Part Three

Posted By on August 6, 2007

“An Early Afternoon At The British Museum”

.: We started our second day with a visit to the British Museum. Free of charge ever since it began in 1753, the British Museum has since amassed the world’s largest collection of statues with missing dangly bits. The museum itself impressed me more than any of the items it housed; it is simply gorgeous. I wish I were a Saudi prince so I could confidently approach an employee and coolly inquire, “Very nice. How much?” Then I would gut it, sell all the artifacts, and begin construction on an even larger building that would fully encase the original, making a museum of the museum. Admission would still be free, because a Saudi prince has no need for that kind of chump change.

.: My grandparents insisted I find the Code of Hammurabi and take a picture. They were certain they saw it when they visited in the seventies, but the reasoning behind their certainty is a little lacking. Their argument runs as follows: they stumbled upon a room full of Babylonian artifacts, and many of them mentioned Hammurabi or resembled the stele. They don’t exactly remember seeing The Code, but they looked at everything in the room. Ergo, they must have seen it.

These quilts represent the number of pills taken during an average lifetime. The male’s quilt (bottom) is shorter by six years. The female’s (top) is coiled during the last few years, either to represent the emotionally coiled and restricted life old widows lead, or because the table wasn’t long enough.

.: We similarly found a distinctly Babylonian room, and I began the search for the famous Code. I studied the map of the museum Oscar purchased (£2) and easily found the locations for famous items like the Rosetta stone, Easter Island statues, and the five-legged Assyrian winged bulls, but I failed to find a listing for the Code. Oscar finally asked one of the guards, “Excuse me, where’s the Code of Hammurabi?” The friendly guard replied patiently, as if we just asked, “Where’s the Mona Lisa?”

“It’s in the Louvre, actually.”

.: So my grandparents watertight argument had one problem: the room they said had everything did not have everything.


.: Another laudable feature of the museum is its open camera policy. I understand why certain museums prohibit flash photography, but banning it all out just seems wrong for a museum to do. Sure, you could buy a professionally produced postcard from a gift shop, and it would certainly look better than your poorly framed shots, but that misses the point, doesn’t it? You could buy a professionally produced postcard without having to go to the museum, period. The point of photography for tourists is not so much to have pretty pictures to look at, but to serve as a reminder of where they’ve been. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem at this museum, and as a result this post has more pictures than the others. Heck, it even has a video:

(YouTube is being wonky right now, I’ll edit the video in later.)

.: Arguably the most famous item at the British Museum is the Rosetta stone; it is constantly surrounded by an eager throng. You can forget about getting a decent shot of that one. Since everyone’s seen a picture of the Rosetta stone before, the only reason to see it in person is to appreciate its sheer size, and also so you’ll no longer be a liar when you tell your friends, “I’ve seen the Rosetta stone in person.” However, I’ve never seen the back of the Rosetta stone, picture or otherwise, and there weren’t many people standing on that side. Unfortunately, the public can’t be trusted not to steal the damn thing, so the stone is sealed inside what may be the most reflective glass ever created. With those caveats, please enjoy what, to many, will be your first view from the backside of the Rosetta stone.

.: One thing about the museum that irked me was the security theater you have to go through to get in – unless you’re not carrying a bag, that is. If that’s the case, you can just walk right on by. But if I can just walk right on by, why bother having the security checks in the first place? A guard waved me through with nothing but the briefest of glances, and I was clearly wearing cargo pants that had six spacious pockets. There are very few items that would fit in an average sized purse that wouldn’t fit in my pockets. What were they even searching for? They wouldn’t be concerned about cameras, since they’re allowed. If they were looking for bombs, what’s stopping two people from filling their cargo pants pockets with bomb components and assembling a bomb in a bathroom? I wanted to ask the guard that very question, but they tend to frown at suck inquiries. I didn’t even walk through a metal detector!

.: After the museum, we headed directly across the street to a Starbucks where I purchased a raspberry smoothie with my card. One of those quaint cultural differences I’ve encountered many times here is the tendency for British cashiers to actually check the signature on the backs of credit cards. I shocked the cashier the first time I handed over my VISA card. In a tone normally reserved for alerting fellow pedestrians that they are about to step foot in front of an oncoming bus he shrieked, “Your card’s not signed! Your card’s not signed!” Satisfied with having just saved a fellow human being the embarrassment of purchasing an item with an unsigned credit card, he then thrust the card back underneath the glass divider and stared at me, as if I were the stupidest person in the world. I contemplated the situation for the appropriate length of time, which is to say not at all, and immediately signed the back of the card and slid it underneath the glass divider again, as if he were the stupidest person in the world. He fell for it, I guess.

You have your choice of faucet here: impossibly hot and frigidly cold. Expect to play ping pong with the water to reach the temperature of your preference.

.: Somewhere between the Starbucks and the train station Oscar and I picked up some cold Oranginas. If you’ve never had an Orangina before, they’re pleasant little carbonated drinks with bits of orange pulp settled at the bottom. They aren’t readily available in America, but you can find them at a Whole Foods or Central Market. The brand enjoys a prominent advertising campaign throughout London that implores its customers to “Shake it to wake it.” I believe this is a moronically stupid ad campaign, because it does not take into consideration moronically stupid consumers like me who don’t know what happens to a carbonated drink when you shake it:

.: At least I finally found use for a certain section of the newspaper:

Next: Adventures in Down, for reals this time.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

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3 Responses to “Part Three”

  1. Dallas says:

    Orangina eh? I would have been strangely compelled to purchase it as well. As for the intensely thick cashier’s behaviour, just remember you’re in the continent that created and still maintains the bureaucracy. Intent be damned, protocol must be followed and that man can’t accept a credit card that isn’t signed!

    It’ll only get weirder in France.

  2. Mat says:

    Orangina these nuts, amirite?

  3. Mags says:

    We were equally baffled when we recently went to america and nobody glanced at our signature after card purchases. Fraud, much?

    Chip and pin is now nearly ubiquitous anyways, but signatures are still required as a backup.

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