking, smiles and fun. There was a time when I would’ve loved to be there. Not so much any more (am I just getting old?). Now, I am just happy to be home.