Monday, June 17, 2013


hi there

well, i don't know about you and where you are in the world, but here we had a public holiday today. what to do with it? there was washing (dishes and clothes) that needed doing, for sure, and there's the small matter of my ongoing project to "sort stuff out" around the house. as in theory winter is here, doing things about the house seemed to be the most sensible thing.

no chance. it was still pleasantly warm enough in the sun to be out and about, so we opted to take the boys on a little surprise adventure. it's one we were sure they would like, and indeed as it turns out they very much did! where did we go on this adventure? well, the first stop was the excellence of the Gautrain station reasonably near us.

the Gautrain runs a reduced service on public holidays (one every 30 minutes or so) and the "feeder bus" things don't run. they also don't run the buses on weekends. i can only assume that this is a decision made on the basis of how much they would have to pay staff to run the service on such days. on our experience, bizarre and unfortunate - we were expecting it to be quiet, with people away for the long weekend or staying indoors away from the cold. if anything, it was busier today that it was as i experienced it on a normal verk day, suggesting that people are taking to it as a preferable means of social visting.

i mean, i understand that the Gautrain was built primarily to get commuters between Johannesburg and Pretoria off the under pressure (to say the least) highway, and indeed as an option to get to the airport stress-free, but the scope and the will of people is there to use it for non-business purposes. hopefully at some point, then, the buses will run for it on weekends and on public holidays. if they did today, we wouldn't have even needed to take my car to the station!

anyway, as per my lengthy post from a couple of weeks ago, the Gautrain stations really don't do things for people waiting for a train on the platforms or even inside the building, so it was time for a bit of messing around outside whilst we waited for the next train.

sorry, no pictures from the train ride to our mystery adventure destination! whereas James, myself and my (considerably) better half had all been on the Gautrain before, William hadn't, and we were far too interested in his excitement at doing so to be bothered with pictures!

for those of you who read my earlier epic post on the Gautrain, and indeed those of you who observed the title of this post, there probably isn't a great deal of mystery to where we were going. yes, much to the delight and surprise of the boys, our destination was the National Museum Of Natural History, which i spotted on my last trip that way.

as i suspected, James was pretty much impressed enough with just the dinosaur bones on display outside, never mind what was inside!

the reason for us picking the day today to go here was that, oddly, it's only open on weekdays, even if that weekday is a non-religious public holiday. it is, quite frankly, so amazing that they should arrange something for at least Saturdays so that families can go and see what's inside.

as for what is inside, well, what follows are a few selected pictures from the some 300 odd we took! whoops, got a bit click-happy with our blueberry phones! here, for starters, are the boys sat above something that to me looks like a velociraptor, but James says that it isn't a velociraptor and he did tell me the right name but i have forgotten, except that it might start with a d.

and here's a picture of James sat on his own, only this time from the blueberry camera thing of my (considerably) better half. this means that the pictures are of considerably better quality, which they should be since her device cost a fair few thousand more than mine!

as for what's inside the museum in general, many wonderful and excellent things, really. far more than the rather dreary, official webpage thing suggests. exactly why the website is so dreary is beyond me. maybe they don't want to show off all the exhibits so as to encourage people to actually visit, although the website hardly suggests "come along" and the opening hours are tricky. it's probably dull as it is a government thing, then.

basically, you get a record of "natural" history. granted, yes, a "made up" history museum would be ace, featuring as it would mostly an account of the world as Mel Gibson thinks it might have happened and the added bonus of Terminators criss-crossing time, but natural history did us just fine. who, after all, does not love dinosaurs? 

the museum mostly takes you on the path of evolution, or if you will the development of life on this planet of ours. all the displays of findings - fossils, reconstructions, what evidence has been found - is truly staggering and breathtaking.

some look to the stars and the skies to see just how insignificant we possibly are. me, i say we have made an error in judgement that we currently know more about the moon than we do what's in our oceans. for all we know, colonies of these massive crabs may still wander around the seas!

when one sees something like the early forms of life - basic cell structures and what have you - and how they have developed over millions of years (even allowing for the 'phantom time hypothesis'), you get a sense that what caused life to start here doesn't really matter at all. i don't particularly care if you believe that we were placed here by God or what Deity you believe in, if you believe that we are the result of some scientific thing, stardust from an asteroid or put here by aliens, to be honest. when you see the fight, the effort, the struggle and indeed the sheer fluke ways we have got life to the point we have now it truly does give one a sense of perspective.

it also gives class displays with buttons to press. 

the boys, we were delighted to see, had a truly amazing, eye-opening time at the museum. James has an astonishing thirst for knowledge and learning, one that we are always happy to try and help him quench. he has so far, and hopefully shall continue this way, never tired of learning new things. 

