Sunday, 13 April 2014

Settling In

It's been a week since I  moved in. I am still surrounded by boxes. 

Which, to be fair, is probably a good thing, as they hide quite a lot of the wallpaper and carpet.

I am making a lot of lists, to work out what order to do stuff in, and what I can afford. I need to start to get various workmen round to quote for the jobs I need to have done - replastering, some building works, total redecoration . . .

I have however unpacked some of the  most important books, and all of the stuff for the kitchen. I now have  a landline in place (there is very little mobile signal here, which was a bit frustrating when we were sitting outside with a removal van filled with all my worldly goods, waiting for a phone call to say we'd completed!) and internet access (And TV, once the electrician has time to come and put a new ariel cable up)

My  parents came to visit for a couple of days last week, as they were attending a funeral locally, and took the opportunity to come to see me and the new house, and to have somewhere local to stay. Which was nice.

I was away in London for the day on Saturday, and today (which has been a lovely sunny day) I had a lazy morning, then went out and bought a lawnmower (I have a lawn now!) and a clothes line, and did laundry and lawn mowing, and planted out some tomato and pea plants.

I don't have much in the way of garden beds, so at present this is all (except the lawn, obviously) container gardening, but it is a step in the right direction. And I suppose that growing things in containers may mean the plants have a better chance of growing without the strong ones crowding out the others!

Of course, the fact that I spent the afternoon in the garden does mean that I have not done any more unpacking today, but you can't have everything, and it has been a beautiful day - shame to waste it indoors!

I hope that next weekend (which is a 4 day weekend due to Easter) will prove equally nice.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


As some of you know, I've been wanting to move for a while - to have more space for my books, and for guests, and a bit more garden, and more space generally. 

So, in September, I put the house on the market. It's been a rocky ride since then. I found a buyer, found a house I liked, got surveys and such and was hoping to move, if not quite in time for Christmas, at least shortly after that. Then my seller pulled out, for no apparent reason. 

I started looking again, found another house just before Christmas and had an offer accepted, paid for more surveys and so on, and was hoping to be able to move in by the end of February. Then my buyer went on an idiotic spending spree and, as a result, got his mortgage offer withdrawn. So I had to put my house back on the market. I did find another buyer, but obviously it was very stressful. I can cope just fine with change, but I don't do so well with uncertainty. 

And with all that uncertainty, and so many setbacks, I've been reluctant to talk too much about it in case it all goes Horribly Wrong, and despite that, things did go a little bit wrong what with my oven packing up on Monday, (I wish I'd decided against using up the stuff in the freezer, and had simply cooked something on the hob. That way, the oven would have gone bang after the house belonged to the new people, and it would have been Someone Else's problem, but such is life.

The New House is bigger than the old one, but more importantly has a real garden (and as quite a bit of the garden is currently patio / asphalt for parking,  it should be possible to turn more of it into garden, over time) and fewer neighbours, and more space to put bookshelves.
Of course, it also currently has the Decor the 80s forgot, (yummy peach and yellow stripes, with coordinating borders, in the living room!), but again, it should be possible to change that.

Some of the books are boxed up

And there will be a whole lot of unpacking to do. The removal guys have packed everything, but I have to unpack stuff for myself. I'm looking forward to seeing all the books I put in boxes to declutter when I started to market the house!

Hopefully, by the time you read this, I shall be in the new house, (probably in the middle of a vast stack of boxes, with a glass if wine in one hand..)

(Oh, and it'll be about a week before I have the internet in the new house, so it may go a bit quiet around here for a while)

Sunday, 30 March 2014


I have not booked for many of the Bath Theatre Royal's current season, but one I did book was 'Pygmalion'
Alistair McGowan as Henry Higgins
 (photo Manuel Harlan)
I don't think I have ever seen the play before, although of course I've seen 'My Fair Lady' many times.

The evening didn't start well, as there was a road closure which meant I was late getting to the theatre, but once I was in, it was very entertaining.

This production starred Alistair McGowan as Henry Higgins, Rula Lenska as his mother, and Rachel Barry as Eliza.

It was a very good production - Rachel Barry did an excellent job of showing not only Eliza's determination and strength, but also her vulnerability.

Jamie Foreman and Rachel Barry
I felt that McGowan's Professor Higgins was a little overdone - the character is obviously supposed to be gauche and irritating, but I think a little more restraint would have improved the production.

Despite this, the production is over all excellent - witty and entertaining, but not obscuring the underlying points which Bernard Shaw was making about class and inequality, and Eliza's determination to better herself and to become independent. It's a little sad that, in the play's centenary year, the issues of inequality still resonate..

