Living with Gods: Peoples, Places and Worlds Beyond – British Museum

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Living with Gods exhibition sign

Before it closed I visited the Living with Gods: Peoples, Places and Worlds Beyond exhibition at the British Museum. The exhibition was timed to coincide with a Radio 4 show on the same theme, but as I never listen to the radio, I can’t comment on that. I did enjoy the exhibition – even if I didn’t always agree with it.

Medieval skeleton relic

Medieval skeleton relic

This fascinating exhibition looks at how people over time have represented their religious beliefs. Christianity, Islam, Judaism are all represented, are as lesser-known and older religions from all corners of the globe. The exhibits are arranged by theme, with seemingly different artefacts displayed alongside one another as they are said to reflect similar aspects of belief. I particularly liked the inclusion of cheaper everyday items alongside valuable and unique artefacts.

Lion Man

Lion Man

The exhibition begins with the Lion Man, the oldest known figurative sculpture in the world that dates back 40,000 years. However, does it necessarily reflect religious belief as the exhibition claims? Regardless, it’s a fascinating talking point.

Judas-devil figure

Judas-devil figure

There is an impressive Judas-devil figure used in Mexican Day of the Dead processions. Masks from the Congo, Jewish prayer caps and Japanese phalluses linked with fertility prayers are among the varied items displayed. One of the most moving is a cross carved in 2014 from a wrecked refugee boat that carried 500 refugees; at least 360 are known to have drowned. Towards the end of the exhibition, we see how Communist regimes in China and Russia directed religious feeling towards the regime leaders and away from traditional religion. The exhibition is incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, and I’m glad I made the effort to go before it closed.

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Jewellery brand of the month: The Storybook Rabbit

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As it’s nearly Easter, I thought it would be appropriate to pick a brand that focuses on that well-known Easter symbol, bunnies. This month’s jewellery brand, therefore, is:

THE STORYBOOK RABBIT

The brand is the creation of Kelly White, who is based in Sydney, Australia. Her designs mostly involve animals, are incredibly cute.

‘Shy bunnies’ are some of the best-known brooches in the Storybook Rabbit range. I particularly like this little Red Strawberry Bunny.

Red Strawberry Bunny

Articulated bunnies made from different acrylic pieces are also prevalent. St Patrick’s Day has just passed, but I think this Lucky Clover Bunny Buddy would be an adorable brooch for that occasion.

Lucky Clover Bunny Buddy

Lucky Clover Bunny Buddy

This Lop Rosette Bunny is made with white pearl acrylic, but he is available in lots of different colours, and matching rose brooches are available too.

Lop Rosette Bunny

Lop Rosette Bunny

It’s not just bunnies though – this Pretty Kitty Brooch is super sweet too. Molly the cat comes with an extra, tiny kitten brooch.

Pretty Kitty

Pretty Kitty

My favourite is possibly this gorgeously detailed Shadowbox Brooch.

Collectors Shadowbox

Collectors Shadowbox

If you like the look of these creations, check out the Storybook Rabbit via the following links:

Etsy: etsy.com/uk/shop/thestorybookrabbit

Instagram: instagram.com/thestorybookrabbit

Facebook: facebook.com/Thestorybookrabbit

Twinings Tea Museum

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Twinings Tea Shop

I wandered past the Twinings Tea Shop and Museum quite by chance on my day off; it’s located on the Strand, a busy street in the heart of London, and still retains its old-fashioned look. Inside, it sells more kinds of tea than you can shake a stick at: from black tea like good old English Breakfast and Earl Grey, to fruit teas and green teas, as well as rather more bizarre flavours like Salted Caramel Green Tea (not recommended). It’s possible to buy a Twinings-branded wooden box (like the kind you get in posh hotels) and fill it with teabags of your choice. I made a mental note of this for future reference.

Plaque

The ‘museum’, which is right at the back of the narrow shop, has artefacts from Twinings rich history, which dates back 300 years, founded by Thomas Twining who helped to ensure tea became a rival drink to coffee which was then popular in London’s coffee houses. Tea’s popularity rose dramatically, and Twinings was later granted a royal warrant.

Royal warrant

TIP box

There is also a ‘tea bar’ where you can sample different varieties of tea.

Tea bar

The shop is a really worthwhile place to visit, whether you want to stock up on tea, look round the museum, or just sample a few different brews.

