Well, today has been a fairly productive day, all in all. I took the… - John C. Kirk
Feb. 20th, 2006
Well, today has been a fairly productive day, all in all.
I took the day off work so that I'd be around for the plumber's visit - he's now got rid of all the (rusty) iron pipes from the water main, and also fixed the separate problem with my water pressure, and all of this was done with only minimal demolition (just the skirting board, not the wall/floor), which is good.
In the evening, I went off on SJA duty to Buckingham Palace. I'm not quite clear on what the event was (something to do with the Duke of Edinburgh), and there wasn't any first aid required, but it was interesting to go inside the building, and it's one of the nice perks of the role. It really is huge inside, and I was quite overawed by the decor (and paranoid in case I broke anything!). We were based in the throne room, although we just sat on folding chairs rather than the initialled "his'n'hers" thrones up on the raised section. We also had a small tour, although that only covered about 1/5th of the total building. You know the area in front, where the tourists all take photos? That overlooks the main courtyard, where the guards parade in bearskins. There are a few archways behind the guards, which lead through to the inner courtyard. If you'd been outside, and the middle (black) gates had been open, you would have seen me standing in the entrance to the Palace from the inner courtyard. That's not how I actually got in (there was a security process for that), but it was one highlight of the tour.
There were a lot of paintings there, a mixture of portraits and landscapes; I'm not really an art expert, but I do like pictures that actually look like something. So, while I don't spend a lot of time going round museums, I get the impression that you don't normally get very close to the paintings - there will be a velvet rope or something to keep visitors at a safe distance. By contrast, in the Palace people were just trusted not to touch them, because there was nothing to keep you away. I was walking past one, and I thought "Hmm, that must be quite modern, because the colours look much more vivid/clear than the others". I took a closer look, and saw that it was signed "Rembrandt". Presumably an original, given the location...
In a way, this reminded me of being back at boarding school, only more so. There was a nice phrase I heard a while back, comparing the UK and US: "In England, 200 miles is a long way. In America, 200 years is a long time." I think there's a lot of truth in that - I've essentially grown up surrounded by history, where the school buildings (and my current flat) are 100 years old, and that feels relatively modern. The school buildings were full of oak panels and old paintings, although they were generally out of reach of sticky 11-year old fingers. I still have my reservations about the whole issue of hereditary peers/monarchs vs a meritocracy, but I must admit that I do like the trappings. While my flat is basically the techno-geek paradise, I do have the sword mounted over the fireplace, and a vague plan to apply for my own coat of arms when I have a spare few thousand quid lying around.
On the way out, we used a big staircase to go back down towards the entrance hall. Having seen that staircase from the bottom, I felt quite underdressed at this point - it's the kind of thing you see in films like "Titanic" or "The Princess Diaries", where everyone turns to watch the heroine sweeping down in a beautiful dress. To clarify that (!), it's not that I would personally want to wear such a garment, just that my plastic SJA jacket seemed a tad out of place...
There was also something else that I was stressing about last night, but it turns out that I'd just got the wrong end of the stick; I know that's cryptic, but thanks to the people who (unknowingly) set my mind at rest :)
Another day off work tomorrow, mainly because I thought that the plumbing would take two days, so I'll be waiting for the Sky guy to turn up and replace my Digibox, which will hopefully resolve the problem with it freezing every so often. One by one, I tick things off my "to do" list...