Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Selection from the Fashion Museum 100 Objects...

I hope you've enjoyed my blog posts about my museum visits last month: the Museum of Bath Architecture and the Bath Postal Museum.

Now it's the Fashion Museum and their History of Fashion in 100 Objects, running until January 2019, alongside their smaller and recently opened Lace in Fashion.

I've split up my selected images between my blogs here and over on my Serena Lake website, so I hope you'll visit Serena's page to see some of the interesting 18th century items I've chosen, reflecting the time periods I'll be writing historical romances in, under my pseudonym.

Over here I'll be going 19th to 20th century.

(Many of these images have had light applied in the preparation for sharing them with you. Also with the big panes of class reflections or shadows do sometimes get caught, so whenever possible I crop the images to centre in on specific items.)

Bath is often associated with Jane Austen and the wonderful costume dramas of her works, so here's a section of dresses from the first half of the 19th century with it's muslin and printed cottons, elegant classical designs and trains going onto frills and flounces...

Early to mid-1800's...

The shoes on the raised platform (bottom left) can be seen in more detail on Serena's blog post.

There was a delightful display of baby bootees too, again from the 1800's. Some were embroidered, others quilted and fairly plain.

Baby footwear...

Some men's clothes were included in the 100 objects, but I suspect that not as many items may have survived as women's. There were waistcoats, jackets and a lovely velvet suit- whoever the man was that wore it, he must have had women wanting to say hello!

Also there was a pair of men's trousers from the 1820's, as the display moved into the Victorian period and clothes seemed to become more sober.

There were a few items in their own individual display cabinets.

I particularly liked the Dolman from the 1870's.

Lady's Dolman from
the 1870's...

This would have been worn over a dress with a bustle. It was part cape, part coat. Some of the large cashmere or paisley shawls were used to make these new types of outdoor wear. As it hangs over the bustle at the back, it does drape well and add to the shape.

Underwear did feature. There were some stays, and this corset from the 1890's.

Evening corset...

It's silk stiffened with whalebone. The waist is 21.5 inches with the tight lacing, but could be let out if needed. I'm not sure anyone would want to eat much laced that tight!

On into the 20th century I chose one item I hadn't realised existed- and I suspect they will appear in the party scene in my 1920's story. Dress Clips.

A selection of 1920's Dress
Clips from the Beeson
Collection...


The dress clips were designed to add sparkle to the corners of the square-neck dresses and round or V shape necklines.

These clips are just a small part of 350 that were collected by a primary school teacher, in Frome, Somerset, Sheila Beeson - over a 40 year period.

From there the exhibition moved on through the WWII and the post war period.

For me fashion seemed to have lost its way after the 1930's. Now we're just repeating the past 50-60 years with slight variations.

Choosing the 100 objects that represent the changing face of fashion history must have taken a lot of discussion and planning. And that's before the museum even began the process of creating the display.

No matter the time period you're interested in, there's something in the exhibition to be appreciated.

There's more shoes, and the additional Lace exhibition in the darker storeroom area, displaying how hand-made and manufactured lace has been used in clothing across the decades too.









Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Bath Postal Museum...

The Bath Postal Museum is another delightful Bath gem that would probably get missed on a weekend visit-if you didn't know it was there.

You'll find the entrance to the Museum downstairs, just inside the entrance to the existing Post Office. To enable accessibility for those in a wheelchair or with limited mobility, there's a stair lift.

Considering how much there is too see, it's been thoughtfully laid out to make the most of the space; and for children there's fun things to do too.

I knew a bit about mail coaches and what they looked like, and also about turnpikes from research for the first novel I tried writing, but there was so much more I didn't know.

For example the mail went to and from London along six routes, until Ralph Allen, the Postmaster of Bath, began an expansion with cross routes.

By later in the century Mail Coaches became a necessity, fast, efficient and they had a guard to protect them.

1.8 Scale Model of John Palmer's Trial Coach
built by Ronald Stiff of Aylesbury


My favourite item in the museum was being able to listen to the different horn calls that were used during the mail coach journey; there were various warning calls: to the passengers to get aboard, to alert the inn to get the horses ready, the turnpikes open, and when they finally arrived at their destination among them. Each slightly different, but you can hear the echoes of future military bugle calls.

The horn to signal...


The display of Post Boxes certainly reminded me of a few from my childhood. Did you know how many types there have been? There's a few on this link.

This is the post box in Laura Place, and there's another on Great Pultney Street, both are hexagonal, the 'New Standard Letter Box', designed by J.W Penfold in the 1860's.

