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This weekend is simply stuffed with good things.

Those of you who've known me for a while know I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman's, so I've been very excited about his new novel, The Ocean at the End of The Lane, which officially comes out on Tuesday. I was even more excited when I learned that the first of Neil's events was to be in Bath, and that several of my friends would be coming to see him, so I'd get to spend time with friends as well as hearing Neil speak, and getting a new Gaiman novel. What could be better?

I spent part of Friday morning baking flapjacks, with honey and blackberries and seeds (of which more later) and ventured into Bath around 4p.m. in order to meet up with Nathalie, who came all the way from Rome for the event. Given that the doors to the Forum were due to open at 7.15 for Neil's event, I was a  little (but only a little) surprised to see that there were already 5 or 6 people queueing...

Nathalie and I walked up to Toppings to pick up her ticket, and met Cheryl there. We were in the queue by about 5.30, together with more friends - Anabel and Ian, Brain, Holly, and various of *their* partners and friends, so we were able to take it in turns to take breaks from the queueing to get food!

All the queueing paid off and we were all able to get seats fairly near the front at the Forum (its a re-purposed cinema. It seats 1,600 people, and I believe that Toppings sold around 1,100 tickets, so the stalls were completely full, and the last 350-400 people to arrive would have had to sit up in the balcony.

Unfortunately Toppings didn't do allocated seating (which is what the Bath Literature Festival normally does for the events they have in the Forum), so there was no choice but to queue. It was worth it, though!

Neil was interviewed by a Telegraph journalist whose name I didn't catch, and there was also a Q&A session at the end.

Neil started with a short reading from the book; it was a very funny passage, right up to the point the corpse was discovered. Then he spoke a little about where it came from (the story, not the corpse) - it started as a short story for Amanda, It became a novella, then a novel.

The protagonist is a child who is sort-of-but-not-really-Neil-as-a-boy, and the landscape the book is set in is the landscape of Neil's childhood, although it is not an autobiography. It is, Neil says, Lies. But they are lies which tell us truths.

Neil talked about the Hempstock's farm, explaining that when he was a child, he heard about one of the local farms having been mentioned  Domesday Book, and, at that time, didn't think about people living there in huts, but assumed that the red-brick farmhouse had been there for a thousand years..

And that by the time he came to write the book, the idea that the farm, and the family, had been there forever was entirely at home in his head.

I love the fact that whenever I see Neil speak I learn new things - this time it was more about the Infancy Gospels - the (now apocryphal) gospels which cover the childhood of Jesus, and his habit of killing people who annoyed him. (sometimes they were just struck blind, but mostly they died). Neil was talking about myths and stories and religion..

Also about how people who write Horror are the moth cheerful, happy people around (and that Joe Hill may in fact be a clone)

We learned that the American Gods production is working its way up the echelons of HBO, and may very soon get to the level of the people who can say "yes" or "no" to the production going ahead; that there is nothing at all that Neil can talk about, regarding any possible Good Omens film at the moment.

Neil unsurprisingly confirmed that he would be happy to see a female Doctor Who ("given that I'm the person who made it canon that Time Lords can change sex..."

He was asked about his favourite myths - which he said changes, but he always comes back to the Norse gods, because they're doomed, and about writers who have influenced him - Alan Moore (by showing that you can do the things people tell you can't do) Jonathan Carroll, Gene Wolfe, and Diana Wynne Jones (which last did not surprise me, but did make my heart happy, as I think everyone should know about Diana Wynne Jones, and read her books)

After the Q&A came the signing. We were lucky to be near the front of the queue, so got to meet Neil and get our books signed early on.  And I gave Neil some of the flapjacks I baked in the morning (I trust you have not forgotten the flapjacks, O best beloveds) because I worry about him keeling over from loss of sustenance.

And some of the party may have got hugs and kisses, because that's how these things go, sometimes.

Then while we waited for the rest of the party I took the big box of cookies which I brought with me to share with the queue, and, well, shared them with the queue. Or at least parts of it.




The Signing queue (which also extended out into the lobby)

I didn't bring 1,100 cookies, because that would be impractical. But I met lots of nice people, briefly, including an old school friend I have not seen for almost 20 years, and I got lots of thanks and one marriage proposal, which I think is a pretty good return on a box of cookies. Even if it is a big box.

We left the hall at about 11p.m, and went for drinks and conversation in the Raven pub.

When we went past the Forum on the way back to the car at midnight, it was clear from the stream of people coming out of the building that Neil was still signing inside.

I gather that he didn't finish until 1.30 a.m. (having arrived some time around 7, after a day of interviews and editing, and having pre-signed 1,000 books before the event started...
And just before I fell asleep, I checked twitter and saw this tweet

Which made me happy.

It was a wonderful evening. Although I do now need to reorganise my bookshelves, as my Neil Gaiman shelf is full!

And Neil of course went on to do it all all over again the next day, in Cambridge.
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ve been away from the internet for the past 10 days or so, as I've been away on holiday in Turkey with my sisters, and for part of the time, with D, my sister K's soon-to-be sister-in-law.
We had a great time, and I really enjoyed being able to spend time with my sisters, and getting to know D.

I think it will take more than one post to cover it, so will take me a few days, but here goes!

