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.
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.
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.
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.
Marina might have rebranded from her Marina and the Diamonds days, but she’s still the same person and still making good music. I went to see her live for the first time, at the Royal Albert Hall as part of her Love + Fear tour. I was surprised at how good she sounded live – for some reason I’d thought she might be one of those singers who couldn’t sing live, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Most of the songs were from her most recent record Love + Fear, but there were plenty of tracks from her Marina and the Diamonds days, too. ‘Primadonna’ went down very well, as did ‘Hollywood’. My favourite, though, was ‘Happy’.
Today I’m going to write about one of my favourite brands:
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.
Many brooches are Harry Potter-themed, including this Tales of Beedle the Bard book brooch.
For Easter this year, this gorgeous Lindt-style bunny brooch was available.
Game of Thrones fans will like this “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!
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.
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.
I’ve been a fan of Swedish singer Robyn for many years, and managed to get a ticket to see her perform live at Alexandra Palace. I went with a friend and we both had a great time. The atmosphere was amazing and Robyn was so good live. The best moment, naturally enough, was when she sang ‘Dancing On My Own’.
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.
This Fairy Door brooch is super cute.
I also love this Scalloped Heart brooch.
These Ding Dong Bell earrings are super fun.
Finally, I love these Party Ring Biscuit brooches. I want to get several and wear them all to a retro birthday party.
Find Little Pig Jewellery Design at the following locations:
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.
I’ve visited several “secret” stations on Hidden London tours, and recently was lucky enough to go to Down Street, also known as “Churchill’s secret station.” Down Street opened on 15 March 1907 on the new Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (GNP&BR), part of what is now the Piccadilly line.
Designed by Leslie Green, the station was situated on a side road called Down Street, in between two popular stations in a rich area – so it wasn’t used much from the start. The station layout was designed by Sir James W Szlumper, Chief Engineer for the railway. A dispute about the escape route led to several redesigns, and the station opened after the rest of the railway with an extra cross passage, stairs and landing. It closed on 21 May 1932, with its passageways converted to act as a ventilation shaft for the Piccadilly line.
Down Street wasn’t empty for long, though. A Railway Executive Committee was formed to coordinate British railway companies in the event of war, ensuring the smoothest possible travel for people, the military, and supplies. A headquarters was needed: the Underground was safe and this station’s central location was ideal. Plans were drawn up to convert the station: the lift shaft was capped with concrete and air filtration protected against gas attacks. The REC met in the Committee Room, while a typing pool sat just outside and a telephone exchange was situated on the now boarded-up platforms, along with dormitories for those staying overnight: the need for secrecy meant staff could not be seen going in and out all the time and they needed to stay and sleep in shifts.
Executive staff members had sole bedrooms, as well as posh furniture and good food: catering was provided on-site, as well as bathroom and toilet facilities. A team of four motorcycle despatch riders carried letters from above ground. Executive staff members who needed to leave could use the red stop signal located on the platform, stop a Piccadilly line train, and board the train in the driver’s cab.
Churchill used these rooms for 40 days from October to December 1940, at the height of the Blitz when the Cabinet War Rooms weren’t ready. He was impressed with the accommodation, unsurprisingly. One meal he shared with some REC and War Cabinet members included caviar, champagne, brandy and cigars. Later, rooms were built for him in the passageway that London Transport engineers had originally insisted be kept free for escape purposes, although he may have never used it.
These days, Down Street is still used for ventilation purposes. If you look carefully when travelling on the Piccadilly line between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park, you may catch a glimpse of this hidden station.
This brand is based in the US, a hugely popular brand with a large following:
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.
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.
Jane Eyre is my favourite novel, so this brooch is high on my wishlist.
Birds and animals are popular choices for this brand; I particularly love this Chickadee brooch.
The Olivia Corsage brooch is a flower design, relatively unusual for this brand, but it’s beautiful.