Thursday, 3 April 2008

Short trip to London

I went by train on a super-cheap deal for off-peak travellers, and the first surprise was that they've remodelled the ticket office in Leamington Spa station.

When I was commuting to Birmingham for four years or so I become a complete train bore. I knew the timetable and where to get on the train for the best/quietest seats and which train to catch if there were delays and who was the more efficient person of the two behind the window selling tickets, and I even got to know fellow commuters enough to nod and say hello. I like travelling by train, but I can't do it any more - I'd have to set out the night before to arrive in time for a morning lecture.

The ticket office is all changed now, with a nice new tiled floor and more space, and they've installed ticket barrier machines so nobody can travel without a ticket, which must make them richer by a considerable amount because it was pretty easy to travel without a ticket before. There are about ten members of staff milling about, helping us provincial yokels deal with the idea of putting a bit of card through a machine to open a barrier, but there is only one person actually selling tickets. So of course someone at the front of the queue is taking ages buying something complicated so everyone in the line starts getting twitchy about missing their train, and we make faces at each other without actually saying anything, like English people do. But I got my ticket in the end, and didn't miss the train, and that's the end of the 'buying a train ticket' story.

Out and about in the Big Smoke then, mixing and mingling with all those millions of people who make London such a crowded and unfriendly city. There is fun to be had too, especially when limiting underground travel and using buses and pavements to get around.

I went to see what is in the British Library, including original manuscripts written by old kings and queens, poets, musicians and playwrights dating back 1000 years. Pretty impressive. I had lunch with Lola II in Camden, although we failed to find a Japanese restaurant that was open and had to settle for Thai. I watched the film 'Juno' in the afternoon, which was a great treat, but makes me slightly guilty that I'm not doing something more cultural and making use of all that London has to offer.

Then I dropped by to see a couple of people where I used to work, and caught up with a bit of the gossip - not a lot has changed since I was gainfully employed. Their enthusiasm and passion is infectious though, and I ended up joining in the discussion about how to change the world for the better, almost forgetting that I'm not in a position to do it any more. I'm still very glad I left, because the world on the whole is quite resistant to being changed by the likes of us, and the bruises on their foreheads from the brick walls are quite evident. My forehead has been healing for nearly a year now, and my enthusiasm and passion for a new career are building nicely.

At the end of this busy day I joined Lola II and my parents at the British Museum, where we had tickets to see the exhibition about the Terracotta Army brought over from China. It was packed with people despite the limited sale of timed tickets, so it was a bit of an ordeal to get a proper view of the exhibits.

At some point after the date that the figures were made and buried, their existence was utterly forgotten, although the mound was known to contain the tomb of the first Emperor of China, who died in 210 BC. Everything else remained undiscovered until the first figure was accidentally unearthed in 1974 by a farmer.

One of the excavated pits containing terracotta warriers and horsesThe tomb itself has still not been excavated, so nothing is known of what is there except poems and writings from the period. They suggest that there is a representation of the world within it, including a palace complex, stars in the skies above (perhaps jewels embedded in the ceiling) and rivers of mercury to represent the Yellow and Yangtze rivers.

All this luxury was staffed by terracotta models of musicians, entertainers, grooms and administrators, and protected by the warriers: generals and other officers, archers armed with crossbows, infantrymen, cavaliers and charioteers together with their horses and chariots. The picture belongs to the British Museum/Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau.

The immensity and scale of an army of 7000 terracotta figures was difficult to convey with the few that were on display plus the other artefacts like stone armour and bronze bells, but they made a good effort and we all enjoyed it.

Now I'm off to sort out all I'm going to need for the next week's holiday, including stuffing body armour out of my bike jacket down some type of underwear to see if it will protect me from boarding-based injury to the bottom. Wish me luck!


aims said...


We saw a bit of this at Disneyworld in the Epcot center. They have done a half-passable job of it and it still boggles the mind of all those figures made for a tomb.

I can't believe you are going snowboarding....I don't know why...

Did you ever give out that recipe that IBeatrice was inquiring about?

travelling, but not in love said...

I'm jealous - I couldn't get tickets for the warriors at the british museum. Not for a date/time that I could wangle a trip to London, anyway. Sad that it was so crowded though. Still pretty amazing, I imagine.

Have a great time snowboarding. From the beach here in Antibes I can still see snow on the Alps, so you should be ok!