We are having an in-town day after our trip yesterday to Portsmouth. We started the day in leisurely fashion and then went out to catch the 394, the small bus that traces a very complicated route from the Angel to Bethnal Green. Tigger was keen to revisit the Gallery Cafe, a vegetarian and vegan eatery that we had seen on a previous ramble. We found it and had brunch there.
It was an interesting experience and I would like to be able to compliment a pure vegetarian establishment, but there were just a few too many "toos" for wholehearted approval: service too slow, food too cool, price too high for the quality of the food. While I appreciate that a specialized outlet has to tread a thin economic line, especially in an area that is not very affluent, we shall probably not return.
We moved on to our next destination, which is quite nearby. We had come to visit the V&A Museum of Childhood. I have seen other museums on the topic but none as large and impressive as this one and we spent several hours there.
Run by the Victoria and Albert Museum, it is sited in a huge building that is worth seeing for its own sake. I don’t know what it was originally designed for but it consists of one great open space with a basement and side galleries which run around three sides of the building, open to the main hall. The ground floor accommodates the museum shop, the information desk and the museum cafe. And yes! unrestricted photography is allowed!
Just inside the entrance to the museum was an exhibition dedicated to the colourful and fascinating artwork of Tapan Das, a rickshaw painter from Dhaka.
A prolific – even compulsive – painter, Tapan Das paints not only rickshaws but practically anything else that comes to hand. Previously a painter on metal surfaces, Das has been influenced by his stay in Nottinghamshire and has started painting on canvas as well.
This set of vignettes, of which I have enlarged two, show Das’s style and use of colour. His work, it seems to me, admirably combines a popular “naive” style with a sureness of touch that brings his subjects alive.
Perhaps because this museum attracts families with young children, the greater part of the stock is kept safely behind glass. This is predominantly a glass-case museum but in my view, none the worse for that. There are a few play areas and hands-on exhibits for when the children start getting bored. Reflections on the glass do sometimes make photography a little difficult, though.
The first gallery, a little higher than the ground floor and accessible by steps (though there is a lift serving all floors), exhibits children’s toys from about the 1800s, with a few earlier items, to modern times. These are divided into a number of large sections by type.
The next gallery is about childhood. This means that in addition to some more toys there are also pictures relating to childhood, costumes – both actual costumes worn by children over the last 2 or 3 centuries and play costumes, e.g. nurses’ and bus conductor outfits – and other objects loosely connected with the theme.
In comparison with the others, the topmost gallery is the least furnished. Perhaps it is still being developed. I recall that one theme there is Food, glorious food. There were also other temporary exhibitions such as one on Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea and another about Living with autism.
During our visit, we stopped for tea in the cafe area and there observed this 1851 sculpture by John Bell, entitled The Eagle Slayer. Quite apart from its gruesome theme, it doesn’t seem particularly relevant to children or childhood and I wonder why it is there.
Today was the warmest so far and it was very hot in the museum. There is no air conditioning though we did discover an electric fan in a corner and stood in front of it for a while!
Because of the heat, we needed to make frequent pauses as we explored the museum, either on seating provided for general use or in the cafe.
Emerging from the museum around 3:30, we felt that in view of the heat and the tiredness from our busyness of the last few days, we had done enough for today. Accordingly, we took a bus to Liverpool Street and changed there to a bus to the Angel and the best hotel – home!
Beautiful gates at Bevis Marks, The Restaurant