Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Derby - Night and Day

St Peter's 
 I've been trying for a while, in a spirit of mindfulness, to take more notice of my surroundings instead of dashing straight past to wherever it is I need to be. My family tend to dismiss this as hanging around, taking too many photographs and instagramming everywhere, but for me it's a way of noticing what's around me, and I think we see things differently through the frame of a camera lens (even if that's only on my phone). There'll probably be more of this kind of blog - shots of things we'd walk past and ignore.

St Peter's

First, an evening trip down town to book club, which also included a mini-adventure of an after-dark trip on the bus. I did warn that these adventures would be 'mini', and not overly exciting, but travelling on a bus is a novelty for me.

Last chance to see the Christmas lights

Look above the shops. It's more interesting up there

At night the city looks different, the lights at the church and above the shops making features stand out that in daytime I'd never notice.

River Derwent and Council House
Council House

A few days later I was back in daytime, a wonderfully sunny day for January, with the Council House reflected in the Derwent, Exeter Bridge casting intriguing shadows, and the old Corn exchange building looking very imposing.

Old Corn Exchange

Walking back to the car park I even spotted blossom and early crocuses.

All it takes is a minute to stop and look around.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Calke Winter Garden

Visiting gardens at this time of year, when there's merely bare bones (or branches) to be seen, might seem like an odd idea, but as Calke Abbey have decided to open their gardens over winter we'd thought we'd check them out.

There was actually much more to see than I expected ...
On the approach to the garden there are hazel catkins and witch-hazel flowers to be seen, and inside the walled garden the palms were surviving well - I'd expected them to be wrapped in plastic or something to keep them warm, so was pleasantly pleased to be able to inspect their strange 'furry' looking trunks.

Behind them in the flower beds are wallflowers ready to brighten this area of garden when spring arrives.

I'd hoped we might see some really early snowdrops (we didn't) but wasn't expecting to see calendulas still flowering alongside a south-facing wall.

The old orangery did have flowers - though I'm not sure what they were - and a profusion of other hot-house plants.

Empty vegetable beds helped show off the rather lovely woven bed-edging at one end of the kitchen garden, while at the other scarecrows were hard at work keeping birds away from quite a variety of over-wintering crops - brussels sprouts, celeriac, winter salad and, I think, globe artichokes. These last are a new veg for me but they certainly look attractive in a winter garden.

globe artichokes

Calke is always a good place to spot the odd and quirky, old and weathered, often looking like a weird still life painting -

 'ivy growing up a leaning door with milk churn'

'rusted pipe'- detail

'the door that time forgot'

'nature reclaiming a wall'

and 'farm still-life with roller'

In winter these seem at their best, with a muted palette echoing the sky
and no distraction from bright, energetic flowers.

It was a chilly but pleasant day.
A spot of stillness and quiet (despite some small, energetic visitors) in a hectic time. And something I'd certainly try again. While they're in 'winter' mode, dogs are allowed in on leads, so Dylan the dog might like to explore them too.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Resolutions again - 2019

Here we go with another new year, full of good intentions and resolutions.

I recently saw one of those word search squares that are supposed to predict what the coming year holds in store for you based on the words you spot first - mine were nachos, love, and wealth - but while I'm waiting for these delights to show up I'm going to try more practical measures

Last year was one in which external factors took over my life. This year could easily turn out the same way, so I'm determined to take charge of the bits of my life which I can control - from losing weight to finishing that Swedish Duolingo course. Primarily, I want to de-clutter my life, so I have more time to give to the things I really enjoy.

First to go is the online rubbish. I love social media so, no, I don't mean cutting down back on on-line chattering, but some things have to go - which means culling my social media 'friends', and unsubscribing from a stash of e-mails.
 Most of the folk I know online I chat to, we comment on each other's blog posts, tweets, FB updates, etc BUT there are lots of followers and friends that I haven't had a conversation with EVER. These guys are going.
I have an e-mail inbox that's straining every morning from notifications of all sorts. Obviously I can't delete the lot but so many are unwanted, and these have to go. Some I've signed up for as part of a competition but some seem totally random - I'd NEVER have signed up for cruise holidays so that was easily the first one to go.

Art and Crafts - inspired by making a jacket for my grandson in little over a week, I'm determined to pick up my knitting needles again. I've treated myself to some lovely maroon yarn in the sales with definite plans on what to knit with it, but also I need to clear the yarn stash that fills so many drawers and cupboards. Also, I'd like to add in the intention to take part in something more creative - embroidery, painting, dress-making, anything really though I'm not sure what yet. Again  this will have an added advantage of using up hoarded yarn, material, craft supplies, and making some space.

Taking charge of the garden. OK, winter isn't the best time to tackle it but it's got pretty neglected out there, and this IS a good time for planning - deciding what needs to be cut back, ordering seeds, and perhaps making a monthly planner of what I'd like to do and when.

Another thing to get on top of is the book blog. I've continued to read for the last few months but not find time to review, so there's a lot of catching up to do. Meanwhile, I've signed up to the Penguin Books classic books reading challenge - more details here - It's a bit of a cheat as I knew before I saw the list that I'd have read several already - turns out that if you include watching plays instead of reading them there are only two new books there - The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Communist Manifesto. Still, it's a good excuse to re-read some oldies.
Also after several months absence I've decided it's time to get back out to Book Club at my local Waterstones. It also ties in with my 'mini adventures' idea (see below) by getting out alone for an evening and seeing new people.

