Friday, December 30, 2005

Betwixt and Between

I love the days in between Christmas and New Year. They are so quiet and peaceful after all the rush of the week before. There is no pressure to go anywhere or do anything. Each day we have had a long walk to blow away the remaining cobwebs of two days spent at home eating, watching TV, listening to music or reading, interspersed with telephone calls from and to friends and relatives and quick trips into the garden to replenish the bird feeders and topping up the cat’s bowls indoors.

Tuesday we walked in Consall Forge Country Park taking our usual route along the canal past the station and the pub and back again by the lakes. We passed one or two other hardy souls on the way but not many people were out and about and the car park had only about five cars parked there.

Wednesday we ventured out to Lichfield. We parked easily and wandered into the town which was briskly busy with shoppers. After coffee and croissants we made our way to the cathedral and went inside. It was blissfully peaceful and warm and welcoming and we sat a while and looked at the sunlight streaming through the windows over the chancel and the way the shadows danced in the light above the delicate, filigree rood screen. We moved silently through the aisles and read some of the memorials, admired the nativity sculptures and watched as children lit candles for loved ones. We found the memorials to Erasmus Darwin, (whose house, which stands across the close, is now open as a museum) Samuel Johnson, (whose birthplace is now a museum in the town) and David Garrick; all famous men of Lichfield. We didn’t find the one for Anna Seward, Swan of Lichfield though, how did we miss it? We drove back through Kings Bromley, Yoxall and across the A50 to Rocester and back to Stoke along the Roman road.

Yesterday afternoon we walked round the lake at Trentham. It was completely frozen over and the trees and bushes on the islands were like massive ice-sculptures. Almost everything was white with frost and we were gradually covered with the wet ice blowing from the trees as we walked underneath them. We had a warming cup of coffee at the little café on the boat jetty halfway round and then wandered back and looked in some of the shops and the garden centre – my pre-Christmas determination not to step into a shop until after new year didn’t quite last I’m afraid – but at least these were small specialist shops and not the big city centre ones or, God forbid, the dreaded supermarket.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

So Here It Is

Well, everything is done now, cards posted or handed out, presents swapped and under various trees across the midlands, larder full, house clean and tidy - so now for our treat. We headed up to Hanley expecting it to be really busy, heaving, in fact, but no, it was quieter than a normal Saturday. We set off to purchase our treats with the large amount of £2 coins I had been saving up for the last couple of months. Each year we choose a CD, DVD or book each for our Christmas entertainment. There were plenty on offer but after careful consideration I chose a DVD, 'The Hours' and a CD, KT Tunstall's 'Eye to the Telescope' and P chose his DVD 'Cosmic Jam' (Bill Bailey live) and his CD, Katie Melua's 'Piece by Piece'. We then saw Robbie Williams's Greatest Hits for £5.97 so that went into the basket as well.

Then we wandered down to the Museum where 'Reels on Wheels' were showing 'Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the WereRabbit' - great fun.

So now we are safe at home, the twinkling lights on, the cats all in and curled up in the warmest parts of the house. A bowl of pasta, a glass of wine and a good book - what more could you want.

Peace and Happiness to All.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Emotional Day

Busy day today. We were due at my sister’s house in Chesterfield for about 11.30a.m. so we set out early and stopped at Arkwright’s Mill in Cromford for a leg stretch and a cup of coffee. We also buy our flour there for bread making when we can’t get as far as the mill at Rowsley. We had a lovely lunch with J & R and swapped cards and presents. J wanted P to re-install something on her computer so R to us to the Nursing home to visit Dad. This was, of course, the most difficult part of the day. I had last seen him in the Summer and J had warned me that he had changed for the worse, he had lost so much weight and was very gaunt around the face. As usual he had no idea who we were but we took him cards from the family and sat with him for over an hour. When we last visited in the late summer he chatted away about something – we never know what he talks about – sometimes he is back in the 1920s when he was a youngster. This time he couldn’t speak very much without a huge effort. When we left him he was drinking tea and eating biscuits. He will be 92 in February but we both wonder if he will make it. I got home feeling very emotional and can't as yet express how I feel.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Friends & Memories

Set out very early this morning to make sure we got over to Nottingham and parked up before half past nine. It usually takes us about an hour to get there and the roads were fairly clear so good progress was made and we were sipping lattes and munching toast in one of those Costa/Nero/ Starbuck type places by 9.30a.m. We then set out to wonder around the centre of what is probably my favourite city (although York comes close). Every corner I turn has a little memory waiting for me – perhaps I may write more on this later. Today, of course we were concentrating on the purchase of those last few presents before 11.30 when we were due to arrive at S & R’s house which is just off the Derby road not too far from the QMC. Amazingly we managed to achieve our goal and got to their home on time. Then we picked up S and drove over to the Geological Survey at Keyworth. They had opened their shop for Christmas and S wanted stones and gems for jewellery making. We spent about an hour and got back in time for R’s wonderful lunch and a lovely afternoon of chat and laughter and the comfort of being with friends you have known for a very long time. We didn’t even have to worry that the cats would be hungry as our good neighbour popped in and fed them and closed the curtains and put on the lights.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Today we popped up to Little Moreton Hall where they were having an Elizabethan weekend. It really is the most atmospheric place and when it's decked out in its seasonal glory it is even more wonderful. We took some photographs of the outside of the building, photography isn’t allowed inside. We were entertained by Piva to some rip roaring early music and even joined in a sing song at the end of their set. Great stuff to get the festive juices flowing. Next week its back to the tawdry (I love that word), plastic seasonal commercialism that is today’s world. I still have presents to buy and no inspiration to buy them - help.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Seasonal Visit

Set off early on Saturday morning to take a holly wreath to put on mother’s grave. As we drove through the grey mist and rain I felt a pang of guilt because this was only the second time this year I had visited her grave. I consoled myself with the thought that when she was alive we would visit quite often and that I wasn’t really letting her down by not visiting the grave more often because she wasn’t really there but here with me in my heart and memory. She is buried in the lovely churchyard of Scarcliffe in Derbyshire the village she and I moved to when she re-married many years ago. It takes about an hour and a half to drive there from here and we took our time and had a pleasant break on the way.

Along the A50 into Derby and then the A38 to junction 28 of the M1 where we stopped at the McArthur Glen Retail Park for coffee and the hope of being inspired into actually starting the Christmas shopping. We had coffee under the twinkling tree and watched whilst Santa and his not so little helpers handed out hats and flags to all the children. Here we did find inspiration to buy three of the 12 presents we have somehow to purchase between now and the 25th. Then it was a quite drive up the M1 to junction 29 and down towards Palterton and Scarcliffe. Then we drove over to Cresswell to see what was happening at the Craggs. The Centre was closed but we were interested to see all the alterations taking place and the diversions going in so that the road which now runs between the caves can be closed and the site preserved.

We headed back to Bolsover where we had a late lunch at the Castle which was in the midst of a Christmas extravaganza of 10% off Christmas stock and a hunt the reindeer game for the children. There was a lively atmosphere in the visitor centre and the food was lovely. We drove back home via Clay Cross, Matlock and Ashbourne arriving back in Stoke just as the last rays of natural light were disappearing and the street lights were taking over. Three hungry cats were awaiting our return.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Where there's a Will

Further to my last entry the book is now ready for going on-line, I’m just waiting for someone to show me how to save it in Acrobat format – I think that’s what they said anyway.

Well, what a week fans of Shakespeare have had. First on Monday was the BBC’s production of Taming of the Shrew in the Shakespeare Re-Told Series, I thought this one worked well, better than Macbeth the week before but still for me not quite as good as Much Ado. On Tuesday I really enjoyed William Boyd’s play ‘A Waste of Shame’ on BBC4 which gave his opinions and ideas on the identity of the ‘Fair Youth’ and the ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I thought Rupert Graves was excellent as Shakespeare even though the author had made his character rather dark and intense but this somehow made him more real say than the Will of 'Shakespeare in Love.' Then on Thursday I sat down for lunch and found a repeat of Michael Wood’s excellent ‘In Search of Shakespeare’ series on the UK History channel – so a little overdosed on the bard this week but that can only be a good thing.

