Saturday, 18 January 2014

Rather Odd Post

I'm staying in London for the next two months, involved with family events and work projects here. Any spare time's been spent exploring hidden corners of the city and going to places I might have missed. And somehow everything has come out a bit crazy, mostly in a good way I'm glad to say.

For instance,  I caught Agnes Meyer Brandis at an art show called The Republic of the Moon in a crumbling old building by Oxo Tower in London, S.E.1.  Brandis is based in Berlin, a city I always find exciting, and I loved her Moon Geese installation at the show. They're real geese and she has quite a touchingly close relationship with them.  She hatched a flock then lived with them night and day until they became "imprinted" and thought she was their mum.  Then she took them to Siberia to train them for a trip to the moon, based on a 17th century description of doing just that.  

This was a lengthy exercise, well planned and beautifully filmed in an almost dreamlike way and showing a crazy but somehow delightful adventure as the geese went through their astronaut training. There was  essential theoretical work of course.

and also practical. See how they follow her out to the flying machine which might take them all to the moon, (according to what the man said in the 17th century)

and here they are investigating unusual materials they might encounter in Space.

The installation also includes a mission control room, portraits of the geese and all kinds of other things.  I snapped these pictures off the film, but it's the sort of thing you need to see yourself,  so if you are in London before 2 February, it might make a fun little trip.  It's free and some of the other artists' work is well worth seeing.  Details here.

Our children's book project is taking up quite a bit of time.  No more classes with the kids, sadly, but there is a huge amount to do. I have new respect for children's book publishers!

I attended a relative's Unbirthday party a short while ago.  She didn't want her party on her real birthday this year for various practical reasons, so had it a bit later.

Here's small fry blowing out the candles. She is five and was VERY excited and nobody cared that it wasn't the right date.

Anyway, my own birthday is 14 January but I didn't celebrate it.  I'm having an Unbirthday later on too, in a nice month. My cousin tells me that will make me a year older as I'll have two birthdays in one year. I say it'll make me several months younger, because I won't have my birthday for ages yet.  (I prefer my version). I'll want a sensational cake for my party, but I don't think I could match this one,

which is on the illusion pages of Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka.  Look at the top of the cake and you will see it's an optical illusion design.  Wow!  Akiyoshi's page has some intriguing images. I'm hoping to do a project involving optical illusions, but it's in the planning stage at present, and I turned Akiyoshi's page up in course of my research.

Oh, and the BBC. We heard more from on high this week, but not enough, so basically we're st-i-i-ill waiting.    Here is a picture of the Oracle of Delphi -  that's obviously what we need.

T and I went to an ice sculpture contest at Canary Wharf, London's newest office district which can look very beautiful at this time of year and has a surprising amount to see - it's not quite all about making money.

My favourite sculpture in the show was created by the Irish contestants. It's an ice ship in an ice bottle. It was very chilly and a bit rainy but we were entranced at how skilfully they created their ice sculptures, with hardly a moment's hesitation. I still haven't worked out how they got the sailing ship INSIDE the bottle. 

And out for a walk with a young relation who was very keen to catch a squirrel. I snapped him quickly on my phone,  so it's not a very clear action shot, but I like it. Of course the squirrel got away with no problem at all, even though you might be able to see that it was holding most of a sandwich about a third as long as itself!


  1. I really like that shot at night of the Canary Wharf area, looks like a post card.
    London for two months? Lucky you! :-)
    Hey Jenny, did you know that there used to be something called "Lewis Carroll Shelf Award"? It was given out to books from the Univ. of Wisconsin to books that seemed worthy to share the shelf with Lewis Carroll, so to speak. I think they only did it from 1958 to the late 1970's...I only just read this when I was looking up a book that I remember reading as a child...."Caddie Woodlawn", and found that it was one of those books that got one of those honors! (The Snowman by Raymond Briggs was one of the that one too!) I think that Lewis Carroll would have loved that award, don't you?

