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Jewellery Post: House-Moving Exodus

All of the following jewellery (along with many other pieces) is available from my Etsy shop.

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19 inch / 48.25 centimetre red copper tone chain necklace with swarovski crystals and fire-polished Czech glass beads and a watch closure, plus free earrings.

Hot colours for the fire-loving person in your life! These glittering red, orange, and gold crystals draw the eye inexorably to them just like dancing flames.

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BLUE: 20 and a half inch / 52 centimetre acrylic bead blue and silver necklace with ceramic skull pendant and tiny silver star.

GREEN: 16 and a half inch / 42 centimetre glass bead and silver plate pin necklace with silver plate findings and ceramic skull bead, and silver plate cross pendant.

These funky, exciting necklaces are perfect for parties, raves, carnivals, or any other event where bright colours and cool designs are called for. Not for the faint of heart!

27 and a half inch / 70 centimetre silver plate, acrylic bead and freshwater pearl necklace.

This unique bit of work is colourful and eye-catching, perfect for anyone who likes making a statement. The rainbow beading ensures that no matter what you wear, this will suit it!

Click on image for listing.

Click on image for listing

16 and a half inch / 42 centimetre rigid gold plate collar with hook and ball closure, with adjustable width cascade of mixed gold plate chain & acrylic accent beads at base: cascade is 9 inches / 23 centimetres at longest point.

This luscious, luxuriant collar-based necklace is perfect for the most glamorous of occasions, and looks very good with strapless dresses, black, and a glass of champagne!

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Extract from a letter.

Our landlady has very kindly decided that since our house is, not to put too fine a point on it, falling down, we have to move out. She’s not given us the hugest of windows to get on with this, there aren’t many places I really want to live, and we own a lot of things (this is primarily my fault because I am to books what magpies are to tin foil). As a result of this I’m even less able to get my head around writing anything intelligent at the moment, so here’s an extract from a letter I started writing during my lunch break today.

Almost anything can be an act of devotion if you want it to be one.

We have beautiful churches here. What makes them ‘holy’, or gives them a sense of the divine, is the shape. It produces echoes that move upwards, and keeps the place cool and strangely silent: there is self-imposed order in these buildings designed to make you feel small but in touch with something bigger: Leonard Cohen captures it sometimes in his songs of adulation, sacrifice, and self-abasement. His passion is masochistic, religious – whether sanctified or decidedly profane, he understands that there is pleasure to be found in kneeling before something.

One of the beaches we used to drive to in the evenings was a long narrow scar cutting inland between a huge high cliff and a lower one made of sandwiches of dark rock run through with wide quartz seams. It was a terrible place for swimming – I nearly drowned myself on a number of occasions – but on our way in and out of the deep valley there was a graveyard up on the cliff top.

It was small, full, and completely surrounded by a stone wall that came up to my chest – filled with plants and birds’ nests – and with a roofed-over gateway of the sort that is common in churchyards in Southern England. But if there was a church it had gone. The graves lay in a sort of order, but the rows had grown higgledy-piggledy and everywhere long pale grass was taking over the land of the dead, just as the branches scaled the walls. I have always loved cemeteries of the old English sort because they are quiet, empty, and home to exciting wildlife, but this one, with its view to endless blue skies and nodding ox-eye daisies, with the wind bringing the sea into my hair at sunset, was always my favourite.

It was unusual for an English graveyard for its lack of trees, specifically the heavy yew that haunts most. Somehow the bright and breezy loneliness of it seemed more appropriate than the stifling mourning-scent of yew, a bit like the Chinese preference for white for mourning being somehow more sensible than the European predilection for black.

It is a very long and meandering letter of the sort I haven’t written in a good long time, and I’m fairly pleased to find myself in the right frame of mind for writing to people at all. It places the sci-fi short out of commission for the time being, perhaps, but there was no deadline on that.

