National Holidays trip to Scotland

View of Ailsa Craig
View of Ailsa Craig

I was going to be at home for over a week – coming up for the Spice Girls concert, staying for a family meal – and I suggested to my mam that we go somewhere on holiday together. We opted for a cheap National Holidays deal, a trip to Scotland featuring Loch Lomond and the Ayrshire coast.

Moffat
Moffat town centre

We joined the coach at Sunderland; I was the youngest person there, but only by about 20 years, not 30. Our first proper stop (not counting the Houghton Hall garden centre near Carlisle) was Moffat, a former spa town near the Scottish border with a quaint high street, a tiny museum and a statue of a sheep overlooking the town centre.

Ayr
The town of Ayr

The next day featured trips to Girvan and Ayr. The best thing about Girvan, to be honest, was the rainbow ice cream cone which I joyfully Instagrammed. The weather wasn’t great and the local museum was shut. Ayr was bigger and had a Wetherspoons that used to be a pub (big plus) but we were too far away to visit the nearby Burns Cottage, which was a real missed opportunity.

Unicorn ice cream
Uni-cone

The third day featured a boat ride on Loch Lomond, but as I’d done this before and the weather was windy, I spent most of my time downstairs. My mam, who is much hardier than I am, stuck it out on the top deck almost till the end and appeared none the worse for it.

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

A trip to Glasgow followed, with a tour round the city followed by a guided tour of the Council Chambers in George Square and a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art to pass the time until the bus called for us again. Even though we’d visited Glasgow before I thought this was one of the best parts of the trip, as we still managed to find new things to do.

Glasgow council chambers
The council chambers in Glasgow

We stayed in the Adamton Country Hall Hotel near Prestwick Airport. The hotel looks pretty posh until I point out that we were staying in the budget bit at the back. It was fine, the meals (breakfast and dinner provided) were perfectly decent. It’s a shame that we were in the middle of nowhere and were pretty much trapped in the evening. The company does put on entertainment in the evening, but bingo and cabaret isn’t really my thing, although we gave the bingo a shot. Mostly we drank wine and chatted to the other guests, and I took the opportunity to have a few baths, having brought along a couple of Lush bath bombs for the occasion.

Adamton Country House Hotel
The posh side of the hotel

Would I sign up for another National Holidays trip? Perhaps. They’re definitely aimed at older people, and the itinerary and entertainment takes this into account. However, they’re good value for money – well, cheap – and if you don’t drive they can be a good way of getting to places you’d otherwise struggle to go. My mam and I would have liked to have more control over where we went (I wish we could have avoided Girvan and paid a visit to Burns Cottage) but if there was a day or an overnight trip to a particular location (I’ve seen one to Castle Howard, where I’ve always fancied visiting), I’d certainly consider it.

Selfie in front of the hotel
Pretending this is my natural habitat

Jewellery brand of the month: Bonnie Bling

Since I’m heading off to Scotland in just over a week, I thought I’d write about a Scottish jewellery brand, namely:

BONNIE BLING

Bonnie Bling is run by Mhairi from Scotland, and most of the jewellery in the collection is inspired by Scottish culture and slang. There are some great pieces as part of the range.

Currently, the one piece I own is this Wee Cow Necklace, also available as a brooch and in a variety of colours including pastels.

wee bling cow necklace

I’m also lusting after this Tunnock’s Tea Cake brooch.

tunnocks teacake brooch

Not to mention these Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer earrings.

tunnocks caramel wafer earrings

The Waverley Necklace shows the world’s last existing seagoing paddle steamer in necklace form.

waverley necklace

This Billy Connolly brooch has proved popular among fans of the comedian.

billy connolly brooch

Find Bonnie Bling at the following locations:

Website: bonniebling.co.uk

Instagram: instagram.com/bonniebling

Facebook: facebook.com/bonniebling

Twitter: twitter.com/Bonnie_Bling

Writing: Making Your Mark – British Library

British Library Writing exhibition

I paid a fascinating visit to the new British Library exhibition, Writing: Making Your Mark, which looks at the history of writing from ancient times to the present day.

The origins of writing can be found 5,000 years ago; it began in different places around the world at different times and for different reasons. One of the main advantages of writing was the possibility of communication across time and space: we can, if we understand the alphabet and language used, read what somebody wrote several thousand years ago. Various writing systems and styles have developed, many of which have common ancestors. I found it fascinating to look at different systems and see how they developed from older ones.

Materials and technology have changed over the years, beginning with carved letters produced by a stylus in wax. The ancient Egyptians used papyrus before paper was developed. Handwriting, too, has undergone changes, created first with quill pens then fountain and ball point. Medieval manuscripts gave way to the printed word, which at first emulated the handwritten style. Calligraphy remains a valued, albeit niche, skill even since the development of typewriters and then computers.

Learning to write has always taken time and effort, even from the very beginning. Learning how to form letters is an important part of education for young children. The future of writing surely involves technology, with the increasing use of emojis, but people are still interested in notebooks and pens.