Am enjoying reading ‘The Pure in Heart’ by Susan Hill. This is the second of her Simon Serrailler crime novels. I really enjoyed the first one ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ although I was left bereft by the final awful twist at the end. Both books are wonderfully written and hard to put down. The columns written by Alex Kapranos and Maureen Lipman make Friday’s Guardian a must buy, so now I have to make sure I get Friday’s copy as well as Saturday’s each week

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Oops - been busy

Didn’t realize it was so long since I’d written anything on here. Probably because I’ve been busy typing up and editing the text of a small booklet I wrote about ten years ago and trying to get it ready to put on-line. When I worked at Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding I wrote a history of the house and the families who had owned it over 500 years and it is now out of print. The Hall itself has been closed for refurbishment and the Council, who originally produced it ‘in house’, aren’t going to produce any more for the moment so I thought that if I could get the text on-line, minus illustrations, people who wanted to read it could access it. When it is ready I’ll put a link up from my Scarcliffe site. My other book ‘A Postcard from Spalding’ is still available from the Local History Magazine website.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A bit of a Scandal

As promised a report of the Northern Broadsides production of The School for Scandal. We actually attended the matinee performance on Saturday as we couldn’t get seats for the evening performance. There were seats left on the balcony but they are very uncomfortable and make you sort of lurch forward with your feet off the floor. Anyway, we arrived with plenty of time to spare but we needed it because the car park was full and we had to park on the main road and walk back. We were sitting in the midst of a group of students who were making notes and drawings of the sets and costumes and generally having a wonderful time. The actors began to wander on to the stage area as the front of house staff were still guiding people to their seats so there was a wonderful melee of different people to watch whilst waiting for the performance to start. As is usual with Northern Broadsides there was music provided by the actors and the first tune heralded the start of the play.

I found the whole thing thoroughly enjoyable with good solid performances from all of the company, although I did have slight trouble picking up a few words from the actress who played Lady Teazle, not that she was quiet but more slightly indistinct and lispy. This was accompanied by a particularly strange habit of tucking her elbows into her waist and letting her lower arms and hands flutter about in a most disconcerting manner but she was very funny. There was a totally comic moment of ad lib between the actors playing Charles Surface and Sir Oliver when, just as Sir Oliver was making a sweeping exit a mobile phone rang in the audience. ‘Oh’ the actor declared ‘kettle’s boiled’ – the owner of said phone took a long time dealing with it and each time the actors tried to carry on with their lines off it went again until Sir Oliver turned his gazed upon the unfortunate person and declared ‘Well, are you going to answer it?’ It must have been very unsettling for the actors but they coped well. Naughty theatergoer though, to not switch off their phone it shows great disrespect for others.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

That Christmas Thing - Part 2

In a similar vein to those letters you get to ‘The Times’ when people write in to say that they have heard the first cuckoo of the season, so, tonight, as we drove home from a wonderful performance of The School for Scandal (of which more later) we saw our first ‘decorated’ house of the season. Yes, indeed, there it was as we came up the hill in the gathering gloom, accompanied by the sound of distant fireworks (again!) standing out amongst its fellows in all its garish glory fully adorned with twinkling icicles, a parachuting Santa, a flashing Rudolph and his sleigh and lots of glistening, dancing, snowmen. Why? It’s only 12th November for goodness sake.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

That Christmas Thing

I've had my first Christmas card and present today. Delivered by post and not from overseas either, just from Lincolnshire. Of course I'm really happy and grateful to receive said present but it has made me feel totally inadequate as I haven't even begun to think about Christmas yet. I know the shops have been full of 'festive fayre' since August Bank Holiday, but I've been doing my rather good impression of an ostrich. I was aware that Chritmas was happening because when I went into the local town at the end of September to buy a new trowel for the garden I was told by the shop assistants in both Woolworth and Tesco that 'oh, gardening has finished now, we've put Christmas out.' - or words to that effect anyway. I'm afraid gardening in my neck of the woods is far from 'finished' - just in limbo at the moment because most of the garden is waterlogged again.

Oh well, I suppose I'd better start making lists - it doesn't achieve anything really but makes you feel as if you are doing something. On second thoughts, perhaps I'll do it tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Much Ado

Well what a treat on TV last night. I just knew I was going to enjoy the first of the four modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays (done by the BBC after their very successful Chaucer ones). Much Ado About Nothing is, for me, one of his best comedy plays (the other being Twelfth Night) and as it had two of my very favourite actors playing Beatrice and Benedict I just knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. I loved every minute of it and was surprised how well it adapted to the modern setting of a regional TV news station. Pressed the red button for the interactive stuff afterwards too and that was fascinating – thank God for the digi-box.

I was trying to recollect when I first saw Much Ado so I dug out my programme collection. I remembered seeing it at the old Victoria Theatre in Stoke when we came from Mansfield on an evening visit organized by the Art College (who would have thought then that I’d actually come and live in Stoke?) I also knew I’d seem it at Stratford with Judi Dench as Beatrice and Donald Sinden as Benedict. Sure enough I found the programme – it was in 1976 (shock, horror that's nearly 30 years ago) and other actors were Cherie Lunghi as Hero plus, Bob Peck, Robin Ellis, Ivan Beavis and Ian McDairmid.

Of course, the old Vic was replaced by the new one and we are off there on Saturday to see the Northern Broadsides production of School for Scandal. We really enjoyed seeing the company earlier this year in Sweet William so when we saw they were coming again we booked straight away.

I must look back to see when I first saw School for Scandal. I know it was at Nottingham Playhouse and I think it was directed by Jonathan Miller – I remember the revolving stage and the exaggerated turned up noses making the actors look like caricatures from a Hogarth painting. I’ll report back on that one.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Mischievous Night

When I was a child the 4th November was always ‘Mischievous Night’. In the small Derbyshire village where I grew up this usually meant little more than a few practical jokes played on neighbours in the early evening after school. My best friend and I would meet up with a few others and we would dare each other to knock on doors and run away. This entailed opening gates and going up drives to front doors which if you had to run away quickly gave you less time than if the front doors had been nearer the road. There was one particular house that had a rather decorative front garden made up of little paths and the big ‘dare’ was to run around the little paths without getting caught. This was rather more nerve-wracking that the “scrumping” for apples that had gone on a few weeks before in the orchard of ‘the big house’. Of course the boys always did more than we girls; taking garden gates off their hinges or sending a treasured garden gnome on a little trip somewhere further down the road.

Come Bonfire Night (which was always on 5th November and not spread over weeks like it is today) we had the pleasure of excitedly gathering around the bonfire on my friend’s dad’s allotment. We had a few fireworks each which we all brought along to share; things like Roman candles, Catherine wheels and rockets plus the occasional jumping jack and banger. It was the bonfire, though, that was the draw – it kept you warm, it cooked your baked potato wrapped in foil, it lit up the night sky and we all used to run around in scarves and mittens, clutching our sparklers whilst sucking on home-made bonfire toffee before heading home tired, happy and smelling of wood smoke.

All this may seem rather mundane and innocent in these days of ‘Trick or Treat”, two months of fireworks and Christmas in the shops at the end of August. Where has the respect for anniversaries and seasons gone? The simple pleasure of celebrating them chronologically and eating foods seasonally seems to have disappeared, it would seem today that if your life isn’t “extreme” or “awesome” then you are seen as a “loser” and that is a shame because the simple magic and innocent enjoyment has gone and will never return.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The 'Limo' Man

Just around the corner on the end of the next street from ours lives a man who runs a stretch limo business. Every Friday he fetches both of his cars, one black, one white, from his garage under the railway arches down in the town. He always spends quite a bit of time cleaning and polishing them and then adorning them with flowers and ribbons for the weekend’s weddings or parties. He is a dapper little man with a perpetual tan who usually wears shorts and deck shoes, no matter the weather, and takes great pride in his work; he does, though, look as if he should be on a marina or quay side in the south of France rather than on the corner of a street on a 1970s housing estate. Anyway, the reason I mention him is that as I walked past today I had to look twice at the limo parked just off the main road because it wasn’t black, it wasn’t white but it was pink, a sort of strawberry ice cream pink, just the ticket for those ‘girly’ nights out. It did, however, look rather forlorn and extremely dusty in the wind and rain with fallen russet leaves sticking to its windscreen. I bet ‘Mr Limo’ had just popped in the house for his sponge and bucket though.

