There’s nothing quite like an attraction with a long winding queue to dampen ones adventurous spirits and make one mildly cranky. The only thing worse in fact is to stand in said queue for twenty minutes and then have a member of staff approach to inform you that you need to leave the queue in order to buy a ticket in the shop. This is precisely what happened to me when I went to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street. I can tell you that when I finally re-joined the queue from the very start, I was somewhat aggrieved, things went from bad to terrible when I suddenly realized I needed the toilet. I was now well past mildly cranky and into the nightmare realm of Grump Hog Day! So if you go, remember before you join the ginormous queue, go to the gift shop next to the entrance as that’s where you buy your ticket. Having groaned on a fair bit and hopefully elicited some small sympathy; allow me to get on with my review which is only slightly tinged by this considerable trauma.
The Sherlock Holmes museum is a delight. I’m a huge fan of Holmes and have very fond memories of reading the books at school during my formative years. Like my trip to the Harry Potter studios, I found myself experiencing childlike wonder on entering a place so familiar to my imagination. Each room in this museum is beautifully put together with lots of small references to the books. One cannot help but think that Holmes and Watson did once reside here solving baffling mysteries in Victorian London. My favourite part of the museum is an inconspicuous book on the top floor. It contains letters to Holmes from all around the world that have been sent to 221B Baker Street. One or two were artistic, some had fictional mysteries, and my favourite from Gao Kun in China implored Holmes to give up his cocaine habit for the sake of his health. I have no doubt that a fair few of these letters are the result of teachers and there confounded homework assignments. Nevertheless it is absolutely astounding to see first-hand the joy a fictional creation can exert in the world.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, is tiny, a little overpriced at £15 a ticket, and comes complete with a deadly queue. However despite all these detractions, as a huge fan I think the decision of whether to go or not is elementary my dear reader.
Last week I had a reader request a few more photo’s of Pollocks toy museum, so as to get a real sense of this little wonder. Ever keen to bring reading satisfaction, LWA is proud to present, by popular demand, a second helping of toy treasures.
I do apologise for the terrible reflections in some of the photo’s but it was unavoidable given the sunny day! Looking back over all these treasures, I must say that I fancy another trip. I do hope the photos will inspire a few people reading to venture forth and visit this most excellent museum.
A museum full of toys that has a name that rhymes with bollocks. It’s fair to say that Pollock’s was an easy sell for this big kid. It specializes in 19th century toys but has a wide array of playthings from all sorts of periods. Sadly a few highlight the offensive attitudes that Europeans have held at various moments in history. Thankfully the sparkling joy of childhood play makes up the majority of the items. Like so many of the unusual museums that are dotted around this part of the city Pollock’s is on the small side and some may be put off by the £6 entrance fee. I’m so glad I wasn’t one of them. It may be on the small side, but there are intriguing sights and items of interest everywhere in Pollock’s. Little gems included, the saucy Fraulein’s from 1925 with a string that lifts up their skirts, a four thousand year old clay rat from ancient Egypt that has moving wooden tail and mouth, and oh look Buzz and Woody are attempting to escape the museum! I also really liked the row of Russian nesting dolls that had Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin at the centre. It didn’t make my top three little gems though. It could have but alas where for art thou Putin?
My favourite section in the museum without a doubt was filled with giant toy theatres. They were so beautifully crafted, with such an amazing eye for detail. One could imagine what a delight to play with they were, and I could just picture kids putting on a play with cardboard cut outs for Mum and Dad to enjoy. A close second in the favourites department was a room packed to the rafters with exquisite and oh so creepy Victorian dolls. The creaking wooden floors of the museum added an atmosphere of suspense and for a moment I could not help but feel that I was in a horror film. I should also mention the awesome 1950’s alien, robot, spaceman, Goodness. How could I possibly forget that! As a child who was constantly pew pewing laser death at the world, these incredible tin toys were my childhood dreams come to life!!! At the end of the museum tour one is faced with the ultimate test of willpower, a shop full of toys. I was dismayed by how many grownups effortlessly succeeded at this ultimate test. Let me assure you dear reader that I was not one of them. All in all, I had a rather jolly and dare I say it fanciful hour of imaginary wondering walking round this museum. I definitely recommend the trip.
Fed up with news reports constantly indicating a looming apocalypse and filled with paranoid fears that the recent loss of, Bowie, Prince, and Ali, may well indicate the rapture. Last week I decided to partake in a day of pure undiluted whimsy. To this end I lined up a series of London curiosities that all invoked the spirit of silly and set forth on another whirlwind adventure.
