Tuesday 31 December 2013

The Peter Pan Pantomime

My train journey on Friday morning seemed horrendous at the time, but in fact it only took an hour longer than it should have. The worst bit was when the first train terminated unexpectedly at Basingstoke and the one on from there kept being put back and back. I was anxious though, that I might miss my lunch at the pub, or even the pantomime I was looking forward to with Eryn and her friends.

I needn't have worried though. Althugh we had to eat rather fast, Eryn and I were in our panto seats before the curtain went up. Her mum and friend had dropped us off before trying to find a parking space and they came in about 10 minutes late, missing the bit with the nanny dog at the beginning.

In case you don't know the Peter Pan panto story, the Darling children had a dog who looked after them. Not a lot was made of it in this version but the dog did appear in the first scene before the chidren flew off to Never Land with Peter and Tink, the fairy.

We were at the Epsom Playhouse where I believe the players are made up from an amdram society and children from a local stage school. Many of them had to double up on the characters they played and I guess that's why we didn't see the dog again at the end. we only saw the crocodile that was chasing Captain Hook a couple of times as it dashed from one side of the stage to the other on a skateboard.

But it was all brilliant and really good, clean fun. We did a lot of shouting and even had to stand up and do a little dance a few times. Some Australian teenagers were sittng behind us and had never been to a panto before. They were screaming with laughter and I don't think they stopped from beginning to end. we were actually sorry it did have to come to an end, but after the drive to my daughter's, I was really glad to have some chilling out  time.

(You can book tickets at http://www.epsomplayhouse.co.uk, from where I took the photo so I could give them some free PR. The run closes on Sunday though, so you'll have to hurry.)

Thursday 26 December 2013

Christmas Day in Poole

Our Christmas Day was rather quiet this year. Just hubby, Jade and me. We had managed to recover from the anticipatory Christmas celebration we'd had two days earlier with my son and girlfriend who were both taking off for other climes yesterday. I did the marathon three course meal for that, and on the big day we just had our prawn cocktails and a prestuffed turkey breast with lots of leftovers for Jade. We didn't even feel like finishing off the Xmas pudding started on Monday, or any of the mince pies sitting around.

But earlier, after a scrambled egg brunch, we piled into the car and headed for the beach at Sandbanks. A few people were around, not many, most with dogs. In these winter months dogs have the run of the whole long sweep of the beach, whereas in the summer we are limited to about half a mile at the far end near the ferry that crosses the harbour entrance to Studland.

Pic by Chris Downer

It was raining when we left the car in the car park, but miraculously, it stopped for the duration of our walk, about 15 minutes towards Bournemouth, and then back again. The picture I got from Wikimedia Commons is very much what it was like. 

Jade clearly loved it, and had been missing all those sandy beach walks we did last summer. She loves to chase stones I throw for her, and then she digs them into the sand and out again, if she can find them. It's not wise to stand behind her. Sometimes the stone comes flying out along with all the sand she's pushing up. Then she will have a job to find it. I always have to wipe the sand off her nose after a visit to the sandy beach.

We were actually among the lucky people here who were not badly affected by the Christmas weather. On the other side of Bournemouth, the River Stour flooded badly. I've been reading about it on the Huffington Post site. Many other areas have also been badly affected as I expect you have heard. 

Another bad storm is expected tonight. I'm hoping I will be able to get to my daughter's tomorrow and be in my seat for the Epsom Playhouse panto by start time at 3 pm. I have train tickets so will just have to hope the trains are running, and without too much delay. Even if I miss the panto, I'll still try to get there as we have yet to exchange Christmas presents.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Dogs, Weather and Christmas

Just back from a walk along Rockley Beach. The car park was pretty empty when we arrived, rather like in this September photo, but without the blue sky and fishermen on the pier. The only people around seemed to be dog walkers. Most people are snuggled up indoors because the weather is pretty beastly.

Yesterday the rain tipped down all day. Jade opted  out of her afternoon walk. When we got ourselves ready and I got out her raincoat, she remained on the settee and wouldn't even stand up for me to put it on. I reckon she was telling us that we mad humans could go out there if we wanted and she would stay home. In the end we left her and just went to get our shopping. She was still in the same position when we got back, but deigned to accompany me round the block at four o'clock when the rain eased off a bit. Judging by the pile of poo I had to pick up from the grass verge, she had no option then.

