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I had a lovely, low-key  Christmas Day with my  sister, her partner and our parents , and got some lovely gifts, including the new, illustrated versions of 'American Gods' and 'Anansi Boys'.
Also aquired some fancy fruity gin, and LOTS of chocolates!
More relatives today and tomorrow, and then some time with some old friends.
I hope your holiday season is full of love and happiness.
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Happily I now have some time off work, and while I've not booked a formal holiday, I had arranged to visit my parents (all planned before their emergency visit to me to hold my hand when I came out of hospital)

It's been very pleasant.

The weather has been changeable, but when you are mostly just relaxing and hanging out that isn't a major issue.

My mum and I went shopping and found a couple of pairs of shoes and some shirts,  at the local outlet 'village', which was good. (I don't enjoy shopping, so getting my mum to come with me, and finding stuff which is both suitable and reduced, is a big plus for me!)

Then we met up with my aunt and uncle, and my 2nd cousin who is visiting them while she gets over  a fall, and spent an evening with them, with a meal out at a local thai restaurant. Which was very nice.

We then had a full day when the weather was supposed to be good, so we went out for the day to visit Hartland Abbey, which is about an hour's drive from my parent's house,on the coast.

The original abbey has (apart from a few walls and doorways in the basement) mostly gone, but there is a rather nice house, some walled gardens, and a pleasant walk through the woods to the coast.

The place was originally an Abbey, founded in 1157. It was reportedly the last Abbey in England to be dissolved by Henry VIII, and on dissolution he gave the Abbey to one William Abbot, his sergeant of the wine cellar at Hampton Court. The house has never been sold, since, it has always passed down within the same family (several times through marriage in the female line, hence the current occupants are  called Stucley, not Abbot!)

Hartland Abbey

Much of the house is relatively modern, but rather nice for all that!

We started by walking from the house down to the sea (about 1 mile). The walk was a pleasant one, gently down hill and mostly through woods.

At the end, there is a cottage (Blackpool Mill Cottage) which looks oddly familiar....

It was used as Barton Cottage in the BBCs adaptation of 'Sense and Sensibility', and more recently featured in 'The Night Manager'.  There was however however no sign of Jonathan Pine / Tom Hiddleston or of Mr Willoughby!

Just beyond the cottage is a tiny cliff and steps down to a small, pebbly beach.

We enjoyed sitting in the sunshine looking out over the sea while we ate our picnic lunch, and did go down onto the beach on order to look at the sea properly (I never feel I have been to the sea properly unless I am close enough to be able to paddle should I feel the urge to do so!)

We then walked back up to go round the house. They don't allow photos inside, but it is quite nice, and obviously still lived in (In the library, there are lots of lovely leather bound books and comfortable-looking chairs, and there is also a large TV and a practical looking drinks tray!).

Down in the basement there are several small exhibitions - one about the 17th C Stukeley who was an antiquarian and who studied the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury (and sought to prevent their destruction) and others about various martial Stucleys and Stukeleys, and a very small one devoted to the various times when the house, grounds or estate have been used as locations for film and television.

As well as 'Sense and Sensibility' and 'The Night Manager' they have had visits from 'Top Gear' (dropping caravan over the cliffs) and filming for 'The Shell Seekers', and early version of 'Treasure Island' and  others.

We finished our visit with another short walk to the walled gardens -  a mixture of flower and kitchen gardens.

I think that the flower gardens were perhaps past their best , but still very nice - lots of fuchsias, and lots of bees and butterflies - I counted 4 different varieties of bumble bee on one plant!

We finished up by driving a little further down the coast to Hartland Quay.There is no longer a quay there, but there are some rather nice views! (and a pub, which we didn't go into!)

It was all very pleasant, and I was particularly pleased that I was able to walk to the sea and back, and to and around the gardens, without feeling completely shattered, so I am obviously very nearly back to normal, now!

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It's been a while, hasn't it?

There have been a lot of political things going on, which I've not blogged about, partly because that's not what this blog has been about, and partly because "Oh Fuck" isn't really the basis for a whole blog.

So, not blogging about that.

What can I talk about?

The bees and having their ups and downs. I had to feed them (with sugar syrup) because it was so cold and wet and there is the 'June Gap' when there is less pollen available. And I was dead pleased with myself for having spotted that they were getting low on stores, and choosing to feed them, before a general warning was sent out by the BBKA, which made me feel I was getting something right!

