Meeting Badaude at the Tate Modern

Photo credit: Tate Publishing

What a pleasure last weekend to be drawn by artist Badaude (Joanna Walsh) on the walls of the Tate Modern bookshop!

I follow her fabulous blog, for things French, food, and fashion-related, and discovered she was promoting her new book, London Walks! at the Tate last weekend.

The book is so delightful that I bought two copies: one for myself and one for a friend, and went to have her sign them.

This is a great gift for any lover of London. Badaude’s walk on Islington is spot on: I used to live there and she’s captured the bustle and quirkiness. The fine details and thoughtful musings throughout make London Walks! a delightful guide to the city, like having a friend along who knows all the ins and outs of this many-layered place.

Joanna had said on her blog to send a photo and she’d try to include it in her drawings, and she was just finishing up Boris Johnson when I approached. (I’m guessing Boris didn’t send a photo and she chose to include him anyway…)

Not quite a London photo...

I’d emailed a photo from my friend’s wedding, wherein I have on a peacock-feather-laden hat and am holding a golden eagle.

This didn’t exactly fit with Badaude’s idea for London-themed people, nor did it include a full-length shot, so she drew me right then and there, with a pigeon flying behind me.

She also got in the all-important vintage envelope  handbag (and for those fashionistas out there, I’m wearing a blouse that belonged to my grandmother, Christian Dior trousers from La Belle Vie Vintage, and leather boots from Topshop).

Badaude’s drawings will be on the walls of the Tate Modern bookshop all summer, and her books are there too!

Guest Blog

The Whipple Main Gallery before refurbishment.


I’m delighted to say that my friend, poet and novelist Sue Guiney, invited me to ‘guest blog’ for her about my Residency at the Whipple.

Thanks to Sue for the invitation, and for her inspiring blog, where she interviews other writers, and describes her own writing process.

Read it here!

A day amidst the Dreaming Spires

What changed it all...

I enjoyed a lovely day out yesterday with my friend Tracey, an Oxford-based Massage Therapist (if you need one, I’ll give you her email)!

We went to the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, which is of course the Oxford version to the home of my residency, the Whipple Museum. Whilst the Whipple Museum holds a number of objects crafted by the Herschels (especially by William,) the Oxford MHS has the telescope with which William discovered the Georgian Star, Georgium Sidus, later re-named Uranus. Even though I’ve been to the OMHS a number of times, this was a fresh – and obviously very exciting – discovery. I took a picture. And I touched it. Very lightly (you aren’t supposed to touch it).

The OMHS always runs really interesting special exhibits in their downstairs gallery. The current exhibit is ‘Eccentricity,‘ a great theme, focusing on eccentric characters an/or objects related to the collection.

As relevant to a Museum which houses some of the world’s finest, oldest, and rarest astronomical objects, eccentricity is also an astronomical term:

Definition: eccentricity: The eccentricity of an ellipse (planetary orbit) is the ratio of the distance between the foci and the major axis.In other words, the more flattened the circle (ellipse), the more ‘eccentric‘ the orbit.

I’ve begun to re-draft Double the Stars: The Life and Adventures of Miss Caroline Herschel, and it’s always particularly inspiring to encounter ‘Herschelailia’. It’s everywhere! (Well, particularly if you tend to frequent Observatories and Science Museums…) Caroline’s sweeper, with which she discovered comets, is in the London Science Museum, as well as the giant mirror for the 40-foot telescope, which famously caused the flagstones of the workshop to explode when the molten metal leaked  onto the floor: if you find yourself at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath, you can see the cracks in the flagstones from the damage.

Some other particularly eccentric, and fabulous, objects captured my imagination on the visit to the Museum, including a ‘Logic Piano:’ Photo & caption below…

After the Museum visit, and a break for lunch, I explored the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, an absolutely charming and off-the-beaten-track sort of place which I highly recommend if you have even a vague interest in musical instruments. It’s free to get in, and you are greeted with the gift of a handset which you can take around while you look at the overwhelming, crammed-in displays of instruments: it all has a bit of a feel of one’s grandmother’s attic. The handset is  programmed to play snippets of music from certain (labelled) instruments. I want a spinet. Or a parlour guitar. Sigh.

The Logic Piano
The Logic Piano