At the Victoria & Albert Museum

Before I go into a whole “Armitage fan experience in London” post, I’m first posting about something else I was able to do there. I had arrived in London last Sunday morning and spent a lovely day just hanging out and chatting with my brother and some with my niece.

Then on Monday I had the day to myself and I decided to finally visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington. I had never been there and had always meant to go there one day. It was a good day to pick that, as it was a cold, dreary and very wet day. Picture taken from the bus I was on; the window was wet, it almost looks like an impressionist painting.

20200224_124333I got to the museum and somehow it seemed much larger than I had thought. I mean, I knew it housed a very diverse collection but this was much bigger than I had expected.

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I wandered around on the ground floor a bit, particularly liking the statues gallery…

… and then went in search of the café for something to eat. The old café was beautiful, but alas there was no space for me to sit there…

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So, I sat in the more modern section and really enjoyed my scone and cup of tea.

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Even going to a bathroom at the café was a museum experience with old tiles and fawcets bearing Georg Vth initials, which indicates they were somewhere from the beginning of the 20th century.

Speaking of royalty, on my way to the medieval section I passed the car Harry and Meghan had used at the end of their wedding day

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It was basically an ad for the vintage cars exhibition that was also on at the V&A but that I didn’t end up visiting.

In the medieval section I was struck by this early 16th century tapestry from Brussels depicting Queen Esther (she after whom I have been named):

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I also love looking at old books, like this early printed book from 1521, not long after the printing press had been invented.

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Some more nice vistas as you walk through the museum:

I have seen lots of medieval art and statues and the like in many museums over the years, so for me the high point of the museum was something I have not seen that much of: an exhibition on early photography. Even just looking at all those cameras before you enter the room was fascinating.

I was in awe seeing an early heliograph image of Christ carrying the cross from 1827. You can barely see the image but it’s there (click to enlarge)…

… and an 1840’s daguerreotype image of a collage of famous faces.

I liked this 1850s image. Imagine keeping that little dog still enough for long enough to create this image!

An early camera was on display…

And there were more fascinating 19th century images, with one image also of Alice Liddell, who was the ‘real’ Alice in Wonderland.

Absolutely fascinating, including some early 3D imagery you could see through this viewer but that I couldn’t take pictures of.

The other section I was fascinated with was the theatre collection (with a little movie glam thrown in).  The horse for the War Horse production was there…

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And other theatre costumes…

There was the Henry V costume as worn by Richard Burton…

And a costume designed by Dior for Vivien Leigh in a movie…

Vivien Leigh seems to have bequeathed some of her memorabilia to the V&A. The Oscar she had won for A Streetcar Named Desire in the 1950s was on display…

… as was a telegram addressed to Laurence Olivier (Vivien Leigh’s husband at the time) from Lillian and Dorothy Gish, movie stars of mainly the silent movie era, congratulating Leigh on her brilliant acting performance in Streetcar.

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There were more awards on display from other actors for other performances:

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And some music related memorabilia of David Bowie…

and Madness…

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This is just a tiny impression of all there is to see at the V&A and I saw way more than I took pictures of. It’s a great museum, very diverse and I by far haven’t seen everything. I may have to return there again sometime.

By the time I finally emerged from the musem at the end of the afternoon, it had stopped raining. I again took a bus, this time to Piccadilly Circus, and the view was somewhat less impressionist:

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I was off to go and meet Hariclea for evening theatre shenanigans at the Harold Pinter Theatre. More on that in my next post. 🙂

Statues in da house

The latest “Mach’ Was” challenge has ‘statues’ as its topic. When I read that, I looked up from my laptop, glanced around my living room, and figured that wouldn’t be a problem…

My mother loves statues and has little statues all over her house, dozens  and dozens of them at least. I guess it is through her that I have come to appreciate them as well and when I take that look around my living room, dining room and back garden (I won’t even mention what can be found upstairs), I see statues in various sizes surrounding me; apparently I have collected quite a few of them myself over the years! Mr. Esther has joined in with contributions as well. We are no deliberate statue collectors but, yes, we do now posess quite a few!

On a little antique desk that also carries our phone, we have these three little ones. I didn’t photograph them on the desk as that corner was just too dark, so I set them in a row on our dining table. I can hold all three easily in one hand.

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We bought the little head on the left years ago at the prehistoric site of Lascaux in France; it’s a replica of a 23.000 year old figurine called the Venus de Brassempouy! The middle head is something we bought at the famous German Meissen porcelain factory after a tour we did there – pretty much the only thing we could afford. 😉 The cat on the right we bought at the British Museum in London last year after seeing the real deal ancient Egyptian cat in the collection. We have a black cat right here at home and couldn’t resist this small replica which looks just like her!