However,it seems I may have lost my queen - I have done a couple of hive inspections and found no eggs or larvae, and I have not seen her (but then she can be tricky to spot at the best of times)

I got a (much) more experienced beekeeper to come and have a look, and he thinks I may have a new queen (which means I need to be patient, to allow time for her to mate, and start laying,which could take 2-3 weeks). He has recommended checking again after a week, and has said that he will be able to give me a test frame (a bit of comb with eggs and young larvae in it) which would allow the bees to build a Queen cell and turn one of the eggs into a new queen if necessary.

So, fingers crossed...

In other news, I had a nice family meet up - both of my parents turned 70 earlier this year so we (their 4 children) wanted to take them out to celebrate, which we did, and very nice it was too!

Both the meal, and catching up with all my siblings and their partners, worked out well.

The restaurant we went to was in Cheltenham, and is in an old, art-deco style former cinema, which makes for a rather nice setting for a celebratory meal.

In fact, although I didn't realise it beforehand, it is the restaurant used in filming 'Sherlock', where Watson proposed to Mary.

But even without Sherlock, it was a good day!

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A bit of a belated blog, as I've been under the weather since I returned home, but I'm starting to feel more human again now!

We had a 4 day weekend for Easter, and I decided I needed a relaxing time, so I spent the weekend in Devon, at my parents' home.

It didn't start too well, as apparently the entire population of Britain decided to spend the long weekend in Devon, so the drive down was slow, dark and windy, finishing with following a very nervous caravan-driver, who did't get above 25 mph.!

However, once I arrived,things improved. Living alone as I do, it is always nice to be a guest and to have someone else doing the cooking!

Friday was forecast to have the best weather of the long weekend, so we decided to make the most of it.

We went to Heddon Valley, and took a 6 mile circular walk to Woody Bay, where the outward leg is mainly along the coast, with spectacular views, and the return leg slightly inland, among woods and gorse.

It was a beautiful bright, sunny day. In fact, so sunny that we even spotted a rather lovely little lizard.

(I assume it is a Common Lizard, as apparently the only other sort you get in this country are Sand Lizards, which are extremely rare, so it's unlikely to be one of them!)

The trees were still mainly bare, but looked wonderful in the sunshine!

And we felt we had earned the ice creams we indulged in at the end of the walk!

On the way home we did a detour to Coombe Martin in order for me to go and look at the sea close up (I decided not to paddle. It was a sunny day, but it's still only March!)

Saturday was extremely wet, so we stayed home, and indulged in the traditional family pastime of being sociable by all sitting silently in the same room while we read! And eating, obviously.

Sunday was  supposed to be wet with sunny intervals, but turned out instead to be sunny with showers, so we were able to go out again - this time to Baggy Point.

Although it wasn't as wet as predicted, it was *very* windy

It's a shame we hadn't thought to bring a kite!

We started with a steep climb up the hill, then a walk along the cliff path. The wind meant that the waves were big, and even up on the cliff there was lots of salty spray.

And, of course, at the point when we were furthest from the car (or indeed any other sort of shelter!) the sky turned grey and the heavens opened.

The rain was icy cold and this was the point at which I realised that *my* waterproofs were still in the back of *my* car, back at the house... So I got rather damp. But we huddled in a slightly sheltered dip in the ground and ate mini easter eggs until the worst of the rain passed. And then walked back briskly enough to stay warm and start to dry off!

Then, after a quick picnic in the car, looking out over the sea (except for when we had another shower, when it felt more like being under the sea, watching the water sleet down the windows) we walked down to the shore for a short stroll along the beach, which was looking beautiful, particularly when the sun came out.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I had an equally slow journey home on Monday. (And then immediately came down with a nasty bug, which rather took the shine off the following week, but perhaps it would have been worse had I not just had such a relaxing weekend!

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The house is feeling surprisingly quiet and empty this afternoon, as my Christmas guests have departed, and so after a week, it's back to being just me and the cats!

But it has been lovely!

My parents arrived on Wednesday, after I finished work, and so were here to help me put the tree and other decorations up on Christmas Eve.

We had a very civilised, relaxed day on Christmas Day itself, with lots of nice gifts (including several books I wanted! ) Which was delightful!

Then a couple of days after Christmas we went to see my younger sister and her partner, and our brother and his girlfriend, and one of my aunts, and my uncle,and one of their sons, all also came, so we enjoyed a pub lunch (albeit with somewhat hit-and-miss service) and lots of catching up.And some more gifts.