Laura Place Hexagonal
Post Box...

I've only chosen a couple of items to show you, but there's so much more to see and discover...








Sunday, 2 April 2017

As it's Sunday it's the Museum of Bath Architecture...

I'm going backwards for this visit to Bath, and sharing the smaller less well-known museums in Bath first.

Last Sunday we (husband and I) visited the Museum of Bath Architecture (which appears on some tourist brochures/maps as the Buildings of Bath) and it was well worth the visit.

The exhibition is located in the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel along the raised pavement of The Paragon, The Vineyards. It's owned by The Bath Preservation Trust who are also involved with No.1 The Royal Crescent (I visited there on my last trip to Bath in 2014).

It's all raised pavement...

(You'll see a cape belonging to the Countess in a later post.)


Acorn Finials at The Circus
If you don't know anything about the architecture of Bath there's a very helpful video to start you off, before you go on to discover the various crafts and the tools used by the men who built the distinctive houses from the lower to the upper end of the city.

(When I'd been waiting for the Fashion Museum to open the previous day, we'd wandered into The Circus, and one of the pictures I took was of the stone acorns finials that run around the roof line, and we both assumed they had some symbolism.)

So it was a surprise to turn the corner of the first display cabinet and there was a large stone acorn, similar to those in the Circus, though this one was from The Royal Crescent. [1]

Stone Acorn Finial
from the Royal
Crescent...
Yes, it is symbolic.

John Wood (the Elder) who designed The Circus, sadly died three months after the foundation stone was laid, and the building work continued under the Younger John Wood. The elder Wood was strongly influenced by Stonehenge ( he studied and wrote about it) and other stone circles- the Druids were in there too...

On a previous visit to the Circus it was a very sunny May day, the sun was almost in alignment with Gay Street (that leads up to the centre) and it's easy to see the stone circle influence with his design.

The acorns reference Bladud- who is supposed to have discovered the healing hot waters of Bath; his pigs- suffering from a skin disease- were looking for acorns to eat and were cured by the hot spring.

There were a few items that I particularly enjoyed seeing; the Mason's Level with a lead plumb weight. [2]

Mason's Level


Model of 26 Great
Pultney Street...
But the most impressive item has to be the model display of the city, and you can press buttons that lights up the best known locations. (see image at the bottom of this post) [3]

By the time we'd worked our way around the displays you could really appreciate the skills of the men who did the actual building work, they brought the architects designs and visions to reality, using many of the tools that craftsmen today would still recognise.

Even the little models required skill and are interesting too. [4]

You can see a few of the other items from the Trust's collection, here.

I've only mentioned a few things, but there is so much more to see and learn.

It's a small museum, and like many smaller places across the country, they like (and welcome) visitors. So if you get the opportunity do go, you won't be disappointed...


The Royal Crescent and The Circus
lit up in the Bath city model...


Images 1,2,3,4 taken with permission.

Raised pavement image courtesy of RP Bevitt.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Back from My Travels to Bath...

Last Friday I went down to Bath for a long weekend. It was a wonderful and much-needed break after a stressful six months.

As I've been so busy since I came back I haven't had time to sort out all my photos and pick the best ones for my blog posts here, and over on my Serena Lake site.

So that's my job this weekend.

The History of Fashion in 100 Objects at the Fashion Museum was fantastic, and if you get the opportunity do go and see it. Their smaller Lace exhibition was equally as interesting.

It's going to be difficult choosing my favourite images from all those costumes and items that were on display...

I'll be doing a couple of blog posts on two smaller and lesser known museums that might get missed if you've never been to Bath before: The Postal Museum, and the Museum of Bath Architecture that is housed in the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel.

Both of these held surprises and answered a few questions I had...

I did a lot of walking- fortunately the weather was dry and quite bright, although the evenings were chilly.

But all that exercise meant I could go into the Pump Room for tea (on Mother's Day) without feeling too guilty. It's very elegant, and there was music provided by a trio of musicians.

The evidence has been eaten...

There are a number of parks around Bath too which are clearly enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Sydney Gardens, behind the Holbourne Museum, has both a canal and a railway line running through them, though I believe they were actually there before the Gardens were laid out around them.

Henrietta Gardens lies between Great Pultney Street and Henrietta Street (where the hotel we were staying at was located), so it was a delightful diversion from one road to the next.

So look out for my next post at the weekend...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Can You Have Too Many Books?

Now I know that's a silly question to ask any writer, but I have to face it, I do have a lot of books.

