Be in the Audience – TV/Radio

A short while ago I decided it was high time I looked again at things to do in London for free or in the affordable range. It is possible!  We’re all very used to going to do what we always do, or hanging out in places that we’re used to.  It’s often only when we’ve got friends visiting us that we try somewhere new or become a tourist in our town City.  Why is this?

When I returned from Australia in 2003 I looked at London through new eyes, itme on my hands before I got a job and short of cash!  I realised that although I’d lived in London for over 12 years before I moved to Australia I’d not really ‘visited’ London for a very long time.  So before I got a job and to keep myself occupied during the days, I spent a great deal of time finding something to do every day (after applying for jobs in the morning) that would mean I spent no more than £5 a day (including travel).

OK so 13 years later I’d have to maximise £5 slightly but there’s still a heap you can do in London for next to nothing or free.  So over the coming months I’m intending to rediscover a few of them, discover some new ones and share them with you.  What have you done?  Where do you go? What’s affordable to you?

London doesn’t have to be a wildly expensive place… unless you make it that way!

So my first stop was looking at ‘being in an audience’.  I found the online links and applied to a number of shows.  I suspected that I’d maybe get one show I applied for but didn’t expect to get every single one.  So here are a few:

The Last Leg – #IsItOK
Love watching this show so it was a treat to see it being filmed.  Laughed a lot.  Loved the warmup game of ‘human tinder’ too!

TV Audience3Katherine Ryan – Pilot for a new show The Katherine Ryan’s Famous Celebrity Show.
Not hugely funny.  I think Katherine is a better stand up comic than a host so will be interesting to see if this show goes to air.TV Audience2David Mitchell – Radio 4 show ‘The Unbelievable Truth’
Really enjoyed seeing this radio show recorded.  Very funny.  TV Audience1Graham Norton Show – The Eastender Special.
Great fun to watch and be a part of.  Graham Norton definitely has a great rapport with all his guests and is able to keep the ‘show going’ between takes and with slightly more difficult guests.  Very interesting to see it filmed and then watch it back on TV to see how it’s cut.

TV AudienceYou do however have to remember that these tickets are free.  You are required (of course) to stay for the whole filming.  For the majority of the recordings you need to turn up several hours beforehand, stand in line and get a wrist band.  Usually you can then disappear for a coffee/something to eat etc and rejoin the queue shortly before being asked to file in and take your seat.  This process can take a while so be prepared to stand around for a while.

I also registered for seats at Britain’s Got Talent auditions.  I’d hoped to take my friend’s teenager during their school holidays.  Fortunately (as it turned out) they were busy on that date so a friend and I went along.  We arrived very early and anticipated a long queue.  However it turned out that people had queued over night and despite our turning up early all tickets had been allocated and we were turned away.  I can’t imagine how that would have been had I travelled up to London with teenager and then had to disappoint them with nothing.  BUT they do warn you they oversubscribe the ticket allocation so that the audience is full for filming!

Another downside is where they maybe filming two episodes on the same day but switching guests and audience between filmings.  We registered to see a new Greg Davies show being filmed in Clapham.  We were due to see the second filming of the day.  After standing in a queue for nearly 2 hours we heard that the first filming was just about to finish.  By our calculations this would mean that we’d not be seated until after 9.30pm, the filming was a couple of hours, there would inevitably be additional warm up, phaffing, retakes etc and doubted if we’d be out in time to get the last train home.  So despite being fourth from the front of the queue, chose to leave and get a late supper and head home.

So it doesn’t always go to plan.  You must however commit to attending the audience for the whole evening/allocated time, clap/laugh/boo/hiss when told and generally be fabulous TV/radio fodder for the listener/viewer.

It’s fun.  It’s great fun to see what really goes on to produce the show you’re watching/listening to.  I’d thoroughly recommend it… but allow plenty of time and remember they’re free tickets but in return for being free you’ve got to stand in line and then you’ve got a job to do!

