Thursday, 12 March 2009

Taxidermy – the art of a devoted animal lover

It was a Harry Potter moment. Standing alone in Douglas Coates's shop in Llangollen, North Wales, I felt compelled to stroke the plumage of an achingly beautiful snowy owl.

Watching me all the while was the beady eye of a 13lbs 12oz brown trout, apparently a British record.

Click here to see more pictures

At my feet was a fox curled up as if asleep, unperturbed by a large, prowling mountain lion picking its way across a mountain outcrop, while a badger went about its business untroubled by either of them.

Douglas Coates, you see, is a professional taxidermist and a more fascinating man, passionate about natural history, collecting, acquiring knowledge and his love of Mother Nature and her creatures, I have yet to meet.

I admit, I thought long and hard about this week's topic because I knew I would be writing about a sensitive subject. Douglas Coates treats his art with the utmost sensitivity.

Despite owning a large number of mounted and preserved wild animals, both pieces for sale

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Monday, 9 March 2009

Happy birthday, dear Barbie

She has long blonde hair, slim waist, narrow hips and not a sign of a wrinkle, even at  50.

Parties will be taking place across the world today to mark Barbie’s 50th birthday  the occasion, and the world's first store dedicated to the doll has been opened in Shanghai.

Her dolls are now collectors’ items, a 1959 model was sold for $27,450 at an auction in 2006.

More than one billion dolls have been sold since her inception, and according to makers, Mattel, 90% of American girls aged between three and 10 own at least one.

Read how Barbie came into being

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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Precious pots raised from the deep

There are two Vietnamese blue and white pots in our house, a bowl and a plate, decorated respectively with fantastical fishes and dragons. We purchased them from a street vendor on an unforgettable holiday and we’ve treasured them ever since.

Click here to see a slideshow of the Ca Mau porcelain

Brand new “antiques” they might be, but no matter. Ironically enough, in the same street was a tailor who made the Business Manager (Mrs P) a silk dress. While she was being measured up and fitted out, I was taken to a backroom to see the owner’s collection of real Vietnamese antiques.

The tailor’s wife explained that the pottery had been brought to the shop by fishermen who

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