Friday, 17 April 2015

Footloose in London

I decided on Tuesday that I would take advantage of my free Wednesday evening to see Caitlin Doughty at the Barbican Open Salon on the launch of her book, Smoke gets in your Eyes.

It was all a bit last-minute, and the day turned out to be the hottest so far this year, clear blue skies and no need for coats and scarves,  so I did a rapid wardrobe-hunt to find a light blouse, then urgent trainline-queries, to find that I could take advantage of a seasonal Easter offer and travel from Micheldever - which I managed to get to in about ten minutes flat.

Hardly one to waste a visit to town, I had Googled the magnificent 7 cemeteries and took myself off to Kensal Green in Kensington for a tranquil hour amongst the twittering birds and gravestones.
Barely a soul disturbed the peace (though doubtless many floated watchfully) and it was a truly restful experience. Moving too, as many of the stones have histories to tell. For example, this tomb marks the burial of a whole series of children from one family, a few months apart (inscriptions on all sides):
And this beautiful, overwhelming tribute topped with angels reflects the trauma of a wealthy Bristol divorcee whose 18 year old daughter died at a London hotel, possibly whilst seeking medical care.
Mary Eleanor Gibson 1854-1872
 I hadn't realised that the cemetery backs onto the old Grand Union Canal, giving a wonderfully scenic walk towards Little Venice. There were plenty of narrowboats moored up, a few cyclists and walkers using the path, and even one young man cross-legged on the grassy side busy with a crochet hook. As I passed I noticed he was wearing crochet trunks. And continuing the eclectic theme, I caught this high atop a roof
After a refreshing cider in a canal-side pub I scooted to the nearest tube and popped out at Waterloo just on time to meet Rosie, who had been working at a Special Needs school nearby this week.

London always looks beautiful in the Spring sunshine, confetti-blossom everywhere and skies fresh and blue. But the crowds were thick and noisy, school-children jostling along in large groups attended by trepid adults. We switched to the North bank and found our way to Somerset House, where we chatted by cooling fountains and enjoyed chilled drinks.
We sat outside a Covent Garden cafe enjoying a light supper and catching up, before Rosie went home and I found my way to the Barbican to listen to some pleasant chat from a couple of characters I am getting to know online through my other research.
My thanks to whoever was in charge of the London weather !

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Spring Sun

Sunshine again, and at the weekend too!

Max has just gone off with a friend for a walk in the woods, Martin has taken himself off to Drifter to practice sailing solo (eek!), Mum and Dad have just left for home and I am about to put my feet up with the Sunday papers.

I spent a large part of yesterday singing beside professional soprano, Allegra Giagu, in Wherwell Church as the sun shone through the stained glass. Daunting, but she is very lovely and not at all pretentious, so in the end we just enjoyed the music and the look of bliss on Dale's face as he conducted.

Contrary to expectations (recent rehearsals have not been great) the concert was a great success. Our semi-chorus in Mozart's Vespers worked well, and it was a privilege to have some duetty-bits with Allegra. The second half was a revelation, pieces that we had failed to master suddenly made sense and became emotionally-charged. A party in the White Lion's Den under a starry sky was the perfect end to the day.

Not so for Max: he had been selected to play for the 1st XV in their last game of the season, but they were roundly trounced and he came home tired and bruised and fed up. But it provided a sunny hour or so of entertainment for Mum and Dad (on their way here) and for Martin (on his way back from the boat), and it is no bad thing for Max now to rest his torn pectoral muscle and newly-healing shoulder.

Plus he starts his first proper job at The Priory tomorrow, an easy cycle-ride away and the chance to see how an office works. Meanwhile Rosie had the excitement of an interview for an Internship at Petworth House and got the job! It will be unpaid, and part time, and difficult to get to, but exactly what she wants to do and a perfect career step. Congratulations Rosie!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Happy Easter

Ahhh. Just had a delicious slow-roast lamb dinner, warming after a day at Easter 7s tournament at Winchester RFC (Max with a seared nipple and sore shoulder muscle after some valiant defending) with a relaxing interval tea and cake at The Corner House and a wander around ye olde city with Rosie.
Despite grey and chilly weather on Good Friday we went down to Drifter and took her out for the first time this year. Max and Rosie helped us put back her sails and get her properly dressed, then we pootled down Southampton Water and dropped anchor for some welcome pot noodles. Especially welcome to Max, who felt he should have been able to avoid sailing at all for considerably longer.
We all appreciated stopping for a DVD on the way home, together with some fish and chips, and spent a lazy evening in the barn watching a movie.

