This month’s jewellery brand is a Sheffield-based brand that’s been around for a few years now:
Sour Cherry makes fun, quirky and kitsch jewellery from perspex and resin. My first piece from the brand is still one of my favourites. Several people have commented on it: on one occasion I ended up singing “Under the Sea” with a staff member at King’s Cross Station Pret at 8 in the morning. Good times.
Sadly the Mermaid Necklace is no longer available, however the website has plenty of other goodies which ARE available to buy…
…such as these banner heart necklaces (also available in a glitter version or as a brooch) which can be personalised.
If you, like the shop, were “made in Sheffield”, then this necklace might be a good one to go for.
Next on my wishlist is this amazing statement palmistry necklace:
I also love these gorgeous unicorn earrings:
There are some gorgeous metal pieces of jewellery too, such as this Friends-inspired necklace, which is great fun.
This Wizard of Oz charm bracelet is really pretty.
When my mam came to London recently, she came with my auntie and several other relatives, one of whom was celebrating her birthday, so the plan was to do something exciting. We ended up booking on a bus tour of London with a difference – a tour that includes afternoon tea.
The tours are run by BB Bakery, a traditional French bakery which is based in Covent Garden. We arrived at Victoria Coach Station on Sunday afternoon in plenty of time to board our bus, which was one of those awesome heritage Routemasters. We headed upstairs where our tables had been set out for us (we were a party of six, so we actually took up two tables).
The afternoon tea consists of sandwiches, scones and cakes, as well as orange juice and, of course, tea. They do cater for different dietary requirements: as a vegetarian this is very important to me, and I’m happy to report that my veggie selection was utterly delicious (the standard sandwiches were pretty nice too, according to the rest of my family). I enjoyed my scone, and the cakes in particular were incredible. If you get too full, you are given a little box to take any uneaten cake away with you.
I had been curious as to how you avoid spilling hot drinks all down yourself on a moving bus. Not to worry, you are actually given a solid takeaway-style cup with a lid which fits into a hollow on the table (you are able to take this cup home with you). The cake stand is fixed securely to the table, and the cutlery, while it looks metal, is actually plastic – all health and safety bases have been covered!
The bus takes a roundabout route through central London, passing Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and other notable landmarks. It should be noted that you don’t get actual commentary, as you would with a “normal” tour bus. However, the staff – who are very friendly, helpful and chatty – do provide random commentary which is often quite funny. As a London resident, I didn’t feel the need for a proper commentary anyway, particularly as I was enjoying my food too much to care!
The tour takes a good hour and a half, so make sure you go to the loo before it starts! Tours cost from £45 for adults and £35 for children, which sounds pricey but it really is a fantastic experience and the food is yummy. I definitely recommend this for a special occasion, and I’ll be heading to Covent Garden to check out the bakery in the near future.
Just before Easter I went to Cambridge for work-related reasons. While I was there, I had some spare time so decided to visit the Polar Museum. This is located in the Scott Polar Research Institute, which is a centre for the study of the polar regions and is of international importance. The SPRI was founded in 1920 as a memorial to Scott and his men, who died on their return from the South Pole. It is the oldest international centre for Polar Research within a university.
I originally visited the SPRI several years ago when I was living in Cambridge. In fact, it originally inspired my interest in polar history, as I found the stories of exploration fascinating. I vividly remember viewing the original letters penned by Scott and his companions as they lay in their tent, surrounded by a blizzard, knowing they were going to die. Back then, I was on a work visit and we had a tour of the extensive library, but today I was here as a normal visitor, and stuck to the free Polar Museum.
The Museum contains information about both the Arctic and Antarctic. It encompasses the history of exploration in both regions, including the quests for the North and South Poles. My personal interests have always leaned towards Antarctica, and there is a great deal of interest here, including the history of Scott’s last expedition on the Terra Nova. However, I also enjoyed reading about the search for the North West Passage, including Franklin’s infamous expedition of the mid-nineteenth century in which he and all his crew disappeared; despite several search parties being dispatched to look for him, the mystery was never solved. The Museum also contains information about survival in these cold regions of the earth, and displays about the people who live in the Arctic (the Antarctic does not have an indigenous population).
