Sunday, 24 March 2013

We're all northerners

Here's a 15th century world map, from the Nicolaus Germanus Codex, which is based on Ptolemy's second century maps. It only shows the northern hemisphere, but the UK's still perched right up at the top. We look as though we're about to fall off the edge of Europe into a blue emptiness.

From most British people's point of view I'm a southerner. But I lived in France and Spain and that taught me that all of us here on the isles of Britain live a northern life. Anywhere further south and the light's all wrong, especially in the winter. Ptolemy calculated latitude according to hours of daylight, so he saw the world according to light too.

Winter's been hanging on this year, and it's beautiful still. Even on a grey day there are surprises.
And at the end of a sunny day you're almost guaranteed something special, when the light's the lowest  and reveals hidden shapes and textures.

 I may be alone in this, but even after months of wet and cold I still love the winter.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Natural history

Yesterday I dropped in to Tunbridge Wells because I wanted to sketch a Painted Lady butterfly. There aren't any out and about in March, but there's a case of dead ones in the museum. My sketch isn't worth sharing, but I did want to say, isn't a nightingale small?

And doesn't this owl look sad?

I've been visiting the natural history room in our museum since I was small and I don't think the exhibits have ever changed. It's kind of comfortingly spooky, and also interesting, because the exhibits stay handily still while you inspect them at close quarters.

The other rooms of the museum are filled with clothes and dollshouses and endless cabinets of Tunbridge Ware boxes. Are they un-natural history?