Easter Monday was warm and sunny so we took a walk on Stockbridge Down and then adjourned to a pub garden for refreshment.
Max and Martin helped Claire clear her garage and mow the lawn when we returned, and Rosie and I baked some deliciously light Hot Cross Buns to enjoy before she hopped on the train back to London.
So a good Easter weekend. Ben reports a busy weekend of lessons and a week of dates and gigs: he is hoping to come back home sometime for birthday celebrations so we will soon be able to catch up with him too.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Riff Raff

We are so lucky to be able to see our children in action. On Saturday we went to hear Ben's choir, Riff Raff, perform in a Bristol Church.

Since it was also Ben's last day of work in the guitar shop in Clifton, we met him back at his home early afternoon and then spent a few hours roaming the streets, exploring a bookshop, picking up a tasty lunch and then grabbing coffee at the Arnolfini by the waterside rather than spend too long looking at boats bobbing up and down in  large, grey waves and wind.

Granna and Grandad met us shortly after we arrived at the church, a little early so we ended up in the front row: embarrassing for  Ben but great for us!

The choir was unaccompanied and they knew all their songs by heart (our own conductor's dream). Because they were watching their two conductors so closely the timing was great and everything sounded beautifully crisp and clear. We could see and hear Ben singing with great gusto, and looking as though he meant it, a good lesson to me in looking active rather than nervous.

Great job Ben!
Meanwhile Max played a whole match with WRFC 1st XV, despite accruing various injuries, since they had run out of subs. Hopefully they appreciated him!

Drifter is now back in the water and Martin is trying to get her cleaned up (below deck every surface is currently covered in tools) so that he and Rosie can do a shake-down trip  over Easter if the weather is half decent. If the forecast is correct I shall opt to cook a hearty, hot meal on their return rather than join them.

Monday, 23 March 2015

More Pulling and Fixing

Martin has been down to work on Drifter almost every weekend of late. We were going to go together on Saturday but ended up sampling driveway stones and picking up a double bed en route, and since the mattress was naked atop the car we decided we should err on the side of caution and come home.

Max and I ended up gardening (mostly pulling up ground elder) and then went to help Claire clear bramble and bracken from her sprouting bluebells in the afternoon, culminating in a big bonfire. I walked back at dusk and everywhere was beautiful in the sunset, a crescent moon in the blue, deer in the woods and the smell of slow-roast lamb welcoming us back.
Martin was home too, having installed the new heater and completed some more jobs. It shouldn't be long before Drifter can get back in the bath! Some pictures of last week's work giving Drifter a pink bottom:


It has finally arrived! My new, sleek, and for the moment very clean new range cooker now has pride of place in the kitchen. And rather lovely she looks too.

It was quite a palaver getting to this point though. The manufacturer, Smeg, wouldn't confirm the power required and since we knew the induction hob might overstretch the existing cabling we had to rely on some helpful electricians.

They kindly came to re-wire on Monday morning, but had problems with our household electrics tripping, and also needed to dash off to get some new parts, which seemed to me a little un-prepared given that they had already been to quote.

However, by noon our old cooker was disconnected and everything ready...but the new cooker could not be delivered as the supplier's van had been stripped of its catalytic converter overnight by a gang attacking a dozen cars in Andover.

I would have been happy to wait but having put the old range on ebay to sell by that evening, I risked being cooker-less. Eventually the electrician and his mate persuaded the suppliers to come out and help him clear and load his own van with the new oven. So just when I thought we were in for a week's wait, four burly chaps rolled up and substituted old for new.
It took another few hours to complete the electrical work (I am really not sure why) and it all looked great.

But next morning when I came to read through the manual I found a setting that required us to turn off the cooker at the mains. As soon as we did this our house electrics tripped again and were hard to re-set. So back (most helpfully) came the electrician and they spent the entire morning trying to work out what was going wrong, eventually concluding that the new switch was itself faulty.

So it was only in the middle of the week that we were able to try our new cooking machine. It turns out that the induction hob is great: a little noisy to start, but clean and easy to use and SO quick to boil water that we have now invested in a stove-top kettle.
I am getting used to different oven settings, Max tried out the grill to cook us breakfast on Sunday, and the only thing that is still un-lovable is the storage drawer, which the manual claims is "useful and convenient". But overall, she is a beauty, isn't she?

Thursday, 19 March 2015