Monday, 13 October 2014

Moments that make you think...

This week has been a bit mad. In addition to the usual manic work stuff, a few 'old house issues' becoming apparent (leaking drain, damp, condensation...) and the general day to day stuff of living, I've had 2 trips to London. Work related rather than pleasure exclusively, as a result of which I've decided a 2 hour plus each way commute is really not for me! I love going to London, but really, I think, because I like to be able to soak up the atmosphere and people watch. Running on and off the tube and negotiating crowds of people when you actually have to be somewhere at a given time not so much fun.

But I did sneak in a few little bonus 'moments'... On Friday evening after a full days meeting, we took in the Royal Ballet's Manon at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This did not disappoint - the music was beautiful and the dancing defied what you think a human body can do. How those dancers manage to make something so physically demanding look so graceful and effortless is beyond me. Although in many respects the lead character doesn't exactly encourage your empathy (she's a bit shallow, flirts between love and riches with giddying fickle-mindedness) the story was told with such emotion that by the end of the second act I was reaching for a tissue... not that it takes a whole lot to reduce me to tears these days! 


Obviously, couldn't take pictures in there so this is copied from the ROH site. The sets and the costumes were stunning and the setting of the opera house beautiful (another first for me, had never been in there before). Several ballet 'newbies' in our group, who had come along with a healthy degree of scepticism, were completely converted - if you are not sure if you like ballet, this is one to see. Lovely way to spend the evening.

Then before heading home on the Saturday, I made the effort to go and see the poppies installation at the Tower of London. Over the summer this stunning sea of poppies, each representing service personnel that died during the First World War, has spread across the moat around the Tower. Lots more about the installation here - I was keen to see it before it is dismantled in November.

It was heaving with people, but even so, no less impressive to see this flow of red that certainly focuses the mind in terms of the scale of wasted lives. Very powerful image.





Something of a reminder of the value of life.

There have been a number of sobering things this week, most not for mention on here, but this little waif touched my heart too...



My middle son's girlfriend is a vet nurse and found this poor little lost soul curled up in the road, cold, blue and very nearly history. He is about 6 weeks old and, she is pretty sure, dumped. I don't understand how anyone can do that. I had said I wouldn't have cats in this house - no garden, too near a busy road, out all day...  but was seriously tested here!! Fortunately, within a day a kind home had been found for him so I'm sure he'll have a happy life now.

So, enough dallying, back to the tedious business of 'day off' activities - chasing the water authority re the drains, washing, ironing, cleaning... though have to confess to a degree of obsession with what has become something of a scientific exercise monitoring the relative humidity and checking the dehumidifier. Should this house ever resemble something less than tropical levels of humidity (without the warmth!) I shall be putting flags out!!! 

Sx






Monday, 22 September 2014

Living the dream - things that memories are made of...

My youngest son and I have shared something of an obsession with VW campers for some years now. We have admired them at our local VW festival, oohed and aahed when we spot one on the road and planned our 'if we win the lottery...' trip round the world. (We don't actually do the lottery, minor detail...)

This year he turned 21 and in a rather rash moment I decided it was time to indulge a little of that obsession with a holiday/birthday present that would be a treat for us both - on the spur of the moment, I booked a Mon-Fri break with O'Connors Campers. Check out their website if you are a VW fan - they have some lovely vans!

Last week we set off for Devon for our little road trip, via an overnight stop in Bath to extend the holiday. I had never been to Bath before and was not disappointed - it is a beautiful city with grand sweeps of town houses, lovely parks and a palpable sense of history.


Somehow, it didn't seem particularly odd to see people wandering around or reading in the park in full Regency style dress...!

We wandered around in the lovely late afternoon sun, just taking in the quirks of this beautiful city. These two little characters were observing us from an upstairs window...
 We stayed at YHA Bath, very comfortable, lovely old building and pretty reasonable value. 
The following day saw us heading on to Devon, with a brief stop in the pretty Somerset village of Dunster for essential coffee and cake...
Much excitement (and more than a few nerves on my part!!) when we picked up this beautiful little van from Okehampton, engaged our inner hippies and set off for the North Devon coast...


This is Barbarella, and she certainly has some quirks from a driving perspective! Dating from 1967, she has a something of a mind of her own as far as gears are concerned, brakes that required physical effort of the downhills and a fabulous engine roar. I'm not sure how long it is since I drove something without power steering or brakes and even the position felt very weird to begin with! We may have caused a few curses behind us as we crawled along to begin with but there is something very liberating about just tootling along. By the time we got to our first overnight stop I had sussed that a bit of gentle handling in the gears department was the way to go and was beginning to enjoy the drive - Tom was definitely enjoying the ride and the sideways glances of people we passed!

First stop North Morte Farm, with stunning views as the sun set over the coast...




We had packed for autumnal weather but in fact, summer seemed to have had second thoughts and we woke the next day to a beautiful sunrise that turned into gorgeous blue skies...



Thought my blankets looked at home though...
Next stop Port Isaac and the lovely, quieter Port Gaverne (cream tea :-) had to be done!)...


Our stop for the night was a campsite near Padstow - both minor disappointments to be honest - the site was nice and quiet but very basic facilities, which didn't bother me at all except that it was relatively expensive! Padstow just seemed rather commercialised and felt a little like it has lost its heart to the tourist trade (noting that we were being those tourists!) - that may be unfair because we only saw it at night and perhaps it has a different feel during the day.


