Jewellery brand of the month: Curious Carousel


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This month’s jewellery brand is the lovely


This brand is the creation of Lisa Bell Reid, who is originally from Edinburgh and was inspired to create her beautiful carousel brooches by the Christmas carousels on Princes Street. Now based in Australia, she designs beautiful brooches and earrings suitable for both the collector and the wearer. I’m yet to buy any of her designs, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Cassie is the original carousel horse brooch, available in a few different colours. I’ve chosen this one to show here because I love the hearts in her mane and tail.

Cassie the Carousel Horse

Arabella is a beautiful unicorn, also available in several different colourways. I love the fairydust acrylic used for her mane.

Arabella the carousel unicorn

Arabella is also available as a bust-style brooch as an alternative to the carousel style.

Arabella bust brooch

This gorgeous robin brooch, named Noelle, was released at Christmas 2017.

Noelle robin brooch

There are also seasonal carousel-style designs: Amelia is a bunny rabbit, released specially for Easter.

Amelia the rabbit carousel brooch

I’m also fond of the fabulously flamboyant Florence, a flamingo brooch.

Florence the flamingo carousel brooch

In addition to these amazing brooches, Lisa has created some amazing earrings: my favourites are these gorgeous Alice in Wonderland dangles.

Alice in Wonderland dangles

Check out Curious Carousel via the following links:




Curious Carousel products are also available from various online stockists including Lottie & Lu (UK) and Broochaholic (AUS).


Pope’s Grotto


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I can’t even remember where I found out about Pope’s Grotto, but this unique curiosity is well worth visiting and the Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust, supported by Radnor House School, the owners of this grade 2* listed site, is hoping to repair and conserve it. The grotto is the last remaining part of Alexander Pope’s villa, which he built in 1720 on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham. The villa was demolished in 1808 and the site has been developed numerous times since then – but the grotto still remains.

Entrance to the grotto

Entrance to the grotto

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope was a 18th century poet whose famous works include The Rape of the Lock; he also translated the Iliad and the Odyssey. While not a household name today, he contributed several popular phrases to the English language, including ‘eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’ (the name of one of my favourite films), ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’, and ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing.’

History of the Grotto

In 1719, Pope came to live in Twickenham, demolishing one of the houses on the site to build himself a villa. He decided to build a grotto beneath the house, inspired by the interest in classical mythology that had prompted his translations of Homer. In later years, Pope decided to redesign the grotto as a museum of mineralogy and mining, after a visit to the Hotwell Spa on the banks of the Avon. He sought help and donations from people all over the country, and friends and acquaintances sent material too: Sir Hans Sloane donated two small pieces of basalt from the Giants’ Causeway in Ireland.

The Thames

The Thames seen from above the grotto

Inside the Grotto

Inside, it’s an eerie but fascinating experience. You enter through the school and walk outside onto the terrace, with a great view of the river, before heading down some steps and to the entrance of the grotto. The entrance takes you into a long corridor, extending to the other side of the road, lined with stones and minerals. There is even fossilised wood from the Dropping Well in Knaresborough.

Long corridor

Long corridor

Above the archway is a sign, requisitioned from an unknown location.

Sign above the archway

17th-century sign

On either side of the corridor there are chambers. To the left, one chamber has a statue, possibly of St Catherine or the Virgin Mary, as well as a tree trunk in one corner.

Female statue

Female statue

This tree trunk is supposedly from a willow planted by Pope.

Willow branch

Willow branch

Ammonite casts are placed above the archways on each side.

Ammonite cast

An ammonite cast

I spied lots of different minerals on the walls, but I have no idea what they all are.


One of the minerals on the wall of the grotto

The second chamber had a statue of St James the Great, and there were lots of boxes of minerals ready to stick on the walls.

Statue of St James the Great

Statue of St James the Great

Restoration Project

The project began with a pilot to conserve the South Chamber last summer. The full project, for which funds are currently being sought, will involve careful cleaning, replacement of the cement floor, new lighting and sound effects, and a digital interpretation.


Pope’s Grotto is well worth a visit, if you can catch it on an Open Day (there are two more in June, and the site will also be open for free access in September during Open House London weekend). It’s a fascinating curiosity, whether you have an interest in Pope or not.


Address: Radnor House Independent School, 21 Cross Deep, Twickenham, TW1 4QG


Opening Times: Check for details; you can subscribe to the newsletter for information about open dates/times

Prices: £6, £5 for concessions

Jewellery brand of the month: Pandacat Productions


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For May’s jewellery brand I’ve chosen another UK brand, the relatively new, Glasgow-based:


This brand is the brainchild of Jess Milne and was only started this year. I’ve bought one piece already – the Second Star to the Right Necklace, which I wore to a theatre performance of Peter Pan.

Second Star to the Right Necklace

I’ve also got my eye on this lovely Venetian Mask Necklace.

Venetian Masquerade Mask Necklace

Venetian Masquerade Mask Necklace

This lamp post brooch is very Narnia.

Winter Lamp Post and Robin Brooch

Winter Lamp Post and Robin Brooch

Christmas or not, it’s always a good time for a Mince Pie Brooch.

Mince Pie Brooch

Mince Pie Brooch

These baby dragon brooches are adorable.

