Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 27 April 2024

This must be my week for being prompted by other people's blogs. Way back in January, Urspo referred to the idea floating around the internet about men's thoughts on the Roman Empire. I can't say I have many, although I went to the kind of grammar school that gave you plenty of Latin (and a low tolerance level for bloody Caesar throwing yet another bridge across yet another river), but seeing that the British Museum had an exhibition on life in the Roman army, it would be foolish not to see it.

Another daunting queue to get up to the security check, though having a timed ticket for the special exhibition got me priority (and when I came out - around noon - there was no queue at all, for whatever that tells you). Once inside, though there was plenty of room for everyone, and separate children's activities which kept the visiting primary school party busy away from the rest of us. 

 There were a few items I have actusally seen before on a visit to Vindolanda - leather shoes and sandals, and some writing tablets (what sounded like the equivalent of the "Colonel's lady" inviting a friend to a birthday party, and a list of supplies to be ordered) but so much more, about recruitment (pretty selective, and it helped to have contacts: also, soldiers had to provide their own arms and armour), training (tough), living conditions (also pretty tough if you were on campaign), health (tricky - disease and poor food were all too common), leisure, and the prospects of survival into retirement rewards (citizenship and pensions). Some of that might not be too different from almost any military, though presumably the Romams were the first that we can see how they systematised it all.

Not the kind of shield the ordinary soldier could afford

Not Mussolini but a military standard featuring the Emperor Galba -
until he met the same fate as Il Duce

Another standard - the "dragon" which also made what was supposed to be a fearsome sound

On campaign: constantly pitching and striking camp with tents made of goatskin and wooden tent pegs

On campaign, poor hygiene and disease were a recurrent problem - here's a portable medicine box

No qualms about enslaving their prisoners (if they took any), or about glorying in booty

Leisure time - gambling (of course) but to prevent cheating the black box is designed to randomise the casting of dice

Opportunities for fun for kids of all ages

Wednesday 24 April 2024

 Mr Mago asks, à propos my last, what happened to the organ of Notre Dame in the fire. By coincidence, I've had a good insight into that, from finding a reference to Westminster Abbey hosting a virtual reality exhibition from Paris about cathedral's place in history, the fire and its consequences. 

The good news is that the organ escaped the fire, but not the lead-contaminated dust from the collapse of the roof, nor the water. So there's been a complete dismantling, cleaning, re-assembly and re-voicing. So it will resound again.

Not doing touristy things that often around London, I was a bit surprised by the long queues to enter the Abbey, and by how crowded it felt inside. But then, the last time I was there I was a child, so of course it all felt smaller and - dare I say it - somewhat cluttered.

In fact, they've made room in the roof spaces for more clutter, in the Diamond Jubilee Gallery of incidental artefacts - among them the funeral effigies of a number of monarchs (probably the nearest we'll get to an unprettified portrait of some of them).

As for the Notre Dame display - ingenious (well, it's French, after all): a tablet computer that picks up the code for a particular display and presents you with relevant images and 3D animations from various points in the Cathedral. So you're not all crowding round the same display case, or tied to a particular route or speed through the exhibition.

And I don't need to make a trip to Paris to see it!

Saturday 20 April 2024

Today is International Organ Day



so to mark the occasion, here's a very grand organ - and the Toccata from Widor's 5th Organ Symphony

Sunday 14 April 2024

It only takes a day or two of warmth and sunshine and suddenly all the trees in the neighbourhood seem to have woken up together. This ceanothus has been there as long as I can remember, and has obviously had a tidy-up there used to be branches hanging down a lot lower.

Monday 8 April 2024

Click to see the what, when and where
- and what one must and mustn't do
It's election time again, this time for local government in London and a bunch of other cities, though since there must be a general election by next January, this will inevitably be taken as an indicator of whether the government really is staring into the abyss the opinion polls suggest.

As ever, we get this handy formal notification of when and where to go, and the essential rules. 

But this year there was also a colourful leaflet reminding us that we now have to take photo ID with us to the polling station. There's a long list of suitable documents, of which I have at least three, so it won't be a problem for most people who don't forget to take it, but one does have to wonder whether it's really necessary.

I can't recall any cases where people have been prosecuted for impersonating someone else, let alone where it would have made any difference to the overall result. If you think about it, the effort of identifying people on the register who could be plausibly impersonated and then recruiting other people to pretend to be them just doesn't look remotely likely. These days, getting enough people to go out canvassing and leafleting seems to be more and more difficult for the parties. 

This rule was applied to last year's local elections in other parts of the country, and it looks as though at most 10,000 people across the country were turned away and didn't come back, or in effect a handful of votes in any one election.

As it happens, my polling station is in the primary school just over the road, so voting just requires a slight diversion from my normal route to buy my morning paper.

It's also a chance to admire this mosaic in the playground, and the children's artwork on the walls once inside (briefly, given how quick the actual process is). 

And then it's back home for breakfast, civic duty done. 

Monday 1 April 2024

Always something new to look at up at Canary Wharf - currently a promotion for Guide Dogs for the Blind