In today’s Guardian the playwright Simon Grey was asked what he would do if he had the money. One of his answers was ‘First, I’d make sure that there are lots and lots of public lavatories in all the towns and cities in the country; properly attended with security guards if necessary.’ I’ll second that and add that can they be open 24 hours a day and be spotlessly clean too? And please, please not those ones where you press buttons, pay and get in and then panic in case you can’t get out again? I have strong memories of P and I driving back through the night from the ferry port at Portsmouth, after a super holiday in France, both upset because we’d hit a rabbit and not being able to find a public convenience that was open for ages and then, when we did, it was one of those ‘tardis’ things, in the middle of a car park, in the dark, in god knows which town because I’ve never been able to remember.

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.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Who would Like

It’s the time of year again when various organizations send out their ‘gift’ catalogues. I don’t want, as it is still only September and I don’t like to even think about it until after bonfire night, to mention the dreaded C word yet, but this is what their catalogues are aimed at. We receive several of these catalogues each year mainly from the charities we have supported in the past like the PDSA and Cats Protection. We also receive the glossy and useful ones from Lakeland (there is no way on earth I can walk past a Lakeland shop and not go in) and Scotts of Stow because we’ve bought from them before. This week though, heralded the arrival of my two absolute favourites.

First up is The Cat Gallery catalogue from that super shop in York which we have to visit whenever we go there. Secondly, my ultimate favourite, I think, is the RSC one full of all things Shakespeare. Nestled in its pages alongside the usual mugs, coasters and T- shirts are wondrous items like a pop-up Globe theatre book (with play books and press out characters) and little wooden dolls you can dress up (clothes included), leather bound notebooks and embroidered cushions. The trouble is that these two publications can make you very selfishly order things for yourself, completely forgetting about the seasonal spirit of giving. Last year I ordered my ‘Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble’ tea towel – complete with lovely cackling witches, the year before my ‘He hath eaten me out of house and home’ apron decorated with self satisfied cat and fish bones, both, sadly, no longer available in the 2006 catalogue, but still much used and loved around here. Also, decorating our fridge are two magnets bearing the quotations ‘Where is the life that late I led?’ and ‘Would I were in an alehouse in London’ – indeed! Hmm, I wonder who would like a pop-up Globe theatre this year?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Random Conversation

On the building and placing in situ of a new bird table

Him ‘Is it level?’

Me ‘It’s leaning slightly’

Him (after adjusting) ‘How’s, that?’

Me ‘No, up a bit, on the left side’

Him (after more adjusting) ‘That better?’

Me ‘No, it’s still not level’

Him ‘I’ll fetch a spirit level’

Me ‘OK’

Him ‘The spirit level says it’s level’

Me ‘And I say it’s not’

Him ‘Well, it is level’

Me ‘Not from here, it isn’t’

Him ‘It is level, it says it’s level’

Much later, as he gazes from the conservatory window

‘That bird table isn’t level, is it?


Moral of the day: Don’t have a navy blue carpet fitted if you have a cat that has more than a whisker of white fur – you know it makes sense.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Weepy Films

A friend and I were recently having a good old ‘chin-wag’ about things that upset or moved us in an emotional way. After covering recent news events we moved on to films and had a memory fest of ‘those that had moved us to tears of either sorrow or happiness.
One of my other friends says that he cannot watch a film that doesn’t have a happy ending. I’m not quite as bad as that I really enjoyed the film ‘ThisYear’s Love’ but he didn’t because of the ending and I felt bad for recommending it to him. Ditto ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’, I can start weeping from the first moments, without producing quite so much mucus as Juliet Stevenson, but it does have a ‘bitter sweet’ ending. I always sniff a bit at the end of ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ too. Old films invariably bring on the waterworks, ‘Mrs Miniver’, ‘Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House’ and ‘Brief Encounter’ to name just a few. Who can forget that heart wrenching moment in ‘The Railway Children’ when Jenny Agutter runs down the steam swathed station platform crying ‘Daddy, my Daddy’ or when Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward leads the Chinese children into town singing ‘This Old Man’ – hankies out at the ready.

I find sometimes though, that I care about the animals even more that the people in films, is this wrong of me? Does this sound like some defect in my character? Whilst watching ‘The Shooting Party’ I only cared that the boy’s pet duck should escape the guns, blow the gamekeeper breathing his last on the forest floor. I was so upset in ‘Cold Mountain’ when the old woman slit the throat of her favourite goat to feed Jude Law’s hungry soldier. I was upset at the end too, who wouldn’t be, but – oh, that goat! I could never watch ‘Ring of Bright Water’ again, and why did they save that spade incident until near the end? Even ‘pretend’ characters can get to me. In particular, I always weep when ET’s heart starts up again when the little boy cries over him and don’t get me started on the Tiny Tim scene at the end of ‘The Muppet’s Christmas Carol.’

The last film I saw moved me deeply, I hit the highs and lows and highs again. ‘A Very Long Engagement’ is a wonderful film. We bought it for R for his birthday (he’d loved Amelie) and assured him that he would like it and that, yes, it did have a happy ending, well a resolved ending anyway. He rang a few days later to say what a wonderful film it was. It is too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Spider Time

This is the time of year I dread, the time of year when I have to creep steadily round the garden, sweeping brush in hand, ready to cut swathes through the cobwebs that overnight, drape themselves decorously across paths from one bush to the other, or from the greenhouse to the willow tree by the pond, or from the shed to the plum tree thus preventing access to the compost heap. In the early morning sunlight you can’t see them, so the brush has to go before me, I’m afraid. I really don’t like to hurt anything that moves and sincerely hope the spiders soon find alternative accommodation.

If they stay out of my way, I can just about cope with spiders in the garden although weeding the heather patch is a nightmare as I have to make sure I’m fully covered incase a spider should run up my leg or something. I have trousers, tucked into socks and then wellies, gloves on my hands, hat on my head but still I feel uneasy. If they come into my patch- the house that is - then that is quite a different story. I have a ‘spider catcher’ handy (a children’s plastic bug pot going cheap in Woolies) and if I really want to frighten myself I look through the little magnifying spot on the lid when I’ve caught one - Eeek!!! Well, I’m usually quite good at catching them and putting them outside but some spiders are, I’m afraid, too large to even contemplate going anywhere near.

I remember when we first moved over to this part of the country we rented accommodation for about eighteen months in a village close to Market Drayton. The property was surrounded by very large fir trees and this seemed (it may have been my lurid imagination) to encourage spiders. We used to get huge ones in the house, especially in the bathroom which, you have to agree is, along with the bedroom, the worst place for large spiders to run loose because here you are more likely to be walking around barefoot. I saw one once, when I was in the bath, run across the floor – I swear I could hear the patter of its feet – and it was heading straight for my slippers. Now, because of the spider, and given that we have cats, the mouse problem, I wear flip flops around the house thus giving the varmints no place to hide.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Doctor, Doctor

This morning I finally had to give in and take myself down to the open surgery. If you get there by 8a.m. you can see a Doctor but it has to be the one next available and not the one of your choice. Okay, I’d had this problem with my left ear for a while and now my throat and all my glands were joining in so something had to be done. What is it about Monday mornings and illness though? The surgery was absolutely packed, though not as packed as it had been when I once had to see the Doctor on the Tuesday after Easter and the queues were out of the door, the waiting room packed and I had to wait for over two hours, half of it sitting on the floor leaning against the fireplace, anyway, today I waited just and hour and fifteen minutes* and luckily I’d taken my book to read so the time passed quite quickly. My main worry was that there were four of the five Doctor’s on duty and one of them I don’t really like very much, I don’t know why, but I find him very arrogant although he did act very quickly when I visited him a couple of years ago with an ulcer in my eye, I was up at the hospital eye clinic within two hours so I can’t fault him on that, but when I’m feeling low, I find him difficult to deal with. Well you’ve probably guessed the outcome of this, when my turn came it was his voice that rang out over the intercom system and I went along the corridor with my heart in my mouth. There he sat this ‘bête noir’ of mine, I hadn’t seen him for two years and he had changed so much, he seemed smaller, rounder and was completely bald. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid of him anymore.