Jamie Foreman made an excellent Albert Doolittle, self-proclaimed member of the Undeserving  Poor, and later victim or unwanted wealth!

I hadn't appreciated how much of the dialogue of 'My Fair Lady' was taken directly from the original play, which gives it a feeling of familiarity, but (in this production at least) you don't miss the songs.

Special mention should also go to Rula Lenska, as Higgins' clear sighted and long-suffering mother.

The production is touring until June. If you're in the right place, it is well worth seeing.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Birthday Party

OOoops. Friday again, and I haven't got around to blogging about last weekend, yet!

It was fun. Both of my sisters have birthdays in March, and E had a party which all of us (siblings) were invited to, together with a bunch of her friends - we all went out for a very long pub lunch, including some splendid puddings (the accurately named 'giant eclair', and the less accurate 'ultimate chocolate tower', among them)

And then we went back to E's house for the rest of the day, an had an evening which included Wii dancing, and Jack Daniels Pizza. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sunday was then a quiet day, spending time with extended family and eating lots of home cooked food. 

Did I mention it was fun? and really nice to catch up with all of my siblings at once - it doesn't often happen.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

In which there is a wedding!

I spent this weekend enjoying the company of friends and family, in beautiful surroundings.

My oldest and best friend got married on Saturday, to a lovely bloke. I've know J for over 20 years, and her shiny new husband for nearly 10, and couldn't be happier that they they have now married.

I travelled up to Derbyshire on Friday - it was a lovely day, bright sunshine, getting nicer and nicer as I went north!

After arriving, and settling into my luxurious hotel room (in this beautiful hotel, originally built in 1652, and which has been an inn for at least 200 years), I met up with my friends, and J's parents, all of whom were staying in the hotel on the Friday night, and we spent the afternoon catching up, running errands, and all had dinner together.

On Saturday, I had some spare time while those in the wedding party were doing hair and nails and the like, so went for a walk around the village - it was not quite such a beautiful day as Friday, but the landscape is absolutely stunning (Chatsworth and Haddon Hall are both just up the road..)

And then of course the main event. I met up with other friends  at the wedding venue, (another very nice hotel).

Everything went smoothly - there was a ceremony, and photographs, and laughter, and food, and dancing, and laughter, and more food, and time with friends, and a very happy married couple.

It was a lot of fun.

On Sunday (Another gloriously sunny day) I drove to Manchester to see my Brother and his girlfriend, and catch up with them (and eat out at a superb tea room!) all of which was delightful.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Jennifer Saunders at the Bath Lit. Fest.

One of the things  enjoy about living here is the proximity to Bath, and the chance to enjoy the Bath festival of Literature every March, and the Bath Festival of Children's Literature every September.

This years BathLitFest started on Friday, and Saturday morning saw me heading into the city to see Jennifer Saunders, talking about her autobiography, 'Bonkers'.

As might be expected of a comedian, she was a very funny and entertaining speaker. She talked about her background, growing up as an air-force child, moving around the country, and of her childhood ambitions to become a three-day eventer.

She dismissed the suggestion that she and Dawn French didn't initially get on, commenting that they simply didn't know one another to start with, when they first met at college.

She spoke a good deal about her habit of procrastinating, describing the increasingly implausible excuses she and Ruby Wax sent to Goldie Hawn when they were supposed to be writing a film script for her - Saunders described how she was, eventually, flown to New York to finish the script, and planned to write on the lane, except, as she explains, one of the effects of having been in Absolutely Fabulous is that flight attendants all assume that she wants to be drunk on champagne all the time, and appear with glasses of champagne on every flight (and of course, she commented, they're right..!), so she arrived with the script still unwritten..

She claimed to have been effectively locked into Hawn's apartment to finish writing, and then to have been taken to see The Lion King afterwards "like a good child".

In response to questions from the audience, Saunders confirmed that she would like to do some panel shows "They have to have women on them now, it's the law!" and that she was less scared as she got older "Once you're past the menopause, you don't care. You just see them all as little boys" And that she will be hosting 'Have I Got News for You'. I shall look forward to that!

She also confirmed that she'd like to be involved in writing another musical, except for the music parts, which are tricky, that there is to be ab Fab movie, and that she feels lucky to have worked with so many friends, and to have become friends with so many people she's worked with.

It was a highly entertaining hour, (and at the end, Jennifer's whippet, Olive, came on stage with her while she signed copies of her book)

I'm not in a position to attend any other Bath Lit Fest events this year, but if I could only see one, I'm glad it was this one! 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

War Horse

I've been hearing about the play, War Horse, for years (I think it has been on stage for 6 or 7 years, now), but have never got around to seeing it. 

