I adore autumn (or fall, as I usually refer to it). I’m always sad when I’m not in America when the leaves kick into gear, because the foliage in Southeast England (and yes, I’m including Kent and Surrey in that assessment) can’t come close to comparing to the stuff back home, not to mention that I’m missing out on all those other fall traditions: caramel apples, cider doughnuts, hayrides, pumpkin picking, haunted houses, and of course, the Halloween section at Target. Needless to say, I was thus excited to hear about “Tales from the Autumn House,” a “multi-sensory experience” held in the belfry of a church in Bethnal Green. Excited enough to trek all the way across London to see it last weekend.
The church (St John on Bethnal Green) is literally right when you walk out of Bethnal Green Tube Station, which was a kind of surprising to me; I don’t know why, since I knew it was in London, but I thought maybe it would be set back from the main road a bit, perhaps in a nice wooded park or something. The exhibit is upstairs, and has no connection with the church or religion or anything, as far as I could tell (which I was admittedly relieved about, though I do quite like the incense-scented air that hits you as you enter the church), and is also free.
This was definitely the sort of thing that would have been ruined by a crowd, so I was glad to see we were the only visitors (and the exhibit is in a long, narrow room, so I think any more than four people would definitely constitute a “crowd”). I didn’t take pictures because it seemed like it would ruin the experience, but I think they did do an effective job of making the space feel autumnal by strewing leaves everywhere, and relying on candlelight in the dim space. There was a recurring theme of keys (the big, old-fashioned sort), and little poems to read throughout, as well as the promised sound and smell effects. While I enjoyed the time I spent in there, the fact remains that it was a very small space, and only requires about five minutes to thoroughly see everything, so I definitely don’t think it was worth going to the opposite side of London. However, if you already live or work in the area, I think it is worth popping in to check it out, though be warned – it may leave (ha) you longing for fall more than ever! I also think it would have been much more potent had it been in a different sort of space; ideally, I think a shed in the middle of a forest would have been awesome (but if a suitable forest existed, I suppose you wouldn’t have to re-create the atmosphere of fall in the first place), or at least somewhere with more trees hanging around the place, as it’s kind of disorientating to leave a secluded space and find yourself instantly thrust into the chaos of Bethnal Green Road. Anyway, it’s on til the 2nd of October, and is open 6-9 Thursday and Friday, and 12-5 on weekends.
And now for the other news; first, I’m featuring a guest post on this blog for the first time ever on Friday, so check back to see a museum review from Misadventures with Michael! And secondly, I’m starting a new blog next week (don’t worry, Diverting Journeys isn’t going anyplace, the new blog is a completely different project), which is very much a labour of love for me. It’s going to be based around the letters my maternal grandfather wrote to my grandmother when he was stationed in Europe during WWII (they didn’t get married until after the war, so you can see how their relationship progressed over the course of the letters). I just discovered them last year, and have been wanting to do something with them for a while; as 2014 is the 70th anniversary of when he began writing them, it seemed like the perfect time. The blog will essentially just include excerpts from his letters, fleshed out with extra historical details where necessary, and the occasional photograph, all done in chronological order, designed to mirror the dates he wrote them, so posts will at times be sporadic, but I eventually hope to visit some of the places he did (at least the ones in England) and write about those as well. I know this will be even more niche than Diverting Journeys is, and probably primarily of interest to my family, but I thought I’d mention it anyway just in case anyone is interested! I should hopefully have things up and running by the 23rd of September (the date of the first letter!).