2017 London Exhibitions



One of the benefits of living in a city is the large variety of activities and shows you have access to. With a young child, it’s almost like pandoras box. There is always something to do!

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Tate Modern
#FujikoNakaya fog sculpture. Apparently the 83-year-old Japanese artist’s father is credited with making the first artificial snowflakes, and Fujiko has worked on developing a system to disperse water vapour at high pressure since the 1970’s!  The fog sculpture was a fave with Spencer.

Fahrelnissa Zeid trained in both Paris and Istanbul and was an important figure in the Turkish avant-garde d Group in the early 1940s and the School of Paris in the 1950s. I loved her vibrant abstract paintings that seemed to synthesised Islamic, Byzantine, Arab and Persian influences and almost seem a precursor to Pucci’s fabric design.

Wolfgang Tillman’s exhibition provided a variety of photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music. This was not a retrospective, but a variety of different rooms that had all been staged by Tillman. The exhibition did not capture my eye or my heart.

The Radical Eye, on the other had, well, I know Sir Elton has plenty of change to buy wonderful photos, but I do have to say,  what a wonderful collection of photographs, from social documentary to objects, perspectives and abstractions. My only criticism was the gauche framing of some of the images; maybe representative of Sir Elton’s inner artist and his external flamboyance!

Tate Britain
Rachel Whiteread – one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists has an inverse approach to life: using various materials (plaster, concrete, resin, rubber) she casts the negative space of everyday objects. I found the concept of positive/negative space, how we perceive and interact with it interesting, and enjoyed the post-viewing discussion more inspiring than the actual show, but then maybe that means the show did exactly what it meant to do!
David Hockney – a great collection spanning 60 years of work. From his portraits and images of Los Angeles swimming pools, through to his drawings and photography, Yorkshire landscapes and most recent paintings – this was a wonderful show.
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Gillian Wearing & Claude Cahun: behind the mask, another mask. I loved this exhibition.
Although Gillian Wearing was born almost seventy years after French artist Claude Cahun, and they came from very different backgrounds, there are strong parallels drawn between two artists: both use self-portrait and use the self-image to explore themes of identity and gender, often played out through masquerade and performance.“ Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.” Claude Cahun, 1930.
We all present a multitude of faces to the world around us, and whilst Cahun is now best known for her striking self-portraits… the influence of which seems to have permeated all around….Cahun saw herself primarily as a writer. In 1930 she published Aveux non avenus (translated into English as Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions), an ‘anti-memoir’ including ten photomontages created in collaboration with Moore.
Fashion & Textile Museum

Screen Shot 2017-12-09 at 11.08.35 AMJosef Frank designer and artist (1885-1967) developed some wonderfully vibrant textiles. He grew up in Vienna in an assimilated Jewish family and studied architecture, then in the 1920s he designed housing estates and large residential blocks built around common courtyards in a Vienna with severe housing shortages. In 1925 he started the Haus & Garten interior firm together with architect colleagues Oskar Wlach and Walther Sobotka. When he moved to Sweden, he started to work with Estrid Ericson on furniture, glassware, lighting and interior design ideas, and they redefined “Swedish Modern”. This exhibition included a range of fabric designs and several of his water colours.  He had a strong passion in botanics, and Frank developed his floral prints  including lawn daises, tulips, roses, bindweed, forget-me-nots, violets, lily of the valley, crocuses and grape hyacinths, blending them with pure fantasy flowers.

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Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895–1989)
This retrospective focused on her 22 years as leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar but included work from before and after. I loved this exhibition; I found her work wonderful – fresh, spontaneous but also carefully planned.

Dahl-Wolfe’s portraiture includes an impressive list of names:  W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, Colette and Carson McCullers, Dali, Orson Wells, Bette Davis, Carole Lombard and Vivien Leigh in the 1930s to Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake in the 1940s.

Lisson Gallery and The Vinyl Factory

In 1966 Cage commented on the changing conditions of contemporary existence, predicting that we increasingly live in an “all-at-once age, in which time and space are no longer rational or linear concepts and great distances can be traversed with an instantaneous click”. Art, like life, now assaults us simultaneously from all angles, from anywhere across the globe, with multi-sensory visions of an accelerated world.

Representative of our current anxiety-ridden age of ceaseless communication and insatiable consumption, this group exhibition, inspired by the words “everything at once”,  presented new and historical works spanning the past 50 years, by 24 artists including Marina Abramovic, Ai Weiwei, Allora & Calzadilla, Cory Archangel, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Ceal Floyer, Ryan Gander, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Susan Hiller, Anish Kapoor, Lee Fan, Laure Prouvost, Lawrence Weiner, and Stanley Whitney, amongst others.

I loved the sculpture by Anish Kapoor – At the Edge of the World II (1998) that floated above our heads, receding in to infinitiy. And I always like Richard Deacon’s works of twisted plywood Möbius-like form. Here they presented Turning a Blind Eye (1984).

Southbank Center

Adventures in Moominland
What a wonderful exhibition – a curious multi-sensory exploration as we discovered the life and imagination of this fabulous author Tove Jansson. This exhibition explored the stories of the Moomins and the life and influences behind the work of Tove Jansson. There was a wonderful selection of trinkets, objects and illustrations to discover as part the experience.

This was an incredibly imaginative experiential exhibition where we became part of the story. We were lead through the different rooms by a lively guide, starting in a canvas tent on the water’s edge in Finland, moving through the chilly Nordic landscape within the Moomin books, the dense forests of Moominvalley to a recreation of Tove’s art studio and her island of Klovharu. I thought it was magical.


on the road – again

I walk more than I cycle, and I cycle more than I drive, but I do all three with a certain amount of frequency and I believe it is this mix of modes that informs my etiquette in each! Ideally, whenever stepping out of the house to move from point A to B, I hope that I am in a state of equilibrium; conscious, aware, and not distracted by life, the universe and other such things. I like to consider myself a safe and competent walker/cyclist/driver, but I am increasingly aware of not wanting to be on the roads in London!

Walking – I like walking. It provides a rhythm, an opportunity to think, look around, smell the roses or chat with a fellow walker. But I don’t like being forced onto the road, into a hedge, or up a step by groups of walkers who seem oblivious to the fact that the sidewalk is a two-way system (at the moment). To pass safely, there must be an accommodation of both parties!

According to the UK Highway Code, if a pedestrian has started to cross…at a zebra crossing/cross walk, they have right of way, yet it is rare to meet a driver that knows it. I have found that most London drivers do tend to stop. However, I am not confidant enough in this to walk in to the cross walk without having clearly seen the car slow down and engaging in some form of eye contact/hand gesture with the driver. In Paris, forget about it. You can be standing at the cross walk in the most torrential downpour, and the drivers will never stop – seemingly driving in the puddle in front of you! In contrast, whilst in Basel, Switzerland, being anywhere near a crossing caused drivers to stop and wait to see what I was going to do.

