Embracing London

A few days ago, if you remember, I said I was off to see a maze made out of books. So, on Tuesday, I set out on my mission. I also wanted to see an exhibition about the Olympics, a world arts and music exhibition, an underground pavilion and there was a walk around Hyde Park which looked good.

Off I went, London 2012 app at the ready, to have my day of fun. The info about the aMAZEme exhibition said it started at 8am. It was about 9.20am by the time I got to the Southbank Centre. For some reason, it has never occured to me to think which bit exactly was the Southbank Centre. I just thought it was the bit which was lit up different colours in the evening. But I was always seeing that from the other side of the river. So as I approached the buildings in that area, I thought something would become clear, a sign or something. I walked in.. and around… and up stairs… and down ramps… and took this photo of a massive baobob tree, whilst trying to work out which exact building was the right one.

It is made using material from all over the world as part of the Festival of the World exhibition

It was shortly after stalling for time taking these photos that I found an information board about the Southbank Centre. It turns out, it’s all of the buildings I was circling blindly. It’s not one building with a big sign on. Embarrassingly enough, I should know that. I’m really familiar with this area. My law school is a stone’s throw from here. O well. I worked out that I needed the Royal Festival Hall and made my way there.

It was now a little after 9.30am. So why were all the doors closed? You know when a building doesn’t look like it wants you to enter? That’s what this one looked like. But my faithful London 2012 app said it started at 8am, so there must be a door open somewhere. There must be. THE APP SAID IT! THE APP CAN’T BE WRONG! The app wouldn’t let me down… would it?

I saw a door to a cafe inside the building open because the chairs and tables were being brought outside. I made my way there and saw a security guard. When I asked him how to get inside he said, ‘The building doesn’t open until 10am.’

What?! Bewildered, I produced my trusty app and showed him. ‘But it says! It says here! On my London 2012 app! It says it will start at 8am….’

‘That must be wrong, we definitely don’t open til 10am. Sorry.’

O, London 2012 app. Our relationship, which has been one of much excitement and adoration, has suddenly hit rocky ground. I shall not speak to you for a short while.

So I had a dilemma. Stick around and wait for half an hour to see this, or skip to the next thing and then come back later? I had too much to cram into one day to be hanging around at the confusing Southbank Centre.

I left and crossed the Hungerford bridge over the Thames, heading toward Covent Garden. I love the shops in Covent Garden but I know what I’m like on a day out. I get that holiday mentality on. ‘O! You’re only on holiday once! Just buy it! Don’t worry about money on holiday!’ For this reason, I’m reluctant to let myself too near large shopping malls or markets on a day out. I passed through the main square and headed for the Royal Opera House at the opposite end. Here, my (untrustworthy) app told me, was an exhibition called The Olympic Journey, about the history of the Olympics.

I was ushered up a ramp and told by a young woman in a white cardy and a strange white-to-green faded skirt (I tried, and failed, to work out how it fitted with the Olympics) that her name was Laura (snap!) and she was going to take us on an Olympic Journey.

‘Great!’ I thought. ‘There’ll be so much cool Olympic stuff in here that I can take pics of, to show everyone on the blog, they’ll love a bit of that.’ You see? I’m always thinking about you, about how to keep you entertained. Just call me Selfless Laura.

Anyway, up the ramp I go, camera at the ready. Before the curtain is swept back to let everyone in, Laura Of The Strange Skirt says, ‘Just to remind everyone, there’s no photography allowed inside and no touching of the artefacts.’ FAIL! Big fat Olympic exhibition fail. Never mind.

I got a little booklet about afterwards with the stuff in, but it’s not the same, so I’ll just tell you the best bits. When we first entered, they had made a Greece room, in essence. There were olive trees and loads of info about how and when the games started. The most interesting fact I discovered in this bit was that the Greek word for naked is ‘gymnos,’ which is where the words ‘gymnastics’ and ‘gymnasium’ come from. This is because the competitors used to all be naked when the Olympics first started! Something about showing the unity between the body and the surrounding environment, or something.

Immediately my mind got to work. Imagine! Just imagine you’re there, on your chariot, ready to compete in the pentathlon or whatever, and your chariot falls apart or you get dragged off and hit the ground, naked. You’d be torn to pieces! After I imagined gruesome naked deaths and embarrassing naked wrestling, we were ushered into the next room, about how it came back to life in the late 1800s.

Pierre Coubotin started them up again because loads of countries had already been captivated by this idea of a sports competition like the Greeks had. He mobilised them all to have a worldwide one and it’s been going ever since.

There was a room which had one of all the torches that had been used. The Sydney one was quite cool, all new-agey. I liked the Rome one too and the Beijing one was pretty. Interesting fact from this room was that the idea to have a flame on the torch was first used in the Berlin games. Hitler came up with it! Presumably before then, the torch was just being carried along, as a symbolic thing. I also didn’t realise that when they held the games in Sydney, they used some amazing new technology flare thing, to swim the flame underwater to Australia!

In the last room there was a copy of a gold, silver and bronze medal from each of the games. The London 2012 ones look massive in comparison and, to be honest, like they’re made of plastic! Of course they’re the colours of gold etc, but because they’re quite big, they almost look like children’s toys.

