Monday, 22 September 2014

Apologies .....

This weekend sees the second ever Yarndale event over in the beautiful town of Skipton. I was so hoping to attend and meet up with some fellow bloggers, but I'm afraid life's events have taken over at the moment and I can't guarantee that I'll be able to make it. 

Without going into too much detail we have a very poorly dog and her future looks a little uncertain. She might rally and, by Saturday, be bright as a button but I do feel I should be with her just in case. Several of you had expressed an interest in meeting and I apologise again for not contacting you personally, but I can't get hold of everyone's email. 

It would be lovely if you could still meet - 1pm at the main entrance - and pop some photographs on your blogs for the rest of us to see! 

I'm crossing everything that I might still be able to make it but the 'ifs' and 'whens' are unclear.

So once again I apologise. I don't like to let people down but sometimes it's unavoidable.

Thank you so much for understanding.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Company of Strangers

It's been another funny old week. Not straightforward. Ups and downs. It culminated with the realisation that our theatre visit on Friday night was to be scuppered. 

Several months ago Mr K and I booked to see a variety of performances at different theatres. Now classical performances are not usually at the top of our list, but when we found out that Nicola Benedetti would be performing Vivaldi we had to book. It was only the night before that Mr K reminded me that he would be in London that day and wouldn't be back until late. Stony silence. What to do? Little Sis was to be out for the evening. I face booked friends. No replies. So with a deep breath and a little trepidation I decided to go it alone. Radio Four have reported on solo diners recently, and also those who have gone to the cinema unaccompanied. I've listened with interest at both the positive and negatives sides of their experiences. It seems it is becoming more common and the stigma of being the pitiful loner is diminishing.

So off I went.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

At the box office I collected my tickets. I informed them that my husband could not attend so if anyone needed a free seat they would be very welcome to it. The foyer of the theatre steadily filled up. Friends met, smiled, embraced. I was on the edge looking in. But instead of feeling nervous or lonely I felt quite liberated. Instead of being socially involved I was now in the role of observer. I chatted to a couple of strangers who were waiting nearby and gradually relaxed into the bustling anticipation that precedes a performance. 

Once seated I took solace in the fact that I had a free chair next to me. The auditorium was packed but at least I didn't have to sit with my coat and bag on my knee. 

The lady to the my left offered me a mint and told me about her chest condition. We got into a discussion about Question Time and how she had heard that both the presenter and two of the panel were delayed on a train - chuckling as to what might happen with a studio full of people but no presenter. As we settled I was aware of a man hovering at the edge of the row. He was quite elderly but scrupulously smart in a navy blazer with brass buttons. 

He had my husbands ticket. 

As we moved aside to allow him to his seat it occurred to me that he too was on his own. A few niceties elapsed. He asked if I had seen Benedetti before. It turned out he was a regular visitor to the theatre and had enjoyed their classical seasons for many years. We began talking about our musical preferences. Did I play an instrument? What about my family? He had four daughters who had all gone different ways in the world. A banker, a brand designer, a photographer and a ballet dancer. One had recently recovered from cancer and was celebrating a year in remission with a trip on a private yacht. In turn I told him about my girls. Chalk and cheese I said. Wonderful in their own ways but still to find their own direction. He told me about his childhood at a boarding school in Dorset. About the time he saved some bantams from a fox.

Benedetti played and I was transported. Each of the Four Seasons was introduced by the relevant sonnet that Vivaldi had penned to accompany them. The conductor was Gabor Takacs-Nagy and his enthusiasm and spirit added an extra dimension. There was a sense of awe. The bond of a group of people experiencing the same emotive flow.

At the interval I went to stretch my legs. I no longer felt alone. I was part of a shared understanding.

On return to my seat I continued conversing with my new found friend. Why was it that more children wanted to play guitar than violin nowadays? And about the terrible local tragedy of a teenager recently killed at a level crossing.