I still haven't seen it on stage, but on Thursday evening, I was able to see it at my local cinema as part of the 'NT Live' programme.

I love the NT Live broadcasts.

I love going to the theatre, and I'm lucky that I manage to see a fair few shows, both locally and in London, but the broadcasts make it possible to see shows I wouldn't otherwise see, (or to see shows I enjoyed, again ) and of course it gives so many people the chance to see things they wouldn't otherwise be able to (and generally for much less than the cost of theatre tickets, particularly once you factor in travel!) 

I enjoyed the show. The initial scenes are set in Devon, and I did find it slightly distracting that the actors accents ranged from actual Devon, to 'generic yokel', with a smattering of Irish, but fortunately it didn't throw me completely out of the story.

The puppets, which are made by the Handspring Puppet Company of Cape Town, are astonishing - the puppeteers are always visible, and the horses (and other puppets) are very obviously puppets, but at the same time they are completely convincing as horses - even while you can see the puppeteer moving the cogs and rods to make their ears move, or their flanks heave.

The plot isn't a complex one, but it manages to be gripping, and I admit that I may have been a little teary when Albert and Joey are finally reunited!

Well worth seeing if you have the opportunity!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Loki, and Chocolat, and a car

I have finally picked up my new (to me) car, and returned the hire car, which is a relief. The hire car was very nearly new (it had less than 3,000 miles on the clock when I picked it up) and I was terrified the whole time that I would bend or break it!

My  new one is a VW Polo, 6 years old, and currently pretty shiny! (which , to be honest, is unlikely to continue for long, as I subscribe that life is too short to spend washing cars!) 

It's quite a change from the Smart - but I think that having space for passengers may come in handy from time to time. 

I picked it up on Thursday evening, and it promptly got rained on (fortunately the windscreen wipers were easy to find!).

That was Thursday, and on Friday (after what felt like a *very* long week) I headed into Bath for some fun.

I've blogged before about the wonderful Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of our two lovely independent bookshops in Bath, and how good their event are, and Friday night was no exception.

They were hosting 'Norse Night' with Joanne (M) Harris talking about her new book, 'The Gospel of Loki'

We started with music from The Bookshop Band (Who played their Loki-inspired song, 'Rooting for Loki', which is excellent!)

Then, we got to meet Joanne Harris herself. She talked to us about her childhood, and finding the Norse myths in Barnsley library, guarded by a fearsome librarian who, fortunately, viewed mythology as 'educational', and therefore suitable, (and who was, presumably, unaware of the dearth, destruction, incest and bestiality involved...)

She talked about her view that she was not changing genres by writing a fantasy novel; firstly, as she's written fantasy from day one, and secondly as her novels are all (including Loki) about outsiders in small patriarchal societies . . . starting while she wrote her first novel while working as a teacher at Leeds (Boys) Grammar school.. the only difference is the amount of magic involved.

She also told a wonderful anecdote about making a papier mache chicken out of her rejection letters and setting fire to it, as a cathartic way of dealing with the rejection (and about a certain American agent who rejected 'Chocolat' (on the basis it had too many old people, not enough young and beautiful people having sex, too many old people, and was set in a European village) and then, a couple of years later, after the success of the 'Chocolat' film, wrote to her agent offering his services to promote her work in the USA. (His offer was rejected!)

She is a highly entertaining and interesting speaker, and listening to her made me feel, too, that she was someone I would like to get to know better, and who would be fun to go out for a drink or meal with.

Harris was sccathing about publishers determination to divide books into different age groups and genres, and the patronising attitude which assumes that readers of fantasy are 'immature' readers, and very funny about her first meeting with Johnny Depp.

It was a lovely evening. (And did I mention that we were served with chocolate by way of homage to the novel?)

And I am now about a quarter of the way through 'The Gospel of Loki'. I'm enjoying it a lot. And I hope that Joanne Harris comes back to Bath next time she has a book out, because I want to hear her speak again.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Family and Floods

It's been an interesting week.

My parents came for the weekend, which was nice. They came with me to look at a second hand car, and helped me take my Very Old Bicycle to the tip.

On Sunday, which was an unexpectedly nice day, with sunshine and NO RAIN (for what feels like the first time in weeks) we planned to go over to Glastonbury and walk up the Tor, but when we got there we found that the entire world and his wife had had the same idea, so we kept going, and instead went for a very short amble nearby.

It was a lovely day, so the desolation caused by the flooding on the levels looked beautiful, but the extent of the flooding is sobering. And this was after a drier week. The water has gone down a little from its peak - we could see the 'tide mark' in the fields.