As a consequence of all those books I also have six IKEA Billy bookcases downstairs and they're full. Okay at least one of them has books my OH has bought or received, so it doesn't sound as obsessive... :D

A few books...
There's quite a TBR (to be read) list on my Kindle e-reader. E-readers have enabled me to buy more books without anyone knowing.

I still buy physical books, probably more non-fiction than fiction. But I do still buy paperback versions of the latest books by my favourite authors. It's also easier to find a place to slot them in on the shelves than it would be trying to fit 20+.

A few I do read more than once because I enjoy the story and the characters so much.

Even though some readers won't buy an e-book, preferring the sensory delights of a book made of paper- be it paperback or hardback; I'll admit there is something very tactile about old cloth-bound books.

When I'm travelling or attending an appointment my Kindle comes with me, so I can choose a book to suit my requirements and my mood- or the time available.

Sometimes I do give books to a charity shop, but there will always be one or two that end up staying behind...

Unfortunately the time is coming when I will have to be ruthless and part company with a number of the older paperbacks.

We've got to have some work done inside the house this summer so it will mean temporarily moving furniture- and bookcases into store; hard decision will have to be made on what I'm keeping, and what will go to good causes- or friends.

So now it's over to you. Are you a book hoarder? Or do you pass on books after you've read them?




Thursday, 16 March 2017

Busy Ducks...

The good news is my trip to Bath is booked, so I'm hoping the weather will be dry even if it's not warm when I eventually go.

The first batch of manuscripts (for the writers' club's national competition) are on my desk waiting for me to start reading and giving a few lines of feedback on each one.

And my diary for the next few months is filling up quickly, so I'm glad I got my weekend away booked before these other appointments came in.

The other good news- well it is to me- is that I have a small payment from ALCS this year, so that will be saved up toward funding a future research trip to who-knows-where...

Passing visitors...
It's also getting time to tidy up the garden, now that the buds are opening on the trees and bushes; and the small birds are becoming regular visitors.

So it was quite unexpected last week when a pair of Ducks flew into the garden for a quick snack and wander round.

Of course they chose the least photogenic area of the garden to land on...

The female did the sensible thing and pecked up any bird seed that she could find, while the male Mallard went for a short stroll.

Obviously the garden didn't meet his requirements and he flew off, quickly followed by the female- they synchronised flying too.

This pair make regular appearances around the area: from walking across the road, to settling down for a rest on the front lawn of someone's house.

They're not that far from a number of ponds and water channels so they can easily fly from place to place.

Waiting for the other half...
They're obviously an adventurous pair that like to get away from the crowds...


















Thursday, 2 March 2017

Reading is Essential...

It's been a busy few weeks, so having time to think ahead for writing blog posts has been like wading through a room full of individual macrame strands hanging from the ceiling. You get through one set and can breathe for a moment before tackling the next set...

Despite the disruptions I've been able to do some writing- my 1920's based story- and I've finally started reading a few of the many books in my digital to-be-read list on my Kindle.

Every year I buy a few books that are set against a Christmas backdrop, and I always intend to read them over the Christmas holiday, but I never do. Now it's almost Spring, and I'm reading an historical romance set at- you guessed it- Christmas.

Actually I'm also reading a couple of Simon Whaley's books too, one chapter at a time when I have a spare ten minutes; The Positively Productive Writer, and Volume 1 of his latest book, The Business of Writing.

Books and Bath...
I've signed up to Readily.com, so I can read a number of different magazines each month- and back copies too. When many of the magazines are £3 and upward an issue, a monthly charge of £7.99 isn't bad. And it's a good way of finding filler opportunities.

The latest issue of Writing Magazine arrived today, and it has the first of the two competition specials they produce each year.

Next week isn't as busy as the second half of February was, so I'll be getting back to the keyboard and raising my word count.

And I still need to sort out the dates and bookings for my trip to Bath.

All that will keep me out of mischief... :D








Monday, 13 February 2017

Planning Research Trips...

The arrival of the latest newsletter from the Fashion Museum in Bath reminded me that I'd planned to go back this year so I could see A History of Fashion in 100 Objects. It runs until 1st January 2019.

Alongside the main exhibition there's always a second. Recently opened is  Lace in Fashion, which features items from the 16th century up to the 21st, and  runs until the 1st January 2018.

I hope to go in May for a long weekend, but it's not guaranteed, it depends if I can fit it in around other events and some major work at home.

There were a few other museums that I didn't have time to get to on my last visit, The Holburne Museum- you can walk the length of Great Pultney Street and admire the Georgian architecture as you pass by, then you reach Sydney Place and see the Museum across the road- very impressive.