Then yesterday, my sister and brother-in-law, her in-laws and step-daughter (and dog) all came over for lunch, so all in all, I got to see my entire immediate family over the holidays.

I have a couple more days off work, and am going to London to the theatre at the weekend, before heading back to work on Monday.

I am planning, therefore, to be extremely lazy for the next day or two, in the hope of being well-rested before returning to work.

I'm lucky that, at least so far, we have escaped the worst of the storms and floods. It's been very wet and windy, and my back fence has collapsed,which is annoying, but the house remains warm and dry. (The fence was already in a bad way, but I was hoping it would last another few months until I could get it replaced at the same time as the other work I want to have done in the garden.) However, a fallen fence is nothing compared with what people in York and other parts of the country have been suffering!

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I have had some time off, and while I didn't go away on holiday, per se, I did go down to Devon and spent several days at my parents' house.

On one day, when it stopped raining, I went down to Woolacombe and to Barracane Bay.

The sea was flat as a pancake (which didn't stop some hopeful surfers from going in!) and from time to time the sun came out, briefly.

I was able to go for a short walk and enjoyed a picnic sitting on the cliff overlooking the bay. It was a very pleasant, restful day.

My parents came home on Monday, and as it was a grey and drizzly day I wasn't tempted out, so instead I stayed home, and baked, and made dinner, and read.

It was good to catch up with my parents, and we decided, a day or two later, to go to Exmoor Zoo,which is just down the road, and which they'd never visited!

It is small, for a zoo, but seems well kept, and the animals seem content. They have 3 cheetahs, who were fed during our visit.

They also have some penguins, and pelicans (and ducks and seagulls, but I think those are simply opportunistic and not part of the zoo's own complement!

And otters. I do love the otters.

There was also a peahen (well, there were several) but one with a single chick; we met them several times as we were walking around, they are not confined at all.

We had an an enjoyable day wandering around, and with it being a greyish weekday there were not too many other people around.

And as well as the days out, I also spent a lot of time pottering around my parents home, reading some of their books, watching their TV and picking runner beans in their garden.

It was a pleasant, low-key way to spend an extended weekend!

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I spent the weekend with my older sister and her husband, who have just moved house. My visit was mostly to see them,but also meant I was closer to Southampton for the Nuffiled theatre event with Tom Hiddleston, so I could reduce the amount of driving needed on one day, which was why I visited this weekend rather than any other.

It was lovely to see them,and nice to see their new home, although I was slightly depressed to see that they have managed to do more in the way of redecoration and DIY in the 10 days or so since they moved in, than I have achieved in the 10 months I have been in my new house! Admittedly, there are two of them, and C is very competent at all kinds of practical stuff, whereas there is only one of me (the cats, unfortunately, are No Help At All when it comes to decorating and DIY) and I am not at all good at such things, so my methodology involves saving hard until I can afford for someone competent to do it for me!

So the weekend was fairly relaxed - on the Saturday we visited several DIY stores, and on the Sunday collected some final stuff from the attic in their old flat, and in between times they did proper housemoving and DIY stuff, and I helped where I could, with important tasks such as making tea, flattening cardboard boxes and stacking bottles of gin and champagne in the cupboard!

In the evening, we went to the Sailing club where K and C are members, to take part in a quiz and pot-luck style supper.

We joined forces with 2 of their friends, and ended up by winning the quiz, which was nice - it turns out that knowing the Maris Curie was Polish, and what the study of caves is called comes in handy for these things! (our prize was a feeling of superiority - my longstanding tradition the prize money was immediately donated to the lifeboat collection)

Sunday involved more moving things, and a lot of rain, and a very nice roast dinner, before we went our separate ways, me to Southamton to the Nuffield Theatre, and them to finish hanging curtains.

All very pleasant.

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I enjoyed Christmas, and having visitors staying.  My parents arrived at the weekend before Christmas, and were able to  help me put up the tree, and do some last minute tidying up etc. We also went to the Carol Service in the local church,which was very nice - lots of 'proper', traditional carols with the familiar tunes!

The kittens, of course, helped. In their own way.

Then my sister and her partner came to stay, and my *other* sister came for the day on Christmas Eve, so we were able to have a bit of a party then, as well as celebrating on Christmas Day itself.

As even the youngest members of the party were well into their 30s, we were able to have a nice, civilized, lie-in, and then stockings and croissants and cooking and gifts and champagne and gifts and eating and such like.

