A wet weekend in Brighton


I had first visited Brighton a couple of years ago for work and James joined me for a day or so after the conference. We had both felt it warranted a second visit and booked this trip last autumn. It turned out to be a good time to be heading south rather than to Scotland with wintry weather blocking roads up there. On the day we arrived the University of Sussex were holding a graduation ceremony in the theatre near our hotel. There were many Chinese families taking photographs along the sea front. We did get a couple of breaks in the rain for a bracing walk on the mainly pebble beach in the late afternoon where the supports and the remains of the old West Pier are.


We spent some time wandering around the lanes where there are some chain stores but also many independent shops including some very quirky ones. One thing I did notice was that people we encountered in the hotel, cafes and shops were very friendly, unlike some other southern cities I have visited. Several years ago I stayed with a friend in Southampton in December and while she was at the university, I went into town to do some Christmas shopping. The only person who said anything more to me than the bare minimum to carry out the transaction was the Big Issue seller who was from Manchester.

Having visited the pavilion on our last trip, this time we explored the Museum and Art Gallery. It has a number of permanent galleries including one on 20th century furniture and art.

I was particularly struck by this lift compartment installed in Selfridges on Oxford Street, London in 1929. Designed by a French artist, Edgar Brandt and entitled ‘Les Cignones (storks) d’Alsace’ they remained in place until 1971 when they were removed because of new fire regulations.

There was a gallery devoted to Brighton in the 20th century with displays of mods and rockers who clashed on the seafront in 1964.

Other galleries contained their pottery, china and fine art collections, John Pipers aquatints of Brighton, performance and toys, youth projects in Brighton with youngsters from different countries exploring their culture and traditional costume including New Ireland, Myanmar, Peru, Canada and Alaska and Mali. There is also a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the Museum of Transology.

All too soon it was time to head for home. Had it been drier I would have liked to walk the Undercliff Path which heads east for 3km and also to explore the huge amount of street art in the city including a Banksy.

New Zealand: Auckland in midwinter


While the northern hemisphere is celebrating the summer solstice by touching Stonehenge and other rituals, the 21st of June is the midwinter solstice down here in the southern hemisphere. We drove from Hamilton to Auckland for our last few days in New Zealand. The sunsets just after 5pm behind the city so we walked down to the harbour to enjoy the evening light.

Someone I was at school with has been living in Auckland for many years and had invited us over to their house in Devonport for an evening meal. We took the 10 minute ferry with all the commuters returning home in the dark and had a very enjoyable evening. The following morning the forecast rain had arrived so we decided to visit the museum which sits in Auckland Domain and had a very wet walk there. The neoclassical building was constructed in 1929 and is Auckland War Memorial Museum. Most of the top floor is devoted to the war memorial collection. However, it contains many other gems. On the ground floor Maori and Pacific Islander artefacts are on display.

In the ancestral meeting house (remove your shoes to enter) a restoration project was underway.

Although New Zealand had its own potteries from the late 19th century, we found a link with home as Royal Doulton and a tile manufacturer in Hanley produced china and tiles with Maori decoration in the early 20th century. There were also silver teaspoons from Birmingham. Other exhibits were Wild Child: childhood in New Zealand, sections on volcanoes, natural history, 20th century Japanese ceramics and a very powerful photographic exhibition entitled Being Chinese in Aotearoa chronicling the experiences of Chinese people in New Zealand in over 90 photographs from the first settler in 1842 to the present day. Unfortunately, we will not be here to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which starts on 7 July 2017. It was raining less on the return journey but the sky remained overcast and the Sky Tower was in the mist so not an evening to go up for the view.

On Friday morning, we were back on the Devonport ferry for a wander around the town. Close to the ferry terminal is Windsor Reserve with a very large tree that has numerous aerial roots. The New Zealand Tree Register identifies it as a Moreton Bay Fig, also known as an Australian Banyan.

