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!










Old or new?


Sorry for continuing that particular meme, but as I was falling asleep last night, my mind was reviewing the day’s activity and I found the events classified nicely.




A Bank Holiday Weekend approached and with no particular plans and no essential shopping to be done, a sunny Saturday beckoned and offered all kinds of options.  What shall we do?  My Hero came up with a suggestion along with my early morning tea, “How about Compton Verney?  There’s a Shakespeare exhibition on there right now”.  OK, so Shakespeare isn’t something which would normally inspire me, but safe in the knowledge that there would undoubtedly be something of interest there, we set off.



(caption: RSC prop – throne used by various kinds in a number of RSC productions)


No photographs allowed in the galleries, so I’ll simply link to the main website, a description of the exhibits here (almost word for word from the catalogue) and this review which accurately describes our thoughts and experience of what we both thought was a spectacular exhibition.  From the minute we stepped inside we appreciated the multi-sensory approach.  I’d spotted the Farrow and Ball colour swatches on the wall already, wondering the significance of such a thing before realising that the innovative exhibition design was all part of the show.  I realised that we were walking on creaky boards in that first “Tempest” room, without making the connection to the deck of a ship and sadly, I didn’t spot the tide mark mentioned in the review



(caption: RSC prop – David Tennant’s chair from 2013 production of Richard 11)


But once in the groove, we were captivated by the scene-setting, curious about the designer’s thinking and would have appreciated more background to the show to read and reflect upon later.  Still, the capable and ever-enthusiastic Compton Verney staff are always on hand to offer insight and interesting detail and on more than one occasion, we enjoyed a lively conversation.



(caption: RSC prop – net from 2006 production of The Tempest)


Highlights for me include the installation “Ophelia’s Ghost”, a life-sized projection into a pool of water, eerily lit and complete with bubbles!  I liked the atmospheric setting for Macbeth, with aluminium walls, spooky lighting and a strange chill in the air, peculiar to that small corner.  But most of all, I really loved the multi-sensory approach, with varied soundscapes (including the amazing performance poet, Kate Tempest, rapping her RSC commissioned What we came after, inspired by The Tempest) the rich colour palettes and atmospheric lighting which induced mood changes and brought the theatre into the gallery.  Very clever indeed!

Another, supplementary exhibit was of incredible etchings and prints from John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery which opened in 1789. Fascinating, but by then, I was getting hungry (and I still had to visit my favourite Shang dynasty vessel in the Chinese gallery, too)

The props in the photos above, by the way, were taken in the Compton Verney shop, where a few highlighted accessories from the RSC prop box proved to be conversation points!




So after a spot of lunch, what’s to do?  Go home or go somewhere else?  A signpost at the first roundabout gave the answer.  Charlecote Park, 4 miles.




I’ve written here recently about how the National Trust is changing.  How a fresh outlook is being brought into the properties, enhancing the visitor experience and increasing the accessibility in all senses of the word.  I’ve wondered about this and though I can hear the words “dumbing down” somewhere in the background our recent experiences at Hardwick Hall and Upton House have proved the effectiveness of this approach. 




So first impressions at Charlecote were good.  Here we were in the gatehouse, taking in the background of the Lucy family and looking forward to learning more inside.




It appeared the house was “set” in 1845, when the Lucys had just returned from their Grand Tour (which probably didn’t include New York) and brought back a few decorative souvenirs, probably not including these cushions!)




One of the first rooms to visit is the Dining Room, where in good old National Trust tradition, the table is set and roped off.  There’s little or no explanation of what’s going on, but there in the window is an altogether simpler, small table set with a few things.




Here is a somewhat half-hearted attempt to recreate “Mrs Beeton’s Dinner for 10 Guests Dining in May”.  Was this in 1845?  Who knows?




Beyond a short description of each of the (four) people sitting at the table, there’s no further background or information but there is a bowl of wine gums as a reward for getting this far.




Lacking the motivation to spend the whole afternoon “discovering the further treasures within the walls”, we stepped back into the sunshine and made our way around to the gardens.




On such a glorious afternoon, there was no better place to be.

Except at home, perhaps Winking smile


Here or there? This or that?




Android or iPad?

I know, it sounds like one of those awful icebreakers used at training events, doesn’t it?  Well, my week started with a training event, actually (which is where the pile of tablets needed to be switched on and prepared) but the icebreaker was far from boring or embarrassing.  It was a JISC workshop, led by the extraordinarily talented and enthusiastic Esther and there was not a single dull moment whatsoever.

We began by logging into TodaysMeet , warmed up with Mentimeter and got to know Esther better by means of Thinglink.  She introduced us to Popplet, to Padlet and to Quizlet before getting her feedback via Kahoot and Socrative




Oh, and she let us play with her google cardboard so the views from the conference room were no distraction whatsoever.  Whatever was going on outside, I was in an aquarium!




I stayed dry, though  Winking smile




There’s a fine view of the cathedral from up there in Shire Hall.




An even better one from down here – but this isn’t Gloucester.  This is Cirencester.  Keep up at the back!




Penny and John stayed here with us for a couple of nights as part of their UK tour.  I hope they were a little more comfortable than “Humfry Bridges and Elizabeth his wife”, whom we visited whilst looking around the parish church in Cirencester.  We struck lucky and joined a guided tour around the place, for although we’ve lived here thirty years or more, we’ve never learned about the special features in there till now.




