Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Play's the Thing

It was pouring with rain as we drove into the car park at the New Vic, a warm, steamy kind of rain that had people dashing quickly into the dry welcome of the theatre foyer. We'd booked a table for a meal before the performance mainly because, as Paul works close by, it was easier to park early than for him to come all the way home and then to struggle to find parking later on, so I met him there. I was looking forward to this production, having seen quite a few by Northern Broadsides over the last few years I knew we would be captivated once more. As we found our table and joined the queue to order our food several of the cast members were in front of us ordering theirs, including the director Barry Rutter and Othello himself - Lenny Henry.

When I heard that comedian Lenny Henry was to play Othello for Northern Broadsides I wasn't sure what to expect but my faith in his abilities to pull it off were not in vain. He was a tremendous Othello. He has a huge presence on the bare, almost propless stage, just occasionally speaking his words a little quickly but oh, the gamut of emotions he went through as Othello spirals from strong, happy, dynamic soldier through tormented jealousy and rage to remorseful defeat was absolutely riveting.

My star of the evening, though, was Conrad Phillips who, as Iago, was the malevolent lynch pin of the whole production; on stage for almost all of the three hours of the production, he plotted and whispered and cajoled leading all the characters into his web of cruel deceit.

It wouldn't be a Northern Broadsides production without a bit of music and a bit of comedy and this was supplied by the actors themselves playing the instruments, with music written especially for the production by Conrad Phillips. The 'drinking' song used in order to get Cassio, played by actor Richard Standing, drunk was very funny and received a huge ovation at its end.

I always have trouble with Desdemona as a character and she was superbly portrayed by Jessica Harris and but for me, it was Maeve Larkin as Iago's wife Emilia who stood out giving a fine, measured performance. Not surprising then that the cast received a standing ovation as they took their bows at the end.

All in all a wonderful evening, I would say catch it if you can but unfortunately - well not for the theatre or the company of course - the run at the New Vic is completely sold out.

Edit30/4/09 - I forgot to mention that the New Vic is a 'theatre in the round' not a 'proscenium arch' theatre so the action all took place on a central, empty stage with props being brought in and out by the actors and some of the action taking place on the steps between the banks of seats. As we were on row B - second from the front we were almost involved in the action, in fact the lady front left of me ducked when Othello sent his dagger flying straight into his map board placed next to where she was sitting and I must admit that when a trumpet blew out, to herald that the battle was won, from the steps behind us I nearly hit the ceiling!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

There's Rosemary.......

This afternoon we've spent time in the garden busy with our plan to clear some of the raised beds and move some of the plants to others areas. Many of the lavenders and the thyme have been lost over the wet winter and other plants need moving or replacing. The idea is to use an area at the side of the greenhouse for container planting of herbs, strawberries and other smaller vegetables and use the raised bed that housed the herbs for planting other vegetables. The only problem with this is a rather large Rosemary bush. I love this bush but it had grown so much that it was taking over most of the bed pushing out the chives, thyme, hyssop and good king Henry; in order to move it the bush first needed to be pruned and cuttings to be taken. Paul was doing this as I was removing the nettles, dandelions and buttercups from under the gooseberries and blackcurants; whilst I was working and occasionally wincing as I either scratched myself on the gooseberry thorns or stung myself on the nettles (don't worry there are plenty more of these fine plants left for the wildlife elsewhere in the garden) I could smell the gorgeous scent of the rosemary as it was being pruned.

We've put some of the clippings in a bowl in the house to scent the sitting room. Cuttings have been also taken and potted up ready for re-planting.

Now the original plant is only half the size it was this morning we can leave it to rest a few days before moving it, you can see how old it is from the woody stem.

Our plant is Rosmarinus officinalis, the vertical variety, which, according to my herb book means "dew of the sea". Medicinally it is considered to be useful for all things to do with the head as it increases the supply of blood to the area and has a relaxing and anti-depressive action helping such conditions as head colds, nervous headaches, premature baldness, poor circulation and forgetfulness. It symbolises remembrance - I think most people will know of Ophelia's speech from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5 -
"There's Rosemary, thats for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts."

Hmm - maybe this is something I should keep around the house as I often run up the stairs, open a draw or cupboard or wander into the pantry and have no idea why I've done it or what I was looking for!

Perhaps Rosemary Tea would be the answer.

Recipe for 1 cup

"As a remedy for headache, colic or colds take 2 or 3 tops of rosemary, either flowering or not, and place in a small teapot, then pour one cup of boiling water over them. Cover and infuse for several minutes, then strain and drink warm. The tea many be sweetened with honey if wished."
Quote from 'Herbs for All Seasons' by Rosemary Hemphill

If you want to dry rosemary it needs to be collected in late summer or early autumn.

