So yesterday, Richard Wiseman and I went for a private guided tour around one of the Natural History Museum’s storage units in South London. It was quite extraordinary: acres of taxidermy and enormous skeletons, and some very special pieces: the skeleton of the Thames Whale, for example, is set out in a glass cabinet. We had a smell of a phial of whale oil extracted from the creature. It was quite a pleasant, unusual, soft smell, rather difficult to describe. A little like white tea, perhaps. By which I mean actual white tea, not PG with milk. If you don’t know what white tea smells like, you’re on your own. We also met Guy the Gorilla, the erstwhile London Zoo attraction who now sits on a shelf surrounded by lesser known apes; elsewhere amongst some glassy-eyed deer, an antelope discovered by Darwin as the first recorded of its sub-species, which was then many years later visited by the teary-eyed grandson of the extraordinary naturalist; and the arse-end of the actual bear who, they found out later, was featured on the California State flag:
That one there. That actual individual bear. I bet you didn’t even know they had a flag. I didn’t.
I did take some pictures, but I’m awaiting some clearance forms to be able to put them up here, so you’ll have to wait too.
Next, we’re hoping to go and visit Archie, the giant squid.
Today, I’m meeting with the gallery-owner who will be showing and selling some of my pictures. For any of you wishing to see them, the exhibition will run from 6-21st August at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery, Charlotte St, London W1. Just opposite a sensational Japanese restaurant called Roka, which will round off your trip perfectly. More news on all of this as we firm up details: you’ll be the first to know.
Finally, as I’ve been writing solidly, it’s been a long while since I did any reading, which is rather upsetting. However, I thought I’d mention The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt. This is a fascinating and challenging tour through the principles of positive psychology: an overview of empirical research into what genuinely makes us happier (as opposed to the misleading, short-term effects of much of ‘self-help’). I hugely enjoyed this book.