Tuesday, June 25, 2013

London Day 2–In Which I am Charmed by Signage, We Visit Charles Dickens’ House,and The British Museum Gets it Really Wrong.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 011

London is full of amazing, awe-inspiring sights that we tourists love to flock to, cameras in hand, clutching our maps and guide books. Make no mistake, I love that side of London, and plan to see several of those sights while I’m here. But I find it’s often the smaller things that leave a deeper impression, and London is full of them. Today we set out to discover the secrets of London’s hotbed of literary heritage, Bloomsbury. Laid out with beautiful squares, and charming architecture, this part of London is full of references to Charles Dickens, T.S. Elliott, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and many others. I didn’t tell the kids what we were up to, as, curiously, they seem to glaze over whenever I get going on about how Sir Whatsit once stood on this place while contemplating his lunch or Lady Whoever once purchased a case of nose hair clippers from a hosier on this site in 1732. Can’t think why…

But fortunately, we had planned to start the day with a visit with our dear friend Lila and her little guy. We haven’t seen them in a few months since they moved back to London, so it was great to catch up.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 037

Fortunately for Zoe, we found these massive meringues at the restaurant.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 0311 Day 2 UK 2013 032

Makes my teeth hurt just looking at it but they are her favourite.

Next was a wander to Russell Square where I was thrilled to see my old friends June and Tony, (see previous blogs from June 2011) sitting with their two friends, Ivy and Bob from Bognor Regis who had come up for a day’s outing to London.1 Day 2 UK 2013 039

That’s June and Tony on the right. They were whiling away the hours watching pigeons. Too bad I didn’t get close enough to hear what they were talking about. The price of a roast in Bognor Regis? Last week’s meeting of the Lesser Pooting library council? (the minutes are posted outside the church hall). Who knows. They were certainly vey relaxed in their sensible shoes and protective headwear. Good on them. I’m sure I’ll see them again as they seem to be everywhere.

I did manage to engage Jacob when I pointed out the art deco building that used to house the Ministry of Information during WWII. George Orwell’s wife worked there and Orwell is said to have become so disillusioned with the censorship that occurred, that he was inspired to write his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 041

It does look rather imposing.

We walked the streets for a while and everyone politely listened as I went on and on about Virginia Woolf this and John Nash that.

Another thing I love about England is the hilarious nature of their signage.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 043

I haven’t seen one that starts off with ‘Rude Notice’. I mean how cute is this?

This one might be my favorite though

1 Day 2 UK 2013 056

It made me wonder what they would have said next if given the chance:

Perhaps a succession of signs:

“It was planted in 2008, but was struck by a lorry in December of 2009 and has never really recovered”

“We did try everything possible to save this tree”

“Well, perhaps we could have done more but we have been busy with other things”

“Actually, we definitely could have done more, we’re just lazy tits”

“We deeply regret not having taken more decisive action regarding the health of this tree, and would like to announce our resignation”

“A sub-committee on the use of appropriate signage to inform the public in a more detailed manner of the deteriorating tree and events leading up to such demise, has been struck. Thank you for your patience”

Next was the Charles Dickens Museum which is located in the only one of his many residences to still stand. We didn’t actually go up into the museum as walking in the door was enough for me,  but we did visit the gift shop where I was pleased to see that amongst the usual tat, one could purchase a Charles Dickens Action Figure.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 0491 Day 2 UK 2013 050

The kids were actually quite interested to know that he had sat in these very rooms and written Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby. Zoe bought herself a quill and ink so I’m hoping she was suitably inspired to write her own masterpiece.

We still had time for a quick trip to the British Museum and walked the few blocks to it only to find a harassed security man yelling at everyone to ‘GO BACK’ while sweeping us off to the side so that we couldn’t enter. Apparently some idiot had left a bag unattended, which is a huge no-no here, and so some poor sod of a policeman was having a look through it while we all stood by wondering what might happen next. Especially confused were the folks exiting the building only to be told by Security Guy to “GO BACK”. After a few minutes of puzzled expressions, he changed it to “GO OVER"’ which worked a little better. Eventually, nothing happened, and we all went in.

We sprinted through a few exhibits on our way to check out the Lindol Man, whose 2000yr old body was found perfectly preserved in a bog. The tannins in the peat moss has turned his skin to leather, and he still had his hair. He was missing a few limbs but all in all was quite impressive.

We then moved on to the Mexican Aztec room where there were some really good skulls decorated with turquoise and gems, but on the way we went through the First Nations of BC section, where I saw this below a totem from Gwaii Hanaas:

1 Day 2 UK 2013 061

Excuse me but WHAAAA??

Since when have the Haida people been from Alaska so WRONG on that one and then Hey! England! BC is actually the on the West Coast of CANADA! Jeeeesus. The Northwest Coast of America??? Where’s that? Washington State? Ain’t no Haida there.

Seriously made me wonder what else they got wrong in this big ole’ museum. If the only thing that I can speak with any authority on is wrong, then maybe the Lindol Man is actually a stuffed gorilla that fell out the back of a lorry in 1972 and nobody ever noticed.

Anyway. I just hope they got the Rosetta Stone bit right.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 062

I was pleased to see that there were directions to enlightenment, something I’ve been looking for, but I unfortunately didn’t have time, so we left, and went to get some dinner in Camden Town by the locks.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 070


1 Day 2 UK 2013 075

Cheap and delicious.

1 Day 2 UK 2013 078

A suggestion that I should be living here?

Another fabulous day.

Thanks for reading!




  1. If you could find a sign that says "Bill Posters will be prosecuted" or "Post No Bills" that would make me pretty happy. Hope you're having fun!

    1. I will do my best to look for Mr. Bill Posters while I'm here. He's likely here somewhere...

  2. Sounds like fun! Are you staying in England for awhile? We'll be there on July 14th and then onto France a week later. Maybe we could meet up? -Erin and Kerry

    1. Hey Erin
      We are here until the 5th then over to Holland and Belgium til July 11 - Glad you guys could finally do your trip :)

    2. Hey. We don't arrive until the 15th. Too bad. Have fun with the rest of your adventures!

  3. Fionn and I were at the BM the day they "raised the poles" in the atrium. They could have asked the Haida who were very present that day to proofread the plaques perhaps?

  4. Love reading your traveblog Jane :-) Sounds like you're all having a wonderful time. Did the Bang Bang Chicken resemble in any way the chicken served by Air Canada?
    Heather J

  5. Thanks, Heather! The Bang Bang chicken would out Air Canada to shame instantly. It was so good and delicious and CHEAP! Air Canada has nothing on the Bang Bang people.