Thursday, 30 March 2017

Messing About With Time

Here it is Thursday, and I still haven't got the hang of the clocks 'going forward' last weekend. I'm sleeping through the morning alarm, and can't sleep at night. I feel like tantruming like a child and demanding my hour back!

I don't mind the autumnal 'gain an extra hour'. I think that's something we can all find useful - whether we just grab an extra hour's sleep or get up and do something with the time.

But I've always resented losing an hour of sleep to the Spring 'leap forward' but I suspect the younger you are, the easier it is to cope with, even if you are more likely to have a set timetable to keep. In fact, it's probably that lack of structure to my day that's causing my problems. Providing the teen is up and out to work on time, I can laze around as much as I like, eat lunch when I feel hungry, and let dinner stray late into the evening - Monday's wasn't till 9!

I often wonder why we need to go to all this clock-changing fuss anyway. Yes, the longer evenings of summer are nice. No, we wouldn't want darker mornings in winter (they're bad enough as it is). But how would the 'middle-way' work out? Instead of leaping forward a whole hour in Spring, why not just move by thirty minutes, and then leave the clocks alone in Autumn? Would it be so bad to never run on 'real' Greenwich time?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Betrayal at Derby Theatre

Earlier this week I was tempted out to see  Derby Theatre's latest production - Betrayal by Harold Pinter. If you're not familiar with it, it's basically the story of a love triangle; Jerry (played by Philip Correia) and Emma (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) had an affair, but Jerry was also best friends with Emma's husband Robert (Ben Addis). As the story moves from the present, two years after the end of the affair, and 'rewinds', scene by scene, to its beginning seven years earlier, you begin to wonder who was most betrayed?

The characters start out as successful, bordering on middle-age, and more than a little awkward with each other, but as the years peel away, so does a certain level of veneer, and their real selves emerge. The actors were all brilliant, getting younger with each scene, while the 'perspex box' set gave the impression of them being constantly in the public eye even when they thought they were private, but the outstanding aspect was the innovative idea of projecting images of the actors onto the backdrop.

I always feel there's a difficulty about staging a play like this, which for the main part is just two people talking to each other - awkward or passionate, bored or angry, every nuance of emotion needs to be portrayed by the actors, and seen by the audience. It feels like staging it would work best in the intimate setting of a tiny Fringe production where the audience can see every flicker on the actors' faces, or on TV or film, where the director has the option of close up camera work. As it is, first time director Lekan Lawal has come up with an excellent way of creating that intimacy in a large theatre; cameras on stage projected larger than life close-ups of the actors onto a backdrop above them, with the additional twist of the image being that seen by the other actor, rather than the audience.  For example, Emma turns away from her husband's questioning, and faces the audience, but the projected image is of her turned back as seen by Robert. It's like seeing the scene play out from both of their perspectives and even if it sounds a little confusing, it isn't; it's brilliant and I loved it.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Mother's Day Presents - a rant

Wherever I go, whatever I do, at the moment I seem to be bombarded with suggestions for Mother's Day presents - from supermarkets, beauty retailers, and garden centres. There's no escape at home either, with TV and social media ads, and an e-mail in-box clogged with ideas purporting to be  'what Mum really wants'. 
Flowers and chocolate. Fizz and beauty products. 
That seems to be it, unless mum would like a cuddly toy. Cuddly toy? Really? 
I'll forgive the cuddly toy gift if it's bought by a small child who would probably really like it for them-self. But from anyone older? No way!

Cuddly puppy? No thanks

I'm not sure whether these ideas are sexist or just unimaginative.
Whichever, are these honestly the things 'mum' wants for Mother's Day?
I like chocolates, perfume or a huge bouquet of flowers as much as the next person, but why not think a little 'out of the box'?
A  horror box-set (plenty of women watch The Walking Dead) or psychological thriller (they watch Nordic Noir, too)
Heavy metal cd (again lots of female rock fans)
If you're tempted by the range of 'experiences' on offer, why not consider something beyond the obvious spa day or afternoon tea? 
Hot-air ballooning?  Zorbing? Single-seater racing? Quad-biking?
A family day out paintballing or swinging through trees?
You'll see them all advertised when it's Father's Day, but I'm sure a lot of mums would enjoy them too.
If I were younger and fitter I'd said yes to any of them (well, not the ballooning, I'm too scared of heights)
 In her youth my mother (she's now 96) would have loved a few fast laps of a race track as pillion-passenger on a race-bike. 

Oddly, while I've been ranting over this to anyone who'd listen, my husband spotted a sensible, mature suggestion for a Mother's Day present - a subscription to New Scientist.
- at least someone is thinking outside the box!

So, mums out there, what would YOU pick?

Friday, 17 March 2017

A Host of Golden Daffodils at Shipley Country Park

I've been anxiously watching the weather forecast as the sunshine from earlier this week seems to be on the way out and rain heading back in, so with a dry but cloudy day expected I decided to seize the chance to head out to Shipley Park looking for daffodils.

The remains of Shipley Hall stand on a hill in the centre of land that's been restored after open-cast mining, and it's on this hill that swathes of snowdrops and, later, daffodils can be found, lining what I assume was once the main drive up to the hall and continuing into the trees that surrounded the hall.

It's possible that once the daffodils were strictly ordered in lines and rows, or formal patches of colour, but now they just flow down the hillside, and look absolutely stunning!

Some are the larger brighter daffs of gardens but the majority look like the 'original' Lenten Lilies as brought back from Palestine during the Crusades. There's another place locally, a ruined castle, where these grow and weather permitting I'll be off to see those too in the next week.

To end the day perfectly, the sun came out as we were heading back to the car, bathing the flowers in golden light.

We regularly go to Shipley to see the fabulous snowdrop display but generally miss the daffodils a few weeks later - and we've missed out on something equally wonderful. Now I think there may be another reason to go back - the shoots of bluebells were pushing their way through the daffodils, so I've hoping that in a month or two the woodland will be carpeted in flowers again, this time in blue.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Getting outside in Spring


I'm trying to get out and about a bit more, to keep up with #OneHourOutside and encourage a certain level of mindfulness and awareness about how Spring is progressing, and we've had such lovely weather this week that it seemed a shame to miss out on the daily dog walk.

sloe blossom

Left to themselves I think hubby and the dog just chase round their normal route rarely paying much attention to anything beyond throwing and catching the ball. Me, I like to take my time, spot the newly opened primroses and blossom on sloes and cherries, admire the view over Derbyshire, look at frog spawn and listen to the birds.

bird cherry in blossom

It's not a long walk but it takes me from a built-up suburb to a spot on the far side of the wood where I can see out over the Derbyshire hills. Sadly this view may not be around for much longer as there are plans underway to build on the fields in the foreground - hopefully when the new housing is finished it will be possible to walk through it to a new viewpoint, meanwhile I should make the most of it.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Cromford village and Arkwright's satanic mills

I checked the weather forecast last week and was informed that Sunday would be wet, with rain pelting down all day, so we'd decided to go along to an art exhibition in Cromford. The weather had other ideas though; it was a lovely sunny, even warm, day, and we decided to have a wander round the village as well.

Cromford's a place we've driven through countless times, often stopped and walked along the canal or up among the bluebell woods, but never round the village.

We headed behind The Greyhound to the pond built to provide water power to Arkwright's mill. Today it looks pretty with waterfowl and swans  (no crocodiles despite the warning sign), surrounded by olde-worlde houses and steep hills, but I doubt any mill workers had time to enjoy their surroundings and probably would have loved a flatter walk home at the end of the day.

Corn Mill

Manager's House

Then we headed back to the car park via the mill complex built by Richard Arkwright from 1771 onwards  

The water from the mill pond goes under Cromford village and the main 'A' road to emerge here by Arkwright's second mill where once it powered the machinery.

In Spring sunshine, with small shops and a cafe now occupying the old buildings, the mill looks an attractive place but I can't imagine it was when working full out. It's possible to go on a tour of the buildings but it was getting late so we left that till some other time.

Cromford village has spread out to the south of the mill complex, so a short walk beyond it in the opposite direction,past the canal wharf from which the mills' products were shipped out, we were back to the open countryside - although this is actually the view from the car park taken before heading home.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Back at Chameleon - Lewis Fieldhouse and Dave Giles

Lewis Fieldhouse
It was back to the good old Chameleon Arts Cafe last week to catch the Nottingham leg of Lewis Fieldhouse and Dave Giles' "Pay What You Want" tour. (It shows how my habits have changed to even start to think of going BACK to a venue)

It was an unusual gig in a couple of ways - firstly ticket prices. Entry was (as you might guess from the tour's name) 'pay what you want', so you could pay £10/20/more for a ticket, pay less with maybe the intention of buying a cd, or if you were short of cash this week, or could only drop in for an hour, you could get in for as little as, well, nothing. It seems to be 'all win' for the punter - it's as cheap as going to a pub open mic and the music's better. For the guys on tour though it seems a bit risky - after all they've put money up front to pay for venue hire, travelling and lodgings, and might not recoup those costs. I suppose the hope is that whereas as tickets at, say, a tenner might put folk off going to see two musicians they've never heard of, people can go along for free, listen to the music and either add to the donation bucket, or buy cds and merch. It's a gamble, and I'd love to know how often it pays off, but it doesn't seem polite to ask!

