Monday, 20 November 2017

The Cherry Orchard at Nottingham Playhouse

We were out again at the theatre last week - not on the Twitter-trending #LoveTheatreDay, but near enough - to see Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. As a play about the end of an era it was especially fitting, as, after 18 years as artistic director, this was the last production to be directed by Giles Croft at Nottingham Playhouse.

It's a tale of landed gentry, who after years of squandering money are forced to sell their family home to cover debts. Local self-made millionaire Lopakhin believes there's a way to avoid this by developing the eponymous cherry orchard and building holiday homes there, but the family aren't interested; they moan about losing their home and precious orchard but won't do anything to save either. I thought John Elkington was brilliant as Lopakhin (but I'm a bit biased since my youngest was in a production of Kes with him), though if Chekhov's not your thing then you can see him in pantomime soon.
It's probably not the done thing to pick fault with a playwrite of Chekhov's standing, but I'm beginning to wonder if he quite knew how to end a play. When I saw The Seagull a while ago, I thought 'well, I'd have ended things a little earlier'. Same here. There's a moment when everyone has left the stage, and a key is heard 'off' turning in a lock. That's where I'd drop the curtain. Instead there's a 'tidying up' piece from old family servant Firs. Presumably Chekhov knew what he was doing though.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Christmas at Chatsworth 2017

 It still feels too early to tackle Christmas shopping but I have started on the fun side of the season with a trip to see Chatsworth House in its festive decorations. Their chosen theme this year is Dickens and his works. The author was a friend of the sixth Duke and several first editions are on display as you go round the house. As you enter, though, you're welcomed into a room where some less precious old books have been turned into decorations - garlands, paper 'baubles' and even a paper person.

As you follow the route through the house, every room has a Christmas tree decorated to tie in with the "Dickens",with letter-shaped baubles, haberdashery items for a Little Dorrit tree,

this one's made of books ...

With some I wondered if I could possibly adapt the idea for a smaller tree at home - maybe one of sticks, or a smaller version of this fretwork tree (below)

some though are just too big for an average house

This unusual 'tree' is made of the beds slept in by Fagin's young band of pickpockets

and for Miss Haversham sitting in her cobwebbed dining hall, the tree had decayed to twigs

Here's Mr Dickens himself, checking out the guide to the displays.

My favourite bits though were the Scrooge/Christmas Carol rooms - with a quite friendly ghost appearing in a mirror

and Scrooge being terrified by ghostly lights on his ceiling

Monday, 13 November 2017

Sticking with tradition - more or less

There was a huge sigh of relief this week when I found the (missing, presumed lost) knitting book which contains the pattern for our traditional family baby shawl.
It's titled Knit with Norbury (according to the introduction, James Norbury wrote a regular knitting feature for the Daily Herald), and was published sometime in the early 1950s.

As you can see, it's a little (OK,very) old and battered; the spine has fallen off, pages are dropping out, and even the sellotape used to repair it has seen better days! Oh, and it's clear I always liked knitting books - so much so that I've left childish scribbles throughout.

This shawl pattern, though, is special, and has become a bit of a tradition within the family. My mother knitted this shawl for me, then one for each of my daughters, and now I'm about to start one for my eldest daughter's son.
The break with tradition comes in that my daughter has chosen a denim-blue yarn instead of the more usual white; a modern twist on an old favourite.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Sunset walk at Shipley Country Park

Sunday was a lovely sunny day but, what with the clocks having been changed and everything, it was getting late before we set out. Still, Shipley Country Park is close by, and it was a beautiful afternoon/evening for a short walk, even if the sun was setting as we headed out of the car park!
We headed diagonally uphill under the trees on Horsepool Hill with the low sun creating stripy shadows on the fallen leaves.

On into the remains of the formal gardens where my eye was caught by the wonderful red foliage of what I think is as Japanese maple

Then back down the old main drive and private road, under Sweet chestnuts, to the car park with the sky turning the most wonderful colours.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

A Big Adventure - Edinburgh - new experiences and old favourites

Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Last weekend I went away on a big adventure. My youngest daughter had three nights booked in an Air BnB in Edinburgh, and at the last minute asked if I'd like to go along. I'd said 'Yes' almost before she'd finished asking!

Holyrood Palace with Calton Hill  beyond

Firstly, I love Edinburgh, and this was a chance to explore it away from August Festival madness, plus, due to worries about my parents' health, I've only had a couple of weekends away in the last couple of years, so an unexpected break was very welcome. I hurriedly packed a bag, and, leaving my husband in charge of the house, dog, and possible parent problems, I was on a train heading north almost before I knew it.

The adventure started straight away, as I haven't been on a train since a school trip when I was 15 or 16. Things have changed; seats were more comfy, the train less noisy, and we certainly didn't have gin and tonic to drink on that trip! The journey was about five hours but we played a very slow game of Scrabble, watched stations slip past, and the sun set, and the trip didn't seem as long as in a car (it is, though).

view from Arthur's Seat, with the castle on the right
My daughter had a series of things planned for the weekend - re-visiting some of her favourite eateries around the city (easy), checking out modern art at the various galleries (also easy), climbing Arthur's Seat, that big hill that dominates the city (not so easy ... at least, not for me). I said I'd just walk part way, see how things were going, and maybe just hang around and wait for my daughter to return, but she persuaded me to try for the summit - and I made it! The views are certainly worth the hike, and the weather was sunny and clear so we could see the Forth Bridges and over to Fife.

The Royal Mile

After that our time was spent less energetically - we checked out Holyrood Palace and the new parliament building, walked up the Royal Mile to the Castle, with some retail therapy on the way, visited the main National Gallery in the city centre, caught the bus to the Modern Art galleries further out and walked back via Dean Village. We found small parks and wooded places just off the main roads, walked up Calton Hill (it seems small after Arthur's Seat but my legs were beginning to object), and out to the National Museum to play with the interactive exhibits.
Old Town skyline

Holyrood Palace
Edinburgh Castle
Obligatory piper

Dean Village

Gallery of Modern Art

Playing with hot air balloons
at the National Museum

We ate Italian food and burgers at places my daughter discovered when she worked at the Fringe, smoked salmon in the Gallery cafe, haggis with baked potato in a small cafe on the Mile, rested our feet while having afternoon tea, and I discovered how to order drinks and dinner via an app in Wetherspoons.

The Dome - it's even more gorgeous inside!
In the evenings we checked out cocktail bars that had been recommended - some, like Bryant and Mack Private Detectives, were so secretive and hidden that a special knock at the door would have seemed appropriate - and met with my daughter's friends at a really special bar, The Dome, which looked particularly fine in its Christmas decorations.

Nettle and Elderflower

Bryant and Mack Private Detectives cocktail bar

New Town at night

It was a weekend full of a lot of 'firsts' for me - first time away with just my daughter, in fact first time since being married that I'd holidayed without my husband, first time trying AirBnB, or hanging out in cocktail bars till 3am! For most of the trip, my daughter was in charge of organising - ie trains and accommodation - and choosing where to go, and it definitely put a whole new spin on Edinburgh. Luckily we share many of the same interests such as art and exploring new places, but without her I'd have stuck to tried and tested chain restaurants I know from home, and never have stumbled on such interesting 'gin joints'. It's the longest time that the two of us have spent alone together for years, certainly since my daughter would count as 'grown up', and I found it really fun. I hope she did too (that way she'll maybe take me along again).

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