Sunday, 18 January 2009

Grrrrr, Raaarr, Grrrrr

It is a truth universally acknowledged that dinosaurs are absolutely bloody brilliant*. This is one of the basic tenets of the Baldy Fella Fan Club** and is very much a simple fact to all boys under the age of 10 and most girls as well (but definitely for boys). So, with that in mind, the day was spent visiting the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.

This has always been my favourite museum ever*** so I need very little prompting to go there. As a small child, I was always captivated by it and, while it's been updated and upgraded over the years to make it more modern, it's essentially remained unchanged in terms of structure and basic layout since I was young; there's something immensely comforting about that. Also, because it's such a large building, it still seems huge when I walk inside and hasn't been subject to the strange shrinking effect that seems to have taken place since I was little.

As you go through the front doors, you're greeted by the first iconic image of the museum - a 32 metre long Diplodocus**** skeleton - and it's a fine way to start your experience. You can't help but feel a little bit awed by the ancient remains of this huge land lizard. The 2-year old accompanying us has that look of amazement that I must have had back in the day (the 8 year old had seen it a few times before but still thought it was cool). As is tradition, the trip takes in the dinosaur hall first to stare at more giant skeletons and imagine how cool it would be if they were tramping around, roaring and trying to kill each other (you just don't grow out of this so all of us could discuss this common fantasy). One of the more recent additions is the full scale animatronic T-Rex at the end of the dinosaur section; something which has built that anticipation for this which is quite possibly the coolest thing ever to have been devised ever (no, really, ever) and for which I have a ticket so will be reporting back on later in the year (in about 7 months time - that's got to be the longest teaser for a blog post).

The second iconic image is that of the life-size model of the blue whale suspended from the ceiling in the Mammals gallery alongside the skeletons of further prehistoric beasts. There was something about that used to scare me ever so slightly when I was little. I think I always had that the impression that it was an actual whale and that it might start moving if I took my eyes off it. Looking at it now, it's obviously a model (and looking like it's in need of dusting, as my friend pointed out) and it's hard to see how it once made me slightly fearful. Maybe it was the sheer size of the model that was intimidating - it is 28.3 metres long, after all. To a small lad, that was pretty intimidating, I guess.

The museum also currently has an exhibition about Darwin which was unattended by our party - not really for the attention spans of little ones and so pointless to pay for it. I compromised by buying "On The Origin Of The Species" in the shop which I've already started reading (part of the whole "broadening my knowledge base" thing). I'm already finding it interesting - seeing how he's putting down theories which we take for granted as part of our basic scientific knowledge but are only around 150 years old. I may become daunted the further I get into it but I'm going to give it a good old try.

In conclusion, then, the Natural History Museum is tops and people should go to it and look at the skeletons and learn about all the stuff and also the things too. That is all.

* If I had my way, this is exactly how Austen's yawnfest (sorry, extremely funny social satire) would start. And then move on to exploding robot pirates.

** Admittedly, the membership of this club currently consists of an 8 year old and a 2 year old but the membership is extremely fervent and has been known to get tearful when forced to go to dad's house instead of spending time with Uncle Nick.

*** I try not to say this in front of my brother's girlfriend who works at the British Museum and is very loyal to her place of employment. I wouldn't want to start some sort of museum fight.+

**** I always used to pronounce this Di-plo-doh-kus but the pronunciation seems to be Dip-lod-a-kus these days. I'm just gonna start calling it the Long-Neckedy One.

+ And, yes, I've noticed that I'm very tangential today but sometimes the brain is like that. Is a footnote on a footnote going too far? Well, I'm afraid it's too late as I've just done it. Now head on back up the page...


Irish Gumbo said...

Some factoids:
1) I used to have bad dreams about Tyrannosaurus Rex.
2)There is a whale skeleton very much like that in the National Aquarium not too far from where I live.
3) My Wee Lass often asks me to "be a dinosaur, Daddy" and then I chase her, making sounds not unlike the the title of this post. Today, she asked me to be a "cheese bread dinosaur". Hmmm.
4)I have "On The Origin Of Species" in my stack of nightstand reading, just under "The Odyssey" and just over "Meditations On Quixote" by Ortega y Gasset. I hope to read it. Soon.
5) Footnotes can be an effective writing device*. Makes it look 'literary' and 'scientific' and all.

*Just ask David Foster Wallace. Ooh, no, he committed suicide.**

**Please don't commit suicide over footnotes. Not worth it.

Star Kicker said...

I'm taking umbrage at your "naturally little boys" comment. Girls LOVE dinosaurs. We even use dinosaur figures to eat our babies and tear up our stuffed unicorns.

Star Kicker said...

You know, I mean that last comment to say "Eat our BARBIES."

**the word verfication for this comment is "Fookup."

Pearl said...

I was utterly convinced until, oh, last year, that I was going to be an archaeologist when I grew up.

Dinosaurs, robot pirates, and that flying mammal thing in THe Neverending Story. Those are the coolest things...


That Baldy Fella said...

IG - Nice factiods, I like a good list! I would be intrigued to see how you managed the cheese bread dinosaur impression*

Star Kicker - Ah, don't spoil it. I preferred "eat our babies", much more dinosaury. (I got "floges" as a word verification the other day - I may start using it. Context to be decided.)

Pearl - I'm still reasonably convinced that I could be a Tyrannosaurus Rex when I grow up. I just need medical science to catch up with my demands.

* And you're right - footnotes are great, aren't they?

That Baldy Fella said...

And that should have read factoids above...

Anna Russell said...

I'm with Star Kicker - dinosaurs are all kinds of wonderful.

I tried to read Origin of the Species, but ouch on the brain. I really should give it another go.

Anna xxx

That Baldy Fella said...

I've made a gross generalisation that I can't substantiate with actual facts and may have to backtrack...

Well, I'm about 40 pages in so far and it's not easy going but I'm going to try and stick with it (in between reading At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien)

Belle said...

I too love the Natural History Museum. My definite all-time favourite. None of my lamo-family will come with me anymore, so I have to drag visiting friends there.
How bizarre that you mentioned the blue whale hanging from the ceiling. I always go to that whale. I love him.
I also love the way the museum is set out. It is such a great place to explore.

That Baldy Fella said...

Yep, it's brilliant. In my previous job, we hired it for the Christmas party one year. It was very surreal, doing karaoke next to the skeletal remains of a giant plesiosaur and eating canapes underneath a diplodocus...

Belle said...

I'm not sure about the canapes under the diplo-thingy. I'm not a huge dinosaur fan (no pun intended), but I do love the way you can turn a dinosaur name into just about anything. I know - my humour is so infantile..