Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Quiet please, you're looking at some art.
So behave properly. And no chewing.
Welcome to the first floor of London's National Portrait Gallery.
As you can see, it's not exactly crowded. As usual. That's because it's full of portraits and busts of lots of scary people. The sort of people who 'built the British Empire'. In other words, men with strange facial hair who went around the world shooting the local tribes for the crime of not having been at Eton.
Here's one of them...
Just look at those whiskers. I believe the correct anatomical term is 'bugger's grips'.
The type of man who was born to say things like:
"Some of these chaps actually live in mud huts."
It is of course a history lesson, which may well be another reason why it's never busy: the history of stern-faced men not having much hope of attracting the masses when set against crowd-pullers like the recent Hockney exhibition or photographs of the late Princess of Wales.
But if peace and quiet is your bag and, let's face it there's precious little of that in London, then this place could be your thang.
So, up the steps, turn right and leave the tourists and parties of school children asking if Paul McCartney's still alive far behind. Now enter a world of military heroes, cannons to the right of them, zulus to the left of them; eccentric scientists posing with skulls; frowns, moustaches, side-whiskers... and the undying belief that Britain was jolly well the best place on earth, and if you disagree we'll come and ruddy conquer you.