Thursday, March 29, 2012

34 things to do in London with Kids (when school is on strike) - Part 2

.... (cont'd) I think we left of at #23 on our list of things seen on the strike day, so, lets pick up there. We left off as we were leaving the Enlightenment Room in the British Museum...

Investigating the Totem Pole
 24. We headed out to the atrium, and headed up the stairs so the boys could get a closer look at the top of the Nu'chal'nuth totem pole (where you can see the Chief at the pinnacle, holding a talking stick).

It was fun looking at the glass roof, and the shadows it was sending onto the wall alongside it.

25. We found the Egyptian Room, and looked at a page from the Book of the Dead. 

You can read the page just like a comic book: from left to right. You see Anubis bringing a guy into the hall of judgement, then weighing his heart against the feather of Maat, then Toth proclaiming the man worthy, and then introducing him to Osiris. Again,... right out of the Rick Riordan books!
The Book of the Dead

Duncan was certain that his friend Felix from home would be dying to be there too! of course... since we were surrounded by mummies, maybe "dying" is not quite the right word?...

26. There were tons of mummies to see there, as well as bones. The boys admired the dental hygiene of the egyptians, since many of the skulls had shining white teeth still intact!

We then took a few detours so Kaseem could see some of the parts of the museum that Duncan thinks very cool, like,

27. The horse fragment from the top of the Massauleum at Halikarnasos...

28. ... and the the Nereid is just too cool!

lounging by the Nereid Monument

crossing Hungerford Bridge
28. We headed back to the tube line, and off to Embankment, where we walked across the Hungerford Bridge to the other side of the river.

We had a great view of the Gerkin, the Shard, and the silty waters of the Thames.

29. We wandered down the Southbank, past the many buskers out performing their acts in the heat of the sun. The 'blue statue girl' here did a pretty solid job!

hanging out with the buskers...

We finally arrived at the Nameco Station Arcade (where I had a groupon for a ridiculous number of tokens). I don't even know how to summarize the next couple of hours, other than to continue with the list:

getting ready for yet another ride...

30. Bumper cars.

This was the real hit of the day... I have never seen two kids go on the bumper cars so many times in a row! 

They were maniacs. 

I was starting to worry about soft tissue brain injury!  (but i wasn't sure if that was them bashing the heck out of eachother, or from me WATCHING them)
what i felt like watching it all!

This second photo (while they might not be visible) kind of captures something of their frenetic insane energy!
 31. Video games of all sorts (mostly involving weapons of mass destruction, of course!)

ready to try it again?
 32. The 'flight simulator' ride.

Basically, it makes you 'feel' that you are either on a rollercoaster, or shooting through space, etc. 

Duncan was delighted to be trying it out with Kaseem.  Last time we were here, Steve went with him, and had to hit the 'panic' button to stop the thing before he lost the contents of his stomach.  But these two boys were far less queezy.  Again... my task was to just keep pumping in the tokens, while they tried every option on the game.  They concluded that #3 of the choices was the best one.

33. When the coins were finally done, it was time to head back out into the last light of day.

We grabbed a Belgian Waffle, and stopped for a gaze across the Thames at Big Ben.

34. We decided to take a different route home, so we walked back across Westminster Bridge, so we could get a shot of the Thames with the London Eye in the background.

And there you have it.... 34 things to do or see when your school is on strike! Go teachers, Go!!!!!

34 things to do in London with Kids (when school is on strike!) - Part 1

Well, since the school was on strike today, I agreed to take Duncan and Kaseem from Finchley into central London for a day of 'educational activities' (actually, we were going off to the arcade to play video games and bumper cars.... but that is pretty educational, right?)

There were of course other adventures on the way there! (to make sure my own brain got fed)...and on the tube coming home (8 hours later), Kaseem counted something like 30 things we did today.  Let's see if I can remember them all. 

eating treats beside the post office

1. We took a stroll down the High Road from our place to Mr. Simm's Sweetshop for a bit of nutritional sustenance. 

Duncan went for the Rocky Road Chocolate Bar, Kaseem got a monstrous lollypop that ended up in most of our photos for the day (keep looking for it!).
2. Then we headed off to the post office to mail some letters using the groovy automated machine.