This is the other aspect to the year - inspired by the cover of my diary, I intend to make this year, as much as possible, one of mini adventures - small probably barely befitting the name 'adventure'. It's a sort of follow-on to last years's Sixty Things, continuing as #trysomethingnew. I expect that, as for the past few years, I'll have little chance of a holiday, so my adventures will be very much based around home - new places to walk, exhibitions to see, bands to watch. No matter what your age, no matter how restricted your life, there's always something new to be discovered. Let's see how many things I can find this year.

And, somewhere, somehow, I'll be so busy that all my extra weight will magically disappear :)

Monday, 7 January 2019

Sixty things challenge

 I set out last January with the intent of trying out sixty new things over the course of the year to celebrate my 60th birthday. I didn't quite make it, as circumstances got int he way but I managed  a nice round 50, and from making spaghetti carbonara to eating cold pizza it's been fun.

The full list is on the Sixty Things for Sixty Years page but here are some of the high (and low) points.

Annie's Burger Shack -
a converted chapel

I've stepped outside my culinary comfort zone and eaten lots of new things in new places from poutine at Woodside Festival to pizzas at Rudy's, and salad nicoise at The Wharf in Manchester, tapas at Lorente's, and burgers at Annie's Burger Shack in Derby. I've discovered I don't like squid or chicken in plum sauce, but I do love cold pizza!

Lodge Hill Bluebells, Yoxall

Circumstances kept me at home this year, and apart from an overnight stay in Manchester (booking an Air BnB in someone's house) I've not been 'away', but there are always things waiting to be found right under our noses, from visiting new snowdrop and bluebell displays, 

Timber Festival

to exploring places near where I grew up - regenerated pit and quarry sites, canals, and tunnels under Nottingham - to finding new music venues and festivals nearby (DPP, Woodside and Timber). 

The greatest surprise has been discovering how much I like Manchester. I'm not a city person, preferring gardens, countryside or the sea for a day out, but something about the mix of old and new in Manchester fascinates me. These two photos were taken merely by turning round!

The greatest disappointment? Trying to cook custard in the microwave - a horrible disaster I won't be repeating!
I was surprised how many simple things I hadn't actually done, so next year I plan to continue and #trysomethingnew

Monday, 31 December 2018

Not the best Christmas

Well, Christmas is over, accompanied by a huge sigh of relief.
I never really look forward to Christmas and this year particularly was never going to be good. With my mother's death still leaving a raw wound, and a couple of bouts of illness hitting me in late November, I was immersed in gloom, unable to plan ahead, and leaving present-buying and putting up decorations till the last minute. Then a Twitter friend reminded me of a conversation we'd had back in September - that grief is at its worst after about three months, and for both of us, that was lining up with Christmas - and things started to slot into place. Sometimes understanding what is wrong is halfway to curing it.

There were changes this year. Once my parents came over every Christmas day but it recent years that wasn't possible due to my mum's mobility problems so we'd have a lazy morning and visit them during the afternoon. This year my dad came over to ours, and our day had to fit round him - the times he likes to eat, actually cooking full Christmas dinner, not watching anything violent or noisy (or those nude scenes from Love, Actually) on TV. A was an odd combination of sad and boring.

A happier change was passing on a family tradition to the next generation. When they were younger, our daughters had The Night Before Christmas read to them just before bedtime on Christmas Eve, but this year we all went to the eldest's to hear it read to my grandson. He fidgeted a bit, but hopefully will grow to love it.

There's so much pressure though to feel Christmas must be happy and fun-filled for every minute, and obviously in my circumstances it wasn't really possible. There were a lot of tensions and emotional moments, and I sometimes felt like all my small sadnesses were joining themselves up to make a huge overwhelming wave.

There have fortunately been good moments this Christmas. There's a massive amount of fun to be had just watching and playing with my grandson, but perhaps the best thing was having our youngest daughter home for the whole week, which was really special as since she left home in February we've only seen her for a couple of days here and there. Somehow she took me out of myself, changed my focus and I now feel like I've turned a corner, and the new year looks welcoming in a way I wouldn't have believed possible in the run up to Christmas.

This year the (rather pathetic) decorations will come down early - partly because I still don't really feel jolly enough to leave them up till Twelfth Night, but also because I'm impatient to get on with next year.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Nottingham - Christmas market and curious buildings

 A clear sunny, and, for the time of year, not too cold day earlier this week proved a good time to spend a day in Nottingham.

We started with a wander round the Christmas market and funfair held in the Market Square. As usual, there's an ice rink, helter skelter, traditional carousel and other rides, bars, and plenty of stalls selling everything from food to Christmas jumpers.

Walking past the entrance to Exchange Walk I spotted the tall decorated tree and couldn't resist checking out the rest of their Christmas lights.

Back outside, I found my attention drawn up above the modern shops fronts to the more interesting older upper storeys.

So often I've walked past these buildings without paying any attention to them, but I found myself wondering what their original purpose was. Were they built as houses and later converted to have ground floor shops or restaurants? I suspect so, but would love to find out their history. Maybe another visit is called for, but this time with less shopping in mind but more tourist inquisitiveness.