This week… books and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

In an attempt to focus on the positive and ‘forget about the worries and the strife’ of the world-at-large (apologies for paraphrasing Baloo, but you get the idea), I find there’s a lot to be grateful for. Okay, so there’s a lot of rubbish going on too but, hey, I’m trying here.

The bright summer days are metamorphosing into autumnal mellowness. The light is softening and early mornings have a slight chill in the air, with dramatic sunsets taking place and noticeably earlier each day. There is the unmistakable, tell-tale earthy smell in the air and on woodland walks the grounds are strewn with acorns and drying leaves. The simple bare necessities.

Woodland walk. L to R: A handful of shiny acorns; crystal-like raindrops on a leaf.

Continuing to keep it simple, here are five more things I liked this week.

Conservation of historic objects

If I were starting out in my career as a young person, the conservation of historic objects is something I would seriously consider. It’s skilful and fascinating work that naturally requires patience so there’s no option but to work slowly and with care. Conservation is not about making objects perfect but instead incorporating any damage and conservation into the history of an artefact. Every piece tells its own unique story.

L to R: Project Conservator Claire Cuyaubere and Dr Duygu Camur cuoglu The Arts Scholars Senior Objects Conservator, work on the Byzantine jug, AD 400–500. © The Trustees of the British Museum the American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Left to right: Roman bowl, AD 50–70; Roman beaker, 1st century AD; Byzantine cup, AD 500–700; Byzantine jug, AD 400–500. The Archaeological Museum at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Eight glass vessels, damaged in the 2020 Beirut port explosion, have been painstakingly pieced back together by experts at the British Museum’s own conservation laboratories. The glass objects will be shown in London as part of the Asahi Shimbun Display Shattered glass of Beirut before their return to Lebanon in late Autumn.

The AUB Museum, 3km away from the explosion point in Lebanon, sustained heavy damage to windows and doors. The blast knocked over a display cabinet shattering the 74 vessels inside (including 72 glass vessels from the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods). Like the rings of a tree, or the scars on a human face, these pieces now clearly illustrate their own remarkable history. Conservation of objects also provides the opportunity for further research and this work has revealed that these glass objects were possibly made using some recycled, coloured glass. With two of the vessels surviving in perfect condition, so far 18 pieces have been conserved In Beirut, and eight pieces at the British Museum.

Shattered glass of Beirut runs from 25 August to the 23 October in Room 3 at the British Museum. Free entry.

Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days visits. L to R: Independent coffee roasters, Moon Roast; traditional cheese-making with Louise Talbot of @cuttingthecurdcheesemaking at the Honesty Cookery School founded by Romilla Arber.


A reminder to take advantage of the UK’s annual heritage festival 9 to 18 September 2022. Explore hidden places and new experiences for free, as well as supporting the heritage and museum industry simply by turning up to show appreciation. Visit the participating museums, historic houses, markets and more in your area with the focus this year on Astounding Inventions, and enjoy talks, tours and generally mooching around Britain’s treasures. It’s not all about architecture and artefacts. There are visits to kitchen gardens, a roof garden in Reading, and other food-related locations too. Some events require pre-booking and others are simply turn-up-on-the-day. There are online events scheduled also so you can attend even if you’re not local. Check the programme at www.heritageopendays.org.uk and join in on Instagram @heritageopendays.

Organic September

Monty Don is a supportor of the Soil Association’s Innovative Farmers programme.

If you have been reading Hashtagtravelling for a while you’ll know that I’m a keen supporter of real food, eating local and seasonally. In September the Soil Association is running a month-long awareness campaign, Organic September, to highlight both the benefits of organic farming as well as the increasing urgency to address the problems of climate change, diet related ill-health and widespread decline in wildlife relating to the food industry.

The benefits of organic food and farming include supporting biodiversity and wildlife; helping to combat climate change; the highest standards of animal welfare; reduced exposure to pesticides; ‘food as it should be, food we can trust’. The Earth’s soil has become degraded by over-farming and liberal use of pesticides. Regenerative farming is now a matter of urgency. Make a pledge to small changes, read about Monty Don’s backing to the Innovative Farmers programme and pick up some growing tips at www.soilassociation.org.

The Hashtagtravelling series on the best farm shops includes the organic Heckfield Home Farm pop-up market where you can browse seasonal, organic fruit, vegetables, honey, cheese, yogurt and more. More in this series to come.

The need to change our food systems has never been greater.” Soil Association. Instagram @soilassociation


I am Woman

L to R: Womanica podcast by Wonder Media Network; Audry Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images. Image courtesy gettyimages.com

My listening library is getting a little out of hand but there are so many good podcasts out there. This month I discovered Womanica offering daily sessions of around five minutes, so a manageable commute-to-work or coffee-break listen. As the name suggests, the series explores incredible women from throughout history and to the present day, some you might have heard of and some you certainly won’t have a dicky bird. Recently this has featured muses to famous painters; Lydia Delectorskaya (Henri Matisse); Dora Maar (Pablo Picasso); and Margueritte Littman, said to be the inspiration for Holly Golightly in Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, played by the iconic Audrey Hepburn. As always, the podcast sponsorship is a little laboured but I realise that’s the real world and funding has to come from somewhere. Womanica by Wonder Media Network is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Apple and Spotify.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

Audrey Hepburn.

Bookshelf

Currently on my bedside cabinet. Two books about Saxon England, one fiction and one non-fiction.

This month I’m reading two books, one fiction and the other non-fiction, that complement each other. The first, The Anglo-Saxons A History of the Beginnings of England by Marc Morris, is on loan from genealogist The Ancestral Nomad. This is a very accessible account of how, over six centuries, disparate regions united into a single united kingdom albeit through a turbulent history. It would make for great bedtime reading on a winter’s evening, storytelling of battles and political intrigue, featuring Kings Offa, Alfred the Great, and Edward the Confessor but also ‘ambitious queens, revolutionary saints, intolerant monks and grasping nobles’.

The second book is The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell. This I picked up entirely by chance at a National Trust property secondhand bookshop only to find it also covers the Saxon period set in 10th century Mercia and Dyfed. The main focus is on Aethelflaed who became King of the Mercians on the death of estranged husband Aethelred. (The similarity of names is very confusing but that’s not Cornwell’s fault, Old English names are a challenge to the modern reader). Aethelflaed, the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, was named the ‘Lady of Mercia’ as women were unable to inherit a kingship (ahem). Traditionally, widows of the noble classes were confined to a nunnery for the remainder of their lives. Nonetheless, the Lady Mercia ruled from 911 until her death in 918. The period is one of intrigue featuring ferocious battles with Norsemen, in-fighting at court and more. Reading this novel alongside Marc Morris’ detailed analysis, it offers a complete immersion in the Saxon period about which comparatively little is actually known.

What are you reading? You can share your recommendations in the comments.


That’s all for this week. Safe safe and well wherever you are in the world. Join in on Instagram or Twitter @hashtagtravelin

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