That was followed by adventures in public transport:

Sitting at the front of the bus
  3. We caught the 125 bus at Tallyho Corner (what a great name!) and got seats at the top of the front deck ......

4. ......then we picked up the Northern Line at Central Finchley......

waiting for the tube in the sun

blow dry, anyone?

5.then transfered to the Central Line, which meant wandering through a maze of tunnels.

The boys discovered that parts of some of those tunnels are so windy that you could blowdry your hair just standing there!  It made us think about people hiding out in the tube stations during the war.

6. We exited the underworld at Holborn Station, and spent some time looking at miniature guitars replicas in a shop window. 

Here the question was whether the best guitar was from Kiss, Slayer, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
7. Investigated some public art.  We saw the "Chain of Events" by Peter Randall-Page... which is the thing that looks like painting on the wall behind the boys.  It is two kinds of stone, inlaid!  ...Portland Stone and Black African Granite. They are sitting on another piece of art:  I thought it looked like some kind of larvae, but the boys nickenamed it "The Dumpling".... one block away we walked past a restaurant with the same name.  how wierd was that?!  (later, i found out it is by the same artist and called "Beneath the Skin")

8. Saw a lot of nude scultpures in a shop window across from the museum, and discovered that greek athletes did their sports while naked.  Duncan and Kaseem think it would be safer to do wrestling with your clothes on! 

9. Admired the front of the British Museum, and noticed all the gold leaf at the top

drinking horn, anyone?
 10. We looked at the giant drinking horns from the Sutton Hoo exhibit.

 11. We went to a 'Hands On' exhibit, where the boys got to touch objects that were over 800 years old! 

touching 800 year old objects

They saw part of an old purse, a floor tile with a fleur-de-lys on it, and got to hold the front part of an enameled chalice Reliquary (for putting parts of old dead saints in).  It was a flat piece of metal decorated with vivid colours and gold. We learned that to get the gold parts, they mixed gold flakes with mercury, then fired it in a kiln. The mercury evaporated leaving the gold (and poison to breath for the people doing the job).  Because the job was so dangerous, and people doing it were likely to die, the curator told us that they gave the job to women.  Yikes!  The boys said they were glad they were boys (even though they also remembered that the boys sometimes had to go to war).  I said patriarchy was replicating itself before my eyes! :-)

Kaseem loves the dragon statue

12. (well really #12 to #22, because we saw so much stuff next!).  The boys noticed the portrait of King George overhead, so we headed over to his library (the Enlightenment Room) to see the kinds of things a King looks at when he 'goes to school'.

The boys made a big list of things the cool things they they saw. It included a marble head of Hercules (found at the base of Mount Vesuvius), stuffed animals (even a platypus!), the jaw of a mastadon, shark teeth, an elephant's foot, a huge amonite, crystals, egyptian statues, and more.

Duncan loves the bowl

I told them each to pick one thing in the room to get a photo with:  here are two of their choices.

I will say I had fun watching the boys run through the room trying to identify (or guess) the names of the Greek Statues.  I was impressed with their knowledge of Greek mythology... i don't remember knowing the stories as well when I was  a kid!  

23. The Enlightenment room also has a replica the copy of the rosetta stone, the one you can put your hands on. Even if it is not 'the real thing', the copy was made in 1801, so it is still pretty cool to get your hand on it!

....more from our Strike Day in the next post.... [click here]

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Every daughter loves her mommy (or was that 'mummy'?)

Mummy of Artemidorus
As a bit of a 'mothers day' treat to myself, I met steve for lunch downtown, and then headed off to the British Museum for a few stolen hours [i am on a quest to learn something from everyone of the rooms there before we return to Victoria].

