Should you want to visit the coast but stay indoors out of the sunshine why not take a trip to a seaside museum? Anne Ward, author of the Nothing to See Here blog and book, offers a suggestion.

The Musgrave Collection in Eastbourne is a true one-off, just like its owner, 94 year old George Musgrave. Who is this man and why does he have his own museum, you say? Well, it’s a long story.

To start at the very beginning, the first exhibit is dedicated to The Dad I Never Knew – George’s father who died in WWI when George was only two years old. Next, fast forward to the 1950s with display cases full of plastic moulds, scenery and miniscule model figures that George designed for commercial toy manufacturers in the 50s and 60s. The “Swoppets” that he designed for Herald Miniatures are fabulous things – tiny cowboys and Indians run amok along the shelves, so animated in appearance that I bet they come alive at night and continue their battles. The original models, painstakingly created from wire and Plasticine show that this is a man with a creative mind, a steady hand and an eye for detail.

Diorama

After this, in a bit of a curatorial non-sequitur, are miscellaneous paintings of people, animals and Patcham Windmill near Brighton where George lived and exhibited until it was subject to a compulsory purchase order. Next, stretching right to the back of the gallery are forty paintings of St Paul – a personal project that took up decades of his life and many research trips to the Middle East and beyond.

I wasn’t even halfway round at this point but already had the measure of the Musgrave Collection – expect the unexpected. Round the next corner there it was – some portraits of famous figures like Michael Grade and Roy Castle and an amazingly detailed, very clever diorama illustrating the four seasons, beside some display cases showing the history of communication and an impressive collection of Roman coins. As a final piece de resistance, his “Speck of Dust” painting (top), completed at the age of 91 shows the whole history of his colourful life in one go. Even here there are more surprises like his invention of the single yellow line, Olympic swim training and teaching in Africa. It’s a life that has spanned genres, continents and centuries. Blimey.

Michael Grade

The grandest exhibit, missing on the day I visited is the artist himself, who appears in the museum a few days each week to give visitors a guided tour (although after seeing his work I felt like I knew him already). At 94 he is still active and a new painting created especially for the Eastbourne Festival is proudly on show.

There are grander museums in the world (almost all of them, in fact) but what The Musgrave Collection lacks in big name artefacts, air-conditioned galleries and interactive exhibits it makes up for in sheer charm and chutzpah. The man-hours that went into this are staggering. If every 94 year-old made a museum of their life I imagine it would be pretty interesting but few could match George Musgrave for imagination and determination. He’s got his own 15 minutes of fame here. If there is ever a rating scale for Nothing-To-See-Here-ness it will be called the Musgrave in his honour.

[GARD]

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Henry accidentally invents a new drink..

One of the drawbacks of having a wife who doesn’t drink very much is that it often means I drink more. Brought up by thrifty parents and taught at school to always finish what was on my plate, I hate to see things go to waste.  I’ve now got to an age where one glass over my usual two to three glasses can lead to either snoring or the dreaded waking up at 3am sick with worry about the mortgage or the price of cheese. So on one hand I have my frugal Scottish side and, let’s face it, my in-built love of booze screaming drink it and on the other my love of a good night’s sleep and marital harmony telling me not to.

Recently I was faced with a conundrum. We were going on holiday the next day and I’d picked up some Turkish food for supper. We had just under 1/2 a bottle of rose in the fridge (Chateau Barthes Bandol Rose, £9.99 at Majestic and really quite nice), not nearly enough to go with spicy grilled lamb for two. So I opened a bottle of red (Blind Spot GSM £7.50 The Wine Society.) Problem solved but after demolishing nearly half of the red I realised that I had to stop or they’d either be snoring, sleeplessness or even a hangover, none of them good when you have to get up at 5am to catch a flight. I’d have to let the wine go to waste unless of course i could preserve it some way.

Then I had a moment of inspiration/ light drunkenness, I popped the wine in the freezer and off we went to France. On our return I defrosted the bottle  curious as to how it would taste. It would have been interesting (though not very) to try the previously frozen wine against a fresh bottle but instead I had to rely on memory. It still tasted good but it was lighter, fruitier and simpler. A moderately serious wine had been turned into something frivolous and rather delicious. All went well until the last glass because at the bottom of the bottle was a purple sludge. That sludge was the seriousness that had been removed during the freezing process. I had inadvertently created Ice Wine.

Do you remember the craze for Ice Beer in the mid nineties? There was a lot of guff about smoothness and ultimate refreshment but actually the purpose of the ice process was to remove flavour from the beer. Tiny particles that contained beery tastes – yeast, hops etc. – were frozen and filtered out of the beer. The brewers had created something for those who found Sol a little too characterful. I think the big wine companies are missing a trick here. Many drinkers love bland products; many commercial wines are already chilled and filtered heavily. Instead of keeping it quiet, they should be shouting it from the treetops: Pinot Grigio Ice! Cava Ice! Sauvignon Blanc Ice! Come on marketing people, wake up!

Henry Jeffreys is the wine columnist for The Lady magazine and blogs at worldofbooze.wordpress.com. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Empire of Booze.

 

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