While much of my time in London was spent helping my friend, my fellow Australians and I did manage to visit the big three museums - the Museum of Natural History, the Victoria and Albert, and the British Museum.
I refuse to use the word iconic as it is so often mis-used these days, but these three museums are the ultimate anywhere in the world. How often do we hear, or see, "It's in the British Museum"? These museums really are the top of the tree, the standard by which all others are measured.
The Museum of Natural History was the first. Approaching it, I would have been forgiven for believing it to be a cathedral. Victorian Gothic architecture was used to design a building intended to house the New Religion of the nineteenth century - Science, with a capital S. The nineteenth century was the era of the Gentleman Scientist. An expanding middle class produced a number of men - and they were men - who had little to do but potter around in their laboratories and go on expeditions to exotic places. They had the funds to support themselves and their families; they had no need to rely on universities and governments for handouts and grants, which meant they were free to follow genuinely independent lines of research. Charles Darwin epitomises the concept, but there were many more.
We are fond of looking at how much things have change in the last century, but think for a moment. Many, if not the majority, of the most important inventions and discoveries we use in our daily lives - electricity, the internal combustion engine, the telephone - were invented in the nineteenth century by independent scientists and inventors.
The twentieth and twenty first centuries owe a great deal to these people. It is a great pity that gentleman - and lady - scholars no longer exist, but the great museums still do, memorials to their intrepid spirit of exploration and discovery. I could have spent many weeks in any of these three museums, but was unfortunately limited to an afternoon in each. The photos are from those afternoons.
As I said in my last post, I'm house sitting in Reno, Nevada at the moment. Earlier in the week I ventured out in my host's car, still extremely nervous about driving on the "wrong" side of the road. It seems odd to me that no-one thought to standardise something so important in the early stages.
Along the same lines, I have a handy little device I bought in Malaysia which allows me to re-charge my laptop, phone and camera in (it promises) any country in the world. Why are electric plugs not standardised? Or why weren't they at some crucial stage in the commercialisation of electricity?
Perhaps the more scientific of my readers can answer both of these questions for me.
Very little has been happening on a personal exploration front recently, despite being in a new place. I've had another story accepted by the same publisher who accepted my first story. There's quite a lot of work involved after a story is accepted. I write the blurb which in non-electronic media would be on the back of the book and liaise with an artist about the cover art. I like this publisher, because she gives the writers plenty of scope with the cover. Other publishers, I am told, ordain what is going to go on the cover, sometimes with hilarious results.
I've also written and sent off another story, unrelated to the first two. Fingers crossed!
Romantic Fantasy seems to be my genre. Perhaps I just needed the rest of the world to catch up with the stories I've been writing for years.
The Americans I've met to date are unbelievably friendly. Everyone seems to want to have a chat, from a young boy practicing on his roller blades, to a maintenance man working on the roads, to a neighbour passing in the street. I'm finding it a bit unnerving, especially after England where people aren't quite as outgoing.
To add to it, once people hear my accent they want to know all about where I'm from, why I am here, how long I'm here for, what I've seen already - and so on. Reno isn't very big - about the same size as Hobart, where I grew up - so some of it is the country town thing. It's still amazing though, and not what I'd expected.
Photos and more on Reno in my next post.