*This may seem like moaning, I'm not really, we are so lucky to be able to see a Doctor on the day we want to, I know some people have great difficulties getting appointments when they need them.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

I’ve had a really lovely birthday today. Woke up to fresh orange juice and cards from P, from friends and the cats’ own paw-printed one, before coffee, croissants and home-made plum jam for breakfast.

We then set out to Trentham to have a ride on the ‘Miss Elizabeth’ across the lake and back. The ride was wonderful, the weather just right and, it being the first trip of the day, the boat wasn’t crowded. We saw herons sitting in their rather ponderous and to me, slightly spooky, way on the edges of the island heronry. Swallows and dragon flies were swooping over the water and little rowing boats bobbed about in the wake of our boat. I have to say it was all rather perfect.

After this we had coffee and cake at one of the cafes in the retail park, which was by now packed with visitors, and then made our way into the Italian gardens. So much has happened in there since we visited late last season. The formal gardens were lovely and colourful, the lower garden having particularly interesting planting, the upper garden near the old church and orangery was a little bit ‘municipal’ for my taste but I guess this is how it was in it’s heyday. The fountains and lake views were wonderfully clear and bright in the early afternoon light. After wondering around the gardens we sat in green and white stripy deckchairs and watched the boats on the lake, then we ventured onto the woodland walk, looked at the little ‘back yard gardens’ and then I ventured into the ‘Barfuss’ – P declined to go in, but I left my shoes and rolled up my trousers and in I went, the walk was so invigorating, the mud between the toes very squelchy but somehow enjoyable and I think the best walking surface was the pine cones as they had been softened by those who had gone before me and felt warm and dry underfoot. Then back to the foot showers to get rid of all the mud that had collected between my toes – bliss.

Home late afternoon to sit in the garden and look forward to a feast of home made veggie lasagne, courtesy of P, with a nice rose wine and ice cream to follow. How wonderful is that?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Good Enough for Byron

Over the last three weeks we’ve travelled from Aberaeron on the Welsh Coast to Salthouse on the Norfolk Coast and many places in between. Aberaeron is a lovely little Georgian town with purpose built harbour surrounded by small terraced houses painted every colour you can imagine ranging from delicate pinks and lilacs, through subtle greens and blues to garish purple, red and yellow, but somehow being at the sea side it looks right and is strangely complemented by the honey ice cream for sale on the harbour side in as many flavours as there were house colours.

Harbour, Aberaeron

In complete contrast were the sun bleached colours of the pebble beach and dunes at Salthouse where we sat and watched the terns wheeling over the sea and disappearing as quickly as they had appeared, maybe heading for the little café on the main road which was full to bursting with folk who, after visiting the modern art installations at the local church were enjoying the local delicacies of crab and samphire.

Sunset, Old Hunstanton

Since our return we have had a friend to stay with us and enjoyed trips locally and now almost completely broke until pay day* we have spent the last week walking, in sections, the Trent and Mersey canal tow path from Barlaston in the south to the Harecastle tunnel in the north, and it has been amazing.

* P announced today that we could live on potatoes and vinegar both of which we seem to have in abundance joking that if it was good enough for Byron then it will do for us. Well, I seem to recall in the film made by Robert Bolt** and starring, if I remember correctly his then wife, Sarah Miles, as Lady Caroline Lamb, much was made of Lord Byron dining on potatoes and vinegar.

** Years ago when I did my English A level we studied the play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. Even now I still remember two quotes from this play. One is, of course, part of Sir Thomas More's speech at his trial and goes something like “I do none harm, I say none harm and I think none harm and if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith, I long not to live” The other one is when Sir Thomas is visited in prison by his wife who brings him food. I remember this quote rather like I remember the one from Little Women which goes “Is this a slipper I see before me? No, it’s a toasting fork with mother’s slipper on it.” Anyhow, the second quote from A Man for All Seasons is “You still make superlative custard Alice.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Although I always enjoy a holiday once I'm on my way, I find the chaos surrounding getting ready for it really tiresome.

Days before I'm trying to keep clothes clean so I don't have to keep washing, yet I still manage to have last minute washing and ironing. Also I have to clean the house from top to bottom in case the cat sitters should think I'm a really dirty lazy person. Also lawns have to be cut and the garden left tidy - just in case. Of what I don't know.
I make lists and cross things off and then make more lists, throwing things that we need to take with us into a basket as I think of them, things like umbrella, spare glasses, phone charger, book to read, note pad and pencil just in case I'm moved suddenly to write a sonnet or two, kitchen sink........!

I usually settle down when I'm about a couple of hours into the outward journey but until then I'm chasing my tail and fretting about what hasn't been done.

Anyway, Wales here we come, will be back in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Monkey Forest

Today we visited the new Monkey Forest at Trentham Gardens. I wasn't sure about this new venture but now I've seen them in their tranquil, leafy habitat, I don't mind it so much. The staff are helpful and friendly and quick to sort out any problems that may occur. One monkey came to sit on a seat quite close to us and watched us with as much interest as we were watching him, then he sloped off after a couple of other members of his colony and went to feed nearby. A couple of other males were grooming and playing with a baby, apparently the males spend a lot of time looking after the young ones.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A pleasant evening

Last evening was the presentation of certificates to the competition winners from the All Write Course that has been held at the city library from April to July. It was a nice evening; the two groups, Monday evening and Friday afternoon (mine) joined together with the writers and poets, who had done workshops throughout the course, and the course leader. Special guest was novelist Kate Long author of The Bad Mother’s Handbook and Swallowing Grandma. The latter is her latest novel and at the end of the evening she read a small and very funny extract from it.

Our Friday group did particularly well with the poetry and prose entries and I was very pleased to receive from Kate Long a Certificate of Highly Commended for the story I had entered. Adjudicator of all the entries was Roger Elkin (editor of Envoi magazine). He seemed to think my story a ‘romance’ and ‘sexy’. If you can call the final performance of a cellist who is dying of cancer and plans to commit suicide that evening a romance or even sexy well, okay, but I didn’t see it that way. I was pleased to have been chosen though, and so pleased for all the nice folks I've spent quite a few Friday afternoons with over the past month or so.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Of Mice and Men

I had two hours this morning in which to do the huge pile of ironing that had grown over the last few days, it having been too hot to even contemplate getting out the ironing board. I had just started the dreaded job when I heard familiar heart-sinking noises from the room above. That familiar, thud, run and growl which means one of the cats has brought a mouse into the house. I switched off the iron and ran upstairs. Usually with our female cat I can just take the mouse from her and carry it out to safety under the hedge but her brother was involved in the chase which started in the bedroom. Every time I reached out to try and pick the mouse up it scooted off. Now this was the Olympic athlete of all mice, I’ve never seen one move as quickly. It ran out of the main bedroom, ran past the study door (thank God) and into the spare bedroom. I moved just about every piece of furniture to find it and the cats had now followed and chased it out into the bathroom, after shutting all the doors and laying a towel down to stop it getting under the airing cupboard door I try to catch it but to no avail.

It heads off down the stairs, almost throwing itself down each stair with both cats and me giving chase it veers to the right and into the kitchen. I shut the lounge door and then the kitchen door. Good we have it cornered in the kitchen. It has taken up residence under the dresser, which is full of heavy crockery and china and the top is cluttered with cookery books on a rack far too heavy to move. I place a humane trap at one end and lunge under the other with a mop handle but every time the mouse approaches the trap it backs off and I have to start again. I decide to shut the door on it and the cats and leave it to its fate. I hear pounces and mews and go back in. One of the cats has the mouse cornered and I manage to throw the tea towel over it and scoop it up. I run with it to the top of the garden, let it go under the hedge, shouting run, quick run. It does. I needn’t have worried both cats were running around the dresser thinking it was still there.

Just before our meal was ready this evening there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find a man standing there.

“If you could save the world from all the greed, violence and wars there are now, would you want to?” he asks.

“Well, of course” I reply, “who wouldn’t, but that would be impossible.”

He clutches his red bible fervently “I’m afraid we are just about to eat” I try to stop him from going any further “Sorry.”

