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Technology Intervention #6 – Burger Bear burger, the Clockmakers’ Museum and the Hunterian Museum

Despite the *terrible* London weather my 6th Friday away from the screen had a strong start.

I tubed up to Old Street and wandered through the rain to the corner of Red Market. As that’s where Burger Bear set themselves up on a Friday, it was a logical first stop. Burger Bear has been on my ‘to do’ list since my brother called me from the Isle of Wight Chilli Fiesta last year. He raved about their burger for about twenty minutes – good sign number 1. Then at Christmas this year the GF gave me a jar of Burger Bear bacon jam. It’s pretty amazing – good sign number 2. So I was happy to finally give them a go.

I’ll keep it short because I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to writing a review on CheeseburgerBoy. It’s a fantastic burger. It’s dirty and drippy and perfect. I’d go as far as saying it’s in my London top 3. For sure. I hope their Kickstarter campaign succeeds and they manage to get a fixed location. Definitely a burger you should try.

Burger Bear

By the time I’d finished (about 45 seconds after getting the burger) the rain was easing. I strolled down City Road and headed towards the Clockmakers’ Museum. I’m a bit of a horophile, so I was rather excited to have a look around. The museum itself isn’t huge, but the collection is marvellous and there’s a lot to take in.

You read around 16 or so boards that explain the history of timekeeping in UK, from the start through to the current day. It had never occurred to me how important time was in the creation of the empire. In particular the following line really stood out – “Societies who have no exact timekeepers, arrange themselves in such a way that they do not need them”. Aside from the obvious (the business of building an empire), I suppose it dawned on me how important time is in everyday life. When we don’t plan (or can’t plan), there’s no structure.

Clockmakers' Museum

Aaaaanyway… It was astonishing to see exactly how important timekeeping had become by the early 18th century. To conquer the world, we had to travel by water. When travelling by water, you must be able to navigate. To navigate at sea, you must have an accurate timekeeping device. So in 1714 the government created the Longitude Prize – £20,000 to anyone that could that could determine longitude within 30 nautical miles. Using a historical calculator, I worked out that would be more than £1.5 million today. Not too shabby. From what I gather, no-one managed to get the £20k (top) prize, but the government handed out over £100k to encourage the clockmakers.

If you’re in the area and enjoy tiny mechanical boxes of wonder, it’s worth a look. It’s open Monday to Saturday until 4.45pm and entry is free.

Heading back out into the (now terrible) rain, I wandered to Bank tube and hopped on the central line. I hopped off a few stops later at Holborn and meandered down Kingsway towards Lincoln Fields. Opposite Lincoln Fields is the Royal College of Surgeons, home of the Hunterian Museum.

The RCS

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know what to expect at the Hunterian. I’d be told it was a pretty interesting place and filled with some kooky bits – in retrospect that undersells it rather dramatically. Bluntly, the Hunterian is freaky. It consists of a collection of (mostly) anatomical artefacts purchased from the Scottish surgeon John Hunter by the government in 1799. The collection has since been supplemented by other purchases (although a fair amount was destroyed by WWII bombing).

There’s an awful lot to take in. An awful lot. There is a lot of stuff in jars. An *awful lot*. Animals, foetuses, babies, diseased body parts, normal body parts – it goes on and on and on. There’s even a collection of penises [sniggers]. Were you to read every label, I suspect you’d be there for about ten days. You can’t take photos inside, so you have to excuse the quality of my surreptitious mobile snap (sorry Hunterian – I donated generously on the way out).

The Hunterian

The collection of dental and surgeons tools spooked me somewhat. I’m sure in a couple of hundred years time, when our descendants are brushing their teeth with stem cells and using that neat machine from Elysium, they’ll look back at us with horror. But looking back at the anaesthetic free butchering that was going on only a few generations back made me wince. Still, big round of applause to all those who suffered/practiced/grave robbed to get us to the point we’re at today. Jolly good show and all that…

Aside from the tools, there were some other brilliant oddities. My favourites included the brain of computing pioneer and polymath Charles Babbage, the 7 foot 7 skeleton of Irish giant Charles Byrne and a set of Winston Churchill’s dentures. Interestingly, as well as these being gold, they didn’t fit correctly. Despite continued practice try and lose his lisp (‘the Spanish ships I cannot see for they are sheltered’), Churchill realised it was his trademark and the dentures were designed in a way that preserved the impediment.

I probably spent a couple of hours wandering around the place. Despite being astonishingly grizzly, it’s really rather fascinating. That said, I did need a pint when I came out… The Hunterian is free (although you should donate!) and open Tuesday to Saturday until 5pm. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re nearby.

And thus concludes another Friday adventure. Until next time!

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