Today she was happy to come to the beach after lunch. It wasn't raining when we went out, just very windy, but on the way back to the car we got caught in a downpour, so at home I had to get out the hairdryer to help Jade get dry. At least I did one side of her because the other was tucked into the back of her bed in the office while she lay there basking in the warm air. Her ears are the most difficult bits of her to get dry. Even the hairdryer doesn't help them much, but Jade loves it and lifts her head so that the warmth hits her chest where she's not even wet. 

Tomorrow we're having our first Christmas celebration with my son and his girlfriend as they won't be here on the big day. I finished  putting up the decorations this morning. Everything Christmassy seems to be taking twice as long as usual this year. My age must really be catching up wth me, or perhaps I forget what it's like year after year.

In case I don't manage to post again before the big day

Happy Christmas Everyone 
or whatever it is you celebrate at this time of year.

Monday 16 December 2013

The Christmas Rush

After a 10 day hiatus, here I am again. I've no idea what to write about but thought I'd come in and take a break from everything else for a  few minutes. Here's a pic from last Christmas of two of the lights of my life who make it all worth while.

I have been working really hard on getting my December assignments finished while trying to get ready for Christmas and take care of my dog and all my domestic duties. There has been no time for blogging and little time for sleep. Today I should be at a local WEA committee meeting to conclude planning a programme of courses for 2014-15 starting next September. But they'll have to do it without me. I'll also miss the Christmas lunch we were all going to have afterwards, but I just couldn't get there today.

I  have one more of a series of 11 landing pages to write and then all the drafting I have to do is finished. It's getting harder and harder to find yet another way of saying the same thing on the page, so I've put off the next one until I come in from taking Jade for a walk after lunch and going to the post office. Before I send these drafts off tomorrow, I'll have to go through them with a fine tooth comb, to make sure all the place names are correct as well as picking up typos and making sure all the keywords are there but not sticking out like a sore thumb. Then I just have to find a few ideas to be approved for January and prepare my invoices before I can forget about work till after Christmas.

Never thought I'd still be doing all this after retirement age but that's how life goes these days.

Friday 6 December 2013

Today's Haiku

pic by Martin Addison

Wind makes oak leaves dance,
warm gold in the autumn sun,
yet we still shiver.

pic by David Hawgood

Monday 2 December 2013

Birthday Bash at Cockington

This was supposed to be posted here a week ago, but I just discovered it still in draft. So sorry folks. Anyway I don't think it needs much updating, except to say we had a great meal with family and friends - even saw my nephew who lives in Germany, which doesn't happen often. And we did get back home to Jade the same evening.

Here's what I wrote last week.

I'm excited about tomorrow. My sister is having a big birthday do. We have to drive about  100 miles to get there, so it will be quite early when I drop Jade with the dog minder. She has said we can stay overnight if we want and just ring to let her know, but we plan to come home. I suppose it depends if we are both tempted by the alcohol that will be flowing over lunch. Can't drive home if we're over the limit.

We'll be having lunch at the Drum Inn in Cockington, shown below. We'll be indoors to eat though as it will be too cold to be outside at this time of year.

pic by Paul Anderson

The birthday cake will be saved till later when my 5 year old great nephew can join us at my sister's house. I hope we'll be able to stay for that.

Friday 22 November 2013

Thank you for the Music

I have a clutch of really ancient CDs, but I haven't listened to them for a while, mainly because my player went caput a few months ago. But when my son moved out recently, he bequeathed me a system he had up in his bedroom, so I had the chance to play them again. Eventually I moved it downstairs and set it up in the kitchen.

This week I've been working hard on writing commissions, but I got them all finished before lunch today. So when we got back from walking Jade and shopping, I had no excuse to put off that great pile of ironing I've been adding to for a couple of weeks.

But it was quite enjoyable really. While I pressed away, I was singing and jigging along to this.

Monday 18 November 2013

A Poem

I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but if so, here it is again.


Behind the park, the sea was still – like glass –
and quiet – just a ripply murmur where gentle waves met the shore.
Below the wooden pier the posts seemed elongated,
then their reflections shimmered, for the breeze stirred the water
as I strolled by.

To the right, the wooded shores of Arne loomed dark against the sky and sea.
Far ahead the massive ferry liner soared over tiny boats
as it slid slowly and silently into its docking place,
two small spirals of grey smoke climbing from its funnels,
as I strolled on.

The sand was polka-dotted with prints of people, dogs and birds,
yet empty of life until, around the corner, one brave sunbather stretched out.
The line of beach huts closed and shuttered, except for one
which an old man painstakingly painted bright green before the winter,
as I strolled on by.