Here’s a couple of links that you may find useful:
BBC London – http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tickets/
ITV have a list of companies they use for their tickets – http://www.itv.com/beontv/join-the-audience
Channel 4- http://www.channel4.com/programmes/take-part/articles/all/get-tickets

And if you’re brave enough… be on TV!
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/take-part
http://www.itv.com/beontv
http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/beonashow/

Images on Glass course – screenprinting

Today’s excitement was to learn how to screen print a photo onto glass.  Below are two images drawn by Edward Wolfe that I chose to use.  Our tutor resized our emailed photos and printed onto transparent plastic sheets ready for our class today.

Images on Glass sp1First we prepared our canvas with photo emulsion.  This was applied in a thin layer by pulling the photo emulsion upward using a trough to evenly spread the emulsion over the screen.  This is then immediately placed on a dark shelf (with no light) to dry.  This will absorb the image once exposed to light.

Images on Glass sp2Once dry, we readied the light box by warming up the bright light and positioning our sheets of images.  Quickly we transferred the now dry screen and placed this over the images, covering quickly with blackout material.  Finally we put old heavy telephone directories on top to keep it in place whilst the image is exposed.  3mins and 20seconds later we switched off the light box.

The final step was to remove the screen from the light box (with fingers crossed) and to take it to the sink.  As we watched the screen be showered with water, the images started to emerge.  Witchcraft!

[I was doing the ‘washing’ so didn’t get any pictures of our screen at the final stages]

Images on Glass SP4Finally with the images now on the screen, it was time to create some enamel paste and to screen print them onto glass.

Images on GlassSP6Different results with different colours used.  Below are a selection of the glass with images from the group awaiting firing in the kiln.  (You will see that I reused the red striker glass that hadn’t shown the orange powder before – let’s see how it works).  (Also one of my classmates reused a powdered image with screen printed text on top.)

We’ll all have to wait until next week to see the results.

Images on Glass SP7Finally, our tutor also showed us a slightly different method to utilise multiple colours via screen printing.  You apply the enamel colours in splotches over the image.  Then a line of the acrylic medium and pull the squeegee dragging the medium first and picking up the enamel but forcing both through the mesh.  Again an interesting image created and I’m intrigued to see how that will look once fired.

Images on Glass SP11

Images on Glass course – Glass Powder

My second week on this course our tutor showed us to apply images to glass using powder.  Using different mesh levels we saw how to use objects to create an image.  Sticking paper to the mesh, drawing with wax crayons and freehand sprinkling of powder.  Al these methods give different results.  Thickness of the glass powder.  Layering colour and depth.  Refined sharp edges and gently smooth, smokey sprinkling.

Below are images of our tutor demonstrating a couple of techniques and the middle picture is the fired glass with the images burned into the glass.

Images on Glass11Below are a few of the classes attempts prior to firing.  You can see we’ve used different methods and differing levels of artist expertise too!

Images on Glass12Post firing below.  I was pleased with the orange powder over black bullseye glass – I hadn’t been sure if it’d disappear into the black.  However the same orange powder did disappear into the red striker glass to leave just a solid fired red tile!

Images on Glass13My attempt at creating an image by drawing with wax crayon onto the mesh (red bottom left picture).  Then the powder was gently applied (orange and yellow – top left picture).  The other two images show the fired finished glass.

Images on Glass14

Images on Glass course – Decals

I started a new glass making course at Richmond Adult Community College – “Images on Glass”.  No surprise but I’m already loving the course and it’s only week 1.  Three more Saturdays of exploring and experimentation with different methods of applying images to glass.

First and foremost a quick introduction for ‘newbies’ to types of glass to use (Bullseye or Float), compatibility and how to cut glass.

This week we rummaged through an old box of decals and found our images to practice with.  I selected poppies as I loved the vivid red but was unsure whether it would remain so vivid once fired.  (I did say there was experimentation, right?).

We painted on other glass with enamels (mixing with acrylic media (water based and gloss)).

Another method was by using leaves and grass.  We made prints from them by rolling ink over the leaf/grass and then rolling this over the glass to leave the image on the glass.

One further experiment was to see if we were able to create our own ‘transfers’ using enamels, contact paper and leaves.  We printed a leaf onto paper.  Then covered this with sticky paper.  With the back of a spoon we rubbed the image right into the sticky paper.  Next we ran it under water and rubbed the paper away, leaving the image on the (now not) sticky paper.  Once dry, the stickiness returns.  This was then stuck onto glass, like a homemade transfer/decal.

