27 September 2015

London 2015 - Shaun in the City

I am just back from a few days in London visiting and seeing friends. We were lucky enough to see the flock of Shaun the Sheep (from Wallace and Gromit) when we were there. Designed by artists and painted the Shauns have spent the summer in Bristol and London as part of the Shaun in the City trail. They are to be auctioned on the 8th of October with the funds going to Bristol Children's Hospital and Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity. 

The flock came to London and were on display in Covent Garden for the weekend....whilst we didn't see them all we did see many...and most cute they were.

I loved the woolly one the best....wonder why!

25 May 2015

Scottish Gardens

Scotland has some amazing gardens and some amazing wildflowers. In the last 2 weeks I have been outdoors in the wild walking through an ancient oak forest, carpeted with wild bluebells and unfurling green ferns. Darroch (Gaelic for oak) Woods in Blairgowrie, about 30 minutes north of Dundee is a special place to take a walk in the spring. 

The perfume from the bluebells would catch you as the wind blew....

The bluebells were amazing.....Scottish, native bluebells, as opposed to the Spanish bluebells seen in many gardens and now too in the wild. Scottish bluebells have their flowers mostly on one side of the stem and the petals of the flowers themselves curl all the way back. They are also a much darker shed of blue. 

The forest is also home to many ferns which were slowly unfurling, their fronds just opening ensuring that they are a beautiful fresh green colour.

This weekend we went to Branklyn Gardens in Perth. The garden is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is described as one of the finest private gardens in Scotland. It was started in the 1920s by the original owners the Rentons, a 2-acre garden surrounding a arts and craft style house. It is predominantly a collection of plants from the Himalayas and China, some collected by the original owners and others by the famous plant-collectors Ludlow and Sheriff. 


Whilst it is not a large garden it is home to many plants and national collections, including  primula and rhododendron, the national collection of meconopsis (Himalayan Poppies), which are currently at their peak and some beautiful peonies and acers. 



Acer and rhododendron

A few weeks ago when I was at Hill of Tarvit with the National Trust I managed to get a few free plants, leftover plants from last year. One of them was a trillium. My plant has grown well in my garden and I have been excited by its few flowers (maybe 4 altogether). I wonder just how old the trillium below is....

Today I went for a run with friends in Tentsmuir, the beach/forest close to Dundee, which I have posted about before. It is lovely to be able to run along the beach, with the sea on one side and the forest on the other. The forest is full of ancient pine trees and carpeted with ferns, bluebells, wild viola etc. As I am running I often expect to see some sort of dinosaur wandering the forest....it is primordial!

22 May 2015

Japan 2014, Day 10, Tokyo

Our last day in Tokyo...was to be a busy day. With our flight not until 1am we left the hotel about 11am and headed out to do some last minute shopping and sight-seeing. 

We went to Ueno, north of our hotel to visit the Tokyo National Museum which houses an amazing collection of over 110,000 art works and antiquities from Japan and other Asian countries. 

Here's the outside of the main museum building and the mascots of the museum, to encourage kids to visit and learn. 

The gardens of the museum house a number of old tea houses.

The museum's collection contains 87 Japanese national treasures and 610 objects classed as Important Cultural Property. 

Here are some of my favourite objects.

This lobster is over 300 years old and is made of metal. It is also articulated. Amazing.

This beautiful drawing of a teapot is also over 300 years old.

The samurai armour was amazing.

The textiles, mostly kimonos were stunningly beautiful, hand embroidered masterpieces. 

This is one of several Haniwa sculptures in the collection. Haniwa are terracotta figures which were produced from the early Kofun period to decorate tombs. During the 5th century, sculptures of people and animals started to appear. 

This is a contemporary netsuke. Netsuke are miniature sculptures that were invented in Japan in the 17th century. At that time Japanese robes did not have any pockets and the wearers needed somewhere to store their belongings. They used to hang containers called sagemono from their robes, attaching them with a cord. The objects were attached to the wearer's sash by a carved, button  like toggle...these are the netsuke. 

They were made famous in the west in recent years by the book The Hare with the Amber Eyes.

The museum houses a collection that was donated by Princess Takamado which she collected with her husband Prince Takamado. The collection consists of  many contemporary netsuke which are displayed in the museum in the Prince Takamado Collection Room. I loved this one of a fish egg sushi and the fish swimming up the river to spawn. 

This stunning hairpiece looked so delicate.

After the museum we wandered around Ueno Park, one of the first public parks in Japan, founded in 1873. 

We loved this manhole cover, decorated with cherry blossom...why can't we decorate our manhole covers so beautifully?

Shrines, temples and mausoleums also dot the park.

The swan boats that you can pedal round the lake...

One part of the lake is full of lotus and it was amazing to see the lotus seed heads..

We finally had to admit that our trip was over and headed to the airport. Haneda Airport has to be one of the most amazing airports I have ever visited. It used to the domestic airport for Tokyo-Japan but a new terminal dedicated to international travel opened in 2010, allowing long-haul flights to use the airport at night (hence our 1am flight). 

Terminal 3, the international terminal has many areas including a shopping/restaurant area that resembles an old Edo period street, the Nihombashi Bridge, a torii gate....

There was also a modern shopping area - Tokyo Pop and the Cool Zone - kawaii goods, Japanese design and the chance to play on the largest scaletrix track I have ever seen. 

You can still go outside at Haneda Airport to the viewing platform and watch the planes coming and going....the telescopes allowing you a view over the Tokyo Skyline...

Or you can view from the inside too!