Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Monday 5 January 2009

Twelfth Night

By custom, the Christmas decorations come down tonight or, at a pinch, tomorrow. My Christmas cards look quite cheery en masse - otherwise I don't do much myself since I'm (a) not here over Christmas (b) a bit of a misery at times. But by way of farewell to the season, here's a view of one thing to do over Christmas in London.

The Geffrye Museum in Hackney is set in a row of seventeenth century almshouses, and as you follow the long interior corridor along one side of the square, you pass a succession of rooms, decorated and furnished as they would have been in a succession of periods from around 1600 to the 1990s, as well as the tiny chapel for the original seventeenth-century residents. Each room set has an anteroom with information about different aspects of domestic life and interior decoration, in both display cabinets and panels and a lively choice of recordings of memoirs, histories and literary accounts from all sorts of sources.

There's also a space for temporary exhibitions and information onsome interesting community and educational work. The current show is about how male and female attitudes to interior design and setting up home were, and were seen to be, different: but I was a little disappointed that, in all the fascinating detail of photographs and memoirs and advertising brochures, there wasn't a single mention of Mr. Pooter painting the bath red.

The shop's worth seeing as well, if you're interested in homes and gardens. There are also some comfortable sitting spaces with plenty of books (for adults and children) to read, and a café that, on the day I visited, had people queueing to get in.

One reason for its popularity (apart from the fact that the museum's free) is that it's quite a tradition to go and see how they've dressed the rooms as they would have been decorated for Christmas at the relevant times:

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