Our flight out was on Tuesday evening, from Gatwick, so my younger sister E drove to mine for lunch, then we went to K's home where we left E's car and all 3 of us got a trian to Gatwick.

As we were going on holiday, I'd come prepared, and once we were safely on the train produced cans of G'n'T, slices of lime, and ice cubes (it's harder to transport ice cubes secretly and with no cool bag than you might think) so we all had drinks in style.

We then met D at Gatwick, and spent 4 hours on a charter flight filled with fractious children! Once we got to Dalaman, however, things improved - we picked up out hire car, and K bravely drove us home, in the dark (Both Turkish roads, and Turkish driving, tend to be.... interesting!

K's fiance owns a flat in Fethiye, which is where we stayed. It's about 25 mins walk from the centre of the town, slightly up on the hill, so it's a little cooler, which is nice.

We spent our first morning stocking up on food, then, as one does, we headed out to the Hamman (Turkish Bath). We decided, on the advice of some of K&C's friends, who had visited just before us, to try a new hamman at one of the local hotels - it was very modern and shiny - and instead of the traditional cold shower after the sauna and scrubbing there was a very cold plunge pool, instead. It was fun, and very relaxing,but all of us who'd been hamman-ed before agreed that we preferred the less slick sand more traditional city hamman, and resolved to go there for our next scrub! Although the hamman proved, once again, that no matter how well you believe you've exfoliated, the Tellak (masseur) will prove you wrong. I do wish that there was a Turkish Bath near me at home!

The following day we decided that some Proper Culture was appropriate, so we drove to Patara, which is a Lycian site - it was an important naval base around the time of Alexander the Great, was mentioned in the Iliad, was visited by emperors Hadrian and Vespasian and was the birthplace of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (AKA Santa Claus). It was eventually abandoned after the harbour silted up, any many of the ruins were hidden, and preserved, by the sand dunes.

Parliament Building, Patara
There has been a lot of archaeological work going on over the last 20 years or so, including, most recently, the excavation and partial reconstruction of the Parliament Buildings - there were the headquarters of the Lycian league, and the archaeologists have partially rebuilt it using some original and some replacement material, and leaving parts as they were found, so that in the seating, for instance, you can see the original ruin, how the building was constructed, and finally the finished article, faced with marble etc.
Patara amphitheatre
There is also an amphitheatre, which has not been rebuilt, 2 bathhouses (one of which is currently propped up with a good deal of scaffolding,

Harbour Baths, Patara
And the triple-arched 'Arch of Modestus' (who I can't help feeling may have been misnamed) and, of course, several of the pointy topped Lycian sarcophagi which I have come to associate with this part of Turkey (there is one in the post office garden, in Fethiye, for example..)
Lycian sarcophagus and arch of Modestus, Patara



Oh, and did I mention that as well as these spectacular classical ruins, Patara just happens to have a rather nice beach?

I have to admit, that being able to swim and sunbathe on a beautiful white beach in between sessions of exploring ancient Greek/roman and Byzantium ruins does add something to the experience!

After leaving Patara, we went on to Letoon, but that will have to wait until a later blog, as I need to sleep, now.
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This weekend, I'd arranged to go down to Devon to visit my parents. I saw them last weekend, while they were staying with me while they went to a dinner locally. This weekend however was a visit just to spend some time together. And the weather was nice, too.

One of the nice things about visiting my parents is that as long as I don't get up too early, I usually get a cup of tea in bed ;-) I love that little touch of luxury.
We decided that a nice walk by the sea would be an appropriate thing to do with a bright November morning, so we went to Westward Ho!, which is an uninspiring town, but where you can start a walk along the top of the cliff, and then down to a pebbly beach.
There was an offshore breeze, and very big waves, so there were a lot of surfers out, and despite being the middle of November, it has been so mild that there were still quite a few butterflies and dragonflies around.

And a really big mushroom, right on the cliff edge!
We didn't have a long walk, as my mum and dad wanted to get back in time to go to a local history talk in Bideford, but it was very pleasant.


While the talk was going on, I wandered around Bideford, and admired the bridge, and looking into a few shops, and a little later, we all went back home for a delicious meal of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and then lemon meringue pie. All very good.

Sunday, we had a lazy morning, them they went out to Exeter for some ringing, and I came home, to be greeted by a very snuggly cat. Over all, a very relaxing weekend!
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Yesterday was my birthday. I was feeling a bit ambivalent about it, what with the getting older and older, and the inevitable musings on life, however, I then remembered that I had good friends coming to visit, and fun things planned, and felt a lot more cheerful about it!
My friends arrived from Manchester on Friday evening, in time for us to enjoy a leisurely meal (with cake!) and several glasses of wine, as we caught up, and just relaxed together.

Then yesterday, which turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, we had a long lunch in Bradford on Avon, then spent the afternoon in Bath (1 pub, 1 independent bookshop) followed by a delicious Nepalese meal, and then Simon Callow's one-man show "Dr Marigold and Mr Chops", which was great! 
 
                                                      

The Show is Simon Callow performing two of Dickens' monologues:

The first, about Mr Chops, was a short story published for Christmas 1858 entitled "Going into society",narrated by Mr Magsman, a showman, about a Dwarf known as Mr Chops who wins the lottery and goes into society. Although having its moments of pathos, it's very funny, and Mr Callow is excellent at doing all the voices!

