Monday, March 29, 2010

The Canterbury Tales

I've just realised that a few posts ago I promised a review of the Northern Broadsides production of 'The Canterbury Tales' which we saw on March 17th at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle - 'under Lyme' that is and not 'on Tyne'!

We'd booked the tickets way back in January as with all Northern Broadsides productions they sell very quickly. The New Vic is a theatre in the round and we were three rows from the front so quite close to the action and what a lot of action there was!

This production was directed by Conrad Nelson whom I mentioned last year when I wrote about Othello - link - there are twenty nine tales in the original but for this production they had been honed down to around fourteen. Including The Miller's Tale, The Knight's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale and The Wife of Bath.

I'm always amazed by this company of actors of whom just sixteen become so many as they change characters, move props as they cross the stage, play musical instruments, clog dance and create puppets of children out of bits of blankets before your very eyes.

The sheer talent, ability, agility and superb split- second timing was a joy to behold. It was loud, colourful and being Chaucer bawdy too. We laughed a lot but there were some touching moments too. It was another superb evening to remember from the wonderful Northern Broadsides company!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lakes, Cakes and a song from a Robin

On Wednesday we went over to Lincolnshire to meet two of our friends for lunch. We set out at about 8.30a.m. and driving along the A50 we left Staffordshire and passed through Derbyshire. By the time we reached the end of the A50 we were in Nottinghamshire. We drove through Kegworth, Zouche and Rempstone before entering Leicestershire near the pretty village of Wymeswold - one of my ancestors, Samuel Stubbs, was born there in 1822. From there we drove through Melton towards Oakham - we were now in our fifth and smallest county - Rutland - from here we drove to Stamford and our last county of Lincolnshire. Six counties before 12 noon - that's not bad going!

We stopped for a coffee break at one of the parks on Rutland Water between Oakham and Stamford. It was quite chilly and spotting with rain. Luckily we had packed a flask of coffee and a couple of homemade biscuits as the cafe was closed.

From Stamford we struck out across the Fens towards Market Deeping and Spalding. We lived in this area for about twelve years during the 80s and 90s and I'm always drawn by the flat landscape, distant spires and huge skies. We passed barley fields, drainage ditches and wind farms. The yellow in the photo below is a field of daffodils; there were people picking flowers in the fields as we passed by.

As it is two weeks since I last joined in with Simone's Friday cake bake and as I had two large eating apples in the fruit bowl, I decided to make a Dorset Apple Cake.

The recipe is from the Crank's recipe book which I posted about a few weeks ago. It was so easy to make and was delicious as a pudding after our evening meal, with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Last, but not least, I took this photo at Trentham recently. We sat for a while after a walk and were joined by two robins. This one, his soft downy feathers ruffling in the breeze, sang to us for a while before moving on.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Around the Garden

A few weeks ago we finally decided to buy a year long pass to Trentham Gardens mostly so we could walk around the lake again as we missed it so much - especially for the exercise! We've been four times since we bought our passes so by this time next year we will certainly have had our money's worth. I know I've done many posts about the lakeside and gardens so I just thought I'd post a few of the photos I took yesterday morning. It was a lovely sunny morning with just a slight chill as we set out around the lake. The sky was so blue, too.

After we had walked around the lake, stopping for morning coffee at the lakeside cafe on the way round, we went up into the parkland at the top of the formal garden and quickly spotted the four lovely ladies above.

Then we found these little chaps abandoned near a garden rubbish tip.

These tiny iris were growing in one of the themed gardens where we also found this tree with a hole.

Well, I don't need asking twice so I had a look through!

Ah, the formal garden in the distance.

The fountains are in the Italian garden.

Some of the architecture that survived when the main house was pulled down.

I love the sweep of this stone balustrade...

and these mushroom- shaped trees in the pretty blue/green containers!

We found some flowering daffodils too, a sure sign that spring is now well and truly here!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In the Hat

It's time to announce the winners of my 'five years and five hundred posts giveaway'. I typed all the numbers and printed them out, cut them into strips, folded them and put them into my old gardening hat.

Who to ask to make the draw? My neighbours had visitors and I didn't like to disturb them so Chloe can you help? 'Er, no I'll just play with the hat and chew the pieces of paper'. So, perhaps Paul can do the honours? 'OK, I can do that'.

Here goes - first out number 10, second number 4, third number 6. I had numbered the comments as they came in first comment No 1 etc - so who were these three?

This is exciting!