The current temporary exhibition is By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and His Men, and it is the major centenary exhibition commemorating Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17. I’ve written about this expedition on this blog before, including my post about the recent Royal Geographical Society exhibition, so I won’t repeat the same facts. This expedition makes use of diaries and artefacts in the SPRI’s collections, including navigation instruments used on the JamesCaird on the voyage to South Georgia, the cooking pot used by the three men on the overland crossing of South Georgia, and Ernest Shackleton’s pannikin marked with his initials. There are also archival materials including letters, diaries, and a memory map drawn by Frank Worsley showing the route taken during the South Georgia crossing. What I liked about the exhibition was its focus on the 28 individuals of the Weddell Sea Party (not to mention Mrs Chippy the cat), with written summaries describing each person, whether they went with Shackleton to South Georgia or remained behind awaiting rescue.
This free exhibition runs until 18 June, and will be followed by a display on the Ross Sea party, commemorating the centenary of Shackleton’s arrival at Cape Evans to rescue the survivors in January 1917. It’s well worth a visit, especially as it’s free, and the museum as a whole is a superb resource for the study of polar history.
I visited the A.G. Leventis Gallery at the Institute of Archaeology, part of UCL Museums & Collections. The A.G. Leventis Gallery of Cypriot and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology displays the IoA’s rich collection of objects from ancient Cyprus, Greece, Crete, Egypt and the Levant. It is fascinating to explore the resources and learn about how diverse the region has been during five thousand years of history.
There is also a temporary exhibition, We Need To Talk: Connecting Through Technology, which has been created by students on the MA Museum Studies to explore the different technologies we have used to communicate in different periods of time. The exhibition contains such varied items as typewriters, coins, papyrus and computers, and it’s highly informative.
A visit to this interesting gallery doesn’t take long, but it’s certainly worthwhile.
Address: Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PY
The Petrie Museum in London, which is part of UCL Museums & Collections, contains around 80,000 objects relating to Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology, making it one of the greatest such collections in the world. The museum looks at life in the Nile Valley from prehistoric times, through to the time of the Pharaohs, the Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic periods, right up to the Islamic period.
The museum was originally set up in 1892 as a teaching museum for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London. It was created thanks to a bequest from the writer Amelia Edwards (1831-1892) who donated her large collection of Egyptian antiquities, but it was the work of Professor William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) that propelled the museum into international significance.
It can be found hidden away behind several University buildings in central London: it’s difficult to find at first but once you get there, the entrance is apparent. Once inside, the compact museum contains a wealth of treasures: there are so many items it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but with patience it’s possible to track down some of the highlights, including the earliest ‘cylinder seal’ in Egypt, the oldest wills on papyrus, and even some incredibly rare and fragile Egyptian costumes.
The museum has the world’s largest collection of Roman period mummy portraits (first to second centuries AD), in which you can trace the development of a society caught between two cultures. In addition, it has many works of art from famous emperor Akhenaten’s city at Amarna, including tiles, carvings and frescoes. Also, the wider collection is largely taken from documented excavations, ensuring that it can offer profound insight into the everyday lives of people living at the time.
Whether you are an expert in Ancient Egypt or a casual visitor, there should be something to appeal to you in this small but rich museum. Special events regularly take place, so it’s worth checking the website regularly.
Address: University College London, Malet Place, London, WC1E 6BT
The infamous ‘Black Museum‘ of Scotland Yard, officially known as the Crime Museum, is a collection of criminal memorabilia kept at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service at New Scotland Yard. Founded in around 1874, it has been used for over a century to help the police in their study of crime and criminals. While the existence of the museum is widely known, it is not generally open to the public.
This all changed a few months ago when the Crime Museum Uncovered exhibition opened at the Museum of London. The exhibition was instigated by the Crime Museum itself, which has wanted to open up to the public for a while, but was concerned about the sensitive nature of the exhibits. Throughout the exhibition we are invited to question the ethics of putting such items on display, and to think about what they can teach us. As part of this sensitivity, the series of displays about specific crimes only go back as far as the 1970s.
The exhibition begins with a room which has been reconstructed from the original museum. It contains court sketches, Victorian-era mugshots and death masks, reflecting the nineteenth century obsession with phrenology – the belief that the shape of a person’s head could reveal their personality and character. This room is fascinating as it reveals how the Victorians thought about crime. There is also a disturbing selection of hangman’s nooses which were used on famous criminals.
