Home, but not home

I recently spent a week at home visiting my parents. It was a bit different from my usual trips up North: my parents recently moved house, from the semi where I grew up in a large town to a new detached house in a much smaller village.

New house

It was a tad strange going into a completely different house, but once I was there, I was ok – seeing my parents so much happier in their new home made a lot of difference. The new place is bigger than the old one, and one room is going to be a LIBRARY.

The garden

I still keep the majority of my books at home, as I simply don’t have the room to have them in London. Therefore I spent much of the week visiting various friends and relatives, rescuing boxes of books that they had kindly offered to look after, and sorting them onto the shelves in the library and my own bedroom.

My room

I also found the time to sort out some old toys. Frankly, these deserve a blog post of their own, but here are a couple of pictures to be going on with.

Swan Keyper
GoGo My Walking Pup

I did find the time to get out of the house a few times. I spent a day in Durham with my mam: we visited an exhibition at Durham University and had the chance to see Bishop Cosin’s Library in Palace Green Library, which was a real treat. We had tea and cake at Vennel’s café and later went out to the pub quiz that my dad has been going to for years.

We visited my brother at one point, and the two of us had a great game of Blades of Steel, an amazing retro NES game that we loved as children. It has the most horrendous graphics, but it is really simple to pick up and loads of fun to play.


For many years, when I was younger, my parents, my brother and I, along with my parents’ friends and their two children, would go to Ambleside in Cumbria each year during the Autumn half term in order to visit the garden centre there, which had an amazing collection of Christmas decorations. Although all of us children have now grown up and left home, our parents still make the trip every year, and this time I was able to accompany them for the first time in about a decade.

Car park

I’m not sure this was such a good idea, however. I have brilliant memories of the place, but it’s probably a mistake to try and recapture old feelings. The garden centre is pretty much the same, and the Christmas section is as impressive as ever, but the play area where us four children would spend hours is long gone. Obviously, I’m a bit old to be going on the swings myself, but I still feel sad about this!



My final day out was to Newcastle, where I met up with a friend, had some hot chocolate and visited Fenwicks Window (another yearly tradition when I was small). It wasn’t as impressive as last year’s, which was Alice in Wonderland-themed, but I did like the Northumbria Police speeding ticket stuck to the side of the sleigh.




One of the strangest things about my parents moving is that I now need to get the train from Durham, not Newcastle. Still, it was nice to be able to wait on the platform with Durham Cathedral looming impressively from a distance.

At the station
Durham Cathedral

So that was my week at home: I’ll be back at Christmas!

Retro technology

Recently I was at home for a week, and as my parents are moving in a few months I was given the job of sorting out all my stuff. I came across some retro gems that I loved and enjoyed while I was a child and a teenager!

First up, my beloved cassette player/recorder/radio. I got hours of use out of this. Do kids today even know what cassettes are?

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Alba Radio Cassette Recorder

Gender-specific toys are not a new thing, sadly. On the other hand, I still prefer the pink/purple colourway of this Home Alone II-inspired Talkgirl to the original silver/black of the Talkboy.

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Deluxe Talkgirl

How awesome was the Dear Diary? My brother and cousin once spent a whole afternoon trying to guess my password. They failed. HA!

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Dear Diary
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Inside the Dear Diary

Now that there is no analogue TV, this portable model is pretty useless.

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Casio Portable TV

Ordinary film cameras always confused me so this APS camera from Kodak was brilliant. Sadly it was soon superseded by digital photography, but I used this for a good few years.

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Kodak Advantix F600 Camera

Ah, the portable CD player. When you spent hours trying to work out which one album you wanted to listen to, then had to carry this bulky thing around.

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Goodmans Portable CD Player

Before I got a laptop I used to take this to sixth form and write all my essays on it. It came in very handy.

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Sharp Electronic Organiser
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Inside the Sharp Electronic Organiser

How cute is this Minidisc player? I think Minidiscs would have really taken off if the iPod hadn’t come out shortly afterwards.

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Panasonic Minidisc Player
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My collection of minidiscs

My first ever mp3 player, and my first foray into digital technology. This lasted me a good few years.

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Creative mp3 Player

I could probably start a museum with this lot, honestly…

Geffrye Museum

Geffrye Museum

After intending to do so for several months, I finally got round to making a visit to the Geffrye Museum in east London. The museum focuses on the history of the home during the past four centuries, exploring how homes have changed and how these changes reflect and are reflected in the way people live.

Open 10-5 every day except Monday (it’s open Bank Holidays though), the museum is free to visit and easy to reach:  it’s fifteen minutes away from Old Street tube station, and a couple of minutes from Hoxton Overground station. The building itself is a set of almshouses built in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Company, owing to a bequest from twice Company master and former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Robert Geffrye. Now Grade 1 listed, the building has been a museum since 1914, after it was sold off by the Ironmongers’ Company who wanted to relocate the almshouses out of Hoxton, which had become one of the most run-down and unhealthy parts of London.

Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum
Sir Robert Geffrye
Sir Robert Geffrye

One of the almshouses, No. 14, has been restored and is open to the public (for a small fee) on selected Saturdays and weekdays. Sadly it was not open on the day I visited, so I will have to make a return trip in order to see it. The museum’s past is also evident in the almshouse chapel, which you come across around halfway through your visit.

Former almshouse chapel

On entering the museum, you witness a microcosm of its theme: a selection of chairs arranged in a semicircle, each from a different era. Looking at them, you can see how styles have changed in four hundred years.

Chairs in a row
Chairs from the last four centuries

Most of the museum is made up of period rooms, each of which is made up to look like a typical family room from a particular period. The rooms are arranged in chronological order, and provide fascinating insight into how people lived during those times.

Period room
Hall, 1630
Period room
Parlour, 1695
Period room
Parlour, 1745
Period room
Parlour, 1790
Period room
Drawing room, 1830
Period room
Drawing room, 1870
Period room
Drawing room, 1890

I really enjoyed looking at the development of the rooms and how they changed over time. One important factor in this change was that in the beginning, many middle-class people worked from home, perhaps running their business from the lower floor or front room of their house and living in other rooms. Later, people began to go out to work, and homes were used only for leisure purposes.

Later on, there is a section of the museum devoted to the twentieth century. Another arrangement of chairs greeted me at the start.

Chairs in a row
Chairs from the last century

These rooms represented shorter spaces of time than the older ones: each portrayed only a decade or so. Perhaps this reflects the more rapid changes in design during the twentieth century.

Period room
Drawing room, 1910
Period room
Living room, 1935
Period room
Living room, 1965
Period room
Apartment, 1998

The last bit of the museum was a small exhibition about the people who live and work in Hoxton, a nice complement to the rest of the exhibitions.

I liked the Geffrye: it is a lovely place and there’s a lot to see considering that it’s free. Definitely worth a visit.


Address: 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA

Website: geffrye-museum.org.uk

Opening Hours: Tues-Sun (& Bank Holidays) 10am-5pm

Prices: Free