Monday, 11 December 2017

Snow Day

We've spent the last few weekends doing the rounds of the local stately homes - Chatsworth, Hardwick and Kedleston - to see them in their Christmas finery. This weekend we'd had plans to go to Haddon Hall, BUT ... there was a bit of snow.


To be honest, it wasn't very deep, but it seemed silly to go out for a non-essential drive.

So here are some rather chilly, natural Christmas decorations, and hopefully we'll be able to visit Haddon another day.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Kedleston at Christmas

What? you ask. Another place dressed up for Christmas? Yes. Sorry. We seem to be going all out to see every decorated stately home within a 40 minute radius this year, and last weekend saw us at the nearest - Kedleston Hall, just outside Derby.

The decorations here were a little less flamboyant that at other places we've visited - aiming more for a look of how it might have looked for a family Christmas than for the themed tableau effects of Chatsworth or Hardwick. 

Even so, there were Christmas trees in almost every room, garlands brightening the banisters and even the ropes to keep visitors from an unsafe floor had a festive air.

Kedleston is such an over-the-top place in terms of size and decoration - high ceilings, gilded mouldings everywhere - that at times a Christmas tree that would overwhelm an average living room was dwarfed by its surroundings.

So the Saloon for example (below) had four - one in each alcove!

A clever touch was coordinating the tree decorations with the styling of each room -  red and gold in the Saloon, blue baubles here to match the flocked wallpaper.

There were even musical themed ornaments for the Music Room, with a decorated drum, and bells and stars made from sheet music for the tree.

In the library, on a desk where you might expect to find plans of the estate laid out, was this wonderful snowy model of Kedleston, with lights twinkling in the buildings' windows.

...and in a  smaller room,a pair of legs sticking out of the fireplace - it could only be Santa, stuck up the chimney!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Skinny Lister again

Skinny Lister were back at Nottingham's Rescue Rooms last week, so of course I was along, singing, clapping, dancing (well, bouncing) and more singing.

This is the fourth time I've seen them, and to me they're a bit special. I'm late coming to live music so Skinny Lister were at my first festival, then my first 'real' gig, and the first time I went to Rescue Rooms - and I've loved every time.

How to describe a Skinny Lister gig to someone who's never seen them? 
Well, "shanty punk" is how they themselves describe their music - so imagine sea shanties with a 'rockier' beat mixed with some quieter 'folkier' tunes. 

What I love though is the atmosphere. You don't stand quietly and listen to the band, just applauding at the end of a song. Instead, you stomp your feet, clap your hands, and sing along. The band's enthusiasm and energy is just infectious! For that hour or whatever, the audience are all mates having a bit of a sing-song, led by the guys on stage. There's even a flagon of whisky passed down from the stage and around the audience!

 Previously it's been just me and my daughter along, but hubby decided he was missing out (we could have told him that before!) and came along too. He's claims to have enjoyed it but for a man who usually loves to sing embarrassing 'dad songs' out loud, he kept surprisingly quiet.  Even if he didn't know the words the choruses are easily picked up - and if in doubt singing 'too-rye-ay' fits in most places, as you'd expect with sea shanties.

I went home a bit deafened and a bit hoarse, got woken in the night by cramp in muscles I didn't know I had, could barely get downstairs next morning for stiff aching legs, but I had a brilliant night and refuse to believe I'm too old for this!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Never Too Old

Last night I was out at a gig, bouncing, singing, and clapping, along with guys a third of my age.

In the night I woke up with agonising cramp in another weird and wonderful, previously undiscovered, muscle; this time in my foot.

This morning, I'm stiff, and full of aches and pains.

My first thought was "I'm too old for this".

But I'm not.
I may not be fit enough, but that's a different problem. Obviously, neither my half-hearted zumba or attempts to outrun zombies are keeping me supple enough to stand for three hours listening to music; so I should change my exercise.
What I'm talking about here is the automatic assumption that some activities belong only to the young, and that as we age, we should stop pursuing them and take up something more 'age approriate'.
I think we need to stop thinking like this.
I've had this argument out with myself before, but more from the angle of worrying what others would think, and yet here I am again blaming my age, when it's actually a fitness issue.

Just because I'm older I haven't fundamentally changed in myself. I still like the same music, TV and books. I've always liked walking in the countryside, or visiting stately homes, both of which might be considered suitable for an elderly person, but equally I like paddling whenever I get the chance, or eating ice cream on a freezing day, the way a child might.

Next year, I'll hit another 'big' birthday, one that would once have entitled me to a pension(!), but I'm not going to hang up my (low-heeled, comfy) dancing shoes, and spend every evening in front of the TV.
I don't want to change my habits and become some cartoon caricature of a middle-aged woman.
I'm still me, just with greyer hair.

If you want to go to a gig, climb a mountain, or play Pokemon Go, if you're fit enough, go for it!
And actually, once you retire you'll have time to do all these things.

Today I'm back to gentler pursuits - making passata, knitting a baby shawl - but I'm not going to accept that age means I have to give up things I enjoy.

From now on I have a new motto "Never Too Old" 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Christmas at Hardwick Hall

This weekend wasn't as nice as last, we had a slight covering of snow on Saturday, and Sunday was just damp and miserable for most of the day, so we were looking for somewhere indoors to visit, maybe with a christmassy feel to it. We've already been to see Chatsworth this year  and a lot of places don't display their Christmas finery till December, so we decided to head to Hardwick Hall. We were a bit cautious as last time we visited at Christmas we nearly got snowed in, and had a dreadful journey home!

The festive mood starts as you approach the house with icy skeletal trees lining the path, and festive garlands of evergreens and baubles decorating the windows.

Inside, the decorations were based around Christmas carols and songs. In the huge entrance hall  Herald Angels were singing on a table long enough for a banquet, over-looked by two enormous Christmas trees.

Walking round, we spotted ...

Three Ships Come Sailing In

Rudolph, an extremely old (3000 years) red-nosed reindeer

We Three Kings

 Santa getting stuck in a chimney.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

This was my favourite though - Walking in a Winter Wonderland. Snow-covered trees and an icy lake on the table,

snowflakes falling

and wild animals silhouetted against a wintry backdrop

The house tour finished in the kitchens which were laid out with festive food, but the decorations continued in the gardens, though with cold drizzle falling, we decided it was too unpleasant to wander round outside. Maybe I'll have chance to get back one fine day before Christmas ...

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Short Sunday walk at Carsington

 We decided to take advantage of Sunday's dry and more-or-less sunny weather to head out for a short walk at Carsington Reservoir.

You can walk or cycle all the way round (about 8 miles, I think) but we parked at Sheepwash car park, strolled down to the visitor centre and back again. It's favourite of ours which we've done many times. The views over the reservoir are blocked at times by trees but it's a pleasant amble, about a mile and a half each way, with separate paths for walkers and cyclists for much of the time so dogs can run around off-lead, and it's less windy than walking along the top of the dam, which makes it pleasanter at chilly times of year.

There are a couple of bird hides along the way and an old WW2 tower, once used for checking bombing practice but now a good place to look out over the water.

The low sun makes the photographs look rather eerie but actually it was a pleasant day for November with blue sky and high wispy cloud.

Not only did we spot a hot air balloon (the black dot,above) but just after I'd taken this photo two bi-planes flew past!

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