When I left my job I decided to use it as a chance to take time out and time off. My dear friend @AlyxP1 and I were mulling over what I could do in a café one Sunday afternoon and by the time we adjourned to the pub I had quite a list in my notebook. Top of the list came learning to bake sweet pastry properly. Ah, she suggested, sensing I needed to get out and about and not just spend the time learning in the kitchen, “you could do something cultural every week” – and so the idea of ‘Cultural Tuesdays’ was born. It’s very simple, I try to go to a museum or a gallery, or simply experience something different, once a week. The idea has expanded since then, so there’s an element of ‘Going Places Thursdays’ too, when yes I go to new places be it Kew Gardens, Trent Park, Rotherhithe or perhaps an independent bookshop I’ve not visited before. Most weeks it’s one or the other.
My favourite ‘Cultural Tuesdays’ were spent at the British Museum and at the Cabinet War Rooms. I had a bad experience with the kids at the British Museum, I thought we’d go and enjoy ourselves exploring but instead they trailed around trading Match Attax cards with each other… That day was redeemed by ice creams and games in the fountains in Russell Square.
Revisiting the British Museum. This was my first trip back since then. I went to see Germany: Memories of a Nation. Outside the gallery they’d parked a Trabant. Inside the first exhibit was silent video footage of border guards being overwhelmed, and a sea of people – mainly men – flooding past the guards away from East Germany and into the West. You can see the guards don’t really know what to do, the people just took control. I can vividly remember watching the BBC news reports at the time in 1989 with queues of Trabants waiting to cross and maps showing where the borders had come down across Europe. Seeing this again was one of those experiences that you immediately want to share, that make you want to turn to the stranger beside you and ask if they too remembered it. I have just discovered a blog post from a then 8 year old girl growing up in West Berlin – she was woken by her parents to watch the news. You can read it here
In another case there was a wetsuit. A man planned to escape from the East wearing it, rowing in a rubber dingy across the Baltic Sea. He was captured before he set out – and imprisoned for two years until the fall of the wall. It shows quite how desperate people were to start a new life – imagine how cold it would have been on the November night in 1987 when he planned to make his exit from the east. The wetsuit itself looked really absorbent, nothing like the ones you see triathletes sporting now, and if he’d had to swim in it in the Baltic he’d have been in real trouble
Radio 4 ran a series on objects featured in the exhibition, you can see clips or listen to podcasts here The exhibition runs until 25th January and I really recommend it.
And if you’re wondering if I learned how to make sweet pastry, yes I did, and ice like a semi expert, and make gluten-free bread too!