British Museum

My second day in London started at the British Museum
Well no, actually it started at Gudrun Sjoden.  
Dangerous to be walking back past the shop.

First things first, breakfast in the members room.
But sadly lacking in veggie, gluten free choices so early in the day.

It was either GF brownie (which seems to be the one staple for galleries and museums in London) or a cauliflower and roast tomato salad thingy.
Surprisingly nice.
Certainly healthier. 

11 BM breakfast

The Egyptian room was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday.

07 BM eygpt

Some of my favourite rooms are those containing the Assyrian reliefs.
Always quiet and a wealth of visual information, patterns and textures.
Thank goodness these are safe in the British Museum. 

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09 Assyrian 2 BM

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12 Assyrian 4 BM

13 Assyrian foundation stone

The main purpose of my visit was to see Celts, Art & Identity
No photos as usual, but a well illustrated book and sketches do the job.
Well worth a visit – its coming to Edinburgh next year. 

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Before I left I couldn’t resist a visit to the Islamic room.
So incredibly beautiful. 

01 BM tiles

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And no visit to the British Museum would be complete without admiring a 1000 year old Ganesha.

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The Fabric of India

By the time I arrived at the V&A it was 6.30pm and I was flagging a little.
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So after admiring another chandelier in the entrance hall I walked up and through the glass gallery to the members room where I sank, with utter gratefulness, into a soft, squishy sofa and drank a lovely cup of coffee. 
I may also have indulged in a GF brownie.
It’s possible I had 40 winks. 
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The Fabric of India exhibition was WONDERFUL!  
I wanted to bring it all home with me.
A mixture of woven, printed and embroidered work, much of it from the 1851 Great Exhibition. 
The woven work was some of the most intricate I’ve ever seen.
My only criticism was that some of the embroidered work was on display at the back of a cabinet, where you could see the overall effect, but it was difficult to look at individual stitches.
Not always, but enough to be a frustrated embroiderer.
 When I was there on Friday evening it was quiet and a lovely time to visit.
I spent a long time walking around and made lots of wonky sketches. 
Mainly of small details.
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No photographs allowed of course but there is a book to buy which is worth the money if Indian fabrics are your thing.
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The book and exhibition take you through the early stages of fabric manufacture – the cotton and silk types, the dyes, the making processes.
Then there are examples of wonderful items; shawls, dresses, jackets, caps, saris, head cloths and tents.
The Tipu Sultans tent was a favourite.
I sat inside for a while and pretended it was mine. 
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The Kashmir map shawl.
A stunning amount of embroidery.
Very inspiring. 
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The exhibition also tells the story of the export of fabrics from India to the West and modern day Indian fabrics and designs.
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After the exhibition it was dark outside and there were lovely reflections that I tried to capture
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The sculpture gallery was empty.
I love visiting at night.
You feel very special and there are no school children.
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I also visited the Shoes, Pleasure & Pain exhibition.
It was full of Friday night Fashionista types.
I was too tired to take much in so I picked out the historical examples to study.
And the gothic versions.
A few pairs of shoes to envy too. 
9 VAM shop
The shop of a thousand wonderful things.
A shawl and hare necklace came home with me.
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41TxVNiEjCL SS90

Natural History Museum

As a biologist how can you walk past the Natural History Museum and NOT go in?


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The building itself is a cathedral to Mother Earth.  

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Beautiful carvings which always make me smile.

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25 NHM8

24 NHM7 Darwin

Darwin, a hero of mine.

17 Darwin

16 Wallace

Not forgetting Wallace – who ALSO came up with the theory of evolution, possibly before Darwin.
But allowed Darwin to publish and take the credit (and the flak)

15 NHM stones room

When I came here with Richard in 2009 he spent hours in this room and we looked at every single rock.
He was fascinated.
Must say I am too. 

