Thursday, October 27, 2005

Avoiding the M6

Today we set out really early to travel to Stratford upon Avon. For someone who used to visit there perhaps two or three times a year*, I realized that it must have been at least four years since I last visited and that wasn’t to actually ‘visit’ but to work manning a stand at a Heart of England Tourist Board event at the sports hall.

We decided to travel via Lichfield, Tamworth and Balsall Common towards Warwick. Of course it was slower than the motorway but infinitely preferable, we pulled into the car park at about 10 past 10 and ambled up towards the theatre. At this time there were very few people about to say it was such a lovely day. We wandered up by the river and had coffee at the theatre coffee bar overlooking the river – it was blissful. Then a wander up through the gardens and round to Holy Trinity before setting back towards the town and a look round the shops. We had lunch in a café attached to New Place and had it almost to ourselves. At about 2.30 we decided to head back to the car park, struggling through the crowds who were just beginning to swarm into the town obviously encouraged by the good weather to spend an afternoon by the Avon. We set off towards Leamington and on to Ryton Gardens to pick up vegetable seeds for planting next spring. I love the gardens there and the shop, so many ‘goodies’ to be had; it is a great temptation to spend too much money. Arrived home about 6p.m. very tired but happy.

*Why is it that all the years we lived in Mansfield and then Spalding we used to visit so often, not just the town but the theatre too, but now we’ve moved to Stoke and it’s just down the M6 we rarely go? I think I have my answer – the M6.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fungus Foray

Today we had an enjoyable walk on Cannock Chase. The weather was clear and bright and the colours in the trees were sometimes breathtaking. We followed a couple of way-marked routes, stopping for coffee at the Visitor's Centre on the way.

The walk somehow turned into a 'fungus foray' as there were so many different specimens to see like these:-

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The things you hear

Overheard in W.H. Smith, Hanley yesterday

‘Is there room for Gloria Hunniford?’

‘Yeh, I had to stick John Peel up there yesterday, ‘cos Sharon Osborne was out.’

On TV - Love Soup - really enjoying this at the moment but I've yet to find anyone else who watches it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weekend Wanderings

We had a lovely weekend. Saturday we were up early and drove along the Roman road to Ashbourne and through to Cromford to buy bread flour at the mill café, a root around the book shops and a little walk by the canal after a cup of coffee. Then through Matlock Bath and Matlock to Chesterfield and lunch with my sister and brother in law before heading into the town centre to visit The North Derbyshire Family and Local History Fair at the Winding Wheel. There were lots of interesting stalls and displays and it was so good to hear the familiar accents of my childhood. P got chatting to a man who used to work with his father and found out about the oil wells at Hardstoft where his grandfather used to work. I met a very interesting woman on the Ticknall Pottery stand who was familiar with the areas in south Derbyshire where my father’s family came from. She knew the history of the pottery in Church Gresley owned by one of my ancestors. Also saw some wonderfully evocative photographs of old houses in the St Mary’s area of Nottingham where my ancestors on mother’s side might have lived when they worked in the lace industry. We drove back home through Baslow and past Chatsworth to Bakewell and then through Monyash, Hartington and eventually home.

Sunday was restful. Pottering around in the morning, P making bread, me sorting out washing and ironing whilst listening to the Archers. Then a walk along the Cauldon canal from Consall station and back through the woodlands. The autumnal colour of the trees was spectacular in the gentle sunlight and it was great feeling the leaves crunching underfoot.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Perfect Timing

Saw a really funny play at the New Vic last night. It was a new play written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn and performed by the Stephen Joseph Theatre Company. Called ‘Improbable Fiction’ it is centered around a creative writing group meeting in the shabbily middle class home of its chairman Arnold, who translates foreign instruction manuals and has a bedridden mother upstairs. The characters arrive one by one for the meeting, first is a local girl who sits in with ‘mother’ and pops down to make coffee for the members (the coffee serving scene is priceless). The other characters are, a nervous housewife who is writing a children’s book about a goblin, a lesbian farmer who wants to write an historical romance, a young journalist who writes about a 1930s detective who quotes poetry a lot, a sci-fi nut who works for local government, believes the chief executive is an alien and uses the wrong adjectives to the great annoyance of the last character, an irate retired teacher who hates everyone and everything and who writes musicals. At the end of the first act, when the last of the writers have said their goodbyes and when, although it has been very funny, the audience are wondering where on earth this will go, there is a clap of thunder, the lights go out and suddenly poor Arnold is approached by a young girl in a crinoline, wielding a kitchen knife. Cue interval. Thus, the second half of the play, is an hilarious mixture of quick costume change, entering and exiting as the characters veer between the Victorian gothic novel, the 1930s Detective story and the government agents searching for alien abductors, I was in awe of the agility and timing of the whole cast, plus the perfectly timed disappearing and reappearing telephone and as I’m sure you must have guessed relished the much anticipated appearance of the goblin. The squirrel was a surprise though.