I totally understand why cyclists want to cycle on the pavement. I do too. But when confronted with a cyclist who seems to think that bike=bigger=primary right of way, I get a tad annoyed. No! This pavement is for my feet! I am sharing it with you! Flickering thoughts of citizen’s arrest and collecting the fixed penalty notice of £50 cross my mind! Hmm.

Cycling – I love cycling… the wind blowing in my hair, Easy Rider style. This swift flexible machine that allows me to sails past lines of cars sitting in jams, to stop, to walk, to push on as and how I choose. The ability to get somewhere so quickly and easily; no parking hassle. Totally agile!

But I don’t like cycling on the roads. Squeezing past cars that are curb hugging. Feeling the push and pull of wind tunnels from busses and trucks. Feeling invisible to the turning car or the unforeseen “dooring” incidents.

I know it’s an offense to cycle on the pavement. The law is reflected in the Highway Code which prohibits cycling on the pavement – Rule 64: “You MUST not cycle on a pavement” However, the Home Office issued guidance calling for careful use of police discretion, particularly in respect of children. And there is no way I want my 7 year old to be cycling on the road.

Germany, Switzerland and Spain have large networks of cycle paths or pavements that are split between cyclists and pedestrians, similar to the bike paths on the Westside highway in NYC and Paris that I have enjoyed using. I feel much safer cycling and accommodating pedestrians than I feel when sharing a road with cars. But then when there is a bicycle painted on to the pathway, why can’t pedestrians stick to their pathway??!! There is a certain level of obliviousness that I frequently encountered by pedestrians wandering over into the bike lane. Whether to get a better view of the Eiffel Tower, or being distracted as they talk on the phone or being lost in headphone soundtrack world, it’s the lack of peripheral awareness that bemuses me. Everyone is so distracted by their own world…maybe we always have been, but I don’t believe it!

There have been a couple of grave stories in the news recently of cyclists hitting pedestrians with fatal results. As I trundle around on my 3-gear, back-pedal break Schwinn, I don’t think I go that fast but with the average speed of 12+mph, three times faster than the average speed of a pedestrian (3mph). I don’t consider myself a reckless rider, but I have had the terrifying experience of almost colliding with a toddler who ran out in to my path. I think I was more shaken by the incident than the toddler! That could have been one of those moments that changed lives in a blink of an eye.

Driving – I love driving. I love zipping from one place to another, the freedom of the open road, the idea of clutching my Jack Kerouac as I speed across vast plains, like Thelma and Louise – freeeeee….

But it’s another self-contained environment that makes it easy to forget that there are a zillion bits of information you are processing as you hurtle through the world at 80 – I mean 70 – mile per hour down the highway. My music, my coffee, my phone, my stuff… decked out with trinkets, furry dice balls, bobbing hula dancers, bumper stickers, slogans, shaded window, privacy/shade blinds, this is my mini home from home. Or maybe not so mini.

Due to our ever-expanding buttock size, Yankee Stadium replaced their original 1920’s 18″ seats with new 22″ seats in 1973. As I contemplate the increased width and general size of cars, I wonder if this is also due to the fact that we have gotten so much bigger as a race, but then as I walk towards the school gate, I see these skinny skinny women sitting in their oversized Range Rovers or some other such over-sized thing and think it can’t possibly be because their bums are so big.

So why have cars gotten so big? As a cyclist, I am pushed further out in to the road as these over wide machines don’t even fit in to the parking boxes. I don’t believe London roads were built or designed for the wide cars of today, and if I were in government, I would ban the personal use of oversized cars in cities. There is no need! They block the road, visibility, and they spew out pollution.

Any way, I digress. I kind of like the idea of driver-less cars, but I think my vision is to have a system that is set up where there is no “car ownership” per se. Rather, I prefer the idea of a network of driverless shuttles that you engage to get you from A to B – like an Uber pool on steroids. Everything would be automated to avoid traffic jams, parking issues, collisions, and reduce pollution… Now that’s the kind of transport system I would support in cities. As for the open road… I still need my ford mustang convertible please.


Scotland Rambles

With a very affordable ticket from Euston to Glasgow, we set off on our 5.5 hour train ride up through the west side of England, through Cumbria and into Scotland. The last long train ride we took was the sleeper from Toulouse to Paris, and I must admit, that whilst I didn’t sleep terribly well on the night train, I did not suffer the travel sickness I felt on the bouncy Virgin train. Both of us looked a little pasty at one point. That aside, it was a smooth journey with increasingly dramatic landscape to look at.

Arriving in Glasgow Central train station, we had a short 5-minute walk to Glasgow Queen Street. Up a pedestrianized street with cafes, friendly and helpful police (do we really look like lost tourists?) and some young street performers who look like the fell off the back of the truck from ‘O brother where are thou?’ Another 30 minutes on another train and we arrived in Linlithgow.

The name, Linlithgow, is derived from the Old British lynn llaith cau meaning “lake in the damp hollow”. There is a lake, next to the palace (birth place of both James V and Mary Queen of Scots) and the grounds were having a festival of sorts. Folk etymology ties the name back to the Gaelic liath gu – “grey dog”, and the burgh arms sport a black bitch. St. Michael is their patron saint, with the motto: kinde to straingers… not something that appeared to have been embraced by the locals we met on our passage. Any way, I digress. We took a cab to our final destination of Bo’Ness.

Borrowstounness is a coastal parish. Sitting on a steep hillside, it has lovely views across the Firth of Fourth to the northern hills. This name is derived from the Old English Beorn ‘warrior/man’ or ‘bear’ + weard, ‘warden, guardian, keeper’ + stun ‘town’ that later morphed to Borrowstoun, and now, contracted to Bo’ness.

The Antonine Wall, representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, starts at Bo’ness and stretches between the Firth of Forth and the Kirth of Clyde to Old Kilpatrick on the west coast of Scotland. But what 7 year old cares about that?! There’s the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in Scotland, the hippodrome. Opened in 1912, this is the oldest surviving cinema, now showing Captain Underpants, but more importantly, we have the Bo’ness and Kinneil heritage Railway Museum.

Operated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway Museum operates a total of over 5 miles of track. Round trip was about 1-hour with a couple of stops that you can get off at if you want to roam around. It has largest railway museum in Scotland with three large buildings containing lots of locomotives and carriages that you can wander around and in to, including a Royal Mail sorting carriage.

