In an age like ours where business has so much power and influence, we are continually surrounded with advertising, logos, trade marks, and brand names. These are designed to grab our attention and thrust products – and the firms that make them – into our conscious minds, but there is so much of it around us all the time that we become used to it, screen it out and stop noticing it is there – the very opposite of what the advertisers intended.
Yet some logos or trade marks acquire a special fame or notoriety and become part of our culture. Names like Hoover become words in their own right, as when we talk about “hoovering the carpet”, even though we may be using a Dyson! The chances are that products you became familiar with as a child still play an important part in your life so that they seem reliable old friends rather than commercial products.
Products, even the most familiar, do not stay still. Old ones die and new ones appear; names change (Gif becomes Cif, for instance), and so do logos or colour schemes. Sometimes when we look at the container or packaging of a favourite product from years ago, we are startled to see how different it is from its modern counterpart.
These changes may interest you or bore you, but they are there and can be studied. How or where? This is where the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising comes in. If you want to see how familiar products have changed over the years, mutated their packaging or modified their approach to advertising, this is the place to go. What you find there is more interesting than you might think.
Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the museum so I cannot show you any of the displays. It is run by friendly and helpful people and is quite a small museum (though crammed with exhibits) but still manages to fit in a cafe. This was amusingly informal: when we asked for tea, they switched on the electric kettle on the reception counter!
We made our way to Notting Hill, where the museum is, via Knightsbridge. As the top photo shows, it was another sunny but hazy day, of the sort that we have become used to lately.
After our visit to the museum, we wandered at will around Notting Hill, seeing what there was to be seen. Sculptures in metal and other materials seem quite popular there to decorate the fronts of shops and other buildings. I like the proud looking lion above.
The area where I took the above photo, at the western end of Westbourne Grove, has a village feel to it and certain signs indicate that there is a strong community spirit here.
I was pleased to find here another drinking fountain for my collection. This one bears the name of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. I forgot to check to see whether there was a date but the design is similar to a model of 1878.
There is also a cattle trough but of modern fabrication and donated by the Pembridge Association, seemingly as a planter rather than as a drinking trough for cattle, despite the inscriptions about kindness to animals.
Is this the smallest publicly accessible garden in London? Someone has cultivated the soil in which this street tree is planted and created a tiny garden for the pleasure of passers-by. Affixed to the tree is the following notice.
I hope people take the plea to heart. In Victorian times, collecting dog dung for the tanning industry was a money-spinner for the poor but these days it’s up to dog owners to clean up after their charges.
Another curious sight was this trio of hounds outside a restaurant. I imagine that the stout chains are there less to prevent canine mischief than to forestall theft by humans. I don’t know what the hounds are made of but since they have survived some hard knocks, as evidenced by the chipped paintwork, they must be pretty tough.
It was now nearly 3 pm so, finding ourselves near this Indian restaurant we went in for lunch. We had, as we usually do, the vegetarian thali. It turned out to be a very good meal, one of the best Indian meals that we have enjoyed recently.
Continuing our ramble, we discovered this rather elegant entrance in Chepstow Place. It belongs to the Baynards apartment block.
The quality shows in details such as this cherub, one of a pair, on the metal scrollwork. (See if you can spot it on the picture of the doorway above.)
I am always fascinated by sculpted faces on buildings, especially where each face is different and looks as if it has been modelled on a real person. This building fairly jumped out at me, therefore. It is a listed building, of course, in the Italianate style, dating from about 1860. Once you know it was once a theatre, that fact immediately seems obvious. Today, it houses the Al Saqi bookshop.
The faces no doubt represent famous roles in plays and or operas and perhaps well known actors of the day. It might be an interesting challenge to identify them.
Our last visit of the day was to Whiteley’s Store. Years ago, when I worked for the Books etc bookshop chain, I was sent one Saturday afternoon to work in their branch here. Perhaps because I was anxious not to be late or too busy working, I took no notice of the building itself. I had not been back since and this visit therefore surprised me. I wonder how many shoppers at Whiteley’s take time to look around them at the building itself.
Needless to say this building is listed. It was the second of William Whiteley’s stores, the first having perished by fire. The new store was built between 1908 and 1912 and has been going strong ever since.
After trotting around so actively, we went into Kensington Gardens, spread a rug and relaxed for a while. It was sunny and warm and there were lots of people enjoying the park. Perhaps I was tired or “photoed-out” but I only took two photos, neither of which give much idea of the Gardens. Another time, perhaps.
The “main event” of the day was the visit to the Museum of Brands and it’s a pity that we were not allowed to take photos. You will have to take my word for it that the visit was worthwhile. It was fascinating to see how the presentation of familiar products has changed over time, especially the older ones, and to realize that what we take for granted – the familiar tube of peppermints or tin of cocoa – is the result of careful planning to make a product that is attractive to the customer and keeps its place on the supermarket shelf.
Here ends our April Staycation 2011. Holidaying at home may not provide the novelty of exploring unknown places but it has its own unique advantages, not least that of moderate cost. Fun though it may be to lodge in a hotel, home is where the heart is, along with the tea pot and your comfortable bed.