A selection of images prior to being fired in the kiln.

Images on Glass decal 1Below are photos of our glass images after firing.  As a group we used different decals, painting techniques, colours and depth.  Sadly (and oddly) the experimental own transfer/decals didn’t work – the images had disappeared.  I’m going to try it again before the end of the course as this SHOULD work so we’re not sure what happened.  Watch this space.

Images on Glass decal 2I was also intrigued to see what would happen to some of my images if I stacked them and refired them.  I stacked (with 2 layers) some handpainted glass tiles.  I stacked (with 3 layers) butterfly decals.  And totally as an experiment I didn’t think would work was 7 layers of poppies!

Below top left is the firing tray loaded with stacks and the remaining pictures are post firing.  The one that worked best was the poppies.  Next job is to grind and polish the edges and then I’ll show you the 3D element to the stack.

Images on Glass decal 3

Crocheting

Whilst in Washington I attempted to do a few rows of Andi’s crochet project.  Actually I found it really rather addictive and so rewarding when it looks great.  Sadly I clearly needed a little more practice as I dropped a few stitches on Andi’s piece – but hey she’ll know the bit I ‘helped’ with!

So I decided that I’d try to crochet a small blanket for Andi.  Either as a throw over for a bed or to snuggle up with on the sofa.   First things first was to find some wool and crochet needle.  I found a wonderful little shop nearby StitchUp and naively went in to source supplies.  I left with a bag of wool and a new crochet hook… a little nervous as I can’t remember how to do it.

IMG_8542

YouTube.  I found a fabulous channel Bella Coco and managed to get to grips with creating granny squares in about 15 minutes!

IMG_8545

Another YouTube Video to find out how to do the outer edge.

IMG_8694And finally another video to learn how to join them together.

IMG_8693And the finished present for my lovely friend Andi.

IMG_8699Can’t explain just how proud I felt when I wrapped up a parcel for Washington with my handmade blanket.  Between the folds I snuck in a few extra little gifts for both Andi and Sam.  Homemade card, decoupaged heart, British chocolate and sweets, crazy mini tic-tac boxes that I thought Sam would love and finally a bracelet each for Andi & Sam from the wonderful company Rebel Rocks.

10422531_10152792599246814_8336563909036861021_nLoved the message I received from Andi and Sam when the package arrived in Washington.  “Received a wonderful package from @annagoanna1 !!!! Kept digging hoping to find Anna in there! What a great day!”

There’s something so very special about making gifts for people.  Made with love and care.

Health Update

Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with the dermatology hospital specialist to see how the nuclear levels of drugs were working on my auto-immune disease, Lichen Planus.

I was a little sheepish when I went into the consulting room because I didn’t complete the whole drug regimen prescribed.  I know.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I began by explaining why I stopped.  At first he looked at me as if to ask if I didn’t believe he was the expert in the room, but then he smiled and told me he’d have done the same if experiencing the same side affects!

So what side affects was I experiencing (and that I haven’t told you about!), some of the worst were visual migraines which would come on quickly and mean that I couldn’t see properly, certainly couldn’t see any written word or computer and even when it came on when I was playing tennis, I’d mistake flashes of white migraine for the ball (most amusing to watch not to experience)!  I also had horrible pulsing pain in temples.  A lot of stomach cramps.  Nails crumbled if I touched anything.  Vomiting in the night.  Weird dream/nightmares that were totally vivid and technicolour.  Odd ‘away with the fairies’ feeling where I’m in the room but everyone around me is underwater.  And those are just a few of them as well as not a great head space and a lot of tears.

He was, given the above, pretty impressed that I’d managed to keep going with them for as long as I had.  We then moved on to examining the lesions.

