Thursday, 18 January 2007

A Grand Day Out

This coming Monday, January 22nd is, according to experts with calculators, the most miserable day of the year. A whole host of factors combine to create a day that's fit only for staying home, shutting the door and eating chocolate/drinking wineand or watching old films; or maybe, we could have a day out together. Regular readers will know that I have been stuck indoors for a while so let's share a day out in London without leaving our computer chairs.

First, we'll visit the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, we'll spend a good hour taking in our favourite painters or group of painters. We can take a look at the impressionists, for example, or read more about the one pictured, the Wilton Diptych. But best of all, we'll wander round the collection learning, without the need to put on one of those funny Walkman things that give a guided tour; then next time we go in person we can show-off: talking knowledgeably about the paintings we have learnt on our day out.

After the National Gallery we'll have a cup of tea or coffee and imagine we are in the tea room at Fortnum and Mason. Lets pretend that our cup of Fair Trade tea is actually Fortnum's reasonably priced Irish Breakfast Tea at £6.95 a tin. Their website really is posh, it has a very tastefully animated home page, but the best bit is that they deliver, just like Tesco.

The next bit of our day out is to take the tube to St Pancras (not to be confused with St Pancreas the patron saint of diabetics) and while we are travelling we can enjoy one of my favourite bits on our jaunt, Poems on the Underground. This scheme has been running for twenty years and is responsible for the brilliant posters on the underground of famous poems. They also produce an anthology of the poems that, in my view, is worth every penny; but for today we'll have a look at some of the current posters by clicking here. This is the website of the London Underground where you can click on the 'random poem' feature or just learn more about the scheme.

OK, next it's the British Library; we're only going to look at a couple of things here to give us plenty of time, there is far too much to see otherwise. The British Library is pretty much like your local library except you get into an awful lot more trouble if you don't take your books back - in fact you'd get into an awful lot of trouble if you tried to take books out in the first place.

The link will take you straight to the on-line gallery; here you can see some real page-turners, no joke, you can actually turn the pages of some of the world's rarest books: including William Blake's notebook, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Mozart's musical diary (with audio excerpts) and, thoughtfully, there's even an exhibition of London's historic maps in case we get lost. That's only just scratched the surface of this site, you'll see time disappear!
(note: you may need to download Macromedia Shockwave to do the page turning thing but it's worth it)

Finally, as our day out draws to its close you have a choice, we're going to split our group into two because there's only time to do one more visit and I know that there will be arguments. Half the group can go off on a tour of Buckingham Palace and the rest can come with me for a much more interesting tour of Highgate Cemetery.

The Buckingham Palace link will take you to the official website of the British monarchy and you can actually visit other royal residences while you are there too. The Highgate Cemetery link takes you to the Sexton's Tales site where you can learn heaps about the people buried there, this one is another site where you can lose significant chunks of time. Incidentally did you know that the murdered Russian ex-agent Alexander Litvinenko is buried there in a lead-lined coffin?
Well that's it, all back to Euston Station for the train home, tired, happy and skint. Hope you enjoyed your day and are feeling much more cheery than at the start.

By the way our day out is a good way for web-virgins to get an idea of how to navigate round a website (mum!), so pass it on if you know any (it's probably not a good idea to enter 'web-virgins' as a search term in Google though).

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