01 Opal

02 Aurichalcite
04 Beryl
06 Earth colours
05 Kottigite
08 Hydrohematite
07 Galena
09 Chalcotrichite
10 Chalcotrichite 2
12 Agate
11 Silicified wood
14 Sulphur
13 Graphite
You can’t beat the beauty and colour schemes of Mother Earth can you?
03 View inside out
And looking out…. rather Venetian don’t you think?

First stop the Royal Academy

 First gallery stop – Ai Weiwei at the RA

 I had no preconceived ideas about Ai Weiwei, I’d read about him in the press but not seen any of his art before.

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Reconstructed trees at the entrance to the RA.

The RA website says
Tree has been likened to the modern Chinese nation, where ethnically diverse peoples have been brought together to form ‘One China’, a state-sponsored policy aimed at protecting and promoting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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Coloured Vases

“Twelve Han and four Neolithic vases with industrial paint.” 

These I really did like, repurposing old to make the new.

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Ai Weiwei’s poignant response to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Poorly built schools in the Sichuan province – held up by steel rods which twisted and mangled in the quake – were devastated, leaving thousands of students dead. These rods (which Ai had labourers straighten by hand) make up the 90-ton floor-based sculpture, that is laid out in broken undulations recalling fault lines

The panels on the walls list the names and information of the thousands of children who died in this earthquake, disproportional to the general population.  
Possibly as a result of poor construction techniques and materials due to management corruption.

I was reminded of the lists of War dead at the Thiepval Memorial in France.

The size of the installation and the echo of the earthquake in the setting of the steel rods was very moving.

Also it was very quiet, no one was talking.  
They were al listening to audioguides.
I hate the things and like listening to silence and reading the labels, looking and making my own assumptions.

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Created from the timbers of old Temples and Earthquake rubble.

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Twitter meets handcuffs and video surveillance.  Says a lot about China.
Reminded me of Hermes styled scarves. 

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This was not obvious at first glance……

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Until I went underneath and realised they were bikes!
Bicycle Chandelier  

There was a lot more to the exhibition, some left me cold – why did I need to see into boxes to see models of his life in captivity?  I knew the story, was this art?
Repurposing old chairs and tables to modern art, yes, can do that….. 

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 But this, well I couldn’t forgive him easily for grinding up Neolithic pots to create dust stored in jars.  
Lots of pots and lots of destroyed jars.

Worth visiting?  Absolutely.
Will you like it all?  Maybe.
Should you feel empathy with all art?  No.

I also went to see the Edmund de Waal installations in the library.
Have to say I was more interested in the books than the art.


On the way to the RA I took the wrong turn from the hotel and instead of walking down Piccadilly I walked down Pall Mall.
(I’m not sure how it is possible to miss Piccadilly Circus but I managed it!)

But…. a blue plaque…. I peered across and saw it was the site of the house of Nell Gwynn during 1671-1687.
So we all know what went on in THAT house don’t me.

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London calling….


“London Calling, yes I was there too….An’ you know what they said?  Some of it was true”.

Lyrics from London Calling. The Clash 1979 (yes really).



love : hate

When I lived there I came to loath it, now I’m a “tourist” I love it.

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 Leaving Berwick, photo shot off the train using my phone.

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Another camera shot – leaving Newcastle upon Tyne 

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First stop – some shopping at Gudrun S.  
But look up at the building. 

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Purposely getting lost walking from Monmouth Street to Orange Street.
Via Lisle Street and London’s China Town. 

This is one of the things I love about London, getting lost, looking at the architecture, wondering about the history.

And I have to confess ALL the pictures you see will have been taken on the iPhone or iPad.
It’s simply so much more convenient than lugging a huge heavy camera around.

More to come on Ai Weiwei at the RA, inspiration from the Natural History Museum, Fabric of India at the V&A….. and then the British Museum, the Foundling Museum and the British Library.

Yes I am exhausted.  I arrived in London at 12noon on Friday and left at 5pm on Saturday.
I was in the hotel from 10pm -10am.
Next time remind me to book two nights please.