Keeping with the mother's day theme, i headed off to the Egyptian room to check out some mummy's. Imagine my surprise when I ran across this beauty of relic!  check out the name!  Artedimorus!
'are you my mother'?

Get it?  "ARTE"dimorous?    Not everyone has a mother named ARTA.  and not many daughters face such a challenge in trying to find their mother's names in the traces of history!  I face a similar challenge with my wonderful mother in law, since VERLAINE is also a bit uncommon, but at least I can find her name in the poems of Paul Verlaine (when my french is up to the task)
And so, standing in the middle of the British Museum, my mind flipped back to one of the much loved books of my childhood, "Are You My Mother?" (does anyone else remember that one?  where the little bird falls out of the nest and goes in search of its mother, asking cows, cats, dogs and construction equipment if any of them are its mother?)  So... i felt the same way here: like a daughter who expectedly got to spend some time with her mummy!   

Inscription from the Palace of Darius...
Having had that small piece of sharing time, imagine my surprise when I headed off to the Ancient Iran room, and wandered past their reconstructed version of the facade by the stairs leading up to the Palace of Darius.
Yes!   ARTAxerxes!

The inscription is written in honour of King Artaxerxes III.  Seriously?!   ARTA-xerxes?  Twice in one day?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Russian State Museum - Natalia Goncharova

I am still catching up on my experiences of Russia and art.  After 2 days of visiting the Hermitage, we headed off to spend the day in the “The Russian State Museum”.  It was another experience of "wow".

Four Apostles

The plan was to head straight for the Kandinsky and Malevich section (Marie-Claire's influence...they are her favourites).
But on the way to see Kandinsky, we first encountered Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962).

A blue apostle
 Initially, I will admit that I stopped because she was a woman. I hadn't heard of her, but get so few chances to see women in museums that I wasn't moving on until I had taken a closer look at her paintings.

OK. A qualification. Of course there are tons of women in museums, but they are generally there as the subject of some man's painterly imagination, rather than as painters themselves.

The result is that I am always excited to take a look at those women artists who managed to push their way past the glass/oil/acryllic ceiling! :-)

a green (apostolic!) foot
I was totally taken with the picture above of "The Four Apostles". 

What I haven't captured is their size.  They are beautifully long and in vibrant colours. 

They are also NOT named: you cannot say which is (for example) Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.... you can say only what colour they are!  :-) 

I will also say that our earlier discussions with Alexander and Evgeny about the Russian Orthodox tradition of "icons" made me look more closely at these pieces (thinking about the ways they are both drawing on and disrupting those inherited traditions).

"Bleaching Linen" - Goncharova
 I also spent some time in front of the painting "Bleaching Linen".  We had just spent the previous day looking at all the Matisse paintings, and this one has a similar feel to me.  I knew she was Russian, not French, but there was something similar in the richness and vibrancy of the colour and the flatness of the forms. 

I was totally happy when I finally listened to the audio guide on the painting, and they said it was in the Russian version of the Fauvist style (ie. she and Matisse were doing similar things)...i felt like my eyes were starting to get a bit better at seeing links.

Anyways, after getting home, I went out on the web to read up a bit more on her. You can try clicking on these links if you want to read the same pages I did:

After reading more, I will admit I was a bit irritated with myself at not knowing who she was, since it seems that in 2007, one of her paintings sold for nearly $10 million, which is the record for a female artist. But... aside from records, I just thought her paintings were beautiful.

Things I learned AFTER the visit include the fact that she lived (unmarried!) with Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964), with the two of them marrying only in the final years right before they died (and they died in total poverty within a year of eachother). 

This little fact made it see odd to me that other websites talked about her "and her husband" being the founders of the Russian Futurist movement back in the 1915s... yes... he was her husband, but not til much much later!  :-)

Knowing that, it became all the more interesting to me that the curators had placed two paintings with trees (one by her, and one by him) on either side of the door leading into the room which carried so many of her pieces of art.  I had noticed that when standing in the room, and had wondered why, but didn't know the connection between the two artists.
Trees, a la Goncharova
Trees, a la Larionov

In any event, it seems she also painted right until the end, even though debilitated by cancer and arthritis (and poverty). I am in love with her now.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Time comes to Swan Lane Open Space (Happy Birthday, Dad!)

