This is the Podcast for the Virtual Tour of Edinburgh
To find out or book for the Edinburgh walk and other walks this week end click here
A Virtual Tour Through The Whole Island Of Great Britain. No.5 Edinburgh
Monday 2 May 2022 7 pm
A Virtual Walk Through the Athens of the North
Borrowing my title from Daniel Defoe’s early chorography, my first Circuit is from Chester to Edinburgh. Now on the last stop on this first circuit we are taking a virtual tour of the most extraordinary City – Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a very unusual City as it was built on the saddle of a hill so its main street runs down the ridge of a hill and the City falls away on either side. This lack of flat land and restricted space led to the City growing upwards. This gave the City an extraordinary density and an unique atmosphere that we will be exploring.
In the Georgian period the City was extended with the addition of a new town quarter which was rationally planned and made a marked contrast on the old Town. Together it gives the Capital of Scotland, a combination of atmospheric and claustrophobic town planning with the elegance of a City that was one of the great Cities of the Enlightenment.
We will begin the virtual walk in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat at the shiny new Scottish Parliament and walk up the Royal Mile from Holyrood to Tollboth, to the Netherbow and onto the Castle at the pinnacle of the City
‘RRRRRare Chelsea Buns’ as Jonathan Swift called them in a letter to Stella in 1711.
T!he tradition was that on Good Friday Georgian period Londoners would go to Chelsea to buy Chelsea Buns. Thousands of people would turn up at the Five Fields which stretched from Belgravia to what is now Royal Hospital Street. There were swings, drinking booths, nine pins and ‘vicious events that disgraced the metropolis’. The Bun House was on Jew’s Row as Royal Hospital Street was then called. As several King Georges visited the Bun House it became known as the Royal Chelsea Bun House. It was run by the Hands family. They were said to sell 50,000 Buns on the day. Stromboli tea garden was nearby.
Fragrant as honey and sweeter in taste As flaky and white as if baked by the light As the flesh of an infant soft, doughy and slight.
The buns were made from eggs, butter, sugar, lemon and spices. Inside the Chelsea Bun House was a collection of curiosities. Chelsea became known for its collection of curiosities in the 18th Century. Of course, there was the great Hans Sloane’s collection which was the founding collection of the British Museum, And then there was Don Saltero’s which was a coffee house that had curiosities on the wall. The Bun house displayed clocks, curiosities, models, paintings and statues on display to attract a discerning Public.
Me. I love a Chelsea Bun above all buns, But can you get them any more? The British Library Cafe was the last place I found that sold them. And that was 5 years ago I reckon. If you see any let me know.
Robert Milligan once reigned supreme outside the Museum of London in Docklands as a representative of the West Indies merchants who proudly set up the West Indies docks. Now he has been removed from his prestigious position and acquired by the Museum of London. Their Docklands Museum can be seen behind the statue in this sketch. According to a statement by the Museums Association he will be ‘fully contextualised’ in the museum. The docks were set up to to maximise profits from the slave driven sugar plantations in the West Indies. Milligan was the Deputy Chairman of the project.
The museum has an excellent display on the slave trade.
Sorry for gap in posts as I’m recovering from surgery following an accident whereby a taxi driver opened his door and knocked me off my push bike so typing one handed and dealing with images is quite difficult at present. Please adopt the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening car doors and be careful.
For our next outing we went to the British Library but Arlo didn’t like the Beethoven exhibition. It was too dark and nothing to surreptitiously climb on. He definitely does not like dark exhibitions which is a shame because it seems to be the design idea of the moment. The Nero and the Stonehenge exhibitions were also dark spaces working on creating atmospheric views using bright colours, spot lighting and spectacular objects. But it doesn’t work for a 20 month old.
Nor did the largely text based Paul McCartney’s Lyrics exhibition attract a second of his attention. ‘Paul who?’ he seemed to be saying as we stumped past to the very quiet sound of ‘Hey Jude’.
What he did like was the escalators. We went up and down, and up and down, and then onto the second set where we repeated the repeat.
And down and back again, and no time to see the enigma machine. We ate in the upstairs Restaurant which is a really pleasant place to spend a lunch time.
Time for him to have a sleep so we walked to the British Museum through Bloomsbury without much sign that he he would nod off. But we found a couple of interesting revolutionaries of the 19th Century en-route.
Then to Cartwright Gardens named after John Cartwright, called ‘the Father of Reform’. He had quite an amazing life. He refused to serve in the Navy as he would not fight against the American Colonists in the War of Independence. He supported reform of Parliament, universal suffrage, annual Parliaments and secret ballots.
The milk soon did its job and Arlo was asleep, so I took him to the Member’s Room for a cup of tea while he slept. I could keep an eye on the book trolley selling my book! (just behind Arlo’s head).
When he woke we whizzed around the third Floor but Arlo was reluctant to leave his buggy because it was much more crowded than our last visit when he was able to run free around the galleries which he loved. So, I could look at some old favourites like the Portland Vase. This by the way was smashed into hundreds of pieces and very beautifully restored. In 1848 a drunken visitor threw a sculpture into the case and smashed the vase. It was restored but 37 pieces were separated and, by luck, survived until 1988 when the vase was reunited with the pieces and expertly restored.