The museum is also home to the No. 1 Lord Roberts (Neilson Reid 0-6-0T) – better known as Thomas the Tank Engine. This engine was built in 1899 in Glasgow and was withdrawn from service in 1968. After being donated to the SRPS, its restoration was completed in 1996 when it became a fully licensed Thomas replica for events. With a museum admission price of a fiver for adults, and free for kids under 16 (with an adult), this was a perfect option for my little man. The train ride was a bit more.

The Explorer Pass. But how can you come to Scotland and not go and see the Castles?! And what a lot of Castles to see… in various states of ruin and grandeur. The Explorer Pass provides access to over 70 locations (entry to Stirling and Edinburgh castles alone exceed the cost of the explorer). Valid for three days (over a five day period), there’s a decent amount of flexibility to get around.

Stirling Castle – One of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, the first record dates from around 1110 when Alexander I established the chapel and royal center here.

Placed at the top of Castle Hill, three sides of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs. There are still a few structures from the fourteenth century, but the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century Before the union with England, Stirling Castle was one of the most used of the Scottish royal residences, being a palace as well as a fortress. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here in 1542.

Most of the buildings that we walked around were constructed between 1490 and 1600 when the Stewart kings, James’s IV, V and VI, developed Stirling as a principal royal centre. The Stewart Dynasty, eager to flaunt their international style, prowess and ambitions, used an eclectic mix of English, French and German architectural influences. Mary of Guise, married to James V, also brought her tailor from France to ensure she would be appropriately and fashionably dressed.

On the palace façade, there is a strategically positioned sculpture of James V looking towards his carefully selected other statues, Ganynede – cup bearer to the gods, Venus, Saturn, and Abundance! All representative of the greatness he would bring to his rule.

On the South Wall, more sculptures include one that is thought to represent Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, obviously a very busy man given his role in the architecture, design and reinforcements of several other castles we saw.


Above the Royal Palace rooms is a gallery dedicated to the original oak Stirling Heads – these impressive metre-wide 16th-century oak medallions were hand-carved with images of kings, queens, nobles, Roman emperors and characters from the Bible and Classical mythology. The faces are quite extraordinary as they distort on the far side of the flat. The medallions have been replicated to re-decorate the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall.

Several actors in historic dress were roaming around, discussing life in the time of the Stewarts, and there was also an interactive area for kids, including a dress up area. In the great hall, there is the opportunity to sit at the head of the table, and from the Gardens, you can look over to the William Wallace monument.

Doune Castle – Originally built in the thirteenth century, this castle was damaged in the Scottish Wars of independence before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Steward, Duke of Albany, (c.1340–1420), son of King Robert II. The castle was passed to the crown in 1425 and was used as a royal hunting lodge and dower house. By 1800 the castle was ruined (after the Jacobite Risings of the late 17th century and 18th century).

IMG_5530Mary Queen of Scots (reigned 1542–1567) stayed at Doune on several occasions, occupying the suite of rooms above the kitchen up a very narrow spiral staircase. There were two small rooms off the back of the main living area that looked like possible bathrooms. Very drafty, there was a large fireplace and you could imagine heat being generated by the huge Kitchen chimney. The lords quarters on the other wing were slightly grander, but also included the “lords hall” where he would pass judgment on the villagers with a possible sentence that would impose the literal fall from grace, down through a trap door into the cell.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed around Doune Castle, and more recently, the stand-in for the fictional “Castle Leoch” in Outlander.

But the highlight of the day was a trip to Inchmahome Priory.

Located on the island of Inchmahome in the centre of Lake of Menteith, you have to take a lovely little boat trip – with a maximum of 11 other explorers- to get to the Priory.

Inchmahone PrioryThe priory was founded by the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn in 1238 for a small community of the Augustinian order. Apparently fifteen monks would have lived here – eating, praying, sleeping – together at any given time. Sworn to a vow of silence, the only place they could talk was in the “parlor”.

After splitting with Rome and in order to strengthen alliances, Henry VIII proposed the marriage between his son Edward and Mary (queen of Scots). “We liked not the manner of the wooing, and we could not stoop to being bullied into love” commented George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly.

Frustrated and with Scotland’s decline of marriage, England decided to attack Scotland in the war named The Rough Wooing. In 1547, following the defeat of the Scots army at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh – Mary Queen of Scots, at the tender age of four, was hidden at Inchmahome for several few weeks.

It was a beautiful peaceful place with an eerie sense of ghosts and spirits hovering around. Very special.

Blackness Castle – The ship that never sails… I really liked this castle (referred to as a ship because of its footprint). The garrison fortress dates back to 1440s as home for Sir George Crichton. It also served as and a state prison. I think the prison quarters for one prisoner (eg: Cardinal Beaton) were larger that all my apartments put together! Its dramatic location on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth provided great views and the buildings were full of rooms, passages and stairways to explore.

In 1534-1540, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart – second cousin to James V and expert in artillery fortification, oversaw a program of fortification that included a Caponier … (apparently derived from the French word, capon coop ie: hen house but I cant find this reference in the French dictionary) which is a passage within the external wall of the entrance, allowing the defenders to fire at the backs of any attackers in the entrance area who had breached the gate. There are only three surviving Caponiers in Scotland, Stirling & Craignethan having the others. Who knew. And we have seen them all!

Linlithgow Palace – A royal manor existed on the site in the 12th century, but then this was replaced by a fortification known as ‘the Peel’, built in the 14th century by occupying English forces under Edward I. The location made it an ideal military base for securing the supply routes between Stirling and Edinburgh Castle.

The palace was built in 1424 by James I of Scotland and is apparently considered Scotland’s finest surviving late medieval secular building. It was one of the principal residences of Scottish monarchs in the 15th and 16th centuries. The stonework of the South façade was renewed and unified for James V in the 1530s by the then keeper, James Hamilton of Finnart (the fore mentioned Mr. Artillery/fortification designer.)

Mary Queen of Scots was born here in December 1542 and occasionally stayed there during her reign. Alas, it was burnt out by the English army under the command of the Duke of Cumberland in 1746. Whilst unroofed, it is still largely complete in terms of its apartments. There was a lovely fountain in the court yard, and there were certainly corridors and halls to roam around. We didn’t stay long here, but we certainly got a sense of the former splendor of the palace.

Bothwell Castle resides on the lands that Kind David I of Scotland granted to David Olifard (or Olifant), Justiciar of Lothian, along with the barony of Bothwell, in the mid 12th century. The land then passed to his descendents and by 1252 the barony became the property of Walter de Moravia, or Walter of Moray (morphing into Clan Murray… yes, ancestors of Sir Andy Murray) who had married the last Olifard baron’s heir.

The castle was built in the late 1200s to guard the strategic crossing point of the river Clyde, and frequently passed back and forth between English and Scottish hands. As such, it was slighted by the Scots in 1314, then again in 1337, after another back and forth and regaining control from the English.

