May 6th, 2006 | by Charlotte |

A surreal day. I wanted to go to the Dali Universe exhibit again. Last time I was there was the day my wallet was stolen. I’ve got bad memories from later in the day, but I remember my first visit with affection. There’s something about the surreal that makes me want to write – it’s perfect inspiration. And Dali was such a wonderful, old ratbag that he makes me smile. His open adoration of his lifelong wife, Gala, was really sweet and his work manages to be imaginative, skilled, irreverent and laugh out loud funny at the same time. A bronze cup, so badly warped that it looks like a lotus on a lilypad, is called “Cup For Not Drinking” (very accurate title) and he stuck a couple of truck tires around Michelangelo’s Slave sculpture and called it ‘Michelin Slave’.

So I took the District Tube line down to Westminster. On the way down, I shared a carriage with a mother and her two little boys who talked like extras from the Oliver movie. Total Londoners, right down to the way they wore socks with sandals. One of the boys was called James. There’s that name again. I bet if you stood in a crowded room in London and shouted “James!” half the men in the room would think you were calling them.

When you leave Westminster station, you pop up right under Big Ben. It looks beautiful and gilded from close up.

Big Ben from below

I crossed Westminster Bridge, walking towards the London Eye and the County Hall. County Hall used to be London’s seat of government, the Greater London Council, until the leader ‘Red Ken’ got up Margaret Thatcher’s nose and she closed them down.

London Eye and County Hall

Now it houses London Aquarium, the offices of the London Eye, a Marriott Hotel (with a turf scuplture) and the Dali Universe.

London Eye and County Hall close up

Turf sculpture at Marriot Hotel

There was a Dali look-alike outside the Dali Universe, who gave me a discount. I couldn’t take photos inside, but I did take this one. A boat, with Dali and Gala on board, Gala’s initial on the sail. The boat is actually a snail shell, snails crop up regularly in Dali’s work.

Dali boat

Feeling surreal, I left the Dali Universe a few hours later. It was pouring with rain, but I walked. I could hear weird, ethereal music – almost Indian but with electric guitars and synthesizers. It was beautiful and I followed the sound, past Westminster Station, and up Parliament Street


and Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. The last time I was there, I fed the pigeons, but pigeon feeding has been banned since then, and the famous lions and column are under scaffolding. There was a massive crowd, watching an immense, mechanical elephant walking down the street. The music was coming from the elephant, which was a work of art, with a pavilion on its back full of musicians and fan-waving dancing girls, and ornate windows along its side. It was surreal as hell.

French elephant

I asked the woman standing next to me what it all meant and she didn’t know, but while I talked to her, a very strange man came up to me, stared intently and ran both his hands down my right arm. “That’s his way of saying hello,” said the woman. “He doesn’t talk.” My day was getting weirder.

The crowded kept following the elephant, and I walked with them, past Admiralty Arch (though not through it, they open the middle gate for state occasions).

Admiralty Arch

I still didn’t know what the elephant was, and as I passed a crowd of fluorescent vested policemen wearing blue tits on their heads, I asked one what the elephant was for.

The policeman considered the question. “It’s an elephant that walks down the street,” he said.

“You mean nothing’s being celebrated? There’s no reason for this parade?” I asked.

The policeman shook his head, “No, it’s just an elephant that walks down the street. It’s French, you know,” he added, as if that explained everything.

After a while I got sick of the crowds and I walked back to Westminster Station. It’s amazing what you pass when you go for a wander in London. Some of the places I had heard of, such as Scotland Yard, Other things I hadn’t, such as the Queen’s Life Guards. They were in this beautiful building.

Life Guards

You can walk right in through the gate and their uniforms look pretty swish. They appear to be forbidden to respond, a little like the guards at Buckingham Palace, but unlike the Buckingham Palace guards you can get right up close. People were standing next to the Life Guards and getting their pictures taken, but the guard’s expressions didn’t even budge. I notice that they had a sign up recruiting for more guards. The tourists must be getting this lot down.

Life Guard

I walked deeper into the building and found a courtyard with a wooden rocket ship. I asked a nearby family what the rocketship was and they said, “That’s the ship the girl came out of.” Huh? Did I miss another surreal French performance?

Wooden rocket

Walked back down the street and realised I was walking past Number 10 Downing Street. It’s not hard to miss. There’s a bloody great wrought iron gate preventing people from entering the street (apparently they had trouble with the IRA shooting rockets at Number 10 so they blocked the street off).

Number 10

There were also 3 policemen, all wearing bulletproof vests and one packing the biggest automatic rifle I’ve ever seen.

Near the station, I noticed I was standing on the exact spot Charles I bit the dust. Ewugh! ;-p

Charles I

Doctor Who Update

A beautiful and poignant episode written around the life of Madame de Pompadour. Very sad at the end.

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  1. 5 Responses to “Surreal”

  2. By cjb on May 7, 2006 | Reply

    You were lucky to have seen that:

    It looks like the rocketship is apart of the act as well.. It’s either Jules Verne, or Wallace and Gromit. ^_^

  3. By Charlotte on May 7, 2006 | Reply

    Apparently there was a 40 foot wooden girl puppet, which I only got a quick view of because they dismantled her for the day not long after I arrived. Her framework, covered in actors wearing 17th garb, went past me and I got a photo or two. It took about 20 people to operate her.

    Anyway, the little girl came out of the rocketship. I wasn’t there at the time, I only saw the rocketship.

    I saw an article about this show in the paper today:

    Damn, they get up to weird shit in London, don’t they? 😉

  4. By cjb on May 8, 2006 | Reply

    Ah, the reason it looks so familiar is because I read an article about it last year, when the parade premiered for the Jules Verne 100th anniversary celebrations in France.

  5. By Charlotte on May 8, 2006 | Reply

    I heard this wasn’t the first time the play/parade/whatever has been performed.

  6. By yewenyi on May 18, 2006 | Reply

    Sounds like it was the Royal de Luxe spectacular!

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