Devonport has two bookshops, both on Victoria Road. Bookmark has secondhand books including a large section on military history in addition to all the usual sections. The shop on the other side of the street sells new books. On Queen’s Parade, we found a gallery selling antique maps and prints, Japanese woodblock prints and other modern prints and a few paintings but nothing to add to our collection. On a clear day, it would have been worth walking up Mount Victoria for the view but as the mist had descended, we confined ourselves to walking on the beach where I found some sea glass and had some conversations with the dog walkers, one of whom was originally from Northern Ireland.

As the city was shrouded in mist this was also not a day for the Skytower.

At the ferry terminal, I picked up a free copy of Paperboy, a free magazine published every Thursday and is a great guide to what’s on around the city. I spotted a photographic exhibition at the Trish Clark Gallery and would have loved to see it but the gallery opened so late that we could not manage it before a late lunch and the walk to Eden Park. We had a great lunch in the Indian restaurant opposite our hotel. A Fan Trail had been marked out for us to walk to the venue and entertainment was laid on along the route. These ladies were dancing to Amy Winehouse:

There were people dancing with fire, various bands (one of whom were doing a not very good rendition of UB40’s Red, Red Wine and people dressed up in all sorts of costumes. It took one and a half hours to get there and find our seat. Unfortunately the British and Irish Lions lost the match with the All Blacks so we slipped out early and caught the first train back to the city centre. Tomorrow we leave Auckland to start the long journey home.

Dubrovnik: history and modern art

Two books have accompanied me on this trip. The first is the 3rd edition of Marcus Stanver’s ‘Croatia: a history forged in war’ and the second is the 11th edition of ‘Dubrovnik in War’ edited by Milenko Foretić. Staying in the old city has also focussed us on history so far as it is all around us. Today we need a change so headed out of the walled city through the gate we had entered on Monday on to the road behind.

A flight of steps took us up to the station for the four-minute cable car journey to the summit of Mount Srđ (412m). There are great views over the Adriatic and inland to the mountain ranges.


There is some history up here, the remains of a Napoleonic Fort and the white cross which was destroyed in the 1991-1995 war has been rebuilt. I noticed a switchback path on the hillside emerging from the pine forests so walking up is also an option which I had not known about. Doing it in mid-summer would have to be early in the day and with lots of water as it is exposed for most of the route. After descending we walked along the road to the Museum of Modern Art housed in what was a ship-owner’s summer villa built between 1939 and 1949 in a similar style to some of the palaces in the old city. There are exhibitions on three floors with the current focus on their collection from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day. Most of the works are paintings with a few prints and numerous sculptures. There is a terrace overlooking the sea with sculptures

including this one by Frano Kršinić entitled ‘Mother’s play’ from 1965.

The museum ticket gives access to eight more around the city so we will explore some more tomorrow. Just below the museum were steps leading down to a small shingle beach. Huge piles of sunbeds suggest that it will be crowded in mid-summer but this morning it was quiet with only a few people around. I found some sea glass and admired the view over to the walled city while James made a new friend as yet another cat wandered over to see him.

Afterwards we sat by the harbour enjoying the sun while some pigeons were bathing in a puddle left by the rain a couple of nights ago. To make us feel at home one of the many boat trips you can take from here is in a craft shaped like and called ‘Yellow Submarine’.

Stepping back into history we visited the maritime museum which is housed in the Sveti Ivan Fortress. Noticing how many ships in the 18th and 19th century were built in Glasgow, Belfast and Northeast England was a potent reminder of what our past ship-building industry was and what we have lost. There were also a couple of physicians’ chests from ships on display.
This one from the 18th century included a treatise on the management of scurvy. The 19th century chest had many more bottles of potions and instruments.

Outside the inevitable cat was resting on a cannon.

This evening we ate at a restaurant called ‘The Taj Mahal’. Despite the name it serves Bosnian not Indian food. Sunset photography was not on tonight as it started to rain while we were eating.

