a space for all those thoughts and ramblings that have nowhere else to go

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Resolutions 2017

Following the success of last year, I'm becoming more convinced of the power of making resolutions. Somehow because I've written them down, and declared to the world what I intend to (at least) try and achieve, I feel more committed to actually doing something.
Another thing which helped last year was going back to the original post, checking my intentions, and seeing how far I'd succeeded, or not. Also if there was something I hadn't started before, say, March, I didn't abandon all hope but tried again.


Anyway, on to this year ...

I can't claim they ALL shrank
in the wash!

First up this year has got to be get fitter and thinner. After last December's Frank Turner gig my legs ached for days due to all the jigging about. Walking round Shipley Park recently, I felt decidedly unfit, puffing and panting up the hills, and even on the flat couldn't keep pace with the teen. So I need to do something positive about it. Also, as a financial incentive, I have a wardrobe full of too tight clothes waiting to be worn once I shift some pounds, so although my main aim is to be fitter, thinner will be an added bonus. This is a resolution I've already started on - at first I said I'd join in with a couple of zumba sessions a week with my teen, but despite how exhausting I found the first 5 minute one, I'm now doing some every day. I haven't lost weight yet but do feel lighter on my feet. So far, so good ...

Re-discovering myself - Over the past few years I've let a lot of things drift. I used to spend a lot of time gardening, knitting, making clothes, pottering (not very seriously) at painting and textile arts, or trying other crafts from lace-making to tie-dying, but somehow I've let all of them slip. This year I intend to get my old habits back. So ...
                 

- Gardening and growing - I've always been a keen gardener, growing both flowers and vegetables at home, but since we've had an allotment I think I've come to see it as more of a chore than a pleasure. This year I want to make more effort with the garden - grow some new flowers from seed, make the veg patch productive again, and, as a side effect, spend more time outside.

                     - Knitting and sewing - again, hobbies that I want to take up again. I have lots of wool stashed away in cupboards and drawers, so ought to be able to find some to knit up! Before Christmas I went out and bought some cord material ready to make a new winter skirt in a style I liked - so it's actually time I got on with it.

                     - I also want to find time to explore more 'arty' things. Early last year I spotted Sarah Salway's A Year of Artists Dates - in which she was taking an hour out each week to do something art related - and this is more or less what I want to do. I'm not quite sure how or when though.

Moving in a different direction - just before Christmas I started an on-line language course, well, two actually - Welsh and Swedish. This was about the time that Swedish thriller Modus was on TV, and I was so impressed with being able to recognise some of words that my aspirations have grown. I've now added Danish to my list, with the hope of being able to partly follow both sides of conversations when The Bridge returns.

I intend keeping up last year's resolutions - de-cluttering the spare room went so well that I want to tackle the whole house, but more importantly I want to carry on exploring new things and building a social life of my own - yes, that probably means more nights out at gigs!

In between all this, I'd like some down-time for me. There's no set timetable to my days, and so late breakfasts run into long lunches and straight into early evenings. I seem to always be doing something, but at the end of the day it's hard to see what it was. I want to be organised, get household chores done, spend time on more creative projects, and then have time to sit and think or relax in the sun (when it arrives).







Friday, 6 January 2017

Late afternoon walk at Shipley Park


Monday was a lovely, sunny, almost Spring-like day, and, as it was the last day of her Christmas holiday, the teen decided we should do something rather than just laze around (yes, that would have been my plan!). 






In the spirit of trying to get more exercise this year, I agreed, but found that after so many idle days, and so much Christmas food, it was a harder walk than I expected. Fortunately, getting out of town, and the stunning sunset made up for the exertion, but I must make time for more walking this year.






Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Highlights of 2016 - What a Weird and Wonderful Year!



Any year has its ups and downs, and this year certainly hasn't been without the 'downs', but for me it's also been a year filled with new, exciting things. 
One of my resolutions last January, among all the mundane stuff, was to 'get a life' - interests, movies and music of my own, not just 'borrowed' from my children - and it's taken me to some strange places. 


I've been to more pubs this last twelve months than in the previous twelve years.


 I went camping, and it was much more fun than I expected.






 I watched my Breaking Bad box set on my own, because the rest of the family weren't interested, and I loved it.



SJ Watson and Renee Knight at Curious Arts




Billy Bragg at Curious Arts





I went to my first festival, Curious Arts at Pylewell Park, where over two days I caught half a dozen full author events and dropped in for a few minutes on more, then listened to great music at night.

