Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 3 – the Younger Memnon

This head of the pharaoh Ramesses II is one of the heaviest objects in the British Museum. It weighs 7 tons, which is the same weight as a fully grown elephant.

Ramesses II lived about a hundred years after Tutankhamun. When Ramesses II was king, he had a massive temple called the Ramesseum built in his honour. He called it ‘The Mansion of a Million Years’. On either side of the entrance stood a colossal statue of the king.

The remains of one of the two statues can still be seen outside the Ramesseum in Egypt (low down, greenish in colour, between the first and second statues in the picture above). The other one is in the British Museum, brought there three hundred years ago by a circus strongman called ‘Belzoni the Great’. The colossal head of Ramesses II was too heavy for Belzoni to lift, but he was a man of many talents and he had already invented a powerful hydraulic machine that could lift incredibly heavy objects.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

At the time, people in Britain were perfectly happy to take things from Egypt and put them in museums. Today, an increasing number of people think it’s strange and wrong that we still have these ancient Egyptian artefacts in our possession.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 2 – Ankhnesneferibra

This black coffin is covered in hieroglyphs. Imagine trying to chisel all of those tiny, intricate pictures into hard granite.

Ankhnesneferibra was the daughter of a king and was the most important priestess in all of Egypt. She held the title ‘God wife of Amun’, which is written in hieroglyphs like this:

Amun was the name of an Egyptian God, written with pictures of a feather, a board game (viewed sideways) and a zigzaggy line. You will notice Amun regularly in Ancient Egyptian inscriptions, particularly in prayers, spells and pharaoh names, like the well-known boy-king Tutankh-AMUN, for example.

Tutankhamun in hieroglyphs

The picture of the coffin above belongs to the British Museum and is reproduced here for educational purposes only © The Trustees of the British Museum

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 1 – Sennefer

This block statue of Sennefer came from a temple on the west bank of the River Nile. It is one of the most handsome block statues ever made by the Ancient Egyptians. Look how finely carved and polished Sennefer’s face and hands are.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Sennefer was the mayor of Thebes during the reign of the pharaoh Thutmose III. His name was written using just two hieroglyphs, like this:

Sennefer was buried in a stunning tomb with beautifully painted walls. If you go to Thebes in southern Egypt, you can visit it for yourself.

© UNESCO

Here is a close-up view of Sennefer’s wife presenting him with symbols of life and power. Can you spot Sennefer’s name among the hieroglyphic writing in this painting?

© UNESCO

You can see the block statue of Sennefer for yourself. It is in Room 4 of the British Museum, the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery.

Home office or writing room setup for extra tall person

When we moved into a new home last year I found myself with a writing room for the first time ever. It still feels like an absurd luxury, and I love spending my days here. Finding furniture was tricky, though. When I was researching office desks and chairs, I realized that all the desks on the market were simply too low for me. I’m 6’6 and I find it uncomfortable to sit for long periods on a normal chair at a normal desk. I briefly considered standing desks, but I worried about stability and in any case the cost was prohibitive. Eventually I found a solution that worked well. I am describing it here solely for the benefit of other tall people looking for home office solutions.

Desktop

If you’re building a desk for a super tall person, you will need to source desk legs and worktop separately. Second hand desktops are the cheapest and most environmentally friendly solution. We have SOLO near us in Croydon (UK) a not-for-profit social enterprise that stops wood going to landfill. If you don’t have a wood recycling centre near you, you can pick up a cheap second-hand desktop on ebay. If the surface is dirty or discoloured, you’ll need to spruce it up a bit. I was grateful for this video on how to stain and varnish a desktop. I’m not a very practical person, but even I was able to manage three coats of this walnut wood stain and two of this varnish.