Friday 15 November 2013

My Working Week

It’s been a funny old week, workwise. This morning I was writing about professional negligence in the construction industry. In between taking Jade to the beach and preparing our favourite chicken meal for the oven this afternoon, I’ve been finding out about the HD CCTV, CMOS sensors and progressive scanning systems that I have to write about next. Earlier in the week I was enjoying the memory of last year’s holiday in the corner of Cornwall where it so happens that a caravan and camping site requires content for a new website and other marketing material.

That’s why I revisited all the holiday pics and posted the jungle pic here on Wednesday. I took that when we visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which had been on my bucket list for a while. You can find more about that holiday in my November posts last year, including this one which was the first in a series about that garden visit. 

The pic above was taken at the nearby Megavissey harbour on a misty day.

Monday 11 November 2013

Full-on Weekend

I was in my kitchen during yesterday's 11 am two minutes silence to honour our fallen in the world wars.

In my last post I mentioned that we were having a family weekend. It was a real treat to have both my offspring and one grandie, plus my son's partner at the table for Sunday lunch yesterday before everyone departed. I was exhausted after the mammoth cooking session, but so happy. As hubby said, it's lovely when they come and it's lovely (but bitter sweet) when they go and leave us to some peace and quiet. Anyway I was able to relax and think back over the other weekend highlights: Christmas shopping at Toys 'r Us because ours is close by and my daughter is a childminder with lots of kiddies to buy for; coffee with son and partner in their newly rented flat which still has full boxes of items to find homes for and little space left for them, but is turning into a cosy and comfy little nest; a bracing walk with our two dogs to the top of Hengistbury Head - at one point we had to put Rafi on his lead for fear he would run over the edge of the cliff, he was so excited.

Now it's been back to work with a vengeance. I haven't managed to get the laundry done because I am struggling with the words for a website with a very poor brief and an impossible deadline.

Sadly, I'm also thinking of my virtual friends in the Philippines and wondering how they are faring after the dreadful storm that has devastated the country.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Comments and Google+

Some time ago I joined Google+ when a virtual friend suggested I should so that I could be in  his/her circle (sorry, I can't actually remember who it was now). I didn't do much on it and still don't, although more recently I found it was easy to put my blog posts on there, just by clicking the share button that came up. then blogger recommended letting that happen automatically, and asked if I'd like to use G+ comments on this blog. Why not? I thought, not realising it would mean that noone could comment except through G+.

Then someone wrote a message for me on her blog, saying she wanted to comment but didn't want to join G+, and the penny dropped. Then I read other blog posts referring to what they perceived as Google's bullying tactics. I realised that it was up to me as a blogger to consider and understand the consequences of what I do with my blog. I've now reversed all those changes to my settings, so that I decide what to share, and anyone can comment on my blog. (Please don't see that as a reason to flood me with spam. Blogspot will not let it through.)

Now most of the  recent comments have completely disappeared, both from the blog and G+, and the blog looks very lonely. But I daresay things will get back to normal soon.

You can of course comment on my shared posts in Google+ if you wish. I've also recently discovered  how to easily share on Facebook and Twitter and am fast becoming the social media queen.

Now to completely change the subject.

At present Jade is curled up in her office bed wrapped up in a towel becasue I've given her a shower this afternoon. She wants to be sweet smelling for our weekend visitors. Eryn and Rafi will be here with their mum. Rafi is all grown up now, as you can see from the pic. Compare it to the ones I posted last Christmas.

Friday 1 November 2013

Stourhead on Radio 4

I was listening to BBC Radio 4's Eddie Mair on PM while I was cooking this evening. The programme is usually studio based, but tonight it was broadcast from Stourhead. This is a flagship property of the National Trust which lies only about 5 miles from our previous home, so listening to him talking to the head gardener made me feel quite  emotional. I've ssen all the views they were talking about over and over again in all seasons, but autumn is perhaps when it is at its most dramatic.

I've posted about the Stourhead garden before, but this has given me a lovely excuse to show it off again. The pics I've selected are winter ones becasue you can see more when many of the trees are bare.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Jade's New Toy

Jade has a new toy.

Monkey gets carried between her bed in my office

and the one in our kitchen diner.

Monday 28 October 2013

The Giant in the Garden

In August I posted about a plant that had seeded itself in our potato patch. It tuned out to be a shoo-fly plant. Over the weeks it grew and grew. Yesterday I thought I'd better take more photos before the expected storm hit. Since the potatoes had all been dug out and eaten, it was standing bravely alone in the rather unkempt ex-potato patch. I've chosen to show you one with Jade beneath it and the composter in the background, so you can see what a giant it had grown into.