It is pretty much a shell, with the remains of the preliminary building, the large round donjon (not to be confused with the dungeons that we were in fact looking for) to the west (completed in 1296), and the Great Hall that was added later, to the east. The courtyard is enclosed by long “curtain walls” with round towers at the corners.

Craignethan Castle was built around 1530, and is recognized as an early example of a sophisticated artillery fortification. It was designed by our previously mentioned Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, the Kings “Master of Work” (designer of Blackness Castle increased defenses, as well as the renaissance facades of Linlithgow Palace). He had apparently set out to build a showcase at Craignethan to display his talents in both domestic and military architecture

It is built on a beautiful site above a bend in the River Nethan with steep slopes on three sides. But then we actually parked above the castle and walked down to the entrance (I wouldn’t have thought the high ground a strategic military position of strength?!). There is a low central keep, within a rectangular walled courtyard, and several tunnels and rooms to peruse in the old residential tower, but it is a shell of a castle.

The former entrance leads into a large lobby on the first floor, then to the hall and a turnpike stair by the guardroom. The kitchen is also on the first floor, with a serving hatch and the basement is vaulted and contained cellars.

Apparently Mary, Queen of Scots may have spent the night here before the Battle of Langside in 1568. The Hamiltons formed a main part of her army, but they were defeated by the Regent Moray (co-insidently Mary’s half brother fighting on behalf of Mary’s son, James VI??!!) and Mary fled to England. The castle was then slighted, and much of the defenses demolished. 100 years later, the castle was sold to the Hays (1665), who built a house in the outer courtyard.

Inchcolm Abbey and Island – Alas, we did not make it to Inchcolm Abbey and Island. I had got my navigation wrong, and not paid attention to the fact that we needed to access the ferry from South Queensferry. Nor had I anticipated the extra cost for the ferry (£35 for 2 adults and 1 child), nor had I allowed appropriate time for the excursion – you need at least 3 hours.

Edinburgh Castle –  “Mighty Fortress and defender of the nation”…

Very impressive, but packed with tourists bustling through. We opted for a quick walk around the ramparts where we touched Mons Meg, the huge cannon. Cutting edge of military technology in 1400s, she was capable of blasting a 150kg gunstone for 3.2km (two miles). She retired around 1550, but fired a gunstone to Wardie Muir in 1558 to celebrate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots. Then she burst her barrel in 1681.

We went to look at the crown jewels. Mary’s coronation crown was next to the infamous Stone of Destiny, the powerful and ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy. In 1296 Edward I of England took the mystical stone – the pillow of Patriarch Jacob when he dreamed of Jacob’s Ladder – from Scone, near Perth, then had it built into his own throne. Since then it has been used in the coronation ceremonies for the monarchs of England and Great Britain.

St Margaret’s Chapel was lovely. Built around 1130 by David I, he dedicated this chapel to his mother Queen Margaret (later to be sainted). The decorated chancel arch is original, while other features, such as the stained glass windows, are more recent.

Moving on to something totally different… Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is definitely a good place for an inquisitive mind and budding paleontologist!

Going back time to the big bang, we saw stars explode on the other side of the galaxy before encountering the primeval forces of nature that shaped our planet…erupting volcanoes, the ice age, tropical rainforests… Who knew Scotland was so instrumental in the geological discoveries that challenged the idea that the earth was 4004 years old. With an introduction from the Father of Modern Geology, James Hutton, we learned how he evolved his theories on the earth’s formation “through the gradual solidification of a molten mass at a slow rate.” He concluded that the Earth was immeasurably old and could not possibly be explained within the limits of the chronology inferred from the Bible….maybe not the best way to make friends back in the day!

Whilst there are rooms without a set time limit, there is quite a regimented passing through of the experience, with films and narrations moving you along, so the whole experience was less than two hours, but we were allowed to go around again.

Parking was easy (under the space) and also had a discount for Dynamic Earth visitors. Fairly central, we left the car there and walked in to Edinburgh old town and ended up at the Scottish National Museum.

Scottish National Museum – EXCELLENT! What a great museum. Interactive, vast, multiple topics, free (donations accepted!) and just such a beautiful building to have a cup of tea in! Light, bright, beautifully presented artifacts.  A match for the London Natural History Museum and the Paris Grande Galerie de l’evolution! We loved it here.




Our (not so) Rational Brains

We are rational creatures and we don’t like to waste our time on what’s not important.

This may be exemplified, right now, by your scanning the first, maybe second paragraph, of this article before deciding whether or not to read the rest. You might be more inclined to read this if you actually know me, or my name, and even if I’ve been somewhat clever with my title to catch your attention, you’ll still quickly determine whether or not the body copy captures your interest.

You might be a little more interested in what I have to say if you see that one of your friend’s has actually “liked” or read my post. But this whole evaluation will take place so very quickly, you won’t even notice that you have done it. Yet you will have evaluated the value of your reading this against your most precious commodity, your time. Is this going to be worth your time …or not.

As a marketer, I know my goal is to improve the productivity of my marketing & advertising efforts. I need to increase the number of profitable shares, to increase the amount that shoppers are prepared to pay for X product, and to increase the profit margin by reducing the cost of consumer acquisition/marketing cost per $1 of net revenue. Easy!

But is it? Loyal customers are great, but are they our most valuable? Maybe not. A hundred people buying my product once is more valuable to me than one person that loyally buys only my brand. Sure I like their loyalty, their ability to advocate on my behalf, and return to me. Heck, I’ll even give them a loyalty card to make them feel special. But my brand isn’t going to grow with Joe Schmoe buying my product; to grow my market share I want increased market penetration. My brand isn’t going to fail if Joe slows down on his buying my product, but it does hurt when I loose those fickle customers to something else because they look at the other brands in my category as if they were near perfect substitutes for each other. And that hurts!

We spend years and years working on gathering stats and facts about why one brand is different to another. But who cares? Virtually no one… A lot of the time, we (consumers) don’t even know why we choose one brand over another; we just want to know that it works. We don’t really know why we buy more or less of one product over another, but ask the question, and I’ll certainly try and come up with a good strong opinion as to the reason why.

But why?! Our subconscious brain makes about 90% of the decisions we make on a daily basis. And it is our behaviours that influence our attitudes. Consider the saying “Act as is” or “Act yourself in to thinking”. Once purchased, our brain will quite happily invest time and energy to justify our behaviour by the rational brain. Not that awareness or recognition alone means that we’ll buy a brand; of course we can be aware of a brand but never buy it. But FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and Loss Aversion will certainly be more likely to motive action.

