Saturday, 31 December 2011

Over And Out

Just for a couple of days. 

It may not be trekking across Europe, but it's about time for another road trip. Kitty's been sitting on the drive too long and Co-pilot Percy Rabbit has gotten far too comfortable lounging around the house (or is that me?).

Despite four previous owners, and making it all the way to Poland and back,  my beautiful baby blue flew through her MOT last month! In celebration, I reckon she's earned a wee workout. Turn up the music (and the heater), and show me the road.


Green: Completed. Gloucester to Northants for Christmas.

Blue: Today I drive for Cardiff to spend New Year with my beautiful friend :JR: 'Heartface'. 

Orange: Should I ever regain motor(ing) functions, I shall head back up to Gloucester for New Year's Day drinks with Marilyn.

Pink: Repeating step one, I continue on - again - to Northants, to wash my clothes and sleep for a couple of days. Expect interim blogging.

Yellow: Then it's down to the big smoke to see my partner in crime, Ms. Devine, to 'drink our socks off' and meet the latest addition to the clan - baby Zuba (Kinyarwanda for 'sunshine'). Also time to pop in to see the lovely Mr. & Mrs. Kingswell and cheeky wee Ryanman.

Another 500 miles on the clock - all in a good cause. Our friend Lies was supposed to be joining Ms. Devine and myself from Belgium. Unfortunately, her work trip was cancelled. Instead, we will be planning our usual trip to Team Turikumwe in February

After all that, I think I may need a holiday. 

Wishing a hugely safe journey to everyone on the roads this season. Take it easy, keep rested, always part with love in your heart. 

See you in 2012.


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sweetie, Darlink!

Some of the slightly more blushsome finds in the memory chest...

Above, for one day only: myself, Ann and Kimbob performing on Reading High Street as Without Words. Scaring young children and the elderly alike. One step short of the dreaded 'living statue' routine. 

Found my student card from the BRIT school

One of my all-time lasting memories is receiving an A* in Physical Theatre with my friend Matt. Our entire routine consisted of wheeling out a TV, playing white static, and doing tumble rolls (holding on to each others' ankles) back and forth in front of it for three minutes. 

That's the kind of place it was. A place where, without warning, a group of Musical Theatre students (complete with leg warmers) would turn up and spontaniously burst into Flash Dance.

Found an old newsletter, made me smile:

(click to enlarge)

I progressed on to Reading to study Deaf Theatre - bit of a niche market. Found this delightful blurb from my third year finals performance:

(click to enlarge)

There were only three of us in it, and the climax (*cough*) came when myself and Maid #2 shared a steamy snog prostrate before the front row. According to my dad (yes, this really does get worse) the entire back row stood up to get a better look!

Back, 3rd from left: on the stage of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
(just visiting)

Continuing to scrape the bottom of the box, I found this:

Check the cast list, fourth from the bottom:

(click to enlarge)

I was one of a privileged few to get the pleasure of watching Jamie Cullum strut his funky stuff - in drag. 

During my first week of uni, I got lost on Bulmershe Campus (hard to do, it was about the size of a paper bag) whilst trying to find the student bar, and bumped into him by the pond. Extremely lovely, helpful guy for the full two minutes that I made his acquaintance. 

We also had the added perk of him playing for our Winter Formal at Newbury Racecourse. Funny to think how much an appearance like that would now be worth, but easy to understand why. You could hardly see his fingers, they moved that fast across the keys. Check him playing with Tim Minchin. Awesome performance.

So, some silly stuff in there. Top hats, tails, corsets - all the fun things in life. Kind of miss the wackiness of it - the 'anything could happen' (and frequently does) feeling. 

But then, you can push that even further through writing, and it's harder for the audience to throw things.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Mrs. J. Green

The following really took me aback. Some years ago, I became heavily involved in researching local history for a book I will eventually get around to writing. I managed to end up in possession of a number of interesting artifacts. Tucked away in the folds of my diary were these three postcards. 

From a personal perspective, they're interesting because they're written from my home village to the place where I was born. Unfortunately, by the time I came along, there was a distinct lack of fine ladies upon white horses.

From an historical point of view, it's incredible that this small village was once important enough to appear on postcards. It's also astonishing that, in writing a letter to someone thirty-five miles away, the only address required was: 'Mrs. J. Green, Somerton, Near Banbury.' That's a bit like me writing to my friend 'Mr. G. Athey, somewhere in Bath.' I don't fancy my chances of it ever arriving.