Sure enough this morning, after a night of lashing rain and hurricane force winds, it was no longer standing but lying forlornly where it had fallen onto the patio. The runner beans, further down the veg patch, were also down on the decking at the bottom of the garden. But we have apparently been among the lucky ones to escape the really nasty results of the storm.

Friday 25 October 2013

Another Worthy Cause

I was asked to sponsor my nephew, who has committed to running a half marathon for UNICEF next March.So I decided to find out more about UNICEF and discovered that it works for children and their rights in nearly 200 countries, liaising with families, communities and governments with the aim of allowing all children to reach their full potential, and they are known as a source of expert advice and assistance in all matters concerning children. In emergencies they can be called on specifically to help the children affected. UNICEF UK is a registered charity which raises funds for this valuable work.

If you would like to make a small contribution, you can sponsor my nephew and his valiant effort here.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Life's Ups and Downs

I've been feeling a little down lately. Everything I need to do feels like I have to climb a mountain, and I just can't get thorugh all the chores. That means I don't have time for the things I'd really like to do, like posting here once the commissioned writing is finished for the day. Today I didn't even complete the one article I had intended to get through. Admittedly I had to plough through 546 paragraphs of a legal judgement before I could make head or tail of the case, but that wouldn't normally be such a problem. Hopefully tomorrow I can work out what message the solicitor client wants his readers to get from the piece, and get it finished.

On Monday, my hubby had a cataract removed under a general anaesthetic at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital. He is full of praise for his treatment there, compared to his experience at the small local private hospital where he had a local anaesthetic, but the operation was abandoned because he wasn't able to keep his head still enough. That was five months ago, but it seems it was worth the wait.

Our roles in the car are now reversed and I have to be chauffeur, which doesn't suit him as he likes to be in the driving seat. This afternoon we ran a couple of errands with Jade in the back seat before I drove us to our little beach for our post lunch constitutional. The common above the beach is hardly recognisable now as we have arsonists in our midst and much of the vegetation has been burnt off. It's amazing how quickly the ground level turns green again but this is all topped with bare black branches.

The only compensation is that we can see through them so the views over the harbour are even more spectacular. The one above looks over the lake in the common and on to the harbour, with the Purbeck Hills across the water. Much of the vegetation on the far side of the lake where we ususally walk has now succombed to the fires.

