How many films and TV programmes did you watch growing up? How many times did you wonder about how far we, as humans, could push the bounds of technology? Did you think that one day C3PO, R2D2 and the T-800 would walk among us, a reality no longer consigned to the realms of science fiction? Well the latest exhibition at the Science Museum showcases just where we’ve got to so far on that quest for artificial intelligence in human form.

I bought Phil tickets to the Robots exhibition for his birthday, and we headed over to the Science Museum in South Kensington last Saturday to check it out. I have to admit, I didn’t read as much of the information about it as I normally would, because I was so blown away by the actual robots themselves. So this may be a little more photo-heavy than most of my posts, but if you’ve read anything I’ve written online you’ll know that I always write too much, so that’s probably not a bad thing!

The exhibition started off with automatons, the original name for mechanical devices made in imitation of human beings. There was a lot of clockwork, a host of mechanical limbs, and even a clockwork spider, which I thought was genius!

Then we moved on to what you might describe as more stereotypical robots. These were huge, beyond life-size!

We also came face to…metal?…with the T-800 from the Terminator films…

…And we got to relive our childhood through some of the robots on display! These two Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots took me right back to Toy Story 2.

I was fascinated by Maria. She starred in a film called Metropolis, released in 1927. Possibly the first robot film, it came about only 7 years after the term ‘robot’ was first coined from the Czech words for ‘forced labour’. Cheery, no?

The Telenoid may look like some kind of strange starfish, but its purpose is for remote hugging during things like Skyp calls. Remember The Big Bang Theory episode where Howard and Raj try to persuade Leonard to use a remote kissing device with robotic lips? Well it’s something similar to that! You hug the Telenoid and the person at the other end hugs theirs, and you get the sensations of being hugged through that. A nice sentiment, but utterly surreal!As you can see from the pics, there is a heavy emphasis on trying to make robots as human as possible. Which crosses all kind of lines when they look as lifelike as the baby at the top of the page, the girl above, or as creepy as those two children. Which, by the way, are exactly the sort of thing that horror films are made of…

Maybe it’s some kind of God complex in us, wanting to be able to make by hand something which seems so similar to us. Yet I also I think something in our psyche still stops us from wanting robots to look exactly like humans, that sense that there is something very wrong in something which looks like us and can act like us, but is nothing more than a machine, all metal and plastic and electronics.

I was astounded by some of thee innovations which went into these robots were – they could play trumpets, operate machinery, and work in partnership with a human being, sensing what they were doing and helping to construct items together. Some were more aimed at entertainment, but a lot of them were created with the aim of making our lives easier and more technologically advanced.

It’s a bit unnerving to think of all the things we have taught and programmed robots to do, and what we may develop in the years to come. Perhaps those God complexes, or the drive to create more artificial intelligent life – will be something we grow to regret. But while the sentient robot helpers – or menacing robot armies – of the future remain a work of science fiction, it’s fascinating to explore this exhibition which documents our progress so far.

Robots runs until 3rd September at the Science Museum.

“We could be heroes, just for one day” – David Bowie

Chances are that growing up you might just have been aware of the world of superheroes. From Superman to Batman to Wonder Woman, heroes are all around us. They inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves, and they encourage us to dream and reach beyond everything we thought possible.

You may have also spent many hours as a child (pre-computers) playing with Lego, constructing your own little worlds out of tiny, rainbow bricks. And now a new exhibition has landed in London which combines the best of both worlds. It is The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes. I took the boyfriend for one of his Christmas presents, and we had such a great time that I just had to show you my photos from the day.

Fun fact: the site where the exhibition is currently running (Doon Street car park, at the back of the South Bank) is where I went to a freshers fair nearly 8 years ago. You have no idea how old that makes me feel…

Now, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on superheroes (I still get DC and Marvel mixed up), but Phil is quite the superhero nerd, and we both loved the way that these models had been created. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you may remember that I visited the artist, Nathan Sawaya’s, first Art of the Brick exhibition when it came to London in 2014. I thought that was impressive, but the DC superheroes edition even exceeded that in brilliance.

