|Two days ago I spent some time perusing the Freemason’s museum in London. It’s housed in a massive, parliamentary-like granite building on Queen’s Gate street just NE of the Picadilly area. I spotted some masonic symbols on the door and made my way past the guard at the front. I was asked to sign in, and was given a name tag. The man at the information desk told me my bag would be searched but I was allowed through after only signing in and attaching a name tag. I walked for what seemed like a while past executive suites and offices and occasionally I would pass a very serious ‘Grand Master’ type walking sternly with his arms folded behind him. When I reached the actual entrance, I was met by a man who checked my name tag and stowed my bag. I wished I had kept my camera in my pocket, because the pomp and hilarity of what I witnessed for the next 20 minutes could fill a grain silo.
There were museum-quality displays with gold crosses, a flurry of gold-crusted masonic imagery, and cloth shields of every imaginable design from the past 300-odd years jammed into the space of an Olympic sized swimming pool. I could almost hear the words that started the organization:
Rich Bloke #1: “Why, Nigel, I do believe I‚Äôd like to establish a ceremonial men’s club.” Rich Bloke #2: “Indeed. And you know I do look good in gold-threaded aprons.” And then there you have it. It grew into an unstoppable flurry of revelry that grew into a tradition-fetish mired in rites and honors of the highest snubbery. In that museum I was witnessing the vomited regalia of the past 300 glorious years.
For an efficient history of Masons, push here.
Recently I’ve been exploring the many other free museums in London. More so than any city, I find that London tends to ‘have it’ whether ‘it’ is the Rosetta Stone, or some other first of mankind.
Yesterday I was in the boat section of the science museum, and I was honored with a 20 minute lecture on Dutch crafts by a Dutchman who saw me looking at one of the thousand of models. At first I thought he was a tour guide, but he was just a friendly rosy-cheeked boat-type. Also smelled of cabbage.
The science museum blew me away: Not only do they have the original ‘Difference Engine’ built by Charles Babbage (capable of massive addition and subtraction contained within a tractor-sized contraption) but they are building another one, at great expense for a museum in the USA. The museum essentially contains the first of everything in all the sciences, and I’m glad I had a chance to check it out. Did I mention admission is free?
After spending some serious time in London, I can safely say that Londoners are among the most polite, relaxed, adaptable, and interesting people I’ve ever met. Everyone I’ve met has been incredible. They have helped me when I’ve fallen in the Airport, apologized for evil smells no matter who is responsible, and appeared generally jolly.