Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Making plans for summer - Curious Arts 2018

It may still be cold outside, and not at all the weather to be thinking of outdoor festivals, but over the past few weeks organisers have been starting to announce line-ups, and so the excitement is mounting. 

Now, although I'd visited both Hay and Edinburgh book festivals, I only discovered the appeal of  all inclusive, stay-onsite-in-a-tent, get up early for book events, stay up late listening to music festivals recently, when I was asked along to Curious Arts in 2016 in my book-blogging capacity. I think that till then, I'd always considered them to be only for the under-25s, and a few seasoned festival goers who remembered Glastonbury being a sole guitarist playing in a field of cows. 

Curious Arts Festival proved this idea wrong, and it's quickly become the highlight of my year. For any of you who've missed my previous write-ups (how?), it's multi-faceted music, literary, comedy festive held in the ground of Pylewell Park in the New Forest, with plenty to occupy everyone from children to oldies like me. Imagine a mix of garden party, school fair, and village fete (it even opens with a cricket match), but with attitude, cocktails, and music almost through till dawn! I absolutely love it, even if like last year it rains, and I'm delighted to have been asked back again*.

Kate Mosse

So, who's to be seen this year? 

Well, the complete line-up hasn't been announced yet, but heading the literary side of things will be Kate Mosse (author of Labyrinth, and The Taxidermist's Daughter) with 'support' from poet Lemn Sissay, Adam Kay (This is Going to Hurt), Dolly Alderton (All I Know About Love) and restaurateur, writer and broadcaster Russell Norman,

Gareth Malone

The music will be as wide-ranging as in previous years, with acts as varied as John Newman (headlining on Saturday evening), indie-rockers Outlya, and Gareth Malone (BBC2's The Choir). Even without my youngest daughter along, I'll be there in the music tent till late at night. I can't wait!

If I've managed to intrigue you, more details can be found on the Curious Arts Festival website here, on FB and Twitter @CuriousArtsFest - until 15th February they're running a special Valentine Day offer of a free bottle of Chapel Down bubbly with weekend tickets, and sometime soon I'll be hosting a competition to WIN tickets. Stay tuned :)

*yes, this is a sponsored post of sorts but I wouldn't be going if I didn't love it!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Empty nest again

Back when she was a 'child' of 18, my youngest headed off to university, as somehow we've come to expect that our children will. It wasn't easy to see her go, but we survived.
Then at the end of her first year, despite being in the running for excellent overall results, she decided the course wasn't for her, and she'd get a job while she thought things over.
She came home, found work straight away, and we settled into a rhythm. She'd be here for most of the week but frequently away at weekends, either visiting friends in other parts of the UK or, in this last year particularly, jetting off round Europe. After my first doubts about this - particularly when she went holidaying alone in Italy - I got used to the whole idea, vicariously sharing her experiences, and collecting masses of postcards from everywhere she visited. 

All good things come to an end though, so they say, and now we're in for another big change. She's heading away for longer - taking a job at quite a distance - and I'm back to that first empty nest horror. I think her being away for a year, then coming back to stay, just made me appreciate her presence and what she brought to our small family unit more. 
This move feels more final than heading off to uni, though that doesn't really make sense. There's no reason to suppose the move is forever - who knows, in a month or a couple of years she could decide this wasn't the right job at all! - and I expect to see her as frequently as we did during her uni year, possibly even more as she has the cash for train fares, and we have the enticement of our older daughter's baby here.

To be suddenly faced with any change comes as a bit of a shock though and I think the uni years work as a sort of half-way house, giving both parents and youngsters time to become accustomed to living apart. 
However long you try to delay it, this point is going to come along. No one expects their children to stay in the family home forever, and if she'd finished her course out, now would be the time she'd be thinking of job-hunting, which would probably have taken her away from home anyway.

For now, I'm just trying to feel relieved that she didn't decide to travel the world for a year, and that the wonders of social media will allow us to still feel close.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Getting the year off to a good start

Everyone seems to be complaining about how long January has been - well, not me! I seem to have been busy all the time, and the month has flown past. What, though, have I actually achieved with all this busy-ness, how many new things have I done and how are the resolutions?

Partly I've been engrossed by my new grandson, who obviously is the best baby since my two girls were small, and the seemingly never-ending shawl which I was supposed to knit before he was born. The end is in sight, but that's the best that can be said about it.

I've made a good, if easy, start on my sixty things - cooking carbonara, eating tapas, ordering in Dominos pizza (I know! Who hasn't done that? well, me, obviously), seeing Nottingham from up high, and heading to DPP festival at Derby's Sitwell Tavern to hear new bands. My daughter claims I'm taking this too easy, but it's supposed to be a celebration, so there's no need for everything to be a hard challenge.