The second, about Dr. Marigold (He was named "Doctor" after the Doctor who delivered him!) is longer, and although it has a lot of humour in it it, is a real tear-jerker.
Narrated by Mr Callow in the character of Dr. Marigold, a cheap-jack, describing his marriage to an increasingly bad tempered woman, her cruelty towards their daughter, the child's death from illness and his subsequent adoption of a 'deaf-and-dumb' child, who had herself been neglected and abused. Being dickens, it's not surprising that there is a deal of sentimentality, but before the happy ending there is a lot of (still relevant) content about poverty, grief, politics, discrimination and domestic abuse, and Callow's Dr. Marigold is a well-rounded, complete character, whose loneliness and grief comes across between the comedy moments.

It was a superb performance, and made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. And all in all, the combination of good friends, good entertainment, and delicious food, wine and beer made for a great way to celebrate my birthday, and left me feeling set up for the year to come.
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I spent the weekend down in Portsmouth, to visit my sister and her fiance. When we arranged it, the plan was that we would maybe do some sailing. However, when I got there, it became clear that that wasn't going to be practical. In the first place, the forecast was for heavy rain and very strong winds, (force 8 or so) and secondly, we were all pretty tired (C has just finished exams) and the tides meant we would have had to get up rather early if we wanted to go sailing. So we didn't.

Instead, we sat up late over food and wine and conversation, then we got up late and had a gargantuan breakfast, and then, at the crack of 3p.m ventured out into the day. It was VERY windy, even ashore, although the rain didn't turn up til Sunday.

On Saturday we went to Gosport, where C took his dinghy out to the boat to check it out, while K and I went for a walk around the harbour front.

We looked at all the pretty little boats in the marina, and the big grey boats which belong to the Royal Navy, and the submarine in the submarine Museum, and HMS Warrior, which belonged to the Navy when it was built in 1860, (and for all I know, still does).
And we saw an egret,and looked at the Spinnaker Tower on the Portsmouth side of the river, then we met C, went home, and changed (and in C's case washed several lbs of fine river mud off) and dressed up and went to a rather splendid french restaurant in Portsmouth, where we had a delicious, leisurely meal.

On Sunday, the promised rain arrived, and it poured, solidly all day. However, this wasn't a problem - K&C had (sailing) friends ciming, so we made a sunday roast, and the friends brought cheese and fruit, and there was much conversation, then in the evening our cousin S, her husband T and 3 year-old son arrived - they have had a week's holiday in France and were staying over night before driving home, so we had a socialable evening. I hvane't seen my little cousin for 18 months, which is forever when you're 3, so it was lovely to see him - he is a gorgeous, chatty, outgoing little boy, who was only shy for the first 5 minutes.

We also got to hang out with his parents.

So, despite the lack of sailing, it was a highly enjoyable weekend, and I'm glad I went. I am very fortunate in my family, I think.

Oh, and K & I might have looked at lots of pictures of her wedding dress, and talked quite a lot about her plans for the wedding next August, becasue, after all, that's what sisters are for, isn't it?
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On Friday evening I drove down to Cambridge, in order to visit my brother, and to attend his graduation ceremony on Saturday.
 

He has spent the past four years studying through the OU (and working full time as well) and this is the end result! He now has a Bachelor's Degree in Computing and Mathmatical Sciences, with 1st Class Honours. And yes, we're all VERY proud of his achievement. (it also means he's now got 2 degrees, and I've only got one.

Maybe I need to start studying something new!)

The degree ceremony was held at Ely Cathedral, which I don't recall having been to before. it's quite impressive, and has an unusual central tower topped with a wooden 'lantern' (apparently the original tower collapsed during building in the 14th Century, and it was replaced with the current tower)

Inside, the cathedral has some pretty wonderful painted ceilings, and angels painted inside the lantern. The paintings aren't original, they were all added when the cathedral was renovated in the 19th Century, but they are rather impressive!

It was a beautiful day; we drove over to Ely, stopping for a pub lunch on the way, then after getting R all robed up we had a couple of hours before the ceremony itself, so lots of opportunities for photographs in the sunshine.

After the ceremony (which included the award of an honourary doctorate to Rose Tremain ) we went back to R's house to help him drink the champagne I brought him.

It was lovely to have the chance to spend time with R (and with my mum and dad) although I do now need a weekend to relax and catch up on some sleep...
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This weekend has been lovely, in all sorts of ways. For a start, my best and oldest friend, J came down for the weekend, then it has been a wonderful sunny weekend, warm enough that we were able to spend time sitting out in the garden, reading the papers and enjoying the warmth.

On Saturday afternoon we went over to visit my 2nd cousin, who was celebrating her 80th birthday, then we went for a meal out, and to cap it all, we had tickets to see Derek Jacobi, and a wonderful cast, in King Lear.

It was good to see my cousin - most of the other guests were her friends and members of her church, but another of my dad's cousins was there with his wife, so I was able to do a little catching up with family, then J and I headed into Bath for a meal, before going on to the theatre.

The meal was at a rather nice Greek restaurant on the river - I haven't been before, but after sharing some very tasty meze, I'd be more than happy to go again..

