Thursday, 20 July 2017

Splashing out on new camping equipment



Last week we got the tent out for a practice run before going away for the weekend, and realised it was time to go out and actually buy the extra gear we'd been promising ourselves. Last year we managed with an inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag and a light, but now it's time to splash out - and fortunately a lot of camping/outdoors stores have sales on.

So here it is, well most of it, in all its glory





a water carrier (Decathlon) so we can have a handy supply (mainly for the dog)

a waterproof picnic rug (Halfords sale) to act as a sort of carpet in the outer living area - we also picked up a mallet to knock pegs in, and a thing to pull them back out from the same place

two chairs;  space in the car is the major issue here - some really comfy chairs I saw elsewhere would actually take up more space collapsed than the tent does, so we picked the absolute basic version from Blacks (again in a sale)

and twinkly lights, an essential to mark our tent from others, and hopefully show where the guy ropes are. I was surprised to not find ANY in camping stores and I ended up at Wilkos!

I'm also going to take a pop-up bin which youngest daughter received in a freshers' week gift pack  but has never used.

And that's it! 
Camping at its most minimal.

You've probably spotted the lack of cooking/washing equipment - well, we're heading to Curious Arts Festival where the food is great, and the showers are warm, so there's no real need. Maybe if we ever take up 'proper' camping we'll have to re-think, but for now it's unnecessary clutter.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A School Reunion with David Bowie and Bob the Builder

On Sunday evening I went out to see a new (to me) band, Rebel Rebel, at a new venue, NEM (Nothing Else Matters) in Heanor, and it was interestingly outside of my gig comfort-zone for a few reasons.
Firstly, anyone who knows me will know I'm not a fan of bands who solely play 'covers', so a Bowie tribute act doesn't seem like my obvious choice of entertainment; secondly, although obviously I know his music, I'm not particularly a Bowie fan; and lastly, I'm generally not a fan of the 'school reunion' (we've all seen Grosse Pointe Blank), and the band and audience were mainly old school mates from way back when!

I heard about the event in the bizarre way of social media from a friend who now lives in New Zealand, but is more in touch with folk from our old school than I am, and, in the spirit of embracing whatever weirdness comes my way, I went along and really enjoyed it.
I've always had this theory that school reunions are about reminiscing over the good/bad old days, and trying to prove you're doing better than everyone else now, (which is what puts me off the whole idea of reunions) but with loud music playing in a small space there's not a lot of opportunity for either.
As it was, the band were great, "Bowie" really got into the mood with some quick costume changes, and the whole thing was quite fun, although to be honest I'm not sure I recognised many folk from school.










Much fun being had by all :)





And Bob the Builder? ... well, one of those old school friends is actually quite famous - not Bob himself, but the writer of the theme song. Sadly, he was also one of the many people I didn't recognise but maybe I'll get to say Hi another time.















Thursday, 13 July 2017

End of season visit to Lea Gardens




Despite being 'local' Lea Gardens are a recent discovery. I first visited at the beginning of April as it was coming into flower, then later in the month when it was stunning. Having bought a season pass, I'd intended going back again in May or June, but life and weather got in the way, and I've only just found time to go back.


Polar Bear at a distance


Being a garden devoted to rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, it's definitely past its peak now, but there are still a few flowers lingering on, and a couple of huge late-flowering 'Polar Bear' shrubs still full of buds!
Polar Bear close up





In the upper section, the acers are more noticeable now the rest of the garden is more subdued, and hidden behind a huge clump of gunnera we found a pond with delightful water lilies.


Although the gardens close at the end of this month, as a season pass holder I can visit all year round, and I've been told the deciduous azaleas are wonderful in autumn, so I'll be trying to visit again.


Monday, 10 July 2017

Reacquainting ourselves with the tent - with some canine help

 Last year saw my first attempt at camping since I was a child. It went well, and I'd rather hoped we'd get to holiday with the tent a second time, but life and such got in the way, and that one weekend away to Curious Arts Festival was all we managed.



Now it's Curious Arts time again, and all being well we'll be there, so we thought we ought to check the tent out, see if we (or more accurately my husband) could remember how it all went together.





Fortunately, the instructions are sewn into the tent's bag (very handy that!) and we had a canine helper, Dylan, to check things were done properly.








We hadn't really any idea about what we wanted in a tent when we bought this - we just picked one of the cheapest it was possible to stand up in* (though even so, there's only just space to put it on our lawn!). 







It's a fairly simple design - a sleeping section with integral groundsheet that can fit four, and a 'living room' where you could probably sleep more folk or a dog, especially if like us you're very minimalist in your approach.











There'a lot of nifty gear to be bought for tents - folding stoves, bowls that collapse flat, saucepans that stack inside each other, even 'larder' cupboards -  but as we wanted it primarily for a festival where cooking wasn't allowed on site most things didn't seem necessary. Last year we had an inflatable bed and a light. This year we've added a collapsible water carrier, plan on buying a mallet, a chair (just one, as it's unlikely we'll both be sitting around the tent at the same time) and maybe finding some bunting or fairy lights to help mark the guy ropes.



So that's the way out ...

If I were buying again I'd look for a design with more openings/removable sides. In summer it feels a bit airless, and I suspect that in rain it might feel claustrophobic. There are several vents and one clear 'window' but I wish there were more or that I could open a window or something to let a real draft through, without risking Dylan escaping.



