Friday, 26 January 2018
January Adventures in the Big Smoke.
So January is nearly over thank the lord. It’s been bad enough with the rain, rain , snow, rain , snow, gales, more gales, more rain and relentless grey skies. I don’t know about you but it seems to have been particularly bad this year. On top of that it is our busiest time of year at work. We have been absolutely flat out processing and reviewing a bumper crop of student applications, and now I have the fun of organising the best part of 400 interviews. No rest for the wicked as they say.
I must add there have been some fun times in January. Himself and I had a day out in London. He took me to see The Twilight Zone at a little theatre in Islington as part of my Christmas present.
First we went and had a delightful browse around The Museum of Brands.
We picked something indoors as it was meant to be another miserable day weather-wise, as it goes it was a gorgeous crisp winter day but we stuck to our original plan.
This is somewhere I have wanted to visit for quite a while now and on the whole I was not disappointed. Starting in the Victorian era you move decade by decade through advertising, packaging, toys and products right up to the current day (case full of One Direction memorabilia anyone?)
The one complaint we both had is that each case is so chock full of objects that it’s almost overwhelming, there is simply so much to look at, and also there are nowhere near enough information cards to describe the contents of the cases.
No photography inside so I have pinched an internet picture to give you an idea
Other than that it’s fantastic, I particularly like where they have themed some displays, like a 1930’s period copper(clothes washer) & mangle with all the various boxes and packets of cleaning products available at the time, or a 1950’s cocktail cabinet and record player complete with all the drinks, cigarettes, records and snacks of the time.
Of course it suddenly becomes all the more interesting when you hit your childhood years, in my case the 1970’s. I was suddenly darting about squealing things like “I remember that chocolate bar, I wonder why they stopped making it?” “Oh my god I forgot yoghurt pots were that shape!” “Look at that! We used to eat that” “I had that toy!!” whilst Himself who is not only younger than me but also a lot less excitable just looked at me hard and sighed.
We reached the 80s and 90s and had various discussions about different things we used to eat and drink, programmes we watched and toys we owned (Being the Star Wars geek he is he of course spotted that they had toys from different eras mixed up!)
When you finally reach the end of this bit of the museum (and the amazing One Direction collection) you are almost overwhelmed, and it’s very clear that this is merely the tip of the iceberg as far as this collection goes. I must admit I was thinking about it afterwards and thought it would be very cool if they were to do a boy band exhibition, they had memorabilia from the Beatles, Bay City Rollers and Take That within the main displays, it would be interesting to see how that has evolved over the decades and all the product endorsements, some of those from the 60’& 70’s would never happen now!
Beyond the café there is a cabinet of radios that again span right from the very first radiogram to today’s digital offerings. The most frustrating thing about this cabinet and indeed the final room of objects is there were no information cards at all, so annoying!
It would have been so interesting (and useful) to know which era the radios were from and even who invented/designed them.
From there you walk into a room set out with rows of chairs before a television playing adverts from the 50’s right through to the present day. It was lovely to sit down for a few minutes, and interesting to watch how advertising via television has evolved over the years.
The room beyond is a great concept but as I said frustratingly lacking in information. There were cabinets of products, so for example Bovril or Vaseline, that had a little line of bottles ranging from the very first one right up to the most recent one available today, but that was it.
Yes it was fascinating to see how the product had evolved but it would have been SO helpful to have a little date card next to each bottle so you could see which one came from which decade, and perhaps some information on who came up with the name, logo and say product shape in the first place.
So for a Museum of Brands it was distinctly lacking in information about said brands. Which seems odd as Peter Opie the owner, is an expert in the field and has written several books on the subject.
Having said all of that I would still recommend a visit if you have the time, it’s an amazing collection.
From there we headed into central London and mooched down Regent’s Street to Piccadilly. Himself declared he fancied a burger for dinner and what about Burger King? We compromised on Five Guys because if I’m going to eat a burger I at least want a decent one, especially where the fries are concerned as well!
The play was on in Islington, a part of London I used to go to way back in the day to see bands in pubs when it was as rough as.
I was completely gobsmacked to step out of the tube station and straight into this happening hipster night spot with fairy lit trees lining streets full of chi-chi eateries and wine bars.
The Almeida Theatre is a lovely but intimate space where you can’t help but get well acquainted with the person in the seat next to you, having been to a few smaller London theatres now we have learned to choose at least one end of aisle seat.
We had to stand to let a couple of elderly gents into the seats next to us so Himself took the opportunity to nip to the loo. I fell into conversation with the one sat right next to me who was an absolute delight. I’m afraid Himself didn’t get a look in for the rest of the night as every spare moment before the play started and between the acts we dived straight into conversation again. He is in his 80’s, adores the theatre, tries to go at least once a month and has pretty much all his life. We discussed plays, books, what was on in London at that time, opera, the theatre and had just got to the story about how he was asked to sit on the panel for the Olivier awards when the lights went down again so I never did find out what year it was or who he voted for bah.
