Happy Christmas Eve!

I don’t know about you, but I find the week before Christmas always flies by. I’ve been at home for a few days, but it feels like I’ve been here for ages.

Durham Cathedral

My last day at work was Monday, and I caught the train to Durham really early on Tuesday morning. Despite being shattered I went to the Christmas quiz with my parents. My dad and two others take it in turns to do the pub quiz every Tuesday. This time, however, the one whose turn it was asked the others for help, so the three of them took it in turns to do a round each – a bit like the Three Wise Men. The pub provided Santa hats and crackers, which was nice: I got a mini bowling game in mine, which I’d like to have a go at when I get the chance.

Christmas Quiz
Pub quiz fun times

On Wednesday I went to Beamish with my mam: I’ve got a pass for a year so I want to make the most of it, and I particularly wanted to see what it was like at Christmas. A few years ago they didn’t even open the place at Christmas, except for the town, but these days the whole thing is open and it was absolutely packed. The best bit was the Pockerley Waggonway, which they’d dusted with fake snow and made really Christmassy; they even had reindeer. The market in the town selling mulled wine was pretty good too.

Hello there
The town at Beamish

On Thursday I arranged to meet up with one of my friends at the cat cafe in Newcastle. I still haven’t visited London’s cat cafe, but I really wanted to go to this one because of the name – it’s called Mog on the Tyne (my friend and I were singing the song constantly). The cats were so adorable and I was in my element, even though I had to dose myself on antihistamines to combat my unfortunate cat allergy.

Mog on the Tyne
Mog on the Tyne

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I was pretty tired by Friday, so it was just as well that I didn’t have much on – just a haircut. Well, I needed to get my roots done too, so I was in there a while. They gave me prosecco so I was quite happy – not so my poor mother who’d brought me to the salon (it’s in our old town, so a bit of a trek). I always get my hair done when I come home as it’s so much cheaper than in London. I get on with the people in the salon too and I’m happy chatting to them, which is pretty unusual for me.

New(ish) hair

I posted a photo on Instagram afterwards, but my hair was tucked into my coat and I have a horrible feeling that everyone who liked my photo thought I’d actually got it cut shorter. I don’t care if other people prefer it – longer hair is so much easier to manage on a day-to-day basis so I’m not planning on getting it changed any time soon.

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This morning, I wrapped all my presents then headed out to meet one of my oldest friends for lunch. As I’ve got older I’ve developed different festive traditions and this is one of mine – meeting up with her for food and drinks, though I still like to get home in time to curl up with a book in the evening.

Which is what I’m about to go and do now – Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Christmas selfie
Merry Christmas!

Richmond Old Town Hall: the Riverside Gallery and the Museum of Richmond


On a cold crisp day in December, I headed down to Richmond for a day out. I wanted to take a walk in the fresh riverside air, but mostly I wanted to visit the Old Town Hall. The building is home to two gallery spaces: the Museum of Richmond and the Riverside Gallery.

Old Town Hall
Richmond Old Town Hall

I started off on the ground floor, where I visited the current exhibition in the small Riverside Gallery. Virginia Woolf and the Hogarth Press was presented in conjunction with the Richmond Literature Festival, celebrating a century since Virginia and Leonard Woolf began publishing in Richmond.

Riverside Gallery

They established the Hogarth Press, named after their house, in 1917, in order to self-publish and allow writers and artists to showcase their work in small print runs. It was fascinating, and there were some beautiful examples of the books published.


I then headed upstairs to the museum, which was opened in 1988. It followed a plan similar to that of most local museums, following the history of the area from earliest times to the present day. Interestingly, the area has only been known as Richmond since the building of Richmond Palace by Henry VII in the early sixteenth century. It used to be part of the area known as Shene. The museum is pretty small but it has some interesting artefacts.

Museum of Richmond

Inspired by what I found out, when I went for my walk later I made a point of looking for the remnants of Richmond Palace. Most of them are on private property, but I spotted a few things of interest.

Richmond Palace

Richmond Palace plaque


Address: Old Town Hall, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond, TW9 1TP

Website: Riverside Gallery – richmond.gov.uk/home/services/arts/riverside_gallery    Museum of Richmond – museumofrichmond.com

Opening Hours: Riverside Gallery closed Sunday; Museum of Richmond closed Sunday and Monday

Prices: Free

Bridge Engineering – Institution of Civil Engineers

Institution of Civil Engineers
Bridge Engineering

I heard about this exhibition at the Institution of Civil Engineers on the Ladies who Bus blog, but didn’t think I would get a chance to visit myself until next year. However, I happened to attend a work event at ICE (cool acronym by the way) and was able to visit the exhibition at lunchtime.

Part of the exhibition

Bridge Engineering is located in the library, and when you enter your eye is immediately drawn to the huge Lego bridge in the middle which runs down the centre of the library. This is the world’s longest Lego bridge (it’s been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records) and it’s a very impressive sight: at 31 metres, it is almost as long as three London buses.

Lego suspension bridge
Award-winning Lego suspension bridge

On the floor, a timeline of significant bridges, their locations and dates follows the exhibition round the room and is very informative. Displays focus on a handful of very special bridges and their engineers, from the last couple of centuries all around the world, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Menai Strait Bridge, and the future Rotherhithe Thames pedestrian bridge.

