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 ...

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Resolutions 2018

I don't like to be quick with my new year's resolutions. I prefer the whole festive season to be truly over, and the first week or so of 'normal' got through, before I commit myself. But time is passing, the snowdrops are starting to peek through, and before I realise Spring will be here.

Perhaps it's getting time to think about plans and New Year resolutions...

Last year's didn't go too well, in fact I never really committed myself to them.
Gardening was the only one I really put any effort into; though that and my short-lived enthusiasm for  running did get me a little fitter.

So ... time for another go at the same old things, but with a bit of planning about them.

Probably too ambitious!
In fact, scheduling is my big resolution for this year. With no fixed timetable for my days, they just drift - hour by hour, then week by week, and suddenly it's December again! At the same time, I always feel rushed off my feet, yet it's often difficult to see what it is I'm actually doing. Things will probably be even more difficult now with a baby grandson to coo over.
So I'm going to get organised (a lot of my family will be laughing right now), make proper timetables, and assign various activities to different days. Everything from running (once the weather improves) to taking up crafts and dabbling in art, learning foreign languages and even 'down time' is going to have proper scheduled time in my new cunning plan. It isn't quite formulated yet, so maybe that should be the first resolution to work on.

Resolutions always seem a bit dull and worthy; the whole feeling about them being of giving up something fun (alcohol, food) and/or doing something hard (getting fit, rising early with the alarm clock, running x miles). I'm sure I'm not the only person who'd rather do something a little fun! Fortunately through out the year, I'll be trying Sixty Things to celebrate my big birthday. From trying new food to watching new bands, I hope it will be an interesting way to mark the year.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Last Day of Christmas at Chatsworth

Most of us have Christmas packed away again by Twelfth Night if not sooner, but Chatsworth decided to keep their Dickens' Christmas open for one more weekend. We first went to visit in November, and had intended to head back before now, but events over-took us so I was quite glad it was open just that little bit longer.

There's just one interior shot this time, as I posted extensively before, but more from outside as the weather was lovely (for the time of year) - clear and sunny, though cold enough to have frozen part of the canal pond! 

We didn't wander far, or for very long, outside - just up the main path to the 'vase' to catch the sunset, and the house windows shining golden as the last light caught them.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

DPP Festival, Sitwell Tavern


My year of sixty new things got off to an accidental good start at weekend. My daughter (Ayres) was booked to perform as the opening act of DPP Festival at  Sitwell Tavern in Derby, so of course I went along.  I like following her adventures - they take me to places I would never have considered going, and, as fairly obviously looking like someone's mum, folk don't look at you as if you're crazed for being the only person over 40 in the room (though actually, I've been mistaken elsewhere for someone's mum when I'd just gone along to listen ).

After Ayres' act we hung around to listen to the next two acts up - Derby indie band, Hitfaced (great name!) and, all the way from Manchester, the Covasettes. Both were great, and I'll be looking out to catch them elsewhere.

Covasettes' frontman, Chris Buxton

So, I'm claiming four 'new' things from the evening - two new bands, new festival, new venue - though my daughter says the whole challenge will be too easy if that's my idea of new experiences! That's possibly true, but I have to find 5 new things every month, and I did say some would be quite easy. 
Maybe I'll work up to something harder ...

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Sixty Things for Sixty Years

I'm not going to disclose the actual date, but at some point this year I shall be celebrating a 'big' birthday. In the good old days, I'd have received a bus pass and pension, but in these modern times we're expected to live (and work) forever, so I'll get neither; even so, the stigma of turning sixty somehow remains. Why, I don't really know.

I feel it's too easy to talk yourself into not only feeling, but also behaving, 'old'. Why? I'm not going to change dramatically overnight, not going to become someone who only listens to music from my youth, or watches comfy TV repeats from the same era. On the other hand, I think that we all, no matter our age, have a tendency to settle into routines and familiar patterns, from favourite comfort food, to the programmes we watch on TV, the music we listen to, even the way we dress.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm refusing to accept age as an excuse for cutting back, and I feel that if I don't challenge myself now I never will! So, when I saw someone* blogging about celebrating a big birthday with new experiences spread throughout the year, I thought it was an excellent plan.
Therefore, instead of sitting feeling sad about my age, I've decided to copy the idea, and treat this year as a sort of combined challenge and celebration, finding 60 new things to try.
That works out as quite a lot! Five each month!! But most of them will be fairly (very) easy - for example, I've never eaten squid, had a meal in a tapas restaurant or tried mint and choc chip ice cream ( I'd like to thank an FB friend's daughter for that last suggestion). Some, though, will hopefully be more daring - going somewhere new, or doing something a little out of my comfort zone. There'll still be no trekking up Everest, or zorbing down a hillside, and nothing that would petrify me, like handling snakes, or going on a fairground Big Wheel; I know my limitations!
Obviously I'll be blogging, and also tweeting with a #60things tag, so you can follow my progress. I'm hoping things will spread out fairly evenly across the year, but there could be a big rush come next November/December.