Then on to Bath Theatre Royal. Way back in September, I bought tickets for this production, which has been playing at the Donmar Warehouse in London. I have been a huge fan of Derek Jacobi's since I first saw him as a teenager, and I know J would be keen to come too, and, being a Friend of the theatre I was able to take advantage of priroty booking, and get excellent seats in the middle of the front row of the Royal Circle.

Derek Jacobi and  Pippa Bennett-Warner
It was a wonderful production - a very plain set, and little in the way of props or set dressing. with the exception of the Fool, the costumes, too, were almost monochrome, which left nothing to distract from the strength of the actors and the play.

 
Lear is hardly a sympathetic character, but Jacobi manages to evoke sympathy, as Lear decends into madness and confusion, and the vengeful, tyrannical King becomes a bewildered, innocent old man.

Gina McKee and Justine Mitchell, as Goneril and Regan were both very strong - Goneril calculating from the start, Regan more changeable, becoming almost manic.

Edmund and Edgar (Alec Newmwn and Gwilym Lee) were excellent - Edmund initially appearing engaging, but quickly revealing his duplicitous, calculating behaviour, Edgar first aappearing somewhaat ineffectual, but later showing is strngth in furst supporting, then avenging his father.

All in all, it was an absolutely stunning performance - well worth the wait!

As an added bonus, he programmes, while a litle more expensive than usual, are beautiful - free from any  advertising, and including a full copy of the script, and a number of photos from the production.  A great souvenir of the production.

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 have two sisters, and they both (with no consideration for my budgeting) have birthdays in March. This year, K had a land-mark birthday, of the kind that comes with a zero on the end, so we decided to get together & celebrate.

So, Friday saw me driving down to K&C's new flat (which I haven't visited before.) I arrived in time for supper and wine andd catching up on conversation, which is a good time to arrive.

Saturday turned put to be a lovely sunny day, and after a leisurely breakfast, E arrived, and we three girls went out to run some errands, and to go for what turned out to be an extremely short walk, and a fairly long lunch.

We went up to Fort Widley, which is one of the 'Palmerston Forts' in Portsmouth. The forts were built in the 1860s in order to defend Porrsmouth  (and in particular the Naval dockyards) from the risk of French invasion.

They are huge, and bizarre looking - the one we saw was one of a group intended to defend aginst the possibility of forces landing elsewhere on the coast and then attacking by land - which apparently led to persistent rumours that they had been built facing the wrong way...! They also turned out to be obselete as soon as they were built, although they were used as betteries for anti-aircraft guns during WW2.  For us, however, they were an interesting bit of landscape around which to walk en route to the pub.  We had gone up to Portsdown Hill as it has good views out over Portsmouth and the Solent, but it was so hazywe couldn't see anything, so we just sat in the sun and ate our jacket potatoes, and (in my case) enjoyed a splendid pint of 'Spitfire'

On the way home, we popped into the local VW dealership to be patronised by some car salesmen - you'd think with the global recession an' all, that that they might be willing to face he possibility that yes, women buy cars too, (Radical, I know) Still, at least it allowed my sis to identify one garage she *won't* be getting er brannd new car from :-)

The evening was for celebration - K had booked at a local restuarant called 'Kitsch'n D'Or', a french bistro-type place. It was great! I started with smoked duck, followed by pigeon breast, and with chocolate mousse to finish with. Other members of the party had the fresh, local mussels (stemed with a touch of curry spices), roast shoulder of lamb. . . in fact, there were so many good things on the menu I think we all could have quite happily come back for a second meal the next day. I'm still regretting the fact I couldn't manage the cheese course, too.

As well as the great food, we enjoyed some lovely won, and the whole evening was very relaxed - there was lots of time to savour the food, and enjoy conversation between courses.

I hope K & E enjoyed their birthday celebration - I certainly did!

Having had a late night, and with the clocks going forward, we ended up getting up late, and having a leisurely morning, a alte breakfast, and then K&C cooked us a (very late) roast chicken dinner befre E & I had to set off for our respective homes.

All in all, it was a really nice, relaxing weekend. The only downside was that I got held up in traffic 3 miles from home, which was a little frustrating, but it was the only thing which marred the weekend so not bad going!
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Last weekend I got an invitation to go to Birmingham, to visit my cousin and her husband, and to meet their beutiful son, who is now 3 1/2 months old. My sister also lives in Birmingham, and our other sister was visiting her, so the plan was for us all then to meet up together foor Sunday lunch.

 
It was a lovely, low-key weekend. I drove up on Friday night, met baby J (And fell in love with him) Then I cuddled him some more, and played with the cats.

 
On Saturday we mostly stayed home, with a brief foray out to give J some air & to do a little shopping, then on Sunday we drove over to my sister's house for lunch. We all took it in turns to cuddle J (who really is an exceptionally well-conducted baby, and cries only when any self-respecting baby would)

And then, after a delicious meal, and a lot of conversation, I camme back home. It was a horrible drive - loads of rain, and spray, and surface water, but I got home in one piece, and without too much delay, so it's all good.

Meeting J for the first time was undoubtably the best thing which has happened this year (so far).
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I don't often go to the theatre two nights running, but this week was an exception - Saturday night's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' being followed on Sunday by a trip back to Bath to see Handel's 'Messiah', performed by The 18th Century Concert Orchestra who perform in period dress and on period instruments.
It was wonderful!

