Thursday, 26 April 2012

"Who could paint as well as that?"

"Who could paint as well as that?", a question posed by an eight year old in our party as we admired the beautiful, delicate and very neat painting on the tomb of Sheri-ankh, an Egyptian woman in her early twenties who died around 2,400 years ago.

These intricate patterns tell a story about Sheri-ankh's life and her religious beliefs. The Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, but could Sheri-ankh ever have imagined that her mummified body and tomb would end up on display in Northern England in 2012? That her life would make an impact in the twenty-first century, particularly impressing eight year olds with the painting skills of the Ancient Egyptians.

If you too would like to admire the work of the craftsmen or women who painted Sheri-ankh's coffin, visit Secret Egypt: Unravelling Truth from Myth at Tullie House, Carlisle.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Colour Inspiration

"Wouldn't that pinky-brown be a lovely colour to paint your walls?"
A question put to me by a visitor as we admired these beautiful Passenger Pigeons at The Horniman Museum.

These beautiful birds are now extinct but used to account for forty percent of the North American bird population. Apparently a flock, which usually contained around two billion birds, could sound like thunder. Imagine being there as they flew past?
The last passenger pigeon was said to have been shot in 1900.
How do they know that?
And how on earth do flocks comprising of billions of birds disappear from our planet?

Nevertheless we can still admire them at The Horniman Museum. Inspiration for saving endangered species or perhaps for choosing the paint colour for our walls.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

"Is it older than the Victorians?"

As we were walking over the bridge to Eilean Donan Castle we were chatting about how old it was.

"Is it older than the second world war?" asked T age 8
"Is it older than the Victorians?"  asked M age 8

We reassured them that of course it was a lot older than those two studied-at-school times.
However, all was not as it seemed, despite the castle being originally built in the mid 13th century, the castle as it stands, as you see it today, was restored between 1912 & 1932. That makes most of it newer than the Victorians and older than the second world war and even more surprisingly newer than our Victorian terraced house.

LT.-Col. John Mac Rae-Gilstrap took a 13th century ruin and turned it into a family home. You can read more about it on their website here. They've got some great before and after shots.

A particular hit with our family was the Victorian/1930's style kitchen, complete with plenty of 'stuffed' hanging game, ready to be used in the next meal. A mouse in a mousetrap, with a cat ready to pounce, under the kitchen table. A pile of clean dishes on the draining board just starting to topple over, being caught by a flustered maid. Beautiful vintage mixing bowls. All "cool!".

In one of the bedrooms there was unexpectedly, a huge beautiful painting of dignitaries leaving St Paul's Cathedral at Churchill's funeral, and next to it a small outline drawing to let you know who each person was. Great for people spotting.

There were plenty of nooks and crannies to explore both inside and out, and keep three generations of our family happy on our visit, but we could have stayed...

Monday, 9 April 2012

I bought the book...

The catalogue, like the exhibition, is full to bursting with Hockney's paintings, drawings and photos. Hockney depicts the British countryside repeatedly, not only depicting the changes the seasons bring but even daily changes brought about by the weather and the growth of plants and trees.

I particularly like Hockney's tree tunnels. Tunnels of any sort, whether underground, under river or under trees always liven up a car journey for our family. Tree tunnels are, of course, the most varied. Even on familiar routes, tree tunnels vary depending on the weather, the time of day and the season. Winter trees with branches covered in snow can be the most exciting. Someone in the car will always call out, 'tree tunnel', whatever the weather, to get us to look.

When I visited the exhibition it was pretty crowded, at times you had to squeeze past people. In contrast, Hockney's landscapes hung silently before us, free from the bustling crowds, there weren't any people in them. It was a great contrast, viewing peaceful people-free landscapes standing in a crowded gallery.

Unfortunately A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy ends today. You can still buy the catalogue though, to take you on a journey through the predominantly British countryside. It's dynamic, long and varied as Hockney takes you from sketchbook to canvas to i-pad through the seasons and all weathers.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Three simple ingredients...

...malted barley, yeast and spring water from fourteen underground springs near Talisker Bay. When we visited Talisker Distillery last week, all was quiet, machines switched off, no water as the springs above the distillery were empty due to dry weather.

The whisky pictured above has been maturing for the last thirty-three years and half of each barrel will have evaporated by now, the "angels' share", making for happy angels above Talisker Bay. Perhaps to keep the angels happy, we were rewarded with rain on our following days on Skye.

Visit Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye. Each adult entry ticket comes with a wee dram to sample for yourself. You might be tempted in the gift-shop. We were!


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