Lights gets in, but little air




Also being able to roll up the walls of the 'living room' and turn it into an open-sided area would make it possible to cook in there if we ever tried 'proper' camping. For a couple of weekends a year, it's definitely manageable, so all these things are for some unspecified future time.










For now, the tent is packed away again but ready for its big outing later this month.

* if you're interested, it's a Quechua Arpenaz 4.1 from Decathlon

Saturday, 8 July 2017

New Year's Resolutions - six months on


So, it's July, half way through the year, and time to check how my New Year's resolutions are going 


... 
maybe
 ... 
well, actually this year, it's probably best not to.

To be honest, I hadn't expected things to be going well, but looking at the list I optimistically made six months ago, they're going worse than expected. 


I started off quite well - made sure I did my zumba each day, went out walking a lot to see snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells, even managing the uphill hike at Lea Bridge with little difficulty. I finished making up the skirt, signed up for even more Duolingo courses ...

 but somewhere in the last few months I've lost focus. 

We seem to have acquired more clutter, rather than clear any out
.

If I've lost any weight it's through melting in the heat.

The only thing I've reliably stuck with is gardening. I've been a lot more hands-on this year - I have huge cabbages with flowers growing between them, a patch of mangetout peas which are cropping nicely and some french beans hopefully going to flower soon.



Anyway
...
I'm not going to give up.
Resolutions are for the whole year, not just January
...
so it's time to try again.
Let's see if I can keep them going longer in this second half of the year
...

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Three Days - mainly in pictures



 I've had a busy sort of time these last few days, pulling in a bit of all the sorts of things I do.





Firstly ... Thursday evening, at J T Soar in Nottingham for music and spoken word.
Joshua Jones, Scarecrow Boat and Phaedra's Love on tour, my daughter snagging herself a set as Ayres, and local-ish band Fatmate from Leicester rounding things off.

Scarecrow Boat (sorry about the lighting)
A good evening, even though I had to do a stint watching 'the door', a sizeable crowd, and lots of new sounds to hear.


The door





















Friday - into town for a quick look at the Weeping Window poppies designed by Derby artist Paul Cummins. They're also 'on tour' and till 23rd July will be pouring from the top of Derby's Silk Mill rather than the Tower of London.


To be honest I found them less impressive in real life than they appear in photographs, but at least in can say I've seen them.



 On the way to the Silk Mill we passed the memorial to the time Bonnie Prince Charlie spent in Derby as he pressed south towards London in 1745. This was the furthest he got. before he decided to retreat, and his bid for the throne ended at Culloden. It's not easy to photograph this 'plaque' as it's quite long and placed on a narrow walkway by the river. It says "Prince Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Derby on 4th December 1745 and held Council of War in Exeter house on this site".*














And Saturday was a much quieter day spent in the garden - shelling peas with the help of my assistant (he was in charge of any that fell on the floor), and admiring the flowers.

waiting for the first Day Lily to open

 Lavender is now reaching across the main path, the later pink roses are flowering, as is the first sweet pea. The day lilies maybe need some more sun.








first sweet pea




So, a gig, a bit of art and history, and lounging in the garden - good times :)



 *there's even a Wikipedia entry




Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Off to Curious Arts Festival again ...


This weekend everyone's been talking about Glastonbury festival, and I'm sure it was tremendous fun, but I'm looking forward to a smaller, more intimate festival - Curious Arts to be held at Pylewell Park in the New Forest on 21-23 July.





I was invited along last year as part of the Our Book Reviews team, and loved every minute. Its style is quirky and eclectic, less of a 'festival' in the Glastonbury sense, and more of a English country fete with a sophisticated twist of up-market food providers, and cocktails to refresh the weary instead of weak, sweet tea.
There were bookish events during the day, comedy shows in the evening, music acts at night, with something to entertain all ages happening all day long.





I blogged about the experience at the time, but as I started looking forward to this year's festival I wondered which impressions had stayed with me from last year ... 
 firstly, the friendly, family atmosphere - being a smallish event, by lunchtime on Saturday I was beginning to spot familiar faces as I wandered round; 
the wide variety of things to do - I went to SO MANY book events in such a short time, while my daughter went to yoga and discussions of the day's political news;  
the food (though don't try tagine in a burger bun!); 
discovering that camping is actually quite fun; 
and partying in the evening.



Then there were quieter moments - being woken at dawn by seagulls; heading to the bottom of the grounds in the early morning mist and catching a glimpse of the Isle of Wight ferry, seeming to glide by on land;


ferry seemingly floating on land




wandering back from the showers (yes, amazingly there were hot showers) late at night and star-gazing while music drifted over from the marquee; sneaking into the Skinny Lister sound check ... I could go on, probably for too long.







As the programme starts to fill up, I'm making my plans for this year. I'm asked along as a book blogger so obviously I'll start with the authors I'd like to see - novelists Rachel Joyce, Joanna Trollope, Matt Haig, and Eimear McBride, poet Lemn Sissay, and Isabel and Julian Bannerman, gardeners to HRH the Prince of Wales.

Tom Odell

Later in the day there'll be music  - Tom Odell is headlining Saturday night, but I've been checking out some of the other acts, previously unknown to me, and I'm hoping to catch Iceland's Junius Meyvant, Aine Cahill, Jordan Mackampa and MarthaGunn.

snail racing

In-between all that (there'll be time, won't there?), I hope to explore the "workshops and curiosities" section of the programme - from wine masterclasses to crazy golf, a late night bat walk and an emergency poet. I might give the snail racing a miss though.









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




















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