It's a little hard to tell, but it looks as though one is stamped '08 and two '07. Which I assume to be 1907. I think they're simply wonderful. Click for a clearer view:



Monday, 26 December 2011

Memory Chest

As we're in the season of introspection and sentimentality, I made the fatal mistake of rummaging through the attic. Half a lifetime's worth of 'stuff'.

When I was younger, a friend made me a memory chest, which he felt sure I would one day fill. The problem with gathering memories, however, is that there is very little time in between to arrange them neatly.

My aim these past few days has been to sort through the indecorous plastic bags into which I had thrown these memories. Armed with a large glass of Courvoisier, half a ton of Pritt Stick, and a heavy-duty stapler, I set about scrapbooking the past fifteen years. A period spanning college, university, several changes of address, a lengthy period of domesticity, university (again) and eventually a plane ticket to Africa.

It was a very large glass of Courvoisier.

Below are some pictures of the process. Over the next few weeks I will share a few of my favourite finds under the tag 'Memory Chest'.

Pritt Stick and Courvoisier.
Two essential ingredients.

The task at hand.
It started sensibly.
And got progressively sillier.

Remember this?
It's what communications looked like before e-mail.

This is what a blog used to look like.
And here's how you password protect it.

You can fit a lot into a few pages.
An entire year in Australia = one scrapbook.

But can you fit an entire lifetime into one chest...

Just about. But I'm either going to have to stop having adventures, or buy a second chest.

At some point I'd love to find a friend who does pyrography. It would be beautiful to have the chest decorated. Though I'm in no hurry. As with the making of it, it would need to be someone fairly special to undertake such a task. Memories have to be meaningful, after all.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Fond Familiars

Oooh, Dad's probably gonna kill me for this one.

Every time I try to take a day off blogging, something crops up that I just have to shout about. I made the fatal mistake of rummaging through the attic last night and unearthed some truly ancient photo albums. More ancient with each year that passes.

There was truly craziness in there, some of which I may share one day when I'm too sozzled to stop myself. But I thought the above was kind of seasonal. I must have been about three or four. I think the expression on Dad's face is: 'Did I keep the receipt?'

I found equally embarrassing photos of my talented cousins Alx, Billy and Jimmy. Trust me, when the time is right, I'm cashing in ;)

I'll share one more. Two things I've mentioned recently: my love of standing stones, and a recent trip to Stratton. Found a lovely picture of Marilyn, her mum, Marj, and myself at Stanton Drew. Fond memories as we draw towards the longest night.

L-R: Marj, Marilyn and moi

Discovered I have bags and bags of things I'd forgotten about. Contemplating going through it all in the New Year and trying to stick bits into scrapbooks. There's got to be a few past lives in there.

Was going to save the following song for my Solstice post tomorrow, but I'm feeling healthily heathen. Thanks to a friend, I've had this on repeat in my mind for the past week. I no longer feel it fair to carry the burden alone. 

Time to get your Red Shoes on.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Squeeeee! :)

I have reverted to the state of a child. 

IT'S SNOWING! :)))))))))))

Not a lot - just a little. But enough.

Not a great time of year to be a fish.
Palm tree in a winter coat.

In the time it's taken me to write this post, it's almost all melted away :(

Oh well. Hopefully a sign of things to come. I'm dusting off the toboggan already!

[PS - my friend Franz just pointed out that if you type 'let it snow' into Google, the screen mists up with snowflakes until you 'defrost' :oD ]

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christmas Weekend Part II: Clearwell Caves

My favourite tradition of the year - heading over to Clearwell Caves' Christmas Display.

After a beautiful night at Westonbirt Aboretum's Enchanted Christmas on Friday, we kicked off Saturday in the other direction. We headed out to the Forest of Dean for yet another substantial breakfast (this time in a bap) at Gavellers Cafe.

English breakfast in a bap.
Less cutlery involved.

Hadn't been to this place before. It's right out in the forest, and keeps some lovely secrets.

First off, take a look at their website for an example of Forest. As with Scots, Cockney and Strine, this is a version of English incomprehensible to 99% of its speakers. 

