"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 29 September 2014

Signs of Autumn along the Grand Union Canal

D and I went for a stroll along another section of the Grand Union Canal yesterday. We started off at Waterfield Bridge and walked down to Knowle Locks and back.

The Grand Union Canal is 300 miles long and links London to Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham. It was formed on the 1st January 1929 when at least 8 separate canals were linked. The most important of these was the Grand Junction Canal constructed around 1800 by engineer William Jessop. Trade on the canal ceased in 1963 and these days it is used for leisure activities.

There were many signs of autumn as we walked along the towpath.

Black Bryony Berries - these are garlanding hedgerows every where locally. Not to be eaten though as they are poisonous.

I wish we had taken a container as there are still plenty of blackberries to be picked.




Ivy flowers are appearing and they were covered in bees and hoverflies illustrating how important a nectar source they are for insects during the autumn. There were several dragonflies and butterflies (Speckled Wood and Red Admiral) around but none came close enough for a photograph.

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Tar Spot Fungus on Sycamore

Seedheads everywhere

Robin's Pincushion or the Bedeguar Gall - caused by the Gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae) which lays eggs on the leaves or stems of wild roses. One gall can contain several grubs each living in an individual chamber.

Conkers were scattered all over the path.

Green Alkanet was flowering in several places.

This female mallard was very tame - we were feeding her blackberries!

Approaching Knowle Locks

Knowle Locks consist of 5 (originally there were 6) locks that rise 42 feet.

Is this a new name for a loo? I really should have had a look!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

An Exhibition of Emett's "Marvellous Machines"

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has held an exhibition this summer showcasing the whimsical machines and cartoons created by the eccentric English inventor Rowland Emett. The exhibition is the largest ever display of Emett's work and it follows the story of his life from his childhood in Birmingham to becoming an international figure.

Frederick Rowland Emett was born in New Southgate, London on 22nd October 1906. His father, Arthur, was very inventive and patented a number of ideas. At the start of World War 1 the family moved to Birmingham where the young Emett attended Waverley Grammar School and then the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Rowland began his career as a commercial artist but very soon had cartoons accepted for Punch magazine. In 1941 he married Elsie Evans and after the war they moved to Cornwall with their daughter. The Festival of Britain in 1951 was another turning point in Emett's career when his railway design was a success and he began to design more animated machines. Following several trips to America he received a commission for Life Magazine for a 12 page article and he earned enough money to buy their first house - Goose Cottage in Sussex where he lived for the rest of his life. Throughout the fifties and sixties he produced many ingenious machines and in 1967 he received an important commission to make several household machines for the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He continued to produce machines for many years including a clock for a Shopping Centre in Newcastle and "Cloud Cuckoo Valley" for a Shopping Mall in Basildon.

The Featherstone Kite Openwork, Basket-weave, Gentleman's MKII Flying Machine.

Three of these were built to promote British Oxygen, then British Airways and finally Hawker Siddeley.

The "Eiffle" altimeter gives 3 heights every pilot should know - canal level, own chimney and Milky Way!!!!

The Exploding Luna Cycle - originally built to promote cycling events for Skol Lager

After a soft moon landing the Luna Cycle pedals off in all directions to explore. The stained glass cover brings a breath of fresh air to the moon while the bicycle pumps up the oxygen. The cycle carried samples of moon rock and a cheese comparator to help identify the composition of the moon!!

The Fairway Birdie MkII - The Self Golfing Golf Machine

The Clockwork Lullaby Machine

The Visi Vision Machine

As well as the amazing machines above the Exhibition contained many of Emett's sketches, illustrations, greeting cards and cartoons. I've shown just a few below - sorry photos not of the best - lots of reflecting light and wobbly horizons not to mention basic cropping!! but it will give you an idea of the amazing variety of his work.

I was so glad we'd made the effort to visit - even if we did leave it until the last afternoon of the exhibition!

We had a quick look round the rest of the museum - The Staffordshire Hoard display is closed at present as a brand new one is due to open this October. I know I shouldn't really be adding yet more books to my collection but I just couldn't resist a Shire Publication on Stained Glass which traces the history from Anglo-Saxon times right up to the present day.