Actually this is not a man-sized bird, nor an Egyptian god, but the lovely Liz Green performing at Rough Trade in Notting Hill. Beautiful songs, beautiful voice.
What’s this then?
I shall spare you an excruciatingly protracted pop quiz. Checkout the big daddy in the room…
Yep, of course you guessed it: the famous, full-scale model of a blue whale at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. I still remember the first time I saw it when I was a kid. I was staggered by the scale of the animal, it being thirty metres long and me being only the size of a pint. I remember wondering if this marvel was a real animal. Well it is just a model, young Tom. You fool.
Our spontaneous jaunt to the NHM was a way of constructively filling a Sunday evening. Relaxing and productive we thought. But it was a faintly weird (though highly enjoyable) experience. For starters, I don’t think I have been there since my school days. Secondly, I think that a lot of it has not changed since then.
The board of the museum surely had a meeting in the mid eighties where they decided that informational exhibits were too stuffy and unappealing to kids. They must have decided that the only thing to do was to jazz them up with buttons and cutting-edge information technology. Which is to say lots of little lights and printed plastic. They don’t seem to have had another of those upgrade meetings since.
I think it is a great idea making displays interactive and fun for kids, but they might have been pushing it a bit on occasions:
I would love to know the thought process of the curator who mocked this little Damien Hirst up. “We need a display about rhino horns for kids > What sort of horns are kids usually interested in? > The sort that goths stick on their heads before going out to rebel”. Ughhh.
Of course most of the kids will run straight to the big animatronic T. Rex which has been displayed with much dramatic effect. You have to go there to see what I mean. The skulls and skeletons are pretty cool too.
I found this particular display enlightening. It shows the proportion of air in the lungs which is renewed in a single breath by a human (left) and a whale (right). I can really see the point of all those Yoga exercises where you try force as much stale air out of your lungs as possible.
The strange thing about this admirable museum is that it is supposed to teach you about the wonders of nature (and it does) but the place has a curiously stale, fusty air about it. There are sections you walk through which feel like administrative corridors of a university (I quite liked that actually – it made it feel nicely academic); a lot of the displays, as aforementioned, need updating; but, most of all, it is filled with plastic and stuffed animals many of which have been there since the earlier part of the 20th century (including the big fatty blue whale which I so love). I mean, is this not a curious sight?:
As I walked around the stuffed elephants and yaks, I could not help but think these taxidermic specimens just a little bit inappropriate for the cause of conservation. Perhaps the airfix blue whale sums up the place quite well: big, out-of-date, a bit dusty, weird, fascinating, loveable.
It was nice to see that the kids were just as fascinated with the buttons and lights as I was when I was a youth. And like young Tom they were only interested in triggering the flashes and sound effects, not the informative captions about baleen and spermacita. Subjects which I find fascinating now of course.
Ahh it’s good to be back. I have been attendant at my sister’s wedding where I have been eating lots of things like this:
Anyway, the grand event was at Woburn where there is a safari park. I love animals so I had to have a gander, despite my latent fears of monkeys defecating all over my car.
Look at those crazy bastard horns. Generally the animals looked a hell of a lot happier than in zoos. It may seem obvious to say so. But they really looked like they were having a nice holiday in the sunny English pastures. Fuck knows what they must have thought of the irregular and weird stream of metal boxes snaking through their lives.
I also saw another of my favourite things: a grotesque / abstruse / rude sign. This one was fantastically lurid. And in the lion enclosure as I am sure you could imagine.
a. the comedy arm
b. the gnarly teeth
c. the health and safety regulation blood, printed in red, not black, for extra effect
d. the pathetic car contrasting with gnarly lion and said gnarly teeth
Although I think I got the message, I have to admit that at first I though it was telling motorists not to offer the animals shitty necklaces. And surely if a lion went for your hand it would eat the whole thing, not just let a little blood.