Glass Blowing in Bermondsey

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

You stumble upon the most unexpected things south of the river. For example, Jeff and I decided to take in a local street festival a few weeks ago (mostly for the food, because that is pretty consistently our top priority), and found a glass blowers shop and studio. I have no idea if it was just in honor of the day or not, but the back half of the studio where the actual workroom was located was open to the public to allow visitors to watch the artists at work.

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I know nothing about glass blowing except that it looks like a time intensive process. I watched for nearly half an hour as the artist made seemingly minute adjustments to his molten project, sometimes puffing gently on his stick to slowly expand the glass, tweaking it with tools, rolling the glass on a table, and sometimes throwing off smoke as he rolled the glowing glass in a sort of mitt.

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My only other experience with glass blowing is when my family was in Venice. As I recall, we had been taken to the famous island factory by boat and really enjoyed a tour but when we had finished and left the showroom without making a purchase, the disgruntled glassblowers refused to ferry us back to the city! It was a rather ridiculous and unsubtle plot to force my parents to buy something that backfired when my parents promptly said they would pay for a water taxi to take them back to the city instead. It’s been two decades, but I believe in the end they did ferry us back. Grudgingly.

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I loved the tools, which look largely unchanged since the middle ages.

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The whole process was rather mesmerizing to watch, with glowing furnaces and glass heating the room as blogs became recognizable shapes. It’s always interesting to watch artists work, especially if the medium is a less typical one.

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I took no photos of the artistic pieces, obviously, but if you’re ever on Bermondsey Street (also home of the Fashion and Textiles Museum) it’s worth a look in.

Unexpected Falconry

“A goose flies by a chart the Royal Geographic Society could not improve.”
― Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Since work calls and my email list is truly daunting, you get what the internet loves of a busy Monday morning: animals.

So, as we’ve been recounting, a few weeks ago, itching to get out of the city for the first time since March, we hopped on a train up to my family’s old stomping grounds of Cambridge. We had a whole day of unexpected pleasant surprising, capping off with stumbling upon a fair on our way back to the station in the late afternoon. Alongside the usual food and festivities were a few tents or entertainments out of the ordinary.

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You don’t run into this sort of thing everyday.

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There were at least half a dozen birds of prey that could be viewed and even handled under careful supervision. Several owls and hawks were available and they were all striking!

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Falconry has a long history in Britain, in fact the ruin of a royal hunting lodge is just up the street…

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I’m sorry, was I saying something? Because I think my brain shorted out a bit at the cuteness…

Friday Links

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery

Another week, another weekend approaches! It’s been a somewhat slow one, which has left some time for other schemes and projects, some of which are bearing fruit nicely. How’s that for vague?

However, they still require my attention so here are you links. Add anything else worth knowing in the comments, and tell me what you’re getting up to this weekend. I’m hoping to snag some tickets to the Westminster Abbey choir’s Christmas concerts (good grief, it is that time of year), scout some new work potentials, and sorting (still!) through photos of our recent travels and excursions. I’m never going to catch up…

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Tumblr find of the week.

h/t to Katarina who found this while wasting time on the internet and immediately it with me.

Breakfast is a many splendid thing.

Why books and literature are important. A big topic boiled down.

Let’s pretend grinding student debt isn’t a thing, okay? How gorgeous are these?

Goodness…this is a thorough explanation!

Kate Beaton’s latest Hark, a vagrant! post pretty much made my week.

The oldest piece of art in the world.

The mantua-makers of Colonial Williamsburg show us how the big hair of the late 18th century was actually done. One word: bump-its. Nothing is new under the sun.

Fascinating look at the relationship between the ballet and high fashion.

The big new in feminism is my old stomping grounds, Utah. Specifically Utah State University and a violent threat. I cannot for the life of me understand the mind that can logically hold this thought: “Video games don’t cause men to be violent to women and if you don’t stop saying they do, I’ll kill you, bitch.”

Cambridge Part 7: The Wanderings

I find Cambridge an asylum, in every sense of the word.
-A.E. Housman

Just a few shots leftover from our Cambridge adventure that were too good not to share.

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This sign is simple, but I thought it one of my loveliest snaps of the day.

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In case you missed my write up on the best places to eat (hint, it’s right here) this is the side entrance of The Anchor which is on Laundress Lane, across the street from the world’s most charming bike and rental shop.

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If you go to Cambridge, you must eat at Fitzbillies. I insist. I might even drag you there myself.

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No biggie.

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It’s hard to overemphasize how much Henry VIII is omnipresent in Britain. He’s (understandably) most often remembered in pop culture for his marriages, but the truth is that those episodes were mostly short and crammed together into the back half of his reign. His most controversial wife, Anne Boleyn was only married to him for around three years while Anne of Cleves (lucky woman) was only wife number four for a matter of weeks. His marriage to Katherine of Aragon lasted for 20 years by comparison. He brought the Renaissance to England (largely kicking and screaming) and throughout his reign he enacted a number of laws and reforms that turned England from a feudal and medieval backwater that most of Europe sighed about, rolled their eyes at, or schemed to overpower, into a force to be reckoned with.

