Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

17 July 2011

Adam Weatherford and The Doubly Sized Post. Part 1

My original project was a bit too ambitious, or maybe foolhardy is the right word. I want to travel the capitol cites of each country in the United Kingdom. This was to be an investigation of the national rail system and the various enterprises that operate within that mega-system. There would also be ample opportunity to experience any number of things on the marathon train trip.

I spent a few hours with online train schedules trying to make the trip work. This is what came from that.

London Cardiff and Wales would be easy enough but it seemed impossible to make Belfast possible in the time being. It was a 6 hour trip from Edinburgh and a 14 hour trip from Cardiff and I believe 7 from London. I tried to find an optimal route and rediscovered some Euler mapping concepts from my high school AP stats class. What surprised me about this was that most of the trains didn’t run after midnight. Which seems on for a rail system linking capitol cities. I realized then I may have to cut Belfast out.

I had already been to Edinburgh twice or it wasn’t a major stop on this trip but I would need to switch there to go to London. At this time however Cardiff was still on my interary. Wales was the nation i know the least about, and I wanted to see what it was like. Perhaps my lack of expectations would have been an advantage. After arriving in
London after a seven hour early morning train ride, I felt that Cadriff may even have been a reach on the same day as London.. In my mind I cloud have rushed and seen the sites in each cities or take my time and get to know one of them. I could go and see Cardiff the second day anyways.

I opted not to get a train pass. I would been able to see more and not have been as exhausted but I wanted a street level view of the city and I wanted to see the things in-between the tourist sites.

One of the first sites I came across was the British Library. The building was interesing form the street but mostly blocked off by hedges. But a poster for a Science Fiction Exhibition caught my eye and I went back to see it. The library is a magnificent place. It may have even been the focus of my report had I spent more time there. Many of the things Kate said about the Birmingham Library. But as I was on a schedule (at least in my head.) I never really ventured in past the exhibits in the lobby.
Across the hall in the library was place and I believe it was called “Growing Knowledge. The Evolution of Research”. For a minute I felt like I was inside my own mind. With my personal interests on one side and my academic interests on the other on the other. The screen outside of it made it look like an exhibit but it was a used space where people could manipulate things on several computers or a large multi-touch table and projector. The main.

A modern Library is an interesting space as Kate observed and I now realise. It has change from a place where a community stores it’s knowledge for rent by the public to a place where knowledge is learned by the public.

I passed buy Madam Tussuad's Wax figure museum and the hordes of people outside. There are four Queues based on the different kinds of ticket and hundreds of people outside. There were even special bus parking places for tour buses. It is very interesting to me that a museum of Wax repliclas of famous people draws crowds. They are after all just creepy still replications, they aren't going anywhere. But then again where else will you see every James Bond in one place?

I walked to 221B baker street. The Sherlock Holmes museum. I am working my way thought the collected works and wanted to get a look at the street. That site was interesting and very crowded, I expected about a quarter of what i saw. Even though Holmes is a widely recognized character around the world the books are a more than an hundred years old. I didn’t expect fervor. The Elephant Room in Edinburgh which advertises it self as the site where J.K. Rowling Wrote the first Harry potter book seemed very tame by comparison. For a place that is the birth site for a modern international bestseller, there were only a few signs and no merchandise. While the Holmes Museum was mostly a gift-shop.

I headed to my next destination but got distracted by the U.S. Embassy which was a few blocks from my path. I figured I’d like to see how my country advertises itself in another country. The building itself was a concrete block with most of it’s windows blocked by trees, a large heavy fence and large heavily armed guards. I figured mere curiosity wouldn’t be enough to get me inside but i did find a nice park where there were two large statues of American presidents. There is a Eisenhower statue but not a president but as a general. And then a large cloaked FDR. The more I thought about these the monuments the more obvious why they are there. WWII bound our countries together in a way that hasn’t been replicated.

There are Kiosks for tourists everywhere usually near urban bike rental machines. There is a small list of sites within a fifteen minute walk and compare it to a larger list of things in a 5 minute bike ride. I didn’t want to rent a bike as I had already looked the wrong way while crossing the street several times and i didn’t want to shave needed seconds off of these life saving yet counter-intuitive observations.

One site was speakers corner in Hyde Park. I’d seen a documentary that mentions speakers corner and i remembered a collection of mad voices yelling for the attention of passersby and park goers. In the area there are Political fringe speakers, angry protesters, conspiracy theorists, religious fanatics, and single issue zealots. I wanted to see this so i took off in the opposite direction than i was originally going. There were no speakers. Just a snack bar, roller bladers and tour buses.

Along the way though I did see what is probably the most unusual war monument I had ever seen. It was a monument to all of the animals who had died in service to the UK in the World Wars. There are monuments to these wars all over the UK. I’ve seen three in Scotland and 3 in London but to animals. It seems to be against the idea of a war monument to commemorate the dead of those whose ancestors cannot even comprehend War. This has been made to placate people obviously but who? This still confounds me.

I then set off for Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square. Along the way I found a large ornate abandoned building. Was locked and it had a historical marker. It was the home of Lord Palmerston, former prime minister. It was in disrepair I wondered if it was because of his place in history but he seemed to have an good record. I guess history just passes some places by.

I didn’t know much about Piccadilly expect for the iconic billboard. And as for Trafalgar I knew about the Statue of Nelson. They Were interesting areas but they had just shops and tourists.

A lot of the people I saw in London were tourists. Most of the people seemed to be tourist. There were buses and cabs everywhere. Trafalgar Square was mostly closed off for the Harry Potter World Premiere which would happen the next evening. I was happy I missed all of that congestion but also felt I had missed an opportunity to be apart of that world event. The crowds of fans teeming to catch a peak of the stars and see the final film in a decade long series. The Crowd would have been amazing to watch and get lost in it.

I wanted to see Big Ben and The London Eye. So I headed down a side street from Trafalgar to the Victoria embankment. I planed to walk along this to the base of Big Ben then across Westminster bridge to the London Eye.

I wanted to see the Big Ben because it’s the classical symbol or rather brand of London. In almost every film that has a scene change to London, it will show Big Ben. I had my own pop culture reasons to see the Eye. If you’ll allow me to geek out. It was the main piece of the first episode of the revived Doctor Who Series. An alien consciousness that can inhabit plastic try to use it as a transmitter to inhabit all the plastic on earth. It’s silly but it was a neat Image that I've always associated with the London Eye.
At this point I thought about doing a project on international tourism. The city seemed to have adapted itself into being a tourist trap. Trinkets, Postcards, kiosks, buses maps and even words on the road crosses telling people which way to look. At one point so many people from countries that drove on the other side of the road that the municipal legislators felt that reminders needed to be painted on the crosswalks. This is an international tourist site: a world city.

The only problem being there is no mega project. It’s all wheels within wheels and networks within networks. It’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. The branding of London as one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful cities in the world. The street vendors and Big Ben are connected. So are the street signs and the branding of London as a elegant world metropolis in media from BBC Doctor Who Webisodes and The Works and History of William Shakespeare.

But on my way to the Victoria Embankment, I find a Bridge and my mega-project.


Ross said...

Half your font is black...did you mean for that to happen?

Adam 42 said...

No i did not. Ta-derp