William, at this stage of his life, certainly has the fascination with new and unusual things, but is not perhaps as willing to learn and understand as James is. he just wants things to "do things" that amuse and interest him. well, didn't we all at that age?

you wnat more pictures of that dinosaur that to me looks like a velociraptor but apparently isn't a velociraptor as such, but all the same seems to be related to it? of course you do. here's one of those "perspective" pictures!

and here is a close up of the chap, or indeed the "lady velociraptor that isn't a velociraptor as such" if it is a girl dinosaur.  

yes i probably should take the time and effort to look up the proper name for this dinosaur, since i clealry like it a great deal. James, however, is in bed, and if i google "what's the name of that dinosaur that looks like a velociraptor but isn't one" i will no doubt just get a load of nonsense back.

i have a theory that the myth of dragons came about when, back in the era they were spoken of, people stumbled upon dinosaur fossils and bones and had no idea what they were. if you see a dinosaur fossil, it looks dark to the point you could interpret it as "a bit burned", so why not assume it's a massive flying lizard that emits fire?

away from dinosaurs of as yet undetermined name and the development of life on this planet, there's a huge amount on display of both present and, in the grand scheme of things, recently departed forms of life. the boys, for instance, were most impressed with the look at apes and "sapiens" as such.

something that certainly interested all of us was in the picture below. ladies and gentlemen, the extinct thing that is perhaps the most famous extinct thing that is not a dinosaur. yep, the dodo!

well, OK, that mammoth thing is probably just as famous an extinct thing that is not a dinosaur, but the saying is not "as dead as a mammoth", is it? i was quite impressed to see the above, and i hope the picture does it some sort of justice! if you are in a position to get to the museum, it's worth going to see this, along with all the other stuff!

a possibly controversial, in this day and age, inclusion at the museum is a section on how one exactly goes about catching and carving up whales. environmentalists and fans of Star Trek IV all go on about how we should protect whales, and they are no doubt right to do so. what one rarely sees, however, is information on exactly why the Japanese get such a hard on about hunting them down. if it was out of some sort of Predator fantasy, you would have thought sharks would be more challenging than a big massive whale.

this poster, for those interested, shows off exactly what the Japanese do with these whales when they have caught them.

they do substantially more than just show off the whale as a trophy, then, but i am not at all convinced that the above justifies them hunting them to the point of reported extinction. make your own mind up on that one, i guess.

moving around, and William just could not get enough of the birds and butterflies on display. loads and loads of them, as it happens!

his interest in them is admirable and wonderful, and entirely fitting with some thoughts i have on exactly what sort of character traits he is developing. whereas i keep my copy of The Silence Of The Lambs under lock and key, this interest he has in bugs, specifically grabbing them and trying to give them to ladies as "gifts", suggests that some of my DNA or whatever it is contained enough knowledge of the novel and film that William has taken to seeing certain things as "quite natural". we will watch how this develops with interest!

after a good walk around for over an hour, it was time to head home. not, of course, without going and checking out the magnificent dinosaur skeletons on display outside once again! 

i am pretty sure these are not actual dinosaur fossil bones but rather recreations. the value of dino bones might not be as high as you might think, but then again they would not be the easiest thing to replace if someone decided to walk off with them. who, exactly, would steal a massive set of dinosaur bones? i've had enough nights on the lash to know that big and massive things look totally awesome to take home with the right level of substances in you.

now then, here are another ste of bones that have got us a little bit puzzled. well, James a "little" puzzled, the rest of us totally baffled.

it's certainly some sort of aquatic life, that set of bones is, but we have no idea on the name. James remembers seeing it in one of his books, but can't remember the name of it. i would say "as it's dead now it does not matter what its name is", but i am pretty sure this is the kind of sea dwelling fish thing that many believe lives to this day in the realm of Loch Ness.

here's one of those "perspective" shots for you again, see if you can spot the boys in relation to the skeletons!

after a brief(ish) stop for lunch at the McDonalds near the train station, it was time to head home. the boys were really very well behaved on the train and on the platforms, which made the day all the better. to show off how well behaved they were, they even posed for a picture and looked the same way at the same time for it! 

oh, go on then, a couple of pictures from on (or if you will be pedantic, in) the train. first up James and is Mummy having a nice chat as the world goes by the window!

and then, although i cannot imagine you would have all that much interest in seeing me, one of William and i sat across from them two. 

William, as you can see, does not look all that keen on posing for a picture. can't blame him really, he was far too interested in watching everything out of the window, with a particular level of excitement when we went through a tunnel.

to that end, i did manage to get one of them "arty" like pictures of him watching the world go by. well, as "arty" a picture as one of them blueberry phone camera things lets you take, i guess!

all in all, quite a magnificent day out! if we are lucky enough to get a public holiday on a weekday again soon we will certainly consider going back up for another look around. this would be a good idea in particular as one of the halls was closed off for some sort of floor polishing, meaning there are even more amazing things to be seen!

if you've hit on this blog as a result of one of them google things to find out about the museum, then hopefully your answer is yes, go! via the Gautrain, it's a 10 minute walk up Paul Kruger Street straight out of the Pretoria station.

whether you were at verk, on a public holiday or just a general holiday, i can only hope that you too (and indeed U2, bless them) had as fantastic a day as we all had!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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