Comment 10 was - Lyn from Everyday Life - the Emma Bridgewater tulip mug is yours

Comment 4 was - Simone from Linden Grove - the Cath Kidston Strawberry mug is yours

Comment 6 was - Helen from A Life Worth Living - the Cath Kidston Spotty mug is yours

Congratulations ladies - please let me know where to send your prizes. Thank you to everyone for participating and helping to make my blog anniversary so special!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I've been getting into Family History again recently and have found out that some of my ancestors came from the village of Elton before moving to South Derbyshire. I'm going back here to the early to mid 18th century. I found a lot of early memorial inscriptions in the churchyard so I'll write about that soon on my family history blog. After we'd finished in Elton we set off to the lovely nearby village of Winster.

Winster is one of the oldest villages in the Peak district. It's wealth and success in its early years came from the nearby lead mining industry. There are still rows of miners' cottages weaving up the streets to the top of the hill.

As the streets in Winster are so narrow and parking is difficult we parked in the free car park at the top of the village and walked down East Bank towards the village centre.

Which ever way you look there are very old, interesting buildings.

Above are some of the small cottages on the way down to Main Street. Across the road is the village shop - below.

The most intriguing building is the old market hall which is administered by the National Trust.

I love the little cobbled alleyway or gitty down the side of the market hall building.

The market hall stands in the middle of Main Street and inside is a small exhibition/information area and model of the village.

This shop front is a hairdressers' shop - I wonder what it is like inside?

This lovely house on the corner is called the Dower House.

We set off back up the hill this time on West Bank and stopped halfway up to look at the church.

There is a public footpath through the churchyard to Elton - I'd love to go back one day and walk it - if it is an old, established footpath I may be following the footsteps of my ancestors.

Tonight we are going to the New Vic to see The Canterbury Tales so I'll do a review of that later. In the meantime don't forget my giveaway is still open (see previous post) just leave a comment on that post if you want to enter the draw.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Five Years, Five hundred posts and a Giveaway!

I wrote my first post on this blog on 14th March 2005 - it was about seeing Dab Chicks on Cromford Canal. When I first started I had no idea keeping a blog would be so interesting and rewarding. I felt so nervous as I clicked the publish button on my first post. When I first started I didn't add any photographs to my posts - I didn't know how - but I've learned so much since that first tentative step. Most of all I've appreciated all the people who visit and read my blog, all the followers, some of whom don't have blogs themselves and all the people who leave such lovely comments. Thank you so much!

This is also my 500th post so I'm having a double celebration. To show my appreciation to you all I'm having a giveaway. I've never done it before so I'm learning something new again. As I'm living in Stoke-on-Trent at the moment I decided to go shopping in some lovely factory shops where I found some things you might like.

First up was Emma Bridgewater's shop and I've bought a lovely bright and cheerful tulip mug for you. Made using designs from Matthew Rice's watercolours this mug supports the National Garden Scheme.

My next stop was the Churchill china shop where I found the two mugs below. They are 'crush' mugs designed by Cath Kidston. There were so many designs it was hard to choose but finally I decided on a spotty one and a strawberry one.

So that is three gifts for you! I hope you will leave a comment and enter my giveaway. First name out of the hat will receive the tulip mug, second the strawberry mug and third the spotty one.

I'll leave the giveaway open for a week and announce the winners next Sunday - good luck!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Scenes from this week and Tiffin

Although still very cold, especially in the mornings, the weather has been lovely. One evening earlier this week we had the most amazing dappled red sky.

The next day we walked around the lake at Trentham and the sky was so blue and the sun was warm on our backs as we strolled along the lakeside path.

Finally I managed to make something for Simone's Friday cake bake. Not so much a cake bake, more a melt, mix and refrigerate cake. The recipe for Tiffin is from the April issue of Sainsbury's magazine. Just melted butter, chocolate and golden syrup with broken digestive biscuits, dried fruit and nuts mixed in. Place in a small loaf tin and refrigerate until set, dust in cocoa powder and slice.

It's very rich, sticky and tasty!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Just popping to the Shop

I was writing out my shopping list this morning and got to thinking about how we used to shop when I was a child. No popping down the road to the huge supermarket where everything is under one roof like we do now. The nearest small town to our village was Bolsover three miles away; the larger ones were about six or seven miles with a bus once an hour to Mansfield and every two hours to Chesterfield.

We had a village shop in the heart of the village near the church and school where we children would call to buy aniseed balls and banana flavoured gob-stoppers on the way home. This shop was also a post office which sadly closed about five or six years ago and is now a private house.

I remember that across the road from our house lived a little white haired lady called Mrs Frost and her home was called The White House. She kept chickens and my Mum would send me across the road which wasn't anywhere near as busy then as it is now. I used to take a bowl with me and stand in Mrs Frost's huge farmhouse kitchen. When I think back her scrubbed topped table seemed enormous but then I was only small. She would fill the bowl with eggs and I would walk back clutching the bowl tightly. They would be put on the stone in the pantry next to the meat safe and the bucket of cold water where the milk bottles were kept.