It was low key, but very pleasant.

And then on 27th my brother came down for a flying visit, overlapping with my sister and her partner for a few hours. He was only able to stay for one night, but it was lovely to see him.

Today, my mum and dad left, so it's back to me and the kittens (well, me, the kittens, and about 4 tonnes of chocolate. And the remains of a turkey. I shall be making stock this afternoon!)

I have another couple of days off before I need to go back to work, so hopefully I shall  have time to unwind a little and, I hope, to get over the nasty head-cold I have been suffering from...

I hope all of you have had a good time over the holidays, whether or not you were celebrating christmas!
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After two weekends of guests, it was my turn to go visiting last weekend - I went up to visit my sister and her partner, who have recently moved house, so it was my first opportunity to see their new home (it's very nice!)

They had also invited our cousin, her husband and son, so we were able to have a mini family reunion. Which was nice.   And we got to play with lego and to watch 'Frozen'.

Sunday turned out to be a bright, clear day, so we went to a local reservoir for a walk, and (as we had 4 year old Small Cousin with us) a quick trip to the playground.

It was another relaxed weekend, which was nice, although my drive there was less relaxing as it was quite foggy for the first hour or so. Why is is so many people who drive silver cars *also* seem unable to turn on their lights when driving in fog?

But apart from that, it was a lovely weekend.

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This week started well, with a visit from my sister and brother-in-law on Monday (which was a Bank Holiday, and therefore rainy). Since we've all been busy, I've not seen them for a while, and this was the first time they've been to the new house.

So we celebrated with prosecco, and by getting C to help put up some curtains and replace the thing to hold the shower head. (the old one was not up to the job, and I was unable to work out how to get the damn thing off the wall.)

Then on Thursday I had more visitors - E, who I was at University with, and her husband and daughter. E is one of my theatre-going friends, so I last saw her last November, in Stratford upon Avon, but haven't had the chance to send time with her family, so that was fun!

On Saturday, I travelled up to London for the day, to see Richard III at Trafalgar Studios, starring Martin Freeman in the title role.

My original plan involved getting to London with about 2 hours to spare, to allow time to go looking for a few of the Books about Town book benches, but unfortunately my train was delayed, and as they were predicting it would be at least an hour and a half before it moved on, I ended up getting off and taking a 45 minute bus ride, and another 40 minutes on the tube, to get to Charing Cross just in time, so other than taking a quick look at the giant blue cock in Trafalgar Square I had no time for anything other than the show itself.

Richard III is not my favourite play -  but decided to see this production as I was interested to see Martin Freeman in the role, and as I  have been to other productions at Trafalgar Studios,and directed by Jamie Lloyd, which I've enjoyed. And I did enjoy it.

The play is set in the 1979 'Winter of Discontent', with the the implication of a Royalist/Military coup having taken place just before the play opens - the stage is set up like a civil service office, with desks, phones, reel-to-reel tape recorders and sickly house plants. I have to admit, I didn't feel that this worked awfully well. It's too complex, and it doesn't really sit well with the severed heads .

Richard's initial speech was given partly as a 'public' address, given to the rest of the nobility, via mike, and partly as a soliloquy, with the mike off, and the others all frozen - it worked quite well, but the same convention wasn't followed for other asides and soliloquies, which seemed odd.

Freeman is good as Richard - there have been mixed reviews, but I felt he has created a truly scary Richard - as the play progresses, he comes across as an increasingly unpredictable and paranoid dictator, with his black humour leaving other characters unsure as to whether he is joking or not - Freeman is quite subtle - I liked it (one of my dislikes about the Kevin Spacey production was that everything was rather melodramatic and over the top)

I was a little worried about the welfare of the poor goldfish, in whose tank the Duke of Clarence was drowned (and into whose tank his throat was cut, too) I am not sure how goldfish feel about fake blood in their water, but having a person thrashing about in your tank can't be good.

All in all, I enjoyed the production, but having seen 2 versions of Richard III with modern settings, I would rather like to see a production set in its own period.

And for the record, I didn't experience any inappropriate applause (there have been a couple of reviews suggestion that 'Sherlock' fans unused to live theatre were attending and cheering / clapping at inappropriate points)

Me? I'd like to see Freeman in other live productions, and I think he benefited from a really strong supporting cast.
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It's been a fairly quiet week.

On Tuesday, my brother, his girlfriend, and another couple they are friends with, came to say over night in order to be able to get up early with a view to getting a reasonable pitch at the Glastonbury Festival.

