Sunday, 28 May 2017

Trendy at last - well, at least the garden is

My neighbour and her daughter went off to the Chelsea flower show this week, and tell me that the slightly wild, 'don't worry about the weeds' look is fashionable in garden design.

Well, mine's been looking that way for years!

There are various permanent plantings - oriental poppies, lupins, peonies, roses, lavender - but many of the flowers self-set wherever they choose, so forget-me-nots, welsh poppies, foxgloves and love in mist can spring up almost anywhere filling up any bare patches.

Sometimes they throw up surprising colour combinations like orange poppies and pink rock roses, but it adds a touch of exotic brightness.

And somewhere in there, yes, there
are probably some over-looked weeds - but I can't see them so why does it matter?

This one actually IS a weed - it grew and flowered one year, and it's pretty so I've let it stay.

I'm not sure the Chelsea gardens were trying this look - flowers and vegetables together. I've also got a small wigwam of peas and several pumpkins planted to wind among every thing else

I love this unkempt look. It's also low effort, which is good, and I'll be keeping it even when fashion has changed back to something more formal and restrained

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Cyrano - Derby Theatre

Northern Broadsides theatre company are at Derby Theatre this week with a touring production of Cyrano.

It's probably a story you're vaguely familiar with -you know, the guy with the long nose who's hopelessly in love with his cousin Roxanne, while she's in love with Christian, a handsome Cadet, and also fending off the attentions of a middle-aged married suitor.

 To describe it briefly, I'd say it's a wonderful romp of a show - a mix of farce, romance and tragedy with a song or two thrown in for good measure. It opens with singing and dancing, full of exuberance and life, poetry and swashbuckling,  and fabulous 17th century costumes full of frills and lace. After the interval the second half takes a more serious turn as events move to the siege of Arras (be prepared for noisy cannon fire) and the final scene fourteen years later in a nunnery near Paris.

It was fab, fun and, oh, so sad.

We all really enjoyed it and the only thing to disappoint was the audience - I know we went on a mid-week evening but there weren't many folk there, and (one of my pet gripes) hardly anyone thirty!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Feeling left out - and it's all social media's fault

Scotland without the rain
I'm not usually a person who feels envious of other people leading what seems to be a more glamorous life. I don't read celebrity gossip magazines and sigh over the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I hear of friends going on round-the-world-cruises or spending their holidays somewhere exotic and it's never bothered me. These things aren't my kind of scene; I'd rather be plodding through the rain and dodging the midges in Scotland.

Even so, there are places and events that I've got in the habit of visiting - Pembrokeshire or Cornwall in spring, somewhere in Scotland during August, north Norfolk in autumn, dropping in for a day or so at Hay Festival, the Book Festival or Fringe in Edinburgh - and for the last year or so I haven't been able to go, as I don't feel I can leave my elderly parents for long.
I'm a grown-up though, so I generally accept that I can't do whatever I want all the time, and I've found that social media has ways of making me feel like I'm still there. People post their holiday photos of empty beaches or quaint fishing villages that I've visited, and we'll chat online about our favourite places or things to do in the area. Events like Hay share Youtube videos of authors' talks so it's possible to sample the atmosphere even when I'm not there. In these ways it' possible to feel part of something even if not actually there ...

... BUT  last weekend I found social media wasn't helping at all -  in fact, it was making me feel more left out!

Last December I went to see a Frank Turner gig in Nottingham and blogged about it. Through Frank sharing it on Twitter I made a lot of new 'virtual' friends who are also fans ... and last weekend most of them headed off to the Lost Evenings festival in London organised by him and his record label, XtraMileRecordings.
 Frank would be playing. 
Skinny Lister would be playing. 
At the free daytime events, some musicians that I actually KNOW would be playing. 

I could still survive because I don't generally go to festivals. My teen had tickets but that didn't worry me; she's often out at gigs that I don't go to. 
But then on Friday, I started seeing status after status mentioning Lost Evenings - travelling there, meeting up for a drink beforehand, how great the gig was - and I really felt I was missing out. This is something entirely new for me. Now (at last) I know what it's like to feel that pressure to be doing what everyone else is. If someone had offered me last minute tickets and a Star Trek style transporter, I'd have been there in a flash. As things were, with no fairy godmother in sight, I decided to stay away from social media to save myself being entirely consumed by jealousy!

I now understand a little better how others feel when they decide they NEED to have or do something because their friends have it/are doing it. Maybe I'm not as mature and 'grown-up' as I thought I was!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Still my favourite bluebells - Bow Wood and Coumbs Wood, Lea Bridge

Start of the walk, Lea Bridge

I've been out and about looking at bluebells for the past few weeks, but putting off a visit to Bow Wood, near Cromford, Derbyshire, because of the uphill hike necessary to reach the higher sections Last weekend I decided it was time to go for it, or else the flowers would be past their best. As it turned out, I wasn't late at all, and the bluebells were probably more stunning than if I'd visited earlier.

The farm road behind the John Smedley factory is soon a pretty woodland walk

Then a path heads off up the hillside among the bluebells...

If you're younger or fitter than I am it's probably not too strenuous a climb, but I take my time, with plenty of stops for photographs and looking back down the path.

This is the view I'm heading for though, where bluebells flow down the hillside between Bow Wood and Coumbs Wood.

Just a little further upwards and the view opens out looking over Lea and Holloway, and that sweeping mass of bluebells. I probably take this same photo every year but it never fails to amaze me.

Then onward and upwards again - through a small patch of woodland to another open hillside of flowers with the path winding between them

As the path heads (upwards still!) through Coumbs Wood patches of wild garlic appear alongside the bluebells

...and eventually, as my legs really begin to complain, we reach the steps that mark  the last uphill section.