It's a while since I have seen any classical or choral music live, and this reminded me what a great experience it can be.

I enjoyed the fact that all the musicians were in period dress, each of them slightly different, and with slightly different wigs (although no real macaroni or beaus among them!)

The orchestra consisted of 5 violins, 1 viola, 2 cellos, a double bass, a harpsichord, an oboe, 2 trumpets and a timpanist on kettle drums, and there was a 13 person choir. The aim was to provide a concert which sounded as it would have done when Messiah was premiered, in 1741 - I am not (obviously) in a postion to say how successful they were on that front, but I'm willing to take in on trust - the rest of it was spot on!

I had been feeling tired and wasn't over-enthusiastic about going, but I am so glad that I did!

All in all, an excellent evening out.
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The Met Office are threatening rain for the rest of the week, so we decided to make the most of the sunny weather on Monday and headed to the beach.

We went to Putsborough, which lies at the end of some very narrow, twisting lanes, and which is one of the beaches of my childhood, as we used to go there regularly, and, as my Godmother lived very close by, used often to bump into various cousins there.
Putsborough sands 
By the time we reached the beach, the sun had gone in, and is was quite breezy, so in true British fashion we erected our windbreak and settled down for the afternoon.

Happily, the sun did come out intermittently, and we were able to stroll along the beach, and to paddle, and sit & read and watch the seagulls. I even braved the water and went for a short but bracing swim!

You can't tell from the picture (which was taken just before we left, as the sands were emptying) but there were lots of people there - it was nice to see so many small children enjoying themselves with buckets and spades!

And yes, we did treat ourselves to the traditional ice-cream...
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I've been meaning to blog for a while, but there seems to be a shortage of round-to-its at the moment..My lovely new mattress arrived on Saturday - the delivery time was "7 a.m. To 2p.m." and so I was up early on the basis that pyjamas are not really suitable wear for taking deliveries, even (or maybe particularly) bed-related deliveries.

Besides, they were going to be taking away the old mattress!
 
The new mattress is LOVELY! And so much fatter than the old one. I likes it, I does. And if I can only persaude my neighbours and their drunken friends that there are better times and places to have a loud argument than the middle of the street at 3a.m, I might even get some decent nights sleep, now!

The mattress men arrived just before 9, took away the old one, brought in the new one, all very efficient. A gold star for you, John Lewis, with your non-pushy salesman and your cheery mattress deliverers.
 

Having admired my new mattress from several angles, I obediently left it to air for a few hours before trying it out, as insttructed, and while I was waiting, I wandered into town to pop to the library. I had forgotten that there was a special event going on, to encourage children to read and write, and specifically to read and write science fiction.

 
I had been planning to pop in in order to drop of some books (both borrowed and being donated) and pick up some light reading for the weekend. I was not expecting Daleks.

 
But then, who does expect Daleks?

As well as the Daleks , R2D2 was there, scurrying around the place, there was one adult and one child-sized Star Wars Storm Trooper, a Sontaran,TARDIS

 
and, sitting quietly outside, a certain Blue Box....

I arrived not long after the library opened and the place was absolutely packed, mainly with children.
 

I think that the event was part of a much wider 'summer reading challenge' across (at least) the county, but clearly the staff here had gone above & beyond in order to make it really interesting and appealing. Many of the staff were in costume (remember those clockwork robots from 'the Girl in the Fireplace'?)
 
 
One thing whch made me happy was seeing this lovely poster .
(photo stolen from @CherylMorgan)
 
Not becasue it's a great poster (although it is) but also because this poster and I have a history.
 
 
 
Last year, you see, Mr Lincoln (who designed the poster, which features Mr Billy Bones) sent me a couple of these, after I admired them, one for me, and the others for display in my local library or bookshop.
 
 
I took the poster down to the library and asked the Friendly Librarian whether they would like it, to display. "Yes please" he said, "but I won't put it up today as it doesn't fit with our current disply"
 
Fair enough.

For the next few months, each time I went to the library I would look to see whether it was up, and each time, it wasn't. eventually I asked about it, and the (different) librarian whom I spoke to denied any knowledge of it, and told me that they wouldn't have kept it that long so it had probably been thrown away.
 
And I was sad, as it seemed such a waste.
 
 
But it seems that it had not been thrown away or forgotten, rather, the Friendly Librarian had lovingly hoarded it until exactly the rght moment to put it up.
 
 
So I am happy again.

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On Saturday I headed over to spend the day with an old friend of mine, (we used to live opposite one another, from the age of about 9 0r 10)
 

She and her husband farm, and had agreed to sell me some beef the next time they had an animal butchered for home use, so the purpose of the trip was to pick that up (I now have a large selection of steaks, joints, mince and the like in my freezer, all from a cow which was born and raised right here) and to generally catch up and spend some time together.
 

And, as it turned out, to meet some puppies, as one of their dogs had pups recently, and now there are seven utterly adorable little bundles of fluff and squeakiness...
video

They are four weeks old today, and are very friendly, curious and cute. I was tempted to take one home, but (a) they are not yet young enough to leave their mother (b) Tybalt would emphatically not approve and (c) my small, almost gardenless house, and office-based job are not really suitable for a working dog.....
 
