The London Diaries 3

The London Diaries – A survivor's guide: Animal Inside Out.

A raw deal.

No sight-seeing was in plan. After seven years in the UK I like to think of myself as a ‘familiar’ of London; I must have visited the city 20 or so times in my seven year sentence and had pretty much done the touristy bit time and over again. However, an Animal Inside Out exhibition at the National History Museum struck my fancy. I was enthralled with the idea of finally getting a glimpse of the artefacts as I had missed the Body Worlds exhibition some years ago, on the count of not being able to handle the 1 hour and 15mins queue in the rain. Arriving at the entrance of the exhibition, we were greeted by a bird expo, which was overall characterized as scrupulous. The detail in the exhibits was overpowering at times, the beaks, the rows of feathers, the feet, the wings, it was overbearing. Hummingbirds, cuckoos, canaries, parakeets, sparrows among the small ones, even peacocks, vultures, ostriches, and eagles among the larger ones. I studied them in awe all the while hoping they were not all real. At the till before paying to the main show, I asked the cashier, are the birds real? Rule of thumb as I was informed by the acme faced young man was that, anything encased you can safely bet it used to fly once. My heart sank. I looked back and there were cases everywhere! The only bird which was posturing proudly in the room was the Dodo. I actually felt relief for the extinct bird that was the only once that was not a corpse on display in the name of natural science and education. And this was only the forefeast to the proper exhibition. Brace yourselves. Upon entering, I was welcomed by an enormous Mr Squidward who was nothing like his animated projection as Bob Squarepant’s cranky but endearing neighbour. Octopi, molluscs and deep sea creatures and the glowing red capillary formation of a shark at the end of the first hall, all lay there in their transparent prisons, stupefied under the spell of plastination and staring back at me, but I did not shudder. Moving along, nervous systems served on a platter: rabbits, cats, rats; complete with brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, even the bulging eyes. Shivers? Down my non glass encased spine and I began to move a bit more quickly through the motions. Then came lessons in anatomy and skeletons of ruminants with ligaments clinging tight to the livid bones; I took a deep breath, before entering the final room thinking 'Oh my word, the ordeal must be over soon!'  I was greeted by Billy the bull, Gene the giraffe, a Harvey the horse, and Greg the gorilla, their bodies tangible and missing only the skin, all muscles and fat visible and this time, I shuddered. It was like a vegetarians’ nightmare, like the workplace of a halal butcher and I felt uncomfortably in awe and asked why. To levitate my mood, for a few seconds I reveled in the idea that the animals would take their revenge by night through some kind of zombie born breath of life!      

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