"Pick in the early morning after the dew has evaporated from the leaves. Tie the herbs in bundles and hang in the shade or lay the branches on airy racks. When quite dry, crumble the leaves from the stems and store in airtight containers, or pack the whole dried stalks with leaves still on them into boxes or jars and close tightly."
Another quote from - Herbs for all Seasons

Oh, what a wonderful scene this drying of herbs and flowers like lavender and rosemary conjours up - what a lovely thing to do if one had an old cottage with a huge kitchen or even better a still room in which to dry flowers and herbs, make pot pourii, bottle fruits and make jams and preserves. Well, I can dream!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Stroll through the Park

Yesterday we stopped at Matlock on our way over to Chesterfield to visit family. We parked at the back of the shops on Dale Road and walked over the footbridge into Hall Leys Park. From this footbridge you can see along the river Derwent to the old stone road bridge which has recently been relieved of most of its heavy traffic by the building of a new bypass.

The park itself was looking very well kept and pretty, and although I'm not a huge fan of municipal planting schemes I had to admit that the flower beds had been well thought out and the colours were stunning in the morning light.

Here is a close up of the pink bedding flowers around the fountain, I'm not sure what they are but they looked very pretty, almost like little pom poms.

The colours of the tulips had been mixed to good effect, all contrasting nicely with each other.

I thought this bed of blue pansies was particularly colourful. I'm very fond of blue flowers, as well as white ones.

We walked up by the clock tower and crossed over the road where we went into the newsagents - the last building on the terrace you can see.

We bought a newspaper and wandered into the back of the shop where the owners have a little cafe overlooking the river. We sat in the bow window and sipped coffee and generally let the world pass us by for a little while. The photo below was taken from the window of the cafe/newsagents and you can see the other side of the old road bridge.

Then it was back across the park which benefits from superb views of the hills around the town. You can't have a town park without a band stand, can you?

As we walked back through the park we could see Riber Castle up on the hill. We headed back to the car by the river and through the sensory garden over the footbridge.

On a cool April morning early in the day what could be nicer than a stroll through an attractive park, a good cup of coffee in pleasant surroundings and Saturday's newspaper full of interesting supplements to read?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

White Time

We've had some lovely Spring weather over the last weekend which ended only with this morning's thunder storms. After it was all over I went into the garden to check on the plants fearing that some of the more delicate ones may have been dashed by the heavy rain and hail.

At this time of year the garden turns from its early Spring yellows and oranges to green and white - the daffodils are fast disappearing now as are the mahonia flowers - just the orange of the Berberis flowers glow in the milky morning light. Later the garden will turn to pink, lilac and blue with the aquilegias, hardy geraniums, rhododendrons, buddleias and lavenders but for now it has that crisp freshness of late spring.

The plum tree is full of blossom, the white heather has spread considerably in the last year, the bridal wreath is perfect at the moment.

Over the Easter break we spent a lot of time edging the lawns and splitting and moving plants around.

I'm not a natural gardener although I love gardens and visting them I find I still make lots of mistakes in our garden and we are both guilty of planting things in the wrong place so we have been busy rescuing smaller plants that have been hidden by larger ones - one day I'll get it right!

The lawn still needs lots of attention but at least it has had its first cut of the season. Well, I call it a lawn but really lawns should be lush, green, well shaped and striped - so really it is just grass with daisies, dandelions and moss thrown in for good measure.

The tomatoes, beetroot and lettuce are growing in the greenhouse and cauliflowers and brussels sprouts have been planted in the raised beds.

Still on a white theme I was interested to read that 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' by Procol Harum has been declared the most played record of the last 75 years. I still have my copy! Although it hasn't been played for years. I decided I had to find it and got out all my old records and went on a nostalgia trip.

So there it is, the bottom orange Deram records cover, nestling alongside, 'This Wheel's on Fire' by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity, 'Where do you go to (my lovely)' by Peter Sarstedt, 'Go Now' by The Moody Blues, 'Waterloo Sunset' by The Kinks and many others that remind me of the 60s, school discos, the youth club, the amateur dramatic society, Ready Steady Go on TV, films staring Terence Stamp, Julie Christie, Glenda Jackson and David Hemmings, Petticoat magazine, boutiques and minis - both skirts and cars and longing to look like Francoise Hardy. I've put some of them on my playlist in amongst the Bach, U2 and etc so you can listen if you want.

Edit 18/4/09 - I've changed the plum blossom photo to one I took this evening - whilst trying to photograph the bee.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thank You

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has left comments and e-mails over the last few days about Tom. You are all such kind, thoughtful and wonderful people, Rosiexx

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Scenes from a Contemplative Walk

After the events of yesterday we just needed to be somewhere quiet and peaceful today where we could wander, and talk and think and remember and just enjoy the beauty of the day.

