Sunken cities – Egypt’s lost worlds at The British Museum

If you are an archeology fan then get to this exhibition on at the British Museum.

Outside its chaos in the main part of the museum, but in this beautifully staged exhibition, its soft lights with a gurgly under water sound track and murmured voices.

A video begins the exhibition with a background on the extraordinary discovery made beneath the sea in Abukir Bay, at the edge of Egypt’s northwestern Nike Delta. The lost cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus known in ancient writings, were only discovered recently.

They were set on a fragile aquatic landscape of lakes and marshes that slowly sank into the sea. 1000 years later these cities are being recovered piece by extraordinary piece.

The monumental statue of Hapy, was a major find and is on display in the ante-room before we dive into a treasure trove of antiquities recovered.

A large part of the exhibition is on the interplay of Greek and Egyptian ideas that merged in the port cities. In particular how the cultures merged their dieties, borrowing back and forth, to suit the population.

We track various dynasties of rulers including Alexander the great, who encouraged the Eygtian belief in kings being divine beings. His general, Ptolemy, ascended to the throne post his death and this dynasty lasted 300 years. Fast forward to Cleopatra’s ill-fated reign as the last descendant of the Greek Ptolemies, and the region is lost to Roman rule.

We also see likenesses of Hadrian who visited Eygpt in AD130 where his Greek lover, Antinous, was to drown in the Nile.

Allow yourself a couple of hours to really savour all the treasure. It will be the best exhibition you will see in London this autumn.

Bond in Motion – London Film Museum

I am at Covent Garden at the Royal Opera House checking if there is any ballet performances on. I am too early apparently, the season starts straight after I fly out. I remember the Film Museum is close by so head there.

The Bond in Motion exhibition is on which has many of the original Bond film cars on display, those that didnt get trashed in the pursuit of an audience adrenaline rush that is.

Its a relatively peaceful museum off Wellington Street. Inside the door is a life size mannikin of Sean Connory in a svelte 60s suit, so you know you are in the right place.

I dont really know the full back catalogue of films, but fortunately, Jens from Hamburg, a holiday maker does.

He becomes my unofficial tour guide. Highlights include the Aston Martin DBS from Quantum of Solace. One side of the car is gone and what remains is scraped and bullet sprayed.

Jens is mad for the retro Lotus Espirit S1 which had to plunge off a pier in Sardinia in the 1977 in the making of  The spy who loved me. Budgets were modest then. They only had one car for the shoot, so when they needed another, the Lotus chairman lent the production his.

Unlike the making of Spectre which had eight especially made Aston Martin DB10s to trash on 007’s tense chase through Rome, tailed by baddie Hinx in a Jaguar C-X75.

There are lots of motor bikes, a Bell Jet Pack, film excerpts, guns, watches and even Bond passports to see too. The exhibition finishes as it should with a classic clip of Sean Connery at the wheel mid-car chase.

 

Greenwich Grumpy Time

Its another scorcher day. But I must return to the National Maritime Musuem today who have found an original colour lithograph of the 1870s cutter my family sailed out of Hamburg on.

I cant believe I am entrusted with this fragile picture. Its delivered to me in a box in the library. I peel off the tissue to review the cutter that carried all those hopeful families out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to New Zealand.

After I am done, the helpful librarian suggests I visit the nearby Cutty Sark to get a sense of the dimensions of a cutter ship of a similar age. I take his advice and manage a quick trip through the boat, most of the time standing in front of the air-conditioning unit in the hull, talking to a museum attendant.

It’s blazing hot out of doors now, I do a quick reconnoitre of the colourful Greenwich Market, bagging a rare find, a vegan stall, where I grab lunch and go and gasp in the park to eat it.

It’s sun stroke hot now. But I am determined to take on the observatory hill, to see the Greenwich Mean Time Line. I stagger up the path and hand my ticket over. The place is heaving with people. My patience is wearing thin.

There is however a good narrative to follow through the buildings. Time and longitude are critical to safe navigation, so since the early 1700s there was a quest to find the most practical method of determining longitude at sea, from this location.

Captain Cook, who explored the Pacific and who New Zealanders claim as their own, was the first to successfully test the astronomical method of finding longitude at sea.

That’s enough for me. I am out of doors to get the ritual picture of the Greenwich Mean Time Line. But its infested with selfie makers, photographers too, some with tripods to augment the gratuitous shot.

Eventually the tripod foot stabbing Wellington, the only NZ coordinate marked on the line, is removed so I can view it. I then take my now quite grumpy self back down the hill to the relative dessertion of the DLR to town.

 

 

 

 

Hot in Hyde Park

It must be on its way to 28 Celsius today. At 8 AM its already very warm so I head to Hyde Park for some air. I pick up a ‘Boris’ bicycle from the stand and after inserting my credit card number in exchange for a cycle pin code, I unlock a bike and head off.

I join the cycle lane at a modest pace and notice before very long I am on something that seems more like a velodrome. I am being passed in both directions by office workers on a mission.

I carry on trying to be courteous and let the commuter cyclists pass, until I complete my circuit. On the Serpentine Bridge I find a traffic jam of cars, held up by a swan that has decided its cooler on the bridge than swimming about on the lake below with its mates. A few of us try and help it get back to safety. He has his own trajectory, so I leave him and return the bike to its stand.

