Thursday, 7 May 2009

A 'Wellcome' Day Out

I haven't been sleeping very well recently. There is nothing new in that; it's something that I often write about. The problem is that when you can't sleep at night you find it very difficult to get through the day. You are tired, you have no energy, eventually you start having a nap to get through the day and before you know where you are, sleeping becomes something that you do during the day rather than at night, which is when it is supposed to occur. Yesterday morning I woke after a mere four hours sleep and I knew that if I didn't do something about it I would be asleep again in just a couple of hours, moving more and more towards being nocturnal. So I made an effort; even though I was tired I was going to do something that would help to tire me so that I could sleep last night.

I decided to make a foray into the centre of London and visit another museum. I wrote about a previous museum visit here, made for much the same reason, and it had worked reasonably well so why shouldn't I try it again. I knew that it couldn't be one of the major museums because I didn't really have the energy to walk (and stand) for hours so I chose something that was smaller, but nonetheless interesting. I visited the Wellcome Collection.

The permanent exhibitions are displayed in a couple of large rooms, but there is also an area where special exhibitions are held and at present there are two such exhibitions under the banner Art and Mental Illness. I did take a brief walk round one (Madness and Modernity - Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna 1900) but it was the permanent exhibitions that I was more interested in, and in particular the Medicine Man exhibition which includes artefacts from Sir Henry Wellcome's collection on the history of medicine and health.

It is not the largest exhibition in the world, but for someone who has studied the history of medicine it is fascinating. There are paintings, photographs, artificial limbs, medical instruments, items relating to old therapies like cutting and bleeding, diagnostic dolls, Japanese sex aids, momento mori, amulets to ward off disease and evil spirits, items used by famous men, the mummy of a child sacrifice from Peru, and a shrunken head. It is a classic example of a Victorian collection of artefacts gathered together by a man with a passion.

I was able to while away a couple of hours looking at these artefacts and reading about them. I walked and stood, I was amazed and a little reviled, I was informed, educated and interested. The exhibition did what a good exhibition should; it allowed me to learn about a subject, and to learn a little about the man who put the collection together. It made me want to find out more.

Walking was a significant factor in the day; I walked miles. I got on a bus not far from my home and got off when it reached the end of its route. I could have got another bus almost to the doorstep of the Wellcome Trust, but I chose to walk for I knew that the exercise would do me good and help to tire me. I walked around the collection and then I walked to find somewhere for a quick lunch before walking further to a point somewhere on the route of the bus to take me home. And then after reaching the bus stop near my home I walked some more as I went to collect a prescription from my GP's surgery and then to the chemist's to get it filled. Finally I walked the last mile home.

Yesterday evening was spent reflecting on my day out, and resting my aching legs and feet. I managed to stay awake, even though I was tired, until a reasonable time so that I stood a chance of sleeping last night. When I did go to bed I fell asleep fairly quickly and though I did wake momentarily a couple of times in the night, I was able to get back to sleep quickly and sleep through until a reasonable hour this morning.

I think that I achieved a reasonably successful outcome for the day.


cb said...

I saw an advert about this exhibition and was quite curious about going. I'll have to make more effort..

alhi said...

How bizarre! I was in London yesterday for the arc interview and was intending on going here. Unfortunately the Picadilly line I was one was having signalling problems but between one thing and another I ended up spending 3 hours on a tube that should have taken 50 minutes and was 15 mins late for the interview. As I had somewhere to be later that evening, even though I had plenty of time I decided not to risk it and ended up not going to the exhibition and was 2 hours early for my next appointment! I'm in London again in a couple of weeks so hopefully I'll pop in then to it.