I went on a day trip to London with DS yesterday. I turned out to be a very cultured day indeed. I do little girly outings with DD quite often, even if they are only brief shopping trips, so I thought it was about time DS and I did something together.
There is an exhibition called Comics Unmasked currently on at the British Library and this was our mission (along with DS’ goal of finding a white deer*). We’re not just talking Beano and Marvel here, but rather a wide range of material covering social and political attitudes, sex and violence and even the esoteric. I was somewhat surprised to see Mr Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend and a print of the Universe card from the Thoth deck among the exhibits, though I’m still not entirely sure why it was there.
*(a totally off-the-wall and fanciful idea he came up as we were walking to the station in the morning. He now knows that White Hart is also a popular pub name.)
The art styles on display show an incredible variety style, from the aforementioned Beano, Victorian penny-dreadfuls, the darkly gothic, some extremely artistic and realistic, others less so. It was also gratifying to see Raymond Briggs’ chilling When The Wind Blows among the exhibits. Doubly so, because I had mentioned it to DS earlier. I dug out my copy for him to read in its entirety today. I doubt it will have quite the same impact since, unlike me, he is not growing up in the shadow of the Cold War and the ubiquitous “Four Minute Warning”, so I look forward to discussing it with him.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that this was the first time I had visited the British Library and it seemed rude not to look at some of their other treasures while we were there. Magna Carta, although it doesn’t look like much with its faded, scratchy writing, is such a significant document that it really is a must see. Also on display are a wide range of other historic documents and sacred texts from all over the world, including a Gutenberg bible, music scores from the hands of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, not to mention some of the most beautiful illuminated Medieval manuscripts you are ever likely to see from Europe, India, Persia, China and Japan among others.
DS bought a rather lovely book of Haiku (both in English and original Japanese) in the gift shop and thus further inspired, we skipped the Midland Hotel and the Science Museum, which had been on the original itinerary, and meandered instead down to the British Museum for more Japanese culture (and a shufty in their bookshop). DS has a theory is that cultures which have pictorial writing also have rather excellent art and is keen to learn Kanji. He is already drawing his own Manga-style characters. (The comic exhibition is almost all British work with a few American offerings, no Manga).
Sadly, the British Museum was rather more well-stocked with Japanese tourists than Japanese artwork, (less so than the last time we visited, I’m sure) and was absolutely HEAVING. I do find it peculiar that people travel all the way from Japan and then make a bee line for the Japanese exhibits, which I am sure are better represented at home. (That said, many English people abroad make a bee-line for the nearest English pub or purveyor of fish and chips.)
The Japanese are an odd people, though, to Western eyes at least. They have obsequiously good manners, but a language where even “Yes” sounds like a death threat, their idea of a fun game show involves the grossest ritual humiliations and their comics and animations are a gore-fest of violence and sex depicting wide-eyed, girl-child females bordering on the paedophilic. That said, both DS and I have a fondness for Anime and, in his case, Manga. So, after a rather disappointing visit to the bookshop, we set off again towards Soho, in pursuit of Japanese food culture in the form of sushi, which we also both love.
Rain and later opening times than we’d anticipated, found us in the pub looking for alternatives to the restaurant I’d planned to visit. On the plus side, the pub (an old haunt, though not a White Hart) was just behind Foyles bookshop, so we managed to find a book on learning to write Japanese. It seemed fateful that the alternative eatery around the corner was called Taro (and very 9 of Cups it was too, I was even moved to write a positive review) 😀
We dropped into a Japanese grocery store on the way and I picked up a few sauce and sushi-making bits and finally arrived back home quite late and utterly pooped, but rated the day a resounding success. DS even remarked on how quickly the time had passed, so he must have had fun 🙂 We didn’t manage to attain his goal of finding a white deer (or hart), though we did see a brown stag having it’s leg chewed on by a hunting dog on one of the Medieval manuscripts, so decided that was close enough.
What did DH and DD (and the dog) do, while we were out? They went to the pub, of course 🙂