Also the Bath Postal Museum was missed out last time.

If you're going on a research trip, near or far, do you do any specific planning ahead, so you make the best use of your time? Or do you take a more easy-going pace?

If I'm travelling any distance and need to stay overnight then checking rail fares and hotel availability- within budget- is the first task after deciding I'm going.

If you're travelling by car, parking can be an issue in popular locations, and another cost you need to take into account. On our York trip last year we chose a hotel with its own parking, and walked everywhere...

Many places put on festivals and events during the year, which almost guarantees limited hotel choice- plus more people who may be visiting the places you are, so I try to work around these if I can.

Of course there may be a particular occasion/festival taking place that you're interested in so plan and book well in advance.

The websites of the places I intend visiting will usually have a lot of relevant information- especially if it's a large city that gets a lot of tourists and visitors. Other smaller places are sometimes run by councils so may have limited details.

So it's always a good idea to see what available, opening times, entry charges, and directions. There are less well-known gems around the country...

If you have any difficulty walking it's important to know if there's any areas you can't access, or if there's any lift access- many museums have done work to make as many places as accessible as they can, but that's not always been possible.

Likewise photography can be another issue, so I either ring or email the place via their contact details and ask what their policy is.
I'll also check when I get to the venue as sometimes there can be a few areas within an exhibition that are a no-no for cameras, even if the rest of the place it's okay.

Print off a street map of the central area where museums and places of interest are located if there's one available online. You may even be able to buy a small fold-up map when you get to your destination.

Last summer in York, the hotel had photocopies of the map for city layout at the reception desk, making it easy to find which way to go if you got lost, or were aiming for a particular venue.

Weather you can't do much about, but be prepared for it when you pack (unless you're going hiking in the hills or the wild of somewhere when extra precaution are needed) a waterproof jacket that can be folded up into its own bag is ideal.

Don't forget the chargers for your various essential devices (camera, mobile phone, laptop or tablet) or if applicable, spare batteries.

Plus the ever trusty notebook and pens, and something you can put your receipts and leaflets/brochures into for referring back to later, or for recording in your accounts.

Over the years I've learnt to take a photo of information boards connected with the other images I'm taking pictures off.

Information on stonework
being restored at York
Minster
You think you'll remember but you won't, and you might just need to confirm something when you're writing.







But most of all, leave time to just take in the atmosphere and enjoy the place you're visiting. It shouldn't all be work...

A lazy Sunday morning in York...


Is there anything you always do when you're planning a visit somewhere, or do you go with the flow?

Perhaps I plan too much... :-)












Monday, 23 January 2017

Catching up on Twitter...

The nasty winter bug finally caught up with me last week, and my brain went on go-slow until the antibiotics started to get control of the infection in my lungs.

In fact I don't think my characters got out of the imaginary beds/chairs that they'd got comfy in.

As I was quite tired after my couple of brief trips out (essential appointments) I really didn't have the energy to do much beyond a quick trip into the kitchen (next door to my office) to replenish the mug and browse.

So I used the time to catch up on reading blog posts, self-publishing related items, and giving a little more time to Twitter.

Usually I pop into Twitter a few times a week for ten to fifteen minutes a visit, and the regular #writingchat session on a Wednesday night for an hour between 8 and 9 pm- when I'm not at the writers' club. At the weekend I can take a little longer.

When I finish this blog post the link will be tweeted and I'll pin the tweet to the top of my Twitter page feed.

(If you don't know where to find it, just click the little down arrow symbol on the top right of your chosen tweet and choose the pin tweet option- or unpin to change it. It used to be found when you clicked the three dots symbol.)

Do you pin your
tweets?
I only started to pin my tweets in December, after it was mentioned at the Leicester RNA Chapter meeting during the book blogger discussions. It gets over having to keep tweeting a link, and if someone looks at your profile and the tweets, my latest blog post link is the first tweet seen.

It can easily be retweeted from your profile too. And with a few clicks you can unpin one tweet and replace it with another- especially useful if you're promoting a book you've got on special offer...

Now the following isn't a rant, and I'm talking generally here.

I spent some time looking at what irritated me with tweets, so I don't do it myself.

Obviously writers need to reach readers all over the world. It's just when the book cover and buying link are posted not just once but four or more times in a row, one after another- no gap between them...

Maybe that works for some people, but it just makes me scroll by very quickly.

I have bought e-books after seeing them on Twitter, but that's been because of an intriguing cover image and/or tagline that makes me click the link to find out more, then once I'm there an interesting blurb that convinces me to buy. (Plus those books were a couple of tweets spaced apart by a few minutes.)