The play itself was an odd one. Based around 5 or 6 episodes of the original 1960’s series of the Twilight Zone it jumped madly between the stories which was very confusing and to be honest some of the acting was better than others.
Having said that the set and stage craft was absolutely outstanding. I did enjoy it (even if I didn’t get it) and I’m glad we went, but I didn’t love it.
It was of course on one of the nights where the weather decided to madly storm, thankfully we were home and in bed before it reached it’s crescendo. I did suddenly jolt awake in the wee small hours not knowing why and lay there listening to the wind raging outside and first our wheelie bin and then our neighbour's going for a burton.
I then realised what it was that had woken me up because it happened again and scared the absolute bejesus out of me! The wind was blowing directly at the house and when it gusted was actually lifting and dropping the doorknocker so it sounded like someone was rapping smartly at the door. I can assure you I had no intention of getting up and letting that wind in.
My other trip to London was this Monday with my friend from work Charlotte. I had taken part in an Art Fund campaign for the Museum of London called 'Redressing Pleasure' which was trying to raise £10,000 to change the costume display, and do conservation work on the outfits, for their exhibition on the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
The previous display had contained genuine outfits from the 17th & 18th century but focused on the exotic, the outrageous, the glamorous. Outfits from the wealthy classes who got up to all sorts when darkness fell...
The hats/headwear were designed by Phillip Treacy especially to go with the outfits.
I had gone for a package that included a talk by Timothy Long the Exhibition Curator and Melina Plottu the Head Conservator which was also called 'Redressing Pleasure'. Timothy explained how they had come up with the idea of changing the exhibition to reflect the daytime activities of the gardens.
They were the theme park of their day after all, and irrespective of the naughty shenanigans that went on after dark, families would save all year round to visit for a day or a weekend and enjoy the sights and sounds whilst wearing their very best.
When he said the theme they had decided on was white I will confess my heart sank a little and I thought how dull. Until he explained the joy of white is it's a blank canvas that you can accessorize in a million ways and also when he showed one or two slides of some of the white outfits they had chosen.
Look at this stunning archer's coat. Not only is it pretty unique because it comes with all it's accessories intact, but it is also super rare because it belonged to a woman! How freaking awesome? Oh my goodness there was another white dresscoat with this zigzag effect down the front that was so gorgeous I could have wept.
Oh how I wish I could have pinned Melina in a corner and asked her 50 million questions about her job. She described how they intend to conserve and stabilize the outfits not restore them. So they carefully record all the damage (and previous repairs) then mend so it's not visible from a distance but close up you can see what has been done, so they are preserving the history and lifetime of the outfit. They also make all the repairs in such a way that they can be carefully removed should the techniques no longer be best practice in 10, 20 or 100 years time.
They explained how once they had chosen and assessed the outfits they plan to use, they then had to have special dummies made, as your average shop dummy these days is not the same size or build as your average 18th century lady. This is so that none of the outfits are put under strain whilst they are on display.
Next was having the appropriate undergarments created to support the outfits, another item that rarely if ever survived was the undercrackers, I think we can all imagine why!
They had a couple of examples on display and not only did they seem ridiculously tiny in height they were ridiculously tiny in size too.
I swear to god the only bit of me that would fit the waist of that petticoat was my calf.
They have also commissioned hats from top milliner Jane Smith (she made the hats for the Harry Potter films and The Duchess with Keira Knightly) as in the whole of the museum's vast collection there are only 3 surviving hats from the 18th century. they have provided her with all the pictures and adverts they could find for hats from that era and given her free reign. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with.
It was also interesting to hear how they use the internet for research. So one of the outfits belonged to a lady with quite an unusual name meaning they were able to research her on Ancestry.com to bring a back story of the outfit. They explained ideally they would love to have the history of every outfit but sadly their records from years ago are not so detailed or complete as they would be now which makes this very difficult.
You ring someone up and go "your great aunt Jane donated an outfit to us 50 year's ago can you tell us anything about it?" to be greeted by anything from "did she?" to "great aunt who?"
The floral fabric that you see to the left in the very first picture above is actually a dress and frustrated by trying to figure out if it was a genuine French Designer piece or a later English copy Timothy took to social media. He said within just 12 minutes he had proof that it was indeed a genuine French piece and various other pieces of data to support the identification. Proof that the internet can work in a good way sometimes!
Anyway it was a fantastic evening and as you may have gathered by me blathering on above I LOVED it.
Tomorrow I am off to Lou Lou's January sale vintage fair in Oxford with my friend from work Alex. I'll report back on that and also share with you my (many) January purchases next post.
You will be delighted to know I have so far managed to firmly stick to my dress buying resolutions.
There again it's only January........