a trio of eastern finds

In recent weeks, I’ve made several interesting discoveries around East Anglia (no, I wasn’t really talking about the Orient). Beginning with a brief trip to the North Norfolk coast, where I discovered Sheringham. Or to be more precise (as I had been to Sheringham before), I discovered the old steam train station at Sheringham, and isn’t it lovely? Someone clearly puts an awful lot of love and care into looking after this place. I find myself longing for the good old days whenever I come across a nice steam train or a well-preserved old station. Apparently you can have dinner on a steam train from Sheringham now, though the line is so short these days that you have to go up and down it repeatedly to last the duration of a meal. And talking of having meals on trains, on Friday night I saw the Torbay Express, just chilling out alongside a platform at Kings Cross. It looked like it would be the finest train dining experience I’ve ever encountered (not that I’ve ever actually had dinner on a train – I’ve just dreamt about it).

Just to reassure you, though, not all of my recent discoveries have been train-related! I promise I am not about to reinvent this site as some kind of geeky, train-lovers’ paradise. No, it is going to remain resolutely a geeky, wool-lovers’ paradise. No question about it. Last weekend’s discovery was the Mill Road Winter Fair. I don’t know how, but this was the first year I remember hearing about it. I suppose every other winter that I’ve lived in Cambridge, I’ve been much further away from Mill Road, so maybe it’s just that news of the fair doesn’t carry across the city?! Unlikely. Anyhow, it’s quite a lively event. I saw mostly the beginning of the day, but there were musical acts going on until late. Someone was missing a trick though, as although I was very tempted to purchase four partridges at the bargain price of £10 (is it a bargain? I admit I’ve never bought partridges before), nowhere could I find a helpful retailer of pear trees to counter this. So I left the partridges where they were.

There was the biggest mountain of fresh bread I’ve seen in a while. It was quite inspiring, as although I’ve been cheerfully baking all my own bread for the last three months and feeling very pleased with myself, this rather put my efforts into perspective. I’ve been musing for some time now how I ought to experiment with different types of bread. Only when my kitchen looks like this, though, will I know I’ve succeeded:

To round off the trio, my most recent find, yesterday, was the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology. Another place I’m not sure how I managed to avoid for so many years. It’s a nice place; though, as with many museums, a bit of a time warp in many respects. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I like the look of the old displays and labels, most of which don’t appear to have been updated or modified for several decades, at least. A lot of them are very appealingly composed, with artistic arrangements of colours and shapes, like the scallop shells below. They remind me of old botanical illustration plates, which I really love. (On that note, combining my two loves of old scientific plates and woolly crafts, you should really check out this amazing blog – especially note the crocheted tardigrade, it’s fantastic.)

But the downside to this now antiquated series of displays is that there is frequently very little in the way of explanation. Maybe I’ve just got used to always going round museums with scientists these days, who are more than capable of explaining things to me? (It was certainly quite a shift, yesterday, going round this collection with an economist instead of the usual earth scientists – the conversation was a lot more speculative, and more along the lines of ‘ooh, isn’t that a pretty coloured shell?’.) But these sorts of displays strike me as effectively preaching to the converted. They’re aimed at people who already know all the science behind them, and who just want to see examples of what they’ve read about.

Thinking about this, it struck me what a huge amount of work there is to be done around the country, and around the world, to update all the museums everywhere. It’s a bit overwhelming. I’ve probably just gone off on a complete tangent there, when what I was meant to be writing about was interesting places I’ve found. So I’ll stop there – I recommend you make a visit to the Zoology Museum, and take a friendly scientist along with you. Otherwise, just enjoy their collections of pretty shells.