Category Archives: trips

Thursday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 3 )

April 20, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - moving stills - Museums - short poem films - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

In this third week of my work with The History of Modern Medical Science, I wanted to look at a recurring theme which seem to run through quite a few of the stories from Witnesses To Modern Medical Science.

It became apparent to me that the element of hobbies, external interests and passions often lead to a greater understanding or insight into some aspect of research.

Professor Estlin Waters for example was an epidemiologist ( the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. ) as well as a keen naturalist and spent time on the island of St Kilda  writing notes for ornithological journals about birds, particularly the wrens, and grey seals and he could later see the connection with monitoring wildlife to population based research.

( below is the Witness Statement from Professor Estlin Waters, Senior House Officer – MRC Pneumoconiosis Research Unit )

In my case, there was an overlap between counting birds and epidemiology. I had been interested in birds from a very young age but I was also interested in the scientific side of birdwatching, especially bird migration and bird numbers. When I was on St Kilda I wrote about a dozen papers and short notes for ornithological journals and for the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London on various aspects of birds and on the grey seal. I was interested as a naturalist. At that time I didn’t have any real knowledge of statistics. It was my birdwatching that kept me scientific during my medical student days. I used to read some of the bird journals; the medical journals were too heavy to read as a student. I don’t know how some of our medical students now manage, but they can and do. I felt the teaching we had at London was not very scientific, it was more of an apprenticeship: I do this, so you do this. The birdwatching kept me critical of the scientific side of things. When I joined the MRC it was very much the other way round. It was the epidemiology that was the scientific side, and I think I have been able to apply a bit of it to my birdwatching. The two have run together, one perhaps ahead of the other, but the two are related. I think that someone who wants to count wrens on St Kilda has got something in common with someone who measures the haemoglobin level in a population. My experience of working alone on St Kilda and writing papers on natural history probably helped me when starting in medical research.

I was inspired by his witness statement to take a trip to my local Natural History Museum in Brighton; The Booth Museum. I also wanted to look at some wrens close up as he had been so intrigued by them.

The whole museum is like a historical exhibit in itself, being primarily full of Victorian stuffed animals, and collections of insects and minerals… While I was there I also wanted to look at the collections of butterflies and moths as there were another couple of stories relating to them…

Professor Peter Harper, medical geneticist, describes how important it is to sometimes stand back from immediate specifics in one field, whether that’s serology, paediatrics or obstetrics for example, and look at it as a kind of research problem from first principles. He describes how Sir Cyril Clarke, a physician and geneticist, was particularly talented in this area. He says in his witness statement:

Workers in genetics use model organisms all the time, and now in human genetics one shifts, as indeed Cyril did then, between one species and another without much trouble. We know the genomes are all very similar. I think Cyril may have chosen butterflies as a rather unorthodox model organism, and I am quite sure one of the reasons he chose them was because they were more enjoyable than something like Drosophila ( fruit flies ) to work with.

I was also interested by the statement below from James Lovelock, who then worked in the Common Cold Unit, about how Sir Christopher Andrewes (  the virologist who helped discover the influenza virus ) used to take the researchers to the New Forest looking for butterflies as entomology was his sideline:

One of the things I remember most fondly about the days at Harvard Hospital were visits from the parent institute in London of Christopher Andrewes, Forrest Fulton, and other scientists, and there would be the most long and intensive discussions on the virology of the problem. Andrewes had a wonderful trick of suddenly coming into one’s lab in the afternoon and saying, ‘I say, would you like to go for a walk in the New Forest?’ He had a car and, of course, in those days very few people did, and we would be driven into the New Forest and he would be carrying his butterfly net, because his sideline was entomology, and there, while walking along the path, one would talk about what experiment should be done next on the common cold.

I really loved looking at the butterflies and moths as amazing and incredibly detailed manifestations of design and which then in turn completely inspired a new project for me into silk scarf designs, and so although I have taken the aesthetic qualities of something in nature, I can absolutely see how a scientist could look at the genetics of an insect and be inspired to take their research into areas they may not have considered before.There was also a witness statement which made me think how much easier life is, especially for the medical profession, now that we have plastic.

