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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Bodyworlds Piccadilly

Not piccalilli.

Not peccadillo.

Not even Pickled Liver (though there might have been one). Thank you Siri and iphone autocorrect for trying to direct me to all of these places.

1, Piccadilly Circus, in fact.

Yes, Bodyworlds has a new permanent home in London. (one of quite a few around the world).

Bodyworlds 4th floor sketch

It opened last month, and I had to rush down to see it. If you've not been to, or heard of Bodyworlds, then it is worth being forewarned that the display is basically lots and lots of preserved (by plastination), skinned and anatomised human bodies (plastinates), displayed in various imaginative and artistic ways. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this is something unique to our modern age - a frenchman called Fragonard already invented it in 1766 - and a museum in France preserves some of his work.

Bodyworlds poker playing trio

There are no photos allowed in Bodyworlds, so I made some very careful, detailed and accurate sketches. As you can see from the depiction of the three poker players here.

Fortunately, they also sell catalogues, which augments my notes nicely. And shows many plastinates that are not on display in London, but across the world.

My notes on the visit are:

  • It is quite pricey to go in (£24.50), so do plan to spend a good couple of hours there getting the most from it.

  • It is laid out by system - locomotion (muscles and bones), nervous system, respiratory system etc.

  • It is over three floors - starting at the fifth floor (by lift), with revealing peeks through a glass floor to the levels below and the horseman.

  • You will likely be handed an audio guide too. Some people love them. I don't.

  • As well as the many plastinates and diseased lungs that you'd expect if you've been before, there are also chill out zones and interactive games.

The thing that I really love is that it was full of young people - people with the curiosity and interest in their bodies, and young enough for messages about healthy eating and exercise to have a major impact on their future.

The exhibit that had the most memorable effect on me was quite near the beginning, talking about stress. How we evolved to cope with peaks of stress in fight, flight, freeze and... such. But now we have a constant stream of mini-stress-inducing experiences which was illustrated with a massive display of chocolates of different types and flavours. How do you choose? Did you choose the right one?

Hotel Chocolat choices

In this "tyranny of choices" it talks about the limbic system, the amygdala (controlling anxiety), the hypothalamus (hormone centre), the hippocampus (crucial for memory) and how all these systems are chronically working overtime in the modern world, causing health problems.

Choosing chocolate is not always a difficult choice, as I live near the Hotel Chocolat factory shop (Redwongs, Huntingdon, often 70% savings) and enjoy their bargain mix bags. But I've put a lot of energy and thought into those choices.

Other things, like the best hedge trimmer for leylandii, whether to mend or replace my vacuum cleaner, how many comparison sites to check for my car insurance renewal, should I catch that loose rabbit in my garden or will it upset my cat too much, or whether to order the smashed avocado and heritage tomato on sourdough toast rather than a cheese sandwich... all these things just add little drops of stress to life under the guise of choice. It's good to have choice for things you care about, but other things really can feel too complex to just get done easily.

So, choose a chocolate. Eat it in moderation. Set a limited time to handle crazy choices, get them done and then forget them. And instead take time to chill out. Watch Killing Eve. Go for a run. Or a walk. And remember how great it is to be alive!*

*Meanwhile, I'm also working on my next Dying for Life event. So, once you're chilled out, subscribe to the mail list and I'll catch you up on choices of what to do for all those centuries that you're dead.

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