Saturday, 10 August 2013

Bletchley Park’s Vintage Toys

Bletchley Park is a wonderful place, the home of the code breakers and now rightly being given the funding it deserves to renovate and improve. On the same site, the National Museum of Computing, full of nostalgia and vintage functioning computers and equipment, including a magnificent rebuild of Colossus.

But, one potentially overlooked exhibit is the wonderfully nostalgic Toy museum. There are an abundance of toys and games (e.g. original meccano), clothing and ornaments, wartime propaganda and toys, austerely made - “Make and Mend”.

What really caught my eye was the dolls.

There was something haunted about them, sometimes they were sinister. Maybe the decades without the love of a child has slowly emptied them. Perhaps a hug will make them glow again.

Decide for yourself, a selection of photos I took with my iphone. (all photos © Mel Melis – all exhibits hosted at Bletchley Park – reproduced without seeking financial gain)

This poor doll sat staring from her pram, looking up into space. She never cries.

Mamma bear’s gonna mess you up.

They’re waiting, they’re watching in the cabinet.

Strange, none of them seemed to be smiling.

And when they do smile, it’s hiding some terrible tragedy. I imagined this clown was visiting the grave of his wife.

Did she chew those bear ears off? Is she still hungry? The bears have been injected with a paralysis venom. She can take her time to consume them.

Scary. Atomic Kitten 1940.

This little lad has seen terrible things. I hope that’s not a garrotte.

An angry gnome (or an Amish farmer forced to wear tartan). Something simmers behind those eyes.

Devil soup

Just faces. Peeled off faces. No biggie.

This embryo terrified me.

Needle toothed golly, hung out to dry.

She made me want to cry!

The furious death stare.

A fragile girl. Fractured.

This made me laugh, he’s a bloody lipped vampire yokel

Flaking away


* – In all seriousness this is a lovingly preserved collection, the slow bite of time adds to the poignancy of any visit. Go! I implore you! Go to Bletchley Park! You wont regret it.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Blackbirds and Dragonflies

All photos © Mel Melis

We moved house in May, we’ve got an old converted barn on the edge of the old moor. Beyond our hedge, a river runs behind the overgrown field. We’re very lucky. Summer took its time to arrive, but now it has we’ve had some amazingly beautiful days. We get the full glory of the setting sun from our back porch, the rays scattered by patchy cloud.

Somewhere in the river Kingfishers’ and Otters’ fish. I haven’t seen either yet, but I’m hopeful. I’m impressed with the birdlife in the garden though. Jays, finches of all sorts, swifts, tits and mammals too, most notably moles unfortunately causing mini subsidence patches where you tread and inadvertently collapse their tunnels. As well as that, in the dusk, bats, super manoeuvrable and quick, not much bigger than a bumblebee, chasing and catching moths in flight. Our most regular visitor though, is this bizarrely tailless and bold blackbird. We think she’s young. Skips right up to you.

Here she is gathering bugs from the lawn. I just happened to be lying down in the grass with my camera at the time. She posed several times.

Isn’t she pretty? Is she a blackbird?

And less than 100 yards away is a pond. On the day when it was over 30 degrees, I finished work about six and wandered down, dangled my legs over the wooden platform which overlooks the pond and watched the dragonflies duelling and mating. The pond was green with algae, partially evaporated in the heat, needing a top up in the dry spell. A pea soup.

The dragonfly behaviour was interesting. Some would position themselves on twigs or reeds and charge out to combat any intruders. Their flight seems to defy gravity, deftly forward, back and from side to side, occasional hovering, then with a speed that almost looks like a dematerialisation and teleport they appear hovering in another spot a split second later.

Needless to say I didn’t get any photos of them in flight, just when they stood sentry.

Not sure what species these are, there are several UK varieties. These were big (perhaps 3 inches long) but there were bigger blue / purple ones, who actually crackled when they accelerated, the power in their wing beat audible over the torpid silence of the murky green. Those big ones didn’t settle, they kept patrolling and harassing.

One thing I did notice is that this species mated in flight, after disengaging, the female (I assume) would then dip her abdomen into the water at various points, whilst still flying of course. Having researched it, she was actually laying her fertilised eggs. Should the larva hatch and survive, they’d turn into quite the pond predator. The larva can live for a few years under water, when they emerge, the dragonflies only live for a couple of months, their purpose seemingly to mate, lay their eggs and die.

Finally a picture of a bright little damselfly. The intensity of the blue is beautiful.