But they are incredibly cute.
 

It was a beautifully sunny day, so we (and the puppies) were able to spend

most of the day outside, then later, J and I walked through the fields to see her parents (who were our neighbours all the time I was growing up, and until my parents retired and moved away 2 years ago) It was a glorious evening for a walk - the hedgrows were bluebells, cowslips, primroses and cow-parsley, and as well as some lovely views across the levels towards Glastonbury, we also saw lots of rabbits, a hare, and a magnificant dog-fox - the most vivid red, against the bright green grass, and very large for a fox.

 
I did manage to catch a picture of him, although it doesn't do him justice, and even J, who recently lost 11 chickens in a single night to a fox (maybe this one) had to admire him.
 

It's days like this which remind me what a beatiful part of the country I live in, and how lucky I was to be able to grow up here. And, of course, how lucky I am in my friends.
 
Of course, when I returned home, Tybalt was not impressed at me for having been gone 24 hours, and coming home smelling of 9 different dogs.....
 
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I love Bank Holidays, especially this one, which for some reason crept up on me and felt, as a result, lke an unexpected gift.

And a second pleasure, a couple of weeks ago E, a friend of mine from university, got in touch to say she'd be visiting the area with her hsband this week, and suggested we meet up. Which I felt was a perfectly splendid idea. We don't see each other often enough.

We met in Bradford on Avon, which is a lovely little town, and has what may be the country's best tea shop. Having successfully rendez-voused, we started with a quick wander down to the Tithe Barn, and into the various little shops selling charming frivolities, then walked back along by the river, up into the town (Mainly to point out the bookshop, which was closed for the bank holiday but will no doubt be a point of call for E when it is open tomorrow...) and went into The Bridge Tea Rooms, which is one of my favourite places to go as a treat.

 
 
It's a "Victorian" tea-room - full of knick-knacks, old, sepia toned photographs and suchlike, with open fires and waitresses in mob-caps, in a 17th Century building, and it serves glorious teas - by which I mean both leaf tea (they have a selection of over 30, including white & green teas), and afternoon tea. They even provide sugar-tongs, for those wishing to preserve properly genteel Victorian manners.
 
On this occasion, as it was three in the afternoon and we had not lunched, we decided to really indulge ourselves and ordered the "Prince Albert's Tea" which provided sandwiches, scones* & cake, served on a three-tier cake stand.
 
Which gave us the opportunity to settle down for a long chat (and, as it happened, to avoid the ferocious hailstorm which interrupted the mostly-sunny afternoon.
 
 
 
And then (having eaten to excess) we went for another amble along by the canal.
 
A most enjoyable afternoon.


 
[*It should have been meriengues, not scones but we don't much like meriengues, and they let us substitute the scones) ]

marjorie73: (Default)
Originally, back when the tickets for EvelynEvelyn first went on sale, and long before I knew Cheryl would be staying with me, the idea was to travel up to London on Saturday morning, see the gig, sleep, and head home early(ish) on Sunday, and I had prebooked cheap rail tickets with that in mind.
However, on Friday afternoon, my friend Cheryl mentioned that there might be an extra ninja gig on Sunday afternoon, that she was thinking of travelling up to London for the day to go, and would my train tickets let me stay too. . . Well, they wouldn't, but after checking out prices for new and more flexible tickets I decided it was doable, so we bought tickets for the gig, and arranged to meet up in Camden on Sunday once Cheryl's train arrived.
 
This meant that I had Sunday morning in London and I occupied myself with a soothing hour or so in the British Library.
 
Sadly, the new Maps exhibition doesn't open until 30th April, so I wasn't able to see that, but I did spend some time in the 'Treasures of the British Library' gallery, inspecting Magna Carta, Shakespear's handwriting, various illuminated manuscripts and the original, handwritten 'Alice in Wonderland' with Lewis Carroll's own illustrations.
 
This made me happy.

I then headed over to Camden, where I was able to grab some lunch, and enjoy the atmosphere of Camden Market, before meeting up with Cheryl and heading to the home of her friends the Clutes, who are lovely, warm and welcoming people, who live in a gorgeous flat filled with art and books and, as it turned out, rockstars and writers...

As we arrived, Amanda Fucking Palmer was just on her way out, to check out the venue - we were quickly introduced, and also met Amber & (a different) Jason, who I *think* are friends of Neil's..
 
Cheryl then took the opportunity to grab a quick interview with Neil, (Which has possibly the best opening question of any interview EVER), and which explained the chickens from last night.

Incidently, Neil did comment that he isn't really Neil Fucking Gaiman yet, as he isn't taking Amanda's name until they are actually married!
 
Then, when Amanda got back, Cheryl interviewed Amanda, about twitter, and gigs in space, after which Amanda & Neil left to do important pre-gig stuff.
 
Shortly afterwards, Cheryl & I went out to join Roz and @Cillygrrl14 in the queue, which was getting long, and quite full of ukuleles by that time.

 The venue, Underworld is in the celler of the World's End pub, and so is dark, and there are various places where you get good acoustics, but not a very good view of the stage, so for much of the gig I could not see much, although could hear perfectly! Unforunately it did mean that I failed in my attempt to meet up with another TwitterFriend, @MotleyHippie.
 