Skinny Lister soundcheck at Curious Arts













Before this year I hardly seen any live music. This year I've seen over thirty musicians  at various venues, starting with Thom Worth and Tim OT in a Beeston pub in February and ending with Dave Giles in Burton just before Christmas. In between I've seen Lancaster singer/songwriter Joe McCorriston FIVE times (because he's always on tour), Elly Rose, Skinny Lister and Billy Bragg at Curious Arts, Skinny Lister again at Nottingham's Bodega and (sorry everyone else, but this has to be the highlight) Frank Turner's sold out show at Nottingham's Rock City. This time last year, I could barely imagine doing any of this and certainly believed I was too old, but it's been amazing.

Frank Turner at Rock City








I went to the Lara Croft 20th Birthday exhibition at Derby Quad, played with ancient and state of the art games, and discussed gaming techniques and Lara Croft's evolution with an actual professional gamer (!) 


I learned how to drive again - I hadn't actually forgotten but I haven't driven for years and had got out of the habit. Now I'm back to a certain level of confidence on the road, and can happily fetch the teen from the train station or where-ever.



I've met lots of new people through offering a bed/floor to touring musicians. Throughout last year, starting with the people I'd met through my teen's promotions, and expanding through friends of friends, I had folk dropping by to spend the night on a dodgy inflatable bed or a pile of sofa cushions; some visit once, some have become like extended family, and particularly notable was the night a band was let down by their promoter and, being desperate for somewhere (anywhere) to stay, drove up from Southampton and turned up at 4am!


In between all this I went to bookish events - author talks, the launch for Alison Moore's Death and the Seaside, a forum on the future of independent publishing - gardens, theatres, Sotheby's annual sculpture exhibition at Chatsworth ...  







and followed my teen's adventures - heard her on the radio, seen her on TV, watched her play in pubs and clubs, and, possibly the weirdest half hour of the year, saw her sharing a political platform with Jeremy Corbyn.

Looking back, it seems to have been an extraordinary year. I'm not sure how 2017 can improve on it but I'm hoping it will.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Resolutions - how did they go?

Way back when at the beginning of the year, like a lot of folk, I set myself a variety of resolutions - from the everyday (tidying the spare room) to the wider sweeping (get a new life now my teen had left for uni) and, looking back on them, I'm pleased to say that I've gone at least a little way to achieving my goals.


a huge success - spare room re-discovered!
I particularly wanted to achieve some order in my surroundings and life - through de-cluttering, streamlining some things, taking time out to appreciate things,

So, taking them in the order of the original post  ... we cleared out the spare room - and it now looks like somewhere a visitor can, and did, stay; not a junk store.


... I've cut down the amount of day-time I spend on social media - maybe not quite as much as I would have liked but I've tried to limit it to a few hours at a time.


... cutting down on the competitions I enter was maybe an odd resolution but I'd been merrily pressing the 'RT to win' button and winning things I didn't want. This year I've been a model of restraint but did win an electric guitar (for my Teen) and some books.


... reducing the number of books I read for review, and including more reading for pleasure - yes, this one worked too. I've read less overall - about 90 books rather than last year's 150 - and feel less pressure to struggle through something I'm not enjoying. I've also cut the number of book blog posts per week - I used (with my husband's help) to try to post every day. I now do most of the reviewing myself and aim for 2, maybe 3, posts a week, which fits the speed at which I read.

I started getting up early - though this was really down to my teen being at home for this academic year and working!

Get a life of my own - well, there's been a lot of this, mainly in the form of going out to hear music in pubs and clubs, with some proper gigs towards the end of the year, and it deserves its own blog post



Spend more time pottering aimlessly in the garden - this is probably the one I've made least advance on, but I have tried to take those few minutes to look at the garden, the sunset, the birds chattering, take a few photos of anything interesting, though being a sort of non-activity it's hard to quantify.


Blogged more - definitely, because of everything I've been up to, and a new found attitude about not taking my middle years quietly. Sometimes I feel I'm only talking to myself, but if it's only a diary, so what? It gives me a way to keep track of what I've done, where I've been, what I've thought - and whether it's called a diary or a blog really doesn't matter.


Does making resolutions make any difference? Well, I think it has. It's certainly enabled me to look back over the year and see which things I've changed, and which things I'd have liked to do more of. I'll definitely be making a list for next year ...

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas at Haddon Hall

 Continuing my attempts to ease into the whole Christmas vibe gently, this weekend we went back out into Derbyshire to see another country house decorated for the season.




Although it's called a 'hall', as you approach Haddon it has the appearance of a proper castle with towers and battlements. Inside it's changed very little since Tudor times - the walls are thick, the floors uneven, the kitchens preserved as they would have been 500 years ago - and it's easy to imagine the inhabitants in seventeenth century clothing walking along the corridors or sitting by fire and candlelight in the evenings.







It was already dropping dark as we arrived but the lights from within gave a welcoming glow and from the Great Hall came the sounds of music played by Doncaster Waites, costumed performers bringing a 'Renaissance Christmas' to life





lights in the Great Hall


A member of Doncaster Waites with
 replica 16th century hurdy gurdy




.





decorations in the Great Hall


























The Christmas trees may not have been totally authentic for the period but for the most part the decorations were, with wreaths and swags of greenery, and flickering candle-light adding to the atmosphere.








