Friday, 28 July 2017

Festivalling at Curious Arts 2017

 This time last week, I was arriving at Pylewell Park and putting up the tent in heavy rain, ready for a weekend of Curious Arts. 
 It's a mix of literary, comedy and music festival with plenty of activities to occupy children too, and you might remember (because sometimes I talk about very little else) that I was invited along last year and had a wonderful time. Well, to be honest, in the rain last Friday, I was wondering if this year had any hope of living up to its predecessor ... fortunately, although the weather continued hit and miss, the event itself didn't fail to delight me again. 

Gorse's Big Top style interior

On Friday the skies cleared enough for us to leave the shelter of our small tent and make our way to the "Big Top" style Gorse marquee to catch that evening's headliner, Izzy Bizu, and after that almost every minute was filled with something to do.

Saturday's plan

My plans for Saturday proved to be a little ambitious, but moving smartly between one tent and another I managed to catch most of these events, plus dancing along to Tom Odell late in the evening, and still walk down to the edge of the grounds for a glimpse of the Isle of Wight. 

Joanna Trollope, Matt Haig and Eimear McBride were all fascinating to listen to, discussing their various latest novels.*

The Wandering Hearts

Martha Gunn

An addition for this year was an acoustic stage for music during the afternoon, and I went along to watch The Wandering Hearts, Martha Gunn and Aine Cahill entertaining an audience of all ages. Maybe to be honest, without the rain, many of the children would have been elsewhere about the grounds playing crazy golf or hunting the Jabberwocky but they certainly seemed to enjoy the music.
Aine Cahill

Tom Odell

Junius Meyvant from Iceland kicked off the night-time music back in the Gorse tent, but Tom Odell's show was definitely the highlight, with a fantastic light show to accompany him! 

Tom Odell

don't try this on your piano at home!

DJ sets carried on till 3 in the morning, but I'm too old for that, and headed back to the tent.

Sunday was quieter, but even so I caught Susanna Beard discussing her debut thriller, Dave Eggers talking about almost everything, Julian and Isabel Bannerman with a slide show of the fantastic gardens they've created, and music from the Southern Companion to round things off.

Somewhere pulled into all that there was time to browse the Waterstones pop-up store, and eat!
breakfast in the sun

As last year, the food stalls were varied and interesting - Dorset Cereals were handing out free samples of muesli for breakfast, for lunch/dinner we tried curry from the Happy Gurkha, pulled pork burger from one vendor,  Mexican vegetarian burger from another, and scampi and chips from the seafood stall (sadly, they'd run out of crab, calamari, and smoked salmon), and, besides endless mugs of tea, I had the most curious cider, from Chapel Down's aptly-named Curious Brewery, served with a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint.

This year's event was much larger than last, both in terms of events and attendance, but still with an intimate feel, and when the rains came there was enough space for everyone to rush under canvas.

Yes, it was a weekend that I think will be remembered for the rain, but it was a fun one too, and I for one would love to go back next year.

This counts as a sponsored post as I was invited along as part of OurBookReviewsOnline though words an thoughts are all my own

* these events are written up at Our Book Reviews Online.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Camping in the rain at Curious Arts Festival

Last weekend I was invited down to Curious Arts Festival in my capacity as book blogger, but, as it involves camping, it's also an excellent opportunity to test my credentials as an 'outdoor blogger', and for that matter 'festival goer'.
Well, looking at my 'drowned rat' photo, taken after putting up the tent in a torrential downpour, I think I'm now hardened as both!
The weather forecast had fooled us, or maybe we'd understood 'showers' to be something much more gentle but we hadn't packed waterproof jackets or wellies! When we arrived there seemed little hope of the rain stopping, and merely walking from the car to the entrance we'd already got wet, so we just carried on and got the tent up even though soaked, then bought curry from The Happy Gurkha (one of many food outlets on site) to warm us up, and went along to see Izzy Bizu in the 'Big Top' tent (more of the actual festival here)

By this point the weather looked like it might brighten ...

... I strung the outside lights INSIDE the tent to brighten things up a bit ..

and by Saturday morning things didn't look too bad ...

The sun was shining, the tent had withstood MORE heavy rain overnight and for a while things looked good ..

then the rains came again!

That, give or take, set the mood for the weekend - some glorious sunshine, some dreadful downpours - but there was enough space inside the events marquees for everyone to just about huddle out of the rain, and sun on the car dried the wet clothes and shoes.