The gig itself?
 
Bitter Ruin, who opened for EvelynEvelyn on Saturday played, as did Robots in Disguise, who I think opened for them at the KoKo show - both had quite short sets,as of course time was limited, with another EvelynEvelyn show due to start, over in Shepherds Bush, at 7, but both were very good - well worth keeping an eye out for!

 
Jason & Amanda then both played - Amada started with 'Fake Plastic Trees', then they moved on to some covers of EvelynEvelyn songs, and some of their individual works - Icarus, Ways to Love, ElephantElephant, the Electric Blanket song,(including a bonus 'punk version) Also Jacksons 'BillieJean' and NWA's 'Fuck tha Police'..
We also got to hear 'Do You Swear To Tell The Truth The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth So Help Your Black Ass'
 
Evelyn & Evelyn wereresting, but their little cloth avatars were on stage (except for when they went crowdsurfing...) and a little later, Amanda follwed their example, crowdsurfing as Jason played 'Anarchy in the UK' - Amanda managed to surf across to Neil for a kiss mid-surf (met with huge cheers from the crowd!)

I think this one is my favourite picture from the show - incidently, I am 99% sure that that is the back of Neil's head obscuring the bottom of the photo...

Amanda was also persauded to to sing 'Gaga, Palmer, Madonna'


(This video isn't mine - it's mjdanby's . I don't know who he is, but he shoots good youtube!))

The atmosphere was amazing, and Amanda & Jason both gave the impression that they were really enjoying being there!
 
After the gig, we spent a little more time with the Clutes before heading home.
 
All in all, a wonderful weekend
(Originally posted at http://margomusing.blogspot.com/2010/04/rockstars-and-writers-and-friends-oh-my.html comment there or here)
marjorie73: (Default)
So, Saturday morning involved a fairly stress-free journey to London (after seriously confusing the bloke in the ticket office in Trowbridge, by trying to buy single ticket to go from London to Trowbridge on Sunday...)

Shepherd's Bush, where the gig was, is unknown territory for me, so I decided to head straight there to find the hall and my hotel, which (somewhat to my surprise, as I have no sense of direction whatsoever, I found them without difficulty, so had time to change, and find food, before heading back to queue!
 
It was an interesting queue. I met up with Roz Kaveney (having been introduced via twitter by a mutual friend), was given a small elephant by a passing pirate (only an elephant, not an ElephantElephant, as there are fewer of them..) and a twix bar, met a conjoined twin puppet, and all to the sound of ukeleles in the queue... There was even a very brief, fly-by appearance by a certain Crazy-Haired writer en route to the stage door...
 

Inside, Bush Hall is interesting - lots of chandeliers & mirrors, and small enough to feel intimate.
Opening for the twins were Bitter Ruin who I belive were originally only due to open for the twins at the 'extra' KoKo show - they were excellent - having spent all my cash on EvelynEvelyn CDs and beer I didn't invest in their CD at the gig, but I think I may have to do so now!
Then the beautiful Miss Holly Gaiman, wearing a wnderful black & red dress which I didn't manage to get a decent picture of, brought "The Lost Airman" (later unmasked as Thomas Dolby) on stage to MC the twins show, in place of Sxip Shirey, followed, after a little encouragement, by the twins themselves.
 
The right-hand Evelyn (from their point of view) was suffering from a nasty cold, (and even blowing one's nose can be tricky, when it requires the cooperation of one's twin sister...) but carried on like the trouper she is!
 

We heard of EvelynEvelyns background & birth (with visual aids)
 
And about the Chicken Man (which involved a brief appearance by a live chicken, which, I was later informed by a Very Reliable Source, was one which actually belongs to, and lives at, the Bush Hall... sadly, the chicken seemed to be a little publicity shy, and I didn't manage to take its picture during its brief appearance. The twins were sustained with Twixes, then, between songs, they answered some questions submitted by the audience, after which there was some singing about Elephants (with enthusiastic audience participation) I have been trying to get my video to upload, but so far, without success - I'll add it later if I can get it to work.
 
After a lovely rendition of "I just need MySpace" the twins left the stage, although the standing ovation they got was enough to bring them back for an encore (Love Will Tear Us Apart") sung from the balcony at the back of the hall.

If you haven't already got the album , go get it now. What are you waiting for?

After the interval, we heard from Jason Webley, (Who looks most unlike himself, without his beard!) and then by Amanda Palmer - first time I have seen her play 'Coin Operated Boy' live.
Then Jason was back, for the heart-felt duet (born of touring) "Electric Blanket" and not long after thatm the evening ended, with a wonderfully raucous, full participation rendition of Jason Webley's Drinking Song . .

It was a wonderful finale to a fantastic evening, and if I could have gone back and started all over again from the beginning, and done it a second time, I would have.

I headed back to the hotel, tired, but very, very happy. 
marjorie73: (Default)
(Origianlly posted at http://margomusing.blogspot.com/2010/03/mostly-relaxing-weekend.html on Sunday -  forgot to cross-post !)

Friday was my older sister's birthday, and Tuesday is my younger sister's, and on Thursday I got a message from E (Younger sister) inviting me to visit for the weekend, and telling me that she had invited K (Older sister) too.