I also quite like the artist Nikki de Sainte Phalle and her famous colourful voluptuous “Nana” women. Do a google image search combining her name and the word ‘nana’ and you’ll see what I mean. When I was a child living just outside of Jerusalem, we played on this huge monster slide in a residential area in Jerusalem which she had designed. It’s still there, my kids also played on it 8 and a half years ago…

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Anyway, a few years back my younger brother was working in a furniture store and saw this ‘Nana’ woman…

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… it’s made of a thick kind of papier-mâché, he immediately thought I’d love it (and he was right!) and he got it for me.

I also have these two African mothers:

The one on the left I got from my mom once. Alas it fell and the baby’s head broke off in such a way that it could not be repaired. I still love it, though, so I have kept it. The one on the right is my most recent acquisition, I only got it about two weeks ago. My mom recently sold the cottage in the north of The Netherlands that she owns and that statue is from there. While clearing out I immediately claimed it as my own, luckily there were no other takers.

On the windowsill by our dining table we have these two tall and very slim wooden figures…

The left one we bought at an Asia market, it’s an Indonesian statue. I can’t recall where I got the right one, but we’ve had both of them for many years now.

I have a favourite painting that I have yet to see for real. It’s Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. My parents knew this and got us this little statue, now standing on our piano (that no one plays)…

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We have some more cat statues as well, besides the black cat in the first picture I shared above. And we have a snail! And a Buddhist monk!

The yellow cat on the left I got from my younger sister, it has a suncell battery and when the sun shines it waves its little paw! It’s Asian (I think Thai, maybe Chinese) kitsch and I find it funny! The other cat is something we once got from our neighbours after we took care of their cats while they were away on holiday. The little glass snail I saw at an arts & crafts market once and I just found it cute. The buddhist monk is a gift I got from the kids a few years ago.

Speaking of buddhist monks gifted to me by my kids… I have a whole row of little monks right underneath our TV screen! They were a Mother’s Day gift. 🙂

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My daughter found this following family statue on top of a recycling container about a year ago… We both liked it and gave it a home.

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We also have a little wooden viking boat with little wooden vikings in them. Bought it in Denmark for the kids when they were little, we still like it and keep it as an ornament now. The figurine on the right is a chess piece we also bought at the British Museum. It’s something my husband fell in love with, a replica of one of the Lewis chessmen from the 12th century, probably originating from Norway.

Speaking of my husband… he loves history, especially Roman and medieval history and is a bit of an expert on heraldry. So, we now have a knight with shield in a corner leading to our hallway, which we also use as a pedestal for the bust of a woman. In our back garden we have two stone lions with coats of arms. One coat of arms is from my family, the other coat of arms, the one on the right, is my husband’s. His family doesn’t have one, so he designed one himself and recently had it registered. 🙂 He also painted all these shields himself.

As this post has now landed in our back garden, let me also share some more statues we have there!

The one on the left, another bust of a woman, we got last year in Poland, it was dead cheap! Yeah, we don’t really buy durable quality, we just get what appeals to us in the moment. The pedestal it’s on was also a leftover from my mother’s cottage that we confiscated. The family statue on the right is one we bought when Mr. Esther and I became parents; it was also our first garden statue. I also love this statue…

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… she’s made of concrete, so nothing special there, but I find her so pretty!

Coming back into the house, I also have a number of small statues in my DVD cupboard…

The head on the left I made myself during a workshop with colleagues some 5 or 6 years ago. It’s supposed to look like my one ex-colleague… Of course it hardly looks like her, except for maybe possibly the hair, but for a first attempt at ever doing anything like this, I was quite proud. My daughter subsequently decided she also wanted to make one, so the pink one is hers. On a side note: that baby photo on the right is a picture of my grandmother, taken in 1908!

And last but not least these…

I can’t remember where I got that tiny squirrel. The owl is a beeswax candle that we never had the heart to burn. The angel on the right is a gift from my in-laws.

So, there you have it, Herba and Pö: my house is a hot mess with loads of statues!

Esther-Daddy Day

This evening the Jewish festival of Purim starts, celebrating the Persian Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people from genocide some 2500 years ago. My parents gave my siblings and me names from the Hebrew bible (old testament). So, my brothers and sisters are called: Rachel, David, Daniel (in fairness, Daniel wasn’t named by my parents; he came to our family age 11 and fit right in, name and all!), Joel, Rebecca and Jonathan. And then there’s me, Esther, named after Queen Esther herself! Hence also the title of this blog – I am named after the biblical queen in The Book of Esther and books tells stories, which in a way I do here as well, sharing stories and experiences in my life.

