February half term
It’s school half term this week in our part of the country and I have thoroughly enjoyed not having to rush about in the mornings. It’s going to be horrible next week when I have to try to persuade small daughter that she has to get out of bed in time to go to school, but I’ll think about that when the time comes. In the meantime, I have made the most of getting up to feed the pets, making a cup of tea and then getting back into bed for half an hour or so to read a book, do a few rounds of knitting or check emails … it’s been bliss!
I’m up and about early this morning as small daughter’s friend is coming over to play and she’s being dropped off on her Mum’s way to work. I think she may even be arriving in her pyjamas as it’s really very early for a holiday morning! We’re planning to go to one of the kids’ club morning showings at the local cinema so that should give me (and small daughter, who’s not out of bed yet even though her friend’s arrival is imminent) chance to snooze if the film isn’t good!
We’ve been to the pictures already once this week – we went to see Sing which we really enjoyed (I can be a bit cynical about films released in time for school holidays, they’re not always as good as you want them to be) – and I decided after having spotted blog posts, Instagram and Facebook posts about people knitting at the pictures, that I would join their ranks and take my easy-knitting basic sock with me. After all, I knit at home whilst I’m watching TV and there’s no complicated pattern involved so I didn’t need to look at what I was doing, did I?
It turns out that I did. There was enough light during the adverts and the trailers for me to see what I was doing, but then the main film started and it went very dark. For a while, I was fine. I’ve knitted socks for so long now that I often don’t look at what I’m doing and I was very pleased with myself for having remembered to take my knitting with me. And then it happened … I somehow managed to drop a stitch, it was a couple of rounds before I noticed and there was no way I was going to pick it up in the dark. My first thought was to get the torch out on my phone to try to fix the problem, and then almost in the same instant I decided that I would just put my knitting away. I’d gone to watch the film with small daughter and to spend time fiddling about with a torch wouldn’t only disturb her but the people around us. Sometimes, you just have to put the knitting down for a bit!
I did get some of my sock done on the train on the way to Manchester on Wednesday, though. We decided to go to the Manchester Museum and then meet big daughter for lunch which, being a poor student (or so she tells us), big daughter was rather pleased about. We’ve been to MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, many times but never the Manchester Museum which is actually part of the University of Manchester and houses collections that are linked to many of their courses. It’s quite a long walk from the city centre down Oxford Road (luckily we met up with another family who were going the same way so we walked with them – I’d been about to head off in completely the wrong direction!) but it’s worth the walk. The place was full when we got there so obviously lots of other people thought so too. It’s free to get in so this makes it a good day out if you’ve got children (they do ask for donations and we were happy to make one as we enjoyed ourselves).
It’s a pretty imposing building and the museum itself is in two buildings connected by a link bridge.
The main entrance is tucked away through that archway in a more modern part of the building. We might have missed it so if you do go, then you’ll know to go inside the courtyard to find the main door!
What I liked about this museum is that it was different to MOSI and also to the museums in Liverpool where we’ve been plenty of times. It’s always good to see something new and although some of their collections looked familiar – Egyptians, archaeology, local history – they contained artefacts that we’ve never seen before. One of their Roman artefacts is a slave chain from 55BC around the time that Julius Caesar fought a battle against the British which is still in perfect working order. It made me smile that they’ve photographed one of the archaeology students wearing the chain – I bet the lecturers wish they could use it more often, especially on Monday mornings!
The museum originated from the collection of John Leigh Phillips, who was a Manchester manufacturer and collector who died in 1814 and the collection has been added to ever since, even moving buildings as the collection outgrew it’s existing space. I would probably guess that the museum’s Living Worlds collection’s biggest growth period in artefacts might well have been in Victorian times as there are rather a lot of stuffed animals and birds and the Victorians did like their stuffed animals – a few too many for my taste, I have to say, although I thought that this Purple Glossy Starling was exceptionally pretty. Of course the camera doesn’t do justice to the shiny feathers and I’m sure they would have been even more glossy on a living bird which I would never see as I don’t go to central Africa on a regular basis, but I’m not keen on so much taxidermy in one place. Small daughter, on the other hand, was snapping away with her camera, rushing from one case to another in excitement – and she wasn’t alone, there were lots of children doing the same – so it just goes to show that perhaps we do need to see collections like this from time to time.
This skeleton was much more fun – we decided that it was probably some kind of dinosaur but managed to miss the label telling us what it was. It was huge, I couldn’t get it all into one picture from where we were standing but it had a long long tail and looked very fish-like. You wouldn’t want to come across that when you were swimming. Look at those teeth!
Now, because you will know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time that the researcher in me can’t leave things alone without knowing all about them, I decided that I couldn’t show you a picture of a dinosaur without telling you what it was. I phoned the museum to ask and a nice lady called Louise told me that it in fact, it isn’t a dinosaur at all – it’s a baby sperm whale. A baby! Imagine the size of an adult! Apparently it was about 6 years old (which is a baby in whale terms) when it beached and died in Massachusetts, it was bought by the museum and brought over to England and has been in that same spot in the museum ever since it arrived in 1898. I guess that’s an immortality of sorts; not something that even a creature with the largest brain of any mammal would ever guess for itself though! Now aren’t you glad I told you that? We could have been imagining that was some kind of dinosaur and we’d be completely wrong!
I loved this installation of birds which hung like a huge ball from the ceiling. It reminded me of starling murmurations, even if the birds were the wrong colour!
Despite the sheer number of artefacts, the museum doesn’t feel cluttered and we didn’t find that we couldn’t get around even though it was busy. Up on the top floor is a vivarium with live reptiles and amphibians which is clearly very popular and for good reason – do you ever grow out the fun of spotting chameleons and tiny brightly coloured frogs amongst foliage? I don’t think you do.
The Museum is involved in conservation programmes to help ensure that some of the rarest varieties don’t become extinct due to loss of their natural habitat, and the vivarium is full of tanks of leaves and branches where these creatures can safely spend their days. We would have spent a lot more of our day there too if we hadn’t got a phone call from big daughter to let us know that her lecture had finished and she was waiting for us.
Pizza Express for lunch – small daughter’s choice (her half-term holiday, she gets to choose, apparently). Did you need to see a picture of my pizza? Probably not, but it was good so a photo is the only sharing that I did with it J.
Storm Doris hit us yesterday and we decided to stay indoors. Given that trees were blowing over in the village and the rain was battering incessantly against the windows for most of the day, even the dog decided that he could do without a walk and instead spent the day snoring in his favourite spot in front of the Aga. We were lucky to escape without any damage although I know that hasn’t been the case elsewhere, and if the storm hit where you were then I hope everything is all right and you stayed safe.
It was all calm again this morning and the roads were very quiet as I drove small daughter and her friend to the pictures. This time, we watched Trolls. There were lots of singing Trolls and I was pretty sure that time started to go backwards at one point, although small daughter and her friend loved it. And it really would be quite nifty to be able to pooff glitter out of your bottom at will as one of the Trolls could. It was a good job I took my knitting.