Now plastic isn’t something I usually get excited about ( although there’s a great song by The Beautiful South you can listen to here about Tupperware and Plastic! ) but reading about how it has basically revolutionised work in hospitals is staggering, and to imagine life and health care without it it is actually a bit scary. The fascinating witness statement here is from Professor David Galton ( physician and secretary to the MRC working party on Leukaemia )

I think very few people below a certain age can remember our working conditions in the early 1950s. For example, nowadays people use butterfly cannulas for intravenous transfusions and they can do all kinds of things with them. In our day we had dreadful glass syringes; they had a central nozzle and there was no way you could get into a small vein – we always had to use the cubital fossa veins. If we wanted to put up a drip, for example, we had to rummage about in a great cardboard box where there were lots of rubber tubings of different sizes, and we had to fit these up and stick them into a glass rod that fitted into a hole in a cork in a bottle – we didn’t have any plastic transfusion equipment. All this took a great deal of time.
and Dr Pamela Davies, ( consultant paediatrician ) who worked in Neonatal Intensive Care describes how essential the introduction of plastics was for their department:

In 1962, Victoria Smallpeice in Oxford started feeding babies who weighed 1,000 to 2,000g at birth early, with expressed breast milk. The relatively newly available polyvinyl feeding tube passed into the stomach was a great advance over the teaspoon and ‘fountain pen’ dropper. An enthusiastic young nursing staff showed that even ill babies could be fed small amounts frequently from soon after birth with indwelling tubes strapped in place.

This was of particular interest to me as my son had been in intensive care immediately after he was born, and I remember those feeding tubes leading to his stomach, which I hated, but which were helping to keep him healthy. This story made me realise just how much I personally take for granted with these recent advancements which weren’t available before the 1950’s.

And there was one story, connected to plastics:

Dr Ethel Bidwell ( research scientist in blood coagulation ) was working in Haemophilia research in 1950 and was helping pathologist, Professor R G Macfarlane, to devise new ways of treating haemophiliacs. She had to collect blood from the local slaughterhouse for her research and only had her Vespa to transport it. It conjures up a bit of an odd image but illustrates again how important plastics are:

I went down to the slaughterhouse on my Vespa motorbike and I came back with a large glass container. I got concerned lest I tipped off my motorbike and tipped blood on the floor. People don’t realise that plastics were only just coming in. It cost me about the equivalent of a week’s wages to buy a plastic container to put the blood in so that it wouldn’t break on the road to Oxford.

And finally there was a short witness statement which, as a very slow reader, I found really interesting ( and which inspired me to create a tiny stop frame film ), from Professor Alan Baddeley ( Director of MRC Applied Psychology Unit ):

At the Applied Psychology Unit, John Morton, among other things, used to do some research on speed-reading, at least he used to do practicals on speed reading. This would involve all the students being encouraged to bring a paperback book and to read it for x minutes, followed by a period when John would urge them to go faster and faster and faster, and demonstrate then that they could actually read a lot faster, and that there was nothing very magical about it. It was just that we tend to read slowly – it’s a habit.

Speed Reading stop frame film below…

Just  to go briefly back to what I said earlier in the post about being inspired by butterflies but in a slightly different way from Sir Cyril Clarke, here are some of the patterns I’ve created from elements of this particular post which are now silk pocket squares. I had absolutely no idea that this project was going to lead me into designing a selection of textiles, and I’ve really enjoyed the fact that my passion for aesthetics has been able to be informed by genetic research, epidemiology, early plastics and the psychology of speed reading!

Next Week I’ll be focusing on various elements of comfort within modern medical history including pain relief, native remedies and advancements into home care.

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post here my instagram posts here and some of my Pinterest inspiration for the whole project here.

You can also find out more about The Modern Biomedicine Research Group funded by The Wellcome Trust, on their website here , their Facebook page here , their YouTube Channel here and their Twitter account here.

Saturday…with The Welsh House Arrangement

April 15, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - collaborations - Spring - texture - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

Whilst I was staying at Ty Unnos with artist Sophie Abbott as part of my field trip for The History of Medical Science project I’d had an idea that I could work on an arrangement with some copper piping, and then quite wonderfully, Dorian who owns and runs these utterly beautiful welsh cottages knocked on the door bearing heather, lichen, blossom, pegs and a feather…

We then sat about chatting, stood on chairs, drank cups of tea, laughed a LOT and sort of organically let the arrangements appear…while Mrs Jones looked on ( Mrs Jones helping… )

For more information about Ty Unnos and the other cottages you should go to The Welsh House website HERE and have a look at my previous post about the house itself…it’s amazing and I massively recommend it!

