Yesterday afternoon I looked ahead at planning a trip to Bletchley. It involves a short train ride out of Euston Station, but I found I couldn’t book tickets for less than 24 hours ahead. Which meant I couldn’t book for today, so I booked instead for Saturday. By the way, the Midlands Rail website worked well; it sent me my ticket via email but in a form that I could load directly into my Apple Wallet. So that was all set for Saturday, but what would I do Friday?
I got out my list of museums that I’d made up in November and was about to opt for either finishing the National Gallery, or the Science Museum, when I realized OMG the British Museum itself! OK then. On its website I found there was an 11:30 tour, “Around the World in 90 minutes, highlights of the museum”, for a fee (as contrasted to the usual docent tour which is free). Book it!
I left at 9:30, the now-familiar four-stop run from Lancaster Gate to Tottenham Court Road that I’d used for &Juliet and Faulty Towers. The street leading to the museum’s gate is lined with tourist shops (the museum must draw visitors by the million in summer) and among them I noticed one that featured Scottish woolens and cashmere. Hmmm. On impulse I stopped in and the lady was happy to show me a light cashmere sweater, quarter-zip, shawl collar, coffee-brown, exactly what I wanted! So I bought it. Probably paid too much, only a bit less than Harrod’s wanted (but theirs wasn’t cashmere). Anyway, that’s done.
Into the museum. The fore-court is lined with serpentine crowd control barriers. Again, as if they were ready to handle huge numbers of people, although today there were only dozens. Into the museum, pay £2 for a map, and start wandering. Yesterday I wrote of the V&A, so much stuff. Hah. I didn’t know what so much meant. This one has everything the inquisitive, acquisitive, sticky-fingered brits collected as they spread out over the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. Just casually, here’s a hall of Egyptian mummies, there’s the hall of Elgin marbles that I saw reproductions of in Athens last year, and over there, yeah, that’s the Rosetta stone. Whatever, no big thing.
The building rambles out from a central court in concentric square rings of halls. I got all the way around one ring before it was time to go to the meeting point for the tour. The tour was led by Peter, a friendly Yorkshireman, “you may have noticed I’ve retained just a trace of an accent?” No problem, Peter, I’ve watched I don’t know how many Britcoms set in Yorkshire. We were a group of 8 (“I usually have about 20, this is the perfect number”). Peter led us wide around the museum stopping at a dozen objects “selected by the curators of each gallery as a highlight.” The Mildenhall chess set, the Sutton Hoo helmet, Lindow man (a body preserved in a bog for 2000 years), the Oxus treasure, a lion from Nebuchadnezzar’s gate, on loan from the Pergamon museum in Berlin (been there), the David vases (earliest known blue and white Chinese porcelain), an Easter Island statue, a study reproduction of the Rosetta stone (“you can touch this one, we’ll walk by the real one shortly”) and the Parthenon marbles. Couple others I didn’t note.
It was a fun and entertaining 90 minutes. Peter did a good job, clear, informative, and funny. British docents are so far scoring very high with me.
But I’d now been museum-gawking for three hours and my feet hurt, so I left, stopped by the woolen store to pick up my sweater, and back to TCR underground. Now to plan the route to the Barbican for tonight.
When I was booking things last fall, I wanted to have some kind of dance performance, and found this one: “Anton and Erin dance the great movies”. I didn’t bother researching who Anton and Erin were. Well it developed over the course of the evening that Anton du Beke and Erin Boag were long-time professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing, the British reality dance show that was copied in the USA as Dancing with the Stars. This was a tour they’d organized, and most of the people in the audience were fans of the TV show and had been watching them dance for a decade.
Besides Anton and Erin there were three male and three female dancers, two singers, and an orchestra of at least 30 pieces. There were a number of dance routines, a lot of costume changes, lots of floofy gowns and tight revealing outfits, and it was fairly entertaining. In the first and second halves combined, Erin and Anton spent at least 20 minutes, I kid you not, in chit-chatting with the audience, answering questions, reminiscing. That was pretty feeble stuff for me, since I didn’t have the associations. In the audience, introduced from the stage, was Len Goodman, a familiar name to me as he has been a long-time judge on Dancing with the Stars.
Part of the attraction of this booking was that it was held at the Barbican Centre, which I’d never been to. I almost wasn’t to it this time. It’s only 3 blocks from the underground station, but there were no signs, and Apple Maps went completely spastic on giving directions, sending me first one way, then another. Possibly confused by being in a forest of very tall buildings and overpasses, but I must have walked 20 blocks to cover that three, and ended up coming into the venue by a back door. When you finally get in, it is a very large hall. Quite handsome. This panorama doesn’t do it justice.
The seats were wide and very comfortable. I had booked a front-row balcony seat and had good sight-lines.