A second open door in Edinburgh

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Today’s Open Door for Advent was Summerhall. The 100-year-old building was the University of Edinburgh’s Veterinary School until 2011 but is now an events and arts hub with workshops and workspaces, exhibitions, a café, several event spaces and Pickering’s Gin Distillery. I had been in town to do a few things and on the way to Summerhall walked up Clerk Street. Like most urban areas, shops and businesses have closed in Edinburgh and some new ones have opened. For the circus performers among you, there is now a juggling shop on Clerk Street and the other thing that attracted my attention as I walked along was a notice in a shop window advertising ‘Lesbian Donkey for Sale’.

I was a little early for the exhibition tour at Summerhall so wandered around some of the open rooms. The old anatomy lecture theatre is one of the few remaining with wooden seating:
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The dissection room has large windows on one side unlike the one at my medical school in Marischal College in Aberdeen which was in the basement and known as ‘The Drain’.
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However, the old lab was very reminiscent of school science labs.
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At two, the tour of the exhibitions began and the group was smaller than yesterday so we could chat with each other. Our guide, Sergio Madrigal, was extremely knowledgeable about the work of Ross Fraser McLean whose exhibition was entitled ‘Ceiba – Casa de Todos Los Muertes’. He had spent eight months exploring death in Mexico from both socio-political and spiritual stand points. The exhibition includes photography, music and installations in the old vet school specimen display cabinets.
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The cabinets contain Mexican craft artefacts, offerings of flowers, fruit and vegetables left to decay like offerings on an altar and other objects documenting Mexican life and death.
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It took almost an hour to even begin to absorb everything on display. We had a brief look at another gallery and then I had to leave. Ceiba continues until 23 December and we were told about another in the old church which is part of the complex. This exhibition chronicles the life of women in Yemen after the recent wars and is part a portrait exhibition but also comments on how their life has changed and the many ways in which gains in freedom have now been reversed. That and a tour of the gin distillery must wait for another day. On the way out I noticed there was a Thermos Museum, another time perhaps.
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Sunny day in London

We have been enjoying the Indian summer and the fruit harvest here. I have been busy producing apple juice, picking plums, raspberries and blackberries and amazed that I am still having to water the veg outside in September. However, today we escaped and headed to London to meet up with a friend from Sydney who is visiting for a short time. I had booked brunch at the Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and as the trains are not great on Sundays (years ago my secretary was told by someone at a rail company to tell her boss not to travel on Sunday) we decided to drive down to Watford Junction and take the train into the city from there. All went well until we were well down the M1 and they had decided to close the motorway in order to demolish a bridge. So, we endured a very slow crawl around the environs of Luton and then through the centre to rejoin the M1. At Watford Junction we found ourselves on a new London Overground train which was far from crowded and half an hour later were at Euston. We wandered down towards the restaurant with brief stops at a bookshop and cafe. It is situated in St John’s Square which is where the Priory of the Order of St John was set up in 1040. There is now a museum devoted to the history of the order (who are now known to most of us as the St John Ambulance. There is a lovely garden filled with some of the plants the monks used to treat their patients with.
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The gate into the priory has undergone several transformations. In the 18th century, it was used as a coffee house, run by Richard Hogarth, father of the artist William Hogarth. Dr. Samuel Johnson was given his first job in London at St John’s Gate, writing reports for The Gentleman’s Magazine. Later, the Gate was used as a pub, The Old Jerusalem Tavern, where artists and writers, including Charles Dickens, used to meet. It now houses the museum.
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We met our friend and were part way through our meal when I realised that I did not have the bag with my camera in it with me. I knew I had been taking photographs in the garden and that I may have left it there. We eventually discovered that someone had found it and handed it in to the museum. Afterwards, we wandered past Smithfield market where we saw the now closed nightclub Fabric:
save-fabric-london-11-sept-2016-1 and enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine.
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Down on the Thames Path we had some slightly different views of the bridges seen last week.
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We must walk the Thames Path from its source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier (184 miles) someday soon. Eventually we had to head back to the tube from near the Tower and part company with promises to meet up for longer in 2017 and 2018. We got our train and out of Watford onto the motorway fairly easily and made good progress, being thankful that we were not going in the opposite direction as there was very heavy traffic heading back into the city. Just before we left the M1, we saw the brake lights come on and a plume of smoke ahead. A car on the hard shoulder was on fire and the emergency services were arriving. It looked like everyone had got out unharmed and the fire was confined to the front end of the car so we could get past without too much risk of it exploding. The rest of the journey home was thankfully, eventful.

