Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Frogs, stuffed birds and a little English Magic

And so off they went, back to school.  I dusted, hoovered, swept and washed.  Cushions were plumped, Lego was corralled and clutter was whisked away.  Library books were returned, the fridge was restocked and a calm order descended.  It was blissful.

Then they came home again.  By 4 o'clock there were rucksacks and lunchboxes strewn about the place, there were about twenty old exercise books needing a place to live and three very small frogs were on the loose in the kitchen.  Oh how I miss them when they're not here.  (Boys not frogs).

I took them to Bristol Museum yesterday.  It seemed like somewhere the biggest boy could manage on his crutches.  The museum is the smaller building on the left.

The rooms are arranged around a big atrium, with mezzanine landings overlooking the central area.  On the first floor is this hoard of coins, found in the little town we live in, just a few years ago.  Someone was digging a fish pond, and found them.  There are 11,460 of them, little silver coins from Roman times, dating from 260 to 348AD.  Makes me wonder what's buried in my garden.

I remember this museum well from when I was little.  Certain things always had to be visited.  The geology section.

I'm particularly fond of Beryl from Brazil.

Along this landing there are lots of pianos.  I loved them when I was little.   Seeing them yesterday suddenly took me right back to being small and wandering around in wonderment.

This has always been my absolute favourite thing.  The gypsy caravan.

I adore the little interior, with a place for everything.  The sleeping quarters are at the back.

Gromit was in residence elsewhere in the museum.  He's from Bristol you know.  We're all very proud of him.  He does seem to be in jail here though.  He's reading Crime and Punishment by Fido Dogstoyevsky.  The boys have been watching all of the Wallace and Gromit films while the biggest boy is out of action.  The details are in a class of their own.  A simple shelf of books, each one a cheese-related pun on a real book.  A big fridge in the kitchen with "Smug" spelt out on the front of it.  It's all beautifully and cleverly thought out.

I persuaded the boys to have a look at the Jeremy Deller exhibition (English Magic) that's in the museum at the moment.  They quite enjoyed some bits of it - the video of birds of prey in flight and Range Rovers being crushed, and the actual crushed Range Rover that you can sit on top of to watch the video.  They made a print of their own each with giant rubber stamps.  And they liked the huge pictures.

This one is William Morris throwing Roman Abramovich's yacht into the lagoon at Venice.  (It was blocking the view apparently, and restricting everyone's use of the promenade).

Some scuffling had broken out by this point, so we shot through the rest of the art gallery at top speed.

This piece of glass caught my eye on the way out.  It's Japanese, contemporary, and made from lots of sheets of glass stuck together.  That was all I got in the thirty seconds I was allowed to look at it.  I'm not convinced boys and museums are a marriage made in heaven, but they did really enjoy looking at the stuffed birds.

Afterwards I took them for pizza.  If I'm honest, it was the only reason some of them agreed to go.  I think I'm hoping that one day they'll take their children there and say, look at this stuffed arctic skua, I used to love looking at this when I was little.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Farewell to August

Summer days.  Sunshine, picnics, long country walks, running through fields of corn, laughing, with puppy dogs gambolling at our feet.  So it didn't quite go like that this year.  It was more along the lines of endless hours of Monopoly, awkward car trips with a plastered leg laid uncomfortably along the back seat, showers and slugs, too many library books and a peaky guinea pig.  But I loved it all the same and I'll be sad when it's over, as I always am.  

A few snapshots from this week.  A quick trip to the park.  A treat from the farmer's market.  The boys are loving plums at the moment, and I wanted them to have some proper ones, locally grown Victorias.  They were delicious.  I have high hopes for my little tree at the allotment.  And I'm wondering if I can squeeze in another one somewhere...

Gooseberry and raspberry crumble.  The autumn fruiting raspberries are doing well this year, and they always feel like a bit of a luxury in August and September.  

Card houses.  For a while it got quite competitive.  And ever so slightly obsessive. 

And the grief when someone knocked someone else's down had to be seen to be believed.  You have no idea the yelling and arguments that they caused.  The biggest boy built this one up to sixteen storeys.

The littlest boy walked past a bit too fast causing a slight breeze.  The whole lot fell down.  Everyone was sent to bed.  I had to have a sit down.

We found this chap in the garden.  Not slug, but a lovely silken caterpillar, an elephant hawk moth.  Huge and really fast moving with really grippy feet.  We only picked him up to put him somewhere safe, and we were very gentle and very closely supervised.