The concert continued with Mozart. 

After much applause it was over. The lady on my left wished me well and said goodnight. I turned to the man on my right and did the same. I also wished his daughter well and hoped that her remission would continue. He thanked me kindly. And then we parted.

On leaving the theatre I had a wonderful surprise. Mr K had managed to get an earlier train and had hot footed it over to try and catch the end of the concert. The steward had kindly allowed him in but as there was no seat he had watched the last movement at the entrance to the auditorium. 

He was full of apologies, hoped it hadn't been too bad, had bought some wine and chocolates and so forth. 

He was surprised to find me so buoyant. I hadn't been lonely at all. Not only had I enjoyed the concert immensely but I had also been at liberty to enjoy a whole new experience - the company of strangers.

I'll probably never meet that elderly man again. I'm sure our paths would veer in very different directions and on a daily level we would probably have highly opposing views. But for those three hours I was allowed an insight into his life, and he mine. An insight that would never have occurred had I been swept up in conversation with someone more familiar. 

But already a treasured memory.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Around the block.

This morning I went for a walk. 

That's it.

Nothing remarkable in that. 

Not anywhere new or of any distance.

Just a little walk around the block.

But it was such a simple uplifting little walk that I found myself really appreciating what was around. 

Like the neighbours geraniums.

My favourite colour door.

Old Neddy. Not his real name I'm sure but suits him to a tee.

The luminous depth of this tree.

Down to the allotments.

And back along the canal.

Where the early morning mist had lingered - just enough.

Although at some points it still seemed like midsummer.

Small details.

And signs.

The perennial 'trying to get Jessie dog to look the right way when you are trying to take a photo of her' caper.

And home.

That's it.

A walk around the block.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!


P.S. A sneak peek at a little project we have coming up. All very exciting but not quite ready to reveal yet.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Horns, bells and pointy sticks.

As a lover of anything to do with folklore and airy fairy nonsense I jumped at the chance to visit the annual Horn Dance at nearby Abbots Bromley last week. Mr K was relieved to hear that the plans did not include him. Not that he wouldn't love to watch a group of grown men don bizarre costumes and bash their batons together (!) but to do so would probably require a copious amount of alcohol and some form of matrimonial threat.

So with a skip in my step and a song in my heart my pals and I set off along the gorgeous country lanes until we crossed the beautiful Blithfield reservoir (not my photograph I'm afraid - I was earthbound).

 Several years ago I attended a talk given by an author who collected local ghost stories. The one that stayed with me featured a taxi driver who, one dark and wintry night, had dropped off his fare at Abbots Bromley and was returning to his base in the nearby town of Rugeley.  As he neared the half way point of the reservoir he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw a face. So convinced was he that he had forgotten to drop off a further passenger that he spoke to him. When there was no reply the driver pulled over and checked the back of the car. THERE WAS NO ONE THERE! Bom bom BOMMMMMM! Of course I waited until our return journey in the dark to relay this tale. And then spent the rest of the journey unable to look over my shoulder.

Abbots Bromley itself is a pretty village, full pretty houses and olde worlde charm. As we entered the village there was a festival atmosphere.

Various stalls were set up on the village green - this one took my eye.

No end of Morris dancing paraphernalia for sale. I decided against purchasing a CD for Mr K.

The sign outside the gorgeous half timbered Goats Head on the village green gives a brief outline of the dance.

And Wikipedia tells us more about the dancers:
There are 12 dancers. Six carry the horns and they are accompanied by a musician playing an accordion (a violin in former times), Maid Marian (a man in a dress), the Hobby-horse, the Fool (or Jester), a youngster with a bow and arrow, and another youngster with a triangle. Traditionally, the dancers are all male, although in recent years girls have been seen carrying the triangle and bow and arrow.
Until the end of the 19th century the dancers were all members of the Bentley family. The dance passed to the related Fowell family in the early 20th century; this has continued to this day, though due to rising house prices none of them live in the village any longer; many live in nearby towns. They have been known to allow visitors to "dance in" if asked politely, and will often invite musicians and others to take part when necessary.