“It smells very nice” he replied very courteously “May I come back later and talk to you Mrs err…”

I tell him I prefer not to give my name.

“That’s ok” he replies “I’m Desmond.”

“Well, Desmond, thank you for calling.”

He didn’t come back.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Midsummer Memory

So, today is Midsummer. The very word sounds magical, teeming with enchantment. No wonder it is the stuff of myth and magic. Shakespeare certainly thought so and he was right. Not many miles from the Lincolnshire town where P and I lived for over twelve years before moving over here, is an outdoor theatre where, for three months every summer, come hell or high water*, two or three Shakespeare plays were performed ‘al fresco.’ Every year, a group of us would book seats, take a picnic and laze in the evening sun waiting for the performance to begin.

We had, over the years seen some wonderful performances, but none more so than when we went to see a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ on 24th June 1992** the memory of which is still with me now. The evening was clear and warm, a perfect night for an outdoor performance. There was magic in the air as the play began and we, the audience were swept into it from the very first line. I was taken completely by surprise by the animatronics or special effects used not only for Bottom’s ass’s head but by those used for the fairies’ wings. The costumes of both Oberon and Titania were splendidly dynamic and alive, their wings waved in their anger and vexation and quivered in pleasure; they suddenly became more than mere mortals, having an almost dream like quality in the now dimming evening light. I can say, without a doubt that this was the most stunning performance of this play that I have every seen, and I have seen several.

* Luckily the audience are seated under a canopy (or they were then) but the actors had to perform no matter what the weather was doing. I remember one year, it absolutely poured with rain during the performance. The actresses’ dresses were darkening around the hems as the water soaked in and seeped upwards. At one point the scene was a balcony and the actor involved had to speak lovelorn lines about the beautiful night and the moon and etc and the audience, I’m ashamed to say, just dissolved into laughter, he waited for us to subside and then carried on delivering his lines and had us believe that we too could see that glorious full moon. Well played.

** I know, but I don’t apologise for the fact that I keep all my theatre programmes and usually put the tickets inside, so I know exactly what I saw and when I saw it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Farewell to Woodies

On Saturday we drove over to the health food shop at Market Drayton to get the Shipton Mill Flour that P likes to use in his bread making. We love the journey over there as the countryside on that part of the Staffordshire/Shropshire border is just wonderful. When we first moved over to this part of the country we rented a property out that way for a couple of years before moving into the city to be closer to our work. I used to love the bus journey into Hanley through Ashley, Blackbrook, by Maer, into Baldwin’s Gate and Whitmore before getting to Newcastle and then up to the city. Today we were behind two very slow farm vehicles but this didn’t seem to matter as slower was preferable to the speed with which a lorry had hurtled past us on the Trentham road swerving to avoid us as we slowed down at the amber light and he cut across on red. Luckily the car coming across the junction stopped god knows how the driver of the lorry missed hitting one or the other of us. Bad driving, mate!

We had decided to also have a walk along the canal and have a mid morning cuppa at Woodies but when we got there it had closed. The old mill building had been stripped and emptied of all the glorious things that used to be there including the little train that ran around a track just under the ceiling. We used to enjoy watching it going round and round as we drank our coffee. What a shame. I’m guessing that there wasn’t enough trade, although it always seemed busy whenever we went last year. The walk from Betton Mill to Tyrley locks and back is a lovely one and quite easy to do at any time of the year. We did the walk about three times last year on our own and then with friends who will all be sad to hear that Woodies no longer exists.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Evening Classes

I’ve just been reading an excellent article, written by Sue Arnold, in today’s Guardian. In this article she was discussing the news that this Government (who should know better)* are cutting down on funding Adult Education which in turn will affect that beloved national institution, evening classes. This would be such a shame. I know that, over the years, I, for one, have benefited greatly from evening classes. I left school at fifteen, not because I was thick, I had passed my eleven plus and got to grammar school and was an avid reader, almost like a chain smoker, I always had one book on the go and the next one waiting to be picked up as soon as the current read was finished. The reason was that because I was quiet, shy and not the prettiest flower in the vase I was picked on and bullied so as soon as I could I removed myself from the situation and went out into the world of work.

When I got to eighteen I decided I wanted to learn so over the next ten years ( at my own expense) I studied for and passed three O levels, did LAMDA courses in speech and drama, joined a Am Dram group attached to the local art college, and passed three A levels in English, History and History of Art. I then took a couple of years out when I got married but by 1980 both P and I had enrolled for Open University, he studying sciences and me studying Arts. It took us six years of hard work to get our degrees. P went on to do teaching qualifications whilst I studied for the Museums Association diploma, and various courses relating to tourism. In the last few years I have done various courses at the local colleges for Creative Writing.

I think it would be such a shame if this type of class were to disappear completely as they are of great benefit to the many people, who, for one reason or another can’t complete their education at school or get to University at the time and age they are supposed to.

* unless my history is at fault, weren’t the Labour party or at least members** of it instigators and founders of the Open University?
**The names of Harold Wilson and Jennie Lee spring to mind.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Tuesday evening the rather smart dark green balloon from Trentham Gardens passed slowly overhead. It took ages for it to get close enough for us to be able to read the word Trentham on its side but as it got closer to us we could hear the gas boost and see the flames shooting up from the basket into the balloon, the people were like little dots. I guess if they are going to make balloon rides part of their ‘things to do’ itinerary then we may see it more often. It was a beautiful night for floating along in a balloon though I did wonder where they would land as they were headed over towards the city.

Talking of Trentham so many lovely things have happened there over the last year or two. We go, usually once a week, to walk around the lake and watch the grebes and herons and lately the geese with their fluffy goslings. We are still waiting for the access path up to the Duke of Sutherland’s statue to open though because I long to walk up to the top and view the lake and Italian garden from there. We have to wait though, presumably for the access road to the new monkey forest to be completed, as the monkey house is due to open in July then we may not have to wait for much longer. I really like the new garden centre (not so much a garden centre as a lifestyle statement) and the retail village but I’m not sure about the monkeys (well Barbary Macaques). I dare say it will be a huge tourist attraction and bring in bus loads from all over but the tranquility will be lost. Given the monkeys and the new passenger boat and the proposed new boat house restaurant then the tranquility will definitely be lost but I suppose things can’t stay the same forever.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Had a lovely wander around Ashbourne today, got there about 9.30a.m. and had a good look at the antique shops and the book shop and the super second hand book stall on the market, didn’t see anything we wanted to purchase but really enjoyed looking. Had a cup of coffee in the café bar near the bridge and then drove up to the garden centre before heading home via what we call the Roman road which actually runs from the outskirts of Derby to Caverswall, Blythe Bridge and into Stoke, we picked it up at Cubley and came through Rocester and past the JCB factory where people walk and enjoy the lakes around the factory, there are some interesting water birds and many folks stop and park up and get an ice cream from the van and just sit and watch the fountain in the middle of the lake.

Got backhome and mowed the lawns, they always look so much better after a cut. The new bird bath looks wonderful bathed in sunlight.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mid Year Resolution

I feel I have been rather neglectful of this blog recently, finding it hard, not to find the time to write, but to actually know what to say. I have therefore made a resolution that I must write something, even if it is no more than two lines every day to get myself into the swing of things again. I don’t know why I’m particularly lacking in inspiration, June is nearly here, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and yet for some reason things still seem grey. I can’t concentrate for very long on reading anymore and my favourite TV programmes seem so shallow and tedious. I have written quite a lot today though. I have started a story about juggling with one’s priorities in life and completed two exercises from the previous two weeks writing course homework a dialogue piece about an argument or misunderstanding and one of two character descriptions. So I have sort of been productive.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Glasses and Bird Baths

Friday was the All Write meeting at Hanley Library. I really enjoy these meetings and there is a nice lively crowd of people who attend. I like listening to them read out their work and today one of them had brought along a trial piece of dialogue and had produced four copies so that others could join in and read the parts, this certainly livened things up and was quite entertaining. I’m constantly surprised at how good people are and sometimes feel quite inadequate; their ideas for stories and poems are excellent.