It was lovely to see them, and we had a nice, relaxed evening and were even able to sit outside on the patio to enjoy the last of the sunshine, before going to bed.

They got up very early, and very quietly, and presumably did less queuing, and got a better pitch for their tents,   than they would have done if they had started from Manchester that morning! I have been feeling for them, today and yesterday, as I watch the torrential rain showers, and the thunderstorms, from my warm, dry house :).

Today I have been catching up with various errands and things - I got my hair cut, which I found less stressful than usual, as I remembered, for one, to wear my contacts, so I could actually see what was happening.

I called in at the Theatre Royal, to book some tickets for the new season.

Then I visited Toppings bookshop, to pick up my ticket for their event with Sandi Toksvig next month, and inevitably bought a couple of books.

I also called in at Mr B's to collect my pre-ordered copy of Shaman Rises, which is book 9  of C.E.Murphy's Walker Papers series. I have spent the past week re-reading the other 8 books so I am up to speed. I may have bought another book, too..

But then it is the first day of Independent Booksellers Week, so buying shiny new books from both my local independent bookshops is pretty much obligatory. And I only had 5 more books when I got home than I'd had when I left. Well, 10 if you count library books.

Sticking with the bookish theme, I then went on to complete my registration at my local library (the house move means I now live in a different county, so I couldn't just transfer my membership across.

Now, I just need to do the housework parts of the 'to-do' list . . .

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OOoops. Friday again, and I haven't got around to blogging about last weekend, yet!

It was fun. Both of my sisters have birthdays in March, and E had a party which all of us (siblings) were invited to, together with a bunch of her friends - we all went out for a very long pub lunch, including some splendid puddings (the accurately named 'giant eclair', and the less accurate 'ultimate chocolate tower', among them)

And then we went back to E's house for the rest of the day, an had an evening which included Wii dancing, and Jack Daniels Pizza.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sunday was then a quiet day, spending time with extended family and eating lots of home cooked food.

Did I mention it was fun? and really nice to catch up with all of my siblings at once - it doesn't often happen.

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I spent this weekend enjoying the company of friends and family, in beautiful surroundings.
My oldest and best friend got married on Saturday, to a lovely bloke. I've know J for over 20 years, and her shiny new husband for nearly 10, and couldn't be happier that they they have now married.

I travelled up to Derbyshire on Friday - it was a lovely day, bright sunshine, getting nicer and nicer as I went north!

After arriving, and settling into my luxurious hotel room (in this beautiful hotel, originally built in 1652, and which has been an inn for at least 200 years), I met up with my friends, and J's parents, all of whom were staying in the hotel on the Friday night, and we spent the afternoon catching up, running errands, and all had dinner together.

On Saturday, I had some spare time while those in the wedding party were doing hair and nails and the like, so went for a walk around the village - it was not quite such a beautiful day as Friday, but the landscape is absolutely stunning (Chatsworth and Haddon Hall are both just up the road..)

And then of course the main event. I met up with other friends  at the wedding venue, (another very nice hotel).

Everything went smoothly - there was a ceremony, and photographs, and laughter, and food, and dancing, and laughter, and more food, and time with friends, and a very happy married couple.

It was a lot of fun.

On Sunday (Another gloriously sunny day) I drove to Manchester to see my Brother and his girlfriend, and catch up with them (and eat out at a superb tea room!) all of which was delightful.
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It's been an interesting week.

My parents came for the weekend, which was nice. They came with me to look at a second hand car, and helped me take my Very Old Bicycle to the tip.

On Sunday, which was an unexpectedly nice day, with sunshine and NO RAIN (for what feels like the first time in weeks) we planned to go over to Glastonbury and walk up the Tor, but when we got there we found that the entire world and his wife had had the same idea, so we kept going, and instead went for a very short amble nearby.

It was a lovely day, so the desolation caused by the flooding on the levels looked beautiful, but the extent of the flooding is sobering. And this was after a drier week. The water has gone down a little from its peak - we could see the 'tide mark' in the fields.

The row of trees is the boundary between two fields, and though it's not easy to tell from the photo, the flooding isn't the only damage - there are several trees down, too.