Dating back to Aristotle’s view of the mind, it is wo/man’s ability to think and reason that sets us apart from beasts. Humans are rational creatures, with the supremacy of reason. Whilst Plato gave more credence to the emotional, referring to the Rational and Emotional as two horses in the brain, pulling in different directions, he considered emotions as dangerous and in need of controlling. Descarte also referred to the Mind/Body Split, but it is because Je pense, donc je suis, so our rational consciousness has remained key. But are we really that smart?!

Antonio Damasio, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute has authored several books shifting the focus on to the impact of the emotional brain as equally if not more in control of our behaviour that “rational” man has wanted to admit. Throughout evolution, emotion has functioned to allow living beings act smartly without having to thing smartly. In humans, reasoning does what emotions do but achieves it knowingly.

In his book, Descartes’ Error, Damasio used the Iowa Gambling task to demonstrate how emotion allows humans to “Act smartly without having to think smartly”. When faced with complex and conflicting choices, individuals are unable to decide using only cognitive processes. Somatic markers (feelings in the body that are associated with emotions, such as the association of rapid heartbeat with anxiety or of nausea with disgust) are then engaged to help with the decision process.

Somatic markers simplify the decision process by directing attention towards more advantageous options. This overall state directs (biases) one’s decision of how to act and may occur covertly (unconsciously), or overtly (consciously), engaging higher cortical cognitive processing. Simply put, he demonstrates that the individual will, in the following order:

  1. feel something
  2. adjust our behavior accordingly
  3. explain afterwards why

But why is the brain so lazy? The brain consumes a huge amount of energy, so the less we use it the more it likes it. The less we have to think, the more automatic a behaviour comes, the more we like it, and the easier it is for us.

Our 5 senses are capable of absorbing 11 million bits of information per second, yet our conscious brain processes 40 bits of information per second. So over 99% of our brain’s work is subconscious…and yes, almost 95% of our purchases are determined subconsciously. And you thought you were making intelligent smart informed decisions!

As Daniel Kahneman, Israeli-American psychologist, Nobel laureate, and author of ‘Thinking fast and slow’ (2011) saidHumans are to independent thinking like cats are to swimming. We can do it when we have to, but we’d much rather not”. Kahneman identified simple biological truths about the way we buy and rationalize our purchase decisions based on the following premises:

  1. Our brains are inherently lazy things
  2. We don’t naturally like to think too hard about tasks and problems
  3. Our most significant purchase decisions are emotional, not rational

So for marketing purposes, Kahneman advocates keeping things simple when trying to sell. That doesn’t sound like rocket science… what’s the single most important thing you want to convey? Stick to it. Simple briefs are the best briefs. Faced with a multitude of inherently lazy brains, how do we make sure our messages rise to the top, be consciously acknowledged, and create the desired affect?

Understanding how the mind really works can give anyone in marketing a competitive advantage. But is marketing and advertising the transmitter of necessary information, helping the democratic populous be aware of all the product choices available to them in the free world, or is it actually a deceptive, duplicitous and underhanded. How subversive are the messages we are surrounded by on a daily, or hourly basis?

We spend our time thinking about creating strategies of desire, and how we can tap in to automatic behaviours. The world of inference and assumptions are wonderful for brain shortcuts. Building on Damasio and Kahneman’s theories, we can assume that the less the consumer has to think, the more automatic their behaviour comes, the more they like it, and the easier it is for them….and the easier it is for the marketer.

Brain Science is now helping to identify the implicit and explicit processes and triggers that impact marketing and decision-making. And we are discovering how deeply buried beliefs and assumptions are driving every decision we make. Brand awareness is good, but brand salience is critical to brands, and this distinction is the essence of branding.

Kahneman’s taked about the two systems of the brain. The unconscious portion is on duty twenty-four hours a day, every day of your life. It’s incredibly powerful. While the conscious brain loses focus every six to ten seconds, your unconscious brain never, ever loses focus, not once, not ever! So obviously, this is where all the action is located.

This is where everything from perception to habits, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments and achievements take place. This is the seat of change that allows you to follow through with all of the activities that produce the intended outcomes concocted by the conscious mind, which defines, articulates, and establishes the basic direction.

Kahneman’s Two Systems


  • Unconscious
  • Automatic
  • Fast & Frugal
  • Instinctive & Intuitive
  • Emotional
  • Pervasive
  • Helps us make judgments in
    less that 1/30th of a second
  • Long term brand preferences

  • Conscious
  • Considered
  • Slow & Deliberate
  • Rational & Logical
  • Post-rationalization helping to justify decisions
  • Not always aligned with the non-conscious brain
  • Loses focus every six to ten seconds

Whether we call them Somatic markers, Cognitive Levers, Cognitive Bias Combinations, automatic behaviours, inference, assumptions, or Heuristic Cues these pathways within the brain evaluate decision making in a consistent, describable, yet irrational way. So targeting the subliminal mind, we can familiarize people with products, just by sheer share of voice (how many times did we hear Trump’s name on the airwaves during the campaign). Familiarity of information makes it more readily absorbed and accepted. And if a picture is worth 1000 words, a symbol is worth 1000 pictures. Planting images, symbols, sounds, or smells below the subconsious, all impacts behaviour and leads to ‘Predictive Programming’ where visual clues and symbols are encoded into all forms of art, film, media works, aimed to infiltrate large audiences (product placement in movies is a fine example of this). These images and symbols, subtly conveyed in encoded form, are all designed to influence the subconscious mind.

In the world of big data, we can assess and analysis and influence consumer behaviour more and more… for good, and for bad. From data crunching, we know that big brands have more customers than small brands, and that these customers are a little bit more loyal than they are to other brands (known as the Law of Double Jeopardy). Categories also share customers. However, the degree to which they share is influenced by brand size. For example, buyers of small brands are more likely to buy big brands; buyers of big brands are less likely to buy smaller brands (The Law of Duplication of Purchase). More buyers buy once, than those who five or more time, and there are a lot of light buyers, even amongst large brands (The Negative Binominal Distribution); and buyers change their buying propensities. Around 50% of heavy buyers remain heavy buyers; the others become medium, light or non-buyers. In addition, brand user profiles tend to reflect the category as a whole (vs. different types of buyers buy different brands).

So businesses or “Brand owners”, driven by quarterly profits, need to recruit more buyers to grow. Recruitment is key to maintenance and growth, but penetration is the most important metric. Loyalty metrics respond to changes in penetration, but loyalty does not drive penetration.

Brand Marketers only need three or four metrics, only one of which is brand specific, to understand the buying behaviour in a market, and the 100% loyal customers are not that valuable to brands – they are usually light buyers of the brand, and category.

Brands compete as direct substitutes for each other. DoP analysis show how brands compete for SIZE. And SIZE is a function of mental and physical availability, benefiting economies of scale that is the real driver of profitability.

