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London: Places

Dear Kay,
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The human hand is always at work–making a bracket for the lantern, shaping the rail. Can’t leave well enough alone; must decorate, must slap some Extra on there.
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At the V & A: Might as well put a heroic guy on the corner. Somebody’s going to be looking up here.
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Tower of London: Deceptively cheerful.
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Military officers still live within the walls of the castle, I’m told. I didn’t know quite what to make of this place: the crowds lined up to see the Crown Jewels, the tidy perfection of the buildings. This is a seriously loaded place, people–I’m pretty sure there were at least ten ghosts sitting on the bench with me while we watched the ravens.
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Imperial War Museum: Clif and Hubbo in some kind of World War II bomber. The Imperial War Museum at first looks like a building full of machinery, and that’s mostly what we looked at. But there’s little glorification of war here. A museum like this is a grim reminder, and I’m glad I went. There’s an alarming 20-foot John Singer Sargent painting, “Gassed,” and a Tibetan Peace Garden which was blessed by the coolest guy in the universe, the Dalai Lama, in 1999. Anybody with a young child looks at this museum with a shudder.
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Globe Theatre: We almost didn’t go here–I had no confidence about a seven year old’s tolerance for a replica of Shakespeare’s theater. Hell, I can’t even remember the plots of the plays anymore. But our guide, Jane, was so wonderful that everybody hung in there, and I now have Shakespeare fever. I’m reading Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.
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The heavens.
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Tate Modern: Child Ejectors. Finally, a museum understands what you do with unruly kids.
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British Museum: The triumph of limestone.
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We visited the very peculiar house of John Soane, an architect who liked to collect antiquities and paintings. “Having been deeply disappointed by the conduct of his two sons, he determined to establish the house as a museum to which ‘amateurs and students’ should have access.” At one point, we descended into the basement and nearly tripped over a pair of legs sticking out from a nook. It was a guard, either asleep or frozen, or maybe just dead.
I reserve the right to open my house as a museum should the conduct of my two sons deeply disappoint me . . .
Love,
Ann

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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Sir John Soane’s museum is one of my favorite places in London! I’m so glad you got to see it – it’s really……something else. I want to do one of the evening candlelight visits that they do on occasion.

  2. Soane’s house is my favorite too. I would love skylight floors throughout my house too. I could do without the sleeping guard/dead body, however.

  3. The Imperial War Museum was one of the most memorable parts of our trip to London. We weren’t even planning on going, but happened to be in that part of town and decided to check it out. I thought their WWI trenches exhibit and WWII blitz exhibit were amazing. They had a counter in one area counting the number of deaths in wars around the globe and DH & I just stood there watching the numbers roll by, it was sad. Definitely a place where the name of the museum doesn’t convey the scope of the experience.

  4. Thanks for the photos of London. I haven’t been there for years, and it’s my favorite place on earth(sorry Disney!).

  5. You are FREAKING ME OUT. Ghosts! Avoid the ghosts!
    I can’t believe John Singer Sargent painted that picture. Just can’t believe it. We were far too cheery and Churchillian in our museum selections when we visited. Must see the Imperial Anti-War Museum next time.
    xoxo Kay

  6. I have this great book called “Haunted walking tours of London” – turns out that right next to the British Museum, there’s a pub where Alister Crowley used to hang out, and across the street from that is the oldest Occult bookstore in London. Also, yes, there are a *ton* of interesting (and documented!) ghosts at the Tower.

  7. I have that Shakespeare book on my shelves…must put it on the nightstand…

  8. I had exactly the same reaction to the Imperial War Museum when I visited it with my then-11-yo son. He is now a confirmed peacenik. Coincidence?
    This is the very same son who wandered off to do his own exploring at the Tower of London the next day. I wasn’t worried; that’s how our family always plays tourist. When closing time drew nigh I told a guard near the exit that I was missing my son. He pulled a very 20th-century walkie-talkie out of his very 16th- century pocket and sounded the alert. Immediately the faint buzz of walkie-talkies could be heard all over the Tower grounds. Son was soon restored to my side and I took the Best Photo Ever of him with a Tower guard’s arm ’round his shoulders.

  9. So pleased you found the John Soane museum – it’s a little gem, I don’t think many visitors to London get there. You certainly managed to pack in a lot during your visit!

  10. Absolutely loved the Imperial War Museum because it didn’t glorify war, just people’s attempts to keep up their lives in the midst of it. My girls are old enough to handle the top floor where they run the movie about genocide. Between that and the displays on the Holocaust, it was hard to be cheerful after that. Luckily, the British Museum does just that for me. The next time, you should take in the Denis Sever’s House (opening times are odd). You are virtually transported back in time through a silent museum. Loved the pictures!

  11. Your pictures feature blue sky (in some) and are not moist…where is the rain and dreary weather most tourists get at this time of year? Glad you had a great London trip with decent weather. Enjoy the memories, photos and yarn purchases.

