Saturday, 14 August 2021

I have been to.... London

 Jill and I took to a trip down to London at the weekend to catch up with friends and 'meet the parents' (my youngest daughter is getting married next year). I've not been to London since lockdown started last year, so it was good to be doing something normal again. The train journey was OK apart from it being rammed with football fans  and people from the broken down train in front. At least most people had masks on, but it still felt like a disease ridden petri dish.

I am always struck by the contrast between the glittering spires of the capital and the grim urban decay of Sheffield. We jokingly refer to it as Kings Landing, but tbh it is more like us plebs from the coal fields going to President Snows capital in 'The Hunger Games'. You can certainly see where all the infrastructure and money is, but nevertheless, the rejuvenated St Pancras and Bloomsbury never cease to delight.

I'd booked to go the Nero exhibition at the British Museum, so off to Russell Square I went.

Nero contrasted with Peter Ustinovs cinematic impression. As might be expected, the exhibition tried to show Nero in a different light from his popular reputation. I'd also done a week long on-line course on Nero put in by City Lit in conjunction with the BM, so had some idea of what to expect.  

Nero as a child. You really can't beat seeing the artefacts in person.

The assembled descendants of Julius Caeser.

Livia, Augustus and Tiberius.

Agrippina and (baby) Nero.

The exhibition was very extensive and covered key aspects of Neros reign including foreign and domestic affairs.

The Praetorian Guard. What a fabulous carving.

Romano British helmet and jewellery. There was a fair bit in the exhibition about the Romans in Britain at this time, and Boudiccas revolt.

A very ornate Roman cavalry helmet, rather bashed about during the revolt of the Iceni.

Wooden writing tablets from around 57AD. Text is just legible on the left hand one. These are the oldest writing artefacts recovered from the British Isles.

Pliny the Elders horse furniture, with an outline horse to show how they would be arranged. 

Gladiator armour, again, arranged on a metal frame. There was a good section on the 'bread and circuses' aspects of Neros rule.

Reliefs of the Circus Maximus showing chariot racing and gladitorial combat.

Nero with representations of theatrical masks. He liked to act and play musical instruments.

A delightful coin with Nero playing a Lyre. Just like Peter Ustinov...

I was amazed at the quality of some of the paintings. This is paint on plaster, recovered from Pompeii. 

This is a wood carved relief showing a theatre. Also from Pompeii.

There was an interesting graphical sequence of the destruction of large portions of Rome by fire. Nero wasn't actually there when it started, but arrived half way through to organise firefighting and relief efforts. 

This section covered the rebuilding of Rome.

A commemorative stone to the chief workman on Neros palace.

An amazing contemporary painting of another of Neros palaces.

This rather unpromising looking cup is made of Fluorospar, rare and highly prized in the ancient world. Nero reputedly paid one million sesterces for a cup like this. Funnily enough it was mined a few miles down the road from here in Derbyshire until the mid 1950s.

Statue commemorating Nero's triumph over the Parthians. Probably the most significant foreign policy achievement of his reign and the high point of his career. It was all down  hill after that and he was eventually deposed and committed suicide. The last of the Julio-Claudian line.

The Empire collapsed into civil war after Neros death as various factions competed for power, 'The Year of the Four Emperors'. This rather battered Legionary helmet was recovered from the site of one of the battles.

The eventual winner was Vespasian, who established his own dynasty, the Flavians. Many of the existing statues of Nero were recarved into Vespasians likeness, this image showing a reconstruction of the original compared with Vespasians bust. Vespasian and his heirs also set about rewriting history, to an extent at least.

That was a very good exhibition, very interesting with some lovely artefacts, albeit with a rather stiff entrance fee. I shall think of it as a generous donation.

I really like the BM, especially the glass covered courtyard. It was fairly busy, I guess some tourists have made it back to London.

I took in a few of the other sights, including The Rosetta Stone, which I'd completely forgotten was in the museum.

I also had a bit of a wander around Bloomsbury and Soho and took in some of my old haunts from a very long time ago.

Sadly the Marquee Club is long gone, but I had happy memories of seeing bands there.

The 100 Club is still going strong. I last went there in 1982!

The Scala is still going strong. I went to a few late night and all night film shows here. The original Scala was in a more anonymous building behind Goodge St tube, and which introduced me to the delights of David Lynch and John Waters.

Senate House. For some unaccountable reason I used to spend a lot of time in the library here when I was a student at the LSE. I also used to park my car in the car park at the front, as it was very handy for the West End. Now that really was a long time ago.  

Finally, only in London. A Morris Minor converted to electric propulsion.

It was really nice to get back to London again after so long. Looking forward to a few more trips to Kings Landing over the next few months.



  1. Great photos of the exhibits. There are some fascinating artifacts there. How much longer is the exhibition on for do you know?



  2. Interesting report Martin.


  3. Thank you for sharing the exhibits and your thoughts. It looks wonderful.