I'd been expecting that my first 'new thing' would be becoming a grandmother, but that happened rather earlier than planned, so the honour of Number 1 goes to making spaghetti carbonara for dinner. It's not very exciting as new experiences go, but, although I've eaten carbonara in restaurants, it's something I've never tried to cook before, so challenges the comfort food idea, and it turned out to be quite easy. It's a small step, but a start.

I wonder where this challenge might lead - even if it's only simple things it should prove to be fun - so I'll be keeping track here

*  Lisa Cherrett at the Poised Moon blog certainly had a similar idea - read her 50 New Things here

Thursday, 4 January 2018

2017 Highlights

I thought it would be hard to beat 2016 as a year full of activity and excitement, but 2017, particularly in its last few days, has managed to do just that!.

Sean McGowan
For starters, it's been a busy year out at gigs, from As December Falls at Rescue Rooms in January to Cameron Sinclair Harris's Christmas show at JT Soar, with over twenty others falling in between. Standout moments include the launch for my youngest daughter's EP Put Me Back , dancing around to Skinny Lister's shanty punk twice (in May and December ), watching the rise of Sean McGowan from a guy playing at gigs promoted by my daughter to one who can fill Nottingham's Bodega, and seeing Tom Odell jumping about on the top of a piano at Curious Arts Festival.
Tom Odell on that piano!

Due to an interesting line-up of productions, I seem to have been to the theatre more than usual, seeing a wide variety of plays from Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard to the boisterous romp of Cyrano. If I could see just one again though I'd pick Derby Theatre's production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal.

I went to a chocolate-making workshop as a treat from my elder daughter, and although my efforts didn't look very good, they tasted fine (which is what matters).

Because of the health of my parents, it isn't possible to go away for any length of time, so while my youngest went off to Italy alone, I had  to be content with a 'staycation'. I had lots of plans for it, and although we didn't follow all of them we did get out and about, finding new local places to explore and generally trying to holiday from home.

Felley bluebells
As winter moved into Spring, I walked through snowdrops, daffodils, and bluebells, and throughout summer I visited all my favourite local gardens (Chatsworth, Haddon, Calke, Kedleston) and discovered some new ones at Hopton Hall,  Lea , Melbourne Hall and Felley Priory.

Lea rhododendrons 

Pottering around gardens, even one like Lea perched on a hillside, is enjoyable but not very physically demanding, so, inspired by my youngest finishing Leicester marathon, I decided to take up running in a very lazy low key way - my theory is that any exercise is better than none!

I've been to less book events this year but did manage to catch US fantasy writer Robin Hobb at Nottingham Waterstones launching the last of her Fitz and the Fool series. I've discovered her work comparatively recently, and completely fallen for it. My hope was to read the whole series before publication of the last book, but with 15 books, each easily 600 pages long, and other reading commitments, that didn't work. I'm still making headway though, and will get there one day.

Over the summer at Chatsworth, there was an absolutely wonderful exhibition, House Style, showcasing clothes worn by current and previous generations of the Devonshire family.
And as Christmas approached I went round all the local stately homes - Chatsworth, Kedleston, Haddon, and Hardwick - to see them in their festive finery.

Arthur's Seat summit

I did manage two weekends away though.
In July, we went to Curious Arts Festival again, where I tested both my festival-going and outdoors credentials by putting up the tent in pouring rain and nearly getting the car stuck as we left! Then, in November, headed off for a fabulous weekend in Edinburgh with my daughter, where we climbed Arthur's Seat, visited museums and art galleries, and drank cocktails till 2 am!

Give or take, these were going to form the highlights of 2017, then in the days between Christmas and New Year, my grandson arrived two weeks early, and an event which should have started 2018, rounded off this year instead. Next year I suspect could be very different for us all ...

Monday, 1 January 2018

An extra Christmas present.

There's been a lot of talk of Chrimbo Limbo in the media this year - meaning those weird days between Christmas and New Year, when you're no longer partying but the fridge is still stuffed with leftovers, you've played with all your new toys, watched more Christmas films than you can take but don't feel like getting back to 'real' life.

Anyway, we've had none of that nonsense here. Instead we've all been rushed off our feet by the surprise, two weeks early, arrival of my first grandchild.
He is, of course, the cutest baby ever, but you'll have to take my word for it as this is the only photo I'm going to post of him. Make the most of it!
 I'm not at all sure that I'm old enough, or sensible enough, to be a grandmother but he's no doubt going to change my life in a multitude of ways.