The most lavishly decorated room was the Long Gallery where the theme appeared to be one of a Venetian masked ball ... with windows along three walls this is definitely one of the lighter rooms at Haddon.




















 What Haddon does so well is recreating the feel of when the hall was at it's most splendid - whether that comes from imagining lords and ladies dancing while hidden behind jewelled and gilded masks, or from the recollection of quieter times sat by the fireside with shadows creeping up the walls. For me, it's a very atmospheric place, where the past is almost touchable.


Sunday, 11 December 2016

Big Gig - Frank Turner at Rock City

Way back in January when my teen heard about my resolution of 'getting a new life' she thought my ideas would be a bit too tame. It was all very well to head off to the pub and listen to new music, but she thought I should stretch my boundaries a little further to include a 'big gig' - with a well-known performer who I couldn't casually approach and chat to afterwards, and at a venue large enough that I'd be lost in the crowd. 



Well, last Friday I got my chance, as Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls were headlining at Nottingham's Rock City. Now among the bands and musicians that I'd consider going along to see, Frank Turner is the biggest, the most popular, the star. He's huge! Next week he'll be playing another show in Nottingham, an anniversary party as it's his 2000th gig. But he's a bit of a 'marmite' performer - if you don't know who he is, I could talk all night and you'd still never know; if you do, well I don't need to say more!
So I was delighted when the teen agreed that I could go along with her - on the usual proviso that I could be left somewhere safely at the back while she had fun.
In the event, the 'challenge' proved a little more tasking, as she didn't feel well enough to come along, so I ended up taking my other half instead. Now, bear in mind that neither of us has ever been to an event like this before, I didn't even know where the venue was, that I've had doubts before about feeling too old for such events and was fully expecting to stick out like a sore thumb, and you'll see how daunting it seemed.




As it turned out, everything went like clockwork, and it was the most fun EVER!
Timings for the evening were early so we had no hope of getting there to catch the earlier acts, and the place was jammed full when we arrived ... but, by luck rather than judgement, I found a gap just behind the sound booth with a clear view of the stage over the heads of the youngsters in the mosh pit. Staying further back put us in with a slightly older crowd and when Frank came out on stage, started singing 'I Knew Prufrock Before He got Famous' and I joined in, I almost wished I'd been down in the noisy pit!




I'm not quite the die-hard fan that some are but I knew the words to most of the songs, and sang, clapped and jigged my way through the two hour set. It was great to hear Frank give a shout out to the Safe Gigs For Women initiative part way through his set, and not even having beer spilled down me by an overenthusiastic dancer could put a dampener (lol) on my mood.
Even hubby had a good time, though he's less enthusiastic that I am to repeat the experience. 



Through social media I know someone who is going to four concerts of this tour. It seemed a strange, unnecessary thing when I first heard about it - after all, it's going to be more or less the same each night, surely? But now I understand. 
Something that can't be appreciated on cd or vinyl, is just how great a showman Frank Turner is, whether dancing and jumping about the stage, talking to the crowd, or encouraging them to outperform other audiences. There's the most incredible buzz, a feeling that everyone in the audience is not just watching, but actively taking part in the show. It turns out I'm not too old for this at all, so I'll be back, on my own if necessary - and if anyone reading this has tickets they don't want for Frank's special 2000th gig back at Rock City next week, well, you know where to find me.


Just going to add an edit, that my teen would never forgive me if I went along next week. She has tickets to go with her mates, and mum being along, even far away in the crowd, would cramp her style.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Chatsworth Christmas - The Nutcracker



I'm always slow at starting the build up to Christmas. I don't stock up on presents in the January sales, or buy cards the minute they hit the shops in September. I like to ease myself into it all - and this year, as usual, the first step is a visit to Chatsworth House for its wonderful seasonal decorations.


This year the theme is The Nutcracker - with plenty of opportunities for snowy outdoors scenes and snug interiors, toys from Herr Drosselmeyer's workshop, backstage ballet settings and sugar plums.




Of course, there are Christmas trees - real pine ones, decorated with sparkling baubles. wooden toys or traditional sweets, and two unusual trees made of ballet shoes and tutus.












































Flower fairies dance on the tree, while a real live ballerina performs


I loved these twirling snowflakes hanging in the chapel - and even wondered if I could try a smaller-scale display at home




and this dancing fairy who looks like she may have eaten too many sugar plums











A Sugar Plum Fairy could only live in The Land of Sweets!

There's a castle on the hill, houses and candy trees ....

....and even a train made of sweets!



These shadow dancers projected on to the walls of the Marble Hall made a lovely finale to the display




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