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Another Time

Always associated it with Hogarth's visions. And there's such an awful cynical smugness to it, a century dedicated to preening, physically and intellectually. I love the sheer absurdity of the fashions though, with little grasshopper men hopping alongside hugely panniered women, all bewigged and beauty-spotted; and there's no getting past the opulence of the interiors, with elegant wallpapers and every curtain mercilessly flounced. There's a gorgeous irony in the way the Wallace collection exemplifies this sense of revelling in wealth, the way it gives access to beauty, society and knowledge, and yet is completely free for anyone to visit. That's a true example of a gift to the people. From medieval to, well, all right, not quite modern, the exhibits are extraordinary and the place is huge. We never saw more than half of it. Also, the variations on eggs benedict in the restaurant are rather good. I'll be back.

Between the Wallace the Greenwich Observatory and home made scones and jam, I felt very spoilt this weekend. There's something extraordinary about John Harrison's mind, even more than his chronometers; we saw them moving together, great machines of extraordinary complexity; and then we saw H4, tiny and exquisite, so different from all its predecessors. Couldn't help marvelling at the sturdy lack of vanity, the pure intellect that could dismiss so many years of study and dedication to a single theory, in the pursuit of perfection.

So, 18th century England not all bad then. But I still wouldn't want to live there.

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