Showing posts with label Dr Johnson's House. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dr Johnson's House. Show all posts

Friday, 23 January 2015

Five on Friday: Please take the stairs

Taking five minutes to enjoy five things...

1. Stairs invite us in.

Like into Dr Johnson's House,

up the stairwell,

 into his attic where facsimiles of his dictionary await your perusal.

2. Stairs can lead us down.

Into the First World War tunnels at Vimy Ridge,
in France but a National Historic Site of Canada.

Fourteen miles of tunnels leading to the front line,

built by Welsh miners for Canadian troops.

3. Sometimes it is necessary to make temporary arrangements.

Awaiting new stairs at the Brunel Museum.

The only way in and out of Brunel's underground chamber.

You can see where the stairs used to be,

helpfully illustrated on souvenir cups.

4. Stairs provide convenient places to hang portraits

Going left up the stairs to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons,
you are introduced to past presidents.

Not gowned up (surgically speaking), but wearing RCS ties.

As the fashions for portraiture, ties and gowns have changed,
fortunately so have surgical instruments.
Doubt Professor Peter Morris here, ever had to work with the chicken bone or razor shell
that we had just seen in the Hunterian Museum.

5. Some stairs are best approached with caution

 Down the hatch on HMS Belfast.

Always face the ladder and best wear trousers.

Perhaps head to the Shell Room below the water-line.

Ladders and hatches on HMS Belfast accessing all nine decks.

I am joining in with Amy with Five on Friday,
taking five minutes from our day to enjoy five things.
Please visit the other bloggers who are also blogging about Five on Friday this week.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Dr Johnson's House

You get off the train at City Thameslink,
have a coffee at a well known coffee chain,
walk past shiny glass offices, high rise buildings and ubiquitous shops.

At one point it seems like you could be in any anonymous modern metropolis.
Except you're not, you're in the City of London,
London's financial and business centre,
where small (in comparison to the huge buildings that surround them)
pieces of history survive.

With the help of a scrappy photocopied map
and a smart phone that neither of you really know how to use,
you eventually find yourself here,
Gough Square,
the home of Dr Johnson.

 Dr Samuel Johnson was a truly sociable fellow,
entertaining 'clergy, politicians, preachers, actors, forgers and even murderers'.
Visitors are still welcome.

It is a beautifully preserved 18th century home.

Spread over four floors.

Samuel Johnson, for fear of being alone, after his wife had died,
surrounded himself with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Friends came in person
and now remain in perpetuity on his Withdrawing Room walls.
 The Withdrawing Room, used by women,
who withdrew from the company of men after mealtimes.

Dr Johnson's house may be quiet now but it is said in his biography,
"how uncomfortable (Johnson's) home was made
by the perpetual jarring of those whom he charitably accommodated under his roof". (Boswell)

With so many visitors,
you wonder how Dr Johnson had time to write that dictionary of his.

A poor man of ill health, he wrote out of necessity.
A group of book sellers commissioned Johnson to write
a Dictionary Of The English Language,
which was published in 1755.
It was an instant best seller at £4 10 Shillings
and was the dictionary to turn to for over 100 years.

It was published in two volumes
and a facsimilie is available in the house for visitors to read today.

He had a bit of fun with some (most) definitions,
including over 110,000 quotes from English Literature.
Apparently the verb 'to put' has over 100 variations of meaning.
I wish I'd looked it up at the time.
He included plenty of wit too.
When questioned about some of his definitions, he replied,
"I must have my sport".

Here's a little of 'his sport'.
Available at the cheaper price of 35 pence in the gift shop, on a postcard.
Tea keeps me amused.
Am I idle?

With Dr Johnson long gone,
his desire to have his house full of people continued.
It was used as a community centre
by the Auxiliary Fire Service in the Second World War.

Right in the heart of London, very handy for popping in for a cuppa and a chat.

Or an impromptu music night.

As a thankyou for the hospitality shown,
the house was presented with this workshop scene
made from blitzed wood from Woolwich Arsenal.

After spending a little time in this tranquil 300 year old house,
you can begin to forget where you are,
until you look out of the window.
Straight into 21st century office block windows.

Then back to a 18th century window.
Imagine being the subject of stained glass?

Not tired, we've yet to fulfil one of Dr Johnson's most famous sayings.

We've had a great time, exploring a tiny piece of the City of London.
And there's still more to see.
A group of Small Historic Houses in London.
"A collection of nine of the city's hidden-gems;
small historic houses which tell the stories of fascinating and famous former residents."
Details on London Shh's website here.

And more info on Dr Johnson's House website here.
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