As well as the sheer level of meticulous detail involved in creating these masterpieces, I loved the thought process behind each gallery and creation. This one of Superman with wings was one of my stand-out favourites. Titled ‘Angel’, Nathan Sawaya had written next to it that he gave Superman wings because, as a saviour of mankind, a lot of his work has angelic overtones. He also posed the question of whether superheroes could be modern day gods? Now, as we all know, no superhero is perfect. But then the ancient Greek gods were far from perfect either. They were selfish and angry and proud and fell foul of every sin we mere mortals are subject to. And that seems pretty relevant to the struggle faced by superheroes too.

Speaking of struggle, no one struggled more than the villains of the comic book world. I found this piece (The Killing Joke), the cover art for a comic depicting the backstory of the Joker, all at once disturbing, morbidly fascinating, and desperately tragic too.

Then there’s Aquaman…I’m led to believe from Phil and extensive watching of The Big Bang Theory that he’s pretty much the butt of every superhero joke out there. Sad times for Aquaman. Nice rubber duck though…

I thought this exhibition was a work of absolute genius. The artworks were fantastic, I loved the colours and the vibrancy and the sheer detail which went into every single piece. I could have included so many more photos too! I really liked the addition of Nathan Sawaya’s thoughts on each piece, what inspired him to create it and some of the logistics behind it (hint: lots of wiring!) I also loved the many and varied quotes scattered throughout by the late Joseph Campbell, whose books about mythology and heroes I desperately need to read!

Alongside a sense of awe, I left this feeling inspired. Superheroes help you remember how it felt to be young, with a world of infinite possibilities stretching out before you. In this difficult world it can seem hard to keep hold of your dreams and aspirations under the weight of our responsibilities and struggles. But the hour or two we spent here helped to recapture that sense of excitement at the world, and the desire to achieve whatever you set your mind to. And I hope it helps all who visit find the hidden hero inside themselves.

Why do we fall?

So we can learn to pick ourselves up…

One of the things you may not know about me is that I am a BA History graduate. I studied at King’s College London (KCL for life), and focused  lot of my areas of study on the period historians call ‘Early Modern’ and which everyone else calls ‘Tudors and Stuarts’. I have always loved this era (1500-1750) because it was one of the most eventful in British history (and European, but I focused on the UK for my studies). From the glamour and drama of the turbulent Tudor family to the unification of England and Scotland under James I; the witch trials, plague, fire and civil war: this era is undeniably one of the most exciting you could ever study!

Back to the present day and my boyfriend and I were surfing Trip Advisor for ideas for day trips with his dad on his recent visit to us. We hit upon Hampton Court, and a few days later we drove into the grounds of this most iconic of royal palaces.

As per, I took about a billion photos of the gorgeous buildings and grounds. I also tried to recall all the facts and stories I could remember from my course, with limited success! Luckily there was plenty of information available in the rooms we visited, and one of the lovely staff members (stuck out on freezing cold courtyard duty) told me all about the beautiful astronomical clock on one of the palace’s outer walls. For example, it was designed by German Nicholas Cratzer, was installed in 1540, and shows not only the hour, day and month, but also the phases of the moon, signs of the zodiac, and even the time of high tide at London Bridge!

We kicked off our visit in the kitchens, taking comfort from the warmth of a massive fire before moving onto the apartments, which told the story of Henry VIII as a young man. From your school history lessons, you may remember Henry as an overweight tyrant with a penchant for weddings and beheading those who displeased him. Well the young man couldn’t be more different.

Married to Catherine of Aragon for nearly 20 years, Henry was athletic and dynamic, a keen jouster and a popular choice for king after his older brother Arthur (Catherine’s first husband) died. But despite giving birth to six children, only one survived, and she and Henry could not produce that longed-for son. It was this which set in motion events which would lead to his divorce, the division of the church and his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Quick history lesson for anyone who doesn’t know how to remember Henry’s wives and children – he was married six times and had three children who lived to adulthood. In order:

1 – Catherine of Aragon: Spanish Catholic, gave him his eldest daughter Mary. Divorced and exiled, she never saw her daughter again, and is believed to have died of cancer.

2 – Anne Boleyn: Henry split the English church from Rome and risked excommunication to marry spirited Anne. She gave him his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, but was later executed on charges of witchcraft and adultery.

