It’s that time of the year again… when I try and convince you to give something money can’t buy this Valentine’s Day – the pleasure of your company in surroundings full of beauty, culture and history.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as partial as the next person to the standard Valentine’s stuff. What’s not to love about flowers, chocolate and jewellery? (Just forget the cuddly toys for anyone over the age of 8, even, actually particularly, when it’s clutching an ‘I love you’ heart.) But why settle for standard when you can do spectacular?
This year it’s time to do something different:
With an embarrassment of museums and galleries to choose from here are just a few suggestions:
We all know the Victorians were partial to a bit of drama and romance. The Walker Art Gallery’s new exhibition, Victorian Treasures, delivers swooning lovers, burning passion, and tortured souls by the bucket-load. Take Oh Swallow, Swallow by Strudwick as a prime example. You can impress your date by telling them when the artist first showed the work it was accompanied by the following lines from a Tennyson poem:
O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine,
And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.
See, miles better than Hallmark.
Granted, the mummification of millions of animals in ancient Egypt does not scream romance. I cannot even pretend that these animals were mummified by devoted owners who wanted to take beloved pets with them into the afterlife. Curators have, rather unhelpfully for this blog, debunked this. However this blog isn’t about a typical Valentine’s, this is for those who dare to be different. So… to take a stroll around this exhibition is to time travel 5,000 years, back to a civilisation whose customs, beliefs and monuments continue to fascinate. All sorts of animals in ancient Egypt were prepared as votive offerings to the gods; cats, dogs, birds even crocodiles. The exhibition reveals the background to this religious practice in the context of life in ancient Egypt. Immerse yourself and sweep your love off to a distant land and time.
In the unlikely event of your date failing to see the romance, no need to panic. Sit back and explore the endless possibilities of the universe in one of the Museum’s planetarium shows instead! No shame in a plan B.
Thanks to James Cameron (and Celine Dion) the story of the Titanic’s tragic-end has an enduring love story forever associated with it. But while Jack and Rose’s romance was fictional, your heart will go on (sorry) to discover the many true stories of the people who went on that fateful journey. From J Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star line who controversially survived the sinking by joining one of the last lifeboats, to Fred Fleet, the look out who spotted the iceberg, and passenger Millie Brown, who describes the experience of leaving the stricken ship in a letter written on board the rescue ship, Carpathia. The tales of real people, whose lives were lost or forever affected by the sinking of Titanic pack an emotional punch over and above the Hollywood version. Also look out for a letter written by little May Louise McMurray to her father who perished on the ship. This heart-breaking letter, which her father never received, was the inspiration behind ‘Sea Odyssey’, the epic street theatre performed by the giant puppets of Royale de Luxe in 2012.
Finally if you remain unconvinced, we do of course have beautiful gifts galore in our shops. Pretty, quirky and indulgent, buying from our shop supports our work. So that’s a happy Valentine’s for you and us!
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