Wednesday, 26 May 2010

cartography, and the art of coffee

Yesterday would have been my 33rd consecutive day at work, and due to the fact that the one "day off" was spent with a migraine, I don't think it counts. Therefore, I am conveniently ignoring its existence and labelling today my 33rd consecutive day at work instead. It would follow then, that yesterday was day number 32.

I was booked at Job A from 10-1, and Granddad gave me a lift there accordingly which meant I had to be up at 8. (The early morning wasn't too pleasant considering (I think) I have an upper respiratory infection at the moment, and my head constantly feels like someone has inflated a balloon inside it).

At Job A I learned by proxy about the onset, aetiology and presentation of various horrific and debilitating cancers while diligently taking notes to be typed up later. It was enlightening, yet slightly terrifying. (Un)fortunately I had to miss the second part of the lecture because of a compulsory (yet arbitrary) training session for Job B.

The journey to aforementioned training session was a pain in the ass, especially considering I made an unnecessary detour home to collect my uniform (which as the "unnecessary" suggests wasn't needed). Somehow I managed not to be late, even not knowing how to get to the destination - I had to purchase some onion rings in a nearby shop and ask the proprietor for directions (which he kindly gave).

Job B's training was all about coffee, and now if any customers ask questions like "what countries border the one where your coffee is from?" or "what is the ratio of Arabica beans to Robusta beans in your decaffeinated blend?", I can answer without fear of spreading misinformation. Demonstrations were also given on milk frothing (optimal volume, timing and bubble removal), milk pouring (optimal angle, rate and jug handling), and final presentation (optimal colour, temperature and cocoa sprinkling).

Training finished after just an hour despite being timetabled to last 4, so I decided to make full use of my travelcard and head to the British Museum to have a look at their exhibition on maps. But first I needed a brief respite from the overload of mental stimulation I'd encountered so far, and luckily one was forthcoming: hilarious birthday cards:

After laughing like a moron for a few minutes and feeling slightly foolish in front of the tourists floating around (the training venue was in a Central London market), I headed to the nearest underground station, asked therein for directions to the British Museum, and began my journey. In a weird (but convenient) twist of events, I saw a sign for the very exhibition I was heading to on the underground platform. I also noted with interest the location: British Library. This piece of news altered my journey slightly, and so I headed back up to ground, along a couple of streets, and through the doors of the British Library.

At first I just stood inside and soaked in the atmosphere - this is truly a magnificent building. The welcome hall is enormous, well designed, and attractive. Informative pamphlets were available, so I picked one up and was immediately amazed; their collection contains such items as original copies of Shakespeare's writings, hand-written Beatles lyrics, and Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks, not to mention thousands of rare and priceless books. I later found out the former 3 were on public display, and spent a short time drooling over them (what a nerd I am).

The map exhibition was good. Its idea is to provide a visual history of maps as an art form, and as devices of propaganda, displaying status and education. Several examples are given of each, all originals (some dating as far back as the 15th Century) and all interesting. The collection features the world's largest atlas, and the smallest, the first map of America as a nation, wartime propaganda maps, and many others. Realising that I know nothing about maps beyond how to read them, I joined a guided tour that started just after I went in, and in exchange for forfeiting the right to exhibition at my own pace, was accepted into the crowd.

I'm no reviewer, and I don't like spoilers so I shalln't go into the contents of the talk here. Instead I'll post this link to the exhibition, and strongly advise you to go see it for yourself. And for those of you short on money/time/intellect who need persuading, it's free/short/not too complicated.


  1. If you get me the rug muncher card for my birthday I will love you forever just for the look on my mum's face, because you are my 'nicest friend' according to her!!!

  2. I'm looking for a victi... recipient for that card actually! Maybe I'll do that ;)