This is the road. It's just about passable - we saw a young man on a motor bike go through, and it looked as though the water was 6 or 8 inches deep on the road itself, but the roads are higher than the surrounding fields (and there are rhynes (drainage ditches) by the sides of the road which are deeper still)

The sheer scale of it is hard to appreciate until you see it - and it seems unlikely that this land will be much good for any grazing, or even silage making, this year, which will be devastating for the farmers, quite apart from the damage to people's homes.

it also makes you realise just how great a task the monks of Glastonbury undertook, when they took over the draining of the Levels in the middle ages.
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This last week has been very much better than the preceding one, in many, many ways. admittedly, the bar was set pretty low, by last week, but this week would, I think have been good even without that comparison!

On Wednesday evening I was in Bath to see Mitch Benn's new show, Mitch Benn is the 37th Beatle which, as I understanding started out as his gig at the Edinburgh Festival. Its very good, and a lot of fun, even if, like me, you don't know much about the Beatles careers. There are a couple of songs which have appeared in Mitch's other shows, but the vast majority is completely new material, which is fun.

The gig in Bath was the first on the current tour, so there are lots of further opportunity for those of you in the UK to see it. I recommend it.

Then, this weekend, I travelled up to Manchester to spend the weekend with my best friend, ahead of her wedding in March, and to see my brother and his girlfriend.

I'm still pretty ouchy following the RTA I was involved in, and am finding driving pretty uncomfortable, so 2 long drives in 3 days seemed like a very bad idea, which meant I wound up getting the train to Manchester - it was a surprisingly smooth trip - not too crowded (at least once I was off the local train and onto the cross country one) and certainly less stressful than driving (particularly in an unfamiliar car) would have been. I'm not too keen on the courtesy car I've been given.

Once I arrived, I met up with J and we had lunch at the wonderfully kitsch Richmond Tea Rooms, before heading back to her home, where we spent the evening catching up, with the help of some lovely food, and some rather nice prosecco!

On Saturday we went into Manchester for a pre-booked spa session, which had some interesting moments - we assumed that a treatment which involved a segment described as 'baking' might involve a degree of warmth. Apparently not. (and when you are half naked and covered in mud, you're not really in a position to go looking for a staff member to sort it out! Fortunately, good company makes up for everything, and we just got the giggles (and warmed up in the steam room, later on!)

On the Sunday, after saying farewell to J, I met up with my brother and his partner, and we had lunch, an abortive attempt at cocktails, and some beer, and lots of conversation. I've not seen them since I went up to visit them last summer,  so it was good to have the chance to catch up.

And then there was another long, and happily, uneventful, train journey home.

It was a fun weekend.


Dec. 27th, 2013 07:12 pm
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It's been a quiet Christmas, but nice, so far. I drove down to Deepest Devon on Monday evening - which was an interesting experience - it was very wild, wet and windy, and there were places where there was an awful lot of surface water and huge puddles and streams on the roads.


Fortunately it seemed to get better rather than worse as my journey progressed, and by the time I arrived ( with the journey having taken about 40 minutes longer than usual) it had stopped raining (temporarily!)
Christmas Morning church

My younger sister and her partner were at my parents for a pre-christmas visit, and we overlapped for about 24 hours - long enough to catch up, exchange gifts, and to cooperate in decorating the Christmas Tree.

Christmas Day itself was fairly quiet - we went to church to ring in the morning, and admired the church full of christmas trees, each decorated by a different group.

Ringer's tree (Or Dalek)

The ringers have a bell-shaped tree (or possibly a Dalek in deep disguise)

We got home for second breakfast to discover that the heating element from the oven had blown, but happily my Dad was able to jury-rig the oven to work, by the careful deployment of a large baking tray to turn the grill into an oven-style heating element which, combined with the use of the fan part of the defunct oven setting, allowed us not only to bake out croissants, but also to cook a full Christmas Dinner.

Which was a relief. I'm sure we would have managed, if we'd needed to, with the little cooker in the caravan, the hob, and the microwave, but it would have been more complicated!

Burning food!

As it was, we were able to eat and drink to excess in the traditional manner, and to open gifts and watch Matthew Bourne's 'Sleeping Beauty' and telephone family members.

It was a Good Day.

Boxing Day brought more socialising as my aunt and uncle, together with my cousin, her husband and son, came over for lunch - I tend only to see them 2 or 3 times a year, so it was good to catch up.

And having a 3 year old visit reminds you of the thrills of Christmas. He was just as excited about everyone else's presents as his own, with lots of jumping and "What is it What is it What is it!?!" And we all enjoyed the reading of 'Fox in Socks', which followed. (Kudos to Granny, who managed to read it aloud and without losing her self control, despite 6 other adults getting the giggles around her as she read..)
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Today was interesting. My sister got in touch a couple of weeks ago to say that she and her partner would be going to a Hill Climb near here, and suggested it would be nice to meet up, which of course I agreed that it would, so  found myself attending my first hill climb.

I wasn't sure what to expect - I have to admit that the idea of watching a bunch of different cars driving up  hill didn't sound particularly enthralling, but  new things are often interesting, and how is one ever to know, without trying them?

Today was practice, and the weather wasn't great, so there weren't huge numbers of spectators.

There were lots of different cars, from souped up minis, to Westfields, to cars which looked (to my uninformed eyes) pretty much like F1 cars, only smaller (and with fewer adverts on them)

The course involved a pretty steep hill, and some very sharp bends, which are clearly tricky to navigate at high speed. . . some of the cars reached speeds of 120 m.p.h - lots of them clearly slightly misjudged the corner, and there was a certain amount of fishtailing going on, although only one car actually spun off (cue lots of marshals to push the car back onto the track, and to sweep the grass-cuttings from the road)

I don't think that I shall be making a habit of attending hill climbs, but I did find it more interesting than I'd anticipated, (and of course, it was fun to spend time with my sister and her boyfriend)

The whole time I was there, it was dull and grey with occasional rain, but as I drove home the sun came out.

I was in sunlight, and there was a beautiful, sunlit golden wheatfield, despite the gathering black storm clouds. I couldn't resist stopping to take a few pictures.

All in all, a very pleasant day.
marjorie73: (Default)
So, after our slightly scary and very confusing attempt to appreciate cutting edge art, we made our way to Castlefield for the big screen broadcast of Macbeth.

The live production was staged in the (deconsecrated) St Peter's Church in Ancoats, so ticketing was pretty limited.

We were in the slightly less atmospheric venue of the NCP Car park at Bridgewater Hall, which is basically a large expanse of tarmac surrounded by high rise blocks of flats.

Although  we arrived 40 minutes before the performance was due to start, we discovered that the car park was filling up, and we had a little difficulty finding a space where we could spread out our picnic rug and see the screen.

The instructions we received mentioned that there would be no food or drink vendors, and that people were welcome to bring their own, and we quickly realised that our 4-pack of beer simply didn't cut it - out immediate neighbours, for instance, had brought poached salmon, chicken, a choice of white or rose wine, and much besides, and (as we later noticed) even after dinner mints.

We had picnic envy, and lacking food, were forced to make conversation with one another while we waited for the play to start.

It was an interesting production; the main action of the play takes place in a very muddy stage / aisle with the audience sitting on either side (and some additional action in the apse of the old church)

I have mixed feelings about the production itself - The Witches seemed rather  over done, even for evil harbingers of doom - they shrieked rather than speaking, and I felt that there were moments when both Macbeth (Kenneth Branagh) and Lady Macbeth (Alex Kingston) seemed rather, well, hammier than was strictly necessary.DSC08871

There were however also some very high points; Ray Fearon was a convincing and moving Macduff - I shall be looking out for his name in future productions, I'd like to see him in other roles, and despite his occasional over acting, Branagh was also convincingly tormented, a study in increasing paranoia and violent despair.

An interesting production. But I would have preferred a softer carpark to sit on!
marjorie73: (Default)
I have just returned from a very enjoyable weekend in Manchester, visiting my brother and his girlfriend. They'd contacted me a little while ago to invite me, and to suggest that I come up this weekend which is the final weekend of the Manchester International Festival, and we could, they suggested, go to see the outdoor screening of a live broadcast of Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston's 'Macbeth'. (the live performances are in a small, deconsecrated church, and cost £65 a ticket, and sold out very fast, so that was never an option!)

It was also an opportunity for me to see R & J, and to see their new home.

I had a very hot and sticky drive up on Friday evening, but was greeted with mojitos, which is the proper way to deal with such trips!

Cotton Mill machines

On Saturday, after a leisurely and tasty breakfast, we visited the Museum of Science and Industry, which I haven't visited for about 6 or 7 years. They have some interesting exhibits about the cotton industry (which of course was one of the big industries in Manchester)

(replica of0 'Baby', the world's 1st stored-program computer, built in 1948

They also have exhibits relating to the history of computing, Manchester University having been at the forefront of early computing, and flight - the first closed-cockpit plane was built in Manchester.