Clay tablet
4,000-year-old clay tablet

The Sun: Living With Our Star – Science Museum

exhibition entrance

I managed to make it to the Science Museum‘s exhibition The Sun: Living With Our Star before it closed. The exhibition looks at the history of humanity’s knowledge and beliefs surrounding the Sun and the part it plays in our actual and our imaginative lives.

Early humanity’s belief in sun gods searched for explanations as to why the Sun appeared to rise and set every day; we see statues of sun gods from various cultures, including one of the Sun being pulled across the sky by a chariot. In the early sixteenth century, Copernicus challenged the idea that the Sun went round the Earth, supported by Newton 200 years later. From the earliest times, sundials were used to tell the time: there are examples from the Anglo-Saxon era on display. Later, the development of clocks made the Sun less important for telling the time, and nowadays standard time is taken from a network of atomic clocks.

From the earliest times the Sun has been associated with good health. Apollo was the Greek God of the Sun, light, truth and healing, while apothecary shops often had the Sun as their symbol. In the 1880s, scientists learned that ultraviolet light can kill TB bacteria: sunbathing was encouraged, and sanatoriums were opened, often in places like the Swiss Alps, emphasising fresh air, sunlight and good food. Later, suntans became fashionable, as holidays in the UK and abroad were seen as a sign of wealth.

tb poster

On the other hand, sun exposure has risks, many of which have always been known about. In recent times there have been campaigns to reduce sun exposure and lower levels of skin cancer. Inuit people have been using snow goggles to protect their eyes from the glare of the Sun for thousands of years; the first sunglasses as we know them were used by Venetian gondoliers in the 1700s. Sunglasses became fashionable in the 1950s but rarely offered ultraviolet protection; modern ones are usually UV-resistant.

The exhibition explored how we have taken power from the Sun, using it for heat and electricity. The Olympic torch from the 2012 Olympics was on display: each time the ceremony is held the torch is initially ignited by sunlight, with a curved mirror used to focus the flame. The Sun was responsible for one of our biggest energy sources, coal, which is made of plants and vegetation buried and transformed over millions of years. Interestingly, even in the nineteenth century some people were aware that resources such as coal were finite: a book from 1867 warns that coal will not last forever. More recently, solar power has been used as an energy source, and there have been attempts to recreate the Sun on earth with nuclear fusion: a project called ZETA aimed to do just that in the 1950s, though the claim of success in 1958 was later proved false.

sun

The final section of the exhibition looked at how we have observed the Sun over the years and discovered more about it. The Sun is made of hydrogen and helium, discovered by splitting light into a rainbow structure through the use of a prism; this conclusion was first put forward by astronomy student Cecilia Payne in 1925. More recently, the European Space Agency Solar Orbiter is one of the most ambitious solar missions ever attempted, aiming to fly closer to the Sun than the planet Mercury. It is hoped that the mission will help us understand the origins of the solar wind.

Jewellery of the exhibition

To this exhibition I wore my Eclectic Eccentricity Helios Vintage Sun Necklace, along with a pair of brass star earrings from the same store and a sterling silver sunstone ring from now-defunct jewellery store Cheap Frills.

jewellery I wore to the exhibition

Jewellery brand of the month: Hello Crumpet

Today I’m going to write about one of my favourite brands:

HELLO CRUMPET

Hello Crumpet is run by Claire, originally based in the UK but now located in the Netherlands. Due to its focus on literature and Shakespeare, it’s a brand that I particularly love, and some brooches are even available via the Shakespeare’s Globe shop!

The brand is named after founder Claire’s cat Crumpet, so it seems only natural that a cat brooch is available.

cat brooch

Many brooches are Harry Potter-themed, including this Tales of Beedle the Bard book brooch.

Tales of Beedle the Bard book brooch

For Easter this year, this gorgeous Lindt-style bunny brooch was available.

gold bunny brooch

Game of Thrones fans will like this “Winter is coming” brooch.

winter is coming brooch

This awesome skull brooch brings to mind the famous quotation, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” and is available at the Globe shop along with others, including an ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ brooch!

skull and crown brooch

Find Hello Crumpet at the following locations:

Website: hellocrumpet.co.uk

Instagram: instagram.com/hello_crumpet

Facebook: facebook.com/hellocrumpet

Shakespeare’s Globe Shop: shop.shakespearesglobe.com

Russia – Queen’s Gallery

I almost completely forgot about the Russia exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, but luckily managed to make it there on the very last day. The exhibition was actually divided into two sections, together encompassing history, photography, war and revolution.

Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855 was the first part of the exhibition. Fenton was the first photographer to document a war for public consumption. He spent four months in the Crimea, from March 1855. His pictures capture the reality of war and the lives of soldiers in the field. There are some incredible shots, including pictures of the infamous “Valley of Death” (from the Tennyson poem, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’) littered with cannonballs, as well as images of important figures from the war. One of my favourite pictures was of a soldier clearly suffering from shellshock, something which was not really known about or considered at the time.