Friday 18 October 2013

Book Launch Coming

This post is a message from my pal, David Robinson, who is the most prolific author I know.  He writes in several different genres, and I have read pretty well all his books and really admire his work. Here he writes about The Deep Secret, the sequel to a thriller called the Handshaker, which other Kindle readers have called "a rollicking roller coaster of a read" that "will leave you gasping for breath". And I thoroughly agree. The Handshaker kept me reading well into the night as I just had to find out what happened next.
The Deep Secret will be released by Crooked Cat Publishing on Friday October 25th 2013.
David writes:
Despite having written the first draft in a month or two, The Deep Secret has been almost two years in the making, partly because of the amount of research I had to do.
Spanning eighty years from pre-war Germany to modern Britain, odd bits of it were written in German, and I have a slight problem with that… I don’t speak German.
Fortunately, Steph Patterson, one of the co-directors at Crooked Cat Publishing, comes from Germany. Not only that, but she comes from the Heidelberg region, which is where much of the early flashbacks are set.
It meant that after the initial editing by our old and trusted friend, Maureen Vincent-Northam, the manuscript then passed to Steph for verification and more accurate translation of the German phrases than I could obtain on Google Translate.
The result is a thriller which continually casts us back to a Germany where the Nazis had begun their inexorable rise to power, through Britain in the war and post-war years, all helping hero Felix Croft and his partner, Detective Inspector Millie Matthews, hunt down a serial rapist and murderer who wants only one thing: The Deep Secret.
What is that secret? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out, but here’s a little appetiser.
In the scene that follows, it’s 1943, and Julius Reiniger, a member of the Garman Intelligence Services, has asked for political asylum, in exchange he will use a hypnotic interrogation technique in order to ‘out’ German spies working in Britain. Reiniger is about to demonstrate his skills to Corporal Graham Burke and Captain John Stokes.
“Du wirst mir den echten Namen geben.”
“Beg pardon, sir,” Burke said, “but how do we know what Reiniger is saying? I mean, I don’t speak any German.”
“Fortunately, I do,” replied Stokes. “He’s just said, ‘you will give me your real name’.”
They were stood in a small, darkened room, hidden from the interrogation room by a two way glass, and watching Julius at work on one of the suspects he had named. Douglas Kenworthy, a forty-year-old supposed businessman from Norwich, was suspected of being a German agent before his name appeared on Julius’s list. He had been held for four weeks and so far resisted all attempts to break him.
Julius had been under careful supervision while he manufactured what he called his ‘hypnotic cocktail’, which consisted of a dash of Veno’s cough mixture, blended with a small tot of brandy, to which he added a few drops of chloral hydrate.
“It’s a bloody truth serum,” Stokes had declared.
“Not so, sir,” Julius replied. “Truth serum like sodium pentothal will make a man talk liberally, and at some point in the conversation, he may give himself away. This mixture, which was taught to me by my master, Franz Walter, mimics the first stages of light hypnotism, and permits a lowering of the subject’s guard so that my suggestions will be more readily accepted. Within minutes, the subject will be deeply hypnotised, and under my control.”
Still suspicious, still ready to order a firing squad for both the suspected agent and Julius Reiniger, Stokes watched while Julius persuaded Kenworthy to drink the mixture, and had Burke standing by to comment on the process.
Julius’s usual clothing was standard POW issue chocolate coloured drills, with a white patch, denoting him as low security, non-Nazi, but the dress could be varied according to the grading of the prisoner he was interrogating. For the interrogation of Kenworthy, he had asked for and been given a blouse with a black patch, indicating a hardline Nazi sypmathiser.
“It will help to reassure him that he is dealing with a devout follower of the Führer, Captain,” Julius ha explained, “and that will make him more amenable to drinking the hypnotic cocktail.
And so it had proven, but on Burke’s protest at his lack of German, Stokes tossed the wording in his head. “Curious thing to say.”
“Normally, when we’re interrogating, Corporal, we would say, ’tell me your name’. Reiniger didn’t. He said ‘you will tell me your name’. I was thinking it’s a curious way of expressing it.”
“Standard hypnotic practice, sir,” Burke explained. “Commands need to be put as suggestions. Reiniger is using pretty forceful tones, but he’s still constructing the order as a suggestion.”
The Deep Secret is released on Friday October 25th, and will be available as an ebook and paperback. You can pre-order your paperback from Amazon at : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deep-Secret-David-Robinson/dp/1909841234/
You are also welcome to join the Facebook Launch event on the day of release at https://www.facebook.com/events/212542592248132/

Caution: The Deep Secret contains scenes of graphic sex and violence.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Finding your Toilet in the Cactus Garden in Lanzarote

Most people didn't have a problem finding the right one

Unfortunately the sun and shadow spoil my photos a bit, but I think you can get the idea.

Monday 14 October 2013

Sponsoring a Good Cause

pic by Editor5807 at Wikimedia Commons

What follows is a copy of part of an email I received from a friend. Their son wanted to support the charity and has succeeded in swimming across the body of water from the UK mainland to the Isle of Wight, that we call the Solent. I've crossed that by ferry a few times and it has taken around half an hour, so it's quite a swim. The photo above was taken from Cowes on the island looking back at the mainland so you can get a vague idea of the distance.

The swim was done together with a mate who is chairman of the Norfolk branch of the charity. I have made a small donation to recognise their achievement and wondered if any of you would like to join me

"A charity called Surf Life Savers (SLS) is run by volunteers who give up their time to save swimmers, kite surfers, and wind surfers  lives. They dovetail with the RLNI who do a great job but only  provide life guards during the summer. SLS provide this during much of the rest of the year.

Recently one of their volunteers was off duty walking his dog in the early morning along the coastal path when he noticed a swimmer was in trouble. The swimmer was a middle aged man who was having a heart attack. The volunteer tied up his dog and jumped in to save him. He managed to get the man back to shore and called for emergency services. Our life saver was only 11 years old.

SLS focus on training hundreds of young people as well as adults to  give them a purpose and learn discipline and skills that are invaluable throughout their lives. It relies totally on charity and all funds go into equipment, training and the clubhouse."

If you would like to support this great charity then please do so on this link. https://www.justgiving.com/nnslsc

Thursday 10 October 2013

Changes on the Way

It’s hard to believe it’s a week since I managed to post here. In my defence, it has been manic, and I must have overdone things a bit because that’s when I get migraine attacks. This week they were pretty rough. On Tuesday I had to retire to bed in the early evening, but yesterday it was before lunchtime  and it was after five before I could pull myself out and back downstairs to bung some fish in the oven with some oven chips.

