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
Apr212017

Close to home

 

I know from experience that it’s possible to see the wonders of the world and yet miss equally interesting things rather closer to home.  But normal, not on holiday, life involves responsible grown up activity like supermarket shopping, laundry, cooking and cleaning and the idea of a morning “out” needs to be scheduled for some reason, however easy it might be to drop in somewhere on the way home from somewhere else.

 

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So I’ll admit, it was earlier in the week that I made the suggestion to visit the local museum, prompted by a conversation I’d had with a friend at WI and reinforced by an email newsletter of local events I get every week (and normally just skim through before moving to the recycle bin).  That it took all of that nudging to persuade me to even consider a visit says it all, and my Hero’s response said the rest.

“too late to go Wednesday, not good on Thursday but I suppose we could go after doing the shopping on Friday”.   He didn’t actually add the phrase “if you really want to”, but it was implied.

OK.  I know, I could have gone alone but it’s better when there’s someone to mutter to, don’t you find, and it was too late to organise something with a friend.  Friday morning it was then.

 

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Our local museum is in the park, which this morning was filled with families having fun, people playing tennis, a fun fair getting ready to open at lunchtime, a group of people on a day out and some extraordinary flowers.  The exhibition which my WI friend had recommended finishes this weekend, after which the space will be prepared and made ready for a rather larger annual event, the Select Festival.

 

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The Scarlett Red Hare was sitting proudly outside the entrance.

 

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Inside, we headed straight for the textile exhibition.  The work of Anglia Textile Works, celebrating their 20th birthday with work inspired by Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie and other pieces reflecting the red cloth made in and around Stroud. Why have textile artists from East Anglia created work on a theme based on Gloucestershire?  No idea!

 

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Not everything was in tune with the theme, however, and as a result the whole exhibition lacked a bit of coherence.  For example, these panels hung side by side.  Some included clear references to the uniforms, having a line of immaculately stitched buttonholes, trims or graphical references to the process of creating the fabric with teasel motifs.  But others were on the Cider with Rosie theme and we couldn’t help but think they could have been hung to reflect this more effectively?

 

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Pieces such as this one, by Sarah Impey and hung adjacent to those panels were a bit out on a limb, having no link with either Laurie Lee’s work nor the fabric of soldier’s uniforms.  that’s not to say we didn’t like it – it just didn’t seem to flow.

 

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Actually, we have both seen Sarah Impey’s work before and have admired her ability to create such even lettering with a sewing machine.  All free-motion machine embroidery too – no computerised letters here (demonstrated by the slight variation in letter shapes – you knew we’d look closely, didn’t you?)

 

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This morning, it was her work which stood out from the rest for us, including this “quilt”

 

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which, on closer inspection, reveals more lettering.  Clearly, Sarah gets plenty of practice in using her sewing machine in this way.

 

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For her work is instantly recognisable.

 

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I’m glad my friend Di gave me the nudge to drop in here though.  There was some fine stitching, some really interesting pieces and whilst we were at the museum, well, we had to look around the rest, didn’t we?

 

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The next room held a small exhibition about Halas and Batchelor, “the largest and most influential animation studio in Western Europe”.  Who knew they were in Stroud?  Not me!

 

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Fascinating.  The best of local history, with a place to share memories too, for many people with a local connection had left their memories of working for the company and recollections of the people and their creations.

 

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Elsewhere in the permanent exhibition, there were the familiar things we’d seen before, if some time ago.  Just as my hero commented “Wasn’t the lawn mower invented in Stroud?”, we stepped inside the room with the story of…you’ve guessed, accompanied by the unmistakeable soundtrack of the summer days of our childhood.  Whilst we were there, we witnessed one of those peculiar scenes of such places though: two women settled into a corner of one of the rooms, discussing their feet!  One of them had taken off her shoes and was describing the treatment offered by her chiropodist in detail, pointing out the variety of challenges the professional had faced.  Wonderful inspiration for the short story writer!

We carried on regardless into the next room, where we looked at one another and asked, what was that?!

 

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Latest developments at the museum include redevelopment of the Walled Garden, which was looking beautiful.

 

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Lovely planting, interesting walkways and beautifully sheltered too.

 

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At the top of the steps there’s a new studio for hands-on activity and to one side, a traditional Auricula Theatre, with a small sign “the plants are not for sale and are here just for your enjoyment”

 

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Walking back to the car park, past beautiful collections of tulips, we decided that we had enjoyed our visit very much indeed and asked ourselves the inevitable question.

“Why haven’t we been here for so long?”

Saturday
Apr152017

Easter

 

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A quiet weekend is planned around here, for after all the gallivanting it’s rather good to be at home and sleep in our own bed.

 

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Amy and Edward are in Devon with her family, so the Easter egg quotient is pretty low around here and there’s a distinctly Russian feel to the bowl in the kitchen.  Sadly, they are not of the Faberge variety but are nevertheless colourful and a little different from our usual designs.

 

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Whilst in St Petersburg I spotted these egg wrappers in a bookstore.  They’re those plastic sleeves which shrink and cling to the egg when placed in boiling water and work really well, especially if the eggshells have a tendency to split open.  I hard-boiled the eggs in our trusty electric egg-boiler first and then dunked the wrapped egg in boiling water for a minute or so for it to shrink before the cold-water dunk.

 

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I think the end result is pretty good!

 

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We brought a few bars of (what we hope is) Easter chocolate home with us too.

 

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Knowing that we wouldn’t be seeing Edward and Amy over the holiday though, we took their Easter bunnies with us and the two small egg cosies I knitted for them are already rather well travelled. 

