Strong sunshine warming one’s back is the most uplifting and exhilarating experience in Britain. The normally overcast skies, chilly wind and slow drizzle make the occasional clear sunny warmth all the more precious. I had the pleasure of this experience today morning. I was reading Private Eye, a fortnightly magazine reporting wrongdoings, gaffes and general dodgy behaviour by politicians, financiers, celebrities and key institutions including the press.
Today we caught the National Rail from Woking and went to Waterloo. We went to the British Museum near Tottenham Court Road station. It is beautifully structured with a good tech interface. The audio guides accept numbers which are printed next to the exhibits and then play the relevant recording. The mind-boggling size of the British Museum (spread over seven stories with two of them underground) meant that we couldn’t do real justice to it without spending the balance days there. So we set out to see a carefully curated selection of the exhibits. We first rushed to the most famous artifact in the British Museum and probably the most famous one in all of Britain.
For centuries the Egyptian hieroglyphic script had remained undecipherable. There was no discernible link between known languages and hieroglyphics. Most experts felt the pictorial symbols represented a word or an emotional state in itself. Then in 1799 Napoleon’s French armies came across a stone fragment of a larger stele (stone slab bearing inscription) during their Egyptian campaign. It recorded a decree issued for the coronation of King Ptolemy V. The remarkable nature of the inscription is that it recorded the same message in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic and Ancient Greek. This provided the breakthrough to decipher the hieroglyphic language.
Another fascinating exhibit was the Holy Thorn Reliquary which is a richly ornamented gold relic centred around a wooden thorn said to be from the Crown of Thorns used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
There were so many exhibits that I can’t record them all. The above two were the most significant and impactful of what I’d seen.
We had baguettes, a British staple, for lunch following which we rushed to the Lyceum Theatre to see the Lion King musical. The play was excellently executed with dramatic use of changing backgrounds, an excellent score by Elton John who also composed for the motion picture, colourful costumes and truly marvellous actors who convinced the audience that they (the actors that is, not the audience) were actually wild beasts in the African savannah.
As I had already seen the movie, I couldn’t help comparing scenes and found the movie somewhat more emotionally resonant. Yet the production is phenomenal and well worth watching.
It was five by the time we exited. We walked to nearby Covent Garden and saw a superlative street-performance. I was initially unimpressed but slowly found myself in grudging followed by outright admiration. His brilliant use of a small, wide-eyed, golden-haired boy as a voluntary assistant was par excellence. I donated a bit more than a pound after the performance and shook him warmly by the hand.
I had delicious English Strawberry flavoured street ice-cream. I also bought Earl Grey and Turkish Apple teabags at discounted prices.
Back at Guildford, I picked up the Sunday Telegraph, the only broadsheet I could find. All in all a thoroughly satisfying day.