Friday, 27 November 2009

First Christmas Lights

I know this is a rotten photograph, but it's the first set of Christmas garden lights I've seen this year and it's only November still.

Perhaps they were inspired by the switch-on of the Town Hall Square and City lights last Sunday. We did a collection for Leicester Children'e Holiday Centre (Mablethorpe) but most people were more interested in the music on the stage.

This is not my pic; it's from BBC Leicester.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the 'Celebration of Christmas' show at Leicester Guildhall. This is a variety show to raise cash for the charity. We can only get 100 audience members, but it's a magical venue and everyone gets mulled wine, supper and mince pies. It's great fun,. but lots of hard work.

Here's a few pix from a previous show.

And the programme cover for this year's show.

Friday, 20 November 2009

What is a museum?

During our recent visit to Brighton, we went to the Brighton Pavilion. I've not been there for about 15 years, but little changes except the fact that, like so many museums these days, taking photos is forbidden. I've never really understood why, especially when both the museum and its collections are in public ownership.

I actually wanted to write something about the conservation work that was going on, and eventually one of the conservators - so helpful and ready to explain what they were doing and what the future plans were - managed to get permission to send me some great pictures, but these weren't of the room I was interested in.

We took ourselves off to Eastbourne to a museum I've always wanted to see: The Museum of Shops.

This is such an eclectic mix af all that is old and nostalgic that one can immerse oneself in that comfortable feeling that everything was better heretofore.

Because of the huge quantity of items in the collection, it has been impossible to have any form of interpretation (you understand I'm throwing roses at it here) so one isn't confused with uncomfortable truths - poverty, sickness, war and death.

This is not a museum designed to educate - it just gathers objects together, puts them in loose groups, but to what purpose? I suppose people come away from the Museum of Shops with a warm feeling, having been reacquainted with the familiar objects of their childhood, but what have they learned?

"This is not a museum designed to educate" - I think this means it's not a museum at all. It doesn't serve any of the real purposes of museums, especially conservation and interpretation.
Sad really.

So we went down to the pier for a good cup of tea... that's nostalgia.

Friday, 13 November 2009

HOLY Water; Holy Mackerel!

As I was getting ready this morning, and listening with half an ear to BBC Radio 4, Thought for the Day (or Platitude for the Day, as I call it) came on. This morning, it was all about Holy Water and Swine Flu. Now I know that many churches have dispensed with 'the peace' (shaking hands with the person next to you, or in some of the more extreme cases, walking around the church and embracing people you would cross the road to avoid at any other time) and in some churches, the congregaton dip the bread into the wine, rather than drink from the communal cup. (Am I wrong to think that drinking from the common cup is what Christianity is all about? Perhaps it's just me....)

Anyway, all this is done in the sacred (or profane) name of Swine Flu which seems like the greatest health scare since the Black Death, and... I now hear on TFTD that one church, to avoid members dipping their fingers into infected Holy Water at the font, has installed an electronic dispenser with an infra-red detector to dispense a measured amount of Holy Water into the palm, so no-one ever has to have contact with anyone else.

WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND is, if Holy Water has all the properties usually attributed to it, why isn't one of them the ability to resist disease? I ask this as a simple seeker after truth. Having been brought up as a Catholic (now long since lapsed) I always believed that Holy Water, and indeed other blessed things, had almost magical abilities, though in what direction, I couldn't say.

Holy water from the cave of Massabielle

I know we always had Holy Water in the house, though I sometimes wonder whether this wasn't more of a souvenir of a visit to, say, Lourdes than an auto da fe.

We still have a bottle of Holy Water in OUR house, retrieved after the death of my parents and the subsequent sale of their house, though this one does say 'Leeds' on it. Hardly a souvenir.

Amazon sells Holy Water fonts for home use... what more is there to say?

What I think I'm coming to is that, even as a child, terrified of eternal damnation - I seem to have spent most of my childhood/adolescence in that state, (nuns have a lot to answer for) I'm not sure I had any better idea then than I do now, what properties the act blessing water, or a rosary or missal, etc. was supposed to convey to the inanimate object being blessed. I am now a non-believer (except in humanity) but even then, at my most fervent, I was mystified. Perhaps that's the point?

Holy water for the faithful to take home with them (St Teresa's church, Clarendon Street, Dublin)

"Once blessed, more ordinary water can be added to the supply of holy water, and the entire quantity of water remains blessed provided that the amount added is less than the amount of water that was there."

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Christmas - alive and kicking

How do i know it's November? Because Christmas is here, alive and kicking! When I was a window dresser Display Artist way back in the 1960s, I knew that sure as eggs is eggs, Christmas started on November 6th as soon as Bonfire Night was over.

Having moved into a more honourable profession, I thought I could rest easy until December, but getting involved with a charity changes all that.

My main task at the moment is to sell 3,000 Christmas cards. I designed these (with a couple of other designs) way back in September but had to get the City Council Whips to agree the design (this is not the one I would have chosen - but there you go). At least we have sold 2,000 to the City Council for the Lord Mayor and the Council members, so the cost of production is now covered and all the proceeds go to the charity.

The design is the Town Hall in the snow. I had to do a lot of work with Photoshop to correct the distortion from having the photo taken by someone standing at ground level. Still, it hasn't turned out too bad.

The inside is quite plain with just the baubles and a few of our kids. The real problem has been that the shrink wrap the printers produced wasn't up to the necessary standard, so the local department store (who have been very helpful) said they couldn't put them on display. I had to buy clear self-seal packets and re-pack them myself. I still haven't finished.

But they do look a lot better now.

The other thing I've been working on are stained-glass tree and window decorations. i'm hoping they will sell at the Lady Mayoress's Coffee Morning in a couple of weeks time.

The easiest ones to make are probably the stars, because you can cut multiple glass shapes knowing they'll fit together pretty well. The difficulty I have is making neat loops for the tops.

The very straight Christmas tree is also fairly easy.

I rather like this 'loopy' tree, though it's awkward making the shapes fit tightly together because on of the colours of glass is 1mm thicker than the others.

The candles are my real favourites, though they take a lot of time. what I like is their 3-dimensional nature and the combination of cream wispy with the green water glass and red jewels.

This is the angel that got me started, though it's a bit of a fiddle with all the odd shapes.

I also like the crown. this was the first item for which I used my new glass saw.

Lots of colours and shapes

Ind hopefully the will sell...