As for my New Year resolutions - or the continuation of the old year's -  well, I didn't feel they were going well, but then I thought ... I've certainly made time for crafting else I'd not have advanced at all with the shawl project, I've definitely been continuing my language courses (I'm going to test the Swedish progress on the new series of Modus on BBC4), and I had to undertake a small de-clutter before guests visited this week. So I've made more advancement than it originally seemed. The major thing though, organise and plan my time, hasn't been thought about at all. I need to make more effort in that department!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

If the snowdrops are here Spring can't be far behind ...

Every year, as January drags on and on, I look forward to the arrival of snowdrops, the first sign that Spring is on the way.  

 We're lucky to have a country park nearby at Shipley with a stunning display in what were once the outer, wilder gardens to Shipley Hall (of which only footings remain) - and, unlike many more 'formal' gardens, we can take the dog along, and as entry is (almost) free with just a small car parking charge, I can visit again and again. 

It's always tricky timing the right week to catch such a short-lived flower in bloom, and once again I've been too enthusiastic and headed out snowdrop-hunting that little bit too early. In a week or so this section of ground by the old drive will be white with flowers, but for now it's necessary to let your imagination fill in the gaps.

I suspect that more than one variety was planted here, for some clumps were fully in flower, while others were still in tight bud. I'm not an expert on snowdrops though, so even having seen several varieties on display at Calke Abbey last year, I can't tell the differences with any certainty.

Even without the massed ranks of flowers, we had a pleasant walk in surprisingly warm sunshine, and I'm now convinced that Spring must be on the way!

Monday, 29 January 2018

A Typical Sunday?

 What do you consider to be a typical Sunday? Is there such a thing? A slow start to the day, followed by a slower afternoon watching old films on TV, maybe a big Sunday roast dinner squeezed in somewhere?

Well, this was mine -

a spur of the moment decision to check out the progress of Spring and Shipley Country Park's snowdrops (more pics here)

Then out to a local pub where my daughter was playing at a charity music gig

and rounding the day off with one (possibly two) of my new Sixty Things - tapas (including calamari). Admittedly neither of these will be new to many folk but they are to me, which is what counts for these challenges/celebrations.

Younger daughter has been wanting to take me to Lorentes Tapas Bar in Derby for a while, but I asked her to wait till this new year and make it part of my Sixty Things. I loved the whole tapas idea - a bit like trying everything from the starters section of a menu, and everything was so beautifully presented. I'll definitely be back - but my instinct was right - I didn't like the squid!

Friday, 26 January 2018

Nottingham Rooftops

Earlier this week I went into Nottingham and unusually ended up at roof level of a multi-story car park - 14 floors up! OK in the grand scheme of highrise buildings it's probably not that tall but I'm used to three or four stories where I can walk back up to the car and not have to use the lift. I don't like lifts - they're small, enclosed, have too many people trying to cram into them, and they judder and jolt as they go up and down, so I normally avoid them. Anyway, when you're parked on the fourteenth floor there's not really an option, so I gritted my teeth, shut my eyes, took deep calming breaths, and I'm still here to tell the tale.

There was a rather unexpected plus point to this little adventure - the amazing view from the top.

 If someone asked where you could get a good view of the city (any city really), your immediate response wouldn't be 'from the top of that car park' - but it was brilliant.

 I could see all the way over the city to distant hills, spot the Council Hall dome in one direction, the cathedral (I think) and possibly the castle in the other (the sun was low and in my eyes so I wasn't certain)

It almost made me want to sing and dance across the rooftops like Dick van Dyke and the chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins.

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as one of my new Sixty Things, but after all it's my game so I'll make the rules and include it. It's certainly somewhere I've never been before!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Hurry Up, Spring!

My spirits always drop as days get shorter and shorter in the run up to Christmas, but then immediately perk up with the expectation of Spring. I don't really expect it to arrive that early here in the Midlands but from early January I'm pottering round the garden trying to spot signs of wakening flowers, or leaf buds on shrubs, and this year was lucky enough to spot snowdrop buds and the first bergenia flowers by Twelfth Night.

With that, it's easy to believe the seasons have turned, and by now, in the middle of January, with the days noticeably longer, there's a definite change in the air...

... till Sunday, when snow fell again!

It's only our second snowfall of this winter, and, although it fell steadily for hours, rain soon washed most of it away. It will probably be back though - February half-term holiday is always a good time for snow here.

So while I wait, I'm planting pots and wall baskets outside with hardy polyanthus, and brightening up the house with forsythia, cut from my own shrubs and forced into early flower inside, and daffodils - both tiny ones grown in pots, and the cheap supermarket bundles, which look so dull when bought but within a day or so are a brilliant, sunny yellow. It makes me feel Spring will be here very soon ...
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