Heather, Maureen and I headed uphill (therefore away from the city center) so we could go to two more museums. I never got farther than this one:
Those of you who know me will find it amusing that I spent so much time at what is called the Fashion Museum. Normally, a museum with that name would hold very little interest for me. But I’ve resolved to be open minded about anything and everything that comes my way on this trip, so I decided to check it out. Also, it was part of our original itinerary for the day. Everything Heather had researched and put together for our trip was wonderful, so though others chose to do their last minute shopping and yarn purchasing, I went to the museum. It was well worth it!
The bulk of the museum’s collection was made up of items from an individual’s lifelong compilation of historical clothing. Additional pieces have been donated and procured since then. On display are the varieties of “fashionable” dress for men and women from the late 17th century to the present. Again, the museum handed you an individual audio device which could narrate to you at the pace you chose to move through the collection. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many and so well-preserved a collection of wearables. It was truly intriguing to look at the garments side by side, notice and be educated about their changing shapes and what those changes signified within the context of the particular time period. Though English garments, I could see where the styles were a bit ahead of what would flourish in the States: the rich brocades and intense structuring of formal clothing in use around the time of American independence, the hoop skirts and elaborate fripperies of the pre-Civil War southern belles and more tailored, contained styles worn in the northern states, later the new shapes and freedoms of the 1920s and on to the padded shoulders and more utilitarian styles of the 40s and 50s. I noted the slow transformation of how the garments were made: intricate lace, beading and stitchery ornament all done by hand transitioned slowly to millspun fabrics (including cotton), block printing, and ready to wear. Quite amazing in a span of about 150 years.
I spent so much time looking at the collection, I actually had to sit down a couple times to rest! A group of school children were ushered through while I was there. I can’t imagine what they would have thought of the whole thing. I suspect those fifth grade boys were not as enthralled as I was with the many white muslin, Edwardian era dresses stitched up with fine lacework and beads. (The museum had a huge collection, possibly because Bath was then THE highly fashionable vacation spot for Britain’s upper crust.)
When I left the museum, I had an hour before we were supposed to meet up at another of the town’s yarn stores, called Wool. Using multiple printed maps and my phone (for Google), I found my way there. En route, I wandered through two of the town’s famous examples of Georgian architecture, The Circus and The Royal Crescent. Each was impressive in its own way, especially for the level of craftsmanship in stone and the elegant sense of place they created. However, I had to wonder if any of these elegant buildings served as residences anymore. Such buildings usually transition to use as office space and as luxury rentals. I also noticed that in the beautiful green space surrounded by the circular buildings of The Circus, there was but one bench. Someone walked a dog while I was there and even threw a ball for it. But it seems like pedestrians who might want to enjoy the lovely weather and stately surroundings were not welcome.
As a distinct counterpoint, the great park across from The Royal Crescent, which had signs all over it saying “private green for the use of residents only” had all gates wide open and lots of people walking, sitting and throwing balls for dogs therupon. Hmmm. So the correct use of green space in this genteel town has me scratching my head a bit.
By the way, and it’s worth mentioning here, I’ve never seen a happier group of dogs in my life than in these few days in England. First of all, they are all gorgeous. Didn’t see a mangy dog anywhere, nor ever one that looked like it was a stray. Every city street and park had folks walking dogs or off-leash having balls, frisbees and other unidentifiable dog paraphernalia thrown for them. Never saw a “dog park” as such. But our group agreed that dogs in the UK seem to have a pretty good life. I also haven’t seen many mixed breed dogs. Again, not sure if that’s a preference or just a general lack of strays that produce generations of puppies.
After getting turned around a few times, I managed to find my way to Wool. Slowly the group reconvened. We decided to do a bit of knitting before our knitting meetup. A few of us gathered in one of the rooms to hang out and knit and have some wine and a nosh. Then we packed up and went out to join a group of resident Bath knitters who were gathering at a pub that evening (to drink and have a nosh). I’ve always wondered about this odd practice of knitting in pubs. Not so much in bars, the American version of the word, because I don’t hear about that so much. But knitters online will often refer to meeting up at the pub for knit night. How exactly could beer contribute to their knitting accomplishments? I’m basically smashed or sick if I have more than two drinks and on the way there wouldn’t be able to knit if my life depended on it. I figured that Brits drink more and more often, so doing the knit-while-having-a-pint thing is no big deal. Actually, what I’ve come to discover since then is that much of the UK’s housing, especially in the cities, is quite small by American standards. They eat, cook, sleep, do their laundry, have gardens and entertain in much less square footage than we do. So if you’re going to have a gathering of any size greater than five people, you really want to do it somewhere else. The pubs here are not just places to drink. They serve more like public living rooms. You don’t have to drink alcohol there. They do serve tea (but of course!) and some serve food as well. There is a pub on just about every block in the more urban environments I’ve visited. And there you have it — the word pub has less to do with what is served there than the fact that it’s short for “public house”. It’s the place you go to interact with other people and to be involved in anything with more than a handful of individuals at a time. I’m not sure if this phenomenon is more prevalent on the US’s east coast. What I do know is that, as a resident of the US’s “west”, I never think of a bar as anything but primarily a place to drink alcohol. Interesting. Public house. I like it.
But I digress… from knitting. And here we are, doing just that while eating and drinking:
We returned to our inn well satisfied and went off to our respective rooms to pack and hit the sack. I reorganized everything and then checked my email. You all know what happened then (cue dramatic music) – the arrival of my farm stay cancellation.
Whew! I’m nowhere close to catching up. I have to tell you about my time in Birmingham, about my deeply challenging pet sit (sorry, no, that’s tongue-in-cheek- I hardly did a thing), about my train ride north, about my time in Glasgow (during which it was entirely and perfectly sunny and during which I did not happen to run into Billy Connolly, darn it) or my arrival and first days on the farm! Off to make some coffee then, eh? Back with you soon.