You know what sucks? Being sick on holiday. It’s lousy. You’re raring to get out and see the sights, experience all the hope and wonder of being in an unfamiliar place. Instead you feel drained, cloudy and frustrated. It’s hard to have the same kind of mobility when your limbs are sore or your brain is foggy. Being sick on holiday can downright ruin a holiday.
Fortunately, my holiday is far from ruined. I’ve developed some kind of low level sniffly thing. My nose is a little leaky and I get off and on headaches. I’m assuming it was the same affliction I successfully warded off before the flight, but eating bread for every meal and not exercising is taking its toll. My body wants real food and I need to remember to stretch. I’m An Old now, which means I can’t just bounce back at the flick of a switch. Powerade isn’t the magical panacea it was at age 20.
It’s also difficult to feel truly grumpy when there’s so much goddamn excellent stuff to see. One of my favourite things about London is their ardent commitment to making knowledge accessible. Universities and organisations have all kinds of collections freely available to the public. Like they’ve decided that the people have the right to learn. Last time I was here, I profusely enjoyed seeing the Huntarian collection in the London College of Surgeons. Tons of body parts/foetuses preserved in jars. It was gross and fascinating and a sight I never would’ve been able to see otherwise. This time around we went to the Grant College of Zoology and saw their collection. It was basically the Huntarian, but for animals. There was almost too much stuff to see, but it looked as if it’d been curated by scientists rather than an actual museum curator. I guess part of that was the fact that it was very much still a working part of the university. There was nothing in the way of museum staff, just employees sitting around doing their research. The collection was endlessly intriguing. A ton of skeletons and preserved critters. My personal favourite (and I think the most popular “attraction” in general) was the Jar of Moles. It was precisely what it said it was: 17 moles preserved in a jar together. I don’t know what I expected.
They had way more than just a jar of moles (wait, did I really write the sentence “just a jar of moles”, as if that’s some regular quotidean happenstance?). All manner of mammal, reptile and aquatic life were represented. It was so cool being able to compare the size and scale of rhino, elephant and hippo skulls in real time. The differences between lions and tigers (and bears, oh my!) weren’t always apparent to me. Hell, I didn’t even know that tigers were larger. They had kiwis and other Australasian critters. There was even a cast of a plesiosaur, a dinosaur I had no idea was basically the size of a human being. Like a long necked turtle, as my girlfriend pointed out. They had walls of microbes and tiny bone fragments. Something that I found really interesting was noticing how similar a lot of the mammal skeletons were. That without muscle, skin and fur, they were all vaguely analogous. A rhino, for instance, actually has a pretty long neck. They look way more fragile when you take away everything but their frame. Obviously the neck (with seven vertebrae just like a human/giraffe) is covered in muscle, which innoculates them against the shock of their ramming. It was so cool to look at all these animals and imagine how their structure informed their movement.
It was doubly handy seeing all this, because it gave extra emphasis as to why The Lion King on the West End was so great. After waiting for about 45 minutes, we got our £20 tickets (second floor balcony, 4th and 5th row from the front) and had a fantastic time. I’m not gonna delve into a bunch of the stuff that made the show so great, ’cause I still have hope that y’all will get out to see it (only took me 10+ years). Suffice to say the puppets and representations of animal movement were oustanding. The choreographer had obviously earned their salt, varying so succinctly how each species moved. The giraffes, hyenas and elephant in particular were astounding. The scale was enormous and I can’t fathom how one would bring together all those moving parts to form one well-oiled machine. 100% worth the wait.
Being sick might suck, but at least I’m having a wicked sick time.