Saturday, January 06, 2007

get my history on

Today was a day when any sane person would have stayed inside. It was rainy. It was cold. But apparently there are not a lot of sane people in London because the streets were full of sightseers--myself included. I went to the War Cabinet Rooms, where Churchill and his cabinet worked during World War II expecting it to be fairly quiet, but there were actually a lot of people there. Then again, maybe it just felt that way because we were in an underground bunker. This bunker was converted from a basement under Whitehall and was bomb-proofed so that Churchill could fight on the seas ans oceans even through the Blitz. It was ded interesting. After the war the staff tidied up, locked the doors and left so everything was pretty much as it was in 1945 (with the addition of some cleverly-placed plexiglass). My favourite room was the typing pool: six secretaries had enough work to keep them busy 24 hours a day cramped into a space about the size of my bedroom. Or the original map of the Atlantic ocean where they tracked convoys with pins, the routes clearly visible because of the holes.

There was also a museum on Churchill's life. I don't know much about Churchill, he always sort of struck me as slightly arrogant, but the displays on his life were fair and informative. Maybe slightly too informative--there was so much interactive displayage that at times I wasn't sure if I was supposed to touch the TV, wave at it, do a little dance in front of it or say anti-communist slogans to get into the menus. The best part was definitely the display of Churchill's favourite things: his cigar...his champagne...his favourite silk nightshirt...his favourite movie starring Olivier and Leigh as Nelson and Emma... Also the portrait of him from 1878 looking like a poncy little girl with ringlets. But what a life, eh? To be born in the throes of the Victorian Era, to serve in WWI, lead in WWII and end your political career trying to the USSR and USA about their nuclear problem. I think I begin to understand the post WWII mentality of Britain. I need to learn more about the 20th century Britain though. I was telling Alison that I feel bad that all of the books I've been reading, all the thinking I've been doing has been about dead white guys "...but, then again, there's many of them."

(speaking of dead white guys...I ducked into the National Portrait Gallery to get out of the rain for a few minutes and discovered that the Nelson watches from last year were on sale and ask me what time it is. )

Afterward, Alison, Lisa and I met up and went out for cake and tea at a patisserie in Soho at a place called Amato. Cake like the angels eat. I had a Black Forest Gateaux that threatened to float away it was so light and fluffy. Yes, a good day, even if my jeans were wet up to the knees. I love London. Even in the rain--maybe even especially in the rain--this is the best city in the world.


Samantha said...

Mmmm..chocolate angels....

So what time is it exactly? Do you really need an excuse to stare at Nelson anyway?

Laura said...

I'm glad you had a great day in your city. All I know about Churchill: He eventually sued Lord Alfred Douglass for libel and Douglass spent two years in jail. When asked who from history Churchill most wanted to meet he said Oscar Wilde.

Also John Lennon's middle name was Winston after Churchill.
Until he married Yoko and changed his middle name to Ono.