This isn’t all to say that people don’t think about their purchases. There are a lot of times when we will investigate a purchase… when it has a high ticket price, when it is something that we care passionately about, or when you are in-front of the shelf looking at prices… and ‘Brands’ are an extension of our ego, our personality, our beliefs and how we want to be perceived. But it would be naïve to think that we are not being subconsciously swayed before we get to our conscious decision act.

Subconscious Attention comes before conscious recognition, and conscious recognition comes before cognitive evaluation. And the rational evaluation of messages is less important than we think. The distinctive Brand Assets are the essence of brand equity that have been established in our memory structures way before we are aware of it. And it is the distinctive brand assets, and memory association that increase sales and improves marketing productivity. Brands that are easier to recognize, will have increased brand preference, and they will be faster to find. This of course is the reason why you will find packaging looking so similar… The “I buy the green dog food… not sure what it is, but it’s got a green can!” syndrome.

Excellent, another revenue stream, this time for copyright lawyers! Distinctive Assets are legally protectable in many markets, so the color, the logo, the swirl, the name can all be trade marked. But there are some brand differentiators that can be easily copied by other brands/private label etc.

Visual Heuristic Cues help the brain cope with the information overload and to make it easier for us to make decisions. These cues are judgment-relevant “information shortcuts,” or “knowledge devices”. They are rules of thumb, educated guesses, stereotyping, profiling, common sense ideas that are stored in our implicit memories.

Auditory signals also help influence our behaviour. Marketing experts make use of the power of music extensively. In almost all commercials music is one of the key design elements. Again, the subconscious effects of music go un-noticed, yet when the music fits the product, it can increase marketing effectiveness by 20-30%. There is no rational messaging required with music; it is working purely on the emotional system. So when you are in the store, and there is some music being piped in to the food isle, or the wine area, check out if you’re listening to Indian music and putting indian food items in your basket, or listening to French music and putting French wine in to the basket! Article

In today’s world, there is an over supply of goods eg: Fast Fashion, off shoring. In fact we are drowning in material products. The charity shops can’t even keep up with the donations. We are exposed to marketing messages everywhere, anywhere and at any time of the day, and there is huge competition for our attention. With the quarterly cycle of Wall Street, and the need for more profits, the ideas of crop rotation, living with in your means, or only eating, wearing, buying what you need is long gone.

So when you think you’re in control of you’re decisions, think again. It may not be you at all!



Some additional reading:

This slideshare by Benjamine Pedrosa about neruomarketing is quite interesting.: http://www.slideshare.net/benjaminpedrosa/directed-study-neuromarketing

Unconscious Branding, How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. Doug Van Praet:

“Consumers are not in control of their brand choices,” he writes. “Humans operate from two separate and often contentious cognitive systems and the mind that drives most of our behavior is ironically the one unbeknownst to ourselves.” Van Praet cites numerous studies showing that 95% of our thinking and most of our choosing occurs in our unconscious minds.

“As consumers,” he continues, “we make choices without understanding their foundations, and as marketers, we sell and brand products without understanding how to truly connect them to people. We are all playing a game, and we don’t even know how that game is being played.”

“Seducing the subconscious: The Psychology of Emotional influence in advertising” Robert Heath

“The anatomy of Humbug: How to think differently about advertising”. Paul Feldwick

The Rubin – The World Is Sound

“What?” she said. “Pardon”, “Sorry, I didn’t catch that”, “Can you repeat what you said?” We have these magnificant tools on either side of our head, that continually hear things, but we have a fairly lousy ability to actually listen!

The Rubin Museum’s exhibition, The World Is Sound, was full of sonic experiences designed to show you how to listen with your whole body, with a consideration as to how sound, space and perception impact you.

“Deep Listening” was about the practice developed by Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016). Designed to improve our sonic awareness, Oliveros considered “deep listening” as integral to our creativity, our connection to the environment, and the expansion of our consciousness. She created a set of instructions called Sonic Meditations, and in this, listening and hearing are not interchangeable. Whilst hearing is the physical reception of sound in waveforms, listening is focused on the interpreting the waveforms and providing them with meaning. She believed Deep listening could enhanced openness and compassion. A tall order… she thought not. It’s not about silence, its about embracing the sounds in our environment.

IMG_5213There were mantras available to listen to next to the beautiful sculptures and paintings of the museum, along with an immersive room playing a complication of over 1000 OMs that were recorded by visitors to the museum over the spring. There was also the fabulous audio installation that extended from the ground floor to the ceiling of the top gallery. Circling the vestibule, walking down the stair way  created another exploration of drone sounds through space and time.

In addition to the sonic exploration, I was thrilled to discover that there was the Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame photographic exhibition. I love his photographs and these were some exceptional shots from his trip in 1948, including shots of Ghandi’s last day of life and the events around his funeral.


“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” Musings on Splitting.

Over the past two years, we have witnessed and participated in two incredibly polarizing political campaigns.

Brexit and Trump have caused more passionate debates and a proliferation of facebook de-friending’s than I can remember. There has been no room for “a middle ground”, and the foundation of the democratic system, a system based on checks and balances has gone the way of all flesh. Polarized, Brexit is going to destroy, or save Britain. Trump is either all evil, or a savior. And if you think one way, and I think another, how on earth can I possibly like you? We are living in split nations. The splitting and division of these two nations, nations that I belong to, has been interestingly timed with my exploration of the role, benefits and downsides of splitting within the individual.

The word “split” or “splitting” – is derived from the 16th century Dutch word – splitten – meaning to ‘break up a ship’. But the word also alludes to the violent force of the storm or rock that destroys the ship. This seems applicable in terms of how “splitting” is considered within the individual, as it is often associated with a tumultuous break within the psyche. The splitting of the ego, whether a primary (instinct: flight/flight) or secondary (psychic: repression/suppression) defense mechanism, it in fact de-stabilizes the whole.

The scientific developments of the 19th century had a major impact on understanding health and disease; within the field of psychology, experimental research resulted in new knowledge and theories regarding the human psyche.

In the 1880’s, Pierre Janet, French psychologist and medic, was a leader in the field of dissociation and traumatic memory. He was one of the first to allege a connection between events in a subject’s past life and his or her present-day trauma. But in keeping with the general belief that all illness had hereditary causes, in 1889, Janet wrote that splitting was the product of innate weakness and a defense against overwhelming traumatic experience.

More widely know, Freud, and his colleague Breuer, elaborated on Janet’s theory when they considered “the splitting of the mind and dissociation of the personality“. Freud pointed the difference between their views and those of Janet, saying “We explain it dynamically, from the conflict of opposing mental forces, and recognise it as the outcome of an active struggling on the part of the two psychical groupings against each other.” So they proposed splits in consciousness were not as an innate constitutional weakness of mental functioning, but the result of inner conflict. As a defense mechanism, Freud considered it “possible for the ego to avoid a rupture … by effecting a cleavage or division of itself” The challenge though, what is pushed down in one place will inevitably pop up and play out in another! Whether in the individual, or in the split nation… we’ve seen a surge in hate crime since our divided nations have become so apparent.

Melanie Klein, another great psychodynamic theorists and practitioner, started analyzing children in 1919. Freud didn’t believe children could be analyzed, however, using novel therapeutic techniques for her work with children, Klein presented new theories on infant development. Her work, along with that of the Scottish theorist Ronald Fairbairn, led to a different use of “splitting” within the development of Object Relations theory. With sufficient ego present at birth, the infant can experience anxiety, primitive defense mechanisms, and object relations.

Rather than considering Splitting as a specific defense mechanism called in to action in the face of adversity, in 1935 Klein proposed that the infant’s “primitive states tend to deconstruct objects into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bits” also know as ‘part-objects’. Klein called the first stage of the child’s development the Paranoid Schizoid position. At this time, the infant experiences the world in polarized extremes. Everything is either all good or bad: things the child loves (good, gratifying objects) and things the child hates (bad, frustrating objects). This initial ‘splitting of the object’ addressed the necessary resolution of contradictory feelings of love (mom is feeding, comforting me) and hate (mom is not here, not feeding me, not comforting me) the infant felt towards the mother. Klein exemplified this through the good breast and the bad breast; the child cannot comprehend the mother is both the source of nourishment (emotional and physical) but also the source of pain and frustration. It is as the child learns that people and objects can be good and bad at the same time, s/he progresses and matures in to the next phase – the Depressed Position.

Not to be confused with “depression”, or a “depressive” position, Klein’s “depressed position”, was defined by the depolarization of the two drives, entailing “a steady, though painful, approximation towards the reality of oneself and others.” The increasing nearness of good and bad brings with it a corresponding integration of ego. We learn to understand that the mature life is lived in the shades of grey. The infant comprehends not only the good and bad in the mother, but the good and bad feelings towards her, within him/herself. This process, and the internalization of a good loving object, is critical to healthy development as it is the “internalized good loving object” that produces a sufficient sense of security and state of well-being that in turn, provides the necessary coping mechanisms for defending the adult-self when under stress (internal or external). Klein believed that if the individual does not succeed in working through the depressive position and with it, the integration of complex contrary feelings, the individual would continue to struggle in adult life. If we live in a split, divided and polarized nation and state of belief, we will struggle. There is no flexibility, no checks and balances, no openness. We as individuals, and a society, will regress… mob and group mentality scarily comes to mind.

The pathological splitting of the ego often uses Projection to misattribute undesirable or unacceptable thoughts and feelings onto the external object (or person). Whether a lack of insight or acknowledgement of one’s own motivations or repressed feelings, it may be representative of a defense mechanism. Taking it a step further, through Projective Identification’, the unwanted thoughts and feelings are projected into the external object (or person). For example, I cannot tolerate or acknowledge feelings of anger and aggression within myself, so I act in a subconscious manner that triggers the anger or aggression in you. This way, I defend my “self” against aggressive impulses, but I have the necessary cathartic release as you act out the aggression. In a way, I loose part of my identity, but I elicit that part –the emotion and expression of it- in you.

When manifesting in the “leader” of group, this pathological splitting can have potentially dangerous and unfathomable results. The group, relinquished of responsibility, defers to their “leader” for guidance, and when living in a state of fear and anxiety, the ‘group’ then acts in unmentionable ways in the name of their leader (Hitler as an easy example). The split of the individual instigates splits within the group, and if splitting is regressive, you have regression leading regression… you have de-stabilization.

When we feel stressed, overloaded, or confused; we stop, and try to simplify our thoughts into a manageable form. So as a primary defense mechanism, splitting serves to simplify and help make sense of the world. But if we stay in this split state, is it a sign of “ego weakness” or immaturity. The world cannot be lived with all or nothing thinking.

Yet, over and over again, we see these extreme opinions and states of being in individuals, in families, in work places, and in politics. Splitting, in the DSM is defined as “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation”. Within depression, the client may exhibit exaggerated all-or-nothing thinking. For example: My efforts are a fabulous success or it’s a total failure; Therapy is a waste of time/ I can’t live without it.

There is a prevalent lack of self-acceptance, a pervasive dissatisfaction with who we are, what we have, how our bodies are, how young, or how old we are. There is envy, hate or distrust of others who are not familiar to us.

Whilst ‘Splitting’ is not a new concept, it has been used throughout history. Whether referring to Plato’s Tripartite soul as defined in the Republic Book IV (400 BC), Aristotle’s: Three souls (psyches)
(vegetal, animal, and rational) On the soul (350 BC), Descarte’s Dualism Mind/Body Split “Je pense, donc je suis” (Principles of Philosophy 1637), Janet “disassociation” “subconscious” (1889);  Freud’s distinction between the Id, ego & superego (1910), the role of the brain (or mind), and the meaning of Consciousness has been an ongoing philosophical debate over time.


Descartes mind-body split, left brain/right brain creative/logical split, or the use of splitting as a divide and conquer tactic in politics and war. Whilst often considered in a negative context, splitting can also be deployed as a necessary survival mechanism – it serves as the basis of distinguishing, discriminating and attending to this vs. that; it can help you perceive danger and act accordingly. But whether a defense mechanism, part of the developmental process, or a group divisive tactic, splitting is an unstable and unsustainable state of being.


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Chelsea Romeo

As i quick-stepped down Sydney Street, eyeing the back of Joe as he speed ahead, darting and weaving along the sidewalk, I was suddenly brought to a halt as a battered old fiat beelined towards me.

Bumping into the curb as he put his breaks on, the aging gentleman with thin streaks of grey hair vertically lined across the top of his head, lent across the passenger street and rolled down the window.

Regain my balance and composure after thinking I was about to be mowed down, I adjusted my demeanour to that of helpful citizen prepared to dish out potentially incorrect directions to a fellow citizen in need… I’d only moved here a week ago after all….

“Hellooooo” came the dulcet tones. “How are you?”  Taken aback, slightly suprised by this warm greeting, maybe he thought I was someone else. I suddenly thought about Joe. Where was he? I looked down the street and breathed a second sigh of relief. He was crouch down, examining a snail on the sidewalk. I called to him, and he nonchalantly looked up, acknowledged my presence, before turning back to poking the snail with a blade of grass.

I turned my attention to the gentleman who was at this point struggling with a plastic back under the passenger seat, then he presented a plastic container of cinnamon buns. “Would you like one?” he offered with a broad smile. “Oh!” I said, confused…”No thank you, I’m fine” I responded in my best politely rejecting voice.

