May. 17th, 2008

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The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival is back. It's free, and the last two years have been brilliant; the evening events tend to be particularly good. 19-22 June. Anyone else going?

The Wellcome Collection hasn't been open for very long, but it hasn't put a foot wrong yet. Upstairs is a bonkers anthropological collection, a bit like the Pitt-Rivers Museum but with waaaay more money. Downstairs they've had a succession of ace exhibitions; lately, "Life Before Death" has had all the press (and deservedly so), but "From Atoms to Patterns" is more fascinating. It's about crystallography, art, design and the Festival of Britain... oh, just go and see it if you're passing by, you won't regret it.

Islington also has a new museum, though this is probably of no interest unless you live here. Still, it's a big step up from the previous "museum" (two rooms in the town hall), so yay for the innumeracy tax Heritage Lottery Fund!

Lastly, there is officially no such thing as too many Leonard Cohen covers. MyOldKYHome hosts dozens of cover versions of Hallelujah alone, and there's even a whole article on the subject. Anyway, I now have an album of Hallelujahs: 42 versions of the same song, and they're different enough that I can listen all the way through without getting sick of it. YMMV, I suppose.
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Some while ago, when I first started getting interested in the history of London, I came across George Vertue's map of the Civil War defences of London. (Teeny image here.) I live right next to the site of one of the forts, so this map caught my attention.

I've walked around the Roman walls fairly often; it's a pleasant stroll, and there are remnants of the wall to be seen. The Civil War defences are a more substantial walking proposition: from Wapping in the east to Buckingham Palace in the west, from the New River Head in the north to the Imperial War Museum in the south. Not only that, but there's nothing left to see: the defences were torn down almost immediately after the war, and Vertue drew his map nearly a century later.

There are primary sources, of course: Acts of Parliament, for a start, and apparently William Lithgow wrote a contemporary account (although he seems to have been nicknamed "Lying Lithgow", which is hardly encouraging). But who needs primary sources? There are no remains above ground, and I'm not about to start digging, so what difference does it make if I'm a hundred yards out?

At least, that's what I thought. I walked along the defences (ish) last weekend, took photos, and may even upload them eventually -- but now I'm starting to consider buying books about Civil War London. Just to, you know, make sure I was in the right place. This is presumably how OCD starts...
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So, I just got back from an event commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Section 28, which was nowhere near as dreary as it sounds. There was even a raffle -- alas, I didn't win the signed photo of Sue Lawley.

The whole thing was funny (abseiling lesbians! insider tips on crashing the six o'clock news!), thoughtful (how come we lost, when everyone was on our side?), and incidentally also a sobering reminder of what a Conservative government looks like. An eyewitness report from one of the presenters sums it up nicely: "A Conservative [Haringey] councillor spent the whole council meeting flicking sugar cubes at Bernie Grant, chanting 'Die, you diabetic bastard'." Mmm, lovely. Can't wait until they're running the country again.

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