You can see The Steller Story version of this post is here

Thursday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 2 )

April 13, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

This week’s instalment of the project for The History of Modern Medicine is much more of a visual essay showing a bit more of my process and how a story can inspire an image…

I’d made a plan to go on a field trip to Wales as I had read in “Witnesses to Modern Biomedicine” by Tilli Tansey ( you can read more about it in Part 1 here ) that there had been lots of population based research in South Wales started by Archie Cochrane, the renowned epidemiologist, and largely carried out or supervised by Peter Elwood ( Director of the MRC Epidemiology Research Unit in South Wales ). He and his collegues carried out research into pneumoconiosis,  glaucoma, dust diseases in flax, asbestos, steel and slate workers, with later work on iron deficiency anaemia, environmental lead, migraine, asthma, and two high-profile trials showing improved survival following a heart attack with regular use of aspirin and with consumption of a diet rich in oily fish.

I wanted to be able to capture a sense of going back in time as research had started in 1960 and the essence of Fieldwork seems to have had to change considerably over the last 50 years. My starting point was St Fagan’s near Cardiff; an open air museum which chronicles the historical lifestyle, culture and architecture of the Welsh people ( you can read my post about it here )

I had decided that I wanted to concentrate on 2 particular elements which were the research into Environmental Lead and early X-rays given to Welsh miners with potential occupational lung disease.

I took some copies of x-rays of lungs with lesions with me so that I could see how they appeared in the environment and also in the buildings. Somehow the fact that respiratory problems had crept up on, and grown, almost silently, with a community working for years in the mining industry felt very melancholy but a part I felt important to include.

I was also fascinated by the visual similarities between the capillaries in lungs and leafless trees, wattle and rib cages and the open doors of the ironworker’s houses at St Fagan’s. I thought they had echoes of lungs too; being at the centre of the buildings, like they are in the body, and like the lungs, letting in essential air. They also echoed of the old days of fieldworkers being able to knock on an open door and have a chat with locals which enabled them to discover some incredibly useful information.

So, below you will find a combination of witness statements, together with my images which have been inspired by them…

( Witness Statement by Mrs Janie Hughes: Population-based Research )

Fieldwork has changed enormously because people distrust you nowadays, whereas, perhaps even 20 years ago, working in the Rhondda, in particular, was easy because everybody left their keys in their door and you just turned the key and shouted, ‘Can I come in?’ and they would say ‘Yes’, without even knowing who you were. In the early days, I think I am right in saying this, we didn’t even write to the people and say we were coming, we just cold-called, which we are not in favour of doing at present [2000]. Years ago people knew their neighbours, they knew lots about them, they knew the people across the road, they knew the people down the road. Nowadays no one wants to tell you anything about anybody, because they are always afraid of being accused of revealing things to agencies like the DSS (Department of Social Security), and so it’s a closed shop. You can rarely get any information from neighbours these days. You cannot call at the corner shop, or the post office, which is what I used to do a lot, to learn about people’s movements, that’s out now.

( Witness statement from Dr Philip D’Arcy Hart: Population-based Research )

We worked from a schoolroom, which was lent to us and did clinical examination of the miners, X-rays, some sort of respiratory disability tests, rather crude ones I have to say in retrospect, was all we could do, and history taking. There was no X-ray set-up there and we used a mobile van, Portable X-rays Limited, which trundled round the valleys, and it is amazing what beautiful X-rays they took for the period. We confirmed by X-rays and by post mortems that coalface workers who had not worked in hard rock did have serious, disabling lesions. And they did not look like classical silicosis. So this confirmed the suspicions that had been around…We were able to do that, not by following people along, of course, but by taking people who had been for different periods at Ammanford colliery, and matching them against the lesions they showed in their X-rays.

( Witness statement from Professor Owen Wade: Population-based Research )

One of the interesting differences between the survey work I did in south Wales, and my later work in Belfast was the names. I don’t think we realised how difficult it was going to be when surveying miners in south Wales where so many men had names like Jenkins, Jones, Thomas, or Williams. Archie Cochrane solved this by ensuring that every man X-rayed was also photographed holding a board with his X-ray number and his name. When the unit returned four or five years later to re-X-ray that pit, it was possible to identify and radiograph the right Mr Jones. Of course, the miners all know each other by Jones ‘longtuff ’ or Jones ‘big nose’ or some phrase of that sort, but that wasn’t very useful to the survey team.One of the brilliant things about looking back into medical history is seeing how so much has been achieved in a relatively short space of time…the transition from a basic way of living, with no medical research and little help, to detailed investigation and a subsequent knowledge of environmental illnesses, and then offering practical solutions or choices, is really incredible. Whilst on my field trip I stayed at the most amazing traditional Welsh cottage, Ty Unnos, near Carmarthen which felt very inspirational and just the right place to create more images…( the blog post about my stay there is here )
Another branch of population based research which was carried out in Wales helped define problems occurring from Environmental Lead and this also really interested me.