  2. The oracle could be a bit ambiguous, I seem to recall....and what became of the geese?

  3. Thanks for including us on your trip to London. Have you been to the Wallace Collection? So many people miss it when in London.

  4. Swans are sort of real dragons. On Discworld, swans probably would inhabit the Moon, with the dragons.

    The only thing I want for my birthday is not to be at work. This is doable, so I do it. Un-birthdays are a joy, no need to be slaves to calendars.

  5. By the sounds of it, you're going to have a very enjoyable, interesting couple of months, Jenny. I'll be reading your posts keenly.

    I think unbirthdays are a good idea. I started them a few years ago...I just wiped them out all together, though.

    Sometimes I think I'm an optical illusion; or perhaps, I've the optimism of elusion....I'm just making an allusion.

  6. I agree with you about Berlin: a wonderful, wonderful city. Despite quite a lot of thought (well, what passes for thought in my tiny brain, and a visit to the website - fascinating) I've not been able to work out what is illusionary about the cake. As for the ice boat in the ice bottle that's quite beyond me - I am full of admiration.

  7. How fun, finding hidden places, you got me very curious as well. What will she discover. Grand stuff for sure, what a great story, and idea with her geese, quite a delightful bit of work there for her, but fun as well. That cake is really quite the design indeed, I have to go back and click on all your wonderful links, thanks for including them. Great picture of squirrel out racing boy! Also, don't forget to celebrate your day too, it's good for you!

  8. You do seem to have such a lovely 'big' life ... so full of everything. Do you know I've never been to London .. bit shocking really .. mind you I have no wanderlust in me ... very content with my little life ... but I do so enjoy reading your posts ... you bring the world to me.

    Vicky x

  9. Unbirthdays are good because you lose a year at one of those.

  10. How uncanny is that - I have done a post on optical illusions - yet to post, and I too discovered Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka's work which is simply amazing.

  11. It just goes to show that you don't have to stray very far from home to have wonderful adventures. This is especially true if you have children around!

  12. Wow Jenny, if you ever solve the 'ship in the bottle' ice sculpture I hope you will share it with your readers!
    Enjoy your stay in London!

  13. We can clearly see all the intent in the young fellow's reaction.
    I wonder if those fellows slid that little ship through the little bung at the top. All fun aside, it's a fun sculpture.

  14. I really like the ice ship in the ice bottle! As for geese - there are always a lot of them at the lake near my house. During the many idle days I spent observing them (there's nothing better to do here in west Texas) I've come to the conclusion that geese are much more intelligent than they are given credit for.

    Happy belated birthday! I've gotten to the age where I do my desperate best to forget my birthday.
    I've lost track somewhere after the age of 39.

  15. Well, that last is certainly a keeper, especially after the description! I also asked for an unbirthday this year..and got it ...half!

  16. Happy belated birthday! I like the ideas of "unbirthdays" - just celebrate when you feel like it. I would make it so that there is no rule about how many times per year you could celebrate your unbirthday.

  17. I love the idea of the unbirthday- I might have to steal it! What an interesting life you lead, my friend~

  18. Happy Birthday !
    My Birthday Is on the 4th of January and I have always loved it.
    The first month of the new year and almost the first day. What a great way to begin the year. A birthday right after Christmas to look forward too. I just thought I was so special.
    Plus January in Tucson is always a beautiful month.
    After looking at the third to last photo of the trees in tiny blue lights, the building all gowning in light and the light shining off the water beautiful. It looks like January in London is pretty nice too.
    Love the last photo, great fun !

    cheers, parsnip

  19. The geese project sounds fascinating, and so does the ice sculptures exhibition.
    An unbirthday party can be just as much fun as a birthday party, but I still prefer to have mine on the day itself.

    A feast for that squirrel! I guess it did not need much else to eat that day :-)

  20. Sounds like you're having an amazing time in London, Jenny... And Happy Unbirthday to you (if it's good enough for the queen...)

  21. I love the squirrel catcher -- he would have to be both quite the hurdler and the sprinter to catch a determined squirrel!

