Because I forget stuff. Part of

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Originally posted May 17 2007 at 23:05 under General. 1 Comment. Trackbacks Disabled.

Been To London To See The Queen

Photograph of a Trafalgar Square fountainI happened to find myself in London (not precisely there to see the queen, but it’s not that bad a descriptive title either). In London with a few hours time to kill (because the rail system of this country is broken I had a choice between coming back on a 9 pm train—and only that train—or paying about three times the amount. It’s been a while since I’ve been in that position, so I went a bit touristy!

Photograph of Stephenson's Rocket in the Science Museum, LondonHaving actually had the foresight to buy a day ticket thingy so I could hop on and off the tube first port of call is of course the Science Museum. Obviously I didn’t have anything like enough time available for a proper look round (even if I could have stayed till nine, but it closes at six) but you can always ooh at the big stuff and remind yourself what the place looks like. The guy with the keyboard in the tunnel on the way from the tube wasn’t as good as the guy with the guitar on the way back. On the way into the museum came a strange reminder that this is London. The Science Museum is free entry so it should be a simple case of walk in off the street and wander round (okay, they may want to track visitor numbers in some way but you get the point). That doesn’t happen. You have to go through a cattle run thing to a man behind a desk (not a proper reception, just a table put there so he can sit at it). He gets to “search” you’re bags. In a great example of utterly pointless “security” So I flipped open the briefcase I was carrying and he gave it a half hearted poke, presumably deciding that it wasn’t a tactical nuclear device. “Nothing sharp or anything in there?” he asked. Ignoring the “or anything” part (for obviously, there was something I told him the absolute truth, no, I hadn’t. For he’d ask specifically about the case. The fact that I happened to have a quite sharp penknife—and as far as he knows “whatever” else—in my pocket didn’t seem to be included in that question. And so London, pointless inconveniences in the name of ineffective security.

Anyway, the Science Museum is of course good! Having spent so much time at the National Railway Museum the first parts of the Science Museum feels almost like a straight forward extension of that. The Energy Hall is full of big stationary steam engines and leads through to Making The Modern World which starts with Puffing Billy and Stephenson’s Rocket. If the Exploring Space gallery weren’t between the two one could almost forget which museum was which! The whole place is gallery after gallery. Perhaps some of it could do with an update (and I don’t mean to hands on, kiddie friendly but useless for adults) but there’s just so much stuff that sometimes long rows of objects in cases are inevitable. Perhaps some better signage though. While the big things are obvious it’s very easy to miss smaller but interesting items (I don’t know if the book shop has one but the museum shop didn’t seem to have a guide book of any sort). I managed to have a quick look at most of the galleries at least, before heading off to see less closing soon tourist attractions.

A photograph looking along the Thames at Westminster Palace on the opposite bankAt this point I really did go all touristy. It’s an age since I’ve done the whole centre of London bit so I headed for
Westminster (everywhere not a “tourist attraction” like that was more or less closed by now anyway). The great seat of government (a little later as I was walking round the police arrived to briefly block traffic for someone coming from towards Downing Street way. Don’t know who, maybe it was Uncle Tony himself), the big wheel. Wandered past said overgrown fairground ride and across Hungerford Bridge (don’t think I’ve ever been across that before, certainly not the footbridge). Back along the embankment and round, up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square (managing to completely fail to take any notice of passing Downing Street…). Trafalgar Square is the centre of London, so I began to leave again. A quick divert to Piccadilly Circus (still too busy, and unattractive, for me to really understand why tourists love it so) before hopping on the tube for the only destination someone like me could end up at, Tower Hill.

The Tower of London is almost synonymous with the White Tower, the great Norman keep at its heart. The Tower is however actually a wonderful concentric castle, which grew up around the Norman keep (which itself was in turn nestled at an angle of the old Roman town wall). Although by the time I got there the Tower was closed to visitors, so I couldn’t pay an insane price to get close up to that great it’s still possible to walk round the outer curtain, and peek over the walls as the common Londoner must have done. The rain had stopped and the Sun come out to shine golden on the castle and the Thames beside it. Visiting the Tower you get two attractions for one, for there’s the bridge which borrows the name. It’s strange to come down from Newcastle to see the Tower Bridge, it’s like going to see a distant cousin. The original hydraulics to raise the central bascules were by Armstrong Mitchell & Co of Gateshead (they who did the Swing Bridge across the Tyne). When they wanted a spare engine during World War II it came from Armstrong in Newcastle. Hell, even the bridge’s architect, George D Stevenson has a familiar ring to it…Photograph of tower bridge with a boat passing beneath

Anyway, having wandered round the Tower I was bored and it was getting on so I headed back to Kings Cross. So there you are, London. I’ll have to go back with a bit more time one of these days!

There are more photos of the Science Museum, London, and the Tower.

Comments (1):


Forgot I had this, for some reason taken with my phone’s camera.

Photograph of a display monitor in the sceince museum, showing an error dialogue box

Good to know things can break even at the Science Museum :-)

Made by Ian Scott on May 19, 2007 at 20:13

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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