( Witness Stement from Dr Peter Elwood: Population-based Research )

The MRC Epidemiology Unit conducted studies on environmental lead from 1976 to 1982 and chose three areas in Wales with different levels of traffic, from a rural area to a very heavily polluted area. The heavily polluted area was Port Talbot, where there’s a motorway, which is elevated above houses. Along this motorway we chose houses on the main road and houses with the motorway over above, and we did lead sampling in blood and lead air sampling, and confirmed that the lead levels were very, very high, and air lead levels were very high.

I was intrigued by the witness statement below about the high levels of lead in people’s blood where there was lead piping and then the subsequent drop in levels when the piping was replaced by copper pipes.

( witness statement from Dr Peter Elwood: Population-based Research )

The Welsh Office asked the MRC Epidemiology Unit to look at water lead. Some of the areas in Wales have a very acid surface water and old lead pipes. One or two studies had shown that the lead levels in the water were really quite high, higher than the WHO recommendation. We went to north Wales and did a number of surveys of water lead and blood lead, and estimated that the contribution that water was making to blood lead levels was quite substantial.

As a lover of classical history I was aware that the use of lead pipes in Roman times was extensive and I couldn’t understand why all the Roman’s hadn’t died of lead poisoning…I then discovered that, unlike today, there was a huge amount of calcium in the water during Roman times which formed a crust within the lead pipes, therefore unwittingly protecting the population from lead poisoning. I also discovered that the word ‘plumbing’ comes from the Latin word for lead ‘plumbum’ and that after the fall of Ancient Rome water supply and sanitation stagnated and even regressed for the next 1000 years!

I liked the idea of an image where copper pipes could be visible within nature; to show the beauty of a simple copper pipe which works to protect us and keep our water clean which is why I included lichen in the images which naturally only thrives in clean air.

Working on the image above then led me back to the x-ray…the images from the day before had felt quite bleak and now I felt that I wanted to breathe some new Welsh Spring life back into the lungs…
I had also been struck by the description of how beautiful the early x-rays had been so I wanted to embrace some more abstract images, making patterns from the x-ray; making them beautiful again.( Nb…I wouldn’t encourage anyone to pick or damage lichen as some are protected by law…the pieces here were found on the ground )

Next week I’ll be looking at the importance of hobbies, vocational passions…and laziness!

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post here  my instagram posts here and some of my Pinterest inspiration for the whole project here.

You can also find out more about The Modern Biomedicine Research Group funded by The Wellcome Trust, on their website here , their Facebook page here , their YouTube Channel here and their Twitter account here.

Tuesday…with The Welsh House and Ty Unnos

April 11, 2017

Filed Under : collaborations - Spring - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

When I booked to stay at Ty Unnos whilst working on The History of Medical Science project ,(Part 2 from Wales is coming up this week ) I had no idea how amzing it was going to be. Yes, the pictures on The Welsh House website were beautiful, as is The Welsh House Instagram feed, and yes, I was really excited, but there was something exceptional and magical about this cottage which I can’t quite define…

Artist Sophie Abbott was my travelling companion for the 2 day Welsh trip and we arrived at Ty Unnos in the dark ( with a bag of crisps, some soup and a couple of beers, completely forgetting that we should have got stuff in for breakfast too! ). We’d barely got out of the car when loud purring and shiny eyes led us to the front door…Mrs Jones was welcoming us to her castle… Having spent the day in awe at St Fagan’s ( you can see photos from my visit there here ) our jaws dropped as we realised we had basically walked into one of the historical buildings we had seen there…but Ty Unnos had warm floors and was so cosy and just perfect. We woke up early, as we wanted to soak in as much of the countryside and interior aesthetics as we could in one day, and thankfully it was one of those mornings with sun, dew, and a sharp cold which isn’t unpleasant; it just makes you wear a cardigan and walk around with a steaming cup of tea…very happy. I have to say at this point that Sophie and I had been hugely admiring the thatched roof which it turned out that Dorian the owner had not only constructed himself but had also foraged for the hazel and gorse!!

The cottage is a work of art, not just a simple self catering holiday let…it is a piece of lovingly and artistically created art which is also a wonderful dwelling. I didn’t want to leave Ty Unnos, in fact I actually wanted to live there…and I am in utter and almost incomprehensible admiration and awe for Dorian who has created this cottage…this little piece of Welsh magic. If you’re thinking about getting away, go here…it’s wonderful!