Really pleased with the nuclear drug regimen.  For the most part I’m now left with ‘burn-out’ scarring on my wrists, torso, belly, thighs, armpits and feet.  Some of these areas have faded already but he told me that the scars sometimes don’t go for many many years and in some cases, never.  I’m not sure any of you will be seeing me in a swimsuit for a long time!  (**collective sigh of relief**)

The disease is still active in me though.  I have a new lesion on the palm of my hand and more on my feet again.  He’s recommended that I continue with the steroid creams on my hand and feet and monitor the situation.

The other area of concern was in my throat.  He examined my mouth and said he couldn’t see any lesions so the drugs had worked there too.  However the ‘piece of bread’ that I can feel stuck in my throat may not indeed be a lesion at all.  He believes it’s too far down my throat to be LP as it usually doesn’t go farther than the back of the mouth.  He thought that this may be damage from the drugs or a tear in my throat that perhaps has been exacerbated by the vomiting whilst taking the drugs.  He said he wasn’t too concerned but that I should keep an eye on it.  It may well heal itself in time and now that I’m not taking the drugs nor having the side affects it may heal faster.  My call.  If I’m worried about it and it continues to remain then he said I should go back to the GP and ask to be referred to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist.  I’m happy to wait and am sure he’s right.  It’ll heal in time.

So where now?

He was super pleased with the progress.  He was very impressed with my NHS GPs who’d prescribed early the nuclear level of drugs and said that he’d never seen an improvement of this level given the severity and extent that the Lichen Planus has spread.  He said usually he’d expect to be seeing me for many more months/years before seeing this sort of improvement.

I know from the Lichen Planus Support Group that I’ve joined on Facebook, and which has been a huge support in understanding this disease, that my recovery is incredible.  There are people in the group who literally have been fighting this for 10+ years with no remission.  Others for whom recurrences are regular.  So maybe my own immune system isn’t as knackered as it would appear.  Maybe I’ve been able to clear some of it up without the drugs.  I’ve been juicing lots of good immunity fruit and veg and even found an company (Botanic Labs) where I purchased 3 days of immunity shots.  I don’t know if this all made a difference but I certainly felt better for them all.  I just wish I’d be able to afford to continue with 3 days of shots every couple of weeks.

I know I’m not out of the woods yet.  I am however much better than I was.  I have a bathroom full of nuclear drugs.  I have access to a supportive specialist and a wonderful GP practice.

We did however decide that I should be discharged from the hospital.  If I have another attack, I must start the drug regimen again.  I have the drugs already.  He’s also given me an open appointment at the hospital so that if I have another attack or I feel I need to see him, I can.

So for now, I’ll be applying steroid cream to my hand and feet.. the best way I know to make it work at super strength is to wrap in clingfilm and allow to fully soak in.  So this is me today.

IMG_8700 IMG_8701

Glass update…

Before Easter I nervously left a big plaster mold with pieces of glass and drips of enamel on a shelf waiting to be fired in the kiln.

Today I retrieved the fired plaster block and carefully put it, upside down, into a bucket of cold water to soak.   Gradually and very gingerly I picked at the plaster removing it bit by bit.

IMG_8659

Yes I did manage to cut my hand the process!

But this was what was revealed.

IMG_8667Next steps will be sawing off the ‘reservoir’ base and then a great deal of handwork to remove the little sharp edges around the sides and polishing up the finished product.

I’m super pleased with it so far but also extremely nervous to handle it so as not to knock any of the ‘coral’ shards from the piece.  It’s fair to say though that it’ll be something to be admired rather than touched… particularly by people with small hands!

I love it and think it represents what I wanted it to do, ie coral moving in the ocean.

Wish me luck with the delicate clean up!

Golfing… again

After dusting down the golf sticks, cleaning up the golf shoes and finding my glove, I’m back.

Well when I say ‘back’, I mean I’m attempting again to learn golf.  A friend’s girlfriend has decided to learn at the course across the road from me and I’ve joined her for beginner lessons.

So we’ve finished the series of 4 beginner lessons and are now on our way to an ‘improver’ course which starts in a few weeks.  I was actually surprised how much I remembered and am still able to hit the ball – and for it to be roughly where I was aiming for it to go!  I’m loving it.

Another local friend has also joined the golfing revolution and is taking the beginners course now with the hope of finishing that course and joining us on the improver course.  Hehehe soon there will the three novice golfers out on the course!  Watch out world.