It's not downhill yet though - doubling back we followed the path along a ridge with views through the trees to Cromford on the right, and Lea on the left, and which leads back to the lower levels of Bow Wood.

I'd wondered if after the massed bluebells at Felley I'd find this walk a little less wonderful this year but it was as amazing as always. Felley's flowers are tighter packed, like the nap on velvet, but such a large area is covered by them at Lea. The walk is maybe two miles long and for most of that distance there are bluebells flanking the path. Still my favourites!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Skinny Lister - Rescue Rooms

I've already mentioned in passing my night out at Skinny Lister's Nottingham gig, but it was such amazing fun that I thought it was worth a bigger write up - and more pics.

I may be getting grown-up at last but I'm refusing to go gently into old age, and in eighteen  months I've gone from NEVER going to any kind of music event, to taking every opportunity I can, so when my youngest offered tickets for this gig as a birthday present I jumped at the offer. 

I've been listening to Skinny Lister's unique brand of shanty/rock for a year or so now, and, almost unbelievably, this is the third time I've seen them live (first at Curious Arts Festival, then at Nottingham's Bodega) and each time the crowd is bigger and more enthusiastic. 
What I love about their shows is that they feel like a big party. Everyone, from the teens bouncing about down at the front to the older folk clapping along more sedately, is caught up in the music, singing along, and having a fantastic time.
Lorna crowd-surfing

I was trying the other day to describe Skinny Lister's sound to someone who feels all modern music is either 'boy band' or 'dance anthems'. 
It's not 'rock' or 'pop'. To call it toe-tapping, foot stomping music makes it sound like country barn dance music, which it's definitely not. Yes, you can still spot the folk music roots to their songs - whether loud, boisterous sea-shanty style songs or quieter ballads - but it's high energy, punk rock folk.
Whatever, I love it. 

So, I sang and stomped and bounced my way through their 90 minute set - and then comes the sad bit when I have to admit my age. Cramp waking me overnight. Aching legs the next day. 
But I'm not giving up ... I'm going to get fitter, and next time they're back in town, I'll be there to join in.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Busy, busy week

Ok, busy, busy week might be over-exaggerating just a little but two nights out together is quite excitement enough for me!
First on Tuesday I headed off to the Nottingham Waterstones store to see fantasy author Robin Hobb at a packed event to publicise the launch of the latest, and last, book in her long-running Fitz and the Fool series - for something that started as a scribbled note while she was in the middle of writing another book, it's come a long way.

Ayres at The Hop Merchant
Then on Wednesday there was even more excitement...
Not long after I saw Skinny Lister last autumn, my teen bought me an early birthday present of a ticket to their next gig back in Nottingham  - well, actually two tickets and she was going too.  As the date grew closer my excitement was mounting. Then last week she realised she'd booked herself a (much smaller) gig at the Hop Merchant pub in Nottingham for the same night. Fortunately, the times didn't clash. She'd have to dash straight off after her set, and we'd miss the supporting act at Rescue Rooms, neither of which are best etiquette, but it was do-able.
So, an early, hurried dinner, a traffic-problem free trip to Nottingham, and on to my teen's half-hour slot.

Then a quick dash across town for her to take her guitar back to the car, while I strolled the short distance to the Rescue Rooms - and on to the main act of the evening, Skinny Lister and their hand-clapping, toe-tapping sea-shanty style rock.

Unbelievably, it's the third time I've seen Skinny Lister play in ten months. Six months ago I hadn't been to a gig larger than anything held in the back or upper room of a pub - and I can't quite believe how my 'habits' have changed.

A hectic evening, but a great one, and this is definitely now the 'new me'. Overnight my legs cramped up from so much jigging about, the next day I had aches everywhere, but I'm already looking for the next date Skinny Lister will be back in town!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Somewhere new - JT Soar - to see Sean McGowan again

It seems to have been ages since I last went out 'gigging' but last week my teen was promoting, and performing at, a show in Nottingham alongside one of my favourite singer/songwriters, Sean McGowan, so I just couldn't stay home!

I 'discovered' Sean McGowan about 18 months ago at a previous show promoted by my teen, and since then I've been keeping up with what he 's been doing via social media, keeping an eye out for tour dates, and listening to his new songs on Spotify and such, but it's not really the same as seeing someone 'live'. Admittedly, I could have seen him last summer but chickened out , fearing I'd be the only old person at the gig. I think I've got over this attitude now,and I'm determined that if I want to see someone perform, I will, whatever age the rest of the crowd.

Sean McGowan
Anyway, while I've been gaining confidence so, I feel, has Sean McGowan. He seems more comfortable and assured in front of an audience now, and, possibly due to that, his voice seems more powerful - a deep resonating tone to give you goosebumps, particularly when singing unaccompanied ballads, such as the traditional Wild Mountain Thyme. I last heard this in Edinburgh one festival time, with the audience being encouraged to sing along to a harp - a very different rendition to McGowan's! The easy way to describe his style is to say 'like Billy Bragg' - a mix of social comment and oddly romantic songs, and his 'Milbrook Road' is a real tear-jerker.

George Gadd

As an added bonus to the evening, I got to eventually see local George Gadd perform a complete set - despite my best intents, previous occasions haven't worked out for a variety of reasons. Also on the bill was Ajay Henry, someone I've heard of on the local pub/open mic circuit but not actually heard before. His sound is a little different to the others' - nearer to 'pop' than their angsty, Billy Bragg-style folk punk - but he fitted in well.

The venue was a new one for me; J T Soar - an ex-fruit and veg warehouse converted into practice and performance space, and entered by an anonymous grey door -  there really ought to be a 1920s Chicago speak-easy waiting behind it, but we can't have everything.