So January has been visiting museums month. On Friday, I went with Claire to the Foundling Hospital Museum in Bloomsbury, a touchingly sad museum based in the old Foundling Hospital that was set up in Georgian times by Thomas Coram as an institution where mothers could bring infants born out of wedlock that they could not afford to support. There were books with details of each child written in exquisite copperplate handwriting, and their new name. Each mother left a tiny token (see below) which was wrapped in paper and used to identify the child should a relative come forward to claim them in future. There were uniforms from as late as 1940, which I found shocking. The children were raised to go into service, either domestic (girls) or the army (boys). William Hogarth set up an art gallery there to help to raise money. Upstairs there were walls painted with bible stories, one of Moses being rescued from the bullrushes.
As I looked at the carefully-listed names of little babies, I thought of how much their tiny lives were valued. What a species we are: assigning such value to human life in one era, and in other eras gassing whole warehouses full of children and women (and men), and burying them in pits; mass murder has happened in Germany, Rwanda, and the Balkan States. Who cares about space travel to Mars? Don't we need to sort out life on Earth first?
Later, we went to hear Viv Albertine being interviewed by Fred Deakin at Central St Martins. The building is enormous; the students look tiny. There's a strange atmosphere of something about to happen, but not yet. The microphones malfunctioned for a while, making Fred sound like a rapper and Viv sound quiet as a mouse. When all had settled down, it was interesting to listen to Viv formulating new thoughts as she spoke. To promote a book, yes, you must repeat yourself, but Viv still listens to what she says as she's saying it and develops everything in a very interesting way; she also deals with sycophancy in a very neat and tidy manner. Tiredness took us home before the Q and A, but it was a Good Day.
There is so much to see and do in London. January-avoidance has never felt so good! Today, I stuck my nose back to the grindstone. I'm applying for a sabbatical to do some writing- lots, actually, but only specifying one thing on the application. It's going to take a few more hours to get it right but I hope Im successful this time around.