Klaxon alet: prepare for a statement of the flaming obvious: things are big over here. The country is big; the portions are big and as a result a lot of the people are big. But the museums are also big. Washington has an area just full of national museums which are all free. I can’t remember where we are in the UK with free museums; they weren’t free and no one went, so they made them free and too many people went and so I think we are back to to charging for them and so they are going out of business. Being a geek we went to the National Air and Space Museum. It’s big, with a lot of big stuff in it, but with it being free, that’s fine. Basically you look at the good stuff and ignore the rest. If I suddenly get an urge to look at the Wright brothers plane, then I will pop back, but in the meantime, Apollo 11 capsule, Enterprise model, a few other bits and then I’m outta there and onto the next one.
One museum which isn’t free is the International (it kind of has to be thinking about it) Spy Museum. I do like a good Bond (and even better, a Le Carre. They are like Bond but more concerned with the paperwork than the gadgets) so a visit was a no brainer. However it didn’t start well. We were ushered as a small group into a lift. As the door closed the lady herding us shouted “good luck…you’ll need it”. As we started our ascent the lift began pulsing in multicoloured lights like a bad mobile disco and a voice told us that we were soon to assume our cover id’s. Oh great, I thought, there better not be loads of am dram luvvies trying to get us to assume roles. Luckily after the first room, they petty much forgot about all that and it turned into a straight forward museum. And it was a petty good one. Lots of stuff on the Cold War; a whole section on bugging and getting people over the Berlin Wall and completely randomly (or so I thought) Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. I did spend quite a long time reading the info and playing with the exhibits. As I was getting towards the end of the section I realised there was more; a whole section about spies and codes in ancient times; then a section on spies in the civil war; then a section on propaganda and then….you get the idea.
We had spent the morning walking around Gerogetown, the temperature was still in the high nineties and pretty quickly we were beginning to flag. Every opportunity we got to sit down, we did. We spent about 20 minutes sat in the cinema watching propaganda films from the war just to rest our feet. We then set off again, knowing the end was near…but it wasn’t. We still had to go through the enigma machine (we recently watched the Imitation Game, so we skipped that. Also there was a distinct lack of Benedict Cumberbatch in their display); Hollywood spies and more army spies. Then we found the exit. Happy that we had got our money’s worth we hobbled down the stairs to….the James Bond villains exhibition.
Oh yes, there was whole floor just dedicated to Bond villains. We dragged ourselves around now randomly leaning on exhibitions as there was no opportunity sit. I found myself trying to read info about one of my favourite film franchises, but it was no good. “Must…absorb…information”. I had never tried to cram so much info since my finals.
In the end we emerged spent, blinking into the light of the gift shop, which as another half hour journey to get through. (On the matter of gift shops, why do all gift shops have about 25% stuff that is relevant to the museum and then the remaining 75% is just the same tat that you can buy from anywhere else? Just wondering.) I think we have now learnt our lesson. A museum isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Pace yourself Andrew. Pace yourself