London 2014: Day Five – Hitching a ride with Hugo

hugo_smWhen Sunday morning rolled around, we weren’t sure what we were going to do. We had originally intended on spending the day at the Con, but the one main event we wanted to see, George R. R. Martin discussing Game of Thrones, had been cancelled by George the day before (and what a hassle that was to find out – It was listed in the printed program but then Ruta had shown me the Con’s app for making life easier and it was not listed there so we ended up at three different locations and talked to four different people before someone confirmed it had indeed been cancelled). And while there were bits of programming we wanted to see, we also wanted to see more of London (it’s a big place, after all).

On our list of possibilities were Greenwich and Museum square. The key thing Greenwich had, aside from the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum and The Cutty Sark (which are all great attractions in their own right), was the bench in honour of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ultimately it was a toss-up and then we hit upon the perfect solution: Do both.

Okay, not both, exactly, but I really wanted to see the bench and it was located just outside the station, so… we hoped on 2014-08-17 10.40.14the Light Rail and headed down to Greenwich. After a slight miscalculation we found the bench (and a few other people who were also taking pictures) and waited our turn. I was wearing my “The Answer is 42” T-shirt and had my “Don’t Panic” towel shoulder bag (Thanks Michelle! It was in great use all week!) then realized I also had my creature which could easily stand in for a Babel fish so I was all set! When pictures were taken we headed back towards town, finding our way to The Natural History Museum.

If you’ve never been, the museum is worth seeing just for the building if not for the amazing collection of artifacts. I like the building so much I bought a book on its design, architecture and construction. They also have a first rate dinosaur exhibit, which usually has a line, so when we entered the museum (after a quick bite too eat) we headed 2014-08-17 13.58.59immediately to see the old bones. The line winds around the central lobby of the museum (and the skeleton of a Diplodocus called “Dippy”) before entering the exhibit proper, where an overhead walkway takes you past several more skeletons. All of this is done very slowly, with the line progressing incrementally. What we couldn’t quite figure out, though, was where the bottleneck was since below us, in the second half of the exhibit, there were no lines or2014-08-17 12.59.04 crowds and people were walking at their own pace. On the ramp leading back down to the ground floor we found the holdup… a life size, animatronic T. Rex was menacing the crowds and naturally, everyone was stopping to take pictures. We were no exception.

2014-08-17 15.36.52From there, we saw the blue whale and the giant squid and even went into an exhibit about spiders and insects to help Rasa overcome her fear of said creepy crawlies. We walked past the stuffed animal exhibits half a dozen times which gave me the creeps each time. Look, I understand that preserving the animals, especially the extent ones, is important, but looking at taxidermic animals just gives me the heebie jeebies and I don’t care who knows it. There’s a Zoological Museum here in Kaunas with four floors of nothing but stuffed animals. I went through it once, as a favor to a friend, and I’ll never go back. I get the shivers just thinking about it!2014-08-17 13.25.09

We saw the section cut of the Giant Sequoia (planted around the 500ad) and the statue of Darwin, the gems (along with the moon rock) and a host of other nifty items.

2014-08-17 13.54.57Before leaving, we walked through the “red zone,” which is a geological look at the planet in a newer section of the museum, focusing on earthquakes and volcanos and planetary history. Really cool and accessible through a huge metal globe. 2014-08-17 14.53.20

Once we did leave, though, we headed across the street to the V&A. A lot of these big museums are free so stopping in and spending a few minutes seeing something is really no hassle. We wandered through the fashion exhibit before spending a few minutes sitting on the grass in the center of the building (there’s a small park-like area, complete with wading pond) where you can stop in, enjoy the sun, have some lunch and just chill out – which we did.

It was getting towards the close of business though, and we had to get back to the ExCel center for one of the main events of the Con, the Hugo Awards. These are one of the two big awards in Science Fiction/Fantasy, named for magazine editor and coiner of the term “science fiction” Hugo Gernsback. Even though I’d been to several WorldCons in the past, I’d never actually been to a Hugo ceremony so I was looking forward to it.

We got back in time to make one last run through the dealer’s room, picking up a few last minute items, before having a dinner and getting in line for the show. The auditorium hosting the event could only hold about 4000 people and with 10,000 registered, there would probably be a bit of overflow so we wanted to make sure we got seats. We did.

On stage, from the moment the house was opened, were two “Beefeaters” guarding a closed closet of some sort. When the ceremony started, hosted by Justina Robson and Geoff Ryman, the guards opened the closet to reveal the Awards themselves. The thing about the Hugos is that while they all feature a silver rocket, the base the rocket stands on is changed every year, designed by (and representing) the con presenting them. This year’s base (designed by Joy Alyssa Day) had the look of the “Gherkin” behind them, a very futuristic and SF looking concept.

The show was a typical awards show, with the hosts trying to provide witty banter (Ms. Robson’s insistence on telling cat stories started funny, got tired and eventually became almost embarrassing). There are 16 awards presented, ranging from fan work to professional, prose to art, and dramatic presentations, podcasts and editors (without whom none of it happens). A complete list of the 2014 winners, can be found here.

One of the highlights of the evening was Game of Thrones “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter winning for best dramatic presentation short form. To start with, the clip they showed ended right when the important stuff was about to happen, which caused a spontaneously large laugh from the crowd, who knew what was going to happen next. This was followed by Benioff and Weiss there to accept the award in person. (I discovered later that Peter Davison, who played the 5th Doctor, and was nominated for his film The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot had brought along son-in-law David Tennant (the 10th Doctor) as his guest.)

Over all, the ceremony was nice and most of the winners were absolutely flummoxed by their wins, their speeches refreshingly honest and real. There were parties afterwards, but we decided against going as we had plans early in the morning to really get our touristing on!

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