Category Archives: London


London, capital city of the UK and England, home of the West End Theatre and 2012 Olympics

Finding The Jade Horse
All Quiet in London During The Olympics
15 Days To Go until London 2012 Olympics
London Cable Car Oystercard Deals?
Steam on the Overground
Paris Eurostar, War Horse, Wildlife time capsule
Picasso in London

London, capital city of the UK and England, home of the West End Theatre and 2012 Olympics

Finding The Jade Horse

There’s a Jade Horse figure at the British Museum, somewhere..

I went to The British Museum on Monday, which happened to be the first working day of the London 2012 Olympics, having first checked their website at , to make sure the North American Landscape Garden was still there. It was.

North American Garden by Kew at British Museum

We saw it. I have to say we weren’t so impressed by the layout or contents of the installation by Kew Gardens, compared to previous years’ Australian and South African Landscape  and other representations. But never mind, it was a nice day and pleasant enough to walk around. There was no problem going inside the free areas of the British Museum either, and right in the middle of the grand courtyard is the gentle spiral stone staircase leading to gallery where we saw the Grayson Perry exhibition last winter. The current exhibition is called The Horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot which didn’t sound too promising to Linda, but I encouraged her with the suggestion we might see the figure of a horse in jade.  This was only half a thought, really, left over from having viewed the British Museum website the night before, and understandably linking the image of the jade horse with the horse exhibition.

The history of the horse in art provided some special examples to look at and I particularly liked a couple of pre-hittite clay horses that were described as having some religious purpose but looked more playful or practical than that to me. The film of rock painting was really good too. No sign of the jade horse though, so we went round again in case we’d missed it. No. Never mind, I may have been mistaken.

British Museum Great Courtyard

British Museum Great Court photo by Chris Robinson

Back on the ground floor, there’s a large circular information desk, in fact two of them I think, and a couple of staff with only one busy with a visitor so I strolled up and wondered if they could help me. “Could you tell me where the Jade Horse is please? I was on your website last night and noticed a jade horse, and I’d like to see it if at all possible.”

“It’ll be in the Horse exhibition”

“We’ve just come from there, and didn’t see it.”

“Let me look it up for you”


“Ah, here it is. It’s on loan to us.”

“Where is it please”

“Unfortunately I can’t get the actually location within the museum for the objects, only the descriptions and details. If it’s not in the Horse Exhibition, as it’s on loan, I suppose it should be in the temporary exhibits space, near the entrance, over there, then turn left.”


So we went and had a look around the temporary exhibits space, which is worth a visit for the prehistoric bone carvings and lots of other stuff but doesn’t have a jade horse. By this time, finding the jade horse has turned into some kind of quest. I wasn’t really that bothered about it before, but the challenge beckoned. Heading back out to the courtyard I saw that the information stand person was still underoccupied and caught his eye.

“Was it there”

“No we still haven’t found it”

“In that case, if it isn’t in the Horse exhibition and it isn’t in the temporary exhibits space then the only other place I can think of to look would be the China and Southeast Asia Gallery”

“Where’s that then?”

“Gallery 33”

“How do I get there?”

“Straight out the back there, straight on through the doors then turn left”

We headed in that direction, found Gallery 33 and looked at the Thai and Indian exhibits there. The China gallery seemed to be the one opposite, which would have been found by turning right through the doors.

We spent some time looking carefully through the ancient artefacts in the China gallery, but began to despair as we neared the end and still found no jade and no horses. I spotted a British Museum gallery assistant or security bod sitting on a chair with headphones on and woke her up by asking

“I don’t suppose you know if there’s a Jade Horse here somewhere?”

“Wuh… ah Jade! Yes, the Jade exibition is straight on down there, around the corner on the right.”


And there it was, a little corridor with a small sign that said something like “7,000 years of Jade Art in China” with some exquisite pieces on display and about half way along, two jade horses including the one from the website allelulia! We had in fact found the exit to the Jade exhibition and after taking it all in, we exited through the entrance which nobody would ever find by themslves not even if they had EIGHT thousand years to wander around in the British Museum.

That was the long story. I could have instead told the short story, which goes like this: The information desk in the British Museum cannot confidently direct people to the physical location of an unknown object within the museum because their database doesn’t contain this essential information.

It’s not the fault of the workers on the information desk. They did the best they could with the knowledge they have and the tools provided. The people who publish the website messed up, by promoting an object with a beautiful image but not bothering to mention the temporary exhibition with which the object is associated. It’s also possible that the database of objects has been designed without the fields for inputting a gallery number or other location data.

Jade Horse Figure from China

Jade Horse Figure from China

Late Ming or Qing dynasty, 17th century AD

This impressive horse belongs to a small group of carved jade animals, mainly horses and buffaloes, carved on a much larger scale than usual, and all in the same range of green opaque stones. There is no direct evidence to help us define precisely when and for what purpose these large creatures were carved.

The slender and elegantly smooth carving shows the horse lying down, its hind legs tucked under its body. The mane and tail are carefully worked to represent the hair, with the other features – eyes, jaw, limbs, muscles and sinews – shown in fine grooves.

J. Rawson, Chinese jade: from the Neolith (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002)

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All Quiet in London During The Olympics

Yesterday was the first full working day of the Olympics in London with commuters and Olympics fans rubbing shoulders on the public transport network. I decided to ignore the warnings and venture out anyway, as the weather forecast was good and I had a hunch that part of the city I was headed for would be quiet. Well I was right! Leaving home at 10 o’clock meant missing the morning rush hour entirely but you would still expect Stratford station to be even busier than normal, as the location of the Olympic Park. It was positively relaxed, and I was able to photograph the Olympic Orbit Tower,  cross the platform from the Greater Anglia train to Liverpool Street onto the Central Line tube and get a seat, no problem. At Holborn there was a slight slowdown at the platform exit as a hundred or so people with shorts and rucksacks made their way out to cross onto the Piccadilly Line, presumably headed towards  Horseguards’ Parade but out on the streets in Holborn and on the way to the British Museum there were definitely less Londoners and tourists out and about than you would normally expect on any day of the week, mid morning in summer.

Londoners and Olympics fans intermingle on the Tube

Londoners and Olympics fans intermingle on the Tube

What’s going on?

What IS going on? Have the measures to mitigate against transport congestion worked too well and kept people away? Or is it just the beginning, with a lot of people taking the day off or working from home, only to return to normal tomorrow? We shall see about that as far as the London commuters are concerned but for the millions of tourists who have decided to keep away from London as a destination this summer, and go elsewhere for te duration, then it’s already too late for all the businesses and activities in central London that depend upon them. I bet there are empty rooms in some of the hotels right now. It reminds me somewhat of Cornwall during the solar eclipse of August 1999. Scaremongering officials and media combined to paint pictures of the army being brought in to help feed people stuck by the roadside in traffic jams for days on end, but the reality was that the Cornish tourist industry had its worst season for decades. I was there and had a lovely time being able to get around the small towns and empty car parks just as if it was an off-season break. Now the same thing appears to be happening to London. There are lots of activities planned in the National Houses and other venues across London, expecting a kind of party atmosphere to break out throughout the capital, but most of them are very badly attended for now. Londoners, having been told to prepare themselves for longer journeys, plan alternatives and “don’t get caught out” (Boris on the buses) have either stayed at home or booked themselves a holiday abroad, and are now being urged to come out and join, and help make up the numbers!

Things to do in London during the Olympics

I went to the British Museum. No queues, no bag searches, a gentle stroll around the North American Flora Exhibition by Kew Gardens and inside to see a free exhibition about The horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot (More about trying to find the Jade Figure of a Horse later).

North American Garden by Kew at British Museum

North American Garden by Kew at British Museum

Lunch in Soho. Fabulous sushi bento box in my favourite Japanese canteen restaurant, usually full of Japanese students and some adventurous tourists but able to walk in and  get a table with no waiting yesterday. Maybe I was lucky, but Chinatown is one of the epicentres of camera toting tourists and felt determinedly less busy.

St Katherines Docks is the location for the ‘Danish House’ IMAGINATION, one of dozens of National Houses set up by participating countries in the Olympics to host parties and exhibitions, to follow their national teams and mingle with athletes and celebrities. One site which lists them all, especially those that are free to the public  is

Above: The London Orbit Tower during the Olympic Games

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15 Days To Go until London 2012 Olympics

I live almost exactly 2 miles away from the London 2012 Olympic Games main stadium at Stratford, East London.

So far, the main effect on my life has been to have watched the building of the iconic structures on the skyline. The Main Stadium, The Aquatic Centre and The Orbit Tower.

I don’t have a car but when I rent one and try to drive home via central London I found the closure of Carpenters Road a nuisance. Newham Council sent me some guff about registered visitors car parking during the games periods, which I ignored.

  • Concrete blocks appeared on street corners around where I live, and then notices about parking zones were attached later.
  • There are notices on some of the tube stations saying these are expected to be congested during the period of the games, and before, so Londoners should be planning alternative routes or ways of getting about.
  • I can see the construction of the controversial temporary police muster station at the other end of Wanstead Flats.

That’s about it it, so far. The items in the national news about ground to air missiles being installed on blocks of flats are a little alarming, but it doesn’t feel quite like a military police lockdown, yet. I’m dreading any increased helicopter noise, but you never know, maybe the no fly zone will actually make it quieter ?1

Will lots of  neighbours be taking advantage of the locality and to rent out their houses or receive loads of extra visitors for the duration? I’ve no idea. I’ll be staying put, and hoping for a quiet time. I’l let you know how it goes as the opening date comes ever closer.

London 2012 Olympic stadium from Stratford

London 2012 Olympic stadium from Stratford

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  1. Apparently the no fly zone doesn’t apply to scheduled passenger aircraft []
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London Cable Car Oystercard Deals?

The London Cable Car Crossing Opens

According to “The Orbit Tower – London Cable Car” and other sources, a single fare across the Thames on the new London Cable Car opening on June 18th will cost £3.20 if you pay by Oystercard Pay-as-you-go.

But they also have a special offer return trip non-stop bargain price of only £6.40!

So it’s exactly twice as much to stay on and ride back and firth once as it is to combine two singe trips with a stroll around the other side, or whatever.

What’s the sense in that?

But more to the point, how do you click in and click out to ensure you are always charged the correct fare?

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Steam on the Overground

A steam train ran along the Gospel Oak to Barking branch of the London Overground today June 16th pulling vintage passenger coaches. I’m trying to find out more about it, as I’ve seen or heard this before. The sighting was near Woodgrange Park station heading West so it may have destined to switch tracks onto the mainline towards Stratford, something to do with the Olympics opening ceremony perhaps? There was certainly a steam hauled train crossing one of the main bridges over the Thames in central London for the Queen’s Jubilee River Pageant last bank holiday weekend so it may have been the same one, or maybe the Orient Express making its way around London avoiding the main terminus stations.

A Steam Engine, Not on the Overground

Thanks to Jim Easterbrook who alerted me to I now know that the steam engine I heard and saw on the Barking to Gospel Oak line must have been the BR Cass 8P 4-6-2 no 71000 Duke of Gloucester pulling the THE CATHEDRALS EXPRESS on the Steam hauled: Southend-Gloucester-Southend run. How about that then! And given the timetable information, It should be possible to catch the return passage at about twenty to nine this evening, weather permitting.

Yes, isn’t the internet clever sometimes.

Here’s a picture of the said Duke of Gloucester steaming through Woodgrange Park station only about 5 minutes late at 8.49 pm tonight.


Duke of Gloucester

Duke of Gloucester

0.0 Southend Central d 09:34 71000  
  Pitsea 09:50    
    d 09:46    
  Upminster a 10:04    
    d 10:06    
  Barking 10:18    
    d 10:22    
  Leyton Midland Rd 10:35    
  South Tottenham 10:45    
  Harringay Park Jc 10:50    
  Gospel Oak 10:57    
  Willesden Jc HL 11:11    
  Acton ML 11:25    
  Southall 11:36    
  Heathrow Airport Jc 11:39    
  Slough 11:49    
  Maidenhead 11:59    
  Reading 12:16    
  Didcot Parkway 12:33    
  Challow a 12:45 water  
    d 13:08    
  Swindon 13:23    
  Kemble 13:47    
  St Marys Crossing 13:57    
  Standish Jc 14:09    
  Gloucester a 14:20    
0.0 Gloucester d 16:58 71000  
  Standish Jc 17:10    
  St Marys Crossing 17:19    
  Kemble 17:32    
  Swindon 17:49    
  Challow 18:02    
  Wantage Road a 18:07 water  
    d 18:43    
  Didcot Parkway 18:55    
  Reading 19:15    
  Maidenhead 19:29    
  Slough 19:36    
  Heathrow Airport Jc 19:46    
  Southall 19:48    
  Acton Main Line 19:55    
  Willesden Jc HL 20:01    
  Gospel Oak 20:15    
  Harringay Park Jc 20:20    
  South Tottenham 20:25    
  Leyton Midland Rd 20:35    
  Barking 20:46    
  Upminster a 21:08    
    d 21:10    
  Pitsea 21:25    
  Southend Central a 21:42               

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Paris Eurostar, War Horse, Wildlife time capsule

Eurostar Breaks to Paris

Taken June 9, 2011 at 8:39 am



Betty Blue Eyes

Betty Blue Eyes

Taken June 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm



War Horse

Taken June 20, 2011 at 2:41 am



Epping Forest Theydon Bois

Epping Forest Theydon Bois One of my favourite spots for quick breaks away from London.

Taken June 14, 2011 at 10:36 am



Greylag Geese and Goslings

Greylag Geese and Goslings

Taken June 21, 2011 at 10:52 am


via posterous

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Picasso in London

I went to the Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition at the Tate Britain gallery in London yesterday and was inspired in several ways. The movement from one medium to another as artists experiment and develop, the imitation and borrowing of style by so many artists who got to see Picasso’s work early on, and the prolific volume of his output over the years. You can go and see huge permanent exhibitions of Picasso in Paris and Barcelona, and still see unique and original pieces at this current London show.


Picasso & Modern British Art

Tate Britain: Exhibition

15 February – 15 July 2012

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about London on the DARnet Blog