Natural Wonders

Latimer: It’s been very hectic these last few weeks here at M. Latimer-Ridley! We’ve been busy with Unbroken Ties, Keeping Secrets 2… and editing the follow-up, Keeping Secrets 3!

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Added to all that – I’ve just moved country! Yup, for now I’m M. Latimer-Ridley’s London correspondent, at least for the foreseeable future!

I’ve been trying to get out and see things, subliminally advertised to me via the London Underground! There was recently an exhibition in the Natural History Museum, so last Saturday I took myself off to see some Mammoths and Neanderthals!

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I made the mistake of thinking London would maybe not be packed with tourists (this will never happen I’m sure)! There was a big queue to get into the museum, a queue to get to the exhibitions and a queue to see the dinosaur skeletons, which happen to be super popular (I’m not surprised, dinosaurs are great!).

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The Natural History museum is amazing. No one does buildings quite like the English – always so grand!

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The Mammoth exhibition was very cool; the museum had on loan Lyuba, the baby mammoth that was found in Russia – the most intact specimen of a woolly mammoth, she even has hair!

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I also learned here that ‘woolly mammoth’ is just a type of ‘mammoth’ and the biggest was actually the Columbian Mammoth. They had a life-sized model of it and it was amazing. I could have stood starring at it for hours. Nearby there was also a statue of a Short-Nosed Bear; which basically dwarfed a grizzly.

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The Proboscidea family tree!

The Proboscidea family tree!

This all led me onto the ‘evolution of man’ exhibition. I love me some evolution!

The great man himself!

The great man himself!

Recently, in the last few years the Neanderthal genome was sequenced, and it turned up some interesting details. Among other things, the results showed that non-African populations had some Neanderthal markers in their genomes, indicating that there had been some crossovers, and interbreeding between Neanderthal’s and modern humans in Europe.

It appears that when our common ancestor moved out of Africa they migrated north and eventually became Neanderthals, who were adapted to survive in the frozen climate. While, the African common ancestor evolved to become modern humans. Some of these modern humans then migrated north and became lighter skinned Europeans, and encountered their cousin the Neanderthal.

It was assumed that Neanderthal couldn’t talk, but actually the genome work showed that they have a similar gene to us called the FOXP2 gene that is involved in speech and language.

In the exhibition they also said that the Neanderthal markers that are present (to varying degrees, about 2%) in Europeans, largely affected the immune system. So it poses some interesting questions about responses to diseases.

There were also more ‘types’ of humans than just Neanderthal’s wandering around at the time, and they may have also contributed to the modern genome. This all raises the question of what we actually mean now when we say ‘modern human’.

Anyway, these were some great exhibits and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they show during the year!

And of course, I’ll be doing a series of museum hops around the city while I’m here 🙂

Something about Shakespeare

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Latimer: William Shakespeare.

There was a time when that name struck fear into my very soul. Years ago, when I, like so many others, was semi-scarred by compulsory Shakespeare plays on English exams.

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These plays required someone, who had studied Shakespeare in college, to go through it word-by painful-word and translate it, because Shakespearean language is just that – a different language! And it scares a young teenager, scares them bad!

Romeo and Juliet wasn’t really a great start for me.

I remember a girl in my class at the time, she got really frustrated and fidgety and just piped up in a loud confident voice:

“MISS! What use is Shakespeare? Thees and Thous – no one talks like this! I can’t go into a shop and buy milk talking like this!”

The teacher looked like a bolt of lightning had just crispy-fried someone right in front of her. She was speechless. We all laughed– what the hell was the point of this?

In hindsight I know now that poetry and stories and plays, none of them is any use in ordering milk – but it’s not about getting the milk – it’s about food for the soul. All art is pointless, as a Wild man once said 😉

Thankfully, after Romeo and Juliet, I had a break – no more Shakespeare for one year. Not much of a break as Emily Bronte stepped up to take his place for a while – ‘It’s me, it’s Cathy, I’ve come home’ (dear God, go away you crazy harpy woman!).

Then, in the school ending mega-national exam – the big guns were wheeled out– Macbeth! Nooo! NOT SHAKESPEARE AGAIN (we knew what to expect now) HOW WILL WE WRITE AN ESSAY ON THAT! DON’T MAKE ME LEARN QUOTES! NOO!

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Macbeth, initially I understood no better than Romeo and Juliet, then, again word-by-word it gets explained… and actually, I thought; hold on a minute, this play is epic! It is the ultimate story of a fallen hero, of how absolute power corrupts.

I even have this little quote that I semi consider ‘my life quote’ – Let me set the backstory… It’s Macbeth talking, he is thinking about what he’s done (killed the rightful King and plunged Scotland into anarchy by talking the crown for himself – the very land itself is festering, sickening under his unlawful rule) – Macbeth is thinking about turning back, trying to make up for what he’s done, i.e. do the right thing – ultimately this is what he decides –

“…I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er…”

Basically – ‘I won’t turn back, I can’t. I’ve waded out this far, that turning back now would be as difficult as continuing’. Now for him, this was a BAD choice…

…in my case, I consider this quote as my – “KEEP GOING LATIMER! Don’t give up! Going forward is as hard as going back – so keep going, keep going!”

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When we were in England, we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit the Bard’s birthplace.

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The town is beautiful anyway, but with the summer shining, it was glorious… England and Ireland actually look amazing in the sun (though we hardly ever see it, and universally I noticed, we all go completely mad in the sun – it’s like we fully expect to never see it again!).

We went to the Bard’s house, and got an introduction video display, narrated by Patrick Stewart about Shakespeare’s life and work.

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Shakespeare was famous even in his own time (a proper celeb). The display showed all these great actors who have acted in Shakespearean plays and how it’s almost a feather in the cap for an actor to have done one (or many). And you get really amazed by the actual amount of plays that Shakespeare wrote and you start finding yourself starting to be awed by him – just look at all these amazing quotes…

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”

“There’s no art to find the minds construction in the face”

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves”

“All’s well that ends well :)”

 

Shakespeare’s house is really beautiful too and so well preserved.

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Writers from all over, down through the years, would used to visit and write their names on the windows, to show that they had been in the great man’s house. Now these signatures and, sort of property damage!, are artifacts themselves.

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There was this overflowing sense of respect, from the past and the present.

We also learned that his plays only exist for us today, because his friends collected them altogether into this epic compendium. This book of plays is why we know about Shakespeare today (otherwise we may have never known and Stratford would have a lovely car park instead of a cool piece of priceless history).

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While Ridley and I sat in Shakespeare’s garden, we wondered, was there some other fantastic playwright out there who wrote just as well, if not better, and had no wise friends with great foresight, and so was forgotten?

Do you ever wonder if there were hundreds of fantastic writers in the past, who never told that amazing story because they couldn’t write?

Or there were fantastic writers whose books were burned or lost, or never printed at all?

Think of all the forgotten stories 😦

Later that night we went to see a Shakespearean play; All’s well that ends well, in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (but of course!) in town.

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In honour of our trip to Stratford, and our Shakespeare adventure, we both bought Moomins in the town (random I know), and named them after Shakespearean characters.

Ridley’s is Hamlet Moomin… Mine is Bertram Moomin.

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We are odd, we know… but – This above all; to thine own self be true :)” (even if that does involve buying a Moomin and calling it Bertram or Hamlet!)