Information Age

 

I’ve spent a very frustrating week sorting out car woes – last weekend I was meant to be heading off up to Lancashire to stay with my best friends for a few days – something I’ve not been able to do for a few years for various reasons. I set off on Friday full of excitement and got an hour into the journey before our elderly car broke down on a fast busy dual carriageway. The next 6 hours or so were exhausting, frustrating, cold, tiring, educational and ultimately incredibly disappointing as the car proved unfixable after breaking down a second time. I got recovered by an AA lorry late in the evening and finally got back to my home some 8 hours after I’d left. I was bitterly disappointed at having to cancel a much looked forward to trip but I also reminded myself that I was very fortunate to break down where I did – both times, although it didn’t feel like it the second time (on a roundabout!!) and above all that I had a mobile phone which mean that with within seconds of jumping clear of my car I was able to contact the AA and get help and be rescued quickly from a very scary situation. Over the course of the hours it took for things to be sorted, my mobile earned it’s keep as I contacted not just emergency services but also my friends to let them know I wasn’t coming, my mum to break the bad news to her that our car was very poorly and that I was coming back home and for the times when I was sat in the dark feeling very lonely and a bit scared waiting for help, I was able to text a couple of friends to chat and keep spirits up.

We’ve had mobile phones so long now that we take the ability to contact others at a moments notice for granted – even getting annoyed at the fact we’re accessible 24/7 sometimes. I did find myself thinking how lucky we are to have them though – my experiences last week would have been so much more frightening as a woman out alone on a fast road if I hadn’t had a quick means of contacting the people I needed to. I also take it for granted that I can email my friends and family for free in seconds as I did with my oldest brother this week as he was travelling around various Asian countries and I needed to get hold of him urgently. I also earn some of my income from my online etsy shop. All of this was unthinkable to me 15 years ago (I came fairly late to technology!); now the idea of living without them is equally unthinkable.

At the beginning of September I spent a few days away in London taking some time off from country life and experiencing very different things – they say a change is a good as a rest! I did mean to blog about some of it but I’ve been busy catching up ever since as well as not being very well and it didn’t happen. However I had a lovely time; I visited galleries and museums, ate different food and walked around city streets looking at buildings and architecture (something I always enjoy doing when going to cities) as well as having interesting conversation with strangers – I love meeting new people and finding out about their lives, you have such fascinating conversations when you travel alone.

My middle brother lives in London and I had thought he was away the week that I was there so didn’t tell him I was there. My youngest brother however knew that I was there and also happened to speak to our middle brother and found out that his trip had been cut short and was back home and told him I was also in London so it was a lovely surprise to get a phone call from him towards the end of my trip and we arranged to meet for lunch on my last day before I caught the train back to Wales. My plans involved going to the V&A museum on that day but I’d been struggling with a chest infection the whole week and I woke on the last morning feeling really quite ill and not terribly interested in anything much. I did struggle with my luggage on the Tube to South Kensington and deposit it the holding facilities at the V&A and that effort pretty much wiped me out.

I’d hoped to see the Raphael Cartoons, not just as a textile artist and amateur weaver but also because my brother is a designer and his design studio BarberOsgerby had designed a temporary installation for BMW called Double Space in the room the cartoons are in which wasn’t due to open for another week. Sadly I wasn’t able to blag my way in to visit as I was on my own and it was being installed when I was there so the room was closed to the public (I did try!!) so instead I headed off on a hunt to find some other pieces of Ed’s and his design partner Jay’s work which are in the permanent collections at the V&A. Most are in store but I did manage to find the Loop Table after a good deal of hunting and take a not very exciting photo…

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I don’t have a Loop Table but I do have the Loop shelf which has been a CD rack in my bedroom for 15 years!

I did wander half heartedly around the textiles I could find on public display but apparently quite a few have been archived to protect them from damage by light which whilst understandable was a bit disappointing and you have to make an appointment to visit. I felt really quite wobbly and not in the mood for anything too heavy so after a while I headed across the road to the Natural History Museum. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this – I last visited when I was a 12 year old with my father who died last year. It did feel strange being there and remembering the last visit with mixed feelings but although the basic exhibits are the same, enough was different there now more than 20 years later to stop me from feeling too upset and after a ruinously expensive and not very nice cup of coffee and dried out brownie (some things haven’t changed apparently!!) to make up for not being able to eat breakfast I wandered around and took some photos.

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I was particularly entranced by the fabulous building itself which was something I’d not really noticed as a child fixated only on dinosaurs and animals – it really is an exquisitely beautiful piece of architecture and I spent some time gazing up at the fabulous ceiling panelled with depictions of plants and their latin names and amused myself by looking for ones I recognised like

Tea…

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Coffee…

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Cotton…

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…amongst others! My little compact camera really struggled with the light and focussing so the rest didn’t come out very well at all – I looked in the shop to see if I could find any images for sale of these but sadly it’s all predictable tourist tat aimed at children desperate to rid themselves of pocket money. I’d have loved some postcards with these on… hint hint….