Under the shaded canopy of the woods lesser celandines and wood anenome competed for the prize of most prolific ground coverer.

We walked under trees and by babbling streams

And tinkling waterfalls

Past nesting swans

And hungry squirrels

Up stone steps

and down by the water

We saw wrens in the hedges and cormorants circling over the lake and as we ate our picnic lunch we saw our first swallow of the year.

Fare Thee Well

Goodnight, Mr Tom

Tom (? - 10th April 2009)

Sweet Dreams

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Quiet Village Church

As we drove home after our walk along the Monsal Trail we diverted slightly to visit the village of Bradbourne near Ashbourne and in particular to visit the parish church to look at the ancient Saxon cross in the churchyard. We had also hoped to see the standing stone* which was supposed to be 200 metres north of the church; we followed the footpath from the churchyard, through the trees but we couldn't pinpoint it exactly and weren't sure what was footpath and what was private land so unfortunately we didn't find it.

The parish church of All Saints is a beautiful Norman structure set on high ground surrounded by lovely countryside and farmland. The village of Bradbourne was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having a church and a priest and there are apparently one or two remains of the earlier church inside the present one including in the base of the tower. Before the church was built worshipers would have gathered around a stone cross and here is the Saxon Cross just near the entrance to the churchyard.

From this angle you can see the carvings on the side as well as the front aspect. The cross has been dated at about 800AD and the front carving apparently depicts the crucifixion. This part of the cross was found being used as part of a stile and was rescued and placed in the churchyard. In the photo below you can also see the Elizabethan Manor House which stands behind the vicarage. Across the road from the church on the hill beyond are the earthworks of the deserted medieval village of Lea Hall.

The door in the tower is beautiful and a fine example of its kind. The carving over the door is said to be late Norman.

Below is a closer view of the stone carving.

This small door is on the south side of the building nearby are some of the earlier gravestones in the churchyard.

Behind the church is the grave of one of my favourite actors, Derbyshire born Alan Bates. I remember seeing him as Hamlet**at Nottingham Playhouse, when I lived there in the early seventies. I remember too seeing him in the city with his beautiful red-haired wife and two baby boys who were born in Nottingham whilst he was working at the theatre. His wife and one of those twin boys are buried in the churchyard too. So sad but such a beautiful place to rest.

*When we got home we looked for the standing stone on Google Earth and found what we thought was probably it a lot further away, at least 400 metres, than we had thought and quite a way from the designated footpath.

** It was in the rep season of 1970/1971, I've just found the programme amongst my collection. Celia Johnson played Gertrude. I have to admit although he was a great film actor he wasn't the best Hamlet I've seen over the years - that award goes to Sir Ian Mckellen, followed closely by Alan Rickman.

Monday, April 06, 2009

More of the Monsal Trail

When we walked the first part of the trail we walked, with a few diversions, from the closed tunnel near Miller's Dale Station to the closed tunnel at Litton Mill. This time we walked a section of the trail from Hassop Station to the closed tunnel just beyond Thornbridge Station, again with a few diversions along the way.

We parked in the car park at Hassop Station, built in 1863 to serve the Duke of Devonshire, his family and household from nearby Chatsworth House. It now houses a well known book shop and there is a small cafe there should you need a refresment stop along the way. I never need an excuse for the combination of coffee and books.

We walked along the trail in the warm, spring sunshine meeting just a few fellow walkers along the way. It was still early in the day and I had the feeling that the beautiful weather would bring more people along very soon.

We walked for about two and a half miles to reach the two stations at Thornbridge. One ordinary station and one private one built around 1896 by George Marples,the owner of nearby Thornbridge Hall I assume so he and his family and visitors didn't have to sit in the waiting room with the normal folks.

We diverted onto the bridge to get a better idea of the size of the building and then walked round

to view it from the other side before we continued along the trail to the gates which blocked off a dangerous cutting which led to the closed tunnel.

Passing the footpath down from the trail to the lovely village of Ashford-in-the-Water on the way.

Then it was back along the same route towards Hassop Station. We have two or perhaps three more stretches of the trail to walk, the one up over Monsal Head to Cressbrook and Litton and the stretch from Hassop to Bakewell. I think the latter may be the next one we will walk.

On the way back we stopped to view a wonderful church in a lovely village but I'm saving that visit for another post.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's April..... I'm looking forward to: -

Bluebells in the Woods

Lambs in the Fields

Getting out into the garden not just to work, but to sit quietly and enjoy it, too.

Easter Treats

Othello at The New Vic

Re-reading The Enchanted April

Welcoming the swallows and house martins and watching all of wildlife relish the joys of spring.