A 14th century fragment of painting high up on the wall there, a contrast to the newly restored south porch where the weasel in the photograph above was to be found.  We learned that the Polish stonemasons left one or two zloty in the stonework, which should be nicely confusing for archaeologists in years to come!




More fragments of all paintings to appreciate a little further on, too.  This time, they’re Roman and came from one of the grand villas here in the town of Corinium and are now in the museum.




There is something I like about a fragment like this mosaic.  Perhaps I like to imagine what fills in the gaps?




Anyway, of all the lovely things we’ve seen in the last couple of days, this one reminds me especially of Penny.  She – and other mutual friends – will know why Winking smile


Two washers left.




In “project summerhouse”, the next step was to find some storage solution for the few bits and pieces we keep up there.  I’d looked around the sheds on the retail parks here and there and liked nothing I saw, but eventually, I spotted this one online.  You can guess where it was to be found?




Today, I began the adventure.




It was actually quite easy, but incredibly heavy (34kg!) so I was glad of a hand from my hero for the last few bits.




It fits perfectly and is just what I was looking for.




The shelves were soon filled and all that remained were two washers.  I think IKEA have improved their quality control enormously!




As we sat with a drink and reflected on our productive morning (sitting on the newly cleaned garden chairs; the product of my hero’s busy morning) ), I marvelled at the scruffy little plant which sits on our garden table right now.  Each flower is a little gem when viewed closely: I must get my paints out!




But first, there’s another project to be completed  - or at least, to be started.  I’ve built up a small collection of canvases for the stairwell and we decided there’s no time like the present to begin. I laid them out on the floor to get a balance of colour and shape.




We almost followed the plan, too.  I guess I need to finish another dozen or so canvases now.

No rest for the wicked, eh?


Getting on with it




I took a deep breath and opened the summerhouse door to be greeted with wall to wall cobwebs.  Ugh!  Never mind, our bright yellow “hard work” vacuum cleaner quickly sucked them up and feeling in a “get on with it” mood, I carried on and made it all presentable again.  But as I did, I looked at those two folded chairs and thought how sad they looked.  Watermarked and spider-spotty, I didn’t much feel like sitting on either of them.  Maybe it was time to perk them up a bit?




The last time I had that thought, I got out the acrylic paints, mixed in some textile medium and painted the canvas.  But I didn’t feel like repeating the exercise and took them apart to have a think.  I recalled a company selling deckchair fabric so before I got some lunch together, I googled and came across The Stripes Company (though I’d actually bookmarked them as Deckchair Stripes, I discovered later).  It was quite difficult to choose from some glorious deckchair fabrics but I decided on “Aerobics” and placed my order.

In true internet shopping style, it was immediately acknowledged and paid for.




Around 2.30pm I had another email.  My package had been dispatched. 

I was working this morning and in a meeting, so I don’t know what time it arrived, but this afternoon, when I arrived home, there it was.  I was thrilled with my choice and even more thrilled by the outstanding service.




I suppose it was about 3pm when I started to give the wooden frames a bit of a clean up.  I might have switched my sewing machine on around 4.




All I can say is that by 6.30pm we had two spiffy chairs, ready to use!


The second Thursday in May




It was a glorious evening here last night.  I was in Avening, in the company of friends where in the space of a couple of hours, we chatted about food waste and the appropriate care in hospitals of people with dementia.  Of course, we were glad to catch up with what’s going on in our families and learned that a friend’s daughter is expecting twins.  Great news but oh my, will she have her hands full!

I accidentally missed my book group meeting the other night, so couldn’t really contribute to the conversation about the book I should have read: Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter and although I took down the details of our next read I soon realised that we will be on the other side of the Atlantic when they meet to discuss it.  Never mind – I’m always happy to have suggestions for books I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.

I’d also missed a couple of local walks, each of which ended up in a pub, though one of the pubs sounded so good I think we need to visit it anyway.  I’m not part of the skittles team, so couldn’t lay any claim to their recent victory but I was as thrilled as the rest to hear of their success.  Go Avening!  I won’t be out of the loop for long though, because a bunch of us decided to get together in our garden to make a few softpots.

Especially interesting was the letter from the organiser of the Vine Project, a charity many of us have supported by means of a friend and local volunteer.  The stories from the students we’ve supported by sending school clothes and materials were encouraging and the first-hand reports from our friend motivate us to help her further.




Melissa from Woefuldane Dairy just up the road brought some of her cheese for us to taste which prompted conversations about all kinds of things ranging from paperwork and running a small business to dairy farming generally, milk quotas and the price of milk.  I think the subject of animal welfare and the EU might have crept in there too, because somehow, the clock kept on ticking and it was getting on for 10pm.

Over coffee, we chatted about cruises, South America, personal shoppers in John Lewis,  local healthcare and a recent visit from a former resident of the village but actually, someone I didn’t remember – a friend quickly worked out that she moved away in 1983, the year before we moved in, which prompted a general gasp.  Where have the years gone?  For this is a rather special bunch of friends: I’ve known some since we first arrived in Gloucestershire and gradually got to know the others since then.  Some, I hardly know at all, but I soon will – when we next run the cake sale or cook for a tea party, we’ll pitch in together and chat, we’ll discover connections and shared interests.  We might find ourselves walking together to the pub, or on the same quiz team.

Funny to think that women have been getting together like that on the second Thursday of every month in Avening since 1930, isn’t it?  Since someone started a WI in the village, in fact.