Following on from Part One, which I was too knackered to finish - we left Bodean's, stuffed to the brim with pulled pork butt (I was rather taken with the black t-shirts that the waiting staff wore that had emblazoned on the back "we have the best butts in Soho" - but then I do have a very juvenile sense of humour), and sauntered off at a leisurely pace towards one of my most favouritest places on the planet, the British Museum.
Unfortunately, as we were on foot, we were forced to interact with Oxford Street. Oxford Street - you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy - it's best to be cautious. And pass through it as quickly as possible. Why tourists flock to this filthy, crowded, tacky part of London when there are so many other more beautiful parts to visit astounds me.
But in the direction we were heading, we had to pass along it to get to Bloomsbury, an area I would dearly love to live in if only I had won the Euromillions last night. It has streets of flat-fronted Georgian houses (mostly offices now, sadly) that look like this:
And squares that look like this (this is Russell Square):
I sat here having pictures taken on my Master's Degree Graduation Day back in September 2004 in full gown and mortarboard (and, yes, I was going through a bleached hair phase at the time!):
But I digress. We were heading here, to the British Museum, which I am a 'Friend of' which consequently means I (plus one guest) get in to visit any exhibition they're running absolutely free, as many times as I like!
As always - and because it's term time - the forecourt was scattered with school parties but it didn't feel particularly crowded. We went up the steps and I popped into the little room immediately to the right (Room 3) which often has small displays sponsored by Asahi Shimbun that are, consequently, of an Asian theme. The current one is about Indonesian Gamelan music and instruments, and there's a particularly ornate red and gold one in a glass case:
I then asked where the Elsa Peretti exhibition was, and we went through the shop into Room 2. This is an interesting space that's currently being used to show a sampler of items from around the museum. Elsa Peretti is a jewellery designer for Tiffany who has donated 30 pieces from her own collection, including such iconic designs as the bean, the heart and items influenced by bones. I have a silver heart necklace and also one of her lovely silver bone cuff bracelets that was bought for me by The Husband from Tiffany's in New York (it's the same as the one on the right - click on the picture to make it bigger):
There were also other highly desirable items in Room 2, such as this beautiful Mammoth ivory carving of two swimming reindeers. This is the oldest piece of carved ivory found in Europe and is approximately 12,500 years old. It was found in a rock shelter in France and is from the Stone Age, specifically, the Upper Palaeolithic. The detail is absolutely exquisite:
We decided that, as we were already at the BM, and since I get into all the exhibitions for free, that we'd be silly not to take the opportunity to visit the two paying exhibitions that are running there at the moment.
Until 14 June 2009, the round Reading Room is hosting the third in a series of exhibitions about world leaders (the first examined Qin Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, which featured some of his terracotta warriors and the second was about the Roman Emperor Hadrian - the fourth, coming in September 2009, is about the Aztec king Moctezuma and you can believe I'll be first in the queue for that one!). The current one is called "Shah 'Abbas - The Remaking of Iran" who ruled Persia from 1587 till 1629, stabilising the country after civil war, establishing the Silk Route and building the beautiful city of Isfahan. I have to admit that this wouldn't normally be the sort of exhibition I would have gone to but there were lots of highly covetable ceramics and silk carpets woven with gold thread. The illustrated books were gorgeous (apologies for the pictures being dark but the lighting was subdued and you don't use flash photography in places like this so I had to use the light available - I've tried to lighten them up using Photoshop afterwards though and this is the best I could get) -
This is a page from a 15th century Armenian bible:
This shows Sufi religious dancing:
This is a couple having a bit of a rest while travelling in the mountains, surrounded by lots of animals:
And I loved this - this shows entertainers in a market square, one of which has somehow enticed his goat (probably with the whippy stick he's waving), to climb up a teetering pile of drums!:
The other paying exhibition running until 23 August 2009 in Room 35 is called "Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur" and, as the blurb on the website says, "The exhibition will feature a loan of 56 paintings from India, none of which have been displayed before in Europe. It is a fantastic opportunity to experience the unique art tradition that flourished in the royal courts between the 17th and 19th centuries". These were extraordinarily detailed and colourful paintings - I wasn't allowed to take photos in there but I've gleaned a couple from the interweb for you:
Aren't they just breathtaking? You had to go right up close to be able to see the incredibly fine detail.
By now it was mid-afternoon and we were getting tired, and although I desperately wanted to just keep taking photographs of everything in the BM, we were aware that if we left it much longer we'd get caught up in the horror that is London commuting rush hour, so we decided to start making the longish walk back to Waterloo, but not before I took this candid shot of a young schoolgirl wearing an Egyptian mummy mask - I really hope the girl's name was Cleopatra!
In total, we walked about 4.5 miles around London on Thursday and, boy, did it feel like it yesterday - although my feet didn't hurt (thanks to Baby Jeebus for the invention of Birkenstocks), I was totally drained and didn't do anything much at all. But it was so worth all the effort.
Oh, and I think I'm going to go the Norman Ackroyd route - now I just have to choose which one!