Visiting Andi and Washington DC

It’s difficult to describe my trip to Washington DC without gushing too much so I’ll try to make it brief (ish).

It wasn’t about visiting Washington DC.   Exploring the City during my trip was a bonus but it was more about who I was exploring with.

My trip was booked over 9 months ago.  The reason was to see a very dear friend of mine.  A friend who I had (until this trip) only met in person once at the C4YW Conference in Orlando.  But someone who I consider to be one of my best friends.

New Years Eve 2013/2014 I had been driving up to visit friends Nr Cambridge.  My phone beeped to say I’d got a Messenger message from Andi.  I glanced at the message and knew I had to pull over to read it in full.  Andi told me that she had just seen the oncologist who had told her that her recent breathlessness was because she now had a metastases of Phyllodes in her lung.  We exchanged several messages and agreed that as soon as I got home tomorrow we’d Skype or Facetime.  In the meantime I knew I had to do some research into spindle cell sarcoma mets to lungs (preferably from a phyllodes tumour, if the research existed).  One thing I was sure about though was what the oncologist wasn’t taking into consideration was the strength with which Andi has dealt with cancer for many years.  Andi was first diagnosed many years ago and has had continued recurrences and many many surgeries.  There was a point in 2013 when she was ‘growing’ new tumours at a rate of approximately 1 every 6 weeks!  Every time they’d appear, she’d face it head on, deal with it, the surgery and the ‘fear’ and pick herself up, put on a fabulous pair of shoes, lipstick and a smile and be back out before anyone knew she’d been in hospital… some occasions having surgery between dropping her daughter at school and collecting her at the end of the day!

As soon as I got home, I got the laptop fired up and spent an age looking through research papers and medical journals. Pah!  Found it.

My message “Re the 1 yr!   Soooo not happy about them saying that.. all the info I’ve looked at for spindle cell sarcoma mets in lungs is 80% 5 year survival after resection.  And that means you’re in the 80% of the 80% with a 126 year survival!!!   I mean who am I going to have to misbehave with when I’m really old and cantankerous?  YOU!!!!”

Shortly after New Year, Andi spent a great deal of time in and out of hospital receiving treatment.  Through it all, Andi faced it head on and to most people ‘watching’ you would assume everything was a breeze.  But there were truly rough days and only Andi (and her family) probably know the full extent.  However what fabulous and amazing people like Andi have in spades, is friends.  She had lots of visitors who stayed with her, looked after her and her family, shopped, cooked, cleaned and kept her company.  Our friend Trish, turned up and surprised her on her first day of chemo in the hospital – there’s a great video of Andi’s utter surprise and delight at such an amazing gesture for Trish to do this.  I hated being in the UK.  Too far to turn up briefly and I wasn’t sure that this Brit who’d only met personally once was the right person to be there to take care of things for an extended time.  All I could do was send cards, chat online and make sure she knew I cared.

In August last year Andi was over the worst of the chemo but still had some way to go… and British Airways kindly sent me an email with suggested flight destinations, including to Washington DC.  Well what’s a girl to do?

I found flights that worked and messaged Andi to check she’d be at home over the Easter break.  If I’m honest I didn’t give her much chance to say ‘No’ as the flights were booked very quickly!  For the intervening 8 months friends on Facebook will have been a little confused about several posts that simply have countdown numbers in them – 135days, 4hrs, 13mins and 44seconds etc.  But these countdowns were the exact timing until I touched down in Washington DC and knew that shortly after we’d meet again.

I loved our countdown.  I also loved the excitement that this brought with it.  The evening before I flew out was the first time I thought, eek what happens if we don’t get on?  (Turns out Andi had the same thought).

US Flag

I walked through the gates at the airport to be greeted by Andi and her fabulous daughter, Sam and two mahoosive hugs.  And then the laughter started!  For my entire trip we laughed.  Laughed until we cried (or as one of us put it, “peed, just a little”!).

Here’s a few photo highlights from my trip:

DSCN1830 We took a trip into Washington DC to do some site seeing…  Love this picture of Andi and Samantha.   So cute.

