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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Europe CNY 2012 - Day 1, Part 3 - Kew Gardens

"Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough." - George Bernard Shaw

***

Europe CNY 2012
Day 1 - 19th January - Kew Gardens
(Part 3)

Kew's motto is: "Plants. People. Possibilities". It's quite nice.

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Front of Temperate House

Sadly the Africa and the Island Asia & New Zealand areas were closed. Gah, winter.

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On the Temperate House. It was completed in 1898.

There was a slight scent in one part of the house.

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Erica mammosa, and on Ericas

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Encephalartos woodii, one of the world's rarest plants which is now extinct in the wild. They only ever found a male specimen, so all extant examples are clones.

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Side of Temperate House

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Another entrance

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The first bench I found dedicated to living people: "Philip and Valerie Flindall who still enjoy these gardens"

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King William's Temple. Inside it was almost totally bare - there were some plaques on the walls

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Palm House, another glasshouse

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Inside Palm House

It wasn't very interesting and didn't have many signs, so I didn't spend too long inside; Kew closed at 4:15pm (it being winter), which was bad enough but the glasshouses closed at 3:45pm, so I decided to go to more interesting glasshouses.

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Lake. Across the lake is the Plants & People exhibition (there didn't seem to be a building name)

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Swans

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Oblong Griffins (?)

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"Brian Ralph Dopson. As a child, for just a penny I could visit Kew"
Damn inflation - it cost me £13,90.

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Princess of Wales Conservatory

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Masters of Disguise: Aizoaceae (living stones)
Ironically, "Kew has one of the best collections of semi-arid plants in the world"

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Cactii

Zone 3 - Desert had a fragrance in the air.

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"Spot the difference?"
Convergent evolution

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"Tweet & Grow"
Everyone is jumping on the Mobile bandwagon
Incidentally, since this turns out to be a code for a secret plant in the app, let me just spell it out: "Unlock your mystery rainforest plant with this code 'CANOPY'". One of the reviews on Google Play says that the reviewer won a free ticket to Kew using the app. Wah.
This was also an example of leapfrogging: I didn't see any multimedia displays, and the closest was one (and just one) button you could press to hear bird sounds. Yet there were signs for smartphone apps.

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Titan Arum
This beats the Rafflesia

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Orchids

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"Have you seen a coffee plant before?"
I couldn't spot it in the exhibit

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Cacao

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The many rooms and zones (10) in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Despite being new-looking the building is not named after the Princess of Wales who opened it (Diana) but Augusta from 250 years back.

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On mangroves

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Red Mangrove

When I was regarding the mangroves, something struck me as very wrong. After a few moments of reflection, it struck me:

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The cleanest mangroves I'd ever seen

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On Amazon waterlilies and fish

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Hopefully there were no hungry pirahnas in the pool (I saw one fish lurking in the water with menacing whiskers)

There was a section on animal-eating plants.

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Sarracenia minor (Hooded pitcher plant)

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Dangerous Scotland

Most of the carnivorous plants were pitcher variants.

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Heliamphora nutans

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Sundews

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More Sarracenias

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Cactii

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Giant yam (Alocasia macrorrhizos)

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Princess of Wales Observatory

Happily, I finished the Princess of Wales Observatory just as it was closing. I didn't manage to see some of the less prominent sights.

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Temple of Aeolus

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"Victoria Regina"
This fountain likely dates from Queen Victoria's time

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I can't remember why I took this. Possibly because the restoration date was indicated.

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Lake, sunset and Hercules and Achelous

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Sessile Oak, grown from an acorn taken from Verdun in 1917.

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On the Chinese Guardian Lions. I am suspicious of their provenance, though they might have been bought.

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Sessile Oak and Chinese Guardian Lions

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On the right, the only bench I found without a dedication plaque. Though note that by virtue of its design, you cannot mount a plaque on it (at least not one like the other plaques)

Seeing condensation on the breath of a turbaned Sikh brought the following thought to mind: I'd never seen a turbaned Sikh smoking. Perhaps due to possible fire hazard.

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Notice that these benches are outside the gates of Kew Gardens. Notice that they also have memorial plaques. GAH.

While walking to the tube station, I saw canned Pimm's in the window of a shop called "Nicolas". This struck my attention since everything else they sold was wine, so I went in. It turned out it was a French company and the girl at the counter was French.

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£2,45 for the novelty of Canned Pimm's. It's nicer with fruit inside.

I saw a pub beside the Kew Gardens station with a sign "Free House". Puzzled, I asked a guy sitting outside it and he said it meant it was not owned by a brewery and could sell any type of beer. Only 20% of English pubs are Free Houses. The pub also advertised "real ales", and he said it meant they were natural and not chemically made like lagers.

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"WARNING CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS
Parents are advised to warn children of the dangers of entering construction sites"
Presumably after you warn your kids, you can let them enter freely.

Getting to my accommodations, I surveyed my entertainment options for the evening. It was rather late so I decided to watch an opera. It was only £12 and it was nearby. The downside was that it was Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. Nonetheless I viewed it as a way to support the arts.

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Location: across the river

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Electronic signboard advertising the opera, a collaboration between the English Pocket Opera Company and the BA (Hons) Performance Design and Practice course at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design (part of the University of the Arts London)

The guy at the ticket counter reassured me that it was good, because I asked and only 35/100 tickets had been sold.

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I had a lamb and mint curry puff pasty. Besides being flaky it was also crispy, and it was supposed to be baked. Perhaps there is a future for healthier baked curry puffs in Singapore.

I looked around and I and an East Asian girl (probably a friend of the set designer with a Japanese name) were the only non-whites in the audience. The implications for integration are interesting. Alternatively, one can pinpoint high art for marginalising minorities. Of course, people don't do this very often - possibly because the ones who beat on the drum of victimisation are also the ones enjoying high art.

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Programme. They put up a children's version of Don Giovanni. I was very skeptical. Note that all the designers are girls. Maybe because the boys do more "serious" courses (of course, this could also be an example of Structural Violence).

The staging was interesting, with the audience being led to connected rooms, and then to different levels of the building.


This is so obscure that Soundhound cannot identity it. I went to listen to preview tracks on Amazon but nothing sounded similar either. This is probably Door 5, the Kingdom.

In 2001 on the day I'd landed in London I'd gone for a concert at night, and I'd fallen asleep. History repeated itself (only twice, IIRC). Partly because the opera was so horrible.

King's Cross station was under renovation. So there was an interesting sight:

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"Important Information. Platform 9 3/4 (Harry Potter) has been relocated to the far end of Platform 8
If you need help please speak to one of our staff or call the helpline on 08457 11 41 41"
I was tempted to call and say "help, I can't enter platform 9 3/4!"

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"Important Information
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Platform 9 3/4 in an ignominous backroom

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"Jenningsbet. Free bet. Losing Slip Draw. Simply write your name on the back and place your losing slip in the box below for a chance to win a free bet of up to £20 in our weekly draw"
A novel way to encourage gambling

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"Full English Breakfast £4.50 only
12 items for £4.50
2 fried eggs
2 smoked rashers
1 hash brown
1 poultry sausage
1 sauteed mushroom
1/2 grilled tomato
1 baked beans
2 toasted bread & butter
1 tea or coffee"
This was very cheap.
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