Tom would have loved to drive Barbarella, but insurance didn't allow - didn't stop him posing though... Essential for social media!


...and he 'dressed' Barbs with the blankets the next day...


On round the coast to St Ives via the Bedruthan Steps (the guy on the car park said he thought the van knew its way there! obviously a regular stop!!). The coastline here has a rugged dramatic beauty...



It was a bit misty & blowy, these little sparrows were getting decidedly ruffled...


We stayed at a really lovely campsite on the clifftops above St Ives - Trevalgan touring park - great facilities, good value and a lovely walk down to the town along the coast path.


We were in St Ives primarily to see Seth Lakeman, who did not disappoint - had everyone on their feet by the end of the night...


The next bit of the coast road around the headland to Lands End was great - stunning scenery, gorgeous blue skies and I was really enjoying the van by this stage. 


We had planned to visit the Minack Theatre but didn't quite make it as the fees for almost everything just start to really add up after a while so instead walked around to the beautiful beach at Porthcurno, where a spent a happy while taking photos of the sea...




Just gorgeous. I could've happily stayed here for hours. But sadly, our little road trip was coming to an end and we eventually made our way on to Woodovis Park near Tavistock for our final night with Barbarella. This was a really lovely site complete with an indoor pool which was a real treat to end the day.



We had such fun in this old van - is it the most comfortable way to travel? Nope. Are you likely to get the best night's sleep? Probably not. But there was something very liberating about just chugging along, knowing that however long the queue behind you, there's no point in trying to go any faster and I'm pretty sure she brings a smile to most people's faces.

Did I discover a bit of my inner chilled out hippy chick? Yep - wish I could bottle that feeling and keep it going day to day. Would we do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat - only next time I might just keep driving... ;-)

S x

Thursday, 11 September 2014

a week of two halves...

I am a bit of a cold body and the recent drop in temperature had me grumbling and reaching for woolly socks. Rapidly followed by an urge to knit more woolly socks! I'm trying to have something of a self imposed restriction of buying more wool but a rummage in the box under my bed (one of the places I have wool stashed!) turned up half a ball of sock yarn and some 4ply that I think I've had for years and years. These are only for me so I thought they'd be a reasonable enough pairing.



Had forgotten quite how satisfying knitting socks is - and if I don't get distracted (ha ha ha!) I can knock them up quite quickly.

Then, just as I had resigned myself to the idea that summer might really be over, I went up to Yorkshire to visit a friend last weekend and realised I had completely misjudged what clothes to take!

She moved to Knaresborough recently and this was the first chance I'd had to go up there. It is a really pretty place which is still decorated with yellow bikes and bunting from the Tour de France. From the Castle parks the view was lovely over the river...


...and it is close enough to the Dales to be in easy reach of beautiful countryside, even more lovely bathed in warm late summer sunshine...


We walked up to a stunning spot above a reservoir (I think it was called Ambers Crag?? Might have misremembered that!) and it was so nice to have a bit of 'up'. This is something that I do really miss walking in Norfolk - there are some lovely views, particularly at the coast, but there is truly nothing to beat that sensation of working up a bit of a sweat and getting a bit puffed to be rewarded with this...


There was very little breeze, even at the top, and we sat and ate a picnic in gorgeous warm sunshine. The heather is perhaps a little past its most vivid best but still lends a purple-pink haze to the hillside...




There is an amazing feeling of space up on top of a hill, even a relatively small one like this - I felt I could see for miles...



I took the train up rather than the drive and was very glad I had - with the exception of the tedious wait and Peterborough (sorry Peterborough, but it really is the most boring station to spend 45mins at!) the journey was easy and way more relaxing than a 4 hour drive would have been.

So Monday saw me at Knaresborough's pretty station, heading to Leeds for the trip home.


Now, I have to confess I wasn't completely sure I wanted to kill a few hours in Leeds - it's not somehwere that has even been on my 'must go to' list and I didn't have any expectation of what to find there.

But I thought it was a really beautiful city - full of lovely architecture and friendly people. And now it definitely is on my 'must go back to with a bit more time' list! I picked up a heritage trail walk at the station and sort of followed it to look at the lovely Potts clocks on various buildings around the city centre - but actually got very sidetracked by the stunning Victorian arcades...


Norwich has one, very lovely, but dwarfed by these both in size and intricacy of decoration. Quite breathtaking. I'm guessing the glass roof of this one may be more recent but the colours were so impressive, particularly with the sun streaming through...



And as for the markets...I could have spent hours wandering around in here. Hall after hall full of colourful displays - I honestly think you wouldn't need to shop anywhere else if you lived here! I saw pretty much everything form household electrical goods, to beautiful displays of fresh fish, from yards and yards of cloth to bakery goods and fresh fruit and veg...


I had the nicest Eccles cake ever for 55p and couldn't resist just one ball of wool... Well I had to, it was half the price of even the market yarn stall in Norwich! 

A bit more wandering took me up to Leeds Minster...


...and then I stumbled across a tiny coffee shop on the way back, for a caffeine top up and briefly rest my legs and scan the map (though I have to say it was a bit dark in there - my poor old eyes are not fab in dim lighting! Makes me feel a bit ancient when I have to peer at the small print!). Good coffee though!


Just time for a walk via the beautiful civic centre buildings...




...and a spot of lunch 'al fresco' outside the art gallery...


...before heading back to the station for the train home. Fair to say, was completely taken with Leeds. 

And...it was still summer in Yorkshire!

Bliss.

S x