You can read the Steller Story version of this post here

Monday…with Windows and Walls of St Fagan’s

April 10, 2017

Filed Under : colour - Museums - Spring - texture - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

St Fagan’s was one of those accidental finds…my friend told me about it the day before I left for Wales and it was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited, and to be honest it is full to the brim of ‘Instagram Gold’!

I was exploring some creative opportunities for The History of Medical Science project ( Part 1 is here and Part 2 comes out later this week ) and I took so many photos it was ridiculous; I couldn’t stop…but here I’ve sort of honed it down to lots of the windows of St Fagan’s which I got a bit obsessed with…

Visuals below; words will just clutter things…

If you want a day out at a fantastic and inspiring museum in Wales, this is your place…St Fagan’s website here for all the details!

You can see my Steller Story version of this post here

Wednesday…with a Weekend Workshop

March 22, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - colour - Cornwall - Spring - texture - trips - workshops

This weekend I hosted a bespoke workshop in Cornwall and made sure I packed in as much creative inspiration into 2 days as I could.

I wanted to highlight how lots of different elements influence my table compositions; texture, colour, atmosphere and weather, as well as sharing some of my favourite places in the South of Cornwall.

We took in texture in Newlyn,  Mousehole and Tremenheere, colours in Penzance and nearby daffodil fields, and atmosphere in a local pub and The Leach Pottery and also managed to find time to create some compositions.

Below is a visual journey of our weekend…
Please e-mail me at 5ftinf@gmail.com if you are interested in a bespoke, private workshop.

You can see the Steller Stories album of this post here

Saturday…with The Greenwich Peninsula

March 4, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - exhibitions - London - Spring - trips

Yesterday I was invited to The Greenwich Peninsula to see the new floral art installation ’The Iris’ by Rebecca Louise Law at the NOW Gallery… The gallery itself is lovely and I was particularly taken with their mini pink cinema… Over this weekend there is also a free event called SAMPLE which is celebrating the start Spring showcasing fresh produce and modern craftsmanship with workshops and even an experimental perfume club! All these little marquees were preparing for the weekend ahead… I was also treated to cocktails and a really wonderful dinner at Craft, the restaurant directly opposite the gallery… The views are absolutely fantastic and it manages to be spacious and cosy at the same time… The restaurant is beautiful and the food, a lot of it locally sourced, is absolutely amazing! It was such a treat to visit a new area of London, let the afternoon bleed into the evening watching the sun go down over the city and wake up inspired.You can view my Steller Story version of this post, which includes video of the trip  HERE

Thursday…with a Yorkshire re-cap

February 16, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - colour - trips - Winter

This Half Term my son and my mum decided they wanted to watch films together ( as well as a couple of ‘Midsommer Murder’s’ I expect if my mum had anything to do with it!! ) for 3 days at her house in Warwickshire, which meant I was able to sneak off to Yorkshire to visit my cousin Rachel @welliesandlove … ( well we’re sort of cousins;, her Grandmother and my Grandfather were an item for years! )

Rachel’s mother sadly passed away last year which meant she has suddenly inherited her Grandmother’s boxes of vintage threads, costume jewellery and old magazines which I helped her rummage through, and we spent hours into the night looking at it and arranging it  just for the sake of it…

I also became obsessed by Rachel’s windows…particularly the round ones and now have them on my bucket list for the perfect home!

I love driving North to see friends and Yorkshire is probably my favourite part of the UK and I was able to visit a couple of other friend’s too as well as meet up with Sara Tasker from Me and Orla ( instagram @me_and_orla ) to chat about all things creative and Instagrammy for her new podcast; Hashtag Authentic, which you can listen to HERE

So, here follows my visual re-cap of a lovely few days away…
( above is Rachel’s Grandmother Louise, and both of us below with our mums and Louise circa 1986! ) ( I amused 2 small elves just before their tea time by getting them to collect items and toys in their favourite colours so I could create eye-spy images for them…) ( magazine pages from 1948…imagine what instagram lifestyle images would have looked like then! ) domestic foraging for white things with Sara Tasker after we’d recorded the podcast muted tones were replaced that evening with wine and multi coloured thread action… …which was still there in the morning! I got home to Brighton last night and this morning was inspired by my trip; Sara’s white ceramics, Rachel’s boxes of treasured bits and as always telephone boxes…