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I spent two days in London last week, and, quite apart from social time with my friend, Mary, I had three very different experiences.  The timing of my trip was determined by the fact that the ‘Monet and Architecture’ exhibition at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, was very soon coming to an end. Moreover, I was very glad that I had pre-booked my ticket as there would have been no chance of a walk-in ticket.


Pavement entertainment outside the Gallery

P1330088001 The ‘fourth plinth‘ in Trafalgar Square is currently occupied by ‘The Invisible Enemy should not Exist’.   It is built entirely of the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs (some sources say date syrup cans) and Arabic newspapers, and is a commemoration of the artefacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq, in Baghdad, in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It represents a determination to recover the more than 7000 objects still missing.


The Sainsbury Wing, temporarily showing the 77 Monet paintings


Looking back from the entrance

No photography inside the Monet exhibition itself was allowed, but I did manage to get these pictures at its entry and exit.  I thought a better title would have been ‘Monet and Landscape’. But perhaps they’ve done that already.P1330092001P1330095001My other visit that day was to the Postal Museum, including a short trip on its Mail Rail, the underground post transport system, which opened in 1927 and closed in 2003.  As there was no really convenient public transport between the two places, I decided to walk, and the 35 minutes estimated by online research turned out to be very accurate. I walked fast but made stops for a few photos and to check that I was on the right route.


More pavement entertainment in Trafalgar Square


I had a crush on Tommy Steele back in the   … ties, but I’m a little young to remember Glenn Miller.


Paris? No, London.

It was a noisy walk with much traffic and many people, but once I turned off Grays Inn Road into Mount Pleasant (the road), it was totally quiet.  P1330103001P1330104001I have tried to find out more about the Panther Building, and it seems that it is currently workshops and studios.  Planning permission exists for the redevelopment of part of it.

Two big surprises awaited me just before I got to the Postal Museum in Phoenix Place:  the beauty of the 1929 Mount Pleasant building, and that, while much shrunken, there is still considerable Post Office activity on the site – a great deal of redevelopment is going on there also.  P1330105001I had a bite of lunch in the café at the Museum, P1330108001then crossed back over the road to Mail Rail, where likewise I had a timed ticket. This rather blurry picture shows the size of the ‘wagons’, ideal for postal parcels, packets and letters, but only just large enough for tourists to sit in! P1330112001


There were four stops on the 15 minute ride, at which there were projections on to the walls about Mail Rail’s history.  P1330125001


It very much resembles the London (passenger) Underground of course – but it’s on a much smaller scale.

P1330139001After the ride, the exit was through a small further exhibition about it.  P1330143001P1330148001


‘Ulysses’ banned – by mail as well!


‘…ever needed again…’

And at the end I watched a short film which I had not had time to see beforehand, from which the above is a still.

I then crossed back over the road to the award-winning Postal Museum, which opened in 2017.  It was very well presented, with plenty to keep both adults and children interested. Here are just a few of the dozens of photos I took there.  Firstly, why do we call it ‘the post’? P1330167001P1330169001

P1330173001 copie

“It is not the cause of faction, or of party, or of an individual, but the common interest of every man in Britain.” Yes, well. (Junius was not, by the way, a Roman philosopher, but the nom de plume of an 18th century writer.)


Rowland Hill introduced the penny black, the very first postage stamp in the world. This exhibit was not lit, perhaps for fear of fading, so a decent photo was difficult to take.  I shudder to think how many millions of pounds this exhibit is worth, though apparently it’s a plate proof so doesn’t count as real stamps.

Post boxes have not always been red.  They started – in the Channel Islands in 1852 – painted green, but people in the countryside thought that dreary, so from 1874 they were painted red. P1330188001P1330216.1P1330235001I think that splendid mail coach was the best, but here are some other forms of postal transport.P1330194001P1330202001P1330216.2P1330234001I rather fancied this tunic, but my attempt to try it on reflectively was foiled by the height of its plinth. P1330201001Is nostalgia the same as feeling old? I felt both as I recognised the famous ‘Press button B’ telephone booth.P1330203001Near the end there was the chance to sit and watch an hour’s-worth of short PR  films made by the Post Office’s Film Unit (founded 1933). The most famous of them all, ‘Night Train’ was just about to start as I passed, so I sat and watched it.

On leaving the Museum, I took a backward look to the splendid Mount Pleasant building. P1330238001Then I wandered through quiet back streets to the bustle of King’s Cross, and took a bus back to Mary’s place.  We had a very nice meal at a French restaurant in Camden Town, though I could have wished that the moules marinières I ordered for my starter had arrived instead of the spicy moules provençales!