Friday, 28 February 2014

Google City Experts' After Hours Treasure Hunt at the Museum of London

Once upon a time, DS proved himself to be an excellent source of information on fun things to do in London, and thus became my fairy godfather of sorts - I.E. Assuming I was Cinderella, he'd let me know where all the coolest balls were being held. (It's a tortured metaphor, but stay with me here.) One day early last year, he told me about Google City Experts, but I dithered over writing the 50 necessary reviews and didn't quite get on the pumpkin until, by some twist of fate, I found out about Google Local London's #BurgerBinge contest this year, and their latest event for fully qualified City Experts: A treasure hunt at the Museum of London. Since I write so much anyway, with sufficient motivation it didn't take long to churn out all the three to four sentence reviews I needed. And poof! I made it to the ball. Closer to midnight than I'd have liked, but better late than never. (End of terrible metaphor. *throws confetti*)

Cheapside Hoard Exhibition Museum of London

Having only experienced treasure hunts in school settings - ultra-competitive and cut throat events that involved a great deal of running, screaming and finding who carried around Neoprints in their wallets with the most number of people in them (It was a common question in my time. The 2000s was strange for everyone), I wasn't expecting the Victorian-esque gentility that greeted us when we were admitted to the Sackler Hall. It was all exceedingly civilized, with an open bar and snack tables for mingling. They'd laid out the posher sort of Kettle Chips (The ones with beets and parsnips and sweet potatoes), and I was fairly impressed by that. (I'm very easily impressed, don't mind me) Did a bit more snooping round the room in between sneaking handfuls of chips. I may have squealed in delight (Just a little) when I realized that the exquisite tea-cups laid out were meant to contain Hendrick's.  

My previous trip to the Museum of London was towards the end of second year when I tagged along with SL and the Warren Street Crew, and I'd quite enjoyed myself. The treasure hunt was contained within the L2 level, which showcased London from the 1670s onward, which meant we didn't get a chance this time to go up to level E, which charted London's development from pre-historic times till the Early Modern period. Pity, since I'd liked the medieval bits, but the museum does have free entry so it's really no hardship for me to pop round another time. DS & I have our student museum cards as well, so we can enter the Cheapside Hoard exhibition gratis. Now we just have to find a day where we're both free....

It was my first time in a museum after-hours, and it was nice to see this side of the city. They were serving a really good non-alcoholic apple Mojito at the bar, and it became my drink of choice for the evening. The lovely thing about hiring the Museum of London for corporate events is that guests can eat and drink in the galleries, so I had a glass in hand throughout. This meant trotting along at a more sedate pace round the exhibits rather than mad dashing, but my legs were still tired from three hours of high intensity dancing at Morning Glory the day before so that was all I could manage anyway.

Our hosts for the evening's event were actors and actresses dressed up in suitable period costume, including multiple Victorian gentlemen, a slightly out-of-time Elizabethan lady and a suffragette. They manned the activity stations and pointed us to our next destinations when we needed to move on, keeping things running on time. It was all very well organized. 

Each group had to follow their own quiz sheet for timings and locations, which rotated us around the exhibits like smooth clockwork. My group began in the Victorian gallery, where we jumped into the deep end immediately and had to make a silent film involving the made-up shop fronts, where we were supposed to be "reviewing local businesses". It was all very meta, and this being London it involved a necessary trip to the "pub", which we decided was 'Good for a pint, but there's no #WiFi :(' A lot of sad staring at phones was captured for our movie. We should all have won Oscars really, it was so realistic.

A brief quiz section was next, followed by a session with the resident suffragette. We didn't campaign for women's rights this time, but we did make placards about London and wave them around while singing and marching round the exhibits. Radicalism - it's good fun! 

Two more quiz sections and we found ourselves back in the hall, where plates and plates of biscuits and cups of gin "tea" had been laid out. Our mad tea party involved constructing London landmarks out of the confectioneries that had been set out before us with as much realism and detail as possible. Icing sugar had been provided as cement, and we were strongly encouraged to snack as we built. This led unfortunately to the consumption of a pink wafer, a decision I still regret. I'm surprised my teeth didn't fall out after encountering that much sugar. 

I attempted to construct the Shard, a project which seemed to be going fairly well at first. I had the height desired, and all I needed to do was add a few finishing touches to get the details right.

Then disaster struck, in the form of a soggy McVities, which sent everything above the first level tumbling back down. The stuff is good for dunking in tea, but terrible for tower construction. Curse the lack of structural integrity of McVities! Ended up scarfing the offending piece, then grabbing the tureen of icing sugar to start again. 

A one stage, my remodelling of the Shard looked quite disturbingly similar to the Dark Tower - all it was missing was the Eye of Sauron. We had to move on before I could get more detail in, so the resulting piece looked a little half-baked, but I was very glad to finally wash the icing off my fingers so we could traipse off. 

A haiku, a dirty limerick and some angst about clue finding later, the treasure hunt was over and we were all gathered back into the hall to receive awards for our miscellaneous feats of daring. We were fairly amused to find that our construction table was in a far messier state than everyone else's. Had they actually eaten all their leftover biscuits? Was that a thing we had to do? 

Rosettes were given out at the prize ceremony at the end, and I was awarded one for my haiku. I bowed as I had been instructed at the Victorian Walk ("To the air! To the heart! To the ground!"), and after the ceremony ended we all adjourned to - you guessed it! - the nearest pub. 

To this day I still don't know how we did on the quiz - the answers have been put up (I knew something was wrong with the phrasing of that question!) but with our answer sheets in the hands the Google Local London team we'll probably never ever find out. (I still maintain our group won though) It had been a really marvellous evening out, and I'm looking forward to the next event they host. 

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