A date with the Celts

Graham and I plan dates now that I'm back at work full-time. Shifts mean that sometimes we can go weeks between having days off together. Having a day off or a night out in the diary gives us something to look forward to and feels very special when it comes around.

The latest big exhibition at The British Museum opened a couple of weeks' ago week: Celts, art and identity. Both G and I have membership to The British Museum, which means we get to swan into any exhibition for free, and without booking; something that always feels very decadent and indulgent. We both love history and yet the celts are something neither of us knows much about. We were very excited to be going as part of a date day this weekend.

This is an ENORMOUS exhibition – based around The British Museum's own extensive collection of Celtic objects, and with impressive additional loans from other museums across Europe. I learnt so much about a subject I'd previously been quite hazy on; everything I looked at made me think and wonder – which is fundamentally why I love going to exhibitions like these.

The design elements were fascinating. I loved the swirly, curvy lines, the emphasis on plants and animals in their designs, the incredible intricate detailing, and the constant use of mirror images. The jewellery in particular was stunning. I especially loved the torcs (of which there must have been close to a hundred in the exhibition).

I wondered how the torcs were put on – only a very few were hinged. The exhibition didn't adequately explain this mystery to me, and now I've read what the museum's website has to say on the matter perhaps that is because even archaeologists and historians are not quite certain. The one in the postcard above is impressive and weighty, but the ones I loved the most were the delicate twisted ones made in Ireland, from gold that glittered as if they were electrified.

Another postcard that I bought was this one of tiny metal model of a wild boar. It was probably originally used to decorate a jug or a large bowl.

It reminds me of the 'sangliers' or wild boar that you still see in South West France and other heavily forested parts of Europe today; slightly menacing, slightly ridiculous, other-worldly creatures that seem as if they've time travelled from another era.

Just like the Fabric of India exhibition I went to last week, this is something I'm going to have to go back to again in order to do it justice. When I go back to an exhibition I usually focus on a few things that I loved most the first time, rather than looking at every single item again. Many visitors at the weekend had sketchbooks with them, and I'm thinking I might have a go at drawing some of the torcs next time.

How about you? Do you go back to see an exhibition again if you can? Do you like to draw, take photographs or buy postcards? How do you try to remember what you've seen? I'd love to know.


Indian fabrics

This morning I trekked right across London to the V and A, to see their new exhibition The Fabric of India. I knew I would enjoy it, because it's the V and A, and it's fabric, so what's not to like?…but goodness me, I was just blown away.


The exhibition is vast – it took me nearly two hours to go round. There was so much wonderful fabric, plus plenty of information on every single exhibit. I thought I already knew a fair bit about both the history and the textile industry of India, but I still had much to learn. The exhibition covers dying, weaving, design, pattern, embroidery, printing, stitching, beading, clothing, quilting, fashion, and so many other things.


Many of the fabrics were first shown at The Great Exhibition in 1851, but although they are now more than 164 years old they look as vibrant and delicious as if they had been made last week. There were a good number of fabrics even older than that too, including an enormous floor cloth from the 1650s printed with bright red poppies which had me standing open mouthed in front of it for ages, almost unable to believe what I was seeing.


My favourite part of the exhibition was the Royal room, with examples of the most luxurious clothing woven from gold and silver thread that I've ever seen. The clothing was all several hundred years' old but it gleamed and sparkled as if it had been made yesterday. One piece of lace fabric, made to edge a woman's sari, was embroidered with hundreds of tiny metallic green beetle wing cases that looked for all the world like exquisite gems.


I loved the ikat fabrics, the kantha stitching, the indigo, the padded jackets, the tiny floral chintz muslins, the elephant appliqué, the gold thread, the shawls, the khadi…there was so much to take in, and reflect on, that I know I'll need to go back to see it all again.


Have you been? Would you like to go? Which Indian textiles are your favourites?


After the nights

Leaving the hospital - 7:50am

The morning you finish a run of nightshifts is a strange one. You're tired, but there's also a surge of energy that comes with finishing a block of work and anticipating a few days off. I never want to come home and sleep all day – it seems like such a waste after spending the previous three days in bed. You also want to adjust your body clock back to normal, and above all make the most of your time off. The aim, then, is to have just a few hours' sleep and force yourself back into a daytime routine.


I used to come home, try and get some sleep right away, and set my alarm clock for lunchtime. But I found that once I was up I felt groggy and listless all afternoon, and didn't really have the energy for anything. A few months ago I tried a different approach which works much better: I go out in the morning, straight from work, do something interesting, and then crawl into bed after lunch and sleep for three hours or so. This way I feel as though I've done something with my day, and I'm still awake enough to enjoy the evening with the family.


On Wednesday I went straight to the supermarket and did a big bi-monthly shop. At 8:20 in the morning I pretty much had the place to myself, and I could potter round quite happily at my own pace. It's the most stress-free way to do a big shop. Then I bought a coffee, drove out to Epping, had a big brunch sitting outside in the sunshine, and went for a good long stomp through the forest. It was blissful – and strangely woke me up more than it wore me out.

These last two days I've stayed local, and enjoyed the glorious weather – cooler Autumn temperatures with dazzling bright sunshine. This is the most perfect weather as far as I'm concerned. Yesterday I went to the Olympic Park with a friend and her baby – we lay on the grass for hours chatting, while the baby crawled around us, occasionally squealing with delight at the sheer joy of being alive and rolling around on clean, soft grass. I could have squealed with delight too.

Today I'm getting ready to go back to work tomorrow: making sure there's enough yogurt and bread in the fridge to feed the permanently hungry teenagers, washing my scrubs, cleaning out the chickens and paying the milk bill. I have a couple of day shifts this weekend, another few days off and then I'm back on nights by the middle of next week. I've made time to come out for lunch though. This is the end of my mid-week weekend, after all.