However, the area where we spent the most time was the engine sheds - and (unlike on my previous visits) they had their replica of Stephenson's 'Planet' running.

The original engine was built in 1830, and was the first locomotive to be built in large numbers, rather than as a prototype- this replica was built by enthusiasts in the 1990s.

We decided that it would a shame to turn down the opportunity of a train-ride ( although I think we may have been the only passengers not accompanied by at least one small child!)

As the museum is housed in a disused station/ station yard, the tracks 'Planet' runs on run parallel to the lines still in use, running to and through Deansgate station, so you can wave at the trains as they pass!

A lot of the other steam-engines (most of them industrial, rather than locomotive engines) were also running, so the shed was full of the lovely smell of steam-engines, and rather warm.

So, logically, our next step was to find some of the best ice-cream on the planet, from the wonderfully named Ginger's Comfort Emporium ice-cream van, which was located in Albert Square, heart of the Manchester International Festival. I have to say, her 'Chorlton Crack' (salted caramel and peanut butter) was delicious, as was the coconut and lime, and i regret living so far from Manchester, which will severely limit my opportunity to sample more flavours!

Later in the day, after a very late lunch/early super, we visited another part of the Festival, a piece called 'This Variation', by Turner Prize nominee Tino Sehgal, at the Mayfield Depot.

The depot is a now-derelict railway depot, and the empty space we walked through to get to the Sehgal exhibit was actually quite striking.

'This Variation' however, was .... odd. And not a little disturbing. You walk into pitch darkness, surrounded by sounds - songs without discernible words, the thump of ?bare feet, people you can't see brush past you, and it's all rather strange and disturbing.

We did not stay long.

And so to Macbeth, which I think I'll give a post of it's own.
marjorie73: (Default)
A couple of weeks ago, my cousin contacted me to say that she and her parents, and her 2.5 year old son, had rented a cottage in South Devon for a week, and there was a spare room, so would I like to join them? And I would., so I did.

View from the door

Unfortunately I had to work on Monday, so I couldn't go for quite the full week, but I was able to drive down on Monday after work, and stay until Saturday.
Another view from the cottage

We were lucky that the weather has been so lovely - and as you can see, we had a wonderful sea-view, so when we were too hot to go anywhere, we could stay in the cottage and look at the views, listen to the sea, and watch the house-martins going to and from their nests in the corners of the bedroom windows.

We went to the beach several times - always an interesting trip, as most of the lanes were only (just) wide enough for a single car, so any drive was liable to include some reversing, and squeezing into hedge-bottoms!

The nearest beach was on the estuary, with a sandy beach, so although it was tidal, it had very few waves, which I liked, as I was able to swim without getting too many slaps in the face by waves (and I could leave my glasses on, which is always a plus!

We went late in the afternoon, when it was a little cooler, and there was shade, and this had the added advantage that many people were starting to leave as we arrived,so we got an uncrowded beach.

My cousin and I took J to Start Point Lighthouse, which is open to the public, as he likes lighthouses. It's quite a long walk from the car-park for someone who is only two and a half, but we all made it!

And then we all did the tour, and got to climb all the way up. I was a little disappointed that you can't get out onto the walkway outside the lantern - apparently the lighthouse-keepers used to have train so that they could abseil down the outside if it became necessary, in an emergency!

It was fantastic to have such a clear, bright day to visit (it was the coolest day of the holiday, so the walk was do-able; my aunt and uncle went for a proper, 5 hour walk elsewhere!

Start Point Lighthouse

Below the cottage were rocks, so we were able to take J down to investigate the rock pools, which was fun for everyone (there didn't seem to be much other than limpets and seaweed in the pools, which did not seem to detract at all from J's enjoyment, and which meant there was no sea life to be disturbed by his shrimping net!)

At the top of the field behind the cottage was the old coastguard station, now staffed by Coast-Watch volunteers, and we were able to walk up. The views were stunning!  There's a little one-room visitor centre with information about local wildlife and sea-life, and information about shipwrecks in the area.

View from Coast Guard Station

And in the evenings there were BBQs,and champagne and strawberries, and 'treasure hunts' for J in the garden,and general relaxation.

All in all, it was a lovely opportunity to relax and unwind (did I mention that there was no phone signal or internet connection at the cottage?)

On the way home, I met up with my parents for lunch, although we decided it was too hot to look around the gardens of the stately home we met up at.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and it was a little bit of a shock to the system to have to go back to work today, but such is life...


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