    The exhibit looks fabulous. I've seen films on Nature about imprinting and training young geese from birth, where you teach them to fly and all that, but within the scope of a 17th century trip to Mars -- wow! That's something new and remarkable. I would love to see that one. And the ice sculpture contest. That ship in a bottle is indeed amazing. I can't imagine how they do that!

    Happy belated birthday -- I can see why postponing a celebration to a more hospitable month would be a fine idea, but I hope you treated yourself a little bit (and a little gently!) on the real day.

    Fingers crossed on the BBC!

  22. wow.....action clever is that ice sculpture?? I want the cake!!

  23. The geese to the moon thing is hysterical!
    A belated happy non-birthday to you.
    They have ice sculptures every year in Minneapolis (where I grew up) and they can be amazing.
    You sound busy and happy! :)

  24. I love Oxo Tower and this exhibition sounds fascinating. I must try go through on a lunch hour. Happy Unbirthday for last week.

  25. I enjoyed this post very much Jenny - including the links.
    I think I prefer your birthday version! and, this could be an interesting adventure, exploring the hidden corners of the city - I wonder what you will find?!

  26. Thanks so much, for each and every comment. Haha yes, Wendy, that is what I say too The queen and me are two hearts beating as one :)
    Kay, I DIDN'T know of the award. What a lovely idea! I will mention it n the Lewis Carroll Society forum, maybe someone will know about it - there seems hardly anything that some of them don't know!
    Meike, I can't imagine how the squirrel ate all that bread really, I'm sure its stomach is not large enough and it wouldn't have been able to leap around so lightly if it did. But it seemed determined to do its best to hang on to it!
    Zhoen, swans are quite scary and fierce looking, and also beautiful like dragons (or at least Chinese ones). I like the analogy. Glad to note you are also a Discworld fan.
    Stephen, I have been to the Wallace collection just recently with friends. They have a thing each month about the clocks and one of our friends is a devoted "clockie" so I know more now about the clocks than anything else in the collection!
    Helen, your comment makes me wonder if the oracle has, in fact, taken up residence in the BBC...
    Parsnip, in general January is a pretty drab month in the UK but I'd imagine it was one of the best in Tucson and not too hot. (Many years ago I was in Tucson in Feb and it was idyllic.
    Tabor, I'm now intrigued about what a half birthday is! :D

  27. We celebrate each birthday here twice: once on the actual day and then either the week-end before or usually after the birthday. The one on the day of is done at home with their dinner being their favorite dishes. The week-end one is going to a restaurant of their choice for dinner. Sounds like a lot of eating and it is ;o)

  28. I prefer your Unbirthday interpretation too:) Happy Belated Unbirthday! Oh, and love how Canary wharf looks all sparkling at night - not to mention that cool ice sculpture!

  29. I'm slightly concerned about imprinting goslings for the sake of an art installation. I'm sure they're being well looked after and will have a decent home after they've finished, but it worries me. I hate it when they release doves at weddings too. (I feel a blog post coming on.......)

  30. I love ducks and geese, and Moon Geese looks just wacky enough that I would enjoy the fun! Love squirrels too, and whenever we are in northern climes, spend far too much time running after them with a camera. How I would also love to be in the vicinity of an art sculpture exhibition, right now! It was 37 deg.C here today!

  31. I think that, from now on, I will have an unbirthday party too! I love the idea. As for spending two months in London, well, there is always something to do and see anyway, right?

  32. I love traveling around and exploring unknown areas. I just moved to Indianapolis and am really looking forward to spring so I can explore the city.