 

Wishing you a peaceful weekend, filled with love and sunshine.  Happy Easter!

Thursday
Apr132017

37 years

 

An email inviting us to take advantage of some special opening offers at Michael Caine’s new hotel/restaurant venture in Devon arrived just as we were wondering how to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary.

We booked!

 

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So, with just a day to do a quick turnaround, we shrugged off our Russian vibe and headed for Devon.

 

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Yet again, the sun shone on us and we spent a lovely day doing not very much.  Well, eating and drinking don’t count, to they?

 

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A “gin tray” is included in each room, along with the usual tea and coffee.  How civilised!  Having said that, those bottles remained unopened, surprisingly.

 

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We were too busy drinking champagne Winking smile

(well, we have our limits!)

Wednesday
Apr122017

A night at the opera

 

When we knew we were to be in St Petersburg for a few days, I consulted the Mariinsky Theatre website.  What might we go to see?  Amy had expressed an interest in seeing a ballet and I wasn’t too worried what I saw – I simply fancied going to the theatre to see a “real” show rather than some tourist compilation.  It seemed that we were in the city during the last few days of a ballet festival, but sadly none of the classics were to be performed and our choice was limited.

 

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Prince Igor seemed a good choice though, for a real flavour of Russia!  I found a great website with seat advice – a kind of seatguru for the Mariinsky and booked the last four tickets together, which amazingly were on the front row and highly recommended.  I had a series of email confirmations in Russian, a phone call from my credit card company to check that I’d just made a transaction in Roubles and printed out the ticket pdf at home.

 

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Though the theatre wasn’t so far from our hotel, we booked a car with Denis the concierge and so arrived in style in a black BMW 7 with Dmitry, our driver. 

“I’ll give you my card in case you want to leave early”, he said.  “You’ve chosen the long one”.

 

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Well, yes, we had.  But our seats were fantastic and we settled in for the long haul, thanks to Amy’s little tin of fruit sweets purchased earlier in the day.  We’d hoped there would be a bar or at least some refreshment on offer, but sadly that was not the case.

 

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The chairs were generally comfy enough, until the last hour or so!

 

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The audience were mainly Russian, there were quite a few children in the audience and people were smartly dressed.  We felt we were part of an occasion.

 

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The opera itself was grand – a little dated perhaps, but the spirit was there and the sentiment absolutely spot on for the moment.  Ah Russia!

 

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Being able to see everything was key – I loved to watch the conductor (with his waist-length pony tail!) and the orchestra as well as the performers on stage.  That website was spot on advice, by the way.

 

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But when the curtain came down after the last chorus, it was good to stand up and move!

 

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Sure enough, Dmitry was there, right outside waiting for us and in no time at all we were back in the hotel for a nightcap in the bar named after the Tsar

The perfect way to spend our last night in St Petersburg, I think.

Sunday
Apr092017

Palm Sunday

 

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We had a terrific supper last night!  We’d asked Denis, the concierge for a recommendation for an alternative to the beef-stroganoff type Russian food we’ve enjoyed the last couple of nights.  His suggestion was ChaCha, a Georgian restaurant along the canal by the Church on the Spilled Blood.  Great idea – my hero and I were in Georgia thirty years ago and remembered the food as being almost as distinctive as the red wine from the region.  Secretly, we hoped the offering would be better than we remembered, for in those pre-Gorbachev days, the food was none too great.

Thankfully, ChaCha more than delivered and a series of shared plates just kept coming, each one full of the most delicious food, well cooked and extraordinarily tasty.  The whole place was great – few tourists and mostly locals, I’d guess; there was a jolly and laid back atmosphere and the prices…well, let’s say it was about half the price of a similar meal at home.

 

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As we left, the church was looking gorgeous.

 

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Back on Nevsky Prospekt, the Kazan Cathedral was looking similarly good.

 

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We were back there this morning, Palm Sunday, not especially to join in a service, but to stand with the people, to absorb the very special atmosphere and listen to the chants from the choir standing high above us.  There is something rather emotional about being present in a Russian Orthodox service – somehow, in spite of all the comings and goings, the congregation manage to focus and  I appreciated being able to slip in and out unnoticed.  We noticed the ladies selling small bunches of pussywillow, sometimes wrapped together with a palm leaf outside the church this morning and as we walked around the city today, it seemed we were in the minority without one.

 

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I’m not sure if it’s possible to make any accurate deduction about the numbers of churchgoers from that observation, but it would appear that the Russian Orthodox church is faring better in that respect than the Church of England right now.

 

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Anyway, having made a couple of small purchases in the bookshop of Nevsky Prospekt, we walked down towards the Church on the Spilled Blood.

 

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The souvenir stalls were all open for business but there were few customers about this morning.

 

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Once inside, we stood back and took it all in again.  No less stunning than the first time we were here, those mosaics are simply magnificent.

 

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This time, I was as interested in observing the people as I was looking up at the ceiling.

 

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Though of course, I couldn’t resist taking the odd photo or ten of small details I hadn’t noticed previously.

 

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I loved the floral decoration of the icons here, in celebration of the day.

 

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An hour or so later, we were done.  We walked back along the canal, admiring the reflection in the water and noting how the temperature had risen in just the short time we’d been out.  Another lovely Spring day!

 

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We’d planned a quiet afternoon: a late lunch and then maybe a swim.  Amy had booked manicures for the two of us and this evening, we have tickets for the opera at the Mariinsky Theatre.  Tomorrow, we head home after a few very special, memorable days here. 

But first, Prince Igor!