I've yet to see the actual moth, it must be enormous.  I do hope he visits when he gets his wings.  I managed to get a very distant shot of this red admiral butterfly.  I'm rubbish at taking butterfly photos, they must see me coming because I never seem to be able to get close.

Despite the feeling that I haven't made best use of the allotment this year, there are still things to pick (including nine cucumbers).   The little people came to help for a brief hour.

I let them loose with the fruit saw, and between them they cut down the artichokes for me.  How they love to wield sharp implements, it's honestly one of their best things.

This afternoon we all went to the country park and spent a while looking at this wonderful view.  This is just a sliver of it, you can see miles and miles of the river from here.

I love seeing the fields turn different colours as the seasons roll around.  The farmers are busy at the moment, we quite often see them working on Saturdays and Sundays, until quite late.  It scares me when I hear that they are being forced out of business.  I can't imagine what the land would look like without them.  This is surely England, ancient churches nestling in tree-filled churchyards, pretty farms set amongst rolling fields, mixed hedgerows full of the diversity of our wonderful wildlife.  I read some John Betjeman poems while I was there.  I feel the same as he did about our beautiful country.

Alpacas.  Pretty no?  And they know it.  It'll be time to knit them into something useful soon.

On the homefront there are plans for warm things.  Some quilt fabric, bought with a voucher from a friend.  I'm liking this one.  I have to be careful not to put too much pink in it though, you know, what with living in a house full of boys.  It will be for my bed though, so I might be able to sneak in a bit.

So all in all things are ticking along nicely here, despite the summer not being John Lewis advert perfect.  Hey, it's life isn't it, bitty, messy, unplanned.  I'm winging it and hoping for the best.  All I can do.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Colour Collaborative: August: Collection

In the middle of the lovely Stratford Park at Stroud, there's a 17th century wool merchant's mansion, now a museum.

Inside are treasures.

Collections of little things, lovingly, and dare I say obsessively amassed by the Victorians amongst others, who just loved to collect things and then show them off.  I always head for this chest of drawers.

Inside are all sorts of exquisite things from the natural world.

There are drawers of beetles, birds' eggs and butterflies.  None of which I would want to see collected today.  But here they are, these beautiful collections, and it is right that they are preserved.  While it is no longer acceptable to plunder the natural world to satisfy our curiosity and provide a talking point, it is essential to look after the things that have been taken in the past.  While photos and film are wonderful media for showing natural history to the world, nothing can match actually seeing that iridescent sheen on the carapace of a tiny beetle or the subtle speckles on a bird's egg or the stunning colours of a butterfly's wing.

To fully appreciate the miracles of nature, you have to see for yourself.  You have to stand inches away from all of those colours and just gaze at the way they contrast, blend, change and pattern.

I won't deny that I have mixed feelings about the collections, but to destroy them would seem terrible.  Nothing can bring back the life that was taken, but by displaying these beautiful things knowledge and respect are spread.  People come here to draw them, to learn about them and just to be amazed by them.  Tiny, perfect, natural works of art.  So many of the colours are muted, blending in with the world's earthy palette.  Favourite colours of mine, the subtlest of greens, the most delicate of blues, creams of every shade, from a bone white to a rich buttery gold.  Pale eggs splashed in rock shades of brown and grey, each one utterly unique, each brush stroke unlike any which came before.

Elsewhere in the room are different things.  I always like to look at the coins and try and imagine what life was like when they were first minted.  Some are black and softly eroded, some gleam dully and one or two still hold on to the silver shine of treasure despite the many hundreds of years they have seen.

Many of the labels were made by the original collectors.  Along with the collections there are notebooks and journals kept by the people who spent a good part of their lives looking for these items.  They are a fascinating glimpse into life long ago.  I envy collectors their knowledge and enthusiasm.  How wonderful it must be to know so much about one subject, to really study it in depth, to be an authority on it and to happily spend your life pursuing knowledge of it.

A collection can start quite without warning, without you even realising.  And little by little it builds into something that is far more than the sum of its parts.  When you put things side by side, you notice the details far more and you gain a deeper understanding of your subject.  A serious collection is a thing of beauty and importance.  Something that human nature, with our enquiring minds and a thirst for knowledge, is often inclined to make.  Tell me, do you have a collection, or do you wish you could make one?  What would it be?  I'd love to hear.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts just click on the links below: 

       Annie at Annie Cholewa                                        Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

       Sandra at Cherry Heart                                         Jennifer at Thistlebear

And August's guest poster, Caroline at Scraps of Us

What is the Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.