FACTS

Address: 216 Strand, London, WC2R 1AP

Website: twinings.co.uk/about-twinings/flagship-store-london-216-strand

Opening Hours: 9.30–7 Mon-Fri, 10.30–5.30 Sat, 11-5 Sun

Price: Free

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic – V&A

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Winnie-the-Pooh poster

As a lifelong Winnie-the-Pooh fan, I was delighted to be able to visit the V&A‘s new exhibition, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. Themed around the world of the books, it welcomed visitors with a greeting and the themed decor made you really feel part of the Hundred Acre Wood. There was a slide and assorted activities for children – but I couldn’t help being glad that during my visit, on a Friday evening, there weren’t many kids around.

Hallo

Pooh-themed toys

Pooh-themed toys

The exhibition began with a display of the various Pooh-themed toys, games and accessories that have been created over the years. I was particularly pleased to see a cuddly toy version of the Soviet Pooh, which I love, but was gutted to spy a gorgeous Cath Kidston dress that I obviously missed when it was in store.

Soviet Pooh

Soviet Pooh

Cath Kidston dress

Cath Kidston dress

The exhibition explored the writer, A. A. Milne, and the illustrator, E. H. Shepard, and the history of the Pooh stories. Particularly fascinating were the sections on how the two worked together to produce stories that seamlessly blended words and pictures, strongly appealing to little ones (as well as grown-ups like me!).

North Pole

I found the exhibition completely fascinating, and it really reignited my love for Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. (I’ve always felt a particular affinity for Piglet).

Goodbye

Friendly with Bears

Whales: Beneath the Surface – Natural History Museum

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Whales exhibition

I’d been meaning to visit the Whales: Beneath the Surface exhibition for a while, and finally made it on its last weekend. As befits an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, it was superb: informative, fascinating and fun.

The exhibition began by looking at where whales began. Now, I’m sure I learned this at school, but I’ve certainly forgotten it in the intervening years, so I was surprised to find that the earliest cetaceans, 50 million years ago, were actually land mammals with legs and hooves. Pakicetus hunted small land animals, as well as fish. Ten million years later, these cetaceans had adapted to life in the water: the Dorudon had flippers instead of front legs, its back legs had all but disappeared, and it gave birth and fed its calves in the sea.

Pakicetus

Pakicetus

Dorudon

Dorudon

Around 34 million years ago some cetaceans evolved new way of eating – baleen plates. These baleen whales became known as mysticetes, while those that continued to use teeth – toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises – became known as odontocetes. Scientists worked out that mysticetes and odontocetes shared a common ancestor from watching growth in the womb – baby mysticetes were growing teeth which disappeared before birth.

Baleen plates

Baleen plates

Today, there are around 90 species of cetacean – 23 of which are found in British waters. 12 million years ago there were many more. Their ancestry is evident in the modern whale skeletons on display: tiny back leg bones, remnants of their land mammal past, and flippers that resemble hands. On display also is the skeleton of the ‘Thames whale’ – a northern bottlenose whale that ended up in the Thames in 2006 and died despite a rescue operation. Modern-day cetaceans have powerful tail muscles to help propel themselves forward. They move their tails up and down, whereas fish move their tails from side to side.

The 'Thames whale'

The ‘Thames whale’

The exhibition explored the differences between species of whale. Blue whales, for instance, have smaller flippers to help them travel long distances, whereas humpback flippers are bigger with grooves and bumps to help them twist and turn in the ocean. Baleen whales live alone, but toothed whales are sociable and live in groups. Toothed cetaceans use echolocation to find their food, whereas baleen whales gulp seawater and filter it out, keeping in the prey. A fantastic game, loved by the children in the exhibition, involved jumping on electronic pads to ‘track’ prey using echolocation.

Later on, the exhibition explored how whales hear and create sound, as well as how these incredibly intelligent creatures interact with one another, caring for each other, playing, and even singing ‘songs’. It also explored a possible future for whales: different killer whale skulls showed how groups of these whales ended up with different kinds of tooth marks from hunting very different prey, and may one day diverge into different species.

Killer Whale skulls

Killer Whale skulls

I loved this exhibition, not least because I was able to match my Erstwilder Wesley Whale brooch to the theme.

Exhibition selfie