Monday, October 03, 2005

'A bit of flint in your wellie' Day

Today was one of those strange kind of days where you find yourself suddenly involved in something that would never have crossed your mind when you clambered out of bed that morning. Nothing serious, I hasten to add, nothing life changing or even symbolic, just not of the normal run. I stopped watching Last of the Summer Wine years and years ago but there is one scene I always remember from the dim and distant past where Compo finds something in his wellington boot and utters the immortal lines 'Well, who’d have thought that when I got up this morning I’d have found a bit of flint in my wellie' That is how I feel today.

My walk down into town was uneventful until, whilst crossing the retail park car park, a woman who had just seconds before passed me by on the footpath walked a few more yards on and fell flat on her face. I heard her yell and an ominous thump and turned to see her flat on the floor. I ran back to see if I could help. She was dazed and incoherent, also her nose started to bleed, all I could do was to give her tissues, thankfully clean ones, and tell her to pinch the fleshy part of her nose. Someone came by and stopped and I asked if they could find a first-aider from the nearest shop and they dashed off. A man came over to help but there wasn’t much we could do until a young man from Next came rushing over with his first aid kit. The man and I said our quick farewells and drifted away. I do hope she was all right.

Later that day, after a long phone call with a friend who wanted me to check various pieces of art work she’d produced for their new web-site, as soon as I put the phone down it rang again. It was thus that 15 minutes later we found ourselves in next door’s back garden burying Brian the budgie. Our neighbours were on holiday and their elderly mother was staying to look after the three cats and the budgie. This budgie was 15 years old, I don’t know if that is a good age but for the last three months he (well she actually but always known as Brian) had been seemingly on his/her last legs but still eating and whistling. Mother had come home from the market and found him/her feet up on the floor of the cage. So, we found a small box, picked up a spade and made our way next door. We buried him/her under the plum tree saying bye, bye, Brian, good night and God bless. Mother was upset that Brian had died on her watch but it was bound to happen sooner rather than later and luckily we were there to help.

Definitely a 'flint in your wellie' day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sunday Walk

The weather forecast was good so we decided to walk along another section of the Cauldon Canal. Our previous walk had taken us along the section from Cheddleton to Deep Hayes Country Park, past the Flint Mill and the sub-aqua diving boreholes at the Wallgrange walk-in and café. This time we decided to walk from the country park to where the canal branches into two and forms the Leek arm (built in 1817 to supply the town with coal) and the continuation of the main canal to Froghall (it used to go all the way to Uttoxeter.) There were still quite a number of boats traveling slowly along the canal, one already stocked up with logs of wood in readiness for the autumn weather. We passed the Hollybush Inn where a group of ramblers had congregated to have their mid-morning break. Just around the corner, beyond the little animal farm at the back of the pub, was the Hazelhurst aqueduct which carries the Leek Arm over the main Canal. We clambered up the steps to the top of the aqueduct and turned left to walk along the arm section to the Hazelhurst locks and back along the main canal to the Hollybush, where we consumed cheese sandwiches by an open log fire before going back to the aqueduct and this time turning right and walking back towards the Leek Tunnel. By this time the sun was very warm and the water, undisturbed by any passing traffic, was crystal clear and the trees and bushes were reflected in its mirror stillness, disturbed only by a couple of Canada geese and a water rail or two. Having reached the Leek tunnel and viewed it from either side we wandered back and diverted towards the walk-in café for refreshment. Gathered in the car park were quite a large group of people climbing into diving suits and donning oxygen tanks in readiness for their descent into the boreholes and presumably the caves below. I think that is something I couldn’t do. After a large glass of apple juice we were ready to walk the short distance back, along the main canal, to the country park car park and to wend our way home.