  12. Ann! We too loved the Globe when we were there! We watched part of “A Chaste Maid in Cheapside” as groundlings in the rain and then walked back into the city across Blackfriar’s Bridge. I’m with Darci – must move Greenblatt book from shelf to bedside! Did you ever hear him interviewed about having lunch with John Madden about “Shakespeare in Love”? I love that light blue door against the stone and green green lawn at the tower!

  13. Those are wonderful pictures, Ann! The photo of Cliff at the War Museum is startling; the play of light and shadow, the light streaming in and past him — I was quite taken with it.

  14. Thanks for the tour (and the people), must get a child ejector just for the fun of it!! So sorry about your needles.

  15. What a fun trip! I think Soane’s house is totally delightful. I can’t even imagine having so much art that I’d need double-sided walls.
    Thanks for sharing your trip!

  16. A bit off-topic, but thanks for the autographed bookplate! :)

  17. Will in the World is a great book. I can also recommend Shakespeare Retold, there are 4 so far, made by the BBC. The first one was on TV last night!!

  18. I checked out “Gassed”. A sobering piece of work. I see my husband, my sons and my father-in-law who was a Canadian soldier in WWII in the painting of those men.
    And I contemplate the evil in a mind that could create such a weapon as that gas.

  19. Um. . . . yeah, to all the sobering thoughts and reflections.
    But having a museum because of disappointing children?? Cool! And *charging money* for it, no less! Just think of the long-suffering, mournful, “don’t mind me, sigh” long welcome sign you could put in the lobby.
    But the sobering light. . . . yeah. We are great respectors of WWII and all the machinations thereof. The British are a mighty people.

  20. I checked and my Library has the Greenblatt book, so I’ve whacked a reserve on it.
    Thanks for pointing me in the right direction

  21. I loved your doorways. We love London. I want to go back again and again. Your photos bring back fond memories.
    tp

  22. I’m reading a children’s book right now called, “The Shakespeare Stealer,” by Gary Blackwood. It’s aimed at kids 9-12 or so, and set in and around the Globe in Shakespeare’s time. It’s the first of a series I’m previewing for my 9YO. Your offspring (and you!) might enjoy it, having seen the theater.

  23. What a tour! Child ejectors, now that’s got me thinking…

  24. I’m an angolphile myself. :) If you are interested in something a bit different with good ole Will, try to check these out. They were AMAZING!
    ShakespeaRE-TOLD
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/shakespeare/tvdramas.shtml
    Glad you had a good trip!

  25. The child ejectors just look so cool!

  26. London has always been a destination dream for me. I really wanted to visit the Tower of London because I have visited the Virtual Tour online and read the history… it’s wonderful.
    Those slides are incredible? Were they just for art sakes? or could the kids actually “fall” through them? Wow! I’m not sure I would want to use them. Good for a giggle though.

  27. Thanks for reminding me about the Soane Museum. I haven’t been there in years! Our guard/docent was alive and well, and after the tour groups cleared out he opened the walls for us to see the layers of artwork. One of the best memories from my honeymoon!

  28. I wanted to take our offspring to London before,now I REALLY want to go. what a great trip!

  29. Ahhhh….the Sloane!!! This midwest girl met up with a internet friend in London and was given a private tour of the Sloane. Absolutely AMAZING!!!! The artifacts, the paintings/scupltures, and his optical illusions and the way he played with light and mirrors!!! WOW

  30. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    You are truely a Goddess amongst Goddesses. I was racking my brains to remember the name of a museum in London I’ve wanted to visit for ages which to date has eluded me. But Lo! You can always find something educational in a Knitting Blog, for example thanks to the Yarnharlot I now know what a ‘Patsy’ is, and there you are visiting the Soane Museum. Fantastic.
    What you have to appreciate is that living in England you never ever visit any attractions and you are never ever told about the interesting things available until they are about to close from lack of subscription. We do put the couch back into potato.
    Looks like you had a fine time and Liberty’s is the business.
    Becky

  31. So glad you went to the Globe. When I was in London for the only time, in about 1989, the Globe was under construction, just a landmark to be pointed out as we ferried up the Thames to Greenwich. We had to see our Shakespeare at Covent Gardens. Did you see the mummies and The Bog Man and the Beowulf and Canterbury Tales manuscripts at the British Museum and The Tower?

  32. Soane’s house hosts musical evenings sometimes too, which must be wonderful. I’ve never been in the city when they had them, even though I lived there for a year long ago. I do hope you got to look at the textiles at the V&A too.

  33. I have to tell you that I absolutely LOVE the book ya’ll put out. I’m relatively new to knitting (been doing it since I was nineteen, which was four years ago). So of course, I had to take a look at your site, and I’m so glad I did!
    I recieved the book “Will in the World” when I was 19 as a Christmas present, and I was so excited to see a picture of a play I attended while I was in London a few years back. I believe it’s on the last page, but the strangest thing was that I recognized myself in the crowd (which I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for the blue handknit cardigan my mother made me right before I left). So I guess the upshot is, yay for handknits!
    Keep posting!

  34. You went to the Globe! I’m jealous!