Whilst in London, and with a few hours to spare before meeting up with Helen and heading off to her talk at the V&A, I wandered into the British Museum for a mooch.
Really there can be no better place to amble as I discovered on those cold, rather grey wintery London afternoons back in the 1970s when I lived very nearby. Often I would come off duty after an early shift, everyone else would be working a late shift or the nurse's home in Bedford Place would be tip-toe quiet because my room-mate was on night-shift and still asleep, and it was also a bit chilly.
So I'd go to the British Museum for a wander.
In those days it really was, dare I say it, deathly boring to my nineteen-year old eyes and a mind full of the excitement of London life and this new career I was embarking on, but it was nearby and my feet were usually killing me, and it was free, it was quiet and it was warm. Now of course a bustling, user-friendly and inviting place, still free and if it was good enough for George Eliot (who I am discovering often visited daily) then it's good enough for me.
Being a keen Olympian I nipped up to look at the exhibition of the 2012 medals, this being the nearest I am likely to get to seeing one. Some of the ore mined at Salt Lake City, some in Mongolia, tens of thousands of tons of it to make the 4,700 medals, and each one taking about ten hours to make at the Royal Mint in Wales.
And then I just had a bit of an aimless, map-less wander and isn't it just amazing what you see.
I looked at these for ages, foot guards from umpteen years BC,
and pondered all that careful attention to the toenails and the hinges and wondered when might your average Grecian wear them ...
And then a dazzling treasure trove, the largest quantity of coins ever found in Britain (I think) and I spent a while wondering what it must have been like to be the one to dig this lot up... and I wish I could remember where it had been discovered. It might be the Hoxne Treasure??
After a wander around the Grecian urns I just followed the noise because of course the Egyptian Galleries, devoid of the living bar me on those grey 1970's afternoons, now one of the museum's main attractions for school visits. Harrassed teachers were trying to control over-excited children who were supposed to be drawing things but were mostly playing hide and seek around the antiquities.
And as I left the Museum thinking it was really time I read Penelope Fitzgerald's The Golden Child again, of course a glance upwards to the spectacular roof which illuminates even the greyest of days.