A couple of times last week and all weekend hubby and I were working at the flat my son is going to move into tomorrow, which is on the other side of Bournemouth, some nine miles away. On Saturday, I left Jade with the dog minder, but we took her with us on Sunday, and I left hubby struggling with a shower surround while Jade and I walked to the nearby cliff-top and joined other promenaders in the glorious sunshine.

The views there are fantastic, with Hengistbury Head jutting into the sea to the left, and beyond that The Needles of the Isle of Wight in the distance. Below the cliffs is Boscombe beach and Pier, and looking to the right, Bournemouth beach stretches away to Poole and Sandbanks with the Purbeck hills in the background, then Studland merges into white cliffs and the Old Harry Rocks.

This pic by Trish Smith
is of Boscombe pier with Hengistbury Head visible through the arch.
The black shape behind the headland is the Isle of Wight.

It was something of an anti-climax to go back to the flat and get stuck in to cleaning out a fridge freezer that had been left in a sick-making state by the last tenant. Hubby and I had some cause to regret the deal my son had struck with the landlord to do the cleaning and repairs in return for his tenancy and rent payments starting two weeks late. We were doing most of it because he then had to work all week and go and help his girlfriend prepare to move down from London at the weekend.  Moving day is tomorrow and this evening he has already gone, to get an early start by staying overnight with the friend who is going to help with the DIY move. His things are still here, but they can be collected gradually in the next week or so.

Of course, I’ve had all my own work to fit in as well, hence the migraines, which haven’t helped. But now I can look forward to an easier time, with less laundry and cleaning, shopping, cooking and packed lunch making. I’m just praying that nothing goes wrong for the pair of them and they can make a good life together. At least they will be near enough for easy visits, and perhaps I can get them to dog-sit sometimes.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Diana Movie

Just been to see the film Diana at the Senior Screen. It's all about her love affair with Hasnat Khan. He says the film is a work of fiction and their relationship was very different, although they did have tentative plans for a future together. Nevertheless it made for a very touching love story with, of course, the tragic ending of her death in a French hospital after the car accident in which Dodi Fayed also died. Now I'm sure you know who I'm writing about. Here's the trailer.

The reaction to this film is varied. I wouldn't expect the royals or the Fayad family to like it. And it would surely be heartbreaking for her sons, even though they must be used to their mother still coming up in the news over and over again.

I don't think this is one of the greatest movies, but I quite liked it. As the screenwriter is suposed to have pointed out, it's good to think she she had someone who loved her for herself after her divorce from Prince Charles.

Monday 30 September 2013

Literary Reading

I wonder if anyone spotted the howler in my last post about Reading. I had completely forgotten that Reading has two rivers, The Thames and The Kennet, as well as a bit of the Kennet and Avon Canal. The river behind the gaol is not The Thames but The Kennet, and the trees and path of Chestnut Walk meanders between the river and the back of the gaol. I was carefully checking all the signs for the Oscar Wilde quote, "Oh beautiful world," and had just given up when my companion noticed something strange about the railings that partition the Walk from the towpath. We went closer and found that the words had actually been incorporated into the design of the iron railings.

pic by George Evans

The other signs were all about the history of the amazing Abbey ruins that sit alongside the gaol. The photo shows  part of it with the gaol in the background.

The signs also referred to the nearby Forbury Gardens which were once the monks' gardens. These now contain The Maiwand Lion, a memorial to  the fallen from the 66th Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan in 1880.

pic by Jim Linwood

I thought how incredible it is that we have troops in that country today and lives are still being lost in conflict.

At the excellent museum in Reading's Town Hall on Sunday morning, we saw a complete replica of the Bayeaux tapestry and decded that we don't have to go all the way to france to see the original now. We also heard how that rather beautiful grey brick Town Hall had recently been threatened with demolition to make way for a concrete ring road, but was saved by the local Civic Society. Then we were told that the prison is among the list of those that are to be closed very soon, as the government proposes building new and enormous ones to collect more of our criminal community together, presumably to to cut the cost of staffing so many of them. We wondered what was going to happen to that building. 

Apart from Oscar Wilde (left), the other literary connection we found in Reading was at our hotel. It was called the Great Expectations which, of course, is the name of a Charles Dickens novel. The hotel was an inn with the guest rooms above the bar, and the the manager told us that it is believed to have originally been a Reading Room opened by Dickens (below) who did readings of his work there. The ground floor was also a fascinating warren of little three sided rooms facing a long bar with the corridor in between named the Dickens Walk.

