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August 23, 2004

Saturday Treats

We're busily looking for treats and entertainments that can be managed with only one hand . That wouldn't include the twirly Poi we bought for her at Cropredy, then.

Digression: Do you know the Legend of Poi? Once upon a time there was a young acolyte who studied hard and showed great devotion. Every day he asked his teachers "How can I join the ranks of the masters?" And they told him to seek out Poi. But they knew nothing more about it. He started to seek, high and low, to the ends of the earth, trying to find Poi. Every so often he'd hear a rumour, and travel to a remote and forbidding place in search of Poi. But he was always disappointed.

Eventually, he found himself at the foot of a tall mountain, so tall that the top was shrouded in cloud. He met the monks who lived at the base, and told them he sought Poi. They said he must speak to the master. So he began to climb the mountain. He climbed for three days, sleeping on the mountainside and listening to the howl of the wind. Eventually he reached the top and found the master.

"I seek Poi!" he cried. "Can you give me what I seek?"

"Of course. Would you like steak and kidney Poi or chicken and mushroom Poi?"

End of digression. Anyway, we went to Matsuri High Holborn for lunch, on a 10 buffet special (nothing off for kids) that has probably ended now. One of the delights of living in London is the ability to eat cheaply in the summertime, as the city depopulates and restaurants will try anything to get people in. We added teppanyaki icecream, which suitably impressed the children -- Jonathan explained 'that was close!' after the fireball -- and was very tasty. Even when only paying pizza prices, you get to watch teppanyaki, eat perfectly prepared 'everyday' food, and have the joy of perfect service. We were inordinately loud compared to the mostly Japanese families we were eating with; this is the first quiet teppanyaki I have been to. Matsuri also has a regular restaurant section, and a sushi bar -- we sat at the sushi bar the other week when Steven and I went for dinner and ate perfect sashimi and sushi, and lots of it, at high prices that felt rather good value.

Then on in a 'what's interesting and near here' way to the British Museum, which I hadn't visited since it acquired its new glass roof. The roof and the dome of the reading room were much admired by the children. The reading room itself is bizarrely furnished now, with a set of books around the wall that reminded me of the walls of books you get in pubs; rather random and for decoration rather than use.

We discovered much later that the reading room is also where you go to pick up borrow-and-return backpacks and activity trails for children; these are not well advertised and despite knowing that these packs existed and asking museum staff about where to get them, I was never directed there. Instead they sold me the children's guidebook, which is rather good for curious children of about Marianne's age, and which we could have done with having before we visited, to choose what to go and see.

I was tempted by the current exhibition, a virtual reality tour of a mummy -- the Tube posters show anaglyph glasses, but this is actually a polarised 3d movie. We decided against it but I may sneak back without the children.

The regular common or garden mummies, which we came upon randomly, were suitably fascinating, extraordinary, beautiful and (for adults), really creepy. As I become older I find I become less and less confident that displaying dead bodies for the entertainment of the general public is acceptable, no matter how old they are. Marianne's fascination with ancient burial customs was cut short by a fire alarm that caused us to move randomly in some other direction. We came upon the Parthenon Marbles, pronounced 'boring' by Marianne, and the Nereid Monument, which impressed us all.

In the shop, I didn't buy The Royal Game of Ur, though slightly regret that now that I've played the online version. Although the shop says for players of 14 or over, the easier rules would be fine for a sharp four-year-old. I like the fact it has tetrahedral dice, though they're used as binary dice. I was also surprised to see one of these vases, twin to the one on our living room mantlepiece, for a great deal more than we paid for ours in Ironbridge a few years ago.

In Museum Street we found a specialist games shop, Playin' Games. Marianne and her friends are currently obsessed with Top Trumps. It's hard to explain just how parent-pleasing this is -- it's as if all the Juniors had suddenly started playing with hoops and sticks. So we picked up a set of Roald Dahl Top Trumps for her, which we played all the way home on the tube. Huh. In my day we had to make do with helicopters and dinosaurs.

Posted by Alison Scott at August 23, 2004 12:50 PM


"... We came upon the Parthenon Marbles...."

My first thought was that these might be the famed Elgin Marbles of history, which I enjoyed marveling at during my too-brief visit to the Museum.

But that's hard to verify, since you make no reference to them, and neither does your cite.

"...the sculptures from the Parthenon...."

I gather they were teleported spontaneously, and with no controversy. That would explain them being different Marbles than those I kinda sorta vaguely think might, from the far-off, distant, picture, think they might be. Or might not. Who kknows? Whomever knows is not, apparently, telling.

Kind of annoying, but the lack of close pictures also is. I could show up and purchase the sound guide, but really all I'd like to know is whether these are the fucking Elgin Marbles and why is no one saying any more?

And then some closeup photos would be delightful.

Of course, since it's quite possible, from this info, these are some other Marbles, I might be all wrong, and I should go play with my own marbles, and offer apologies all round.

Posted by: Gary Farber at August 29, 2004 01:00 AM

OK, ok. I should probably have linked to this page instead at the British Museum site, which is much more informative but has no picture directly. I think it answers all your questions reasonably well.

Posted by: Alison Scott at August 30, 2004 01:27 AM

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