Baby Dragon Brooch

Baby Dragon Brooch

Check out Pandacat Productions via the following links:


Instagram: (I particularly recommend following on Instagram for sneak peeks of new collections including a forthcoming Wizard of Oz range!)

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography – National Portrait Gallery


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Victorian Giants exhibition

I went to an exhibition of Victorian photography at the National Portrait Gallery, Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography. The exhibition featured four photographers: Oscar Rejlander, Julia Margaret Cameron, Clementina Hawarden and Lewis Carroll. These four were pioneers in the world of photography in the 1960s, sharing ideas and inspiration and creating a body of work that still looks radical decades on.

I have some familiarity with the work of Cameron and Carroll, but I was previously unaware of Hawarden and Rejlander. I particularly liked Hawarden’s portrait of a woman by a mirror, in which we see both the woman and her reflection. I also enjoyed Rejlander’s composite photograph of decadent nudes, which resembled a dramatic painting.

There was lots to enjoy in the exhibition, from candid photographs of children (I loved the grumpy child photographed by Carroll) to portraits of important figures of the age and unknown sitters dressed up as mythological figures.

What Does the Antarctic Mean? – British Library


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Exhibition banner

I went to a fascinating talk at the British Library, entitled What Does the Antarctic Mean?, part of the Cook’s voyages exhibition season. The talk was chaired by journalist Julia Wheeler, who has written books on both the Antarctic and the Arctic, and featured Jane Francis (Director of the British Antarctic Survey), Damon Stanwell-Smith (Executive Director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators), Jane Rumble (Head of the Polar Regions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) and Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway University of London).

The talk began with a discussion on the significance of Antarctica. Jane Francis emphasised the importance of Antarctica to science, and explained how the continent influences the world: the climate, sea level rises and tides. Klaus Dodds said that 200 years ago, people tended to see as ice as sublime, awesome, terrifying, and now that relationship has been flipped on its head as we have become aware of the human power over ice. He also talked about the imaginative aspect of Antarctica, and mentioned the Antarctic Treaty, which inspired other treaties including those involving space.

Jane Rumble pointed out that 200 years ago no one knew Antarctica existed: its importance has increased in a very short space of time. It is the only place in the world with no wars, no territorial claims. Damon Stanwell-Smith confessed to amazement that a continent larger than North America hasn’t been colonised, and talked about how Antarctica is something you feel – there is nothing like being there.

The group then discussed the Antarctic Treaty. Dodds explained that this treaty was negotiated over 6 weeks in 1959, and involved the 12 parties who had participated in the International Geophysical Year 1957-58. This was during the middle of the Cold War – there was a worry that such collaboration would not continue.

There were many issues. The UK, Argentina and Chile claimed the same territory – could they come to blows? The Australian president was convinced that Russian communists wanted to establish bases in Antarctica, while the USA had seriously considered nuclear testing. The treaty nearly didn’t happen – especially thanks to Australia, France and Argentina. The treaty would only happen if all 12 countries passed it; there was a deliberate decision to avoid mention of mineral resources or there would have been no agreement.

Rumble then discussed the UK’s territorial claims in more detail, starting with the 1908 claim to the Antarctic peninsula region. There was some discussion on whether the UK should claim the whole thing; in the end they didn’t, but they did cajole the Commonwealth nations Australia and new Zealand to claim. France joined in, then Germany tried in the 1930s, following which the British supported Norway’s rival claim. As a Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, was first to the South Pole, that country’s claim should really have been considered earlier, but at the time Norway was a small newly-independent nation and nobody really took them seriously.

Chile and Argentina placed their own claims during World War II. In 1943 the UK set up the first permanent presence in Antarctica – Operation Tabarin. The US put their base at the South Pole, while Russia put theirs in the Australian bit and refused to move. Despite all this, there is still one unclaimed sector, the most remote.

Rumble discussed the huge amounts of scientific collaboration taking place in Antarctica among scientists, who tend to ignore politics. Shared science programmes abound, including a new joint UK/US project investigating a glacier. If it melts, there will be a sea level rise of over 5 metres. Francis pointed out that when the climate changes, it changes at the Poles first, so Antarctica is the perfect place for this research.

Stanwell-Smith talked about the sometimes-controversial business of modern commercial tourism. This began in the late 1960s and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Most visitors are from North America and other anglophone countries, but there has been an increase in Chinese visitors. In the last year there have been more than 50,000 visitors (of whom 9,000 were on cruises – and did not get off the ship), a rise of 17% from the previous year.

Stanwell-Smith argued that allowing visitors is important, albeit in an appropriate way. Most people who visit have a fascination with Antarctica; perhaps they are older and have a long-held ambition to go. Visiting Antarctica also allows the importance of the continent to be emphasised. Francis pointed out that far more than these visitors, the main problem is people who treat the continent like an adventure playground: such as Guirec Soudee, a French man who is travelling around the world with his pet chicken, Monique. It sounds like a fun story, but there was a very real risk that the chicken could have passed on avian flu to the native penguin population.

Dodds spoke about the challenging relationship between tourists and scientists: some scientists see tourists as a distraction, but public outreach is now recognised as an important part of a scientist’s role. Dodds also pointed out that Antarctica still has a very small number of visitors for such a large place.

Finally, Rumble was asked about the most important aspect of Antarctica to the UK government, and responded, ‘Peace and stability.’ A strong treaty system is very important and science is a clear priority.

I really enjoyed this fascinating talk.