Cecil Beaton at Imperial War Museum

Thursday 1 November 2012

Got up at 4:00 this morning, after having gone to bed at 23:30. At 5:00 T., “Cookie” and I headed out through the door. I had been worried sick about the car not starting up, so we got a new battery yesterday, since it finally died for good Tuesday afternoon, us sliding off the road because of possible ice, so we got winter tires on yesterday too, and finally that the bridge would be closed because of the predicted storm. But we got over to the airport without trouble and said goodbye to T. Sadly enough, we did not get to sit together on the airplane but we sat across the aisle from each other so we were alright. “Cookie” was all excited about flying and then getting off at Gatwick, understanding everything said around her, in contrast to not understanding a thing in Normandy last summer, and in Italy, for three years.

We got on to a fully packed Gatwick Express. I found her a seat but had to stand up myself which I think is awful when you have paid 30 pounds for the tickets! Finally I had to sit down on a corner of her seat and the man beside her, gave me a dirty look. See if I care! It’s not funny to stand up for over 30 minutes thank you. We headed straight for Queens Park Hotel, to get rid of our cumbersome suitcases. “Cookie” was instantly impressed with my knowledge of the tube system and traveling like the most seasoned Londoner. We made good time and arrived at 9:30, at the hotel, and were able to leave our suitcases and head straight for Imperial War Museum, since it is the museum that is way out of the way really. That and the Tower of London. “Cookie” shares my history interest, just like Daniel, which is fun and I really wanted her to go through “The Blitz Experience” before it closes down the 5th November. They are actually closing down the entire museum in January for a 6 month re-modeling. It will be exciting to return in the future and see all the news. “Dollie” hates history but she is going to have to go there, since I want to see all the improvements. I loved the museum the way it was and now they promise it will be even better with a new “Trench Experience”, a new “Blitz Experience” and you name it.

We ran in through the doors and bought tickets for the Cecil Beaton exhibition. I love all the fantastic society photos he took in the 1930s. He was able to make everyone look exceptional.

But this was not the sort of photos we were going to look at today. No, he got sick and tired of taking these sort of photos, even though he returned to this field after the war and took gorgeous photos of Marilyn Monroe, designed clothes for Audrey Hepburn’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “My Fair Lady” and taking the photos for the films. No, the exhibition at IWM was about his war photographer years. He tried to sign up for regular military service but was chosen to travel around the world and take war photos instead. The one that touched us the most was this one: Little Eileen Dunn had been hurt by shrapnel during the Blitz in London and this photo made America, finally feeling some compassion for the fighting British, fighting all alone. This photo was very emotional but there were also photos that were remarkable for other reasons. Like this one of WRENS at Greenwhich Naval College and the WAAFS repairing a barrage balloon:

When we had looked around the entire exhibition, we walked out to see the rest of the museum, since we were after all there and it is free. I tried to find the stairs down to the “Blitz Experience”, but could not, strangely enough. I knew they had closed the rest of that floor months ago, but where was it? I went to the information desk, past this gigantically long queue of people. I asked where the “Blitz Experience” was now and the lady pointed towards the queue and said: “That is the queue for it. They take you down to it!”. I looked at the queue in horror. “Cookie” and I went to have lunch and to see if the queue would die down somewhat. It had not when we had finished. So we walked in to the exhibition “Family at War”. It was all about this East End family of ten children (I think it was ten). One man had married one of the sisters, and had been asked by the IWM to build a model of the house the way it looked back then, a couple of years ago. He built an exact replica and it took him an entire year. “Cookie” took tons of photos of the “doll house” and really enjoyed that exhibition as much as I did. It was all about the home front of course, which is my thing entirely. We had fun, doing all the interactive things and then shopping in the home front shop. “Cookie” bought her first souvenir for her own money. A brown egg that is a bouncing ball. But before she bought it, she tried it out and well, I got very embarrassed when it bounced in to a bookcase and knocked down a mug full of pens and the price stand. Good thing we ended up buying the egg and I bought the book that went with the exhibition. We moved on to stand in the queue. This lady came up to me and told me that it is terrible to stand in a queue for the “Blitz Experience” for two hours, when it only lasts for ten minutes. I told her that if it was only me, it was alright to skip it, since I have been through it lots of times, but that I wanted my daughter to get to experience it. So we stood there for 20 minutes and the queue did not move at all. This man walked around advising everyone to come back at opening time the next day, if they could. “Cookie” stood and looked longingly at a table across from the queue. They were letting children make paper poppies for remembrance day, 11 November to remember the dead of WWI and WWII and 11:00 o’clock November 11th 1918 when WWI was over. She so much wanted to make one. Finally we left the queue, having decided to be back at 10:00 and run for the front of the queue, tomorrow.