Friday 27 September 2013

Reading and Oscar Wilde

Tomorrow I’m off to meet some friends for an overnight in Reading, home of Reading Gaol, which acquired fame from Oscar Wilde’s long poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He wrote the poem in France following a two year term served in the prison as his punishment for loving men. I’ll make a point of seeing the gaol and walking down the path beside it to the River Thames and the words “Oh, beautiful world” on a sign, because these are claimed to be what Wilde said there after his release.

The path is called Chestnut Walk because of the trees that line it. You can see their shadows on the high buttressed walls of the prison in the photo, which is by Andrew Smith

No other writing for me today – I proofed an article that I had to send off first thing, and spent the rest of the morning preparing a fish pie for tonight, and a curry for the lads to eat tomorrow when I’m not here. Jade will be taken care of over the weekend by my long suffering hubby, who is always invited on my jaunts with friends, but for some reason never accepts. Perhaps he thinks we should spend some time apart as absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Surrey, Polesden Lacey, Shakespeare and Dogs

I used to live in the small part of Surrey that is within Greater London and still remember it with affection. We had the best of all worlds there: twenty minutes to the city by train; a majestic length of the River Thames on our doorstep; royal parks all around us; and a short hop from some gorgeous countryside.

Fellow blogger, Jenny Woolf, recently published a post about Surrey, and has kindly allowed me to use one or two of her photographs.

This one makes me think of the bluebell woods on the Polesdon Lacey estate, where we sometimes walked Sam, the delightful Staffordshire bull terrier who shared our lives then. The woods were a sight for sore eyes if you could catch them when the blooms were out. 

Polesdon Lacey is a National Trust country house at Great Bookham near Dorking and Leatherhead. The NT displays inside focus mainly on the Edwardian era before the First World War when owner and society hostess, Mrs Greville, entertained there. Guests even occasionally included King George VI and his queen.

More recently, in my time as a Surrey resident, we used to attend outdoor theatre on the lawns beside the house.  I recall a particularly silly Shakespeare comedy competing with the tail end of noisy displays from the Farnborough Air Show one year. I think it might have been Much Ado About Nothing. Whatever, it was always great fun to enjoy a picnic, washed down with wine of course, and watch a play in the open air, even if we did have to huddle under blankets and even umbrellas as the evening wore on.

I'm repeating a picture of our lovely Sam to end this post. No Surrey reminiscences are complete without him and we still miss him, although we now have the comfort of our lovely Jade, whose pic is also easy to find on this blog. These two make a really good example of how different dogs have different characters. Sam was always raring to go, while Jade is a much more laid back little lady, who will often avoid play with other dogs and just likes to run alone to let off steam in places that are special to her.

Friday 20 September 2013

Prehistoric Guernsey

The island has a number of fascinating neolothic, or New Stone Age, earthworks, menhirs, dolmens and burial chambers. The one at Hougue de Dehus, is a 10 metre long passage grave, pictured in my last post, which experts believe was constructed in about 3,500 BC.

It is covered by a grass mound and could easily be overlooked. 

another pic by Unukomo

It was in fact saved from quarrying in 1775, but the chamber itself was not discovered until it was excavated in 1837. Later, in 1916, a face was discovered carved into one of the capstones you can see when you look up. The face has been nicknamed Le Guardien du Tombeau – Guardian of the Tomb, but it is not known how long the carving has been there.

Yet another reason for another longer visit to Guernsey to go on my bucket list.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Victor Hugo in Guernsey

In a previous post, I promised more about Guernsey. I can’t claim to be an expert on the island. My three visits have all been fleeting – two of them were just a few hours and the third a few days. I still haven’t managed to visit Victor Hugo’s House, which we passed when walking up and down the hill on the way to or from our hotel above the harbour when we stayed there.

Hugo, author of Les Misérables and many other famous works, was also a French politician. When he fell out with French President, Louis Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, he fled the country ending up in Guernsey after spells in Belgium and Jersey. He bought 38 Hauteville, the house which is now open to the public in summer months, though sadly not while I was there with time to visit. Hugo lived there continuously for over ten years and sometimes after that. He wrote and/or published a number of his famous literary works there.

The photo of the interior is attributed to User:Hannes 2 at Wikimedia Commons. The description there  informs us that it is an 'interior of Victor Hugo's house in St Peter Port,' Hauteville House, and that 'Hugo designed the interior himself, (the) historic wooden panels and the play with light and darkness play an important role'. 