I believe "Ow bist guain butty! I daim thou bist looking vor zummit tu yut - if thou bist read on," probably translates as something akin to: 'How are you friend! I guess you're looking for something to eat - if so, read on.' In this case 'bist' stands for the archaic 'beest', 'butty' for the same affectionate Welsh term, and zummit for the modern abbreviation of 'something' - 'summat'. I'm guessing with 'yut'.

One article: Mining in the Forest, explains:

Our dialect goes right back to Celtic times, that's when it started. A lot of the words we use come from that time. Then you got a lot of it which is pure old English - the use of the pronouns thee and thou is pure Old English. But a lot of words came out of the mines and the pits during the forties, fifties and so on.
The café is situated at the start of several miles of woodland walks, including a sculpture trail. 

Giant Chair
(click to enlarge)
The thing that seriously surprised me was this:

We don't have any native bears, wolves or boar in the UK anymore, so this was rather unexpected. Turns out:
The boar were illegally re-introduced to the Forest in 2006. A population in the Ross-on-Wye area on the northern edge of the forest escaped from a wild boar farm around 1999 and are believed to be of pure Eastern European origin; in a second introduction, a domestic herd was dumped near Staunton in 2004, but these were not pure bred wild boar - attempts to locate the source of the illegal dumps have been unsuccessful. The boar can now be found in many parts of the Forest. - Wiki
'Boar dumping,' is that a bit like 'cow tipping'?

Finally, I popped into the shop and ended up leaving with a lovely necklace by a very talented local artist. Jeanette Hannaby creates beautiful pieces of etched glass and enamel. You can find some examples on her website.

From there, we headed up the road to Clearwell.

I love this place. If I could live there, I think I would. It is one of the last places you can see the tradition of freemining at work, and is still worked by Free Miners.

Free Miners of the Forest of Dean
A lump of iron ore from the mine,
and what it was used for.

Modern iron work by MissFire
Every Christmas, Clearwell pull out all the stops and turn the labyrinth of caves into an underground yule tale. This year it was the story of The Hungry Polar Bear.

After that, it was back home for some festive spirit. Homebrew, a swift toddy, and the crowning glory: home-made Sloe Gin

Followed by pink champers
and Christmas cake.
Good cheer one and all. Let the festivities commence. Stay safe, stay warm - eat much.

See Also:

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas Weekend Part I: Westonbirt Arboretum

Had a bit of a family weekend with Dad and Marilyn before we all shoot off to different corners of the country. Did everything humanly festive in two days.

Started out on Friday morning at our favourite tea room in Gloucester: Lily's. It's just opposite the Tailor of Gloucester: Beatrix Potter Museum. The café was closed for twelve weeks recently, due to flooding, and has been refurbished. It looks really good in there. Nice little touches like fresh roses (above).

English breakfast at Lily's

Fortified, we went to collect the tree.

Sold by B&Q, wrapped by Spider-Man.

Next stop, we headed down from Gloucester to Farrington's Farm Shop near Bristol. This is a wonderful place of goodness and joy. It started out as a shed, selling farm produce. Over the years it's blossomed into a renowned restaurant and outlet.

Udderly in love with Farrington's
Chilli & gingerbread hot chocolate
with Malteser cheesecake

See food?
It's friesian up here.

There's also a tonne of misstletoe, as the West Country is the main area of the UK where it grows. Much of the mistletoe for national and international sale is harvested in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Maybe if I stand under here long enough...

Farrington's has so many endearing qualities. They do an incredible vegetarian (and full English) breakfast, sell tradition sweets (including pear drops and sour apples) and, best of all...

Remember this?

They even had crème de marrons! I almost tripped over myself in the aisle. My aim this winter is to develop an entire spare tyre formed solely from chestnut puree. Sort of like a camel's hump - to sustain me through leaner times. This is one resolution I feel confident in achieving. The other is to seek counselling for what I think may be an unhealthy addiction.

Whilst Farrington's were wrapping their beautiful gift hampers for us, we popped over to Stratton-on-the-Fosse to lay a wreath for a family member.

Stratton Church

A somber break in festivities before driving over to Westonbirt National Arboretum for their Enchanted Christmas. Highlights in the video below.

Did fall in love with Maya Filipič's piano playing along the way, too.

T'was a magical night. Truly enchanting. So as not to get too soppy about it, I leave you with a picture of me holding my nuts.

See Also: