smokingboot: (Default)
A chum and I did something just a bit wonderful last night. We bimbled down to Lincoln's Inn Fields around 4.30, waiting for this:

A gentleman in a fine old hat warned us that though the Soanes Museum closes at 5 to reopen at 6, this candlelit viewing of John Soanes' house is always very popular, and if we didn't queue early, we would be waiting for hours. We didn't pay that much heed. Lincoln's Inn Fields is so very pretty as dusk falls into dark, and the windows light up across the centuries. There are snowdrops under the trees, first I've seen this year. We wandered through arches, and found slabs under which lost laywers lie. Then we returned to Soanes house at about 4.45, to find over 40 people waiting.

God, god, how cold did it get as we waited! The man in the hat did not exaggerate...the queue went beyond our sight and round the corner. One might wonder if it was worth all the while in the freezing dark. I couldn't feel my feet. Then they let us in, small groups at a time, and I didn't wonder any more.

I suppose there is an argument against seeing a museum by candlelight. After all, you will obviously miss certain details. But the atmosphere is so evocative, and the Soanes Museum is unlike others; it's basically a townhouse, whose owner had the kind of wealth that enabled him to knock out walls and ceilings in order to position awkward antiquities just so. At points it becomes a strange temple to many gods. Then it seems that the whole thing folds in on itself along tiny corridors, surrounded by courtyards and demi-rooms all lit by magic. In one, a nymph stared out for all the world as though she had just seen us. Through another we could just make out a memorial engraved with the words 'Alas Poor Fanny'*. Apollo Belvedere strutted his stuff, proving that even sun gods can benefit from shadows playing on their abs, Diana of the Ephesians smiled above her necklace of testicles/breasts, bronze Chinese lions danced in the flicker, gargoyles played on the walls and King Seti's sarcophagus lay there glowing.

We left the candlelit museum happy and ready for something to warm us; a glass of ginger wine in the nearby Ship Tavern proved just the ticket. This is Imbolc time, called Candlemass by many. It was a beautiful way to celebrate.

*Fanny, it transpires, was the family doggie.


Apr. 6th, 2006 01:10 pm
smokingboot: (dragonfly)
With thanks to [profile] larians for the following link:,,1747926,00.html

The problem with science is that it is too magical to remain unglamourised in my head: Tiktaalik may be an incredibly important fossil detailing a hitherto unknown transition between gills and lungs, flippers and limbs, land-living and water breathing; for me it has all become translated into upright crocodile men in big hats, wandering the earth looking for wisdom and little birds to crunch. Even the name works: Tiktaalik. Sounds like some kind of tribe or race, doesn't it?

Archeopteryx holds a special interest for me too because I have always been fascinated by the links between lizards and birds. When unable to sleep recently, I kept having insomnia fueled visions of a man with what I thought was a tattoo of a great cross on his back, only to get up close and find it was a giant tattooed archeopteryx. When I touched it, the bones crunched beneath his skin, and he looked at me expectantly. I watched, waiting for him to fly; he watched me waiting, I think, for me to kiss him.

I can see him now, in my mind's eye, high above a desert, standing at the edge of a sunset cliff, taking off with outstretched bone wing stems that grow very long and may or may not become feathered and scaled. In my head, he sometimes crashes to the red land below; now that land is peopled by Tiktaalik, who sometimes heal him, and other times eat him all up.

Let's face it, I need sleep. Badly.


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