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Published: February 9th 2020
over 200 million books
Seems even I can get tired of walking London’s streets. After the marathons of Sunday and Tuesday, and the mini-marathon to the British Museum Monday, today I wanted to walk minimally.
First to the British Library. In its convivial environment full of mostly students, I wrote the travel notes for yesterday. I sat indoors on the first floor where a lot of small tables served both researchers and the café. I didn’t quite have the nerve to go into a Reading Room without a single book. For a break, I wandered through the shop and asked about the special Cook’s maps exhibition; it cost 14 pounds and I wasn’t that interested. Instead, I went out to the plaza for a final treat of coffee and cake. Having eaten dessert first, I stopped by Pret-a-Manger for a chicken and cucumber sandwich to be eaten in my room while relaxing.
Finding a small reservoir of energy after lunch, I set off for the Wellcome Gallery
. This I saw on Euston Road when walking to Westminster. The Wellcome Foundation
sponsors programs on PBS, and I had always thought it might have been founded in the Robber Baron (Gilded Age) period of the USA. As
Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi 1995
based on a print by William Blake 1795
I have now learned, Henry Wellcome
was an American who rose from humble roots to become a British Knight for creating a huge pharmaceutical company. He was an obsessive collector, especially but not exclusively of medical items from around the world and through history. His wealth went to the Foundation that maintains this free museum.
The main gallery shows a fraction of his collection, focused on historic medical devices. The surgical implements were gruesome; I have read books in which “the butchers” did the best they could to amputate limbs and sometimes save lives using these implements. Ritual objects were less traumatic to view, but they were also only occasionally effective.
The birthing process was demonstrated by various types of dolls. The notes on one commented that it was not designed to explain the event to expectant mothers but to train midwives. The fetus model could be manipulated to allow practice in addressing complications.
An announcement of a free guided tour of the Teeth exhibition took me to that Gallery. Our cheerful guide led us through the age when pulling teeth was done violently, with blacksmithing tools, to our age when gold and diamond ornamentation on a sophisticated
Euston Fire Station 1902
Offices for the London Fire Brigade
mouthguard is made for celebrities with too much money. In between, preventative care and accurate dentistry gradually developed as dentists experimented and transitioned from necessarily inflicting pain to the current ability to preserve teeth.
A temporary Gallery showed four collaborations between scientists and artists. The idea seemed good, but the video interviews outside each room were more engaging than the art. The best installation explored breathing in a hypnotic video: how it is both controllable to a degree and uncontrollable eventually. Finding the limits of “eventually” is the challenge for both science, which tends to be conservative, and deep-divers, who tend to stretch their limits. The video starred the video-maker herself; she mastered the technique of not thinking about breathing to let her perform balletic moves on a tightrope underwater.
For dinner, I had planned to have a final fish and chips at the extremely noisy and rushed O’Brien’s across from St Pancras. No tables. I went back to Leigh Street, as I had the last two nights, and decided on the Norfolk Arms. The menu was more for a restaurant than a pub. The pan-fried sea bass was extraordinarily tasty with crisp skin and head on. Guinness
"A green and pleasant land", William Blake
went well with its salty flavour. Some unknown-to-me greens and new potatoes were the sides. Overheard conversation was fun as I ostensibly read my book, because one table was a first date and a nearby one was a second date.
Overnight I slept poorly, not helped by remembering just after turning out the lights that I had forgotten to do the online check in. The first time didn’t work, so I had to do it twice, which meant I was fully awake. Possibly I should have drunk my tea earlier in the evening, but I wanted to do so after finishing my packing and showering. Also, my digestive system was burbling around, and my sinuses wouldn’t behave. Some time in the middle of the night I took some aspirin, which worked. Still, I was awake before 6:00, and someone rolled their suitcases down the hall, ensuring sleep wouldn’t return.
Otherwise, everything went according to plan. I ate croissants and jam in my room, provided by the hotel. I walked to the Thames Link area in St Pancras and stood on the platform. The train came early but departed on time. I had a seat after one stop. Gatwick
was navigable. Duty Free prices for Hennessy were outrageous, and perhaps the Jameson Whiskey I bought is a better souvenir. I am on the plane, happy to be in Plus and glad to have caught a couple of photos of Greenland’s mountains.
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