On the bus home a young woman came to sit next to me, I’d seen her at the bus stop in her afghan coat and flowery head scarf, tied in a knot at the back, clutching a rather flamboyant wine glass in one hand and a huge bag in the other. I watched, fascinated as she managed to clutch the wine glass and her MP3 player in one hand whilst she struggled to break bits off a Toblerone bar with the other. She had more than one ring on every digit and more than one ring in both her ears and her nose. She saw me looking at her glass and started to explain to me how she had decorated it with suns and moons and then described the other pieces she had decorated. We had a nice conversation which whiled away the journey time on the rather overcrowded bus.

Saturday we wandered around Bakewell, popping in and out of the lovely little shops, arcades and interesting alley ways, had coffee in the café over the farmer’s market shop and walked by the river. Here we saw swans, ducks and geese with their young and a pair of coots who had decided to nest on a little ‘island’ close to the bridge and the seats where everyone gathers to eat their fish and chips or their ice creams (depending on the weather – yesterday there was a mixture of both!) We then ventured to the Chatsworth Garden Centre for lunch and here we picked up a great bird bath for only £16.99. We’d wanted one for ages to replace the one that was frost shattered last year and now we have it. Only, of course, today we have had to spruce up the garden again so that the bird bath looks good in its new home.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Where, What and Why?

During this week, in the potteries town* which is the nearest to where I live there have been two major incidents, a murder and a fire on one of the main shopping streets. This fire gutted an already empty and semi-derelict building and made it unsafe so major parts of the town had to be sealed off whilst building experts secured it. The murder we know little about yet but a young mother of two was found in an alleyway almost opposite the Gladstone Museum at two in the afternoon, in the local paper there was a picture of her on CCTV just over an hour before she was found dead. A man was arrested almost immediately and charged a day or so after, and thank goodness for that but it does make you feel very uneasy. All you can say is why?

Yesterday, to escape the confines of the city we ventured out to our favourite garden.** It is set in beautiful countryside on the Staffordshire/Cheshire/Shropshire border. Constructed in an old quarry, now full of the most beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas in every colour imaginable, it is so pleasing on the eye. Each year when we visit we find something new has been added, another corner has reached maturity and more and more people have been delighted by their visit, including us.

Well, our tadpoles have developed legs. About a month ago we took some tadpoles from the garden pond and put then in a bowl in doors to save them from becoming newt food. They have prospered so well and are now fat and healthy and ready to be returned to the garden. Not to the main pond but to a small sunken container that has been set up a little away from it. Last night the container was filled with pond water and weed ready to receive them. Today they will go to their new home and hopefully soon we will have some little frogs.

* The city of Stoke on Trent is made up of six towns, not five*** being from north to south Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton.
** It is The Dorothy Clive Garden
*** Local author Arnold Bennett, left out Fenton when he wrote Anna of the Five Towns.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Le Marché

On Friday I was wandering, in the sunshine, through the market. The stalls were bright, cheerful and welcoming with flags and balloons dancing in the breeze. The stall holders were calling to each other and to the passers by. I hovered around one or two stalls; the smell of the olives, so many different varieties, drew me in and then I was hooked. I dallied around the cheese counter, eyed up the crusty fresh bread, the brioche and the croissants and then the intricately plaited bunches of garlic which nestled at the side of the rich red strawberries and luscious looking asparagus. I moved on to the Breton biscuits; they had those tasty butter ones and the gorgeous prune tart. Mmm. The crepe stand was doing excellent business, a crepe and a coffee was just the thing for lunch. I sat at the table watching people drifting from stall to stall. The sun was warm the food was tasty and the most wonderful thing was the smell of the cut lavender on the stall opposite – it was warm, heady and sensual. I drifted away into a gentle reverie “Bonjour Madam” said the man serving the crepes, “c’est tout?” enquired the woman on the biscuit stall as she weighed out biscuits for her customers.

Then, all of a sudden I was jolted out of my dream. “Ey-up duck, where’s tha bin?”
“Up Marks, shug, ar’t catchin’t bus home?”.

Oh no, drat, I wasn’t in Brittany at all, but on Piccadilly, Hanley. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Past Times

So we have another election looming. The feeling of security goes out of the window and in comes that uneasy feeling in the pit of the stomach that things may get worse.* I mutter to myself every day, “Oh, please don’t let MH get to be PM.” I cringe every time I see him on television because he brings back memories of those awful, fearful Thatcher years and will be forever associated with her in my memory. I could just about tolerate a Conservative victory, if I really had to, but, please God, not with him at the helm. I know I will support Labour, I always do, even though I was very upset with TB when he took us into the war against the wishes of the UN and the rest of Europe and a lot of us Brits too. At that time I was really ashamed of and aghast at what we had done, but I can’t, in all honesty vote for any other party. I will vote for the party and all it has stood for in the past; not for its present leader because he probably won't be PM for the whole five years if they get in. It would be against my very being to step away from my beliefs, no matter how archaic others may think they are, it would seem like letting down my ancestors who for generations until the last two, have worked down the mines. My great grandfather was killed in an awful pit cage accident, my grandfather died from pneumoconiosis or “miners lung”. Generations before them struggled for survival in poor conditions and for low wages. My 5 x great grandfather was a prospector who traveled, in the 1780s, from the Welsh Borders and the Forest of Dean into Derbyshire with a gang of men and they would open up coal seams and try to get local business men interested. No doubt they would all have been issued with settlement orders naming the parish of their birth. What a precarious life. On the other side my great - great grandfather was a tailor who came down into England from Fife, Scotland, again I assume looking for work and again, I would imagine settlement orders were an issue.

* I don’t want to go back to those days of worry, when either one or the other of us was unemployed because of redundancy,** when we had to move from the area we had grown up in, getting further away from our families. Luckily, unlike my ancestors, we didn’t need settlement orders in case we became a burden on the parish we moved to.
** by sheer luck we were never unemployed at the same time so we always worked on the principle of one wage for two when taking up rental agreements or seeking mortgages – just in case it should ever happen again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Library Rules

Yesterday I walked the two miles to our local library in order to renew my library ticket.* I strolled into the newly refurbished library unaware of the confusion that lay ahead. Actually my ticket ran out last year but because I’d been doing an OU writing course and then had succumbed to the Waterstones’ 3 for 2 offer on books a couple of times last year and then been tempted by one or two books in Tesco for £3.73 each and also bought a couple of magazines with free books, I hadn’t needed to go to the library.** So, I went up to the counter and asked very nicely if I could renew my ticket.

Well, the answer was no, not unless I had proof of my address on me. As a non-driver I don’t have a driver’s license so I was a bit stuck. I only had bank cards on me and they don’t have an address on. I said I could come back with my passport, national insurance card or medical card to prove I was who I said I was, but no, it has to be a letter with my address on received in the post that day or quite recently. ‘Don’t you get junk mail?’ one of the librarians asked ‘I get loads.’ Well yes, as it happens I do, but I couldn’t see how a piece of junk mail would be as reliable in identifying me as a passport or medical card. Anyhow, the only letter I’d had that day was one telling me I had won some fantastic gift if only I would ring the attached 0900 number and it had been shredded. Therefore, until I can prove that I am really and truly me I can’t have a new library ticket. I’m just waiting to receive a letter with my name and address on so I can trip down to the library again holding it in my sticky mitt.*** You know, I suppose they have their job to do, I might be trying to steal someone’s identity but if I was, borrowing books from the library would be the least of my concerns.

* I know, what an exciting life I lead.
** You are right, shame on me, I should support my local bookshop and not these huge high street stores, but I’ve applied for a job twice at the local bookshop and never even had an interview so I feel disinclined to put my money in their coffers.
*** I did have two letters today but not “official” ones – they were both hand written ones from friends so they will not do.

Highlight of today – the lovely letters mentioned above.

Today’s gripe – it has taken me hours to clean the spare bedroom and rid it of all the cat fluff and crud. Also I bet one of the cats was responsible for the headless baby bird I found on the lawn this morning. Why do I love cats so much when they do this?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Red Kite Delight

It’s hard to gather my thoughts together enough to recount the things I’ve seen and done over the last few days. I was so looking forward to my trip into Wales to meet up with friends and I wasn’t disappointed. I set out on Tuesday morning from Stoke Station on a coach up to Crewe, yes I know, I just assume that the trains to Crewe weren’t running that day. We took a circuitous route via Kidsgrove and Alsager stations, and I began to worry I wouldn’t get there on time to catch my train down to Shrewsbury. I needn’t have worried as, in the end, I had plenty of time to spare. At Shrewsbury I met Pauline from her train and we popped into town to have lunch at the art gallery just up from the station. We were back at the station in time to catch the Swansea train.