Washington9Washington10Incredible iconic buildings in Washington DC.  Stunning city with some truly inspiring monuments.  The respect and acknowledgement to ancestors who have fought for the US is heartfelt and real.

Washington6Washington5DSCN1844Such a special bond between Mum and Daughter.

Washington4We came across a park with some art and sculpture… errr anyone explain the one on the right?  No?

I was also taken to the place ‘where my people first landed’, Jamestown.

Washington7Samantha was somewhat bemused that I knew little of our British history in the US but I don’t recall being taught much about it at school.  Were we?

And Williamsburg where the whole town has been ‘preserved’.  History scenes were acted out in the streets and you could visit the stores who were still making hats (milliners) bakery (breads), silversmith etc using the original tools and working as they would have in the past.

WashingtonBUT as I said earlier, we didn’t stop laughing all week… on our tourist days we were also giggling at so very much.

Washington1Cheeeeter!  (Andi and Sam will get that!)

We found a maze and some stunning gardens.  What a shame I didn’t capture our, ahem, hide and seek on video!

Washington2

We also discovered that Andi has a little difficulty working hand-dryers.  Sadly we didn’t get her ‘air stewardess’ impression on video.  We did wonder what it’d do to your face in a highspeed hand dryer.

During my stay we had a LOT of games of Clue (the US version of Cluedo.  Samantha insists that anyone playing this game has to play in a British accent and was delighted that a real Brit was going to play.

Andi in her best English accent.  The call of the Peacock also came in very handy when I got separated from them in a Smithsonian Museum.  I heard the call from a long way away and ignoring all the people looking oddly at me & Andi, knew it was for me!

Andi’s husband Lane was on tour with the Washington Capital Ice Hockey team and only got home on the evening of PJEaster (Easter Day in PJs).  Poor chap returned to find us 3 in our PJs, playing Clue, hair unwashed, no makeup and giggling like a bunch of crazies at daft and silly stuff.  Only 10 minutes before he walked through the door, Andi had been tapping her forehead with the end of the pencil thinking is it Peacock or Plum in the Library?  Only she missed and tapped the pencil into her eye.  Sam and I couldn’t stop laughing and told her in no uncertain terms that it was self-inflicted!

A bandage (err headband) was found.  Andi put this over her eye, glasses and pencil propped into the bandage and continued playing.  Well actually I think we were still laughing at her when Lane walked in!

Andi ClueOn the Monday, Lane wasn’t working so the four of us headed in to Georgetown for a wander and lunch.  We found a fabulous spot by the river.

DSCN1897How fabulous is this family?

DSCN1895Oh and me and Andi.

After lunch we headed to Iwo Jima Marine War Memorial.Washington8And then on to see where Lane spends his time with the Washington Capitals, coaching them utterly brilliantly.

Washington3In the training room!

Samantha, the uber fabulous gymnast

and Lane

My final day, we went along to watch Washington Capitals training session.  What an amazing experience as a newbie to understanding the sport.   Incredibly fast and so skilled.  I loved that anyone can attend training sessions and see their sporting heroes working so hard.  If only we did this for our sports in the UK, youngsters wouldn’t assume you can rock up on a Saturday and earn a fortune without knowing about the many many training hours our sportsmen and women put in.

I was so very very sad to be heading off to catch a plane home.  I wanted to put Andi, Lane and Samantha in my pocket and bring them home with me.  It was so very weird being on a plane and not laughing and giggling or doing silly stuff.

Ooh and here’s your bonus video of Samantha singing.  That child has such a beautiful voice.

What an amazing trip.  Amazing in so very many ways.  To be part of such a close and incredibly supportive family for just a short moment in time.  We all know that laughter is the best medicine.. we filled our bathroom medicine cabinets this week.  Loved my time in Washington DC but most of all loved my time with the family.

CharlieChaplin Laughter

Learning Taxidermy

I’ll start with a warning… this post isn’t for the squeamish!

Some of you know what I did a few weekends ago.  Many of you don’t.  But all of you know that ‘The Wallace’ is always up for new adventures and trying new things!

So what did The Wallace do today? I learnt how to taxidermy a mole! Mr Mole is currently ‘setting’ and shall be introduced to you later!

