Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cleopatra's Needle

I'm in Sunny England, Land of My Fathers, and for that matter land of me, too. Being away for almost twenty years does give me a very different perspective on it, however. Largely the perspective that Frank Zappa once called "horribly foreshortened". Everything is *so small*. The food, for instance, is served in micro portions that are approximately the volume of food you might want to eat, rather than by the heaping shovel-full that I'm used to. It looks bizarre.

I had a good laugh at the skateboard sized cars available at the vehicle rental, until I saw the size of the roads when I realized that it might have been better to rent a roller-skate sized car instead. The traffic in London looked like it was being run by the Mice Capades, both in terms of size, skatiness and intelligence when it comes to designing routes. I'll never complain about the traffic on the I405 again[1]. Then again, I'm not sure that Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) actually envisaged bendy buses and articulated lorries when he and his eccentric friends were designing modern London.

Another strangeness about London is the lack of care taken with the plants. Here's a current shot of Cleopatra's Needle, one of the wonders of the world, situated for more than a century [2] on the Thames Embankment. Can't see it? Not surprised. The London Plane Trees have not been trimmed. (I'm not sure you *can* trim planes, but if you can't, now might be a good time to find a tree that will take it rather than continue to obscure a monument.)

The needle is a mess. Up close, you can see that the obelisk has suffered considerable damage from acid rain and what's worse, the base must be crumbling- it has been held together with a metal belt. Ferns have been allowed to grow in the dust around the metalwork and the bottom of the belt, where they'll no doubt crack the base within a few years. It's an appalling lack of stewardship of an important antiquity, and it made me angry.

Next: Other things about Britain that remind me why I left (probably)

[1] Until the end of the month, when I get back to work.
[2] Internet access is $10 hour at the hotel, so I'm not going to look it up. Please excuse the lack of pre-looked up links, also.

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