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.”