What an Exhibition! The BM has pulled together an international array of treasures from the Stonehenge era. It is stunning , the objects are amazing. Stonehenge itself is there in the labels but it is not at the forefront – the objects are left to speak for themselves. The labels are there to give some details and some context but they never dominate.
It is beautifully lit and mounted, and really a triumph. I will go back again to see how the labels and information tell their stories and report back at greater length.
This was first raised by Plutarch, and it concerns a crucial issue in conservation/restoration which is how to maintain authenticity in the face of replacing worn out parts of an object or structure. The idea is, perhaps, most economically discussed in ‘Any Fools and Horses’ in the scene known as Trigger’s Broom.
Now you are ready to appreciate the philosophic issue that is discussed in this short video by the Khan Academy. Click here.
The Ship of Theseus also appears in the Novel ‘S’ written by Doug Dorst and conceived by J. J. Abrams. in 2013. The book is a story within a story with an innovative ‘interactive’ thread with a novel called the Ship of Theseus which is annotated by two people and also contains press cuttings and printed ephemera in the two characters attempts to identify the mysterious author of ‘The Ship of Theseus. The Ship itself is, replaced part by part as the story develops.
Burns night is an increasingly important date on the calendar of Scotland’s Cultural Heritage. Wikipedia says it began ‘at Burns Cottage in Ayrshire by Burns’s friends, on 21 July 1801′ 5 years after his death. It is now celebrated around the world.
Paganalia, also known as Sementivae, was a festival dedicated to seed, to Ceres (from who we get the word cereal) and also the Earth Goddess of your choice Tellus, Demeter, Cybele, Gaia, Rhea etc.. Ceres can be seen on the top left roundel resting on the Globe on the marvellous Ceramic Staircase at the V&A.
On the 11th day of Christmas My true love sent to me 11 pipers piping; Ten lords a-leaping; Nine ladies dancing Eight maids a-milking; Seven swans a-swimming Six geese a-laying Five golden rings (five golden rings) Four calling birds; Three French hens; Two turtle-doves And a partridge in a pear tree.
Now is your last chance to make your Twelfth Day cake. This is a recipe from 1604 by Elinor Fettiplace:
Take a peck of flower, and fower pound of currance, one ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of ginger, two nutmegs, of cloves and mace two peniworth, of butter one pound, mingle your spice and flower & fruit together, but as much barme [the yeasty froth from the top of fermenting beer barrels] as will make it light, then take good Ale, & put your butter in it, saving a little, which you must put in the milk, & let the milk boyle with the butter, then make a posset with it, & temper the Cakes with the posset drink, & curd & all together, & put some sugar in & so bake it.
Now that I am a grandfather, and have taken my grandson to a couple of Museums I am, suddenly, an expert on the subject. My preliminary conclusions:
Museum toddler playgrounds could be a lot more imaginative. London Transport Museum basically has buses with buttons to push and steering wheels to turn. Its ok, but then not much better than you get in countless parks around London.. Surely, there should be more story telling and even a bit of wit to amuse the carers?
What is much better, in my grandson’s opinion, is designing the museum itself to cater for the toddlers. My one loved the British Museum, which has absolutely no provision for toddlers as far as I can see. But he loved it! Why?
He loved the space; the length of the rooms to run along; the height of the ceiling; the variety of cases and spaces, and key holes and handles and grids and lighting; the echoes and percussive effects he could produce by his hands or feet.
The floors he loved because the BM in some rooms has ventilation grills that run along a track along the length of the Room. He loved running along them. And was most engaged by the metal grills his feet found every couple of meters. They made a different sound as he ran along them. He ran along them, turned round and ran back and repeated the effort. I should point out he is only 16 months old so not running at a pace that annoys or endangers. In the Classical Galleries, the hard floor changed to carpet. He immediately lay down on it and enjoyed the texture enough to roll around on it, until he found the only visible bit of fluff on the well dyson’d carpet. He took the fluff to the next room, dropped it on the floor, and carefully picked it up. I think we got that bit of fluff from the Cyprus Gallery to the Portland Vase in the Roman and Greek Gallery. A testament to the BM’s cleaning staff.
Crucial to his enjoyment were cases that stretched down to the floor, or about a foot above the floor. He could look in and see the objects, and was often fascinated. In comparison the London Transport Museum’s cases were higher and he could not see in . He also loved any fitting he could touch or move on the cases. Even key holes interested him. The BM also has cases which have low ledges for labels beside cases. He loved to climb on these – although I had to stop him. But a museum could easily build in little cubby holes for kids to climb into and onto. And add little knobs, buttons, bells, declivities and raised areas at low level for kids to turn, press, poke, stroke and twist.
Touch was very important, and he liked to touch the glass of the cases, and there was a stone pillar, he was touching. I thought it was behind glass so did not stop him but when I got closer realised it was the surface of the stone he was repeatedly stroking. Of course I stopped him immediately, but it was a good reminder of the interest at this age in texture.
Sound was really interesting to him. And I know it would be horrifying to visits to have children all halloing the echoes but he did love it! Wooden infrastructure which was hollow offers lots of potential.
So, in conclusion. Make the Museum itself the playground. Use the playgrounds as part of the displays. Insist on floor length glass cases with knobs, bells, holes and textures integral to the design. Vary the floors, put markings on the floor for children to follow. Create little spaces every so often they can get into, climb on, explore.