Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Meeting-up with on line friends (or setting a bad example)

One of the first things we make sure our children understand when they start using the web is DON'T arrange to meet up with folk you don't know in real life. But how many of us actually hold to that rule? I certainly don't set a good example, as I've been doing it for years now.

As a book blogger, I go along to literary events, and meet authors and their publicists - sometimes it's for a brief  'hello' at a book signing; sometimes a longer chat with an author who's become more of a virtual friend, and we'll discuss gardens, children, or pets; too often it's running into someone in a queue for the toilets!
Occasionally I've met people for coffee or pizza, and once,
when I'd mentioned on Facebook that we were holidaying in Edinburgh, I was invited along to Edinburgh Literary Salon above the Wash bar. My daughter, probably from scare stories she'd heard, was convinced I'd be found drunk and rolling in the gutter afterwards, but fortunately I survived without such drama! 

On Twitter, I'll talk to almost anyone, on FB, I've always been prepared to accept friend requests from anyone who moves in my sort of circles, and I've met up with people from both.

I've gone out for coffee/lunch, walked dogs by the sea, and once invited someone round for the evening while their kids were at a concert, rather than them have to spend the time sat in a burger bar.
Maybe it's more luck than judgement but none of them turned out to be axe-wielding weirdos.

My daughter went on to not only follow my (bad) example and meet up with folk she only knew on-line, but to invite them to stay! That proved to be so much fun that we've carried on offering a place for touring musicians to stay, mainly guys we know, occasionally total strangers, but it's always worked out well.

So when I happened to be chatting on Twitter to Amanda Riley, an American musician who was going to be spending a day alone in Nottingham, and she suggested meeting up, I thought to myself  Why not?
We spent the afternoon checking out Nottingham's (if not England's) oldest inn, chatting about mutual acquaintances and her future plans, and in the evening I went along to hear her play at the Hop Merchant.
Hopefully she'll be back in the not distant future, and maybe to stay with us.

Would I encourage a youngster to do any of this?
No! I'd always say safe is better than sorry.
But just maybe as adults we're a little too cautious or paranoid? Sometimes it's a good idea to step out of your safety zone and see what interesting people you can meet.

The weirdest not-quite-meeting of all remains the time I was walking in a country park and thought I recognised the person (and dog) walking towards me. I didn't say anything then - after all to have been wrong would have looked foolish - but I checked later online; I did know them and I wished I'd say Hi!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Out and about again

Chloe Glover

At last, after being house-bound for ages with a horrible summer bug, (or at least feeling that way) I've managed to get out for an evening - and a lovely one it was too. 

George Gadd

Tealights on the tables gave an intimate, cosy feel to the venue, and there was great music from Chloe Glover and Joe McCorriston (currently on tour and just stopping off in Nottingham for the night), and local singer/songwriter George Gadd.
Joe McCorriston

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


I'd been feeling rather smug as I'd got through winter with barely a sniffle but now I've been laid low by a summer bug, and a leg injury so I've spent the past two weeks more or less confined to the house -  and it's really beginning to annoy me!
overgrown path I hardly
dare venture down
The leg injury came first - I fell over a small fence, and scraped a fist-sized chunk of skin off my shin. Ouch! Although this is healing, it's such a large area of skin that it's taking ages. Walking any distance aggravates it, sitting still too long makes it ache. Meanwhile I hardly dare venture down the garden path for fear of walking into a plant stem, or open a cupboard in case something falls out.
Then a few days later I came down with a wheezing cough. For a while it was amusing - I was making all sorts of weird noises, from a cat-like purr to Darth Vader groans, squeaky trumpet to full blown brass band; my daughter mistook me for a ringing phone, and even managed a two tone ambulance siren noise! But the days went on and instead of going away, it morphed into a cold, then back to a wheezy chest ...and it's stopped being funny.
patio turning into a lawn

 The two together have left me tired, aching, and out of breath, but what's really frustrating me is the length of time it's taking to get fit and well again. I've had to cancel all sorts of plans -from my monthly book club to a music gig, and even daily tasks like housework and gardening have been reduced to a minimum - and I'm not amused.  
I suppose taking longer to recover is something that happens as you get older, but I'm not ready to give up yet! I've talked about it before but this time I think I actually need to make some progress on those diet and fitness plans, so that next time I'm in better shape before the bugs hit, and hopefully will bounce back quicker. 


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Trendy at last - well, at least the garden is

My neighbour and her daughter went off to the Chelsea flower show this week, and tell me that the slightly wild, 'don't worry about the weeds' look is fashionable in garden design.

Well, mine's been looking that way for years!

There are various permanent plantings - oriental poppies, lupins, peonies, roses, lavender - but many of the flowers self-set wherever they choose, so forget-me-nots, welsh poppies, foxgloves and love in mist can spring up almost anywhere filling up any bare patches.

Sometimes they throw up surprising colour combinations like orange poppies and pink rock roses, but it adds a touch of exotic brightness.

And somewhere in there, yes, there
are probably some over-looked weeds - but I can't see them so why does it matter?

This one actually IS a weed - it grew and flowered one year, and it's pretty so I've let it stay.

