A (brief) weekend in London
So… Took Friday off, and dragged the BF to London, in order to see the Aztec exhibition at the British Museum.
Friday was the obligatory trip down memory lane, specifically of South Kensington and our old house–which felt very weird, especially when walking in front of the French lycée. It was followed by a wonderful Indian dinner with Seb Cevey and Jane in Brick Lane. Tried a random Bengalese dish with mango, which turned out to be wonderfully sweet (and not really spicy).
Saturday morning was Forbidden Planet, aka the bookshop of doom. I had almost succeeded in emerging with only one book (an omnibus edition of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books), when the BF suggested innocently, “Are you sure this is all you want?” Whereupon I stupidly turned around to stare at the “New Releases” rack, nabbed a signed copy of Elizabeth Bear‘s By the Mountain Bound, caught a glimpse of Daryl Gregory‘s new The Devil’s Alphabet, which made me decide to buy his Pandemonium…
At least I only got three books. *whimper* (I also got the chance to see some of Angry Robot‘s most recent releases on the shelves, eye-catchingly placed).
In the afternoon, we went to meet up with VDer Stephen Gaskell and Elle for a look at the new “We Are Astronomers” show at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. The show itself didn’t feature ground-breaking science, but the presentation was awesome, with very cool illustrations and pseudo-3D effects that look pretty good when spread over the dome of a planetarium. Much, much fun. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have dinner with Steve, but it was a great afternoon all the same.
And finally, Sunday, aka the day for which we’d booked the exhibition tickets.
All I can say is “wow”. They had really gathered a lot of cool pieces. A particularly geeky moment included my bending over a glass case peering at a codex and going, “This can’t possibly be the real Codex Mendoza“. (it was). They had the Codex Duran too, the Codex Borbonicus, the Great Temple dedication stone (yes, I realise I’m gushing and that you probably don’t know what they are. It’s like having most of the major artefacts in a very small room. With only a handful of people so you can stare all you like). And I actually got to see a sculpture of an ahuizotl (a creepy water-creature that plays a big part in both my novels) as well as artefacts linked with Tizoc, an Aztec emperor who also features in the novels.
The items themselves were pretty nicely presented with plenty of context, even if, on multi-object displays, it wasn’t always obvious to see which tag corresponded to what. And while I loved the scaled model of the Tenochtitlan sacred precinct (which had me pointing, “Oh, look, Acatl’s temple is here, and this major location in the book is here”…), I could have done without the dramatic trails of blood on the temple staircases, especially since most of the temples didn’t actually have the sacrifice stone. It felt pretty cheap. But overall, it was an awesome exhibition, and I’m glad we got tickets and saw it before it finishes.
And then we hit the exit and the souvenir shop, and it was Forbidden Planet all over again.
In addition to lots of Aztec-themed souvenirs (the mug with the “Five Movement” glyph really had me hesitating), it also had books. Whole bookshelves of them. The BF was very understanding and let me browse for half an hour, writing down the names of authors and books that looked interesting. In the end, I stuck to three books again: the catalogue of the exhibition, which like all British Museum catalogues is amazingly detailed with lovely pictures and plenty of extra information (and a handy index), Karl Taube’s and Mary Miller’s The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, the closest to a dictionary of symbols I could find (with illustrations), and Michael E. Smith’s The Aztecs, which has interesting considerations on crafts and agriculture as well as daily life.
On the minus side, I got to drag the aforementioned souvenirs through the rest of the afternoon–which meant a Chinese noodle restaurant and part of the rest of the British Museum (the Enlightenment gallery, which chronicles the history of science in the 18th and 19th century, and an exhibition on Japanese culture throughout history). But it was well worth it.
And since I never got to see the Chinese ceramics, I’ve made a mental note to come back to the British Museum next year :=)
(I have some genre-related stuff to catch up to as well, but that will have to wait until I have defeated the Giant Pile of Laundry To Be Ironed)