The plan was to have a "Spa Day" at a hotel near her home, then go out for a meal in the evening, so I drove up to Birminham on Friday evening, and on saturday morning the three of us headed off to Henley in Arden for a day of relaxation.

The deal was that for the day-fee you got full access to the liesure facilities (pool, hot-tub, sauna, gym, squash courts), plus lunch, and then various treatments could be booked in addition.

Due to a few organisational delays, E's friend P & I I didn't have any treatments booked, although E & K each had a facial, and E a massage, too.

On the whole, we had a very good day; after a little healthy exercise in the gym we concentrated on the serious business of relaxation - moving from pool, to sauna, to seam room, to hot-tub, with lots of lying on loungers, talking, and reading the selection of magazines which P brought with her, and light novels.

The hotel spa could do with improving their customer service a little, though - the spa was quite busy, and seemed rather understaffed, and then at the end of the day, when we were all in the final stages of getting dressed to leave, one of the staff members came into the changing room to chivvy us up to check out & pay, because they wanted to close up the tills! Bearing in mind this was more than 15 minutes before the end of the day, and it was very obvious that we were leaving (we were all fully dressed and packing up our bags) it seemed rather gauche, and not terribly condusive to a nice relaxing day. The fact that we then had to wait while they finished their conversation before they could be bothered to actually process our payments did add insult to injury just a tad...

Still, poor staff aside, we enjoyed spending time together and the facilities weren't bad!

Then for the evening the three of us (Self + 2 sisters), together with K's fiance C (Who had spent the day working hard on essays, rather than coming with us and sharing in the girly bonding...) but without P, who had othr commitments, we went out to a great Indian resturant - Asha's - where we had supurb food, some lovely cocktails, an excellent waiter, and, when they heard we were there to celebrate K & E's birthdays, free chocolate cake. it was an excellent night out, alhough having eaten late and well, we were all far too full to go straight to bed, so ended up sitting around, talking, and half-wtching the Star-trek movie until past 2 a.m. ..
 

A lovely day, and we decided that another Spa day might make for an excellent hen-party for K's wedding, in due cours, and that perhaps we we owe it to her to do some practical field research, to ensure we find the best possible spa day/weekend...

 
Of course, I am now utterly exhausted, having spent the pst 2 nights (a) staying up foolishly late socialising with my family and (b) then trying, with limited success, to sleep on an airbed.. I think an early night (or 2) is now in order.
 

But I am glad I went.

And just after getting home I had a call from my cousin H to say she is pregnant, and so she and her husband will, all being well, having their first child this autumn. VERY good news!
 

marjorie73: (Default)
(Originally posted at http://margomusing.blogspot.com/2010/02/shrove-tuesday.html)
There are some traditions I am happy to maintain....
 
 
Especially when they come with lemon & sugar.
 
The lemon counts as one of my five-a-day, doesn't it?
I love that something so delicious can be made so quickly and easily, out of such simple ingredients. And pancakes, like madeleines, are full of memories...

Spring!

Feb. 14th, 2010 07:22 pm
marjorie73: (Default)

I don't wish to tempt fate, especially after the false alarm last week, but it does look as though spring might be on it's way.

I spent some time in the garden this afternoon, clearing away dead leaves and so on. I'm not really a gardener, and I suspect that some of this is stuff which ought to have been done in the autumn, but better late than never...

I have two little clumps of snowdrops, both of which have buds just beginning to open, and some other green shoots which I think may be crocuses when they get around to it. The rosemary bush seems to be thriving.
 

The sun came out for a little while whilst I was outside, which was lovely, and made everything look more alive - I can start to believe that more things will grow, and reappear.
 

I also finished off the marmalade, with lids and labels. It And ate some of it for the first time - there was a little bit left over, not enough to fill a jar, which forces me to eat it straight away....It isn't perfect - I think I ought to have let it sit a few more minutes before putting it in jars, as the peel has risen a bit, but only a little, and it tastes OK.
Small things, but satisfying. I think, today, I am happy

marjorie73: (Default)
(Originally posted at http://margomusing.blogspot.com/)
I'd been thinking about writing a cheerful Spring-Time post, about how nice it it that there are snowdrops, and a few new bright green leaves beginning to appear, but then on Wednesday we had snow (although it didn't lie) and nothing felt very spring-like.

As weeks go, it started pretty well. My mother had signed up for a two days of patchwork workshops being held just down the road, so she and my dad came to stay with me for a couple of days. We didn't get to spend a whole lot of time together, as I was out at work, but it was good to see them, and coming home to find someone else is cooking supper is nice, too!
 

My dad sorted out tthe light in my WC (which had started coming on whenever I turned on the light in the bathroom)
 
I haven't done a whole lot else this week - although I did finally get around to putting my Dave McKean picture (Beachy Head Birdman #4) on the wall.
 
I bought the picture from his exhibition in Rye in October, but as I was then poorly and couldn't get there to see he exhibition & pick up my picture, it came to me via several friends and family members, finishing by being brought to our family Christmas. Since I got home after new year I have been propping it up in different room trying to decide where to put it. It is in the living room for now, but I am still pondering whether to put it in the bedroom instead, where I could see t eery morning when I wake up (well, once I have managd to get my eyes open & my glasses on, that is)

I think it is beautiful, and it makes me happy.


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