We were told that we had 'just missed' the performance on the green and the dancers had wandered up into the lanes to continue in the surrounding fields.

So we had a wander.

And I'm afraid from this point on I have no idea as to what has happened to my page colour or indeed how to fix it!

Inside the church there was a small exhibition which gave further details of the dance - including this lovely tribute to one of it's performers.

Sorry about the quality here - it's been super duper zoomed.

Then there were the racks that hold the antlers

Alongside a rather spooky hobby horse that looks like it was put out to pasture many years ago.

In complete contrast the other side of the church housed a steel statue portraying Jesus and a disciple that was commissioned to celebrate the millennium.

Back outside we wandered up the high street. Still no sign of any dancing but plenty of time to take in the surroundings.

A life size dolls house!

The grandest of door frames

And a very polite notice as to what not to do with my motor!

We sat and we waited.

We waited and we wondered.

And just as the light started to fade we heard a distinct tinkle!

First came the clog dancers in a whirl of green

Then the Morris men and their pointy sticks

And finally the Horn Dance  itself

Apologies again for the picture quality but considering the weight of the antlers these men were quite nifty!

And then they were gone.

Time for a warm drink and return across the haunted reservoir!

A great evening and wonderful to have been part of something that has entertained so many people over the centuries.


P.S. So remember when driving late at night and spotting a face in your rear view mirror don't worry - it's just A GHOST!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

After I'd collected the eggs...

...and milked the cow I decided it was time for a break. 

The cottage beckoned so I drifted through the tangle of cosmos and sweet william toward the old wooden door. 

Inside the embers of the fire were still glowing - and the kettle hung obediently above. There was still some lardy cake left from the vicars visit on Sunday, so with a generous slice and a fresh cup of char I took my seat at the fireside. The chair rocked gently as I sat and the rug at my feet reminded me of the darker months, when I had sat and painstakingly used every last scrap of outfits gone by.

Or at least that's what Mum and I were talking about as we visited the show gardens at Bridgemere on Friday. Mr K can never understand it. Why is it that every time we go somewhere do I have to wonder about 'what it would have been like when...' or 'can you imagine...?' But this cottage calls for it. Really it's just a facade - I think (although my memory may not serve me too well here) it was an entry for the Chelsea Flower Show many years ago and was returned to Bridgemere bit by bit.

Following several months of visiting mum in either the hospital or at home we decided that we'd go for a very gentle stroll. Each time we left a bench we'd be eyeing up the next although to be honest Mum managed really well - albeit at the rate of a very slow snail on a slow day!

The weather was cloudy but warm which allowed us to take our time to stop and look, admiring the richness of colours still out there. 

The main stars were the dahlias - a plant I've never yet grown successfully - but this was followed up with the last flushes of roses, cosmos and asters.

We sat by the pond

And smiled at the children's garden

Imagine being small enough to live in that house (sorry - I'll stop right there!)

The coffee shop was next where we devoured an apple and blackberry scone piled high with clotted cream (sorry - no pictures here - it wasn't around for long enough)!

Afterwards we strolled out through the shopping area. I was lulled into buying a thing that means I can cut crinkly chips (I know - I don't think I would have had one of them in my olde worlde cottage!) And Mum's pacemaker managed to set off several alarms in the jumper shop. I would say we made a dash for it but it was more of a dignified amble.

All in all a lovely afternoon. To top it off by the time I'd returned Mum home safely Dad had managed to fix my camera. The problem? Rubbish batteries! Brand new out of the packet but obviously not strong enough. Oh how I've missed my camera ...

Still - I must go now - I've got butter to pat!

Hope you've been able to get out and smell the roses.


P.S. Quite a few of us meeting at Yarndale now - do let me know if you'd like to join us!