Happy Birthday, Dad!  

In celebration of your birthday, I decided to take Kiwi out for a walk, and send you some photos of how I spent 'your day' on the other side of the ocean. 

The path through Swan Lane Open Space
 I took Kiwi out for a quick walk to the Swan Lake Open space today, having not wandered that way in a month or so.

The blossoms were out in full bloom!

Clearly, it appears that springtime has indeed arrived here in London.

Trees laden with blossoms
I wish I could capture the scent for you... the faint sweetness of the blooms that seems to linger somewhere on the back of the tongue. There is also the slight scattering of petals under the trees, a scatter that I know will turn into a carpet of colour after the next rainfall.

white and pink against a blue cloudless sky
 There was also the sound: the faint buzz of the giant bumblebees floating from blossom to blossom, so heavy that the branches would bob slightly under their weight. I stood under this tree for ages, hoping to catch a bee at work, but each time I snapped a shot, the bee would move on, leaving a blur in its wake!

Small patches of crocuses and daffodils were sending their shoots up from the earth, leaving the park with splashes of colour everywhere.
Crocuses peeking through

beds of daffodils

watching the duck pond

Then I wandered over by the Duck Pond...or, as we often think of it "the Kiwi-watering-hole".

Another sign of spring is that someone has come by to cut back all of the growth from last year: the bullrushes and lilies have been pared down.
Ducks hanging out...
Nonetheless, I was cautious!  I can't tell you how many times a walk in the park has ended with the dog covered in mud from this watering hole.

Today, I kept her on the leash. She was none too happy to be separated from this spot of dog-desire, but I think the ducks were happy enough to have her stay on her own side of the beach.
the cedars and cypress trees in the park
  After that, I took Kiwi over the more forested part of the park and let her off the leash. 

She loves chasing squirrels up these trees. 
birds out hunting worms

There were also birds hanging around in the grass.  Ordinarily, she would be in hot pursuit of them, but today she was distracted: she found a ball that had been abandonned by some other dog.  As you well know, there is nothing that can compete with her love a game of fetch!

Here are a few action shots for you of Kiwi playing with the ball.  Her ability to catch the ball in mid-air remains stellar!

Kiwi watching the ball...

...and leaping to catch it

 Hope your Birthday day in Calgary was equally delightful!

British Museum - Greek Eyeopener (part 2---for Felix, Stacy and Rich)

Our newest board game!
  So... Felix Stacy and Rich sent us a board game for Christmas!  It is called "7 wonders. 

Now, this may not 'seem' like a beginning to a post supposedly on the British Museum, but it IS. 

The Wonder at Halikarnassos!

Duncan and I saw the connection last night when we opened the game and started reading the rules, the cards, the pieces, etc. 
 There are seven wonders to be constructed (7 different boards shuffled out to the players).  One of them is the Mausoleum at Halikarnasos!

And thus the link!.....Because on the Greek Eye Opener tour at the British Museum, you get to see some of the fragments remaining from Halikarnassos (which was mostly destroyed in an earthquake).

So, for you Felix, here are some of the pictures I took of some of the pieces that still remain from that wonder, and which are there in the British Museum! 

Drawing of the Mausoleum

Here, for example, is a way too blurry photo of a drawing they have of the Mausoleum (basically a monster tomb, named after Mausoleus, the guy who had it built for himself). You can see where there would have been friezes around the bottom, and sculptures of people near the middle, and a chariot with horses near the top)

Now that we have the game, we are going to go back to the Museum and look more closely at all the remaining fragments!

Can't wait to challenge you guys to a match when we return home to Victoria!

Mausoleus and his wife?

Fragment of a horse's head

One of the lions from on top
Frieze of battle with amazon women

Felix, if you want to read more about it, there are great posts on the British Museum's website.  Check out these links: