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Sunday December 31, 2017

Books in December

  • Don't Point That Thing At Me,
  • After You With The Pistol, and,
  • Something Nasty In The Woodshed. by Kyril Bonfiglioli
    These is the Mordecai trilogy and the only novels in this series published in the author's lifetime. [A fourth The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery - unfinished - was completed by Craig Brown and published posthumously].
    I had never heard of this author despite the fact that there was a film based on the books released in 2015 - and it should have been a hit (starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ewan McGregor) but somehow passed me by.
    The (anti) hero is Charlie Mortdecai who is like an amoral Bertie Wooster with his sharp and loyal manservant to boot. The books are realy hilarious but I must say I did somehow tire of the (high quality, beautifully constructed, but relentless) humour after the second book. I think in agreement with another reviewer, the best advice is to not read all 3 (or 4) on the trot.

    BOM-DontPointThatThingAtMe.jpg BOM-AfterYouWithThePistol.jpg BOM-SomethingNastyInTheWoodshed.jpg
  • Posted on December 31, 2017 at 7:39 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Tuesday December 26, 2017

    Boxing Day

    MoineMhor.jpg

    Today the weather truly was glorious and here's the photo to prove it. We went to another part of Moine Mhòr nature reserve - an easy path along a boardwalk out over the bog. It's called the Tileworks Trail and we were fascinated to find the woodland path had little patches of tiles set into the earth - a kind of art project, as I think the trail was named prior to the ceramic's appearing.

    Posted on December 26, 2017 at 7:43 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

    Monday December 25, 2017

    Christmas Day

    Christmas2017.jpg

    We had the most wonderfully relaxing Christmas at Helen's in Scotland. I'm not sure why it proved to be quite so excellent - o apart from Helen being a fabulous friend, welcoming host and terrific cook...! Just that...! Here we are all looking Charlies over our yummy lunch

    After that we went to Dunadd for a bracing walk - the weather was surprisingly good (ie not raining). I'm including the following photos mainly to show the amazing views. We abandoned Dorothy (at her request) half way up - it was a pretty slippery climb. I dutifully placed my foot in the "footprint of fealty" - in a reverential manner I hasten to add.

    Dunadd3.jpg

    Dunadd2.jpg

    Dunadd1.jpg

    Posted on December 25, 2017 at 7:42 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

    Saturday December 23, 2017

    A guide to tasteful gifts

    We had lunch with my sister.
    She was anxious to show off my tasteful Christmas gift to her.

    FatherChristmas2017.jpg

    Posted on December 23, 2017 at 4:04 PM. Category: Days Out.

    Thursday November 30, 2017

    Books in November

    • Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
      BOM-Y.jpg
      The story flips between 1979, and "now" (1989). A copy of a missing (lewd) tape made by a bunch of teenagers turns up with a ransom demand. The parents of one of the kids - now all grown up and just out of prison (don't ask) - call Kinsey Millhone for help - and she is drawn into their family drama.
      The usual exciting mix of mystery, drama and danger.

    • The39Steps2001.jpg The 39 Steps
      A man is murdered in Richard Hannay's London flat, and he goes on the run (dressed as a milkman...) pursued by the police - and a gang of German spies. Hannay must solve the mystery of the steps if he's to save the British naval fleet from certain destruction...
      I have seen a number of dramatised versions of this story and they all seem to follow the line of the 1959 film - presumably because it has a nicely rounded plot with a good dose of romantic interest. I was amused that this version was exactly that plot - almost to the degree that, as far as my memory goes, they could have been using an abbreviated version of the same script.
      The John Buchan original book from 1915 is a different matter - no female interest and full of jingoism and anti German sentiment - very much of its time of course. The book is also very clearly episodic, having been written as a serial for a magazine - and this is retained even in the much later productions with the hero having a number of unrelated "adventures" while eluding his pursuers. Apparently it was voted one of Britain's "best loved books" but I do wonder how many people have actually read the original text (and I admit it is at least 40 years since I did so).
      This dramatisation from 2001 stars David Robb as Hannay, Tom Baker as Bullivant, Struan Rodger as Hawk, Tracy Wiles as Charlotte, Phillip Joseph as Johnners, Thomas Arnold as Jopley, Gordon Reid as Chairman, and Stuart McQuarrie as Sir Harry.

    Posted on November 30, 2017 at 11:41 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Melrose Quartet

    MelroseQuartet.jpg

    Tonight we saw the Melrose Quartet at Kings Place - apparently for the launch of their 'Dominion' album, which Rob duly purchased.
    The band are: Nancy Kerr (voice, fiddle), James Fagan (voice, bouzouki, guitar), Jess Arrowsmith (voice, fiddle) and Richard Arrowsmith (voice, melodeons).
    And they were fantastic of course.

    MelroseQuartetDominion.jpg

    Posted on November 30, 2017 at 10:57 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Thursday November 23, 2017

    Rambert - A Linha Curva

    ALinhaCurva.jpg

    Another visit to Sadlers Wells with ballet Rambert showing off their spectacular abilities in modern dance.

    A Linha Curva was probably my favourite of the pieces - "the spirit of Brazilian carnival" recreated by choreographer Itzik Galili, with 28 dancers, four samba percussionists and wonderful lighting. According to the dancers, the latter cued the dancing as there was no lighting operator, and the dance included ad lib exuberant chatter from the dancers.

    The second piece was Symbiosis, a showcase for the Rambert dancers' skills applied to a new score by Ilan Eshkeri.
    And finally, a kind of darkly humorous piece "Goat". The work is inspired by the music and spirit of Nina Simone, with a selection of songs performed live on stage by jazz singer Nia Lynn. I read the significance of the "goat" thing in the programme but that probably didn't help me much with the piece overall. However even if not all the meaning was apparent to me, it was a very emotional experience.

    The sets and lighting were fascinating throughout.

    Posted on November 23, 2017 at 11:56 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Tuesday November 21, 2017

    Labour of Love

    LabourOfLove.jpg

    This was a terrific play, and appealed to me on many levels. The plot was interesting (although maybe "just a love story") but it was set against the backdrop of the heyday of New Labour - the life and times of an MP newly elected in the early 90s through to being about ot lose his seat in the recent election. We moved back and forward through the decades, the "times" being set by various multimedia techniques - which for me struck more of an emotional chord than simply setting the scene.
    The play had a very sharp and witty script, with seriously good casting - not only Tamsin Grieg and Martin Freeman but also Rachel Stirling. I cannot emphasise enough how well the actors demonstrated their abilities in highly skilled timing. Not for the first time though, we did have a slight problem catching all the words of the said witty script. Since we know and admire the actors for their TV work, we did wonder if they were less used to projecting on stage maybe - or if it was just our declining hearing (which is sadly a given).

    Posted on November 21, 2017 at 8:40 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Thursday November 16, 2017

    ATP tennis at the O2

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    It's that time again... when Helen and I make our pilgrimage to the O2 for the ATP finals - Day 5. And thanks to that thoughtful chap Nadal asking to be excused playing on Sunday - the schedule was altered so that once again we end up on a "Federer Day". And once again we saw him win.
    Excellent.
    I missed the Bryans.... but you can't have everything.

    Posted on November 16, 2017 at 11:53 PM. Category: Days Out.

    Friday November 10, 2017

    Darbar Festival

    DarbarFestival2017.jpg

    A triple bill of vibrant new talents at Sadlers Wells as part of the Darbar Festival. Opening with Mythili Prakash, an international star of Bharatanatyam, followed by the deep unfolding ragas of Debasmita Bhattacharya, on the sarod joined on the tabla by Gurdain Rayatt. Finally, dynamic and soulful kathak perfomer Dheerandra Tiwari, inspired by the Advaita philosophy teachings about how to reach a state of spiritual bliss, revealed to gods.
    Bliss attained.

    Posted on November 10, 2017 at 11:40 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Sunday November 5, 2017

    Monochrome

    Monochrome.jpg

    We went to the Monochrome exhibition at the National Gallery...... and when we came out were inspired to take a load of monochrome photos.

    Monochrome3.jpg

    ...... and on the way home....

    Monochrome5.jpg

    I was sufficiently inspired to get Rob's old Canon T90 fixed (by a veritable professional with an apparently international reputation, living not far away from me).
    Rob was inspired to create some photos for a B&W project... and for fun

    MonoCootChick.jpg MonoFrogs.jpg MonoFigurehead.jpg
    MonoTankardsSqueezbox.jpg MonoCogs.jpg

    But Trafalgar Square on such a lovely day looked pretty wonderful in colour.

    NationalGallery.jpg

    Posted on November 5, 2017 at 6:46 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Thursday November 2, 2017

    For Love or Money

    ForLoveOrMoney.jpg

    Rob booked a whole series of plays at the Rose this season - and this was one I would have given a miss from the description. What a mistake that would have been! Northern Broadside produced a marvelous adaptation of Lesage's savage eighteenth-century comedy Turcaret - just wonderfully staged, full of life and exuberance, and bordering on commedia dell'arte in form and technique.

    Posted on November 2, 2017 at 7:54 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Tuesday October 31, 2017

    Books in October

    • Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie
      BOM-SC&ThePerilsOfTheNight.jpg The second book of short stories in the Grantchester mysteries written in 2013 , set in 1955/61. By now it is clear how much the "Granchester" TV series has diverged from the books. Here Sidney makes up his mind about his love life - after only 10 years it appears, if my arithmetic is correct. Clearly he has some lasting connection with Amanda but it does not seem able to be translated into the sort of life together that a clergyman could feasibly have.
      • The Perils of the Night (January 1955)
      • Love and Arson (August)
      • Unholy Week (Good Friday)
      • The Hat Trick (a Saturday in mid May)
      • The Uncertainty Principle Uncertainty Principle (April 1961)
      • Appointment in Berlin (July)

    • Cast Iron by Peter May
      BOM-CastIron.jpg At last I have read it - the final book in the Enzo series.
      Excellent as I expected.
      All the more so as the answer to the whole enigma was "pretty obvious". I must say I do like all the clues to be hiding in plain site - it means the plot is totally feasible - not riddled with red herrings or information that you were never told ["ah - I 'ave been so blind - an imbecile" etc].
      Much anticipating his next book, wherever that takes us.

    • The Girl in the Spiders Web and .. Who Takes an eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz [read by Saul Reichlin]
      BOM-TheGirlInTheSpidersWeb.jpg BOM-TheGirlWhoTakesAnEyeForAnEye.jpg So these are the 4th and 5th novels in the Millennium series, focusing on the characters Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. It's not written by the series' creator and author of the first three Millennium books, Stieg Larsson, as he died of a heart attack in 2004 - before they were released I think.
      I was interested enough to read (listen to) them but despite the author saying he did not seek to imitate Larsson's style, they retain many aspects of the detailed and rather dull style of the originals. One thing I did note is that apparently Lagercrantz did not like or understand Blomkvist's apparent magnetic attraction for all women and he "tried to tone it down" - which I can only applaud; I have to say I thought much of the original plots were some kind of ageing journo's fantasies with respect to success with women as well as getting the "perfect" scoop.
      A second interesting point is that apparently Larsson's partner, possesses an unfinished fourth manuscript of the Millennium series - which would be interesting. I guess it needs editing - although in my opinion, the first 3 could have done with a bit more editing before publication.

    • Paul Temple and the Madison Mystery by Francis Durbridge BOM-PaulTempleMadisonMystery.jpg
      Returning from America by ocean liner, the Temples enjoy the company of their fellow passengers, only to find one of them dead the next morning - and when Paul and Steve get home to London, Sir Graham is waiting to plunge them into one of their most thrilling and dangerous adventures, the pursuit of a ruthless international gang of counterfeiters. As knives fly and bombs explode, the key to the puzzle seems to lie in a coin on the end of a watch-chain...
      This was a new production for BBC Radio 4 starring Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson, using the original scripts, vintage sound effects and much of the original incidental music from an original lost archive 1949 production. As far as possible, it is a technical and stylistic replica of how that production might have sounded had its recording survived.

    • A Case for Paul Temple by Francis Durbridge BOM-ACaseForPaulTemple.jpg
      After listening to the above - I had something of a Paul Temple fest - with the same series of re-recorded productions, starring Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson, using the original scripts etc. from this missing 1946 production.
      Post-war London is buzzing with speculation about the deaths of ten young drug addicts within the space of just one week. The police are desperate to cut off supplies of heroin and cocaine to the capital, but they are struggling. So Sir Graham Forbes turns to Paul Temple. By fast car and police launch, on deserted houseboats and midnight beaches, in dodgy East End pubs and smart West End restaurants, braving booby traps, bullets and blazing houses, Paul and Steve pursue the ruthless and feared drug dealer known only as 'Valentine'.

    • Paul Temple and Steve by Francis Durbridge BOM-PaulTempleAndSteve.jpg
      Enlisted by Sir Graham Forbes of Scotland Yard to help track down the mysterious Dr Belasco, Paul and Steve find clues in cigarette lighters and bodies in shrubberies, dance the night away in louche Latin American night clubs, meet sinister manservants and suspicious foreigners, and have their lives threatened at every turn. Just as well Steve remembered to bring along her revolver as well as her ration book...
      This yet another new production for BBC Radio 4 starring Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson and using the original scripts, vintage sound effects and much of the incidental music from the missing 1947 production.

    • Paul Temple Intervenes by Francis Durbridge BOM-PaulTempleIntervenes.jpg
      Now this recording is the original - broadcast on the 30th October 1942, and apparently it is the oldest full length drama to remain in the BBC archives. It stars Carl Bernard as Paul Temple and and Bernadette Hodgson as Steve.
      The murder of well-known American Myron Harwood, found dead in a small country lane, heralds the start of a series of celebrity murders. Each time, the body is found with a small, square piece of white cardboard bearing the inscription 'The Marquis'. When the eighth victim, a girl, is picked out of the river with the same card attached to her dress, a note from Paul Temple is delivered to Sir Graham Forbes. The message reads: 'Is it true what they say about Rita?' Rita Cartwright was a private detective investigating the Marquis murders - and now she too has ended up dead. With the police baffled and the Home Secretary specially requesting his involvement, Paul Temple has no choice but to intervene...
      Even more interesting to me is that this clearly is a very early recording - a different kind of production altogether then the later series (with Peter Coke), and it is the basis for the later 1947 production Paul Temple and Steve discussed above. The Marquis became Dr Belasco and apart from a gender change of some characters, the general sequence and plotting is the same.

    Posted on October 31, 2017 at 11:21 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Halloween

    IKnit.jpg

    I finally made it to iKnit about a week before Gerard moves his main shop to Liverpool!
    It's a shame he has to close his doors down south - it sounds as thought the new premises are going to work well - and he is retaining his workshop down here and plans to keep some kind of base but not sure yet how it will pan out.
    However it was a very jolly party despite the farewells - and there will be another at Christmas - but unfortunately I can't make that date.

    Posted on October 31, 2017 at 10:34 PM. Category: Knitting.

    Saturday October 28, 2017

    Lewes WSD Open Day

    ESWSD1.jpg

    I decided to go to the Lewes Guild open day on my own this year (no coach trip available). I went by train and it was pretty successful as an outing. The show itself did not seem to have quite the pizzazz of previous years but they did have a lot of crafts and demos for people to try out - which is a good thing to go for.

    ESWSD2.jpg

    As usual I entered the raffle for a wonderful handwoven scarf - but failed to bag a prize!

    ESWSD3.jpg

    Tempted by the signs I had passed while running up and down the high street looking for the Town Hall, I paid a visit to Anne of Cleves house.
    I chose to walk down Keere Street, (apparently also known as Scare Hill), as it looked so picturesque with its cobbles, Grade II listed buildings, and sharp downhill drop. It seems it is famous for the legend that the future George IV once drove a coach and four down the street to reach Southover Grange.

    KeereStreet.jpg

    Anne of Cleves house itself is also very picturesque although she not only never lived there but never even visited it - just part of a divorce property deal. It sounds like an excellent museum but as I had so little time before my train, (and its not a National Trust property) I only viewed it from the outside.

    AnneOfClevesHouse.jpg

    Posted on October 28, 2017 at 7:00 PM. Category: Days Out.

    Friday October 13, 2017

    Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace

    At last Alison and I went to Alexandra Palace together and I had such a good time I failed to take any pictures!
    I did actually buy stuff this year though - a few minor things on a "list" (shirring elastic) - and some spontaneous buys egged on by Alison. She bought a retro pattern with "French darts" - which turn out to be very flattering apparently. We saw the dress made up in "bark cloth" (all new terms to me - and I thought I knew everything!), and so she also bought some of that - and of course made her dress up at home the very next day...

    FrenchDartShift.jpg

    These items were all sold by the Eternal Maker who are based in Chichester and seem pretty well known now.

    I was seduced by a Danish company's pattern for a very simple coat and scarf - they persuaded me to have the pattern although the size was too large ("easily altered" they said - which rather made me think that in fact pretty easy to create the entire design without a pattern but not really what I wanted to do!). I bought fabric from Mr Rosenberg* (as I do every year..) and have been dreaming of the outfit with a Rowan pattern scarf ever since.
    [* Mr Rosenberg engaged me in a jovial debate about how much fabric to buy - engaging his entire family in the discussion..... almost as if he knows I never buy enough...].

    Posted on October 13, 2017 at 11:06 AM. Category: Days Out.

    Thursday October 12, 2017

    The Real Thing

    TheRealThing.jpg

    The poster makes this look like some Tennessee Williams play with hot steamy Southern nights filled with passion and longing. The play is rather far from that - and the way I see it is a simplistic view of an intellectual who thought he was above all that love stuff - describing and writing about love with wit and cynicism. During the play we see him made to care.
    A nice tale with a moral. However the actual play... words and so on... are of course all wonderful Stoppard - full of wit and cynicism (in a Good Way). The speeches tumble out so fast* that my slow brain needed to be at its sharpest to keep up; in future maybe I need to read the script in advance as one does with Shakespeare!

    * Rob was not enjoying it much by the interval and when I asked why said it was the "delivery" which I think was the same problem - but I have also read people complain that the large stage at the Rose give issues with audibility.

    Posted on October 12, 2017 at 11:01 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Saturday September 30, 2017

    Books in September

    • The Late Show by Michael Connelly
      BOM-TheLateShow.jpg Excellent new book with a new heroine in new territory. There is always great customer resistance to new things - and often a great temptation to respond to the new by comparing it unfavourably with the old. However I find that that Connelly - and other authors with long-standing links to a specific fictional creation - seem newly inspired in their writing when introducing new characters. A fresh approach leads to new plot possibilities and overall better writing. In fact, even with the familiar "old" characters, he has continually altered their personal and working circumstances in order to avoid any staleness in the writing.
      A great success here I believe and I'm looking forward to reading more about Detective Renée Ballard.

    • Black Widow by Christopher Brookmyre [read by Angus King and Scarlett Mack]
      BOM-BlackWidow.jpg This is another excellent Jack Parlabane story which is described as being: "unconventional in structure" (not so much), "deftly plotted" (definitely), and having a "surprise ending" (quite so - although I did realise quite early on that things might not be pointing exactly in the direction that one was meant to assume).
      When I chose it, I did not realise it was awarded crime novel of the year at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival, but it is certainly a worthy winner.

    • Virtually Dead by Peter May [read by Paul Michael Garcia]
      BOM-VirtuallyDead.jpg A very interesting concept for a novel - set in a virtual reality world as well as real life. I do remember all the brouhaha some years ago around a virtual reality world with people were getting sucked in, spending all their time, and making lots of virtual, (and also real), money. This kind of thing was of little interest to me - passing fad I thought - or maybe I feared I would be one of those people disengaging with real life! Anyway, I imagined that Peter May had invented a fictional version of this in order to create his story - but now I find that it is exactly based in "Second Life" without pseudonyms or invention (although I hope and trust he invented all the scheming and criminal activity revealed in the plot).
      Now, having read about this virtual world on line, and having read the book, I am thinking May must have had lots of fun within Second Life doing his research.
      Great fun to read ( not to mention exciting).

    • The Girl Before by Rena Olsen [read by Brittany Pressley]
      BOM-TheGirlBefore1.jpg From the start I was gripped by this book, mainly because of the opening, which I initially (a few paragraphs in) thought must surely be set in a 3rd world country. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. I have seen varying reviews, many good but also criticism of the unbelievable naivety of the heroine or the general quality of writing. I think that shows a lack of imagination because the whole point of the book and writing style is to put you into the mindset of the narrator so that you get a glimmer of her restricted life and warped moral code. For me this was all pretty successful as there was a gradual shift in understanding of what this woman is and what she has been complicit in. In fact, if anything, I felt that the end game was rather less plausible than the story of the woman's life up to the point at which we join her story.
      There are a lot of "Girl" books around, including one with this same title, but unlike some of the others this one is actually more about a girl or girls rather than a woman.

    • Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery by Francis Durbridge BOM-PaulTempleMargoMystery.jpg
      Another intriguing case for BBC radio's smoothest investigator and his glamorous wife. This recording stars my favourites for the series: Peter Coke as Paul Temple and Marjorie Westbury as Steve.
      A dangerous web of lies and murder awaits the sleuth when his wife disappears. [Leaving behind just her coat with a mysterious label inside...].

    Posted on September 30, 2017 at 8:59 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Thursday September 28, 2017

    Indian Summer

    FrenchRose.jpg

    Looking beautiful in the autumn sunshine is my latest rose cutting, which took it into its head to bloom - I should have stopped it but it is so lovely. [I know the pot has a commercial growers label on it but I recycled it - honest..].
    And below - we have one of the army of visitors that this year's excessively wet weather has produced. Between that and my personal herd of deer the pots really don't stand much of a chance.

    Slug.jpg

    Posted on September 28, 2017 at 3:03 PM. Category: The Garden.

    Strictly Murder

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    Difficult to say much about this play without being overly critical - and all the other regional reviews for this tour seem to have been extremely positive. So focusing on the positive: the acting was strong, and (like many "thriller" plays) there was a lot of "business" which they dealt with very well. It had a good plot, set in the past, which as the author (Brian Clemens) said, was necessary for the plot line to work. So it made for a good evening out but not a stunningly fantastic evening out.
    Booked only because it had "murder" in the title, I suppose my expectations should have matched my lack of research. Still not sure why this title though.

    Posted on September 28, 2017 at 11:01 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Saturday September 23, 2017

    Le Grand Mort

    LeGrandMort.jpg

    I booked this show with completely neutral expectations as we were up in town for the day (lunch with school friends). And I thought it was totally brilliant. However not for the homophobic, or those with an aversion to the naked male form - nor for Daily Mail readers as the paper predictably gave it a searing review, (being ridiculously rude about Julian Clary, who carries much of the show with great skill in my opinion).
    However to my surprise some of the other reviews were less than flattering which must be very disappointing for the cast, even though a lot of the negativity seems to be directed at the script.
    Whatever - I thought it was brilliant - and Clary received substantial praise from other esteemed actors - so there we are. I hope we can look forward to his moving forward with his acting career well outside of panto in the future.

    Posted on September 23, 2017 at 10:59 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Wednesday September 6, 2017

    Proms: Revolutionary Music

    Proms2017.jpg

    I took a notion to got to the Proms so Rob booked us seats in a box - a Grand Evening all round.

    • Igor Stravinsky - Funeral Song (12 mins)
    • Song of the Volga Boatmen (2 mins)
    • Sergei Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major(22 mins)
    • Benjamin Britten - Russian Funeral(7 mins)
    • Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No 11 in G minor 'The Year 1905'(65 mins)

    Alina Ibragimova joins Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a Russian themed programme. The Proms pays tribute to the centenary of the Russian Revolution with Prokofiev's lyrical First Violin Concerto, composed amid the growing turmoil of 1917. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11 harks back to another crisis, the failed revolution of 1905; its brooding cinematic landscapes are punctuated by bright flecks of instrumental colour. The concert opens with Stravinsky's youthful Funeral Song, lost for over a century and given its first modern performance only last year.

    Posted on September 6, 2017 at 11:28 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Wednesday August 23, 2017

    Books in August

    • French Leave by P G Wodehouse
      BOM-FrenchLeave.jpg George passed this book on to me - a very old edition hardback with no date. I spent the first few chapters wondering when Wooster was going to appear.
      Anyway despite the lack of Bertie, it was hilarious - if you like Wodehouse (presumably not if you don't).
      George was taken by an umberella exchange business model suggested in the book - which apparently was recently tried out by a Chinese start-up Sharing E Umbrella - with Wodehouse-like consequences!

    • Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
      BOM-SC&TheShadowOfDeath.jpg The first book of short stories in the Grantchester mysteries written in 2012 , set in 1953/4 - and swiftly adapted for the small screen in the shape of "Grantchester".
      I feel Runcie's clergyman is not quite as portrayed by James Norton - he is a little more theological and a a lot less worldly - as you might expect since James is the son of Robert Runcie on whom the character is based. A rather gentle read - despite the crimes. I did not find Sidney wholly sympathetic - he seems a bit wet and undecided about everything in general - not least his love life.
    • Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler [read by Tim Goodman]
      BOM-B&MStrangeTide.jpg It took me a long time to realise this but ... reports of Arthur's demise were exaggerated and there are after all some new books. As a "loyal obsessive" I am delighted but - please don't do this again Christopher.
      One of the things that delights me about this plot reversal is the sheer aplomb with which it is carried off. The explanation - and the cure - of Arthur's condition are totally in keeping with the style of the books and their combination of the scientific and the supernatural - and it even refers back to some previous events we already know about from other books. Also as with most good comedy, it is supported by the "straight man" (or men) (or women) whose reaction to Bryant's cure from apparent dementia is much as you might think in real life - except that he would not have been allowed back to work - but then how many 80-year-olds are there working in the police? (o - ok Dixon of Dock Green ... got me there).
      So well done Mr Fowler - or - hang on... did you plan it all along?!

    Posted on August 23, 2017 at 7:37 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Thursday August 17, 2017

    Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

    BalenciagaV&A1.jpg

    I went to this exhibition at the V&A (with my new friend Elaine - from Canada). The only bad thing was that we did not really leave ourselves enough time to see the other exhibits (jewellery) that I think Elaine would have been more interested in. But there is so much to see...! And she had only the one chance to go .. well.. for this trip anyway.

    I'm not really very knowledgeable about fashion and it was very interesting to get to understand the shapes he was known for and how he subsequently influenced later designers. I took away the "make your own" leaflet, but can't see my following it through somehow!

    Balenciaga2.jpg

    Balenciaga3.jpg

    Posted on August 17, 2017 at 11:08 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Saturday August 12, 2017

    Craft room update

    CraftRoom1.jpg

    Here is a "before" picture.
    And here is a "after" picture.

    CraftRoom3.jpg

    I worked on the tiles throughout July - which despite being only 6 in number were harder than they appear - in fact I should have chosen the absolute reverse (mosaics) in order to better cater for the direction of the wall! Anyway they are done now - even though George is deeply upset at the way I chose to join them (ie wrongly...) but I am hoping he never has to look at them.
    Now, as mentioned previously, we get to the even less appealing clearing out part.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 7:43 PM. Category: Crafts.

    Friday August 11, 2017

    Quilt show at the NEC

    KaffeNEC2017.jpg

    Here is my hero Kaffe at the NEC signing copies of his latest book Quilts in Ireland - hot off the press it seems. Fabulous colourful quilts, beautifully photographed on location.

    I made the spontaneous decision to join my new friend Elaine at the Quilt show. She was all booked up well in advance with a train trip to get there (probably the best way) and also with a short workshop in the morning. So I joined her at lunchtime and we mooched through the exhibits together in the afternoon. I have not been to the quilt show since it ceased to be part of the Knitting and Stitching show - and it was pretty wonderful as usual. I would probably take issue with some of the awards - but then how do you judge when everything is so fantastic in its own right?

    Anyway - I had a great day in good company - and I just hope I didn't distract Elaine too much from the serious business of viewing the quilts.

    OrientalThoughts.jpg

    Above is Oriental Thoughts by Kim Ranns - my sort of design - one day I might try something like it (but smaller!).
    And below is the winner of the category for Secondary Schools & Groups of Young Quilters. The theme is "free" and the quilters were from the Burgess Hill Girls school, where the girls attended a 30 minute lunchtime club each week to create the chickens.

    BurgessHillFreeRange.jpg

    Posted on August 11, 2017 at 11:07 AM. Category: Days Out.

    Monday July 31, 2017

    Books in July

    • Waxwings by Jonathan Raban
      BOM-Wawings.jpg My sister lent me this book and I also found it interesting, although the underlying themes she understood from it were somewhat different to my view; however there was a lot there to ponder on. I did find it slightly depressing - but for all the wrong reasons! It wasn't the desperate nature of the lives of the individuals that upset me, but rather, once again, merely the description of architectural vandalism.
      Waxwings themselves (birds) are never mentioned until the last page of the book. The author says: "...it seemed perfect as an analogy for what people were doing with Seattle during the dot-com movement: these birds, as it were, migrating from gold rush to gold rush, getting high, falling out of the tree, waving their feet around, getting up, moving on."

    • Empire of Sand by Robert Ryan [read by Clive Mantle]
      BOM-DeadGirlWalking.jpg Yet another really interesting Robert Ryan adventure story. It's all about T E Lawrence "before". I always felt that, however wonderful the 1962 film with Peter O'Toole, (and it was wonderful), it made it seem as though Lawrence ended up leading a fighting force of Arabs on to an amazing victory by sheer chance. This book - to whatever degree it might be fiction - provides excellent insight into why and how he went on to such legendary exploits. It also provided me with a lot more understanding of the politics of the time in the more easily digestible form of a Boys Own adventure story.

    Posted on July 31, 2017 at 10:07 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Friday July 28, 2017

    Four shaft weaving II

    WeavingSamplesI.jpg

    Our final day.
    These are the pictures of the class weavings. Sadly no group photo this year, even though I met some great people - and also met up with some people from last year who were at Cottenham on other courses. We did manage a group outing to a local artist's open house, followed by a meal in one of the many restaurants on offer in Mill Road.

    WeavingSamplesII.jpg

    On my way commuting to Cottenham, I passed these great metal sculptures every day, and today - my last opportunity - I stopped to take a photo. apparently they are the work of Tony Hillier, who, astonishingly does not sell his work but will undertake commissions for public places.

    Sculptures.jpg

    And tomorrow in a complete reprise of last year, I am meeting other Guild folk and some of my new weaving friends at Fibre East. [I must not buy a fleece... I must not buy a fleece...]

    Posted on July 28, 2017 at 12:47 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Thursday July 27, 2017

    Four shaft weaving I

    LoomFront.jpg

    Today it was time to "get weaving". Here is the loom - back and front - with the warp put to rights.

    LoomBack.jpg

    Posted on July 27, 2017 at 12:45 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Tuesday July 25, 2017

    Dressing the loom

    DressingLoom.jpg

    Having spent yesterday on general introductions and so on, today I got down to working on my loom. I prepared the "warp of many colours" on the frame and then transferred it to the loom.
    The photo shows my warp threaded through the raddle. Only 2 "deliberate" mistakes here. One is I casually referred to my loom as having a 16 inch working width and it turns out it has only 15 - which meant my "ends per inch" calculation was all wrong and I had to redo the work with the raddle. The other is that I ended up with the warp wound on the front beam - which is a plausible method of working but was not my intention - so I had to transfer it.

    The university has a "Shakespeare Festival" in July and August and I took the notion to go. I had not planned for it to be this evening but looking at the weather (which is lovely but unpredictably showery) I decided to rush off there and then to the Kings Fellows garden - clutching my picnic and an anorak - for "Much Ado about Nothing".
    Such a treat.

    Posted on July 25, 2017 at 12:30 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Sunday July 23, 2017

    Catz

    Catz.jpg

    Here I am again in Cambridge having signed up for Anna's weaving course (again) - this time with my own agenda for starting a project on my loom - under careful supervision!
    After having had the idea last year, I decided I would like to stay in one of the Cambridge colleges - my alter ego kicking in: "a student who accidentally got a job". Cambridge is pretty unfriendly to visitors with cars, but despite that (and with some reservations) I decided to stay right in the city. Tempted by Sidney Sussex, but in the end I went for St Catherines as the accommodation on offer for my dates was on site, and not in a modern student block. My concerns about parking and driving were not unwarranted, (I committed only 2 violations that I'm aware of though the signs seem to make the rules a complete mystery!), but overall parking was a bit easier than I imagined as I was able to leave quite early in the morning and return after 6:30pm.

    Catz was great and I would recommend it to anyone. I had a shared bathroom, (which worked out fine), and the room was spacious and secluded with a pleasant view of the garden courtyard; the food was excellent - breakfast was included but an evening meal was also available if required.