A day in Liverpool

Despite working in Liverpool for almost seven years, there are still many sights I have not had the chance to visit so when James announced that he was attending a course there, it was a good opportunity to use some of my hotel points to get us a free night there. As the brief of summer weather had ended by Tuesday evening, we had a wet walk from the hotel to Panoramic 34, a restaurant at the top of a building. The views were indeed extensive and the food very good but as all the windows were covered in rain spots, photography was not an option. We ate our meal watching the Mersey and Isle of Man ferries departing.

This morning, I left James at the course venue and after a coffee, wandered down to the Pier Head to visit the Museum of Liverpool which I had never been in before and which is in a striking building. There were lots of things I had not known before and I learnt a lot about the city I have come to love. The photojournalist Lee Karen Stow, had an exhibition called Poppies: women at war which was very moving as I have had a number of patients who have escaped from war zones in several countries and are seeking asylum in the UK. Much of combat history is devoted to the men who are fighting so this was a refreshing change.

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Museum interior 11 May 2015-1

Afterwards I took a few photographs around the Pier Head and then visited one of the city’s secondhand bookshops, Kernaghan’s, in the Bluecoat. It was quiet so I had a good chat with the owner, his wife and her father covering caffeine metabolism, the school they used to run in Nepal and trekking in the Himalaya. I bought two books, one by some guys who did an overland trip in a Trabant. Their route covers a lot of the London to Sydney overland route we hope to do in a couple of years so it should be interesting. The other is on American myth, a topic of interest for this summer’s drive.

After lunch, James headed back to his course and I walked up the hill to visit 59 Rodney Street. Edward Chambré Hardman was a 1950s society photographer who lived and worked from the house for many years until his death in 1988. The National Trust have now taken it over and it is a fascinating insight into that era of photography and the Hardman’s lives, as they threw very little away. After the 90-minute guided tour which is a must for anyone interested in photography, I looked in both cathedrals as I had never been in them. I then walked back down Brownlow Hill towards the station, just as all the students were pouring out of the universities. On the short train journey back to Crewe, one of the staff was telling us which end of the first class section to sit in so that we had time to down the drinks and eat before we disembarked.

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Central Park and the Met

We are definitely on Eastern Time now and no longer first down for breakfast but woke with enough time for a cup of tea before heading downstairs. If I thought that this was going to be peaceful I was mistaken as James discovered that he could watch English football on the TV over here. There is no escape as I was confronted with Chelsea v Liverpool. A little later, heading out to the Met via Central Park and only a block from our hotel came across the Hell’s Kitchen flea market. Had I not been in decluttering mode at home, I am sure I would have discovered lots of goodies.
Hell's Kitchen flea market 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Walking through Central Park, still in the grip of winter, we did see some wildlife.
Sparrow in yew tree Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Squirrell Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntinton's Jaguar Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
The Met is so full of good things, we had to be selective so focussed on American art and furniture then prints and photography. I love Arts & Crafts stuff and am exploring printing so enjoyed these sections very much.
Arts & Crafts lamp Met 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Jasper Johns Alphabet Met 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
In the museum store I found a small book on snowflakes, written by a physicist.It’s ironic that back in the UK there is enough snow for the first time this winter to enable me to try out macro-photography of snowflakes, but I am on the other side of the Atlantic. Emerging from the Met the sky was now blue and I was overjoyed to find a Strand Books stall and a few more books were purchased.
Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)