I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Friday
Nov252016

Gallivanting

 

When my Mum – or my Grandmother – used the word, it would be said with a slight air of disapproval; as if whoever was involved was up to no good.  It’s a pleasing word though, far too interesting to be resigned for use in such situations and so I will claim to have been a-gallivanting this week, even though there was absolutely nothing untoward.  Believe me!

 

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We decided to drive up to London earlier this week, rather than take the train.  We specialise in getting exactly the right – or wrong - timing almost every time we do, however, finding ourselves in a stationary queue somewhere along the way as we wait for something to happen – in this case, the Changing of the Guard.

 

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At least it means that when we do get going again, the roads are clear!

 

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Though this wasn’t really a shopping trip, we needed to make a couple of necessary purchases, so headed to Oxford Street.  Priorities – and hunger – satisfied, we had a couple of hours to enjoy the seasonal displays and the relative calm of a Tuesday afternoon.

 

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We needed no persuasion to head back to our comfy hotel room however, once the Anthropologie whims had been satisfied!

 

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Heading out later, we could see the angels high above Regent Street in all their illuminated glory.

 

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How lovely that this year, there are no cartoon characters or cheesy advertising but just simple (!) lit figures which are so effective, I think.

 

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Around the corner in Jermyn Street, there’s a host of smaller “cousins” with a very Art Nouveau feel, I thought.

 

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We loved them nearly as much as we loved meeting Edward and Amy for dinner at Trullo, just around the corner from their beautiful new apartment.  Shame we can’t drop in more often! 

 

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The main event was yet to come, though: the annual awards ceremony for the UK Bus Awards, held in a pop-up Ballroom on the South Bank.  I was a member of the panel judging the People awards and looked forward to seeing the outcome of the decisions we made way back in the Summer.

 

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It’s always a fun event amongst friends and I enjoy the lively conversation with interesting table companions.  I did find the lighting a little troubling this year, however – it was rather red and flashy!

 

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The winners are deservedly proud and the afternoon passes in a flash.  Having gone inside before lunch, somehow it’s usually dark by the time we emerge, yet in this strangely lit environment, one has no concept of the passage of time.

 

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As we sat in the cab, en route back to our hotel, we debated whether to hang around another couple of hours and get a bite to eat somewhere before heading home or to simply get the car and make a run for it.

Guess what these country bumpkins chose to do?!

(We were home by 8pm)

Monday
Nov212016

Prepared

 

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I’ve written here before about how I resist the pressure to begin thinking about Christmas as soon as the Summer holidays are over, so you can imagine how I smiled when my friend Dorothy posted this to her FB page last week.  Nevertheless, there comes a time when it’s no good maintaining the denial any longer.  Things need to be done and preparations have to be made, especially with a week of gallivanting ahead of me.

 

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I went to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, then, with the intention of getting myself into the mindset.  You know, getting a bit of a jingle on and trying to motivate myself to begin.  It’s not that I don’t like Christmas – quite the reverse.  That’s why I try to keep it to December and savour the delights!

 

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One of the first projects of the season is always to make our Christmas cards.  Since we were first married, I’ve always made them myself and each year I can’t quite settle until I’ve decided what to do.  With a small seasonal glimmer from the market, then, I got out the stuff and set to work.  They’re not quite finished, but the messy bit is done Winking smile

 

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Mindful of the fact that we’ll need to take Edward and Amy’s Christmas cake to London with us this week, I had already put the dried fruit to soak in rum whilst shopping for all the other ingredients.   With everything to hand, I had no further excuses for exercising my right arm and a wooden spoon to get it all mixed and into the oven.

 

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Four and a half hours later and the kitchen was filled with that unmistakeable aroma.  What better way to get into the spirit of the season?  I sat down last evening and felt I’d accomplished a fair bit this weekend, then, and made a good start.

Except.

It dawned on me this morning that it really will soon be Advent.

 

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I’d better get that one sorted too, then.

November 21st today.  I think this must be a record.

Monday
Nov142016

The time of the year

 

I’ve written before about being creatures of habit.  I enjoy the cycle of the year, even November, when the season takes a dreary turn and the evenings draw in.  Most years, around the second weekend in November, we drive North, to spend time with friends and so it was this year, too.

 

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We had a feeling of deja vu as we headed up the M5/M6 for the second time in as many weeks, but a terrific lunch and a good catch up about life, the universe and Strictly Come Dancing by the side of the rather full River Wyre with sweet friends got us nicely in the mood.

 

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The main focus of the weekend was the concert by the Lytham St Annes Choral Society that evening.  Our early arrival meant we could snag seats with a good view of our friend as she sang her way through Vivaldi’s Gloria, Haydn’s Little Organ Mass and a selection of spirituals arranged by John Rutter. 

 

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Of course, this particular November weekend would not be complete without a brisk Sunday morning walk to the park in St Annes for the annual commemoration by the war memorial there.