“Cookie” made a poppy but did not want to have it stapled to the carpet in the middle of the museum like all the other children did. She wanted to bring hers home. How embarrassing. But I couldn’t break her heart so we smuggled it in to the bag. Finally, there was only one more part to be seen at the museum and that was the Holocaust exhibition. I snuck her in to it, since there was no guard there at the moment when we arrived. Usually you have to be 14 to go inside. We had to move through it pretty quickly since we had to get back to the hotel before 18:00, to check in. I had to explain the Holocaust in record speed, but as many books as we have about it at home, she can read oodles about it when we get home. The main thing was to see some of the items, get the feeling and to see some of the models. Those teaches better than books.

After checking in, we headed for Goodge Street and Waterstone’s to fetch the kindle I had on reserve there. I have wrecked my brain for weeks whether to get a kindle paperwhite or just a regular one, now when I was going to a country that actually sells them. People have gone potty over the paperwhite, till they have it in their hand and then they leave awful reviews for it on amazon.co.uk and even worse ones on amazon.com where it has existed even longer. I did not dare to buy the paperwhite. While amazon shoppers in the US and UK can return their faulty machines, I can not return anything from Sweden since the machine can’t be sent to Sweden. I can’t even buy kindle books from amazon.co.uk since they are not allowed to sell to people outside the UK. There is no way of testing a paperwhite in the hotel room and return it tomorrow if it is faulty in it’s lighting, which is what everyone complains about. You need a computer to charge it up and so on.

Before we ran to Waterstone’s, we headed to Paperchase since I had seen a lovely diary with pastel pictures of London sights through out it. I was going to buy one for “Cookie” but they had no idea what I was talking about at Paperchase. It is only available on their internet site I guess. So we wasted a lot of time there, trying to find something else funny. Only to settle on NOTHING. This meant not being able to look around at Waterstone’s whatsoever. I spotted some Cath Kidston things, and quickly ran over and grabbed us two diaries like these. But then it was my turn in the queue and I did not have time to look at all the other fun Cath Kidston things they had. Sad! But I hope to be able to find other things in the days to come!!! I just love everything Cath Kidston. Saw a woman at the tube station that had a bag. Wished I had had the courage to ask her where she had bought it. I had to stand at a desk and wait for the people to run and fetch my kindle. I did not dare to leave and look at other things. “Cookie” sat and rested in an armchair. I barely got to pay before they closed the shop at 21:00.

By now we were starving and tried to find food at a place I know of at Oxford Street, but they had changed owner and neither “Cookie” or I were impressed so we headed back to Bayswater and Whiteleys shopping mall. There we found Pizza Express and were finally able to sit down, relax and have a wonderful meal after a very hectic day.

When we got back to the hotel, we finally had time to inspect the room. It was in a new part of the hotel that was not there when T. and I stayed there twenty years ago. I was VERY impressed. No disgusting carpeting but wood floor. Light room. Big room which is very rare in London. Built in shower that actually worked. The water did not go stone cold after five minutes! Very, very nice. Pity they do not serve breakfast or rather that it is not included. Since I have no appetite really in the morning, I refuse to pay for hotel breakfast separately. If it is included, one is alright with just eating one piece of toast, but if one has to pay lots of pounds, one toast is not worth the price.

Our feet are sore! It’s been a very hectic, long day. Time to sleep in our 1930s looking bed.



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