The Cartoon Museum
The Cartoon Museum is located near Holborn station. As a person who absolutely adores comics and satirical cartoons in particular, this place proved well worth the trip. I dare say it was super fantastic wunderbar! It should be noted that this place has a clear focus on British comics, is fairly small, and due to the fact that it receives no funding has a seven pounds entrance fee. However I would urge you to support this fine enterprise as it really is a unique and marvellous addition to a brilliant part of London. The exhibition I went to see was a collection of satirical Punch comics that ran from 1841 all the way up to 2002. The style of humour in these pieces was for the most part a light gentle ribbing at the crazy events of the day as opposed to a full on roast. To give an example one cartoon has two ladies seeing the Beatles and the blurb that her doctor has suggested that from now on she mimes her screams. (Sadly this is another museum with a no photo policy). Occasionally however this light demeanour does give way to the incredibly macabre, such as a ‘funny’ from WW1 in which a young boy is training a toddler for the front line. It was truly amazing to see so many silly comics over an incredibly long period of history, each gently playing with the insane situations of the day, with many problems repeating over the century. It certainly gave one a sense of perspective with respect to the mad behaviours that humanity wilfully engages in. Yet it also left one hopeful both in the finding of the funny and the fact that against all odds many past blunders have been overcome. I left with dreams of one day starting a comic of my own and the intention to visit again at the end of January when they’ll have a 2000AD exhibition.
The Museum of Comedy
After the high of the brilliant cartoon museum, I walked for thirty seconds and arrived at my next destination which was sadly to prove more than a tad disappointing. Quite frankly, if this place was located in a hamlet with three residents atop a mountain in Nepal, it would still have trouble in claiming itself to be a museum. The truth is that this is a room filled with some insanely cool trinkets that will take all of three minutes to absorb. If you’re wondering whether I simply rushed through without reading any of the info blurbs, you’d be right, but only on account of the fact that they weren’t bloody there. I hate it when cynicism intrudes within these pages and I reveal a thoroughly grumpy side to myself, so allow me to mention a few positives. Firstly it’s free and in one of the most interesting parts of the city. Secondly this place is packed with obscure books about comedians that you can sit and read; this is undoubtedly a fantastic feature. Finally I have heard that they do some truly excellent comedy nights which are well worth seeing but unlike the trinket room this costs money. All of this is great. Nevertheless as a member of the secret order of anoraks I can’t help but feel that this place is a serious instance of false advertising. The fact is it’s a comedy venue with some very interesting touches and not a museum. If you go in the day you’ll be seriously disappointed. If you go to a gig at night I feel certain you’ll be blown away by a brilliant show in a place with awesome touches. Sadly I went for a day trip.
The Play That Goes Wrong
In the evening I found time for a trip to the theatre to see ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. This proved to be the perfect end to a day in which I was hell bent on achieving flights of fancy and uproarious bursts of whimsy. I do not wish to spoil a single thing about this play for my readers, as its construction is wonderfully meticulous and the plot twists are ace. I can honestly say that this is one of the best damn farces I’ve ever seen, I would put it right up there with comedy greats such as, Jeeves and Wooster, Le Diner de Cons, and the magnificent Fawlty Towers. The show as the name would suggest is essentially a terrible production of a murder mystery in which all rhyme and reason to the play slowly goes out the window. It has a fantastic slow build up, an amazing set which allows for all sorts of stagecraft wizardry, and a brilliant cast. I was laughing along like a maniacal super villain from start to finish, as layer upon layer of new inventive angles of pure ridiculousness were added to the plot. At the end I skipped out of the theatre, cheerful, carefree, and with an indefatigable joyous demeanour sure to bring much irritation to those of an overly serious persuasion.
How do you find the light hearted side of life?
The royal college of surgeons near Holborn station contains one of London’s hidden gems the Hunterian museum which tells the story of surgery from the past right up to the present. The museum contains the remaining specimens of John Hunter, the founding father of scientific surgery. It is a fascinating if somewhat small museum, which is definitely not for those of a squeamish disposition. The décor is essentially Swedish minimalism meets Dr Frankenstein. On the one hand you have a series of slick crystal clear glass displays. On the other, you have a bazillion gruesome jars all filled with disease ridden body parts. As such it’s awfully popular with goths. In May 2017 this wonderful purveyor of the macabre will close its doors for three years. Having never previously visited, earlier this week I hopped on the Piccadilly line and went to investigate for myself.
There were so many highlights to my trip that it is hard to know where to begin. Starting with the serious, it was fantastic to see one of the first anaesthetic inhaler’s. On the whole, the museum gave one an incredible insight into the development of surgery and left one feeling grateful for the ingenious work of the past. On the uncomfortable side, for me the small collection of portraits of unusual people gave an unflattering sense of the past as it does have an air of the freak show about it. On the striking side, the centre piece of the museum is the skeleton of the Irish Giant Charles Byrne which stands at a mighty 7ft 7 inches tall. I would recommend reading the Wiki entry on this poor fellow who feared John Hunter wanted his body for dissection. As such, he made plans to be sealed in a lead coffin upon his death and buried at sea. Unfortunately as the skeleton on display at the museum makes clear his plans were thwarted. Finally to top it off, they even have Winston Churchill in here, or to be more precise his dentures. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to check this place out before it’s too late (hammer horror music plays out).
The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10-5, and has a strict no photo policy.