Lego Tower Bridge
Lego Tower Bridge

The exhibition runs until April next year and admission is free. It is open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, but if you can’t make it, you can still explore the exhibition in 3D on the ICE website.

The Play’s The Thing – Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford upon Avon

I’m a frequent visitor to the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I was excited to learn about their new exhibition, The Play’s The Thing. This new permanent exhibition covers “100 years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon.”

For a short time the exhibition contains the famous Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. The space also displays a First Folio, dating from 1623.

The exhibition is full of costumes and props from the RSC’s history, which I loved looking at, although it made me think of all the productions I’ve missed over the years. For a more hands-on experience, you can also explore the ‘Director’s Desk’, try on virtual costumes (and some actual hats) and learn more about the history of theatre-making in the Company.

Trying on a hat

I had lots of fun in the exhibition. Tickets are £8.50 for adults, £5 for 16-25-year-olds, and £4.25 for children and disabled people. You can convert your ticket into an annual pass so if you visit the RSC often, you can go back again and again.

Anatomy Museums: Past, Present and Future – Barts Pathology Museum


As part of my visit to Barts Pathology Museum, I attended a talk by Professor Will Ayliffe from Gresham College on the history, purpose and present of pathology museums. He explained that the purpose of such museums has changed over time. Initially, resperentations of anatomy used to be common sights, with relics, bones and wax models widely visible in churches and beyond. These days, anatomy is often viewed with suspicion – especially after the Alder Hey scandal of a few years ago. In northern Europe particularly, we don’t habitually see the dead: there is no culture of relics, and no open caskets. Museums like this have been used for comparative anatomy, criminology and phrenology.

Dissection has been viewed with suspicion from classical times right through to medieval times. Galen dissected apes, but human dissection was usually used as a punishment; autopsies were only allowed if foul play was suspected. The papal bull of Pope Sixtus IV of 1482 allowed unclaimed corpses and executed criminals to be dissected. Da Vinci and Vesalius increased knowledge of anatomy, while William Harvey’s work discovered more about the circulation of the blood. One purpose of dissection was to desensitise the doctor, so they could be clinically detached when working on “real” patients.

By the mid-eighteenth century, criminals sentenced to death could also be sentenced to dissection. There was an insufficient supply of bodies – only 8% of those hanged were killed for murder, which meant that they could potentially be dissected – and yet there were more and more medical students who would need them. This was despite the difficult and dangerous nature of the work: Charles Darwin’s nephew died the day after cutting a finger and dissecting a child. The need for bodies led to the growth of the “Resurrection Men”, who dug up bodies from cemeteries and sold them to the surgeons. Dissection was therefore often viewed with suspicion: the dissection at Bart’s of the hanged murderer of the then Prime Minister in 1812 was accompanied by screaming crowds threatening to murder the dissectors. The skull of this man, Bellingham, is still kept in this museum.

Nowadays, the specimens in this museum are fairly old, but we can still learn from them, and the museum is still used by medical students today.

Barts Pathology Museum

Barts Museum of Pathology

Perhaps Barts Pathology Museum isn’t the best place for someone as squeamish as me to go. That said, the historical nature of the collections was enough of a draw for me. Originally opened in 1879, the museum consists of pathological specimens illustrating the incredible range of diseases that flesh is heir to. Following years of neglect, it’s only recently that the museum has received a grant to renovate the collection; it is used by students at St Bartholomew’s Hospital during the day so is currently only open for special events, such as talks: keep an eye on the website for details of future events. These events take place out of hours, as students at the hospital use the museum as a teaching aid during the day.

Barts Museum of Pathology

The building housing the museum is not particularly impressive, but the museum itself certainly is. Bones, organs and body parts, in various stages of decay, line the walls, with labels and information leaflets explaining what condition affected them. Most specimens come from the nineteenth century, as do the beautifully detailed drawings of individuals, and sometimes their body parts, that are dotted about the room. The most memorable, for me, was a picture of a sixteen-year-old girl with congenital syphilis.

Barts Museum of Pathology

I must admit that I felt a bit squeamish looking at many of the specimens, the organs more so than the bones. My favourite part, with which I was completely fascinated, was the section containing objects that have been removed from inside bodies. These included numerous needles and other foreign objects, such as a WW2 shell repeatedly inserted by one man in order to sort out his piles. My favourite story involved a six-inch electric torch, “removed from the rectum of an eccentric and uncouth-looking man, aged 68, who stated that he had been assaulted by two drunken Irishmen who had pushed some object into his rectum.”

Barts Museum of Pathology

Getting to the museum can be tricky as it’s not easy to find. Enter the grounds of Barts Hospital. Ignore the signs warning you that this is a private area, and only staff are allowed: so long as you’re here for an event, you’re fine. Follow the signs to the Robin Brook Centre and take the lift to the third floor.


Address: 3rd Floor, Robin Brook Centre, West Smithfield, London, EC1A 7BE

Website: qmul.ac.uk/pathologymuseum

Opening Hours: Special events only

Prices: Dependent on event