Wednesday, 24 September 2014


In the Olden Days, when we baby boomers were children with no tablets or iPhones to transport us to faraway places and times long gone, many of us regarded a trip to a museum as an exciting treat. Mr N's local museum even had interactive lithophanes (light goes on, light goes off) and mine had been given our local doctor's stuffed polar bear (brought back from the Arctic by his intrepid father, Dr Reginald Koettlitz), after it proved to be too dangerously frightening for the faint-hearted in his waiting room, where it had held a lamp aloft.

The Koettlitz Bear

Given our love of all things old and curious (including each other), it has taken us ages to get round to visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Now that we are very nearly antiquities ourselves, we have at last achieved our ambition.
First we entered the Oxford Museum of Natural History, all light and airy with gothic arches under a glass roof. Here all manner of interesting specimens are carefully displayed in a way that excites the imagination, the intellect and the eye.

The natural history collection is watched over by our gentle hero, Charles Darwin, whose presence reminded us that we were approaching the entrance to the Pitt Rivers collection and its altogether more disturbing exhibits, which reveal the Origin of Our Own Species.
Black framed vitrines, crammed with the clamorous works of man.
We did not photograph the varied weaponry on display but...
... this ingenious and slightly gruesome garment is one of our favourite exhibits. A waterproof anorak made from seals' intestines. Inspired by our visit, I resolved to create my own museum when we got home and have made a start with a mini Cabinet of Curiosities.
I've promised to keep things small. It won't take over the house...maybe.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


...time flies.

There's no escape...

...a new era is beginning!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


To be honest, we were gob-smacked when we walked into the landscaped gardens of Stowe.
We knew, of course, that Stowe was home to a top private school, but the National Trust website (and our own ignorance) had not prepared us for the other institution whose activities are part of these romantic landscape gardens. The Trust told us this ...

A monumental day out

Embark on a journey, follow in the footsteps of 18th-century tourists and immerse yourself in 250 acres of stunning, informal landscape.

A short walk down the drive and a vast landscape opens up rewarding you with a breathtaking view across the lake. With over 40 historic temples and monuments, each with their own story, our gardens incorporate history, nature and beauty in majestic surroundings.

The sheer size and space make it perfect for those who love the outdoors and enjoy walking whatever the weather, with each season bringing its own delights and unique sights. Activities, events and a wide range of walks and trails make it an ideal day out for the family throughout the year.

...but not about this.

Unexpected activity on the South Vista.

Here is Venus in the Rotunda, overlooking the longest hole on the course (with a dogleg, still a par 4 and starting with a tight drive between trees.)

The Corinthian Arch, beyond the Western Lake Pavilion.
Thankfully, a visit to Stowe is not all birdies and bogeys. In the first half of the 18th century, Richard Temple, Lord Cobham, created the spectacular landscaped gardens, so the National Trust tells us, as an expression of his Whig political views.
Captain Greville's column points the way to the Temple of Ancient Virtue.
From the high ground at Ancient Virtue there is a view across the Elysian Fields, down to the Temple of British Worthies, showing symbolically that British leaders should always look up to and be inspired by ancient Greece. 
Another British Worthy or is it a Virtuous Ancient?

There is much more in this garden to ogle.
Grottos galore.

The Palladian Bridge
Captain Cook's Monument
The Saxon Deities - please find me a plinth!
The Gothic Temple is our favourite and you can stay here yourself, courtesy of the Landmark Trust. Rumour has it that next year the golf balls will be whizzing around on a brand new course, on the outer edges of the landscaped gardens, to the great delight of the National Trust and other sensitive souls. Stowe will be restored to its original serenity.