For the last three days we have been in London. The last job
interview for me, and the final destination to research for Lydia. London is immediately
attractive to us because of Luke and Shyla. A city feels so much warmer when
you can turn up and already be surrounded by good friends who show you the best
parts about living there.
We have been staying with Luke and Shyla since Saturday night. On Sunday we
went out for an English breakfast on Portobello
Road in Notting Hill (which was fantastic), then
they took us out to London Zoo.
The Zoo is quite small, being in London, so
they have concentrated on the most interactive exhibits and having only a few
large exhibits rather than lots of small ones (with the animals needing the
most space out at their second zoo).
I especially enjoyed the bug exhibit and
the giant stick-insects. I was really interested to hear the origin of the
saying "one for the road". When we were on the bus down Tyburn Road, Shyla
told us that the people to be executed at the Tyburn gallows were allowed to
stop on the road to have a final drink. We had a great Indian dinner just
across the road from Luke and Shyla Sunday night.
Monday was my day of interviewing, and Lydia's day of stationary and paper
Once again, Mill Hill awed me with the fantastic people working there.
In my opinion it is one of the best places in the world to be working on
cellular immunology. The people are motivated, intelligent and collaborative.
The bulk funding means they can focus on top research and not worry about
applying for grants or getting the micky mouse papers. And the commitment to
mouse biology is shown by the direct absorption of mouse costs by the
institute, so individual labs don't have to factor it into consideration. The
building is old, and on the very edge of London,
but there are hundred good reasons to work there.
Today was the day for World Heritage sites. Shyla had to work, but Luke, Lydia
and I caught the tube down to the Tower
The Tower was
founded by William Conqueror after the Norman conquest of England in
1066. He founded the central tower, the White Tower,
in 1078. Other towers and fortifications were progressively built, being
completed by Edward I in 1285. The inner wall is the highest, at 15 feet high,
with 13 towers. The outer wall is the thickest and has 6 additional towers,
giving 20 towers in all. The moat around the tower is 125 feet wide. It was
originally built too deep, such that it collected debris from the Thames rather than being washed clean by it. On this plus
side, this has made the moat an archaeological gold mine. Our tour was
conducted by a Beefeater (Yeoman Warder). The Beefeaters have been guarding the
tower since 1485. They live in the tower with their families, and are locked in
every night at 10pm (there is a whole little village inside the tower).
September the Beefeaters gained their first female Yeoman Warder. To become a
Beefeater you ust have served in the army, royal marines or royal airforce for
22 years (people from the navy are not accepted as they do not swear to the
monarchy), rising to the level of Sergent Major and having good conduct medals.
The post seems to be an odd retirement position, being locked in at night and
conducting tours during the day. They must go mad bellowing out the same poor
jokes every hour, on the hour. In the tower we also saw the Crown Jewels
(guarded in the tower since 1303, and including the largest perfectly cut
diamond in the world) and the old armoury. Also interesting were the ravens of
the tower. They are fed by the beefeaters (with beef) and their wings are kept
clipped so that they do not fly away, due to the myth that if the ravens leave
the tower, the city will fall.
After the tower Luke had to leave, but Lydia
and I caught a ferry down to our next World Heritage site - Greenwich
We wandered through the charming streets of the village,
including the oldest brewery in Britian, and on the campus of Greenwich University.
We then climbed up to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. Interestingly, this used
to be in the Tower
of London until the Royal
Astronomer John Flamsteed complained about the ravens to Charles II. It was
after Charles II ordered the ravens removed that he was given the prophecy
about the city falling, so instead he moved the astronomers out to Greenwich. The highlight
of the observatory is the Meridian line, the
definition of zero degree longitude, and the clockwork defining Greenwich mean
time. Afterwards we went back into town to meet up with Gwyn and Lyn for a beer
at the Mason Arms, and then had a great pizza dinner with Luke and Shyla.
The Prime Meridian, zero degree longitute