I spot a couple of coppers in a police car eating breakfast, I mention the traffic hold up and why. They just shrug and say its nature and go back to their meal.

I take the hint and head around the corner to the cafe that is next to the Lido outdoor baths, order avocado on toast, and watch the swimmers in the lake. I marvel at their immune systems, I shudder at what that lake might be harbouring.

I read the history of the Lido Baths on a sign whilst waiting for my breakfast and also see a public notice on treatment to seek from any rashes due to swimming in the lake. Hmmm.

I get a snooty look as I sit down at a lakeside outdoor table in my bike pants, but mostly my fellow diners and I just look blissful at the joy of another beautiful day.

On the path as I am heading out of Hyde Park, the horse guards trot towards me in all their regalia. Perhaps they will sort out that recalcitrant swan.

The Science Musuem London – Exploring Space

I once had to reluctantly cancel a trip to the US to visit the Smithsonian, but here just a few metres from where I have been staying in London, I at last get to go geeky over space travel.

The Science Museum holds a tremendous space section. I join a free tour taken by an effervescent volunteer, Paul, who for 40 minutes spouts an impressive repertoire of facts, figures and humorous anecdotes.

The section begins with the precussor to the space race, the German V2 bomber. The rocket visited terrible damage on Britain in WW2. It was developed first at a site on the Baltic Coast and was later secreted in the Hartz mountains.

Post the war, the allies scrambled to muster the best and the brightest German engineers with Wernher von Braun, a leading light in the V2 development, joining the US contingent.

The Soviets were the first however to launch a man into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961, using the V2 technology. This prompted a promise by President Kennedy to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade, so the Cold War space race was on.

We see the original Apollo 10 Command module on display that three astronauts folded themselves into for the final dry run to circle the moon in 1969, before the actual moon landing by Apollo 11.

Also on display is the replica of the ‘Eagle’ that Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon later in 1969.

I miss by minutes the start of the IMAX space film narrated by Jennifer Lawrence screening that day, and have to finish with a rather hokey Apollo ‘ride’ instead.

There are  hours of more exhibits to see including an interesting flight section upstairs. Book yourself at least a day for this wonderful museum and even that will only scratch the surface.

 

 

 

National Maritime Museum Greenwich

Invited along by a male friend, I thought I could probably manage at least one afternoon here. Not a fan of war mongering I had to suspend my disbelief, but came away more enlightened and certainly impressed by the exhibition staging.

We spent most of our time in the ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’ exhibition. I work in Nelson St back home, yet know almost nothing about this British Admiral the road is named for.

The exhibition charts nautical battles from 1688-1815. But most of the exhibit is about the battle of Trafalgar which took place two years into the Napoleonic Wars.

On 21 October 1805, Nelson and his fleet came across a combined flotilla of French and Spanish ships off Cape Trafalgar.

A battle of 27 British ships against 18 French and 15 Spanish ships followed. Nelson was mortally wounded but remained alive long enough to know his decisive victory had turned the course of the war.

Throughout the exhibit, there are audio accounts of the prepartions made and the carnage of this battle.

Amongst the 250 items on display are Nelson’s uniform and personal letters to his mistress, Lady Hamilton, the latter who will have her own exhibition soon at the Museum.

Another interesting section is on sea trading where we enjoyed an interesting live talk on Hong Kong on how it was won and ‘lost.’

Another section references the barbaric slave trade. I couldnt stay long in there before having to break for some sun in the beautiful sunny outdoor cafe.

Returning indoors we had some great help from the very patient librarian of the Caird Library, tracing an image of ‘the Shakespeare’  that carried my relatives from Hamburg to the bottom of the world in the 1870s.

 

 

London Design Biennale 2016

On a beautiful sunny Sunday I joined friends for the London Design Biennale 2016 at Somerset House.

37 countries contributed their interpretations on this year’s theme of Utopia.

We tour rooms off corridors over several wings and floors, picking off each country’s entry.

The German entry is themed on a quotation by John Malkovich ‘Utopia is elsewhere,’ with one room of stark white with a large sign board of the full quotation. Adjoining is a dark room with a digital fire crackling.

The Austrians by contrast had a very large mobile of fragile lights hanging on lightweight rods, that could easily become unbalanced, hence their work is named ‘the fragile balance of Utopia.’

Pakistan’s ‘Daalaan’ was gorgeous with henna drawn and printed diaphanous fabric banners. Underneath were Lattoo stools in a circle. The intention to create a play room atmosphere, where people meet to converse and share ideas. It worked.

Further on is South Africa’s Otium and Acedia display, of giant cartoon like huge animal heads suspended with jaws open that enchant the children.

We are not let off so lightly in the Italian pavillion, named ‘White Flag – Utopia as surrender and suffering.’ Set in black and white, 20 variations of flags by 20 Italian designers, lead us to sobering reminders of Syrian refugee boats and ends on a tombstone with a mirror on it challenging us ‘what you will be remembered for.’

We head down into the Indian Pavillion which is sheer colour and exuberance and into an annex with an amusing but slightly overt trade focussed video.

Head to my instagram for photos.