My parents always enjoyed giving me Queen Esther themed gifts. Many of them I don’t have anymore, or are scattered throughout the house and I don’t know where they are, but I do have two paintings still hanging on my walls here. One of the them, called “The town of  Queen Esther” was painted/printed by an acquaintance my parents had many years ago…

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It’s not my fave painting ever, but I like it enough to keep on my staircase wall.

A second piece of art I own hangs in my living room and was once given to me by my parents. It’s an absolutely fascinating ink drawing they got me when we were all visiting the artistic town of Tzfat (Safed) once in the north of Israel…

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If you look closely you’ll see that the figure of Esther and the pillars next to her are made up of tiny Hebrew lettering. We were told that the whole text of the Book of Esther is worked into this ink drawing! I just love this. This drawing is not only connected to my name and that bible story, it is also forever connected to my parents who picked it out for me. I can still see myself standing outside this artist’s atelier together with my parents, deciding on this particular work of art.

Tomorrow is not only Purim, the festival of Esther, but is also the second anniversary of the passing of my father. I am happy to have such mementoes as this one that keep me connected to him. So, as this evening/tomorrow is the happy festival of Purim as well as a day during which I commemorate my dad, I am dubbing March 12th, 2017 “Esther-Daddy Day”!

According to Jewish custom you say “May his memory be for a blessing!” and I can honestly say that although I will miss him forever, my father’s memory truly is a blessing. For tomorrow I wish for my family and myself to be filled with not only sad but also many happy memories and in Yiddish I wish to those who celebrate (my Jewish brother and sister among them) “A freilichen Purim”!

The Brussels adventure

This past January my husband and I had the 25th anniversary of our first kiss and to celebrate a quarter of a century together (that sounds sooooo long!) he and I went away, just the two of us, to Brussels for 3 days (2 nights).  We decided to do it the unstressed way: go by train! The journey is only 2.5 hours from where we live and we only had to change trains once. The kids were looked after by friends, so there were no worries there, and we were off last Thursday morning. This is what it looked like just after we boarded the train to Brussels. Coffee for Mr Esther, tea for me, cakes and reading material… Yes, good start to our mini-break!

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We arrived in Brussels and walked to the street our hotel was in (right bang in the historical center!), had a late lunch, checked in to our hotel and then started walking… and walking… and walking… We walked by ‘Manneken Pis’ (yeah, world famous small fountain statue of a little boy peeing)…

… walked some more…

… and popped into a church where I lit a candle for my dad and which also turned out to be Heraldry-heaven for Mr Esther (the man loves medieval history and is a heraldry specialist, a fangirl of sorts, if you will)…

… we walked on and on till we got to the royal palace, which is the Belgian king’s work place…

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… walked from there back into the old town, with a lovely view as we came down…

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… we stopped for drinks then walked on to finally visit a high point: the market square with old city hall and beautiful old buildings surrounding it (click on images to enlarge)…

It’s a gorgeous square, it’s probably the best cared for part of Brussels. Our hotel was situated about a minute minute away from this location. This was our breakfast room view, by the way…

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Our feet were already getting very tried at the end of that first day. We went to the hotel room, freshened up and then went off to dinner and a movie after (Silence – slow moving Martin Scorsese movie about Portugese Jesuit monks in 17th century Japan – 3 people walked out during it, but Mr Esther and I found it totally engrossing).

Friday, the second day, we walked even more… We visited the cathedral (again, click to enlarge)…

… and, as we are Europeans at heart, we walked on to where the European Union administration is situated. The European Commission building is freakishly huge (these pictures don’t even begin to show that)…

… outside that building there is also a piece of the Berlin Wall with a text on the history of that eyesore and how since that was torn down European unity has grown…

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… we walked by the European Parliament buildings…

Outside the parliament building there was a tree decorated in a crocheted work of art. I have no idea what that is about but we found it amusing…

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We walked through more streets closer to the old center where our hotel also was…

… and in less touristy parts of Brussels, we also came across an occasional house painted with interesting illustrations (again, click to enlarge)…

Speaking of cartoon characters, we also came across this sign in a park, asking Pokemon character searchers to keep off the grass as the grass had just been re-planted. Apparently massive amounts of Pokemom game players had trampled the grass before…

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Of course, by the end of the day our feet were just about dead and we sat for quite a while sipping wine (me) and special beer (Mr Esther) in the old market square…

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We moved from there to a restaurant and later back to the square again for more beer. The square was beautifully lit after dark…

Saturday, our last day in Brussels, we spent at the museum, seeing an exhibition on famous Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Alas, his most famous works weren’t there, but he sure made some really wonderful less famous paintings too!

In the same museum we also strolled through the beautiful medieval paintings section…

Alas, we were too tired to go on to the 19th / early 20th century paintings that I had also wanted to see; we skipped that in favour of a café (and more beer and wine) before taking our train and heading back home again.