  33. Hi Brett, all I know about Indianapolis is the race track & Hoosier dome, when the weather improves you'll hopefully post a bit about it.
    Patricia, I'm just so glad not to be in 37 deg C. So, so, so glad!
    AJ, for what it's worth I think she loved the geese. Must have done to spend all that time with them - she couldn't even go to the loo for weeks it seems without them folllowing. Hope they were grateful to have escaped becoming Christmas dinners :) If you get to see the show you'll see that they all have names and portraits so I think they are probably pretty lucky geese
    What a lovely idea to celebrate each birthday twice, Bonnie. That really does make it special ! I'll have to consider suggesting that to my family members when birthdays don't fall at weekends.
    Pixel Peeper, sometimes I think there cannot be too much celebration!
    Joanne, I think they might do the sculpture in two halves and fit them together round the ship which is carved out of another block. Although I admit I don't know how that would work. Actually you know I don't know :)
    Jon, I think a lot of creatures are smarter than they're given credit for, with the possible exception of sheep. I just can't find it in my heart to believe that sheep are smart. I too always think ducks and geese seem to have just as much "presence" behind the eyes as other, supposedly cleverer creatures. .

  34. I love the idea of training the geese for a trip to the moon! I must say, they all seem to be taking it very seriously. They're clearly studying the unusual materials really carefully....

    Re the ship in the bottle, I gather the usual method of inserting the ship is to take the bottom off the bottle and then reseal it when the ship's inside.

  35. I like how the geese story, how carefully they seem to be observing the space suit. :)
    Great series of pics and the little boy in action is too good.

  36. Lovely to see a little bit of London. The ship in the bottle is very clever. On another matter, I have just realised something. Were you the Jenny Woolf who interviewed my Grandad, Tom Stothard, many years ago in the London Docklands? If you are, we corresponded a little after he died about his talks. Small world! xx

  37. I love your posts Jenny. The eclectic mix of things you have done and seen is lovely. I rarely see squirrels here in NL. Lovely you have them there still in London!

  38. Yes, Chel! I did interview your grandad. He was quite amazing and believe it or not I think of him quite often when I am in that area. It had changed enough to amaze both of us when we went on our long walk (he was incredibly in his nineties, wasn't he?) and he pointed out to me where everything had been. It was so different then. I wonder what he would make of it now. Did I ever send you the finished article? It appeared in America. I know I sent a copy of the transcript.
    Val, squirrels can be a bit of a mixed blessing. one has discovered how to get up on a balcony where I keep spring bulbs, it digs them up and eats them!

    Thank you for your comment Indrani. I always enjoy your unusual blog although my comments are not usually that eye catching.

    Nick, I have never quite mastered ships in bottles but I'm still wondering how they do it with ICE......and so quickly.... I think they have a time limit for creating the sculpture in this contest, but I didn't actually see them making it.

  39. How wonderful Jenny! Thank you for your comment. Yes, I received the transcript that you kindly sent but not the finished article and I would love to see a copy of you have it? It's lovely to read his words and re-live the long walks that he took people on! Thank you. Chel.

  40. Thanks so much for your visit and your comment......I hope you get to see that film---it is wonderfully done and based on a book written by the man this happened to and lived to write about it-....

    This is such an interesting post. You are involved in so many wonderful creative projects.....It is very very inspiring. I hope your BBC project comes through!!

  41. I love to play tourist in my own city. We discovered a great new restaurant in a far area of town last night. I felt like I was on vacation (just for dinner!)

  42. wow that ice ship in the ice bottle is really cool....
    what an interesting movie there in the beginning...ha....
    an unbirthday party...did that start in alice in wonderland
    i remember it from somewhere like that...

  43. You have such an amazing life filled with adventure! And happy birthday just remind me to wish you again when it is nice out. My birthday is December 29th. I turned 21 twice.

  44. That cake is brilliant. I celebrate my birthday soon too but I may decide to do what Mariah Carey does and ignore my birthday each year and pretend I'm not getting any older. :D

    Seems like you've been very busy exploring London, whilst I've been very busy going to Asda and Tesco's. :D

  45. That ice bottle is cool! (no pun intended).

  46. Wow, you really get out and about, don't you! :-) I like the concept behind the geese. Unbirthday. Now. there's something to think about. :-)

    Have a great week ahead.


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