3 – Jane Seymour: Henry apparently claimed Jane was the only wife he ever loved. She also gave him his only surviving son, Edward. Go figure…

4 – Anne of Cleves: Swiftly divorced when Henry realised that her portrait was not quite true to life. Like a Tinder wedding, if you will…

5 – Katherine Howard: It is said that her ghost haunts Hampton Court and runs screaming through the corridors, which is supposedly what she did the night before her execution for adultery…

6 – Katherine Parr: The only wife to outlive Henry, which is an achievement in itself!

If you don’t know this little list by rote and you were a British schoolchild, the chances are at some point you learnt the macabre song ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’. Have a listen out for the creepy disembodied voice whispering it on one of the palace staircases to really freak you out…

One of my favourite parts of Hampton Court will always be the grounds. Being February the gardens weren’t at their best when we visited, but the topiary, statues, maze and deer still looked pretty impressive to us! I last visited Hampton Court nearly 5 years ago with uni friends in a much-belated birthday trip. We spent a lot of time pratting around the grounds in the sunshine, so I’ll add in a few highlights from that visit to make you smile and show the gardens off to their sunniest advantage…

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since ^these^ photos were taken! I am now closer to 30 than I am to being a student, which is a scary thought! All the photo credit goes to the lovely Emilie, who is a photography genius, and the only person who could convince us to act like High School Musical extras in public…

Hampton Court is one of six venues in the UK with the title of historic royal palace (funnily enough, Buckingham Palace is not included). Queen Victoria was the first monarch to open Hampton Court to the public for the first time, and it has been in high demand ever since. There’s an ice rink at Christmas, a flower show following on from Chelsea every July, and plenty of events throughout the year celebrating its impressive history. If you’re not a tourist visiting London it might seem miles away from the capital, as it is technically in Surrey and not accessible by Tube. But if you’re a history buff don’t let that put you off: it’s well worth the trip to this pretty little corner of the world to immerse yourself in the past.

My boyfriend is a bit of a Star Wars nerd. When I say a bit, I mean one lightsaber away from Luke Skywalker himself. Which is brilliant for buying him presents, as thanks to George Lucas you can literally never run out of Star Wars-themed gifts…This Christmas also happened to tie in with the arrival of the new Star Wars Identities exhibition at the O2, so it was a no-brainer! Therefore last week we found ourselves heading over to Greenwich on a chilly January morning and stepping into another world…

I knew literally nothing about this exhibition beforehand other than the fact that it houses a lot of props and costumes from the three original and three prequel films. Now I like the original Star Wars films but I don’t know a great deal about the series and haven’t seen the prequels, so my knowledge tends to come from other people (and The Big Bang Theory…) But even I found this exhibition fascinating, with iconic costumes which everyone will know and get a little bit starstruck over!

As well as being a prop and costume exhibition, Star Wars Identities is based around the concept of ‘What forces shape you?’, which I thought was quite an original twist. You’re given a headset on entering, and this allows you to tune in and out of audio clips dotted around the exhibition about what choices and forces shape the characters throughout the film series, and offers a view on the Nature vs Nurture debate too.

We were also given wristbands, and at ten different stations throughout the exhibition you could tap in and make choices about what type of character in the Star Wars universe you wanted to be. You could decide what species you wanted to be (human, wookie, ewok, etc), your upbringing, occupation, and at the end you could touch your wristband to the final station and have your character revealed! You can also then have a character profile emailed to you summarising everything from your journey around the exhibition. I loved this element, I thought it was so creative, and it really helped to immerse me in this world!

