Today was my first day back at the Science Museum after a month. And quite a few things have changed. Actually, if I was to avoid any exaggeration, two things have changed.
Firstly Exhibition Road. The pedestrianization has progressed to the front of the Science Museum, cutting off the Director’s Entrance and causing mayhem with the general entrance/exit to the museum for visitors. Fortunately I only use the group entrance which is unaffected. Although I do now need to cross Exhibition Road to the V&A before crossing back because of the single lane of traffic, driving a slalom between the witches’ hats. In fact Barbara almost came a cropper there this morning, running into an immovable pedestrian as a wing mirror attempted to maim her.
The second change, which has a lot more impact on me is the new caterers. For some reason the Science Museum has decided to switch to a new lot (money, presumably) and they have changed things about, including staff by the look of things.
Ostensibly, it all looks the same but on closer examination, and when you’ve visited as many times as I have, the changes are immediately apparent. The baguettes are better and the coffee is situated in a much better place. It’s also prepared by a human rather than a machine and therefore tastes a lot more like a coffee based beverage and less like something that needs a pound of sugar to make it even approach palatable. It even comes in a china mug!
After a delightful lunch (it wasn’t too crowded) I popped up to inspect the shipping gallery. They have an amazing collection of model ships. I’m thinking the Maritime Museum has more but this would have to go a close second.
They have a wonderful model of the SS Great Britain, which we visited in Bristol (here). I took a few photos, attempting to replicate images from the real one.
OK, it’s not nearly so impressive inside a glass display case. I can see that.
The other night I watched a TV programme about the saving of the canals in the early and mid 20th century. It was a great (if somewhat anoraky) piece, showing home movies of people who were witness to the state of decay the canals had sunk to as well as the restoration. Of course it featured quite a few painted barges.
As the cost of transporting cargo became unsustainable, most of these boats were crewed by the man who owned it and his wife (with any kids resulting from the close quarters living, helping). The barges became their homes as well as their livelihood. They worked as an efficient team and in most cases, never left the river for any great amount of time.
One man told how, as a child, the barge would pull in at a particular town and his father would tell him to jump ashore and get off to school. He’d only be there an hour and it was time to leave as the boat had finished loading/offloading and had to set off again. As he said, he didn’t learn anything from school.
You might be wondering what the connection is between this programme on British canals and my day in the Science Museum. Well, here it is:
It shows how a lock works by using a narrow boat, a lock keeper, his wife and the couple on the boat. This is the back section (clearly).
Anyway, after wandering the display cases of boats and more boats (no gondolas though) I returned to work, researching a few chaps and learning about the stocking knitting machine, invented in the late 1500s by a guy who has slipped out of history as if he was never there (clergyman, William Lee – 1563–1614) and the guy who subsequently invented an attachment that went on the front of it in order to make ribbed stockings, who is not only remembered for it but is very famous for designing a few bridges across the Thames as well.
Nick was full of praise for my work and I left work with a bigger head than I arrived with.