I shall just  have to go back again when the house is open to see all this.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Monday 9 September 2013

Clematis Problem

This photo was taken in our back garden in 2010. Since then only one of the clematis plants has flowered. We have the purple blooms that grow from the container below the right hand trellis, but none of the white ones that grow from the other side. I'd love to know what I'm doing wrong.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Day Trip to Christchurch

I took a day off on Thursday and met  my f riend at the bus station in Poole. The plan was to take a bus and get to Studland or Swanage on the far side of Poole Harbour. But after waiting for nearly half an hour we gave up on the buses going in that direction and took one heading the opposite way to Christchurch on the far side of Bournemouth. It took ages to get there but it was worth it. We walked through the gates in this picture which lead to the ancient Priory.

pic by Mike Faherty

pic by Chris Gunns

Then we walked down to the quay for which, sadly, I couldn't find a photo. But here's one of a part of Christchurch Harbour which is not far away from where we had our lunch. It shows some of the many swans that inhabit the harbour. There were lots of them on the quay which were really tame and took no notice of humans strolling close to them.

pic by Chris Talbot

My friend and I had a very pleasant few hours in Christchurch, with time to take in an art exhibition in an old mill, and to purchase some supplies for my friend's painting class. The bus rides home were exhausting, but it was a small price to pay. I will be finding out more about Christchurch that I can relay to you in a future post.

My thanks to the photographers from Wikimedia Commons who allow their pics to be used under Share Alike Licences.

Monday 2 September 2013

Sculptures in a Garden

The one comment on my last post refers to The Little Chapel, so I thought I’d point you to some more of my photos of it on this blog.

Going back to Guernsey reminded me how I love coming across works of art in a garden or park.  This is because on one trip there we visited the sculpture park at Sausmarez Manor, where hundreds of sculptures are displayed, and most are for sale.

I visited Wikimedia Commons to find free photos of outdoor sculptures and was reminded of the Musée Rodin in Paris, another of my favourite places, when I saw this picture of his masterpiece, The Thinker, which can be found there.

I also saw references to sculpture gardens all around the world. And, of course, you find statues in many parks and gardens which do not call themselves sculpture gardens. There are numerous public parks and historic house estates where you find outdoor art  in the UK alone. 

The delightful annual Mythic Garden Sculpture Exhibition at Stone Lane Gardens in Devon is particularly memorable for me. I could probably continue reminiscing about places like this all night, but had better stop now and get on with other things before it's bedtime and another day is over.

Friday 30 August 2013


We did go to Guernsey on Tuesday. It was touch and go when I got several emails and texts informing me that the Poole ship was in dock and we had to go to Weymouth for the 8 am ferry. The last ones told us to go to the Poole port by 6 am for a coach to take us to Weymouth. So that’s what we did. Daughter and I got up at 5 and woke granddaughter at 5.30 by which time the chauffeur (hubby) was drinking coffee and getting ready to take us to the port, leaving 2 dogs on their own for half an hour, before chauffeur became dog minder.

The fog was thick as we left Poole and several times on the voyage the captain warned us that he was going to have to use the fog horn. St Peter Port was much as I remembered it from previous trips and by the time we disembarked at around 10.45 the fog had lifted and the sun was out. We mooched around the shops and bought Eryn a pair of high top trainers in a sale at a bargain price. Then we collapsed at an outside table at a Thai restaurant with a birds’ eye view of the harbour and an ice cold bottle of vino in a bucket.

After one authentic Thai meal, a large cheeseburger and chips and a crab salad because Eryn wanted to try some crab meat, we headed back to the harbour wall and ambled along hoping to have ten minutes on a beach, but a) the tide was in and b) it was too far to walk in the time we had left. So we sat around watching people play boules on the side of the harbour and then went to check in for the journey back.

We all agreed that we’d enjoyed the visit but it wasn’t long enough (on the last day trip that Hubby and I had done from Weymouth, we’d left at  7 am and got back around midnight – that day had impressed us so much we’d gone back to stay for a few days a couple of years later, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of the island). Unfortunately this week it took about 45 minutes for the coach to get out of the car park to get us back to Poole and we were all pretty fed up and knackered on arrival, and the sight of our steadfast chauffeur pulling in ahead of the coach was very welcome indeed.

The photo is of The Little Chapel, one of my favourite places in Guernsey. It is in a village south of St Peter Port, and really is a tiny chapel on two floors, built by a monk who completely covered every one of its surfaces with decorative shells.

Writing Tip

Add this to your site