Desk legs

FINNVARD trestles from IKEA are the perfect solution for tall people wanting a custom-sized desk. They have seven holes, so you can mount your desktop at the height that suits you. The standard ground clearance for a normal desk is more or less 760mm. The holes in the FINNVARD trestles, by contrast, allow ground clearance of 738mm, 771mm, 804mm, 837mm, 870mm, 903mm and 936mm (I couldn’t find this information anywhere online but I’ve measured them myself just now because that info would have been invaluable to me when I was trying to work out how to buy a desk that would fit me). I bought two FINNVARD trestles second-hand on ebay. I painted them hague blue, which I now regret. I think they would look nicer if I had left them white. My desktop sits on the third lowest setting, which means that the ground clearance is 804mm and the writing surface itself is at 830mm (83cm).

Keyboard tray

For comfortable typing I use a keyboard tray mounted underneath the desk. I chose this Flexispot sliding tray. It’s 66cm wide, which is enough for a full-sized keyboard and a large, ergonomic mouse. It feels good and sturdy.

Chair

If you are tall and work at a desk all day, don’t skimp on a good chair. I paid five times more for the chair than I did for the rest of the setup combined, but it’s worth it to avoid debilitating back pain.

I rang Posturesmart and a very friendly and thorough salesperson asked me to take three measurements while sitting in a normal chair: ground to inside knee, inside knee to back, and seat to shoulder blades. Two days later, she recommended a couple of custom-built chairs that would fit me. I went for the Bolam XHB and it suits me ever so well. I can sit for hours without discomfort.

I suspect this post was eighteen months too late for most people suddenly making the switch from office working to home working, but I hope it helps someone out there. We tall blighters must stick together and help each other out where we can.

Now, back to writing!

Virtual Author Visits

I am an award-winning author with over twenty published books for children and teens. I enjoy giving talks and creative writing workshops in schools, and am now able to offer these as online sessions, via Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

  • Engaging, interactive workshops for young people
  • Good knowledge of Zoom and Microsoft Teams
  • 100 Mbps wired ethernet connection – no lag or pixellation

Years 1-2: African picture books

I read my picture book DON’T SPILL THE MILK, accompanied by hi-res illustrations onscreen (Christopher Corr), and then help the class to produce ideas for a sequel, DON’T DROP THE MANGO!

Years 3-4: Creating interesting characters for your stories

Using photographs of children from around the world as a springboard, I lead the class through the process of coming up with intriguing and believable story characters.

Years 5-6: ‘Limited third person’ point of view

Using examples from my book SURVIVOR TITANIC, I introduce the advanced technique of ‘limited third person’ storytelling and give students opportunities to experiment with it themselves.

I also offer thriller-writing or travel-writing workshops for secondary level students.

Read testimonials about my in-person school visits.

For more information, or to make a booking, email Yvonne at Authors Abroad yvonne@caboodlebooks.co.uk

I look forward to joining your class from afar, wherever in the world you may be!

Dear teachers

I understand that your capacity to invite visitors into your school is much reduced this term, and maybe further ahead as well. All the same, I want to let you know that I’m still available for visits, either real or virtual. Happy to engage with your class via Zoom/Teams if need be.

Drop me a line any time to discuss possibilities, or email Yvonne at Authors Abroad.

Warm wishes,

Steve

PS The display of Titanic memorabilia above was in Year 6 at Freeland C of E Primary School in Oxfordshire – just one of many amazing Titanic displays I’ve seen in your classrooms over the last few years.

Drawing lockdown

Lockdown is not good for writing. For one thing, I can only write when I’m relaxed. For another, I am only productive if I get uninterrupted time to feel my way into a writing session.

Research and editing seem to use a different part of the brain. I’ve done some non-fiction research and various Hilda edits since the start of lockdown and they’ve been straightforward enough. But first draft fiction? Forget it.

I get grumpy when I’m not doing anything creative, so I’ve turned to drawing instead. I’m never going to be an author-illustrator, but I’ve started messing around with a dip pen and a bottle of ink, and am enjoying it just as much as I used to when I was a boy.

So here goes: a cartoon chronicle of lockdown:

Lockdown Block
Hope
Homeschool
Joe Wicks for Seniors
Goldilocks

Take a break