The major part of the exhibition is laid out chronologically, with each case devoted to a different crime. Some of these cases are famous – Crippen, Christie, Ellis – others, less so. This section could easily be sensationalist, but instead it is informative and well-presented. The descriptions on the cases give prominence to the victims, not just the criminals, and the role of detectives and the police is emphasised: many of the cases have been chosen because of their significance in the history of detection and evidence, such as the first case in which a conviction was secured thanks to the use of fingerprints.
Sure, some of the exhibits are a bit gruesome: Crippen’s spade, the acid bath murderer’s gloves, a selection of masks made from stockings to hide the wearer’s face. However, all of them are informative, and some are even funny – such as the “false footprint makers” used by a would-be burglar to leave footprints around the crime scene. His cunning plan failed after he left his own footprints alongside the fake ones.
As well as displays focusing on individual crimes, there are themed displays containing fascinating artefacts, such as weapons confiscated from criminals, concealed weapons (including a pair of binoculars containing concealed eye spikes), and abortion pills and implements (from the days when abortion was illegal). Some items relate to modern-day crimes. These include the fake jewel used by the police in the attempted theft of the Millennium Star diamond from the Dome in 2000, and a selection of IRA mortars fired on Downing Street and MI6. There is also an unexploded nail bomb.
At the end of the exhibition there is the opportunity to watch a short video exploring how appropriate it is to open up these collections to the public. My friend and I spent a good couple of hours in here, in this informative and fascinating exhibition. It is thoughtfully put together, sensitively curated and hugely worthwhile – one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen.
The Museum of Croydon is located in the former town hall, next to the library and other civic offices. There are two galleries on the ground floor. The Exhibition Gallery showcases temporary exhibitions of works from the Borough’s art collection; the current exhibition is Croydon Recreated, a collection of paintings by a local artist, E.A. Phipson. These pictures of Croydon from the turn of the 20th century are displayed alongside photographs and historic maps to explore how Croydon has changed. The gallery is situated alongside the Research Room, where genealogical researchers and others with cause to use Croydon’s local archives can work.
The other gallery is the Riesco Gallery, which showcases some of the original exhibits in the museum from the Riesco Collection. I thought that these exhibits were a cut above most similar displays in local museums, with some extremely impressive Chinese grave goods, beautiful small statues, fascinating Anglo-Saxon finds and others.
The main part of the museum is upstairs, and the entrance is designed so that you can start at either end: “Croydon Then” and “Croydon Now”, or vice versa. I chose to start “then” and work my way up to the present day.
The space is a bit dark, but generally well laid out. Rather than a junkyard of random exhibits, a selection of items has been carefully chosen to be on show in individual square cases. Judging by their names: “Mary’s doll”, “Ted’s train”, I would guess that they have been donated by Croydon residents. The items range from the personally significant – toys, sewing kits, tools – to those with wider significance, including a relic of the borough’s first mayor, who was initially respected but who was later found to be a fraudster, conning people out of their life savings with his insurance company.
Moving forward through history, the museum has the usual section on World War II, explaining that Croydon was a major target for German bombers. During the second half of the twentieth century, Croydon welcomed many immigrants and also became an important centre for art and design.
There is a section on current Croydon residents who have been invited to contribute something of their own to the exhibition. This was an interesting chance to see what different people hold significant and explores the culture of the town.
There is a small temporary exhibition called Moving to London, marking the 50th anniversary of the borough becoming a part of London. This also had items in various cases telling the story of this change.
Overall, the Museum of Croydon is a well put together exploration of the borough’s past. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) lived through some of the most dramatic events of the seventeenth century. He witnessed at a young age the beheading of a king, followed by a republic, then the Restoration and two coronations; not to mention the Great Plague of 1665 and the Fire of London in 1666. A republican who served under the monarchy, a lover of wine, women and song who nevertheless condemned the licentiousness of the royal court, a President of the Royal Society who admitted that he often did not understand science, and a naval administrator who, when he joined, knew nothing about the sea, Pepys strikes me as a sympathetic character, an ordinary man who to a large extent made it up as he went along and was able to succeed by adapting himself to circumstance and making an effort to learn.
The Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution exhibition, which uses the witty hashtag #PepysShow, explores the history of Pepys’ time in his own words, alongside artefacts and records from the period. He has been called the greatest diarist in the English language; his diary is notable for recording everyday details as well as major events, which have allowed historians to understand what daily life in the seventeenth century was like. Pepys actually kept his diary for ten years only, between 1660 and 1669; he stopped because he feared his eyesight was being affected. However, we have other ways of learning about his life, such as his letters.
The exhibition follows a largely chronological format, beginning with the beheading of King Charles I, witnessed by a young Pepys. We learn about the life-threatening and excruciatingly painful operation he underwent to remove a bladder stone, and his marriage to Elisabeth de St Michel. Pepys’ everyday life is explored in displays relating to music and theatre, both of which he enjoyed, especially after the Restoration when theatre was once again permitted and encouraged.
We learn about the Great Fire from Pepys’ detailed account, as well as his wife’s illness and death. Later, Pepys was active in the Royal Society and became its President; interestingly, I learned here that Newton’s seminal Principia Mathematica was only published thanks to a donation from Edmund Halley, as the Royal Society had just spent its entire book budget on a History of Fishes.
One of the most impressive items in the exhibition is the eighteenth century court dress, which is in fantastic condition especially given its age. I also enjoyed looking at other artefacts from the period, including early editions of books. The last part of the exhibition explores the publication history of Pepy’s diary: several individuals transcribed them into plain English (from the shorthand in which they were written) during the nineteenth century but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the full, unexpurgated edition – containing references to Pepys’ various liaisons – was published.
The exhibition runs at the National Maritime Museum until 28 March, and it is well worth visiting if you are at all interested in this period of history.
I recently attended a talk at the Guildhall School entitled Phantom Phenomena, about the many ways in which Gaston Leroux’s original novel has been reinterpreted and remade over the past century. Researcher Cormac Newark specialises in studying the reception of operas, and noticed that many critics who wrote about opera in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also wrote novels featuring scenes set at the opera. Leroux was one such individual, and his most famous novel The Phantom of the Opera was published serially in 1909-10. The novel, which employs traditional clichés about the emotional and spiritual power of opera, makes heavy reference to the opera Faust, which would have been familiar to many readers at the time as one of the most important operas of the age.
The original Phantom book has spawned musicals, ballets, spinoff novels and over fifty films. The talk focused largely on the film and TV versions, which come from all over the world: the USA, China, South America and Italy are just some of the places which have created their own versions of the Phantom story. We saw several clips from different versions: one early black and white version had the Phantom admiring a male protégé rather than a young female singer, while another had a bizarrely cheery musical number. A telenovela version from South America saw a woman being doused in acid – the implication being that the Phantom was originally disfigured in some way. Yet another version combined the characters of the Phantom and Dracula, and I was particularly intrigued by the Eighties horror version with the music being played on a computer.
The continued popularity of the story in the modern age can be largely attributed to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and fans continue to explore and develop the story online via websites. I enjoyed this interesting talk and it’s certainly made me want to see some different versions of the Phantom story.
Ada Lovelace is having a bit of a moment right now. The daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron, she was brought up by her mother Annabella Milbanke to focus firmly on science and mathematics. However, it would be a combination of mathematical ability and the ability to make profound imaginative leaps that would ensure her place in scientific history.
This small free exhibition at the Science Museum marks the bicentenary of Lovelace’s birth. It contains portraits, letters and notes as well as some of the calculating machines that she worked with. The exhibition demonstrates how her collaboration with Charles Babbage (who called her “The Enchantress of Numbers”), creator of the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, led her to explore the potential of these machines, suggesting that in the future they would be able to manipulate symbols, not just numbers. Her work, which anticipated modern computing a century before Alan Turing’s work at Bletchley Park, has led her to be labelled the first computer programmer.
I admit that the science of these machines goes right over my head, but I am definitely an admirer of Lovelace and her incredible achievements, particularly in an age when women were hardly ever able to study scientific subjects. She definitely deserves to be better known, and hopefully this exhibition will go some way to ensuring this.