We used to have a milk delivery every day to the doorstep. Once a week the grocer from the nearby town would come with my Mum's order. She had two books she filled out for our requirements one was returned with the order the other taken away for the next. It was a lengthy process as the grocer was a friend of Dad's and he would sit and have a cuppa and chat as the items were checked and paid for. We also used to have 'pop' delivered by the Corona man three bottles I remember Dandelion and Burdock, Cream of Soda and Lime and Lemon.

The pub nearby also sold sweets. The landlady sold them from her kitchen - big boxes of liquorish sticks, penny chews and sherbert dabs. We used to knock at the door during the school holidays clutching our pocket money and she would let us in to choose what we wanted.

I also remember the 'fish man' coming in his van and having to run outside when he 'pipped' to buy fish for tea - we always had fish on Fridays. Last, but not least was Cherry's Ice Cream van oh the joy on a summer evening to have a cornet with raspberry sauce or a milk 'lolly'. Mum and dad always had a wafer; ice-cream sandwiched between two thin wafer biscuits and wrapped around by a thin piece of white greaseproof paper.

Saturday was big town shopping day! We would be off on the bus so Dad could watch his sport on television. In the big town there was a British Home Stores, Marks and Spencer and a Woolworth. A bakers shop and a butchers shop called Birds where Mum would queue to buy cold sliced meat like ham and tongue for tea. There was also the market where we could buy fruit. Dad used to grow most of our vegetables in strict rows in the garden. We also had raspberry canes, rhubarb and gooseberry bushes. I remember sitting on the back steps with my friend with a stick of rhubarb and some sugar in a cup in which we dipped the rhubarb stick before eating it. I remember collecting apples from the orchard at Auntie Ruth's house on the edge of the village; I loved their sharp, green taste. You had to watch out for earwigs though especially in the windfalls. We also had a market garden or two - one specialised in tomatoes the other in strawberries. I can't describe the wonderful taste of both of these fruits - they were famous locally and the markets in the big towns would have them marked as Scarcliffe tomatoes or strawberries. We were lucky to live nearby and with just a knock at the door you could buy a bag of tomatoes or a punnet of strawberries.

Things began to change in the late 50s early 60s when we got a fridge and then a small car and when supermarkets started to appear gradually replacing the local Co-op, Melias or Home and Colonial shops.

Well I think that is enough reminiscing for one day - I'm off to the supermarket with that list!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

World Book Day - Quiz answers

Here, as promised, are the answers to the World Book Day fun quiz:-

1. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
'The Go-Between' by L P Hartley

2. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte

3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

4. "Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs Ramsay.
'To the Lighthouse' by Virginia Woolf

5. I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began.
'Cider with Rosie' by Laurie Lee

6. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.
'A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens

7. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
'The Great Gatsby' by F Scott Fitzgerald

8. 'The Bottoms' succeeded to 'Hell Row'.
'Sons and Lovers' by D H Lawrence

9. In the first place ........ is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women.
'Cranford' by Elizabeth Gaskell

10. A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sadness.
'Bonjour Tristesse' by Francoise Sagan

Thanks for all you comments on the quiz post and I'm glad you enjoyed taking part!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

World Book Day

As today is World Book Day here in the UK I thought I would have a little quiz. I've put together ten first sentences from a few of the books on my bookshelves. Some of them are well known; others not so - see how many you know or can work out!

1. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

2. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

4. "Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs Ramsay.

5. I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began.

6. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness....

7. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

8. 'The Bottoms' succeeded to 'Hell Row'.

9. In the first place ........ is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women.

10. A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sadness.

Just a bit of fun - have a go and let me know how you get on - I'll post the answers at the weekend!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Welcome March!

I woke up to sunshine this morning; the birds were singing high in the trees. Two doves were doing a courtship dance on the pavement outside - I'd seen them last week collecting twigs for nesting. Is it my imagination or does our garden world seem more lively today? The air is warmer and fresher. There is a definite buzz of excitement out there.

On 1st March 1927 Margaret Shaw wrote in - 'A Countrywoman's Journal' - words that seem apt for today.

'The last few days of February were horribly wet and stormy, but today was quite mild and fine. The yellow crocus are in full bloom, those under the dining room window are a serried mass of gold in the sunshine.'

On 2nd March Margaret Shaw's entry says:-

'Glorious spring day with warm sunshine. On our way to Guildford we saw some lovely "Palm" or "Pussy-Willow" in the hedges.'
I saw some of those today, too!

Welcome, March, Welcome!