Saturday, 30 August 2014

Metamorphosis


On Tuesday we had the usual mixed-bag of a day. Jay's been off work this past week so he accompanied me to playgroup with Joe for the first time. Joe was extremely pleased and I found myself sidelined; it was all 'Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!' as he pointed things out, demonstrated his prowess on the climbing frame and showed off his piano skills during the hokey cokey. Not that I minded. It was nice for Jay to get involved (despite him being the only adult male on the premises, hence a bit of self-consciousness on his part).


We then went out to Accrington. It's maybe seven miles from our house and more of a grim up North gritty working town than our nearest hipster enclave of Ramsbottom. I like it for all that; the Victorian-built indoor market boasts all those wonderful stalls selling boiled ham and black pudding, and the kind of robust-looking underwear that reminds me of Hattie Jacques. 

I found a fantastic hardware stall. They stocked all manner of things including reasonably-priced enamelware. I treated myself to a pie dish (bodes well for the diet) and a mug. 


Even though Accrington (which I blogged about here) is a bit down-at-heel - along with many smaller towns around the country - it does have some hidden gems. And finding hidden gems is like treasure-hunting in charity shops and car boot sales, albeit on a larger scale.

The strangest find of the day was the aptly named The Weird & Wonderful. We spotted it from across the street and were immediately intrigued by its half-barber's shop, half-natural history emporium set-up. One window displayed skulls and stuffed animal heads and the other looked in on a traditional American-style gent's salon.


Inside I was taken back to my museum days - cabinets of curiosity, glassy-eyed (literally) creatures stuffed and preserved for ever more. Skeletons and jars of creepy-looking things in formaldehyde. The smell of napthalene. It was wonderful.


Apparently it's owned and run by a keen collector who sells most of his finds online. But the assistants were lovely and friendly, and more than happy for me to take photographs. So I did.


One of the best parts was opening drawers and peering inside to look at the entomology specimens. I used to do that at work too; the entomology and botany collections were my favourites. It probably helps that I'm not scared of spiders. Not even these long-legged beasties.


Most of the photos came out fine, despite it being quite dark in there.


As well as trucks, trains, diggers and dirt Joe has a keen interest in animals (current obsession: seahorses). Despite a lack of those he did love everything else including a giant buffalo head sporting a top hat. 

Yes, I know that many of these items were killed in the name of sport, and preserved primarily to be displayed as trophies. It goes without saying that I don't agree with that. But they were also killed, stuffed and mounted a long time ago. Believe me, we dealt with the question of ethics on a constant basis when I worked in the heritage sector. And to be honest, I'm not sure where I stand with regards to purchasing these things now. I certainly wouldn't want to buy any of it myself. I suppose it's a bit like the question of wearing fur. Some people are fine with that if the item's classed as 'vintage' (personally, I still wouldn't).

But I do think taxidermy can be very valuable in an educational sense. And I'm aware that, in many places, modern taxidermy (and it's subsequent display) uses only animals that died of natural causes.

Sorry, just thought I'd better add all that as I know that animals and the killing of them can, and should, be a very emotive subject.

Moving on... The butterflies seem quite apt here as I'm hoping to move in a new direction, or at least evolve a little. To maybe test the waters creatively. You see, I do love writing and photography. I'd love to do more with both of these things and have felt this way for quite a while now.

So a little side-project for me: building a photography portfolio, a bit of research, exploring a few ideas. I'll keep you updated on my progress (no doubt it will be slow, considering everything that's going on around here at the moment).

For now I've started a new Tumblr account where I'm gradually posting my own photographs rather than other people's pretty ones from all around the Web. That's what Pinterest is for, after all. Feel free to have a nose and tell me what you think, and apologies for those images you've already seen here on Mitenska. There aren't too many there yet but I'm hoping it will become more substantial over the coming weeks.

Enough from me.

Thank you for reading. It wasn't supposed to be such a lengthy post.

Oh, and thank you for all Joe's birthday wishes. We're hitting the beach tomorrow. Cagoules and hot chocolate at the ready!


16 comments:

  1. It looks wonderful, a true curiosity shop. That's what I've come to like about so many Northern towns - they look a bit grim and soot-blackened, but scratch the surface and you find all manner of interesting things. x

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    1. It's true! I think in some ways the recession has brought about some kind of change for the good where high streets are concerned. There seem to be small, experimental shops opening up here and there. It's great!

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  2. Oh I do love your photography Sarah and the ones on your Tumblr are particularly wonderful.

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    1. Thank you, Sue. That means a lot as I'm one who's constantly questioning my own abilities. I have to pursue this somehow (not quite sure how just yet)...

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  3. I hope that you have a great time at the beach!! xx

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    1. We did, thank you! Once we found sand and pebbles. There was a lot of very deep mud too - I dread to think just how deep it was!

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  4. Lovely photos Sarah. I posted some butterfly pictures from a local museum the other day, I love looking in those drawers too, although I share your feelings about not wanting to see these things collected now. They are such incredible objects to view close up. Good luck with your photography portfolio, I shall enjoy seeing you create it. CJ xx

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    1. Hi, CJ - I did read your post and smiled because we'd both photographed similar things which are generally out of the ordinary. Maybe I'll start my own 'cabinet of curiosity' minus the deceased stuff!
      And thanks - I'm looking forward to developing (excuse the pun) my photography and to sharing the little journey on the blog.
      S x

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  5. Hey Sarah,
    What a great place! And yes, wrong, but also fascinating. And part of our heritage now. I can't really get on any high horse about it. It's all part of our long human learning curve. Like zoos, or circuses. Love the hare photo.
    Leanne xx

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    1. Me too! I have a bit of a thing about hares...
      I was expecting to be taken to task by someone about the whole ethics thing, hence my disclaimer!
      S x

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  6. I love your photographs, I really do, and often pop back for another look. Belated birthday wishes to Joe and hope the celebrations went well. Yay to the newly purchased enamelware and bugger the diet!

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    1. Wow, thank you! The photography is something I love but I'm also acutely aware that, with digital photography, editing software and all the rest of it, everyone is now a photographer of sorts. It's just down to finding my own niche I suppose.
      We had a lovely weekend with Joe which included chips and ice cream at the beach so yes: the diet is well and truly out of the picture. It's woolly jumper season anyway!

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  7. Looks like a very interesting shop.

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    1. It is! Strange but definitely a change from the usual high street chains :)

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  8. What a fab find Sarah! I love shops like these. Beats the big chains hands down! Your tumblr account is beautiful. Looking forward to seeing it grow. Bee xx

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  9. What a wonderful find :). So many high streets all look the same these days, I am drawn to those that aren't. We are lucky that our local town is one of the latter.

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