Our taxidermy course, run by A Curious Invitiation, was held in a special location in Soho. Sebastian Horsley’s old flat. Despite Sebastian dying in 2010, the flat is still much the same as when he was there and still filled with his possessions, including his shampoo and half used nail polish in the bathroom cupboard!

I love this description of his flat “His flat was one of those perfect places – a tight, wooden space that oozed a sparse, bohemian danger. There was the rack of skulls on the wall, which added to that air of living on the edge.”

I understand he was a man who had three muses, all called Rachel and all were Page 3 models! Also a fan of prostitutes (and one himself for a while) he was quoted as saying “The air used to be clean and the sex used to be dirty. Now it is the other way around. Soho has lost its heart.”

So here’s the sign that used to be on the front door of his Soho flat and also the selection of human skulls!

IMG_8304 IMG_8332So that’s the bit even the squeamish can read and see.  Look away NOW if you’ve got this far but not really sure why!

A friend of mine loves taxidermy pieces.  I’ve never been quite sure about them but his house is full of different animals from around the world in different sizes and poses!  Odd but perhaps not as odd when you hear he’s a medic!

A while ago he asked me if I’d like to join him on a taxidermy course.  I of course said “No”  “Ewww” and such noises that were a definitely ‘you’re having a laugh’ kind of way of saying definitely not! Then he called me again to say he’d found a course and just before he books it, did I want to join him.  Ha, he knows I’m a “Yes girl” really!  I’m in, booked and going before I can think more about it.

Today was the day and I have to say I was more than a little nervous.  Not about the course particularly but more that I wasn’t sure how I’d cope and if I’d throw up!  We met early and when into Soho to do some shopping and have lunch.  I now know he was more nervous about it than I!  Both concerned that we’d best line our stomachs for an up-chunder but concerned that we didn’t want to be too full, just in case.

We nervously rang the buzzer and went up to the flat.  Greeted by a table set up for 4 novice taxidermists and a teacher with 4 shiny moles and a rat looking back at us.

During the day we chatted about life, the universe and, of course, preserving animals.  I was surprised that the teacher was a vegetarian and stressed that the reason she did taxidermy was that she wanted to preserve the animals for ever and to make them once again look beautiful.  Oddly hearing this put me at ease with what I was currently doing!

The process was actually fairly simple, not smelly and surprisingly not gross.  If you do it correctly you can cut down the mole’s tummy (carefully not removing fur) and then by gently peeling it back can remove the entire body sack of organs without anything spilling or oozing out!  I had one tiny rip but managed to contain the ‘flow’.  Biggest surprise for me was the size of Moley’s tongue (second row, third picture)!

Once the body sack had been removed, we then removed the back of the brain and the upper parts of the limbs.  Leaving the hands and feet loosely hanging on a very soft skin.

Moley then went for a bath, wash and blowdry and left to air for a short while.  Following this we carefully applied preserving liquid and borax powder.

Taxidermy 1The next step was stuffing the little chap and wiring his now saggy body.  We places wires into the arms and legs and through the hands and feet.  We then wrapped another wire with cotton wool and wrapped that in yarn – this should be the size of the body cavity.  Tying carefully the ‘limb’ wire to the body wool and then packing the remaining cavity carefully with more cotton wool.

Then a touch of sewing to stitch Moley’s tummy up.  A little squeezing to ensure the cotton wool is packed in all the right places so he looks beautiful again.

Taxidermy 2Home with moley.  He still had protruding metal from each hand and foot and was a little dusty with the borax powder.  You position the taxidermy mole in the way you want him to ‘set’ and leave to dry for approximately 5 days.

Once set, you clip off the wire and give him a brush carefully with a toothbrush (preferably not one you’ll be using again!).

And meet Mr Moley… yes I did make him some specs as he wanted to see who was visiting him!

Taxidermy 3Despite my initial reservations about doing any sort of taxidermy, I really enjoyed the day.  Mr Moley looks fabulous, his shiny coat and plump little body give the impression he could still be alive!

It’s not something that I feel I need to do again….  but then never say never again!