Now I am not a prude, but I do not want to be scrolling down my twitter feed and see a full-length book cover that probably wouldn't look out of place in porn- it doesn't happen often, but one from the other week has still not been scrubbed from my retinas!!!

Neither do I automatically follow back; which seems to be the only reason some follow, and then within 24 hours they've unfollowed you because you haven't followed them back. I suspect they work their way through the alphabet of twitter names...

Yes, I follow magazines and companies, but I have a different @name for those. No one wants their twitter feed full of cosmetics, clothes and home decor when you're a writer and time is valuable.

Tweetdeck is useful to schedule tweets and I've begun to use it more. It never worked well on my previous computer, so when I had to replace my desktop I decided to download it and try again, and I'm glad I did.

I've not used Twitter lists-yet- but will have to soon.

Hootsuite, I've heard of, but that's all. You can find out more about it on the Story Empire Blog.

Is there anything you like or dislike about Twitter? Any useful tips to pass on?





Monday, 16 January 2017

1920's Revival...

A useful reference
book...
(image source:Amazon)

Yes, I was meant to be writing a short story, and getting on with my second draft, but my pocket novel idea suddenly started getting in the way.

You may remember my mentioning I was doing some research during the summer holiday months while family members (usually at University or College) were at home. When I can't write in depth due to distractions and noise, I research instead.

I had two beginnings, random scenes and a few characters, an odd idea and snippets of plot, but it wasn't getting anywhere. So I saved everything and got back to other projects.

Actually I think that Epistolary story acted as a trigger, as that too is set in the 1920's; so I was already thinking about that time period.

Over the last few days my word total has been creeping up as I add snippets to this story, and where appropriate fit in the random scenes I wrote in the summer.

I'm just about at the end of the ideas I have for the early chapters, and think it may just turn into a novella or long short story rather than a pocket novel.

I much prefer to concentrate on one project at a time, but other things do get in the way sometimes, and I know that unless I write it out it will block the other work.

While I can compartmentalise the different stories with their characters, setting and plot, some ideas continue to get in the way, refusing to wait.

I'm going to have to try splitting my time between a short project and a long project. I did try this last year, but just couldn't deal with it. But I'm going to try again...

As I still had a National Book Token gift-card from January last year,  I couldn't resist using it to buy the book- picture top-right- 1920's Fashion The Definitive Sourcebook.

It's a wonderful selection of images covering the 1920's. There are drawings, fashion plates, adverts and photographs covering the various categories, among them: Daywear, Outerwear and other less obvious items like shoes, wedding dresses, and swimming costumes.While many of the drawings are of Parisian origin, there is enough of a mix to satisfy every reader.

I even recognised the style of coats with fur collars, and the cloche hats worn by my paternal grandmother and aunt in some old black and white family photos, taken in the mid to late 1920's.

Anyway, back to work...





Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Very Slow Start...

Getting back to the normal everyday routine is not going well.

So this coming week I really must be tough with myself.

Over the years I've learnt to listen to my inner writer, it's that little voice that says you really should or shouldn't do something, whether it's writing or generally. When I ignore it I usually find later that it was the wrong thing to do.

Well that's what happened the other day, and it was quite a shock.

You may have previously seen me mention an epistolary story that I'd written for one of the quarterly prose competitions at the writers club, and that I intended to rewrite it for a Writing Magazine subscribers competition currently running.

Well I made a copy to work on from the version on my external drive, settled down to read through it and see where improvements and additions could be made to increase the overall length to be within the required word count.

At the time it was originally written I had a sneaky feeling it needed to be longer, but I had no idea in what way; so I was fairly confident that I'd be able to work on it now.

Having decided how I could extend the 900 word story without losing the best bits of the existing story, I considered how I could create a slightly more resolved ending.

That was when my inner voice screamed: STOP! Don't do it! It's NOT FINISHED! There's a bigger story behind this. You need to tell that story before you write the end!

And that is not an exaggeration...

After a few deep breaths and half a mug of coffee I felt calm enough to look at the text again, and I knew that inner voice was right. It won't work at the required length for the competition.

It's certainly not a full length work, nor a short novel. Perhaps it's a longer short story or a novella.

So it's being put aside to brew whilst I get on with other stories.

Will I be able to write epistolary story to fit the entry requirements? I don't know. But I do know the decision I made about this existing one was right.

Like the plants in the picture, some stories are neat and compact, and others keep growing where they want to...


Stories can be like
these plants...