Still Monday. Total amount of sleep in last 24 hours: about 240 minutes. Goal: stay up until 11 so I can readjust my schedule and not have jet lag. Destination: British Museum.

Made it t 40 minutes before closing. They warned me it was closing soon and I said that was okay, I just wanted to see the Elgins before they were sent back. Ha ha! Just kidding, no, you didn't miss anything on the news.

The Elgins were closed for cleaning. I guess they have to do that every 500 years. So you go look at the little things you'd otherwise walk past.

The plaque says:

Marble tombstone of a woman who died leaving her child to the care of a nurse. Made in Athens about 425-400 BC

That seems rather specific date.

I will never not be creeped out by these guys.

The explanation on the wall says the local ruler had given permission for the British to "take whatever stones they wished." Or words to that effect. The British had a rather expansive definition of "stones."

This was all painted, of course:

Court scene

Assyrian, about 865-860 BC From Nimrud, North-West Palace.

King Ashurnasirpal is enthroned between attendants, and the group is flanked by a pair of winged protective spirits. The workmanship of these panels, from the head of what was possibly a banquet hall, is exceptionally fine.


There's lots of text to remind you of the glories and wisdom and power of ol' Ash. The room is full of accounts of his conquests. It's always the war and stabbing and gouging with these guys.

The plaque:

Attack on an enemy town by a river

Assyrian, about 865-860 BC

From Nimrud, North West Palace, Room B, panel 4 (bottom)

While some Assyrians break through the lower walls, the main siege-engine is itself under attack. The enemy have caught its battering lever on a chain, but two Assyrians are holding it in position with hooks. Some torches are thrown, but water is piped from inside the engine to quench the flames. The scene is continued to left and right.

And back and forward thorugh the ages. Anyway, hurrah for the victories! They would be victorious forever! Or not:

King Ashurnasirpal is generally remembered as the last great king of Assyria. Inheriting the throne as the favored heir of his father Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal's 38-year reign was among the longest of any Assyrian king.  Though sometimes regarded as the apogee of ancient Assyria, his reign also marked the last time Assyrian armies waged war throughout the ancient Near East and the beginning of the end of Assyrian dominion over the region.

While the Elgins were off the menu, there's lots of additional Greek work, battered and chipped by the Hammers of Time, he said, pretentiously. This fellow was grouped with his wife, who was in worse shape. His expression seems to be "well, that's it for me, I suppose."

Ten minutes left.

I had to swing by the Enlightenment Room and see the old books no one has read in centuries.

This fellow always seems a bit appalled he's stuck here goggling at everyone, or about to blubber:


Richard Payne Knight (11 February 1751 – 23 April 1824) of Downton Castle in Herefordshire, and of 5 Soho Square, London, England, was a classical scholar, connoisseur, archaeologist and numismatist best known for his theories of picturesque beauty and for his interest in ancient phallic imagery.

Knight died unmarried on 23 April 1824

He had some other interesting theories on aesthetics and perception. The sculptor, John Bacon the Younger, was very much a man of his era, in terms of characteristic John Bull iconography.

The gentlemen by the door, looking past us as we leave.

And that was that. When I got out it was time for another shot of coffee, so I hit the Pret and just looked out the window for a while.

Then I pretended I still had some energy, and began the walk back to the Baker street station.











This charming old place seems eternal and endangered. Conway and Warren, if you're curious.

Some other sights of the streets: a rather phlegmatic cherub, disgrunted over the task he has been set to perform for eternity:

At least he has company. The longer you look the more you think they're not really holding up anything of any weight, but were hired just to be decorative. Or they came along later, hopped up, and amused themselves by pretending to be structural.

The building was erected in 1901. The flats can be seen here. One-point-five million to live there. At that price you'd think they could afford a little paint.

The intersection of the old and new is more jarring in London than elsewhere. To me, anyway. The success of the views depends on the quality of the architecture. In this case nearly everything is rote or B-level, but the color helps.

A relic of Empire:

It's still active.

Below: a gift to the street on the corner of an ordinary building. Probably Poseidon, attended in this case by decapitated cherubs who have ornothological appendages bursting from their necks:

Back on the subway, which was now fully packed with commuters heading north. The Swiss Cottage station area is London 60s / 70s era mediocrity at its most . . . predictable, I guess.

That's an illustration of greenery. 360 around this Google Map to get the full effect.

Found a dinner spot, had a pita that compensated for the leathery meat with good sauce but seemed to think it was necessary to put french-fried potato poker-chips in the mix - then walked back through the weary 70s-era public plaza by the Hampstead Theater - it all says “new urbanism” and “proposal brochures with line drawings of hip urban people with aviator glasses being New and Urban because now there’s so much BRICK about and the lights have circular globes.”

Finished two columns in the bar with a scotch. See what I mean about nice public spaces?

Needs polish, and all the cushions could stand a good beating.

Into the tiny elevator, exhausted . . .

Thus ends the account of the first day.

Tomorrow: The Wallace - and the reason for the trip. Any guesses?