Well, we’ve been to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery a few times – Cana and Jude love the Modigliani wooden puzzle and the tactile room where you can touch all the exhibits. Someone at work told me there are stuffed animals in the Museum bit but we’ve never got past the Gallery before. I quite fancied going in search of them however so Cana and I set off on what turned out to be a bit of a sculpture trail though Birmingham City Centre.
Off on the bus again, this time with Mae in the sling so we could go upstairs and view the Bristol road from the top deck. Oh the thrill. Actually, have to admit I do feel a teensy bit excited going upstairs on a double decker but I just pretend it’s for the children! Following Steiner principles, we aren’t intending to do any abstract mathematics until Cana is 7 so everything has to be practical. That means that she was wearing her new watch, which she consulted earnestly every few minutes, and she has to pay the bus driver (I tell her what coins I need and she finds them in my purse). The journey into town was slightly livened up by a moth on the window. Cana was slightly jumpy about it being near us so I was giving her a lecture about how you mustn’t hurt their wings by trying to catch them as they are so delicate when it suddenly landed on me and I broke off, mid-lecture, to squeal and thrash violently around, much to the amusement of the bloke sitting opposite.
Got off the bus and strolled up New Street, stopping at Victoria Square by the fountains as Cana loves the big Sphinxes and wanted to climb up on one. This done, and a little think about what they were made out of (stone) we proceeded a few yards to the Anthony Gormley Iron man sculpture.
Had a look at the seams and talked about how you had to melt metal to make it join together. A passing nod at Queen Victoria (Cana wanted to know why she was holding a “wand”) and then round the corner to sit on the lap of Birmingham’s first member of parliament – Thomas Attwood. Cana is very fond of this prestigious and dignified gentleman, who sits on the steps outside the library with his reform papers scattered carelessly around.
Into the Art Gallery we now went, pausing on the way to look at the beautiful mosaic floor (we have a mosaic in the garden but I would like to make one with her now so she can see how it’s done). The first thing you see when you arrive upstairs in the gallery is an imposing Jacob Epstein sculpture of Lucifer. It’s pretty large with a magnificent pair of unfurled wings. Cana is fixated by it. Although she hasn’t noticed before what she saw immediately this visit – “Mummy, he has a willy!”. She was surprised that you could get “boy” angels. She is familiar with the angel Gabriel through the Nativity but we hadn’t discussed gender before. As I’m not actually sure about the biblical stance on the gender of angels, except that some of them seem to have male names, I just said that angels weren’t really men or ladies, although the sculptor had indeed given Lucifer a willy.
Facing Lucifer, somewhat appropriately, is a much smaller sculpture we hadn‘t noticed last time we came of Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. On the way home Cana said this was her favourite sculpture of the day which shows that even children can recognise a great piece of artwork when they see it as Eve is by Rodin. A joy to behold. Cana wanted her picture taken by the sculpture and when I asked at the desk they said photography was permitted as long as I filled in a form first, which was pleasantly surprising.
Ignoring the paintings we went through the gift shop into a room full of stained glass. Most of the scenes were religious ones she is familiar with (mainly the crucifixion) but there was a gorgeous William Morris one depicting the four seasons which Cana liked as it had four pretty ladies on it. We spent quite a long time in there looking at the windows and finding characters we recognised, like Elijah in the desert, and Mary the mother of Jesus. Had to raise the point in here that when Jesus was on earth it was fairly unlikely that he was as blonde as he is in all the stained glass windows as he was from a country where most people are light brown like her. There were also some more sphinxes in that room but she didn’t like those ones and thought they were scary. I had to reassure her that you couldn’t really get a lady with the body of a lion.
And so into the Buddha room. There’s a Buddha in there that’s more than 700 years old. I was impressed but Cana couldn’t really understand that though she was interested in the patterns and the other fantastical images of Hindu gods. Later on I heard her telling daddy with great relish, “there was a boy and his daddy CUT HIS HEAD OFF! And THEN, he gave him an elephant’s one!!”
After that Cana had had enough of the museum and wanted her lunch,
and Mae was noisily agreeing, so we hastened to the Cathedral Green and had our sandwiches there. Never did get to see the stuffed animals. Oh well, there’s always next time…