    Posted on July 23, 2017 at 12:48 PM. Category: Days Out.

    Saturday July 15, 2017

    Another year another sock blank II

    SockBlankFinishing.jpg

    So here is the benefits of belonging to a Guild: you get a group effort to help you unravel your blank ready for knitting.

    Or alternatively:
    you are sitting peacefully knitting, surrounded by a comfortable tangle of yarn, when your friends descend on you and take over with frenzied activity - at the end of which you continue peacefully knitting, with 2 balls of wool which are firmly under control.

    Posted on July 15, 2017 at 9:57 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Saturday July 8, 2017

    Hampton Court Flower Show

    HamptonCourt2017-1.jpg

    George's verdict from lat year ["it wasn't as bad as I expected"] meant he was keen enough to take another trip this year. It did mean we spent more time looking at lawn mowers than I might have done otherwise, but overall was quite fun. I bought rather a lot of lavenders.

    The gardens were lovely and of course these seaside gardens were the ones that I loved the most.

    HamptonCourt2017-2.jpg

    This is By the Sea designed by James Callicott; inspired by the coastline of Southend-on-Sea:

    ByTheSea2017.jpg

    ... and Fun on Sea:

    FunOnSea2017.jpg

    Both of these gardens were built by young offenders from Southend who are trying to get back on their feet. Aren't they perfectly lovely?

    Posted on July 8, 2017 at 4:35 PM. Category: The Garden.

    Saturday July 1, 2017

    Wind in the Willows

    WindInTheWillows.jpg

    After the opening chorus I began to think this was a huge mistake. I booked the tickets through a nostalgia for the Wind in the Willows production at the NT in the 1990s and of course it did not bear comparison. However that was my own stupidity as this quickly won me over, being something of a kids pantomime - with the usual clever jokes on two levels for both kids and adults. Rob commented at the interval that it was "utterly charming" - and he was very smitten by the costumes (as was I) since they were not so much dressed as animals but more wearing artistic representations of their characters.

    Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:28 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Their Mortal Remains

    TheirMortalRemains.jpg

    Rob and I spent the day in London. He was keen to see the Pink Floyd exhibition - so we were at the V&A for its grand opening of the new entrance in Exhibition Road (and we duly used it). The exhibition itself demonstrated a fantastic use of multimedia - well the subject rather lends itself to it - and I think it's actually worth spending more time on it than we did (which we could as I joined as a member while we were there). Rob however was strangely less impressed; I think it's perhaps because he has been such a fan through all that time of Pink Floyd's existence, he was somehow expecting "more" - when in fact he probably has seen, heard, and done it all already.

    Rather excitingly (!) on the way to our next appointment at the London Palladium, we were able to join in with a protest march. It quite took me back.... and I think the same could be said of a number of the other participants - I felt quite at home with them all.

    Protest1.jpg

    you get the idea...

    Protest2.jpg

    Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:15 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Friday June 30, 2017

    Books in June

    • First Frost and Fatal Frost by James Henry [read by David Jason]
      James Henry has written four of these prequels, and I have listened to these two - read by David Jason (who else?).
      They seem to follow the pattern of the originals with a number of story threads happening concurrently - which the TV adaptation separated into different episodes, (and in my opinion the quality of the series was considerably the better for it). However although I thought the TV series gave a very faithful representation of the characters, it seems the original author felt it did not depict the gritty realism that he strove for in his writing. I do think that these books are more like the TV series, with a lot of Frost-style humour and less of the gritty... etc - but overall are quite a good pastiche, if that's what the author was aiming for.

      BOM-FirstFrost.jpg BOM-FatalFrost.jpg


    • Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs [read by Katherine Browitz]
      BOM-SpeakingInBones.jpg Enjoyable read - less of a focus on some moral or ecological "issue" of the day and more focus on mystery and suspense. It involves a cold case and all the usual suspects are in play to solve it.
      I was a little perplexed - or even disbelieving - about the premise which is obviously setting up the next book (no spoilers here) but I guess the author needs more scope for the characters.

    • Die Last by Tony Parsons [read by Colin Mace]
      BOM-DieLast.jpg I've enthusiastically been waiting for this latest Max Wolfe story, and it was as good as I had hoped. Again for my personal taste I was less taken with the plot and story - which was as horrid as ever - but now thoroughly enjoying the back story. I hope it continues in a positive way, but I feel Max is a character destined for tragedy and loss, so I can't think how he will cope if he turns out to be happy.

    Posted on June 30, 2017 at 9:24 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Sunday June 25, 2017

    The way home - Moseley Old Hall

    By the time I got to Wolverhampton it was early afternoon (not a cue for a song, sadly, although I'm sure it would have been a great one) and had just come on to rain. My destination was Moseley Old Hall, an Elizabethan farmhouse described as "atmospheric" - which it certainly was.

    MoseleyOldHall.jpg

    I think it has rather lovely grounds and gardens but the weather was a bit grim for that kind of thing so I just snapped a couple of photos while waiting to start my tour of the house. This Knot Garden was constructed it in 1962 using a 17th-century design.

    MoseleyOldHallKnot.jpg

    The main deal here is priest holes etc and the fact that Charles II hid in the house after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Indeed we started the tour entering the house through the same door used by him on his arrival, and later described in his memories of his escape dictated to Samuel Pepys. Although the tour is very geared towards kids, (as "50 things to do before you're 11 ¾ "), it was seriously one of the most exciting tours I have ever had at an NT property, narrated most passionately by one of the guides.
    Rather charmingly Charles seemed to have remembered (and substantially rewarded) all those that helped him escape in this period once he was restored to the throne in 1660. Not necessarily a trait associated with monarchs.

    I managed a cream tea (ok just a tea) but I could not linger, as there was quite a way still to go. I paused to buy a few plants from the shop - I like to do this at NT properties when they are on offer - including a myrtle, a plant I never remember having seen before. Jennie tells me it is tender, which might be why, but it seems subsequently to have done quite well in its new pot.

    Posted on June 25, 2017 at 11:09 PM. Category: Days Out.

    The way home - Keld

    After 2 full days at Woolfest I was able to set off very early in the morning and take in 2 National Trust properties instead of one. The first was Keld Chapel and relatively close at hand (Shap - 40 miles away).

    KeldChapel.jpg

    Getting there was interesting - I followed the satnav using the postcode provided and ended up in a little close of houses in Shap (modern updates on stone cottages). I felt sure the chapel would be nestled in somewhere but I could not find it and my car was starting to be stared at ("you don't live here do you?"); anyway instead of sensibly asking someone (too embarrassed), I found that the NT website has google maps instructions, which took me right there. My original position may well have been close as the crow flies but was miles away by road. And what a road it was. Single track with high stone walls either side so totally trusting to luck not to meet anyone coming the other way.
    Having got there though - the village was lovely (you can see mini in the picture parked just down the road - where it was wider!). Entry to the chapel was by means of a key hanging on the wall of a local cottage:

    KeldChapel3.jpg

    And once inside - it was so beautifully cool and peaceful. The interior is rustic, and the crumbling structure had left a thin deposit of fragments on the pews. This is not a sign of neglect, just what happens in old rustic buildings that have been put to varying uses over the centuries.

    KeldChapel2.jpg

    Here is a little bit of the history taken from other sites:
    The date of construction of Keld Chapel is unknown; it may have been a medieval chantry chapel of the nearby Shap Premonstratensian Abbey or it may have been a simple chapel of ease with no connection to the abbey. The first documentary evidence referring to Keld Chapel records a christening here in 1672. Towards the end of the 17th century the chapel ceased to be used for religious purposes and was converted into a house. In 1897 the building was repaired and during the 20th century it was passed to the National Trust. You can read a very interesting academic paper which really concludes that the only evidence it was ever a chapel at all is in the persistence of the name.

    There was a lot of interesting local information on a noticeboard inside about the history of the chapel, and attempts to have it pulled down, (letters to Parliament and so on). Given that it was saved, these are very amusing. When it had ceased to be inhabited in the 1800s, Lord Lonsdale wanted the road to be widened enough to take a hay wagons through, and dismissed the claims that the building had any historic significance as a chapel. It's quite ironic looking at the village now. The road through it "goes nowhere" (more on that in a moment) and the requirement for road widening seems to have evaporated.

    Being somewhat loathe to go back down the single track road the way I had come (and did I mention the bicycle race?) I decided to explore the road out of the village the other way. The satnav had it as a possibility but there are many notices saying that the road is unsafe (crevices and weak bridge). I was suspicious that it was the large company that owns the land trying to stop people using the road but in the end I was too nervous to go on very far (even when an SUV passed me coming from the opposite direction).

    Yesterday I nipped into Keswick in the morning on a mission to visit the Herdy shop, and get more petrol. I decided to go over the hills at the mercy of the satnav - and it was all going splendidly - beautiful weather and scenery - until I came to a sign out of the blue saying "road closed". As above - loathe to just retrace my steps, I struck off in another direction which led me on a very winding road through 2 gates (I did not know that was even possible on public roads!) and using up a lot of petrol with very little progress towards civilisation - and leaving me panicking the entire journey about being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
    So these previous adventures were quite enough for me, and I set off back to the motorway as I had arrived.

    Posted on June 25, 2017 at 11:06 PM. Category: Days Out.

    Saturday June 24, 2017

    Woolfest - an extra day in Paradise

    Eta&Nico.jpg

    Due to a rather major misunderstanding - which I am not complaining so much about as it saved me a good deal of money in the long run - I booked myself an extra night in the hotel (lucky for me they had had a cancellation). So I had the whole day in which to look around in a more relaxed manner. In consequence I took in a few more demonstrations that normal.

    TapestryWeaving.jpg

    While I am not interested in taking up tapestry weaving (laborious and too much like art as opposed to craft), if I were in any way undecided, this would have certainly inspired me to begin right away. The work produced by Eta and Nico (Woolley Wonders) is overwhelming. They incorporate unspun fleece (which may be applied as locks or whole chunks) dyed in the most scrumptious of colours - as well as other "found" materials such as shells. Just... lovely...

    I also watched Steve Wilson demonstrating his speedy method of creating a warp, using a home-made kind of lazy kate on a rather large scale. He is obviously very creative and was very helpful in giving advice on making a similar device. He went down a storm with the audience of serious weavers - for myself I fell it might be a lot clearer to me after I attend my weaving course in July and learn more about warping.

    SteveWilson.jpg

    Back at the hotel, I spent my evening with Nancy - an American academic with very liberal views (luckily) so it was very stimulating company for me - not to mention the knitting.... Last year it was all about Brexit, and this year all about the US president.

    Posted on June 24, 2017 at 11:04 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Friday June 23, 2017

    Woolfest

    Guess where I am.
    OK I'll give you a clue:

    HerdyFamily.jpg

    ok ok - so you read it in the title.... and here we are again! How I love being in Cumbria - and for once the weather is really lovely.

    Today I spent the time shopping and watching the familiar Rare Breeds Parade. Peter Titley was as terrific as ever - and although I see this every year, it is always different as there are different animals in attendance. I think this was Terry - an Exmoor Horn.

    RareBreeds2017.jpg

    There was a notice on Terry's pen stating: Terry is a lovely ram but may be a bit grumpy because of the weather.... All I can say is - can't we all be?

    My shopping was a little lacklustre - basically I have all the fluff I can handle - but I loved the stalls and craftsmanship on display.

    FeltWithAttitude.jpg

    This chess set (above) really caught my eye - by Ellie Langley of Felt with Attitude.
    And this collaborative wall hanging interested me as it it was inspired by the story of Guildford Blue, the town being known in middle ages for this fine woolen textile dyed with woad.

    GuildfordBlue.jpg

    And just in case any of us gets overexcited in the fleece market - I noticed there is a handy place to calm down.

    IsolationPen.jpg

    Posted on June 23, 2017 at 10:42 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Tuesday June 6, 2017

    Gone to a place where there's a lot of cheese

    Gromit.jpg

    Posted on June 6, 2017 at 5:56 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Friday June 2, 2017

    A heavy heart

    RM1Stitchcraft1952.jpg

    Since the announcement about Sir Roger the "heavy heart" has been much used. For all that, I use it here as it exactly describes how I feel - not devastated or truly affected, as I did not know the man personally, but... well... sad.
    By all accounts he was a lovely unaffected man and that is just what we would like to believe of our icons.

    I always knew of his modelling career and as this is a "knitting" site I am marking it here. I am only sorry that he was made to feel uncomfortable about it in the 1960s; I cannot quite convey how deeply unfashionable knitting was in the 1960s - especially among the hip and groovy fraternity. But he lived with it - and now it takes on much less significance when compared with his subsequent achievements.

    He was always sartorially elegant - in The Saint his wardrobe is credited as being Mr Moore's own, and in The Persuaders, Brett Sinclair's wardrobe designed by Roger Moore. This idea appeals to me - see this fun blog.

    As a final note - what strikes me about these early photo shoots - with RM in his early twenties - is how much fun they seem to be having. I am not being naive here - I know that modelling is not as glamorous as the pictures - especially in that less technological era - it would have been hard work and you spent long hours stuck in implausible poses and inclement weather (windy by the looks of it!) trying to look comfortable and natural. But somehow they seem overall to be having a laugh and the joy of it shines through. A fitting memorial alongside the rest of the man who went on to become so very famous, and who dedicated himself in his later years to working so hard for good causes.

    RM2Stitchcraft1952.jpg

    Posted on June 2, 2017 at 8:06 AM. Category: Knitting.

    Wednesday May 31, 2017

    Books in May

    • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
      BOM-MagpieMurders.jpg As I will tell anyone who will listen, Anthony Horowitz can do no wrong in my eyes, but I think even on a more objective basis this is an excellent book.
      It is a "clever" book, which may not appeal to some. And given its slight surreal quality, I was concerned that it might veer off to become totally surreal and have an unresolved ending. However, (if this is not a spoiler), take it from me that this is a genuine mystery thriller with all that implies - in case you are in any way like me, and that helps reassure you at all!

    • In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson
      BOM-InADrySeason.jpg I loved this book.
      It has a lot of those ingredients that would especially appeal to me. It is a "cold case" mystery as the body that appears when a reservoir dries out is many years old. So it has the fascination of the idea of the drowned village reappearing as well the reconstruction of a crime set during and after the war.
      It is also the book in which Annie Cabbot makes her first appearance.

    • The Murder of Mary Russell [and The Marriage of Mary Russell ]
      by Laurie R King

      BOM-TheMurderOfMaryRussell.jpg I have a lot of - maybe conflicting - opinions about this book.
      It is mainly about Mrs Hudson rather than Mary Russell (or Holmes) and the way the author chose to develop this character is not at all pleasing to me. I can see why the author took this route - it is an excellent well-written story which is interesting and thought provoking. I just can't see (or don't want to see) Mrs Hudson like that. More importantly - where will/can she take the characters from there?
      The Marriage of Mary Russell is a short story released as a "Kindle Single" - also with an audio version. It's quite fun.

    Posted on May 31, 2017 at 10:46 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Thursday May 25, 2017

    Wetlands and Ham House

    We did a morning trip to the Wetlands in Barnes so Rob could yet again try and see the Kingfishers - but no dice. We did see a lot of other fine birds though, and had a chat with one of the volunteers who had a lot of interesting information to impart.

    We then went on to visit Ham House.

    HamHouse2.jpg

    Rob had been there dancing with the Morris men a week or two ago and was so impressed we decided to go and see the house properly. It was fascinating for me, as I have recently taken more interest in the Tudors and not bothered so much about the English Civil War and subsequent Restoration.
    The house was originally built in 1610 and then much altered and improved by William Murray, who received it as a gift from Charles I, with whom he was a close friend and associate. However it was his daughter Elizabeth who is the most prominent in the overall story, as throughout the Parliamentarian years she kept good relations with Cromwell whilst also belonging to the Sealed Knot, and secretly supporting Charles II in France.
    The house remained in the hands of the family for 300 years with the NT acquiring it in 1948, which is how it has remained so wonderfully preserved.

    We took the tour of the Queen's apartments which again totally fascinated me as it appeared to have the original (400 year old or so) textiles, which were indescribably vivid as they were not so exposed to sunlight.
    It seems amazing to me that I spent so many years working in Richmond and never visited before.

    Posted on May 25, 2017 at 1:09 PM. Category: Days Out.