I went outside and sat on a bench on Exhibition Road in the breeze and tried to cool off – I think I was running a temperature by then – and waited for my brother as arranged. He’d text me earlier to mysteriously ask me my shoe size. I was a bit flummoxed by this and he didn’t enlighten me as to why he needed to know but when he pitched up he said he had a bit of a treat for me; we were going to the Science Museum! By that point having dragged my pathetically sniffing person around two museums in one morning I wasn’t sure how much of a treat this was going to be but I was so wrong. His other design business Universal Design Studio was doing the new huge exhibition Information Age in the Science Museum and he was making a site visit to check on progress with his project manager and had arranged to take me along too as I was around and he knew I’d be interested. Because it was still a construction site at the beginning of September we had to be kitted out with high viz jackets and safety boots – hence the text to find out my shoe size! Once we’d been booked in and had our official stickers applied to our chests and been met by Ed’s design project manager Nick we headed off up to the exhibition for Ed to do boss-type stuff and check progress and for me to just be generally nosy! At that stage they were just starting to move some of the exhibits into place so I got to see some really interesting things albeit draped in sheeting and parcel tape in places! Taking centre place was the massive Rugby Radio Coil and we unpeeled some of the tape and lifted the edge of the plastic sheeting and crept under to have a wee peek at this awesome piece of communication technology – it’s 6m high and is a very striking object visually as well as what it represents in terms of the history of technology.

Some of the exhibits were put together from various places in the Design Museum, others had been bought in for it. Needless to say I didn’t take any pictures; at that point it was still very much “under wraps” and whilst some of the exhibition was available to view as artists impressions on the internet, other parts were secret and waiting for the Exhibition Opening to be revealed so I figured it was safer just not to talk about anything rather than land myself or anyone else in hot water!! If you click on the links I’ve inserted into the text though you can see some of what’s on display.

In terms of architectural space it was very much my cup of tea – the sweeping open spaces and galleried walkways and use of glass and clean lines are right up my alley although my tastes are general more traditional than my brother’s cutting edge modernity. I loved walking around the gallery and looking down on the main floor area as well as getting a closer look at the exhibits hanging from the ceiling such as the partially built satellite (which sounded terrifyingly expensive!!) and other models. Despite really not being bright eyed and bushy tailed and also being something of a technophobe and largely ignorant of anything to do with communications, I found it all fascinating and seeing it in a partially constructed state made it even more interesting to me – I’ve spent the past 5 years designing and building my own home so I find the construction of buildings and spaces even more interesting now and especially how those spaces work around us and how they affect our feelings and behaviours. This exhibition is divided into six areas, each one devoted to a different subject: Cable, Telephone, Broadcast, Constellation, Cell and Web and I loved the way the exhibition space flows around these.

Information Age was opened last night by her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh (the Queen even tweeted her first tweet – the first reigning monarch to do so apparently!! HM is doing better than Twitter-phobe me then… ;0) It’s open to the public from today and if you’re in London or are planning on visiting then do go and check out this free exhibition – even I found it completely fascinating and it will be a geeks paradise for those who really do have a passion for science and technology. I think my favourites were the cell mast from ? Mexico ? (I think) that’s disguised to look like a cactus – looking like something straight from The Dandy and Desperate Dan! And the completely cheesy Snoopy telephone which I caught my brother taking a sneaky photo of… ;0)

I suspect I will remain largely ignorant of technology and communications – they change and develop so fast that it’s as much as I can do to keep up with what the latest things are called, no hope of understand how they work! But although Imight choose to spend my days surrounded by the low tech, the hand made and the natural world, I’m grateful for those who do work with communications – and mean that people like me can make a quick phone call in emergencies or keep in touch with loved ones at the click of a button. I’m looking forward to going back and seeing the whole exhibition at some point soon when I can next get back to London. Just as long as I don’t break down on the way…

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2 thoughts on “Information Age

  1. Funnily enough I looked up your blog to contact you from Alnwick on my mum’s Nexus to let you know I dropped my phone in the North Sea on Monday so currently can’t be reached by phone or text! Back in Wales on Saturday when hopefully I can fire up an old phone. So can confirm, mobile phones are a life line. I’ve lost my address book, camera, mini computer and social media access. As well as phone, of course. And all because Jack dropped his new favourite toy (a stick of seaweed) in the sea and I bent over to get it… See you next week!

  2. Oh no! That sounds a bit disastrous! It’s so easy for your phone to slip out of a pocket when you bend over though, you’re in good company I’m sure!
    Hope you’re having an otherwise lovely time in Alnwick though and that Jack appreciated you retrieving his seaweed for him. I shall remember not to mention sushi for a little while then… ;0)

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