Valley of Death
The ‘Valley of Death’
Shellshocked soldier
Shellshocked soldier

The second part of the exhibition was Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs, concentrating on the reigns of the numerous monarchs who made up the Romanov dynasty. There were some fascinating paintings and artefacts, including the picture of Peter the Great, highlighting his seagoing achievements (which he partly developed during a visit to London). Some beautiful Faberge eggs were displayed, but probably the most poignant item was a small suit made for the young Tsarevich Alexei.

Peter the Great
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great
Nicholas and Alexandra's coronation
Nicholas II and Alexandra’s coronation

Jewellery brand of the month: Little Pig Jewellery Design

Today I’m going to write about another British brand:

LITTLE PIG JEWELLERY DESIGN

Little Pig Jewellery Design is run by Emma who makes quirky, fun acrylic jewellery. As the name suggests, pigs make up a large part of her inspiration but there are plenty of other cute designs too! I haven’t made a purchase from this shop yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

I love this Three Little Pigs necklace.

3 little pigs necklace

This Fairy Door brooch is super cute.

fairy door brooch

I also love this Scalloped Heart brooch.

scalloped heart brooch

These Ding Dong Bell earrings are super fun.

ding dong bell earrings

Finally, I love these Party Ring Biscuit brooches. I want to get several and wear them all to a retro birthday party.

party ring brooch

Find Little Pig Jewellery Design at the following locations:

Website: littlepigjewellerydesign.com

Instagram: instagram.com/littlepigjewellerydesign

Facebook: facebook.com/littlepigjewellerydesign

Twitter: twitter.com/PigletJewellery



The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution – Science Museum

last tsar poster

The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution is a free exhibition at the Science Museum, looking at the life and death of the Russian royal family during the Russian Revolution. It explores their family life in the years running up to Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication, the family’s murder in Ekaterinburg in 1917, and the eventual identification of their remains using DNA technology.

The science used to identify the remains of the Romanov family is the main point of the exhibition, but there is plenty of filler leading up to that, much of which I already knew having read up on Russian history and visited the St Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg where the family are now buried. However, there was a very interesting display showing how Queen Victoria passed on hemophilia to many of her children and grandchildren. The DNA section was also fascinating, showing how DNA from living royals including Prince Philip was used as a comparison to enable scientists to identify the remains.

In any case, it’s a free exhibition and well worth a visit.

Jewellery brand of the month: Tangerine Menagerie

This brand is based in the US, a hugely popular brand with a large following:

TANGERINE MENAGERIE

Tangerine Menagerie was founded by designer Julia several years ago, focusing on retro-inspired brooches. She started out on Etsy before moving to her own website, and her brooches are among the most popular in the groups I belong to. They are pricier than most, but the workmanship and detail – every brooch is handmade and hand-painted by Julia herself – make the cost worth it.

These brooches are extremely difficult to get hold of, selling out within seconds of going on sale. To be successful you need to be on the website as soon as they are released – usually only one or two designs at a time are available. Alternatively, Julia runs a lottery offering people the opportunity to win a chance to buy a brooch – this is brilliant for people with slower Internet connections, or who can’t always get online at the time of release.

I personally own two Tangerine Menagerie brooches – a witch and an Alice book – both purchased before they became super popular. I’ve never tried to buy one since demand skyrocketed, but I will certainly give it a go in the future, if one of my wishlist items becomes available!

Top of the list is the Alice brooch. This has been through several different designs over the years and this is the most recent.

alice brooch

I also want this gorgeous Painted Rose Tree brooch, which continues the Wonderland theme. A Cheshire cat, a dodo and a white rabbit have also been available over the years.

painted rose tree brooch

Jane Eyre is my favourite novel, so this brooch is high on my wishlist.

jane eyre brooch

Birds and animals are popular choices for this brand; I particularly love this Chickadee brooch.

chickadee brooch

The Olivia Corsage brooch is a flower design, relatively unusual for this brand, but it’s beautiful.

olivia corsage brooch

Find Tangerine Menagerie via the following links:

Website: tangerinemenagerie.com

Instagram: instagram.com/tangerinemenagerie

Twitter: twitter.com/tangerinebrooch

Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary – Tate Britain

Burne-Jones poster

The exhibition Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary at Tate Britain looks at the career of Burne-Jones (1833-1898), taking a partly chronological and partly thematic approach to his life and work. There are sections on Burne-Jones as an apprentice and as a draughtsman, revealing another, humorous side to the artist. One room looks at the pictures Burne-Jones chose for exhibition, including some of his most famous works, such as King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid. Another explores the portraits he painted of family and friends, while one striking room displays his Briar Rose series of panels. Burne-Jones isn’t my favourite Pre-Raphaelite, but I enjoyed the exhibition.

Burne-Jones artwork