So this ^^ was my character. I had to Google the species I chose (which I picked purely on the basis of how cool they looked and the ‘head tails’ or lekku), which is Togruta. I chose to be a Jedi as well, and the other icons behind me relate to other choices I made throughout the exhibition. Apparently I identify most with Princess Leia (which is lovely but a little poignant with the recent sad news about Carrie Fisher), and my boyfriend identified most with Han Solo, which made me smile. Match made in heaven, right? Or at least in a galaxy far, far away…

So in short, you need to take any Star Wars fans in your life to this exhibition if you can. They can create their own Star Wars character, come within breathing distance of some truly iconic costumes from the films, and geek out surrounded by fellow nerds. We heard one man arguing with his son for about five minutes about one of the types of plane on display…that’s some dedication that you’d be willing to argue with your child in public about it…

Grab yourself a lightsaber and get yourself to Greenwich, young Padawan…

Last month we took an overnight trip away to one of my favourite towns: that seaside favourite of Brighton. I have loved Brighton for years; I first remember visiting with my family one hot summer’s day many years ago, but since then it has mainly been a haunt of mine and Anna’s. We have spent many hours wandering The Lanes and seafront and pier, and I can attest to the fact that Brighton is always windy and always cold. I have never been to Brighton and NOT been freezing cold in recent memory!

On this occasion we stayed in a cosy little attic room at the top of Drake’s Hotel on the seafront. We were told on checking in that we could climb out of our window onto a little balcony created by the roof below us, which I did pretty much as soon as the attendant closed the door! I scrambled out onto our little balcony a lot during the trip – the child in me loves a good adventure!

The view was unreal – I have always loved watching the water, whether it be the river or the sea, and we were spoilt with our unparalleled view of the ocean. The wind whipped around us but the sun shone, and we soon headed out to explore the town.

The Snowdogs were in residence when we visited Brighton. Unfortunately we weren’t there long enough to track them all down, but we gave it a good shot on our way around the town…

As the afternoon began to draw in and dusk began to fall, we headed for the pier. It was an impressive sight as we strolled along the beach – the clouds were gathering overhead and the sea was raging, as a storm brewed right before our eyes. I have never seen the sea like that on all my visits, so wildly beautiful and untameable and honestly a little bit terrifying.

The pier was so dark as we trode the familiar boards that we couldn’t see through the gaps in the wood to the turbulent sea below. And at the end of the pier a truly eerie sight awaited us.

Slightly later than intended we hiked out into the narrow, hilly streets of The Lanes in search of Mexican food. Luckily, La Choza was still open when we arrived. If you’ve never been there, you genuinely couldn’t miss it – it was like a psychedelic shrine! The restaurant is small (you will sit in very close proximity with your neighbours), and the walls are painted in an array of bright, jewel-tone colours. The shelves all around us were crammed with a variety of colourful nicknacks, from skulls to antlers to figurines. There was even a frieze of a glittery Last Supper on one of the walls!

The food was as immense as the colour scheme. Having started with nachos I then had a divine chorizo burrito, which was utterly delicious! I was so full by the end of it, but I battled on because it was just too nice to leave. I did roll back down the hill to the seafront and our hotel though!

The following morning we opened the curtains to this tranquil view, which couldn’t have been more different from what we witnessed the night before. The sea was a milky, minty green, and it was so peaceful and calm that I took about a billion photos from the balcony while we were getting ready!

We strolled along the seafront, taking in a view of the dramatic, skeletal remains of the West Pier. It has never been replaced since burning down in 2003, though there have been talks of doing so. I personally quite like its apocalyptic quality, though this could have just been the mood I was in following on from the weather the night before!

We ate at a tiny café on the corner a steep hike up from the seafront. Serving decent portions of a variety of breakfasts at a reasonable price, it gave us some much needed refuelling ready to tackle the hills ahead. Brighton is not the one for easy walking. I have never worn heels to Brighton and I do not intend to start any time soon – I like my ankles unbroken…

We wandered on through Montpellier…

…Down to The Lanes. I love a good piece of graffiti, and we were spoilt for choice in Brighton! I particularly loved this pub wall……And this eclectic mix!

We stopped for coffee and then wandered on. I loved the fact that we had such a leisurely, relaxed day, with nothing much to do beyond wander, eat, drink, and chat. We visited Snooper’s Paradise (such a mishmash of creepy things, very much in the apocalyptic horror movie vein we were running on that visit!)

Reading back it sounds a bit like I’ve painted Brighton in some sort of dire light, what with all the horror film references! I actually really enjoyed seeing it in that way though – it put a brand new spin on a town I have visited so often that I thought it couldn’t surprise me anymore. Brighton will always be one of my favourite places, and one of my favourite seaside towns, and I cannot wait to visit it again. I just hope it will be warmer next time!