Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Seeing the Sights in London

I'm still feeling rather tired after a visit to London yesterday. The main purpose of the visit was to attend the lecture on "Darwin and God" at Westminster Abbey to mark the publication of Origin of Species on 24 November 1859. A report on the lecture will appear on the Hastings Humanists blog. The free lecture also provided an opportunity to see the interior of the Abbey without paying the £15 entrance fee that is now charged.

In a way the Abbey is as much of a national mausoleum as a church. The memorial to Isaac Newton is in a prominent position on the choir screen at the end of the Nave, and slabs marking the burial places of Charles Darwin and John Herschel are nearby in the left aisle. Poets' corner I didn't get to see. Religious symbols, like crucifixes, that one would see in catholic churches were not prominent. Perhaps one day, when the old superstitions have died away, it will become a shrine to the development of rational ideas.

I also passed some of the time with a visit to the Cabinet War Rooms, the bunkers from which the strategy was directed during the second world war. It now includes an extensive Churchill Museum, but I feel that this gives rather too much of bias to the presentation, placing too much emphasis on the one man, and detracts from the claustrophobic and intensely focused atmosphere of the War Rooms. Much more memorabilia of the other cabinet members and leaders of the armed forces would give it greater authenticity.

I also went down Craven Street, by Charing Cross station, with the idea of visiting Benjamin Franklin's house, but it proved to be closed on Tuesdays. The big wheel, the London Eye, was also a temptation but I think I'll leave that to a clearer and less windy day.

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