christmas in south ken

NHM Xmas 2015
There are a few places in the world that are very special to me, and this is one of them – the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. I came here just before Christmas with my family to see the dinosaurs (Dippy the Diplodocus is still taking pride of place in the main hall, but will soon be replaced with a whale skeleton). I used to come here when I was a child to see the dinosaurs (Dippy was my favourite), when my older sister used to bring me here as a four-year-old so that I could argue with the staff about vertebrae (I never understood that story either). I was a total dinosaur nut, and I even still have a few of my old dinosaur books from my youth. Those dinosaur illustrations enthralled me, and the long hard-to-pronounce names were fascinating to me. This place is more than just dinosaurs of course, and within its walls it keeps a massive collection of specimens from all periods of natural history – around 80 million specimens in all, mostly housed in the Darwin Centre. This is an unbelievably important place. But back to the dinosaurs, the term ‘dinosaur’ was coined by Dr. Richard Owen, who eventually helped to found the Natural History Museum. This building was opened in 1881, and is one of the jewels of London. And importantly, it is free to go in.My son’s not as into dinosaurs as I was, he kind of likes them, but he really likes rocks and minerals, so he enjoyed that. After we were done and had played a few games of Top Trumps in the cafe, we went and had lunch in South Kensington (it’s so nice there, so civilized, and I had an organic mince pie which is very posh of me), I went back to use up the rest of the daylight sketching the ice rink and Christmas tree in front of the museum. In London in December it starts getting dark at about half past three, though this was an unseasonably mild day with some clear sky. The scene before the museum is so festive, I might make it into a Christmas card next year. You’d probably not catch me ice skating though.
mince pie

mince pies

mince pies
Christmas is coming. Which means mince pies. These mince pies in particular were made by a fellow Brit at work, and who kindly made me a whole tin of these little bite-sized festive treats (thanks Jean!). They were delicious, and very nice with a cup or tea or three. So, I had to draw them. It was an act of unbelievable will power to sit and smell them in front of me while drawing and not eat any until I was done. Well, in fact I’d had a few first, but still, the rest of them didn’t last long afterwards. Hopefully I get some time to make some myself, though mine are always messier and uneven, not that I notice the shape as they fly into my belly.

Dear Americans who don’t know: mince pies are not made with meat. The “mincemeat” used is something else entirely. I must admit I stopped trying to encourage my American family to eat them some years back, because I realized that there would be more left for me. And Santa of course, who loves them. Home-made ones are much nicer; although in England I always used to get those yummy ones from Marks & Spencer. One thing about M&S mince pies though folks, they always seem to have a useful best-before date of December 24th. Make sure you give Santa the freshest ones.

One other thing you may be interested in, my American friends, when a Londoner says “mince pies” he might also mean his “eyes”, which is Cockney Rhyming Slang. I don’t really use that one myself, mostly because it makes me suddenly very hungry at the very thought. I really love mince pies.