It definitely wasn't as muddy as Glastonbury can be, we didn't have the floods I've seen photos of at Download, but it's the first time we've had to cope with rain while camping and it wasn't too bad. Practising putting the tent up at home definitely helped it go up without a hitch in the rain. Sometimes we retreated to our tent to have space to flop down, and let the dog relax off his lead, and I'm glad we had head room to stand, and chairs to sit in, but I didn't miss the opening sides which I thought would be nice, or even an extra window. Maybe when it's raining you just want to huddle inside your tent and forget the outside world!

In case you're interested, you can find out more about Curious Arts Festival on their website here, my write-up of this year's festival here and the tent's a Quechua Arpenaz 4.1 from Decathlon

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Splashing out on new camping equipment

Last week we got the tent out for a practice run before going away for the weekend, and realised it was time to go out and actually buy the extra gear we'd been promising ourselves. Last year we managed with an inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag and a light, but now it's time to splash out - and fortunately a lot of camping/outdoors stores have sales on.

So here it is, well most of it, in all its glory

a water carrier (Decathlon) so we can have a handy supply (mainly for the dog)

a waterproof picnic rug (Halfords sale) to act as a sort of carpet in the outer living area - we also picked up a mallet to knock pegs in, and a thing to pull them back out from the same place

two chairs;  space in the car is the major issue here - some really comfy chairs I saw elsewhere would actually take up more space collapsed than the tent does, so we picked the absolute basic version from Blacks (again in a sale)

and twinkly lights, an essential to mark our tent from others, and hopefully show where the guy ropes are. I was surprised to not find ANY in camping stores and I ended up at Wilkos!

I'm also going to take a pop-up bin which youngest daughter received in a freshers' week gift pack  but has never used.

And that's it! 
Camping at its most minimal.

You've probably spotted the lack of cooking/washing equipment - well, we're heading to Curious Arts Festival where the food is great, and the showers are warm, so there's no real need. Maybe if we ever take up 'proper' camping we'll have to re-think, but for now it's unnecessary clutter.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A School Reunion with David Bowie and Bob the Builder

On Sunday evening I went out to see a new (to me) band, Rebel Rebel, at a new venue, NEM (Nothing Else Matters) in Heanor, and it was interestingly outside of my gig comfort-zone for a few reasons.
Firstly, anyone who knows me will know I'm not a fan of bands who solely play 'covers', so a Bowie tribute act doesn't seem like my obvious choice of entertainment; secondly, although obviously I know his music, I'm not particularly a Bowie fan; and lastly, I'm generally not a fan of the 'school reunion' (we've all seen Grosse Pointe Blank), and the band and audience were mainly old school mates from way back when!

I heard about the event in the bizarre way of social media from a friend who now lives in New Zealand, but is more in touch with folk from our old school than I am, and, in the spirit of embracing whatever weirdness comes my way, I went along and really enjoyed it.
I've always had this theory that school reunions are about reminiscing over the good/bad old days, and trying to prove you're doing better than everyone else now, (which is what puts me off the whole idea of reunions) but with loud music playing in a small space there's not a lot of opportunity for either.
As it was, the band were great, "Bowie" really got into the mood with some quick costume changes, and the whole thing was quite fun, although to be honest I'm not sure I recognised many folk from school.

Much fun being had by all :)

And Bob the Builder? ... well, one of those old school friends is actually quite famous - not Bob himself, but the writer of the theme song. Sadly, he was also one of the many people I didn't recognise but maybe I'll get to say Hi another time.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

End of season visit to Lea Gardens

Despite being 'local' Lea Gardens are a recent discovery. I first visited at the beginning of April as it was coming into flower, then later in the month when it was stunning. Having bought a season pass, I'd intended going back again in May or June, but life and weather got in the way, and I've only just found time to go back.

Polar Bear at a distance

Being a garden devoted to rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, it's definitely past its peak now, but there are still a few flowers lingering on, and a couple of huge late-flowering 'Polar Bear' shrubs still full of buds!
Polar Bear close up

In the upper section, the acers are more noticeable now the rest of the garden is more subdued, and hidden behind a huge clump of gunnera we found a pond with delightful water lilies.

Although the gardens close at the end of this month, as a season pass holder I can visit all year round, and I've been told the deciduous azaleas are wonderful in autumn, so I'll be trying to visit again.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Reacquainting ourselves with the tent - with some canine help

 Last year saw my first attempt at camping since I was a child. It went well, and I'd rather hoped we'd get to holiday with the tent a second time, but life and such got in the way, and that one weekend away to Curious Arts Festival was all we managed.