This train travels through the most delightful countryside, meandering past the Long Mynd at Church Stretton over the viaduct at Knucklas and into Wales. Our friend Susanna was waiting at the station in the little village where she lives and where we were staying at the local bed & breakfast which is also a museum, tea rooms, art gallery and craft workshops.* We had supper at Susanna’s little cottage overlooking her splendid garden whilst watching the birds on her feeders, including Goldfinch, chaffinch, nuthatch, great tits and blue tits. What a super display. We strolled back through the village to the guest house still amused by the fact that when we arrived my room still seemed to be occupied by someone else. It turned out that the brother of the owner had been staying and gone back to London and left his things. I had already moved to another room which on such a cold night was altogether cosier, then I found that I couldn’t get the hot tap to work on my bath but Pauline managed to sort it. All this caused much amusement.**

Next day, after breakfast*** we set out with Susanna to Rhayader to have lunch with her sister and brother-in-law and then to drive to the Elan Valley. The Valley is quite spectacular and on the drive we saw several red kites wheeling around in the sky, apparently there is a farm nearby where people can go and watch them being fed. We walked awhile at the side of one of the reservoirs and then went down to the visitor centre near the water cascade where we found out how the land was developed and the feat of engineering that went into the supplying of water to Birmingham and the Midlands.

I brought home such wonderful memories of the Elan Valley that I have to go back again soon with Paul so he can see the Red Kites.

* I may write more on this place later.

** Also amusement the next morning when Pauline set off the smoke alarm with her hair dryer.
*** the marmalade should have been in the museum.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Where do you Start?

Well, the writing class on Friday went well. We all had to read out the pieces we’d written for homework, based on the theme of childhood memories last week. This week’s homework is to write about a piece of music and why and how it appeals to you. Now this sounds easy, but where do you start? There are so many different pieces of music that appeal to me and for different reasons. Should it be the first piece of music you ever heard? If so then I would have to chose ‘The Cuckoo Waltz’ because I remember my father used to put the record (a 78 rpm) on the turntable and play it and waltz me around standing on his feet. I must have been about four years old. Or what about ‘Andy Pandy is coming to play tra, la la, la, la la’ - apparently I used to cry when Teddy disappeared into the toy basket at the end. I remember having to sing ‘Rose of England’ at a school concert, then there was the school hymn I think it was “Ye Holy Angels Bright” and my favourite hymns “Glorious things of thee are spoken” and “I give to you my Country” – not sure if they are the titles or the first lines. Next memories, well I fell in love with the golden face and voice of Scott Walker - I only have to hear the first few notes of “The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore” and the back of my neck prickles. Robert Knight’s “Everlasting Love” and the Supremes “Reflections” remind me of dances at the youth club. Or what about Waterloo Sunset written by one of the best ever English song writers, Ray Davies. I also like to play Jimi Hendrix very loudly at times to cheer myself up, I remember seeing him on stage years and years ago and I can still see the bandana and the purple crushed velvet suit and the larger than life image of something special. But where do you stop with music that means something to you? There are many classical pieces including Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on a Theme from Thomas Tallis”, Barber’s “Adagio” and the theme music from the ‘Mission’ in fact almost anything by Ennio Morricone, or the whole of the Carmina Burana, or Michael Nyman’s music from "The Draughtsman’s Contract" So I’m going to have to choose one of these to write about. Maybe I’ll write about Waterloo Sunset or the Vaughan Williams or perhaps I should try Hendrix?

Highlight of the day – getting lots of gardening done this afternoon and getting ready for my three day trip into Wales on Tuesday.

Today’s gripe - rain stopped the gardening before we had finished – the garden will never dry.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Barefoot in Hanley

I was sitting in the conservatory this morning, drinking coffee, looking out at the garden with its brand new spring colours and I got to thinking what other sights, tastes and smells make you feel safe and happy. I always enjoy my first sip of newly made coffee after the aroma of making it has filled the house and I love the taste of fresh apricots*, gooseberries and mangoes. Smells would have to be lavender, torn basil leaves and freshly squeezed lemon or lime. One of my favourite sensations is walking barefoot in the sand with the sound and smell of the surf drifting into my consciousness** also the smell of the garden early in the morning when the sun has been up just a little while and the grass is still damp from the dew. I also love it when, very rarely nowadays, I wake up warm and comfortable after a good night’s sleep, that moment between waking and being fully conscious is wonderful. The feel of a warm, furry, purring cat on your lap when you are feeling down. Just a few of my favourite things.

* especially when bought early from a market stall in France and taken back to our lodgings to eat with warm fresh baguette, greengage preserve and – you’ve guessed - freshly made coffee.
** quite hard to do in Stoke, I admit, but usually managed two or three times a year, sometimes at Cherrueix or St-Jean-Le-Thomas, sometimes on the Welsh coast near Criccieth, last year on the Yorkshire coast, in the rain, but I still loved every minute. How wonderful is Staithes in the pouring rain? I thought it was breathtakingly beautiful and atmospheric.

Highlight of the day – there isn’t going to be a bus strike after all, so I don’t have to walk the two plus miles up to Hanley in order to get to my writing course. I don’t mind the walking, I’ve done it before it’s just the noise of the traffic on the main roads I have to walk along – could I suspend all belief and pretend I’m walking barefoot on the beach at Cherrueix ? Nope!!

Today’s gripe – happened yesterday actually, in Tesco. Why do people have to ‘push’ from behind in the queue? They come right up behind you with their trolly in the back of your legs, come right down and stand almost behind you while you are paying – very rude! Sometimes they have a partner in crime who is getting their bags ready to fill whilst you are still filling yours. They watch your every move, eagle eyed, ready to pounce, even before you have moved away from the checkout. Don’t do it! Thanks.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


We set out early yesterday morning and journeyed out towards Ipstones and Onecoat and then down to the stunning Manifold Valley. The morning was bright and clear but very cold. Occasionally the liquid sun would break through the clouds to fool us into thinking it was warmer but believe me it wasn't. We parked close to Wetton Mill and donned warm coats and walking boots. There were very few people around at 9.30a.m. which meant we had the track way more or less to ourselves. Our intention was to walk up to Thor's Cave. We'd passed by it once before and this time intended to go up and have a look. Perched high above the valley on its rocky outcrop it looks very impressive, its entrance, like a gaping mouth, being visible from miles around.

Apparently local excavations have revealed evidence of Iron Age and Romano-British settlement in the area around the cave. Early last century the cave became quite a tourist attraction when the Leek and Manifold Light Railway was built and visitors would leave the train at the local station and walk up to the cave. This railway was in use from about 1902 to 1934 and the walk along the valley from Hulme End to Wetton mill uses the line of the old railway track so it is suitable for cycling too. The walkway up to the top was steep but not too taxing and we reached the cave quite quickly. What splendid views there were across the valley, although the wind felt as if it would blow us down to the ground below. There are other smaller caves visible across the valley, and from Thor's cave you can look across to another cave which is up behind the Mill.

As we descended from the cave it began to rain lightly and the sun disappeared, we passed one or two walkers on the way back to Wetton Mill where we stopped in the café for coffee and toast. What a delightful spot for walkers to rest their weary bones for a while. We watched the ducks on the river and the farm cats being fed before we left.

Highlight of the day - managed to buy the Guardian at the local shop - they don't usually stock more than one and you have to get up at the crack of dawn to get it.

