All Kinds of Awesome

I took our youngest daughter into London today – primarily to do some research for her school project board on volcanoes. Each couple of terms the children are required to produce a presentation board on a topic with a number of required elements – so many written pieces, a glossary, some illustration, some photos, and so on. The aim is to get the children to research, and to put things together on their own.

The project boards used to be marked. They are not any more. Guess why. Yes – you guessed it – the parents were doing them, and were unapologetic about it. Asshats. We might have guided our children with their project boards over the years, but we have never done anything for them – much to their disgust with us from time to time.

Anyway. Volcanoes.

After a bus and a train ride, we trundled into London Marylebone station at about 10am this morning, before descending into the Underground to continue on towards South Kensington, and the museums – the Natural History Museum first, and then the Science Museum.

For the first hour we wandered around the Natural History Museum – focussing on the “Earth zone” – reading about volcanoes, earthquakes, tectonic plates, lava, rock, and so on. Who knew that obsydian is created by rapidly cooling lava ? Not me. After writing all manner of notes about Krakatoa (I think it might become the subject of her project board), we went off in search of Dinosaurs, and discovered it’s all shut at the moment. Hrrmmff.

The next hour was spent in the Science museum. I had hoped to go and look at the Cosmonaut exhibition, but one glance at the prices, and we settled for looking at the existing space stuff, and the computers. Well… we would have looked at the computers, but the entire section was closed. I won’t disguise that I was disappointed – given what I do for a living, I love looking at the old computers.

One thing about the Science museum I was not happy at all about – it’s supposed to be free to the public – so why were they forcing people past checkouts where you were “invited” to donate to the museum? Not cool. Not cool at all – especially when the Natural History Museum next door made you look rubbish.

We did look at the Ada Lovelace exhibition, which is primarily Babbage’s first difference engine, and a number of letters between Lovelace, Babbage, and Faraday. It’s funny – after reading quite a bit about her, I can’t help feeling that history has been incredibly kind to Ada Lovelace. In the longer term, Ada will be remembered for no more than writing letters to prominent people expressing ideas about how they might be used – and that’s it.

We looked around in the shop at the Science Museum for a while, and aside from grown men playing with expensive pieces of cardboard in front of any children they could find in the hope of their parents being arm-twisted into spending money, I was kind of disappointed again – not by the content of the shop – but by the prices. I get it - it’s London – but when Amazon is selling the same stuff – from the same supplier – for significantly less, you start shaking your head.

After leaving the museums we headed back to the Underground, and across London for a promised visit to the best comic book store in the country – Forbidden Planet. Comics have rapidly become a craft way of getting our youngest daughter to read. She has never found reading as easy as other children, but if she has pictures to help tell the story it helps enormously.

While she wandered around the various toys and comics, I gazed in wonder at the various figurines in glass cabinets around the place. I’ll never be able to afford any of them (short of winning the lottery), but am always amazed at their quality – wondering how on earth they are made. Some of them are scarily accurate (go check out my Instagram account if you want to see what I’m talking about).

We finally left with a bag full of comic books, and thoughts about what we might get to eat on the way home. That question was solved for us back at Marylebone when we walked into the supermarket and saw a queue the length of the store. There was a Burger King across the way. Her first Wopper. She burst into a fit of giggles when I ordered it – she has never heard of a burger called a “Wopper” before. When the woman behind us ordered a “Double Wopper” I thought she might do herself a mischief.

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