Sunday, 28 February 2016

Doing something with the day

'Way Out' signage on the London Underground

Every Saturday, Chris and I end up doing the same old thing. We lounge around in our dressing gowns until about eleven o'clock, drinking tea and doing computer stuff, and then we get dressed and head into town to do essential shopping bits. We grab lunch and then come home where we drink more tea, make dinner, eat dinner, watch Saturday night telly and then fall asleep on the sofa.

Well, not yesterday! We decided that we should actually do something on a Saturday for once. So we lounged about in our dressing gowns and drank tea and did computer stuff until about ten o'clock instead, and then we went to the London Transport Museum. I've got a thing about the London Underground, you see. I think it stems from all that commuting to see Chris I did every other weekend for three and a half years.

King's Cross St. Pancras roundel
If I had a quid for every time I've been through this station, I'd have... at least two hundred quid

When I'm using the tube, going up and down all the escalators and stairs, walking along the platforms, looking at all the beautiful tiles that each station has, using the tube map, and just being in those tunnels, my mind always wanders to the history of it and how it was built. I've read books and watched many documentaries about it and it always blows my mind. If you have a spare forty minutes, I highly recommend watching 'How They Dug the Victoria Line' which is currently available on BBC iPlayer. It's a 1969 documentary and it's flipping marvellous.

It's not just the physical thing that is the Underground that I love, it's the design aspect of it too; the iconic roundel, the Johnston typeface and the signage. Yes, London dwellers, I'm one of those annoying people who take photos of boring stuff on the Underground. (But I try and do it in the least disruptive way possible. I'm not a fool who stands on the left hand side of escalators, I never wheel a wheely case anywhere on the system, and I always stand back and let people off the train before I get on. I respect the Underground with every fibre of my being.)

Poster at the London Transport Museum
Simple instructions that make so much sense

The London Transport Museum is housed inside what used to be the old Flower Market building in Covent Garden and the building itself is really beautiful.

Inside the London Transport Museum
Inside the London Transport Museum, looking down on the buses, trams and trolley cars

The museum isn't all about trains. The first part of it covers boats and horse-drawn transport such as omnibuses. You can actually sit inside one of them, although you end up sitting with a couple of those freakish museum mannequins. (You know the ones. They have very matt, slightly grainy faces, very bristly hair, they often have overly-shiny fingernail bits, and they look like they smell of damp straw and musty lofts and old airing cupboards. Where do they get those mannequins from? Someone somewhere makes those.)

I do love a bit of proper old lettering. Traditional signwriting is such an insanely impressive skill and if I could travel back in time it's one of the things I'd love to have a go at. A lot of the road vehicles in the museum have beautiful hand-painted lettering.

Hand-painted lettering on an old omnibus at the London Transport Museum

Hand-painted lettering on an old omnibus at the London Transport Museum

Hand-painted lettering on an old omnibus at the London Transport Museum

And then there was the lettering on the Metropolitan Railway locomotive number 23:

Metropolitan Railway locomotive number 23 at the London Transport Museum

This steam train is one of only two that survive from the original one hundred and sixteen that were made for the Metropolitan Railway, which was the world's first underground railway system. (If I had a photo of the actual train I would post it, but we were stood next to a family with a gaggle of really noisy, out-of-control kids and, to be frank, I didn't want them in my photo, so I'll have to go back and take a picture another time.)

You can sit in one of number 23's carriages which I found to be a right old thrill. It feels so olden days, and it smells of olden days too, in a good way.

Metropolitan Railway carriage at London Transport Museum

I sat in there for a couple of minutes trying to picture what it would be like to be in the carriage inside an underground tunnel. The thought of steam trains in the underground system is quite terrifying really. It made me laugh to read that when the Metropolitan Railway opened, smoking on it was forbidden.

There was also a carriage from a more modern tube train. I think it might be Q-Stock, but someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Old underground train carriage

There are posters all around the museum and right now they have an exhibition called Night Shift - London After Dark which is full of posters, photos and films about night shift workers, people using the tube to travel to theatres and cinemas, and how the tube tunnels were used as wartime shelters. I really liked this old poster that shows who uses the tube and at what time.

Poster from the London Transport Museum 'Night Shift - London After Dark' exhibition
"Not all Patrons are punctual"

I should have taken more photographs and I'm annoyed that I didn't but I think that's a good indicator of how much I enjoyed the museum; I was so busy reading stuff and looking at things I forgot to snap them with my iPhone. An entry ticket to the London Transport Museum (which is currently £17.00 for an adult and younglings go free) gives you access for a year so I'm fully intending to go back on a week day. I have nothing against children but there were a lot of them at the museum yesterday. I wanted to have a go at the driving a tube train simulation thing but I didn't get chance because the kids were all over it, and who can blame them? So I'd like to return on a quieter day to take more photos and catch up on the bits I missed, like the Crossrail section. I'd also like to go to the Museum Depot in Acton.

An added London bonus: Chris and I popped in to see my littlest sister at the restaurant she manages in Covent Garden. It was lovely to see her.

So yes, hurrah for getting off your arse on a Saturday and actually doing something with the day. Nobody said anything about Sundays, though, which would explain why at midday I'm still in my dressing gown, drinking tea and doing computer stuff. I'd better go and get dressed and do something with the day.

Have a great Sunday.


Random Ro' said...

Sounds like a good day. Let me know when you go next time and maybe I could join you?

Laura Sparling said...

Will do! x

Random Ro' said...

Cheers x😀

Caroline B said...

So glad you are blogging again - I've missed it!

Laura Sparling said...

Aw, thanks Caroline. X