I'm not sure the Chelsea gardens were trying this look - flowers and vegetables together. I've also got a small wigwam of peas and several pumpkins planted to wind among every thing else

I love this unkempt look. It's also low effort, which is good, and I'll be keeping it even when fashion has changed back to something more formal and restrained

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Cyrano - Derby Theatre

Northern Broadsides theatre company are at Derby Theatre this week with a touring production of Cyrano.

It's probably a story you're vaguely familiar with -you know, the guy with the long nose who's hopelessly in love with his cousin Roxanne, while she's in love with Christian, a handsome Cadet, and also fending off the attentions of a middle-aged married suitor.

 To describe it briefly, I'd say it's a wonderful romp of a show - a mix of farce, romance and tragedy with a song or two thrown in for good measure. It opens with singing and dancing, full of exuberance and life, poetry and swashbuckling,  and fabulous 17th century costumes full of frills and lace. After the interval the second half takes a more serious turn as events move to the siege of Arras (be prepared for noisy cannon fire) and the final scene fourteen years later in a nunnery near Paris.

It was fab, fun and, oh, so sad.

We all really enjoyed it and the only thing to disappoint was the audience - I know we went on a mid-week evening but there weren't many folk there, and (one of my pet gripes) hardly anyone thirty!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Feeling left out - and it's all social media's fault

Scotland without the rain
I'm not usually a person who feels envious of other people leading what seems to be a more glamorous life. I don't read celebrity gossip magazines and sigh over the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I hear of friends going on round-the-world-cruises or spending their holidays somewhere exotic and it's never bothered me. These things aren't my kind of scene; I'd rather be plodding through the rain and dodging the midges in Scotland.

Even so, there are places and events that I've got in the habit of visiting - Pembrokeshire or Cornwall in spring, somewhere in Scotland during August, north Norfolk in autumn, dropping in for a day or so at Hay Festival, the Book Festival or Fringe in Edinburgh - and for the last year or so I haven't been able to go, as I don't feel I can leave my elderly parents for long.
I'm a grown-up though, so I generally accept that I can't do whatever I want all the time, and I've found that social media has ways of making me feel like I'm still there. People post their holiday photos of empty beaches or quaint fishing villages that I've visited, and we'll chat online about our favourite places or things to do in the area. Events like Hay share Youtube videos of authors' talks so it's possible to sample the atmosphere even when I'm not there. In these ways it' possible to feel part of something even if not actually there ...

... BUT  last weekend I found social media wasn't helping at all -  in fact, it was making me feel more left out!

Last December I went to see a Frank Turner gig in Nottingham and blogged about it. Through Frank sharing it on Twitter I made a lot of new 'virtual' friends who are also fans ... and last weekend most of them headed off to the Lost Evenings festival in London organised by him and his record label, XtraMileRecordings.
 Frank would be playing. 
Skinny Lister would be playing. 
At the free daytime events, some musicians that I actually KNOW would be playing. 

I could still survive because I don't generally go to festivals. My teen had tickets but that didn't worry me; she's often out at gigs that I don't go to. 
But then on Friday, I started seeing status after status mentioning Lost Evenings - travelling there, meeting up for a drink beforehand, how great the gig was - and I really felt I was missing out. This is something entirely new for me. Now (at last) I know what it's like to feel that pressure to be doing what everyone else is. If someone had offered me last minute tickets and a Star Trek style transporter, I'd have been there in a flash. As things were, with no fairy godmother in sight, I decided to stay away from social media to save myself being entirely consumed by jealousy!

I now understand a little better how others feel when they decide they NEED to have or do something because their friends have it/are doing it. Maybe I'm not as mature and 'grown-up' as I thought I was!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Still my favourite bluebells - Bow Wood and Coumbs Wood, Lea Bridge

Start of the walk, Lea Bridge

I've been out and about looking at bluebells for the past few weeks, but putting off a visit to Bow Wood, near Cromford, Derbyshire, because of the uphill hike necessary to reach the higher sections Last weekend I decided it was time to go for it, or else the flowers would be past their best. As it turned out, I wasn't late at all, and the bluebells were probably more stunning than if I'd visited earlier.

The farm road behind the John Smedley factory is soon a pretty woodland walk

Then a path heads off up the hillside among the bluebells...

If you're younger or fitter than I am it's probably not too strenuous a climb, but I take my time, with plenty of stops for photographs and looking back down the path.

This is the view I'm heading for though, where bluebells flow down the hillside between Bow Wood and Coumbs Wood.

Just a little further upwards and the view opens out looking over Lea and Holloway, and that sweeping mass of bluebells. I probably take this same photo every year but it never fails to amaze me.

Then onward and upwards again - through a small patch of woodland to another open hillside of flowers with the path winding between them

As the path heads (upwards still!) through Coumbs Wood patches of wild garlic appear alongside the bluebells

...and eventually, as my legs really begin to complain, we reach the steps that mark  the last uphill section.

It's not downhill yet though - doubling back we followed the path along a ridge with views through the trees to Cromford on the right, and Lea on the left, and which leads back to the lower levels of Bow Wood.

I'd wondered if after the massed bluebells at Felley I'd find this walk a little less wonderful this year but it was as amazing as always. Felley's flowers are tighter packed, like the nap on velvet, but such a large area is covered by them at Lea. The walk is maybe two miles long and for most of that distance there are bluebells flanking the path. Still my favourites!
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