In the same room were stories of 16 Olympians. I loved the story about the Ethiopian marathon runner, Abebe Bikila. Adidas were sponsoring the event and provided shoes for all the runners, but Abebe couldn’t find a pair to fit, so he ran barefoot, and won! They had a video of him running barefoot, way ahead of all the other runners. Amazing.

After this onslaught of amazingness, it was time to head back to the site of my earlier disappointment to find the book maze. As I entered the Royal Festival Hall, it was in a room to my right, which is completely open, down a few stairs. I feel like it suffered a bit due to this, because I entered from above it and could easily see the way to get to the middle and that it wasn’t as massive as I had initially thought it would be.

Look a bit more like a book sale than a book maze

Because the first layer of books was a waist height, it wasn’t really a maze, because I just looked where the path went. As I got further back, though, the walls got higher.

Once I had gone around this one bend, though, it took another ten seconds or so to get to the middle. While it was fun to be surrounded by so many books, the ‘maze’ part took me all of one minute to work out. I revelled in being around so many books and hung around for a bit longer, looking at them. There was a section of the low part, where a load of Braille books had been left open and there was someone reading them, which was quite a lovely thing to watch.

I headed to the Festival of the World exhibition next, just down some stairs from the book maze. The exhibition was all about educational innovations that have spread around the world and the result of some were on display. There was artwork from an amazing South American woman who lived on a rubbish heap in a slum but had used the plastic bottles to make artwork.

There was music from a Cuban orchestra, which I sat and listened to for a while. Then I came to a room which just had a photo booth in. It asked me to put 20p in and get my passport photos done, to become a citizen of the world! Yes, please! This sounded fun. I got my photos done, cut out the best one and walked into the next room, where someone handed me a blue Antarctica passport, someone else glued my photo in and I filled in my details and got a country stamp for Antarctica.

This is because they have open borders, so anyone can choose to become a citizen of Antarctica, if they choose! So I did. Quite exciting.

After this I headed back to Waterloo station and got the tube to Kensington, to the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. On the way to the park, I happened upon this fantastic free exhibition for the Travel Photograph of the Year, located in the main hall and gardens of the Royal Geographic Society.

When I got to the underground pavilion outside the Serpentine Gallery, it wasn’t what I was expecting. In fact, I’m not sure I knew what to expect. On the top was a large round plate thing, which had water in it, and underneath was a series of steps and stools and blocks, all made out of cork, where people were sitting and relaxing, chatting with friends. It seemed like a nice chill-out place but I didn’t stop because I had seen something near the gallery itself.

There is an exhibition by Yoko Ono and one of the things she had outside was a wish tree. I love reading these! Here are a few of my favourites from this one:

I wish I had more than one cat.

I wish someone else’s wish comes true (I don’t really need anything) x

I wish for a nice job, a nice place to live and a nice boyfriend.

I wish I was a superhero like Spiderman so I could shoot webs.

I wish you were on me.

I wish for no distance between us. I wish to be the girl of your dreams.

I wish life was not that hard.

I wish that I could have chocolate every day. Joe, 5 years.

I wish that Lego keep making good sets 🙂

07912413886. Call me and make me wish come true. Jordan x

I wish I had a pigg.

So after looking at the wish tree for ages, I remembered seeing something when I came in the gates of Hyde Park, so I went back that way and found the Africa Village. Exciting! I headed in, ready for an onslaught of Africa-ness and nostalgia. There were stands with each country’s name on. I set about finding the Namibia stand, to go and pretend I’m fluent in Afrikaans and see if they had any Namibia stuff I could take away with me. Some stands had food or little souvenirs. I looked… And I looked… And I looked. There was no Namibia stand! I searched around but it wasn’t that big so after a few minutes I realised there mustn’t be one, and left the village a bit disappointed.

At this point I thought about setting off on my historic walk around Kensington and was wondering whether my legs were maybe too tired for that. I’d been on my feet for a long time by this point. And that’s when I saw it….. The sign for Whole Foods…

Holiday head kicked in and I abandoned my proposed walk around the area, for a walk around Whole Foods. I grabbed a trolley (I should have known better!) and started putting one of everything in. Do I really need Malaysian chicken skewers?! Of course! And a swordfish steak? Seriously now! A swordfish steak? Don’t be ridiculous. O, but it’s holiday, just get it! Live a little. In went the swordfish steak. And the raw chocolate and goji berry bar. And the handcrafted smoked haddock fish cake. And the sundried tomatoes from the mountains of Italy. And the gently steamed spinach with shallots and garlic. Ridiculous.

After this, I slumped to the tube station in shame, stuffing my face with a chicken samosa and a roasted vegetable wrap, washed down with a swig of pure Fijian rainwater, gathered at dusk by dragonflies or something just as ridiculous, and felt equal measures of shame and smugness.

And in this way, my epic day of embracing London was ended.

 

P.S. The app and I are now friends again.

Advertisements

4 responses to this post.

  1. looks like a wonderful time! I watched a video of the making of the book maze. I would have loved to be involved in something like that but then I realized I’d have been useless and just reading books on the floor…

    I also found out that the bronze medals they award are worth less than $5… I guess that should be obvious since it’s not really a precious metal but you’d think since it’s being given to an olympian it would be worth more. then I realized it’s not about what it costs, it’s about being an olympian and blah blah blah 🙂

    Reply

  2. Naked Olympics would be both exciting and probably a little gross…

    Reply

  3. I won’t have too now..lol great description of your day and loved the photo’s:)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: