London, Part 5.

So Cricket and I were on the subway, and while he was reading the paper, I caught a glimpse of this article. I bolded the important part, the part that made me make a snorting noise in the middle of a crowded subway.

Mass murderer Jeremy Bamber today lost the first stage of his latest bid to overturn a conviction for the killing of five of his relatives. Bamber, who has always protested his innocence, has served nearly 25 years for the 1985 killing of his family in Essex. He has twice lost appeals against his conviction and remains one of 38 killers who have been given a whole-life tariff. The bodies of Bamber’s parents, Neville and June, his sister Sheila Caffell, and her six-year-old twin sons were found at White House Farm in Tolleshunt D’Arcy. All had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. A total of 25 shots had been fired, mostly at close range. At first, suspicion fell on Mrs. Caffell, who suffered from mental illness and was found holding the murder weapon. Then, attention turned to Bamber after a blood-stained silencer was found in a cupboard in the farmhouse.

Here’s what it sounded like to me: “At first, we thought it was Miss Scarlett with the lead pipe in the conservatory, but it turned out to be Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the lounge.” I love England. They’re so…British-y.

MUSEUMS. We went to a lot of them. Let’s take the Natural History Museum first. If the museum was empty it would still be amazing, because whoever built it included natural history elements into the actual building all over, in both the interior and exterior.

It’s like going to atheist church. At one end of the giant hall, a dinosaur skeleton (see picture above). At the other end, a sculpture of Charles Darwin. I felt like there should be a choir singing hymns about evolution and survival of the fittest.

Once again, England kicks our American butts because their museums are free and you can take pictures. Here is a coelacanth (pronounced see-lah-canth) or, as I like to call it, the “Seriously, That Is Way Too Many Fins, No One Needs That Many Fins”.

Here’s the interesting story. This is an OLD breed of fish. Like, they thought it went extinct 65 million years ago. Then – poof! – someone fishing found one off the coast of Africa in the 1930s, and they’re back! This particular specimen is from 1964, so it has lost its deep-blue color. Also, and I found this adorable, it has little mushrooms growing on it.

They also have a phenomenal amount of dead stuffed things. My favorite last time I visited was the pangolins. My favorite this time was still the pangolins.

I will never get to see a pangolin in the wild, so this was thrilling for me. Plus, one of the pangolins on the tree looks like a zombie with his little stubby pangolin arms outstretched in front of him. Evil zombie pangolin.

Aside from more dead things than you can shake a stick at, they have a stellar mineral wing. I do enjoy a good mineral. Here’s a pic of the mineral wing.

Rows and rows and rows of neatly labeled rocks. I was so happy. I learned the difference between a pebble and a cobble. Here’s a cobble full of pebbles.

And did you know pumice is just frothy lava? It’s like lava meringue.

I want these agates. I want them real bad. Especially the one on the right.

The Natural History Museum has a terrific insect area, but I didn’t have time to visit it. However, I did get to enjoy its entrance. It has that great big ole beetle over the door, but I love how the many-eyed spider looks like he’s welcoming you in. “Oh hello!” he says. “Come on in! I made crumpets.”

Museums have specialty exhibits, and those you have to pay for. The Natural History Museum has an exhibit on right now called “Sexual Nature”, about the sex lives of animals. Really.

I couldn’t take pictures in there because it was dark in an attempt to be romantic (really, they had Barry White playing in the background), but I don’t know, seeing taxidermied animals posed in states of copulation doesn’t get my motor going. I did get a shot of how foxes have sex, which was totally different than I expected. They just back up into each other, ending up looking like a dog with two heads. Very interesting.

Also, around the exhibits and informative plaques were TVs playing Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno”. If you’ve never seen this, clear an afternoon, take some magic mushrooms, and hunker down for some of the weirdest television programming you’ve ever experienced. Here’s one just for a taste.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BckqviVaWl0

Cricket’s favorite Green Porno episode was the salmon. I was partial to the duck one. You really must see them all.

To finish off my Natural History experience, here is a giant slice of a very old sequoia (with Cricket standing next to it for scale):

And here is a life-size accurate sculpture of a gulper eel. I made a painting on a gulper eel, but it’s different when you see one up close and personal. I didn’t realize their mouths were tetrahedronal. I was very excited. People around me were concerned.

And here is a poster outside the museum with a very startled-looking drawing of a lemur.

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