    Monday May 1, 2017

    Craft room

    CraftRoom1.jpg

    Here is a "before" picture. I have finally set about working on the next and hopefully final part of the craft room - after which I have the long task of actually clearing it out (!). However first things first. I have to complete the wallpapering (having finally decided to carry on with it along the full length of the walls), and do a little painting, after which the carpenters and plumber are due to install the sink.

    CraftRoom2.jpg

    Posted on May 1, 2017 at 8:10 AM. Category: Crafts.

    Sunday April 30, 2017

    Books in April

    • Garment of Shadows, Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King
      It's a real pleasure to discover you are several books "behind" in a series, especially when it is one I enjoy as much as these.
      In Garment of Shadows we pick up after the plot of Pirate King and still in Morocco. I mentioned that the latter was not my favourite, but this I liked a little better as it covered interesting historical events about which I knew nothing previously.
      Dreaming Spies is quite different in that the events take place out of chronological sequence, and are set in Oxford and Japan. I think it is very wise for the author not to tie herself to a series of books in a chronological sequence; I noted with Steven Saylor that he rapidly ran out of a plausible lifetime for his main character - and has now reverted to writing about his characters earlier history - and Lindsey Davis has done (what I thought Saylor might do) and continued the chronology with the children of her original hero. Both of these ploys are only moderately successful (in my opinion - obviously).

      BOM-GarmentOfShadows.jpg BOM-DreamingSpies.jpg


    • Paul Temple and the Conrad Case by Francis Durbridge BOM-SulivanMystery.jpg
      Another case that takes Paul and Steve to a new exotic location, (Bavaria), to help find Betty Conrad. The main clue seems centre around a cocktail stick with which the plot is continually being... well... skewered. Despite that - excellent fun.
      This is back to the original 1950s recordings starring Peter Coke and Majorie Westbury, who are not only highly skilled actors but assuredly the best Paul and Steve.

    Posted on April 30, 2017 at 9:29 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Saturday April 15, 2017

    France at Easter

    FranceApril2017.jpg

    A lovely Easter in France - and the last opportunity to see the Wisteria rampant all over the front of the cottage.
    The cherry blossom as lovely as ever at this time of year.

    BlossomApril2017.jpg

    Posted on April 15, 2017 at 8:16 AM. Category: France.

    Thursday April 13, 2017

    Flying Scotsman at the Bluebell

    FS.jpg

    So Flying Scotsman snuck in overnight on Tuesday, where a few dedicated souls stayed up to see it - and we were there bright and early to watch the pipe band for the first official journey - and then later on for our trip.

    UsOnFlyingScotsman.jpg

    What a fantastic day.

    Posted on April 13, 2017 at 8:11 AM. Category: Days Out.

    Tuesday April 4, 2017

    Rosenkranz and Guildenstern

    R&G.jpg

    It was a bit of a trauma getting here (realising I was booked a hotel in Stratford on business when I had actually got theatre tickets in London) but well worth the effort. As the reviewers all tell us - it's 50 years since it was first produced and stands up excellently - almost "despite" all the hype. A lot of the publicity seems to focus on Daniel Radcliffe as Rosenkranz (probably), but Joshua McGuire's Guildenstern (probably) is no second fiddle, and David Haig is terrific as the stagey "Player".

    Now it's time to prepare myself to be up at the crack of dawn to drive back to Warwick.

    Posted on April 4, 2017 at 11:25 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Friday March 31, 2017

    Books in March

    • Dry Bones That Dream; Innocent Graves; Dead Right by Peter Robinson
      [read by James Langton or Neil Pearson]
      The next 3 in the series (7, 8, and 9), which I obtained as audio books. The narrator varies depending on the edition - and "Dead Right" is also published under the title "Blood at the Root".
      BOM-DryBoneThatDream.jpg BOM-InnocentGraves.jpg BOM-DeadRight.jpg


    • Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh [read by Wanda McCaddon]
      BOM-DeathAtTheBar.jpg Now completely in the mood for Inspector Alleyn, I listened to this novel (book 9). It is one of the stories used for the television series The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries in the 1990s which starred Patrick Malahide in the title role, ably assisted by William Simons as Brer Fox.
      Malahide is wonderful and has appeared in many roles too countless to mention - Simons however seems to have made his latter career as a series of stolid and dependable policemen - nonetheless wonderful for all that.

    Posted on March 31, 2017 at 9:28 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Thursday March 30, 2017

    A short break

    FrenchCottage30032017.jpg

    Over to France for a few days prior to the planned commencement of the "great works". Our planning permission has now been accepted so hopefully we can soon start a foundation for the small glass room to replace the workman's shelter seen on the right of the cottage.
    A cheering patch of honesty - which grows just anywhere and everywhere - next to our newly-created "Back Door" step.

    Honesty.jpg

    Posted on March 30, 2017 at 8:15 AM. Category: France.

    Friday March 17, 2017

    Ditchling

    Ditchling1.jpg

    We spent the day at Ditchling as George noticed the Craft museum there had an exhibition on natural dyeing around Ethel Mairet's legacy. It's a relatively small space - with small displays - but has a working remit to revive old crafts as part of a living museum, with dedicated work and library spaces. The workshops are not limited to dyeing, weaving, and knitting but other crafts - stemming from the Guild founded by Eric Gill, Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute in the 1920s. This artistic community experimented with communal life and self-sufficiency and thus many artists were drawn to Ditchling. The Guild continued until 1989, at which time its affairs were wound up and its workshops demolished.
    The museum itself was founded in 1985, but underwent a massive transformation from 2007, finally reopening in 2013 with much praise for its architectural design.

    I was fascinated by the displays of weaving from the 1950s, including curtain designs and samples for the Festival Hall, and a cloak used in Ben Hur (with photos of Chuck himself sporting it in the film).

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    Ditchling has a great "tea room" where we had lunch; my sausage sandwich was so impressive that we followed directions to the farm to buy those very sausages to take home. The farm included a small collection of fancy fowl:

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    Next we went up (to) Ditchling Beacon (had to be done) where I managed to squeeze down an ice cream - purchased from an optimistic but lonely man in a van perched on the summit - and despite the bitingly cold wind.

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    Finally we went to see "Jack and Jill" - a pair of windmills which enjoyed a high profile reputation in my youth to the extent that whenever any windmill was on the horizon in Sussex, someone would say knowledgeably "that's Jack and Jill" (yes, even to solitary ones...). Disappointingly it (Jill) only opens on Sundays. You can see Jack (privately owned) in the distance minus his sails.

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    Posted on March 17, 2017 at 7:30 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Saturday March 11, 2017

    Charming

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    Each year at the Guild, we collect a charm. So I made them into a bracelet.

    Posted on March 11, 2017 at 7:29 AM. Category: Crafts.

    Friday March 10, 2017

    Coven

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    Another outing with Rob to St John's Church Bethnal Green. Two of the three acts feature on Rob's choice collection for 2016. They were excellent - the audience was .... eclectic.... I am now quoting from their flyer:

    Coven is a collection of three of the British folk scene's finest, most formidable and forthright female acts, taking to the stage to celebrate International Women's Day on a tour of unforgettable concerts. The exquisitely harmonic songwriting duo and BBC 6 Music favourites O'Hooley & Tidow will be joined by the enchanting BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Finalists Lady Maisery and the irrepressible Leicester songwriter, activist and performer Grace Petrie. A rare opportunity to experience these thought provoking, heartfelt, entertaining and enthralling women performing individually and collectively on one stage.

    Posted on March 10, 2017 at 3:20 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Tuesday February 28, 2017

    Books in February

    • Past reason Hated and Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson
      [read by James Langton]
      Mini-break over - the next two books in the series which I found as audio books to borrow from the library. A story of sexual jealousy (leading to murder), and a child's abduction (leading to murder).
      BOM-PastReasonHated.jpg BOM-WednesdaysChild.jpg

    • Annika Stranded - Series 3
      AnnikaStranded3.jpg I have to say I love these stories, excellently - I would say narrated but in truth they are very much a part-acted one man show - by Nicola Walker. I think any woman can empathise with a very realistic portrayal of her working life balance and her resulting social life.
      1. False Signals: A plane crash from 1972 seems to have a bearing on a murder inquiry.
      2. Forty Words: In Bergen, Annika investigates a strange case involving a submarine.
      3. Traffic: Annika wakes up after some serious partying to find herself in the boot of a car.
      4. Vertigo: Annika witnesses someone being pushed from the top of a rock face.

    • The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries:
      JeremyClyde.jpg Jeremy Clyde (isn't he lovely?) stars as Chief Inspector Alleyn in these BBC Radio dramatisations of two of Ngaio Marsh's much-loved mysteries.
      A Man Lay Dead
      A Man Lay Dead A game of 'murders' at Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party becomes far too realistic for anyone's liking. First a guest arrives with a dangerously lethal dagger and then, when the gong sounds to announce the start of the game, the victim plays dead in a very convincing manner.
      I recently watched the TV adaptation of this story starring Patrick Malahide - and (like many of Agatha Christie's plots), it's all credit to them that they managed the logistics to enact the sequence of events as described!
      A Surfeit of Lampreys
      Like all good aristocrats, the Lampreys are charming but penniless - so a visit from the wealthy head of their family is greatly anticipated. However, their Uncle Gabriel isn't persuaded to part with his money and a row ensues. When a body is found in the lift leading to the Lampreys' flat, Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn finds a family immersed in hidden secrets and intrigue.

      A comment from another listener "Dated, implausible and formulaic".
      A comment from me: "... and utterly charming."

    Posted on February 28, 2017 at 9:28 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Wednesday February 22, 2017

    The Miser

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    Once again off to the Richmond Theatre to see Gryff Rhys Jones in the Molière role - lots of fun.

    Posted on February 22, 2017 at 11:02 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Sunday February 19, 2017

    Unravel 2017

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    As we had the class on yesterday, I went to Unravel on today, and took Kate and Jill with me. Neither of them had been before so it was quite fun to be a (small) group. I was inspired by the sock designs from Coop Knits, and could not resist more fluff from John Arbon

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    Posted on February 19, 2017 at 6:06 PM. Category: Knitting.

    Saturday February 18, 2017

    Another year another sock blank

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    This is meant to show everyone happily at work on their blanks - but it has turned out rather like forgetting to take a picture of the celebration dinner until after the food is is all eaten up! Below we have all the blanks drying in the sunshine - just to prove there really was a class.

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    Posted on February 18, 2017 at 5:04 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Friday February 10, 2017

    Dydd Miwsig Cymru: 9Bach at Kings Place

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    A suitable way to celebrate Welsh Language Music Day - an evening's entertainment entirely in Welsh.... with lots of translations for us non-Welsh speakers though. Learnt a new word, which turns out to be the title of 9Bach's album: Anian.

    Posted on February 10, 2017 at 11:50 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Sunday February 5, 2017

    It's all in the preparation....

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    As I have not touched the dyes since we did the last class - which turns out to be 5 years ago (!) - I dyed two blanks at home, using steaming to fix instead of a microwave. Last time we used pure merino, and so I also wanted to check out the 25% nylon blend. I used the dyes I had already mixed up from back then and astonishingly it all worked fine; some of the solutions had gone a little granular. [Nevertheless, I shall be mixing fresh dye for the class].

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    I took both blanks and knitted the start of a sample sock for demonstration purposes. What interested me mostly was that I thought I liked the blue blank the best. I thought I was getting tired once I got to do the red one and rather rushed it. However, for the resulting sock, I think the red one is much nicer. I think it is the very bright blue, and the way it interacts with the white that is the mistake in the colour combination.

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    Posted on February 5, 2017 at 6:53 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

    Wednesday February 1, 2017

    Soane Museum

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    My sister suggested another 'birthday treat' and we visited Sir John Soane's House - now a museum. He was one of those interesting eccentrics who collected wonderful items - some exceedingly rare - such that after his death his property was retained, restored and expanded to make the museum.
    It was most famous to me for housing the Rakes Progress - but it seems you have to be on a guided tour in order to be allowed to see it - and the timing or even existence of the tours seemed to be akin to the description of the eponymous Three Men (not yet in the boat) trying to find the right train out of Waterloo - so we did not... (see it), though the 4 paintings of the Humours of an Election were on display. Several items seemed to be absent from the collection at the time we visited - but then entry is free so one can hardly complain.

    We then went for lunch in China Town, which was great, although sadly the restaurant we had planned to visit had disappeared from the area in the 20 years since we last went there (!).

    Posted on February 1, 2017 at 10:58 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

    Tuesday January 31, 2017

    Books in January

    • The China Thrillers by Peter May [read by Simon Vance]
      There was a change of narrator for the next (and final) three books.
      There are many comments on line from readers constantly asking Peter May to write more books about Margaret and Li Yan, and I can see why. Since he was not expecting to end the series after 6 books, the characters remain with a story still to be told.
      He writes about how the books came about here, and in the comments he points out that these books were written over 10 years ago and summarises the situation:
      All these years later I have no appetite for going back to China and updating myself on the changes that have taken place since the series concluded. I was witness to an intense period of change in which the old and new Chinas were still doing battle with each other. I think the new China has won that particular scrap, and much that made the old China fascinating has gone. Like the country itself, I have moved on.
      For all that, a short story The Ghost Marriage written for a French magazine has recently been published in English, and follows the characters later on in their history.

      BOM-Snakehead.jpg BOM-TheRunner.jpg BOM-ChineseWhispers.jpg



    • Dr Finlay's Casebook by A J Cronin BOM-DrFinlaysCasebook.jpg
      A collection of the famous stories set in and around the fictional Scottish town of Levenford and village of Tannochbrae during the inter-war years. The stories are heart-warming, funny and touching, albeit obviously rather dated and non-PC.
      Dr Finlay's Casebook is an omnibus including Adventures of a Black Bag and Dr Finlay of Tannochbrae.
      One thing that I did notice was that some of the stories did not seem to be self-consistent, especially with respect to Finlay's love life. That may just be as it is (like Sherlock Holmes stories) or it may be that being collections of short stories they are not presented in the right chronological order.

    • Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery by Francis Durbridge BOM-SulivanMystery.jpg
      A thrilling case that takes Paul and Steve to exotic Egypt,
      This is a "new" (2006) eight-part BBC recording of a lost archive Paul Temple mystery, starring Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson.

      They inhabit a sophisticated, well-dressed world of chilled cocktails and fast cars, where the women are chic and the men still wear cravats. And where Sir Graham Forbes of Scotland Yard always needs Paul’s help with a tricky case. [By Timothy!].

    Posted on January 31, 2017 at 9:27 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

    Saturday January 28, 2017

    Macrame

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    So this was a treat I booked for myself - an afternoon of craft learning macrame - which I have longed to try ever since 1976. It's actually much simpler than I thought - in so far as, like knitting, you only have to learn 2 stitches and you know the whole thing (in theory!).
    The class was very friendly - run by the London Craft Club in a space provided at the Museum of London - and this was the result (a small thing but mine own.... YES it is supposed to look like that...):

    Macrame1.jpg

    This was the 1970s magazine article that inspired me all those years ago, but sadly I had very little imagination at that time so failed to just go ahead and "do it".

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    I finished my excellent day by going out with a team of 5 fellow quizzers to a fish and chip supper and charity quiz run by the Tadworth Children's Trust.
    We did not win... :o(

    Posted on January 28, 2017 at 10:55 AM. Category: Red Letter Days.

    Sunday January 22, 2017

    Wetlands

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    It seems I am set fair for a week of birthday treats - and this is the first.

    Rob has joined the Wetlands Trust and had such a great time he thought I needed to go too - I thought this was a trip to the Docklands area but in fact it is quite local in Barnes. One key thing was to go "while the Lego birds were still on display" which resulted in some photos that look at first glance to be very pixelated until you remember what they are.

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    I saw several life birds - and after being shown a Jack Snipe through a spotting scope from one hide, I proudly managed to find one (or "the same one") myself through my own glasses from another. We saw a couple of standard Snipe, which I have to admit is also a life bird. There were 2 bitterns but photos are of the "take my word for it that's a bittern" variety.

    The Wetlands also boast a pair of otters from Asia which are a great attraction at feeding time (and being from warmer climes, really did not like putting their paws in the water!).

    We had to co-ordinate the day out with the weather, and we were lucky to have a really fine day - cold but very sunny and most importantly without the bitter wind.

    We rounded the day out by eating pasta at Jamie's in Richmond.

    Posted on January 22, 2017 at 11:02 AM. Category: Days Out.