“What’s your name?” he continued, as if oblivious to my bemused look. “They’re fresh! I just got them. What’s a lovely young lady like you doing wandering the streets. Would you like a drink. It’s very hot isnt it. Such lovely weather. where are you from? are you Swedish?”

He leapt out and came around the front of the car, appearing quite agile for the age I had projected onto him. Leaning back in through the open window he picked up the container of cinnamon buns and turned to re-offer them too me.

As if my peripheral vision no longer worked, I felt pinned between the car and the hedge behind me. How on earth could I politely extract myself from the flattering attentions of this bizarre man, with a smile stretched across his face and his humble offering to break bread together!

“Joe!” I shouted, this time getting a more sustained level of attention.. “I’m coming…. I’m very sorry, sir (i said deferentially) but i must go. I need to get my son home.”

“oh your son. How charming. what a lovely lad… would he like a cinnamon bun?”
“no but thank you kindly, we really need to get going”

9 months later …
“Joe, pay attention. Come on, we’re late …who has right of way on the side walk?” I barked as we cycled to school. “Pedestrians” came the exaggerated melodic response “Correct. cycle carefully… dont knock in to ……” I looked at the couple leaning against the wall of the corner patisserie. The man stood with his leg cocked in cavalier pose, as his hand positioned just above her shoulder balancing him. His smile, ear to ear, was interjected with words in a strong italian accent. The lady had a blushing and entertained look on her face. He then took her by the hand and started to shimmy a two-step and then raised his hand to give her a twirl. Bread stick and paper bag of pastries in hand, she laughingly obliged.

Our Chelsea Romeo strikes again!



Collision Course

Cycling around the park on the bike path, chasing Spencer who is speeding ahead to win the race, time shifted in to slow motion.

I noticed a small child, possibly 2 or 3, on the pavement looking at me. He turns his head and looks across the road as if to assess the logistics of speed, velocity and time. How fast is that object moving towards me, what trajectory is it on, can i run across the road…

I start to ring my bell as if he would understand that as a warning sign – a signal to stay put… but he stepped off the pavement and started toddling into the road. Not sure if to turn my breaking wheels to the left or to the right, I howled, and skidded to the right, clipping his heel. The bike stopped, the boy was crying, my heart was thudding.

I looked around in shock as the mother, who had been on the other side of the road, appeared, scooped him up and walked off muttering “it’s ok” leaving me standing in the road…

Another lady cyclist standing to the side said “- it’s alright, dont worry about it. At least you stopped…. she was on the phone…”

Bemused, I cycled off in search of Spencer. I started to think i shouldn’t have just cycled off, so when I found him, I called for him to come back with me. I wanted to check everything was alright.
I found the mother with her boy on the bench. I apologised for having cycled off- I had had to go and find my own child… was everything alright…?
Mother scowled, and buried her face it to the child bundled on her lap “it’s fine”. She was not interested in engaging.
But the little boy looked at me and showed me his hand that had caught his fall… I commented how brave he was, then said I was glad he was alright. But please wait for mummy to cross the road in future…. Another flare of a glare, I felt I had over stepped, and decided to retreat.

With a heightened sense of awareness… every move, every person in the park seemed a potential collision. I thought of the different ways each of us had responded to that fleeting moment of connection. My horror of potentially really hurting a small child, not having managed to counteract or responsd by cycling around the child; the child in shock from the clip, the fall, the howl, and the adult responses; and the mother, feeling the fear of her child being injured, or the self scolding for not paying attention, for being on the other side of the road, for being on the phone? But Spencer was eager not to have our race interrupted by such things and insisted that we complete circuit 2 of our race.

On our second passing of the peace pagoda, I spotted a couple of young children running and playing on the pavement, thankfully the other side of the road from me. But then they both ran out into the road… “Get off the road” bellowed the woman…”you’ve already been run over once today!” I averted my gaze, turning my head away in hopes she wouldn’t notice me and cycled on.

Coming up to the dreaded go-cart hut, i saw a couple of youths racing each other. Note to self… pay attention… I sallied forth, cautiously, and just as i was about to overtake one, he did a hard right wheel turn and jagged out in front of me.. I swerved to the right, as my bellow of “What the hell are you doing?” engulfed, swallowed and spat out his jovial apology.

the clangers & bagpuss

Oliver Postgate Peter Firmin.jpg  Clangers.jpg

What a lovely show at the Children’s Museum – original scripts, characters and set pieces. Two of my favorite childhood shows! Can’t believe I never put it together that they were by the same team, Smallfilms …but then I was a kid.

Smallfilms was set up by Oliver Postgate (writer) and Peter Firmin (modelmaker/ illustrator). Firmin designed the characters and his wife knitted and “dressed” the Clangers in outfits inspired by twiggy! The music which was integral to the stories was often created by Vernon Elliott.

Apparently, there is a new series… hopefully not as bad as the new Thunderbirds, and narrated by Michael Palin. Whilst I haven’t yet seen them, thankfully, the series are still animated in stop-motion animation instead of CGI which replaced the original stop-motion animation in other

IMG_0944.jpg IMG_0943.jpg

color & vision


I love the Natural History Museum, and its proximity to school was a key selling point to my six year old. The added bonus that of “entry by contribution” also makes it ideal for after school drop in visits, verses a need to eek out every possible minute of value for a tariffed entry.

IMG_0657.jpgThe posters for Color & Vision: Through the Eyes of Nature caught my eye immediately. A life time of interest in graphic design, the concept of color and vision was also of direct interest (my Communication Design college module on visual perception had been a favourite). So on our third visit to the museum – within four weeks of being in London- and with an interior design friend, we decided to buy the special exhibit ticket to go and learn about Color&Vision.

Our Spectral Vision, a rainbow-esque light installation created by British artist Liz West consisted of vertical prism-shaped light panels that mixed the colour and light as you walked in to the exhibition where a fabulous display of preserved eyeball from virtually every kind of animal you could name, greeted you.


There followed several rooms of taxidermic animals displaying their (somewhat subdued and faded) glorious colors of plumage, fur or shell. The exhibition boasts the featuring of “more than 350 rarely seen specimens..”

There was some information exploring how different animals see the world with interactive experiences – spot the camouflaged crab-  along with exposure as to how the entwined histories of colour and vision have filled the natural world.

I felt left a little wanting after this show. There is so much more that could have been explored, demonstrated, and made interactive. Colour in nature is a huge influence for art, design and innovation (I would argue with anyone who thought otherwise.) My friend did remind me that we were in The Natural History Museum, which may have been why they stuck so closely to the eyeballs and the taxidermy!