Currently readingThe Charioteer by Mary Renault (a reread and a comfort read, which I’d already found I needed before the eviction notice), and Where Angels Fear To Tread by E M Forster, with occasional digressions into David Cronenberg by John Costello as I have returned to my old, bad habit of reading several books at once.

Currently listening to: A return to obsessive re-listenings of Virtue by Emmy the Great, although I have promised a friend I would give her my thoughts on England Keep My Bones by Frank Turner.

Currently watching: No television, although I intend to catch up with The 10 O’Clock Show to mitigate the poisonous seepings of the newspapers I can’t help seeing on the way to work, and a kind of fervent fascination with cut scenes from the 1987 film adaptation of Maurice.

And a small favour: If you have been eyeballing anything in my shop, between now and early May would be a lovely time for you to buy it, as I need to get stock out of my house before I move.

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Bric-a-Brac and Indolence 4: Extremes

In the latest instalment of “why are you reviewing museum gift shops anyway?”, I managed to drag some of my friends around with me. This proved the opposite of productive, as Misha is deeply distracting and the lovely Fiona Hogarth (who will one day be famous for her fantastic textile print work, and I’m not only saying it because she gives me free samples and puts up with my terrible jokes) was so engrossed in the museum part of the Hunterian that we didn’t get to see much of the gift shop.

These visits ran to gift shops in the absolute extremities of scale, and in the tradition of shaggy dog stories and comedies everywhere, I shall begin with the grandiose.

I didn't actually go to both of these on the same day

The British Museum

 Number of gift shops: 4 (two large, one small, one book shop).

The British Museum is, of the gift shops I’ve reviewed so far, the most sprawling and grandiose. The book shop (which is actually smaller than the book section of the main gift shop, and which I only ever seem to find by getting lost) is stocked with books both relevant to the museum and generic Folio Society Editions of classic literature, but the main attraction as far as I was concerned after a long walk around the museum was the rather comfortable browsing seats in the corners.

Outside the bookshop, opposite the cloakroom, is the first of three gift shops. It is modest, if a little anaemic, and its primary focus is iconic British Museum branded goods – Rosetta Stone printed umbrella and so on – with some ornaments, souvenir cartouches, and no exhibition-specific or “swank” goods.

While in other museum gift shops so far on my bizarre pilgrimage have only segregated their “posh bit” to a section of the shop often containing merely jewellery and the odd bust, the British Museum takes this to its logical conclusion in the glorious Victorian pomp to which the great institutions of the city often owe their existence. Put simply: it doesn’t have “some” jewellery, it has several cabinets full. It doesn’t have “a few” busts, it has several shelves of them, and a full-body statue. There are rugs, jackets, perfumes (I rather liked the idea of solid state perfume presented in aged watch casings but alas none of the perfumes were to my taste), painted boxes, and the whole of the “posh” gift shop fairly reeks of people with money to waste. One day, when I am rich…

The main gift shop is intimidatingly large; it extends around most of the central column in the main court, and appears to contain most of the produce of several factories. There are entire walls of postcards of the permanent and temporary collections; a book section which is larger than the book shop (my pick was a large photo-heavy book about Lawrence of Arabia, of course,  but I was also tickled to find there was an entire book on indigo dye and on previous visits have picked up books on a diverse range of subjects including popular linguistics); two large sweets stands which I’m sure having nothing to do with the acquisitive nature of the British Empire towards other culture’s artefacts but which are very nice despite being overpriced; plates, bowls, frankincense, prayer beads and prayer mats which I assume were all associated with the current exhibition about the Hajj; and a children’s section which is larger than many museums’ entire gift shops.

The children’s section has some recognisable crossover with the children’s section in other museum gift shops, notably the apparently ubiquitous wooden swords (with which Misha and I had a brief but determined re-enactment of the cliff-top duel from The Princess Bride), and rather unusually features children’s clothing as well.

I’m beginning to speculate that it wouldn’t be entirely impossible to outfit an expedition to the North bloody Pole from the British Museum gift shops, but don’t quote me on that.