Dave Giles

Second unusual thing?  Instead of the regular 'headliner plus supports' set-up, the two guys were sharing the honours evenly. So there was no local (relatively) unknown to start the evening but straight into music from the guys you've gone along to see; a 30 minute set from Lewis Fieldhouse, followed by same length by Dave Giles, and after a short break they both came back with 40 minutes sets each. Again, it seems a win win situation for the punter - it gives the audience more time to get a feel for each performer's music, or if you can only get along for part of the evening you're still likely to catch one set from the musician you wanted to see.

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening (though some heating in the room wold have been nice). Both artists fall into the singer/songwriter, one man and his guitar, though with different styles of music. I'm hopeless at trying to describe music in any meaningful way so go and listen to them both on Spotify or Bandcamp or whatever; I shall be doing!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Hopton Hall - and more snowdrops

As part of my determination to get out and about more, and visit new places, even if they're almost on my doorstep, we went out on Saturday to Hopton Hall, near Wirksworth, to see yet another snowdrop display.

Despite Hopton being only 30 minutes or so from home, I've never been before but I'd heard that the snowdrop display was really worth catching - and it was!

This weekend was the last Spring 'snowdrop' opening and close up some of the flowers were looking a little past their best but even so en masse they still looked amazing.

First we followed a winding path of bark chippings which led in a round-about way through trees with carpets of snowdrops beneath ...

Then we moved to a more formally laid out area of garden - in summer this would be full of the colour and scent of roses but even in winter with only the 'bare bones' to be seen it's still an attractive place to wander

After this, we followed a path lined with snowdrops to a more naturally landscaped section of garden ...

...round the wildlife pond ...

...and back to the car park via another snowdrop lined path.
It was a lovely short walk, taking us just over an hour, although we did rather linger at various points. I'll definitely be back in summer to catch the rose garden in bloom.

It took rather a while, 2years!, but I did eventually get back to see the roses

Friday, 3 March 2017

One Hour Outside Challenge round up

As you may have seen, for the past month I've been taking part in the One Hour Outside challenge as seen on Splodz Blogz. It's been a mixed sort of success, and hasn't quite worked out quite as I'd expected.

One of the reasons I decided to brave the weather and take part was that I'd found from observing my routine for a day or two that I actually spend quite a lot of time outdoors. I don't have a laundry drier, so any day that's even vaguely dry I'm outside hanging out the washing. Add on the time spent fetching it in, often more than once in the day if it's showery, and that's somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes outside. It's also the time of year when, encouraged by some Spring-like warmth, I start pottering around in the garden. Plus, of course, there are times I walk to the post box, local shops or library. So on a DRY day, I'm easily outside for an hour doing one thing or another; a WET day is another matter entirely, and even taking part in the challenge didn't encourage me to get out and get wet. I'd guess I achieved the hour outside for a little more than half the month, 15 or 16 days, but the rest of the time I barely went out at all!

Being in a sort-of retired situation and at home all day, I can pretty much do whatever I choose, but even so I've drifted into a very house-bound routine. I'd rather hoped this challenge would give me an incentive to get out of it - to join in with the daily dog walks or go out more walking in parks or the countryside - and this part hasn't worked. Apart from a couple of trips to see snowdrops, I haven't actually done anything unusual or changed my habits at all.

Something good has come of it though.

Keeping track of the time I spent outside encouraged me to take a few extra minutes and not just rush at jobs. I certainly paid more attention to the weather, as it moved from mild to freezing, then stormy as 'Doris' blew past to be followed by warmer days at the end of the month, and to the world around me - not quite watching the grass grow, but noticing the snowdrops open, looking at catkins on the way to the post box, and on clear evenings lingering outside to catch the sunset or just to look at the moon and stars. For this alone I think it was worth attempting the challenge, especially as one of  my resolutions for the year was to find some quiet down time; for this alone, I'm going to try to carry on with One Hour Outside through March.