Today's Gripe - don't really have one, except when it rains really heavily, we have a leak in the conservatory roof.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dreaming of Dr Johnson

When is a dream not a dream but a nightmare? I suppose when it disturbs you, makes you cry out, wake up in a sweat or stays in your memory for a few days? Yet, we all have surreal dreams that disturb us and we would not call them nightmares. I’m thinking of the anxiety dreams that we have. Like the ones I sometimes have about running down endless corridors in large, unfamiliar houses. The ones where you are walking up the stairs and the ceiling is coming down to meet you. There are also the ones where you are out in the street in your underwear, the one where you are trying to run but your legs won’t move or you are trying to shout or scream for help but no noise comes out of your mouth and the one I have quite often of my teeth falling out of my mouth and spilling across the floor like a broken string of pearls. I always seem to loose far more teeth than can possibly be in my head though. These are all unsettling dreams but I wouldn’t call them nightmares.

In yesterday’s Guardian there was an article about Samuel Johnson’s famous dictionary. It was, apparently, published 250 years ago this month.* His definition of a nightmare was ‘a morbid oppression in the night, resembling the pressure of weight upon the breast.’ This morning I woke up with a ‘pressure of weight upon the breast’, a paw patting my cheek and a purring in my face, not to mention cat breath - perhaps best not to, good old Max, he knows when it is time to get up.

*funnily enough I’ve just finished reading “According to Queeney” by Beryl Bainbridge. A wonderfully atmospheric account of what Dr Johnson’s last years may have been like. How can an author “get inside” a time in history with so much atmospheric accuracy as to make you feel it is one hundred percent real. A truly wonderful piece a writing.

Highlight of the day – if it’s Sunday it must be The Archers – off to listen now.
Today’s Gripe – being woken up by cat-breath – but I love him really.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Croissants, Hawkshead & Hotspur

We travelled through the mist and rain over the Staffordshire border into Shropshire. Before we moved into the city we used to live out near Market Drayton and the countryside around there is really beautiful. I think it was the 40 minutes travelling each way every day to get to work that made us move closer to our work places but I really miss the area.

Today we were off to Shrewsbury, a fascinating, historic town with lovely inviting shops to wander around. I usually end up on the railway station here when I meet up with a friend I used to work with in Lincolnshire and we catch the Shrewsbury to Swansea train on our way to visit another former work colleague and friend. We only travel to near Llandrindod Wells but the train ride is spectacular. We are going again in April and I’m really looking forward to it.

Today we had a mission to buy my husband some new shoes and trousers. They could, of course, be bought here, up in the city centre, but it is so much nicer to wander around someone else’s town. Anyway, I love the historic atmosphere of Shrewsbury, something that Hanley is sadly lacking. We always drive to the park and ride and then bus into the centre. I’m always amazed that the Stoke-on-Trent park and ride car park is almost in the city centre and not on the outskirts. How much more convenient that would be, especially for visitors to the city and if they were to pass the railway station, which isn’t actually in the city centre, then all the better.

Well, as usual, we have cappuccino and croissant at our favourite café and then wander around in the rain, dodging the umbrellas and gradually acquire the things we came for; and a little more, of course.

On the way back we see a sign for the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury and decide that today is the day we will go and look what it is all about. Yes, I know, in the pouring rain. Well, it’s a mound with seats and a couple of interpretation boards. Being a Yorkist and Ricardian I’m used to the rather lavish battle site at Bosworth, and this looked just as interesting. The Battle of Shrewsbury was one of the bloodiest battles of the 15th century and saw the demise of the noble Hotspur something I always remember from Henry IV part one or is it part two?* Anyway, we have decided to go back in better weather and do the walk to the church and back; so more of this later.

Highlight of the day – getting three t-shirt tops for the price of two at Hawkshead.

Today’s gripe – I couldn’t find the book of poetry I wanted at Waterstones.

*It is actually Part One, V.4

Hotspur- “O Harry, thou hast robbed me of my youth……………No, Percy, thou art dust, and food for……..”

Prince Hal - “For worms, brave Percy, Fare thee well, great heart!”

Monday, March 28, 2005

To Post or not to Post

Recently I’ve become rather concerned about what is going to happen to the postal service if the Royal Mail loses its postal monopoly. How are the other companies offering delivery services going to work? The Royal Mail has dedicated postmen who know the area and potentially deliver to every house in the land. What will happen if say two houses on one street of a hundred houses are sent mail by another delivery agency. Will it be economically viable for that company to send out a post man for just two houses? Magnify this across the whole country and in particular the outlying rural areas and we may have a situation where deliveries only take place two or three times a week. Will this mean that we may eventually have to pay for a delivery to take place from a company that is not Royal Mail? At the moment the cost of delivery is paid by the sender when they buy a stamp. If sending mail to a remote Scottish Island is going to cost twice as much as it does now the sender will stay with Royal Mail, so what is the point anyway? I know it can work with parcels, there are plenty of delivery firms, catalogue couriers etc. but how will it affect our daily postal deliveries? The powers that be say that Royal Mail will still be required to provide a daily collection and delivery service in the new market but how long will they be able to sustain that under the threat of competition? Perhaps I am worrying unduly but having seen the fiasco on the rail service since that was denationalized and going through the bizarre notion of getting gas from electricity or water companies and telephone services from the supermarket my aged brain has gone into panic scenario overdrive.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday Walk

Just over half an hour’s drive from us is the village of Ilam, it’s very close to Dovedale and you can easily walk to there from the village but Ilam is so much quieter, especially fairly early on in the morning. We wondered along the river side, the banks lush with wild garlic, dog’s mercury, sorrel and some early bluebells just showing through, then crossed back over the fields towards the Youth Hostel and National Trust shop. Fortified by coffee and scones at the Manifold tea rooms we strolled by the pretty church and down to the village to have a look at the memorial on the cross roads by the bridge. We'd passed it by so often and thought it was some sort of village war memorial but a recent article in the Local History Magazine revealed that it is in fact an Eleanor Cross type memorial, placed there by Jesse Watts-Russell, for his wife Mary Watts-Russell, who died in 1840. The architect, John Macduff Derick, in the full flow of Gothic revival, based it on the Eleanor Cross at Waltham. There is, in fact, a charitable trust set up in order to raise funds for its restoration. Later, driving towards Ashbourne we passed through the parklands covered in grazing sheep and lambs, the cars had come to a halt because there were sheep in the road, as we stood waiting to move on we saw an ewe with two new born lambs, they were still wet and bedraggled and they struggled to walk as she encouraged them away from the road’s edge, just as we moved on they began to suckle. Up on the hill there was a Good Friday service taking place around a wooden cross. So, Easter and Spring, a time of new life, renewal, abundance in the countryside and also a time for quiet reflection.

Highlight of the day - has to be the sight of the new born lambs, although I worry for their safety on that busy road.
Today’s gripe – I’ve gone caught a cold just in time for the holidays, oh well!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Morecambe Tulip

As promised an explanation of my comment yesterday. It must be about four years ago now when we took a short autumn break in the Lancaster area. We just set off without booking anything and spent a day in Lancaster but thought we would like to stay on the coast. The Tourist Information Centre got us a good deal at a nice hotel on the sea front at Morecambe, the opposite end of town to the famous 1930s hotel and the Eric Morecambe statue. We had walked and walked taking in the sea air and as it had started to rain we decided to see what was on at the cinema and we were just in time to see Bridget Jones (the first film). When we came out we went back to the car park; by this time it was dark but the car park was well lit. That when I saw it – just one flower bulb on the ground in perfect condition right at the side of our car. I picked it up and put it in my pocket where it stayed until we got home. It was the right time of year to plant it so we put it in a pot and put it behind the shed. The next spring we brought it out and waited to see what it would be. As it emerged from the soil we could see from the shape of the leaves that it was a tulip. We then had to wait and see what colour it would be, minor bets were placed, but neither of us guessed the correct colour which turned out to be pink. Since then it has appeared every year in the same pot but this year it has become three separate stems so we will have three flowers, not just the one. Sentimental, I know, but if we ever move away from this house, I will take the Morecambe Tulip(s) with me.

Highlight of the Day - whilst walking round the lake at Trentham Gardens this afternoon, and glorious weather it was too, we saw a family walking their pet ferret, it was in a harness with a long lead and was thoroughly enjoying itself.

Today’s gripe – just the general thoughtlessness at the petrol station – why does this always bring out the worst in people? The man in front of us sent his passenger to pay whilst he was filling up. Because the queue was long it took her ages and he moved the car three times, getting in people’s way, and then shouted at her because she was so long!