As a result, his mark is everywhere. The ruins of abbeys and monasteries dot the country, his effigy turns up in surprising places, the royal supremacy he developed still holds in theory, and his direct touch is stamped over the history. He might have been a thoroughly nasty fellow and a terribly bad person, but I think a decent argument can be made that at points he was a good or at least effective king and certainly one of the most influential in history. Make of that what you will.

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The Senate House, a gorgeous piece of neoclassical architecture alongside the medieval and Victorian ones.

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Lunch on the Cam.

Cambridge Part 6: The Haddon Library

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain

I’m furious to report that the photos of the first room we entered on our way to the Haddon Library didn’t turn out at all. This room was dark, stuffed with shelves filled with books about ancient Babylon, first contact with the Zulu, Assyrian and Egyptian glossaries, and other fabulous finds. Some of the old tomes containing early maps were nearly as tall as me. And it turns out that the room had a slightly scandalous recent history.

The academic who was in charge of interacting with visitors told me the story of a recent department reshuffle when collections of libraries were combined and had to be moved from one location to another. Not only did they have to worry about the proper transfer of historically significant books, they also had to be sure that the order and classifications were preserved–putting a collection like this back together from scratch if it was scrambled was too daunting a task to be thought of! Luckily the professor in charge found a moving company that specializes in this and a disaster was avoided.

It didn’t seem like too many visitors were going to the Haddon Library through this entrance and the professor and librarian talked to me for nearly twenty minutes simply because I started asking questions about the massive books. It’s always a delight to me what you can learn about the workings of places and people if you just pull up a chair and are genuinely interested.

The Haddon Library itself looks like a Victorian Eccentric’s private room and it’s wonderful. It supports primarily Anthropology students and research. What I loved was the old card catalog still there and still in use. No school like old school. Literally in this case.

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Cambridge Part 5: The Parker Library

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

My very idea of heaven is a library, but this is just ridiculous!

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The building itself was designed by William Wilkins, who also designed the National Gallery.

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Excuse me while I sit on my hands to keep from stroking the bindings inappropriately.

The Parker Library in Corpus Christi College houses one of the most impressive collection of medieval manuscripts in the world, one to make the eyes of a nerd like me absolutely pop out. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, a 15th century Chaucer manuscript, a glossary from the 800s, and the Gospel of St. Augustine, which is considered the oldest book in Britain and is believed to have been brought to the country by St. Augustine of Canterbury when he first came to spread Christianity to the English. It’s the oldest illustrated gospel in the Western world, and is used at the enthronements of the Archbishops of Canterbury.

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The library’s collection can really be attributed to the 16th century clergyman Matthew Parker. He served as the private chaplain of Queen Anne Boleyn and under Queen Elizabeth I became Archbishop of Canterbury. We owe his collection to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, after which the centuries old libraries that these institutions once houses were flung far and wide. Parker got permission to collect whatever books he found useful, and thank goodness. His collection includes a quarter of all known Anglo Saxon manuscripts today.

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A letter written by Anne Boleyn to her father while she was serving as a lady-in-waiting at the French court.

For the open day, the library also included several pieces from the personal collection of Dr. John C. Taylor, who designed the Corpus Clock.

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In other words, Jeff had to drag me away from this place…

Cambridge Part 4: The Corpus Clock

“Time is an illusion.”
― Albert Einstein

Cambridge has a number of distinguished and distinguishing landmarks, most of which are medieval, early modern, or in some way dating from before the 20th century. The Corpus Clock, housed at the library of Corpus Cristi College, is unabashedly modern. Normally facing the street, for Open Days the wall was turned to allow library visitors to get an up close and personal look at and within it.

Invented and designed by Dr. John C. Taylor (who has an amazing collection of clocks which will also feature in tomorrow’s adventures), it is a strange and wonderful creation. The face is plated in pure gold and the design is a rippled effect, created by explosions within a vacuum. They symbolize the Big Bang, the impact of which set space and time into motion and exploded outward. At the top is a grasshopper-like creature that Dr. Taylor calls the “Crhonophage,” meaning “time-eater” (which is apparently a pun since an 18th century horologist referred to a clock mechanism as a grasshopper).

It has no hands and tells time through concentric rings of lights to signify seconds, minutes, and hours. When the hour strikes, all the lights flash. And yet it is purposefully designed to appear irregular and sometimes be irregular; the pendulum appears to catch or the lights race and lag. The whole point is to be functional, but also show the somewhat threatening nature of time. The beast (which is apparently nicknamed both “Rosaline” and “Hopsy” by locals and students) swallows the seconds without ceasing, and if you look closely you may catch it blinking or moving its mouth unexpectedly. Time flies, it’s untrustworthy, it’s easily consumed or lost, and there’s no getting it back.

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Pointing out the features of the gold plated exterior.

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But look inside…

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…and the almost science fiction quality is revealed!

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I scrambled up another level in the library to get a less obstructed view because I found the clock unexpectedly delightful. I love seeing things cracked open and their inner workings revealed.

Budding videographer that I am (she laughed!), I snapped a short video of the clock’s function being presented. The speaker does a better job of explaining the lighting sequence than I could, plus you get to see the creature’s movement.