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons

The museum itself is cunningly hidden upstairs

The other end of the scale is the Hunterian Museum gift shop; the museum itself is wholly fascinating if you, like me, like looking at bits of dead things in jars for ages. If you don’t it is intensely creepy. The gift shop is effectively an alcove by the entrance/exit full of the kind of things you can get in toy shops, with some of the college’s branded goods – surprisingly cheap silverware, scarves, etc – thrown in for good measure.

The totality of my review of the Hunterian Museum’s gift shop is that on my way out (the place was closing, and Fiona and I were being ushered swiftly towards the exit) I spotted a book which looked very interesting and gloriously specialist. It was A History of Limb Amputation, and it was priced at £100.

Therefore this is my review of the Hunterian Museum gift shop: they sell A History of Limb Amputation, and it costs £100, and this tickles me right down to the very organs they have floating in jars just beyond that shelf.

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Bric-a-Brac and Indolence Part 3: Paintingageddon

Continuing the strange, sad compulsion to proffer a little review of every free-entry museum gift shop/tourist attraction in London (until I get bored), I investigated the offerings of two attractions on Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery and its oft-ignored little sister, The National Portrait Gallery.

There is no need for a map of my route on this, because they are more or less in the same (vast) building.

The National Portrait Gallery

Number of gift shops: 2 (one general, one basement bookshop).

Perhaps overshadowed by its larger, more famous neighbour, the National Portrait Gallery’s is a small and unassuming gift shop following in the tradition of tat, mid-level gifts, more expensive jewellery, and postcards. It however also includes music, busts, and a surprisingly broad children’s selection. Many of the children’s items are diaspora from the Imperial War Museum and some look more at home at the Globe Theatre, but all in all it is good for what it is; I was taken with a Tudor-style fan, and the paper-play theatres for kids. There is a smattering of books, but the majority of the book offerings are downstairs in a separate bookshop.

The Bookshop.

This is apparently an independent bookseller, although styled very much after an upmarket Waterstones. Its sections are Art, Biography, History, Fashion, and Photography, and there is a rack of “music for book lovers”-type CDs apparently compiled by the Gallery. Quite what these comprise I didn’t check. The shop itself is narrow and not easy to manoeuvre and though it is served by a lift may not be wholly suitable if you have mobility issues that require external support.

The National Gallery

Number of gift shops: 2

Books and postcards line the walls: there is a print-your-own-poster machine from which deliveries to home can be ordered, and central stands featuring merchandise relating to more famous artists on display at the Gallery, notably: Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and Claude Monet.

It boasts proportionally fewer children’s items them its small neighbour, but more items of interest, including the Heyland & Whittle hand cream (rose & neroli) which sent me on this weird review course in the first place; themed jewellery after various named artists (sunflower rings and the like, for Van Gogh); a model Vitruvian Man; a globe…

Disappointingly the shop also plays host to a rash of conspiracy hokum books drawing on the art of Leonardo da Vinci; masquerading as non-fiction too! But one supposes a sale is a sale, and they are at least related to the collection.

The basement/vaults shop.

This gives the impression of having much more child-oriented merchandise on display, and while the majority of wares are crossover or trickle-down from upstairs, there is more in the lower cost bracket than up there, and – obviously of huge importance to me – the Heyland & Whittle handcream is of different scent (olive & fig).

Downstairs has a modest selection of art supplies – including paints and an easel – and some more general ‘quality’ jewellery that is missing upstairs, along with pre-printed posters. These last used to be upstairs, if I remember correctly. But what really charmed and impressed me, and has led to a hearty thumbs up for the whole gallery shop, is the models of figures from Hieronymous Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” (specifically the third panel)! Marvellous, humorous, and a wonderful idea which raised a real smile.

Service-wise, however, I could live without being stalked around both shops by black-clad students throughout my visits. They always look so intense.

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