Photo essay: Gargoyles

One of the great delights of Europe is the ubiquitous gargoyle. So much character, so much creativity. To me they’re the artisan’s finger given to the sometimes repressive conformity of the established church over what could and could not be portrayed in art. Almost pagan in their nature, I love the juxtaposition of that old belief literally grafted onto the great churches and cathedrals.


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Photo essay: Wood carving

So there’s me, wandering innocently through the Victoria and Albert, one of my favourite places in the world, when I round a corner and see … this. At which point I stopped and goggled, speechless, for some time. It’s a handcarved, three-dimensional depiction of the crucifixion updated to medieval times, sort of. You can spot other era stuff. For obvious reasons the piece is displayed inside a glass case (which explains the irritating bright spots) and stands about 4 foot high. The medium is pear wood. The result, for me, is utterly breathtaking. I took a whole bunch of photos, but here are a few. Plus one ring-in, with an explanation …

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Photo essay: Military matters

There wasn’t quite so much armour-gazing on this trip. Previously I’ve collected some great photos from the Tower of London, the Royal Armoury at Leeds and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, all of which house some wonderful armour and attendant equipment. But there were some amazing pieces in the Wallace Collection, in London, notably the horse armour, as well as the Yorkshire Museum. Here are some of the astonishing pieces I saw … some captioned, some not, but all telling a fabulous story!

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Photo essay: Jewellery

It might seem funny, given that I’m not a particularly blingy person in daily life (not counting my growing collection of seriously cool ear-rings, which I added to with gusto while on the recent trip!) but when it comes to jewellery in museums I am hopelessly entranced.

I think perhaps it’s a romantic fascination: I am endlessly intrigued by the fact that throughout history, without exception, people have found ways to adorn themselves. As I look at the pieces in the museum, and the photos, I find myself dreaming and wondering about the artisans who made each piece, and the women – and men – who wore them. Who were they? What happened to them as they wore these pieces? What happened ot the amazing artisans who created them? And how can I give them a sinister, fantastical twist?

I acquired a fabulous book from the British Museum – ‘7,000 Years of Jewellery’ – which catalogues their collection. It’s magnificent. And so, I think, are the pieces featured in the photos below, from such diverse collections as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of the Middle Ages, both in Paris . Enjoy! Covet! And if you find yourself drooling a little … believe me, you aren’t alone!

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Best tee shirt evah!!!!!

So, jet lag still sucks. But I’m getting there! Slowly …

In other news, I’m sorting through the trip photos for a series of visual essays on stuff I saw and that I hope you’ll find as wonderful as I do. So stay tuned on that.

To whet your appetite, however, here’s a photo of an amazing tee shirt I found in Oxford. There’s a permanent covered market in that wonderful city, and in that market a tee shirt shop that I could have easily half emptied. Luckily sanity prevailed – I bought 2 shirts as gifts and 1 for me.

This has to be the best historical in joke ever, I swear. I’m going to let it stand without comment, because I know you guys are pretty historically literate  … but if you’d like an explanation let me know in comments and I shall oblige!




It wasn’t until I did some research travelling around Europe that I noticed how absolutely fabulous doors can be. So much history. So much character. Every one of these doors tells a story. I expect some of them will find their way into my books …


Like pretty much everyone who goes there, I fell instantly and forever in love with Venice. My visit was too short and one day I will go back. Venice’s carnivale masks are famous worldwide, and for good reason. Here is the merest hint of their glorious diversity and creativity.




There’s something ironic about these photos. I don’t do flowers. I don’t do gardening. I couldn’t tell you the names of most of these blooms. But even so, I find their vibrancy irresistible. I had to capture them in a picture.  All these photos were taken in Europe.