For me, hardly a trip is complete without fangirling of some sort! And I got to do some on this trip as well! There was no Richard, Colin or latest crush Lucas fangirling but there was the 1920s Magritte painting, that made me think of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries because of the black bob hairstyle (sorry for the fuzzy picture)…

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… and we came across Simon Baker of The Mentalist fame in a Longines watches ad in a jewelry store window ( I stared and smiled at that for a while before moving on, the man and his smile are beautiful)…

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Brussels also likes its comic / scifi / fantasy stores… In a store window, for instance, we saw all sorts of wands from Harry Potter characters for sale…

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… and then in another store, which was filled with so much stuff you could hardly move, I decided to search once again for a Pop Thorin figure. I always regretted not getting Pop Thorin at the time The Hobbit movies came out and now they are sold out everywhere and they’re very expensive online. Well, I didn’t find Thorin but then my husband called me over and I saw these two…

20170305_155620… Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy! Granted, not Colin Firth as Darcy but hey, he can pass for it, right? And a kick ass Elizabeth Bennet, who I did enjoy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So yeah, I didn’t want to regret not getting Elizabeth Bennet! I bought her first, then the next day decided I’d get Mr. Darcy as well. I want no more Pop-regrets…

And the last bit of fangirling had everything to do with Charlotte Bronte! Jane Eyre is still one of my absolute fave books ever, this coming summer we will be travelling to Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire where she lived, and yesterday I walked in her footsteps in Brussels! Charlotte Bronte stayed in Brussels for about a year in her mid twenties, learning French at a ‘pensionnat’, a school for girls, and also teaching English there. She also fell in love with the husband of the pensionnat owner, Monsieur Heger, even though nothing ever came of that. She based two books on her Brussels experiences (‘The Professor’ and ‘Vilette’) and Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester is said to have been modelled after Monsieur Heger. The part of Brussels (between the royal palace and the older city) where she lived isn’t there anymore. Now big buildings stand on the street where the pensionnat used to be, the street itself is also gone. On one building (you really have to figure out where to find it, luckily Mr Esther is good at that stuff) there is a plaque commemorating Charlotte and her sister Emily living there…

… and there are steps there that were also there in Charlotte’s time and that she most certainly must have walked on…

When we were at the museum an hour or so later, we saw this painting…

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It’s  the painting of a school children’s parade in Brussels, all these girls are schoolgirls! It was painted quite a few years after Charlotte and Emily left Brussels but I like to imagine that these girls could have been their pupils… or maybe the teacher walking next to these girls was!

We took the train out of Brussels again yesterday at the end of the afternoon and got off at Antwerp to have dinner there before heading home. While in Antwerp station (beautiful building inside!) we sat drinking coffee and chai tea latte while waiting for our next train. This was our view…

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… and yes, it immediately reminded me of one of my favourite flash mob videos ever, which was also the first one I ever saw, I think. A flash mob The Sound of Music ad was filmed in Antwerp station some years ago and still is awesome to watch…

Yep, we had a really wonderful time! It was over all too soon…

Banksy West Bank wall art

Suzy’s post on her Silverbluelining blog about a Banksy film called Exit through the gift shop (post is in German) and my recent thoughts about Richard Armitage’s #nowalls tweet had me researching Banksy wall art on the West Bank in Palestinian Territory. My google search delivered these results…

A Palestinian boy walks past a drawing by British graffiti artist Banksy near the Kalandia ...

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MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS BANKSY

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Walls are barriers to coexisting and these images on a wall that I really hate make me feel very emotional. I find them absolutely beautiful. Some people have citicised making a wall such as this beautiful, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as a beautful protest to tear the thing down.

I so want to live in a world of tolerance, peace and freedom, without walls and violence, a multicultural, multi-faith (or non faith) world where people can accept differences and just  coexist. It may sound too idealistic but maybe if there are enough dreamers who express this and act on this in their daily lives, it can one day become a reality?

I find it scary how the world has become so hateful and everyone has become so selfish and I’m not only talking about hateful reactions to refugees or Donald Trump here. Having said that, have we seriously created a world where men like Trump, with such hateful and violent rhetoric, can become leaders in the world? We only have this one world to share! Can we please stop destroying it and each other and become more tolerant? Tolerance to me doesn’t mean being uncritical. To me it means dialogue and discussion and trying to learn about the other, learn to accept them for who they are, and yes, maybe even change a little to accommodate each other.

When I think about the meaning of life, to me it can be summed up in one word: Love.  I just hope people everywhere, west, east, north and south, will one day be able to feel that too. I don’t mean to preach but to me, in the end, that seems to be the only way. I truly believe that love can accomplish more than hate. And that is what these Banksy images express to me – the hope that love and freedom for all will win in the end.