Wednesday, 15 August 2007


On Tuesday we took a short walk through Hackney to catch the number 30 bus. This time we were heading west towards Euston Square which is beyond Kings Cross! I enjoy this bus journey because you travel through different areas of London which have their own distinctive qualities.

After you've left Hackney, which is known for its diverse ethnic culture including Turkish and Vietnamese restaurants, you get to Dalston which is currently suffering from some urban blight but in its favour is home to the Vortex jazz club, where we tapped our feet to Clara and the Real Lowdown last Friday, and a Polish deli. Before long you're approaching expensive Islington. This used to be a working class district but now it helps to be a millionaire. Having turned left at Highbury Corner you find yourself in Upper Street which is almost exclusively filled with restaurants. This is a great place, of an evening, to sashay up and down the road showing off to everyone else who is showing off.

On reaching the Angel, Islington (which has a revolting piece of public art at the N1 centre) you turn right into Pentonville Road. There is a prison of the same name but there's no sign of it in this part of the road. From here its downhill to Kings Cross, one of our mainline stations and then the bus carries on past the British Library arriving at Euston Station, another mainline station. This is where you get off and walk a short distance to an imposing building which houses the Wellcome Collection.

This was my first visit and, being rather ignorant, I was just vaguely aware of Wellcome being associated with medicine and drugs. Little did I know that it also owns a staggering collection of art, much of which relates to medicine and there, in the foyer, was a hanging sculpture of a body by none other than Antony Gormley.

So we start with The Heart exhibition which is on for another month. You begin in Egypt where you learn that the heart was seen 'as the centre of intellect, character and emotion'. Moving on you are introduced to Galen (129 - 200 CE) who was an ancient Greek physician and philosopher whose ideas about the workings of the heart endured for more than a thousand years. Then, and this really amazed me, there were a few anatomical drawings of the heart by Leonardo da Vinci, no less, and these have been lent by Her Majesty the Queen. So those pretty much knocked me out and I ought to go back and have another look at them. Then you learn about William Harvey (1578 - 1657) who graduated from the University of Padua in Italy. He was a great fan of dissection and the results of his many experiments to do with the heart and circulation of blood, when published, challenged Galen's well established model.

At this point I went and sat in a small cinema which was showing a film about heart operations conducted at Papworth hospital in Cambridgeshire with a sound track of Billy Graham, the preacher, sermonising about the siginificance of blood and the heart in the bible. Since I am rather squeamish and didn't have a cushion to hide behind I got up and left when the surgeons were firing up the electric saw so I never did find out what happened to the patient.

And this, dear reader, is where we leave the 'heart' for two more exhibitions which I'll cover in my next post.

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