The row of trees is the boundary between two fields, and though it's not easy to tell from the photo, the flooding isn't the only damage - there are several trees down, too. 

This is the road. It's just about passable - we saw a young man on a motor bike go through, and it looked as though the water was 6 or 8 inches deep on the road itself, but the roads are higher than the surrounding fields (and there are rhynes (drainage ditches) by the sides of the road which are deeper still) 

The sheer scale of it is hard to appreciate until you see it - and it seems unlikely that this land will be much good for any grazing, or even silage making, this year, which will be devastating for the farmers, quite apart from the damage to people's homes.

it also makes you realise just how great a task the monks of Glastonbury undertook, when they took over the draining of the Levels in the middle ages.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

'The Girl With All The Gifts' - M.R.Carey

We're still having horrendous weather - yesterday we went from sunshine and rainbows, to hail, snow, rain, and sleet.Which was not a lot of fun, particularly the drive home through the sleet.

However, the evening was a lot of fun. I went into Bath, to Toppings Book Shop, for an evening with M.R. Carey (Mike Carey) who was there to promote and read from his new novel 'The Girl With All The Gifts'

I've enjoyed all of Mike's previous work which I've read: The Lucifer  and The Unwritten series' of graphic Novels, the Felix Castor novels, The City of Silk and Steel novel written with his wife and daughter, so it was pretty much a given that I would be buying this book.. I bought my copy when I picked up my tickets for the event, so I'd read about a third of it before this event. 

Mike started by reading from the beginning of the book, introducing us to Melanie, a very unusual little girl, living in a very unusual situation.

After the reading Mike did a Q and A session, explaining, among other things, that the novel has its roots in a short story called 'Iphigenia in Aulis' which was written for an anthology (An Apple for the Creature) - but no two people agree on how to pronounce 'Iphigenia', and anyway the story turned out to be more about Pandora than Iphigenia.

Also there will be a 6th Felix Castor novel, but this needed to be written first.

We finished off with a shorter,  second reading, then Mike signed books and chatted to us, which was fun.

Since Thursday I have finished reading the book. Its very, very good. I don't want to give any spoilers, so won't provide a detailed review -but will say that it far from being your average horror novel - it is as much about the relationship between the 5 major characters, and their individual characters and histories as it is about the apocalyptic world in which it is set.  If you like your horror thoughtful and thought-provoking, and if you enjoyed 'Let the Right One In', theni think you will enjoy this one.

As an added bonus, I was able to meet up with @TazorTam at the event, and we moved on from toppings to The Raven for a drink and a catch up, after the event, which rounded off a very enjoyable evening beautifully.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Plumbing again

The plumber came again today, and I have I new pump in my boiler, and less gunk in places where there shouldn't be gunk, and radiators which get hot. In fact they get hotter than the did before, which is nice.

I haven't had the bill yet, I'm hoping it won't be too horrendous.

And this weekend my parents are coming to visit, so I'm hoping I will be able to get my dad to accompany me while I look at more cars - for moral support as much as anything else.

I do wish it would stop raining, though.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Cars and Plumbing and Stuff

Last friday, my little car was taken away to be scrapped  live on a lovely farm with other happy little cars.

I'm currently driving around in a hire car - I decided that hiring a car for 3 weeks would be a sensible thing to do, so  have time to shop around, and do a bit of research, and decide what I want to replace it with. The current hire car is a very-nearly brand new ford fiesta - it has less than 8,000 ,miles on the clock, and it turns itself off every time you stop. I am not sure I like it.

So, last weekend I went to a number of different used car places, and drove 4 different cars. Which helped me to decide that I do not want a Toyota Yaris, or a Ford Ka, and  probably not Ford Fiesta.

A VW Polo is still in the running, and I want to test drive a Honda Jazz to see what they are like.  Although my colleagues have told me that I am too young, and have threatened to buy me tartan blankets and thermos flasks if I buy the Honda....

Tomorrow will see me visiting more car salesmen :-(

Meanwhile, my heating is  not working properly so I had to get a plumber out this evening. He unscrewed stuff, and checked on ballcoxks and things, and at one point hit some pipes with a large spanner. My ball cock was stuck, and now it isn't, but unfortunately that isn't what was causing the heating issue, so he is going to come back on Monday to check (and if necessary replace) the pump, and if that doesn't work, to flush the radiators and pipes.  Apparently I have inferior pipes.

So, it's a little chilly here (although i do have other heaters).

And I am feeling a little fed up, what with one thing and another.

On the plus side, my parents are visiting next weekend, which will be fun.