Now it's Curious Arts time again, and all being well we'll be there, so we thought we ought to check the tent out, see if we (or more accurately my husband) could remember how it all went together.

Fortunately, the instructions are sewn into the tent's bag (very handy that!) and we had a canine helper, Dylan, to check things were done properly.

We hadn't really any idea about what we wanted in a tent when we bought this - we just picked one of the cheapest it was possible to stand up in* (though even so, there's only just space to put it on our lawn!). 

It's a fairly simple design - a sleeping section with integral groundsheet that can fit four, and a 'living room' where you could probably sleep more folk or a dog, especially if like us you're very minimalist in your approach.

There'a lot of nifty gear to be bought for tents - folding stoves, bowls that collapse flat, saucepans that stack inside each other, even 'larder' cupboards -  but as we wanted it primarily for a festival where cooking wasn't allowed on site most things didn't seem necessary. Last year we had an inflatable bed and a light. This year we've added a collapsible water carrier, plan on buying a mallet, a chair (just one, as it's unlikely we'll both be sitting around the tent at the same time) and maybe finding some bunting or fairy lights to help mark the guy ropes.

So that's the way out ...

If I were buying again I'd look for a design with more openings/removable sides. In summer it feels a bit airless, and I suspect that in rain it might feel claustrophobic. There are several vents and one clear 'window' but I wish there were more or that I could open a window or something to let a real draft through, without risking Dylan escaping.

Lights gets in, but little air

Also being able to roll up the walls of the 'living room' and turn it into an open-sided area would make it possible to cook in there if we ever tried 'proper' camping. For a couple of weekends a year, it's definitely manageable, so all these things are for some unspecified future time.

For now, the tent is packed away again but ready for its big outing later this month.

* if you're interested, it's a Quechua Arpenaz 4.1 from Decathlon

Saturday, 8 July 2017

New Year's Resolutions - six months on

So, it's July, half way through the year, and time to check how my New Year's resolutions are going 

well, actually this year, it's probably best not to.

To be honest, I hadn't expected things to be going well, but looking at the list I optimistically made six months ago, they're going worse than expected. 

I started off quite well - made sure I did my zumba each day, went out walking a lot to see snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells, even managing the uphill hike at Lea Bridge with little difficulty. I finished making up the skirt, signed up for even more Duolingo courses ...

 but somewhere in the last few months I've lost focus. 

We seem to have acquired more clutter, rather than clear any out

If I've lost any weight it's through melting in the heat.

The only thing I've reliably stuck with is gardening. I've been a lot more hands-on this year - I have huge cabbages with flowers growing between them, a patch of mangetout peas which are cropping nicely and some french beans hopefully going to flower soon.

I'm not going to give up.
Resolutions are for the whole year, not just January
so it's time to try again.
Let's see if I can keep them going longer in this second half of the year

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Three Days - mainly in pictures

 I've had a busy sort of time these last few days, pulling in a bit of all the sorts of things I do.

Firstly ... Thursday evening, at J T Soar in Nottingham for music and spoken word.
Joshua Jones, Scarecrow Boat and Phaedra's Love on tour, my daughter snagging herself a set as Ayres, and local-ish band Fatmate from Leicester rounding things off.

Scarecrow Boat (sorry about the lighting)
A good evening, even though I had to do a stint watching 'the door', a sizeable crowd, and lots of new sounds to hear.

The door

Friday - into town for a quick look at the Weeping Window poppies designed by Derby artist Paul Cummins. They're also 'on tour' and till 23rd July will be pouring from the top of Derby's Silk Mill rather than the Tower of London.

To be honest I found them less impressive in real life than they appear in photographs, but at least in can say I've seen them.

 On the way to the Silk Mill we passed the memorial to the time Bonnie Prince Charlie spent in Derby as he pressed south towards London in 1745. This was the furthest he got. before he decided to retreat, and his bid for the throne ended at Culloden. It's not easy to photograph this 'plaque' as it's quite long and placed on a narrow walkway by the river. It says "Prince Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Derby on 4th December 1745 and held Council of War in Exeter house on this site".*

And Saturday was a much quieter day spent in the garden - shelling peas with the help of my assistant (he was in charge of any that fell on the floor), and admiring the flowers.

waiting for the first Day Lily to open

 Lavender is now reaching across the main path, the later pink roses are flowering, as is the first sweet pea. The day lilies maybe need some more sun.

first sweet pea

So, a gig, a bit of art and history, and lounging in the garden - good times :)

 *there's even a Wikipedia entry