Thursday, 20 May 2010

On ash, elephants and warm weather.

Well, we managed to avoid problems with ash clouds once again and made it back from London to Vigo (well, all right, Oporto and then Vigo) without undue difficulty. My niece has been heard to declare that I must have some occult powers as I keep just missing being delayed by the volcano. The nearest we got to it, however, was meeting up with a friend who is the science editor for a national news channel. He had been working on a report on the ash cloud which prevented him from spending the day with us as planned but he did take us behind the scenes in the run up to the 6.30 news broadcast the other day.

Now, that was most interesting. I have a new admiration for newsreaders, having seen how the wording on their autocue can change minutes or even seconds before they go on the air or indeed while they are on air. As they were waiting to broadcast, fresh news was coming on about the BA strike and whether it could go ahead or not. And then there is the astounding contrast between the female newsreader’s almost bimbo-like attention to her appearance (the amount of hairspray that went on her hair in the few minutes before they went on air is frightening – I dread to contemplate how she got it all out at the end of the day!) and her apposite comments on the wording of the news.

So we had a behind the scenes look at the news and then went with our TV celebrity for an excellent curry, or rather a selection of excellent curries, all most artistically presented, in a little place of G
ray’s Inn Road. Then, while our friend headed back to the studio to do some more news, we tried to follow his directions to his pub of choice. Now, you would think a person who is well-versed in scientific knowledge could remember how to get you to a pub. No way, José! We followed the directions to the letter and then retraced our steps and asked a young man passing by. We provided him with the perfect opportunity to whizz out his i-phone and say, “I’ll just Google it for you!” Show-off! And it didn’t work. But serendipity did; we got back to Gray’s Inn Road and there was the pub!

The planned evening’s drinking did not come to pass though. Our friend had one drink and disappeared once more to fill in a “slow-news-day” with scientific items about mobile phones and goodness knows what else. Such is the price of working in the world of the media! Still we had an interesting time.

London is full of elephants at the moment. Model elephants about the size of real life baby elephants and in a variety of poses have been given to artists to decorate and then deposited in various places around the centre. At the end of June they will be auctioned and the money will go to a charity which works for the preservation of Indian elephants. So now I have seen cows in Manchester and Florence, doves in Bilbao, pigs in Vigo and finally elephants in London. No need to go to a zoo!

In London, as well as the usual tourist sights we were also advised to visit the apparently less well know Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Wallace collection both of which began life as private collection of stuff which was acquired (i.e. like the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum, in some cases not totally legally) from various odd corners of the world. While the Wallace Collection is a lovely example of a gracious house containing huge amounts of excellent paintings and a good deal of arms of one kind or another, Sir John Soane’s Museum had a different kind of charm. Two houses had been combined with a good deal of architectural cleverness on the part of Sir John and then the place was filled with fascinating paraphernalia, accessed via narrow passageways so that they have to severely restrict the number of visitors at any one time. A very good place to visit!

And then, yesterday we set off on our travels once again, this time back to Vigo, via Oporto. When we left Galicia was coming to the end of a longish cold spell which had led to our block’s central heating being switched back on recently! We got off the plane in Oporto to be hit by an almost tangible wall of heat, such as usually happens in mid-summer. This year’s weather continues to be seriously strange. Not that I am complaining about the heat, of course I have had quite enough of the wintery chills. I am quite happy for summer to start properly NOW. Who needs spring anyway?

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