Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Time and place

Before the sojourn in Stratford-upon-Avon, we spent some time in London and in Leicester. In London, I had a delightful tour guide for a day, a reader of this blog who volunteered to lead me to places I had not seen. The highlight of the day was the Greenwich Observatory, where it is not only possible—nay, obligatory—to stand with a foot in each hemisphere but also fun to explore the museum, which does a good job of capturing the history of mankind’s thinking about and measuring of time, particularly the importance of time measurement to navigation.

John Harrison’s chronometers are there, as are many ancient and modern artifacts. Time well spent, as it were.

Leicester is not featured in any guidebooks. We were there on business. Still, we were there. So we visited the ruins of the Roman baths. Next to the ruins is an unpretentious museum, the sort you might find in any American city, narrating the history of the place. Except that the history of a place like Leicester, with a continuous narration, illustrated by a rich assortment of artifacts archeological and paleontological, that begins in the late Stone Age and continues through the various civilizations that existed in the English Midlands over the millennia is a lot more impressive than the Indians-Columbus-Pilgrims-Slavery-Civil War-here-we-are story that most small American cities seem to settle for. An hour in the Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester provided a sense of a specific place over a long time, offering a nice symmetry to Greenwich’s specific time over all places.

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