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!



paris musings – the museums


This could be a long list, but for the time being, here are some of our preferred museums… slightly off the beaten tourist path.

Musée des Arts et Métiers 60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris

Founded in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, this museum is dedicated to technological innovation and inventions. There are seven collections: Scientific instruments, Materials, Energy, Mechanics, Construction, Communication and Transport. It was refurbished in 2000, and has over 2,400 inventions housed in quite an impressive interconnected buildings, including planes hanging within an church – well worth a visit for that space alone.

Grande Galerie de l’Évolution 36 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 is another impressive vast metal and glass hall structure, with a collection of over 7000 preserved/ taxydermied animals on displayed.

It is close to the Jardin des plants, and the Grande Mosquée de Paris which in turn has the tea room… Cafe de la Mosquee de Paris, 39 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Paris, Île-de-France 75005that is supposed to be great (I have yet to get to the tearoom)

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting & Nature) 62, rue des Archives, 75003 is as the name suggests, full of the tools man has developed to hunt IMG_7522.JPGanimals; primarily guns – some with incredibly ornate inlays, there were also some crossbows and other items. The majority of the musem is dedicated to paintings, and the taxidermy animals, including a talking boar head. S. generally found is all a bit scary, so we shot around, with a brief visit to the top floor where there was the chimpanzee tea party along with the “Hunting Wild Game With Flashlight and Camera”  exhibition of the 1905 photographs by George Shiraz, the American lawyer/politician and former hunter turned photographer.

IMG_7595.JPGMusee Picasso  5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 is a fabulous collection of over 5,000 pieces work on several floors. Long lines to get in, but very enjoyable. As Picasso requires little explanation, a bit about the actual building … Hotel Salé (salted) was built between 1656 and 1659 for Pierre Aubert, a tax farmer who became rich collecting salt tax. The architect was Jean Boullier from Bourges and it is considered to be one of the finest historic houses in the Marais. It was selected as the Musée Picasso in the 70s and designed by the French architect Roland Simounet.

Palais de la Découverte– Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008. We have spent many a day in this museum. It has some fabulous temporary exhibitions, but its mainly the hands on interactive area along with the Planets room that we keep returning for. In addition to this, there are kid friendly lectures (in French) in the various departments of chemistry, biology, physics, and maths amongst others. The museum was created in 1937 by Jean Baptiste Perrin during an international exhibition on “Arts and techniques in modern life” and is next to the Grand Palais.

IMG_7920.JPGCité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris
This building is totally different to its sister museum, Palais de la Découverte.
With two interactive play areas for kids, one aged <5 the other 5-12, we have always gone to the small one in the past which has been a lot of fun. Very physical, things to touch, feel, and manipulate. The 5+ was a new experience, plenty to keep the kids entertained, slightly more informative for the readers amongst you, and a couple of live TV/Studio production set ups. I’ll need to go back again for full exploration 🙂
The huge, modern, five-level metal structure is impressive enough with its “bioclimatic facade” and IMAX theater, but then it is set in the fabulous grounds of Parc de la Villette – the largest park in Paris. You can easily spend the whole day getting lost amongst the play areas, fields, and pathways. The expanse of land for kids to run around, the Argonaute (S636) submarine, the playgrounds with the grand colorful dragon slide, it is all great for wearing young ones out!
The Grande Halle de la Villette seems to always be hosting some public get together, whilst the Cite de la Music along with the Philharmonie de Paris hosts exhibitions (the late David Bowie exhibition – loved it) and performanes (I saw Moriarty here – loved it!). Surrounded by the Canal de Saint Denis and the Bassin de la Villet, you can get strange little boat-carts that running down to the Canal Saint Martin.

Musée Marmottan Monet  2 Rue Louis Boilly, 75016 Paris

london exhibitions – the fallen woman

Reflections on The Fallen Woman exhibition at The Foundling Museum, London

The Fallen Woman was one, originally of good standing, who had “fallen” from grace; “fallen” out of respectable society; “fallen” victim to the sins of the flesh, “fallen” for the wrong man; someone who would then also quite often “fall” out of favor with her family, friends, respectable society, and who quite literally, often ended up “falling” from The Bridge of Sighs into a river of whispers.

It’s not as if extra-marital affairs were something new – Anthony and Cleopatra, Guinevere and Lancelot, Tristan & Isolde, Elizabeth and Sir Walter, Napoleon and Josephine come to mind. So our ladies fall seems to have less to do with “sexual knowledge outside of marriage”, and more do to with the fact that she was caught out by potential consequences – you can’t really hide a swollen belly, and subsequent years of child care and financial drainage. In comparison, the male – whether a lover, courtier, adulterer, seducer, or even rapist– who was often admired for his promiscuity, could also move on with no visible physical literal impact or responsibility (unless of course he got caught with the clap or syphilis)

So what to do in these circumstances? Some country air is always a good cure for most ailments, so off to the country for a few months, after which the offspring could be guised as a sibling, shipped off to a distant relative, or an orphanage…

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 6.03.16 PM.pngWhen opened in 1741, the Foundling Hospital accepted all babies brought to them, with no “preference to any person”; by 1768, mothers had to submit an application. Then by the mid 19th Century, whether a response to the unmanageable volume of incoming babies, or Britain’s focus on the virtuous christian life, with a good marriage, good housekeeping, child bearing and rearing as the personification of a good woman , the hospital introduced a strict criteria for child acceptance that was based on the mother’s… good character and potential to go on and live a virtuous life …  and so the fallen woman was born.

After submitting their application, along with character references, if approved, they were given a date and time to deliver their child through a hatch door in the wall of the Foundling Hospital. Hopefully, now free of the evidence and burden of their indiscretions, these women would be able to return to their former status and station in life.

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The turning point, downfall and despair became ripe territory for composers, novelists and painters: Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Verdi’s Violetta. Women were often depicted outside, outcast, in wintery scenes, desperate, shunned, alone …. the inevitable outcome….plunging to her death…  The exhibition at the Foundling Museum included hundreds of letters from women and their referees…as many women couldn’t actually write, many of the applications were in the same hand writing. Acceptance and reject letters, a sound installation, and some poignant paintings, it was a very moving couple of hours.

Thank goodness society has moved forward and our children can now experience supportive family and friends, whatever their parental circumstance. However, the obsession of the fallen woman, and man, lives on, but with different criteria: drugs, money, alcohol, suicide…people have a morbid fascination with the downward spiral and difficulties of others…Hollywood Babylon collected those stories, tabloids revel in these stories. Amy Winehouse’s public struggles and press feeding frenzy comes to mind, the deconstruction of Robin Williams mental state and suicide, amongst many others.

At least their struggles were not brought about by having to put their child through a hatch door