 

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We arrived in advance of the main procession and watched as they assembled, accompanied by the band.

 

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The still, mild weather fitted the mood of the occasion,

 

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though perhaps a little breeze might have whipped up some enthusiasm for the singing?  Never mind, our little bunch on the grassy knoll did our best with four verses of Blest are the pure in heart to get things going.

 

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On occasions such as these, I’m always appreciative of good, clear readers – not always something to take for granted – especially when they deliver their reading at a good, meaningful pace.  Full marks this morning!

 

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I’m sure the chap wearing the hi-vis jacket standing nearby was relieved too, for he had the timed agenda and was keeping a close eye on his phone because this particular event is very time-sensitive.  With military precision – needless to say – the familiar words were read and the bugler sounded the Last Post to signal the start of the two minutes silence.

 

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I’m always moved to think of people all over the country, standing and remembering together at the very same time, just like this.  I knew that as we stood watching the various groups laying wreaths at the foot of the St Annes War Memorial, that my friend Pat would be doing exactly the same in Avening, on behalf of my WI.

 

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The wreaths laid, prayers said and the final words spoken for another year, we made our way home, stopping as we did to watch the procession march back to the Pier.

 

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I’m sure I heard the band play “The Teddy Bears Picnic” as they turned the corner, too.

Tuesday
Nov082016

Around here

 

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By the time I thought about going for a walk yesterday afternoon, it was already 4.30pm and the moon was up!  Oh my, doesn’t that hour’s time change make a difference?

 

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So I didn’t hang around too long this morning, but put my coat on and grabbed my camera as soon as I’d finished my porridge.  The light was especially pretty I thought.

 

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I noticed a few extraordinary things as I went.  Just down the lane, I came across a little corner of treasures.  I wondered whose collection it is and how long it’s been there – I’ve not noticed it before.

 

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I was impressed by the sticking quality of this pair of hollyhocks., just opposite.  We had the first proper frost this morning and yet they were still standing tall and looking great.

 

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Just as I was wondering whether to take one of the many short cuts, my eye fell on something familiar.

 

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Someone else has batik-patterned cotinus leaves!  Lesley, I hope your diagnosis of some disease or other isn’t so: at least I’m not the only one to notice and appreciate it.

 

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Anyway, I decided to continue on the lane, which at this point is not much wider or more accessible than the bridle path!

 

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I was rewarded with a seasonal view at the top of the hill and a short downhill walk to our garden gate.

 

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As I opened it, I noticed the abundance of sycamore seeds hanging on the tree by the gate.  No wonder we are always pulling up rogue sycamore seedlings!

 

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Our pond is a sorry sight right now, as we continue to try to work out where it’s leaking.  Hopefully though, the cold weather – and ice – will deal with some of the blanket weed that’s accumulated more successfully than we do.

 

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It’s strange to see ice on the pond and the last of the roses still blooming alongside.

 

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Looks like I might have reached home just in time too?

Sunday
Nov062016

Leaf Peeping

 

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The other day, the subject of leaf peeping was discussed on the radio.  Specifically, the colours of Autumn as witnessed in Vermont, USA.  But later on, we learned in our local TV news that this year had seen some of the best Autumn colours in the trees on this side of the ocean too and that our local arboretum was enjoying the most spectacular season for quite some time.

 

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Whilst in Cheltenham the other morning, I made a mental note, then, to make sure we got ourselves up there to the Arboretum in the next few days.  Better not go at the weekend, though – maybe we might make it early next week, I thought.

 

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At home this morning, I went out into the garden for a look around, really in search of a few buds or branches to put on the lunch table.  No roses left now and the sedums were a bit heavy, I thought.  There were a few hydrangea heads left but I wasn’t sure I wanted to chop those off.  Instead, I picked a few small branches of cotinus which was looking particularly colourful.

 

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As you can see it was a glorious morning.  (It didn’t last)

 

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As I put them on the table, I spotted some interesting markings, though.  It looked as though someone had been batiking the leaves!  Perhaps I’d take my camera outside and go and take a closer look (and a photo or two).

 

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Did I say that the cotinus was putting on a pretty show right now?  I promise you that none of these photographs have been enhanced in any way!

 

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Looking down at my feet, I spotted some of the patterns I’d been hoping for.  Wow!  How fascinating!

 

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I’ve not noticed this previously – though have I ever gone out and looked closely before?  Possibly not!

 

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Even the undersides are rather special.

 

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I wonder why some are patterned like this and others remain a solid colour?

 

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Though really, I’m not complaining, for even those leaves without any markings are rather splendid right now.

 

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It wasn’t until I came inside and uploaded my pictures that I got to take a closer look.  What an amazing range of colours on that one, fairly small shrub.  I thought I’d run this photograph through one of those colour palette generators…

 

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What do you think?