Author Archives: Jane Smith

Brief Interlude

October didn’t work out quite as we had anticipated and carefully planned. We hoped for a five day break in Cornwall, one of my favourite parts on Britain.  It was a last minute booking due to work pressures on Peter and timescales on three big projects.  I decided on The Cormorant Hotel in Golant, near Fowey (pronounced Foy), right by the river and named after the main seabird that inhabits the area.  Luxury boutique-style hotel, seems the trend at moment, but small with friendly staff.  We had a river view room with a Juliet balcony overlooking the garden and wonderful coastline leading down to the sea.  

The weather had taken a severe turn for the worst and the south west was landfall for Ophelia but early last week she had not arrived.  The journey down was beautiful crossing moors including Bodmin Moor famous for Jamaica Inn. Interesting small towns along the route offered coffee and lunch. Finding the hotel was like a treasure hunt despite directions but eventually we arrived and settled in for the night.  Pre-dinner drinks offered unexpected entertainment in Anne and Ron from New Zealand.  Anne is an international judge of Airedales and the couple were enjoying a break in her judging schedule.  They had arrived from Baltimore that day and were due in Yorkshire at the end of the week.  We spent an interesting hour listening to hilarious stories of the world of top dog shows including Russia as well as their lives in Australia as breeders and farmers. Time for dinner.

Wonderful menu choices but I opted for local scallops, mixed fish chowder with honey pannacotta for desert, topped off with an excellent bottle of Spanish Rosé. Sorry photo of scallop starter gone wrong!

Next day after a breakfast including lots of local produce we set off of Fowey, home of Daphne Du Maurier.  Peter was feeling a little unwell but we set off as planned towards Mousehole (pronounced Mowzle) where we had booked a small, fisherman’s cottage.  Fowey was well worth another visit as I didn’t make it to the Du Maurier Museum.  The weather turned showery so we made our way to Falmouth for lunch and a wander.  Next was Penzance, Newlyn then Mousehole as there are great artists galleries as well as home of the Newlyn Artists. We had planned a coastal walk to really visit these the following day so went to find our cottage.  It was better than expected, so comfortable and well equipped with a scrumptious hamper of local food and a good bottle of wine.  We planned to light a fire in the hearth following a forage for food from the deli in the village which was highly recommended.  I became more concerned over the next few hours about Peter but we continued as planned.

During the night Peter developed a high fever and finally told me he had difficulty peeing, was in pain and it was getting worse.  He insisted on waiting until morning before trying to see a doctor.  Early in the morning I made the decision to take him to Penzance Hospital.  We arrived at 9am and he was seen at 9.15am.  The staff  were wonderful, Peter has “Men’s Problems” as he insists on referring to his symptoms.  The doctor fitted a catheter and told us to visit our own doctor when we got home, if we were residents there he would have carried out further tests. We left hospital at 12.15 and I knew Peter wanted to go home although he said no.  We packed up and drove home, 6 hours in the storm which had hit with a vengeance.  Our own doctor has referred him urgently to the local hospital but his appointment is not for another week.Then the catheter will be removed, testing will begin, diagnosis then treatment.  I hope by November we will know what lies ahead.

Another added issue has been with our internet, now fixed.  We have had to buy a new television, phones and await the next thing! October has been a challenge!!

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“Sublime or Ridiculous?”

September has been a busy, interesting month with another week in Bristol, a day at the seaside, visits to a garden exhibition and a beautifully restored National Trust House plus seeing two movies.  On top: lunches with friends, book club, yoga and singing, also your support, all helpful positive things to relieve some of the fatigue which is improving slowly. I keep telling you all how lucky I feel, not complacently I hope.

Sublime may seem a strange heading for a blog but it has different meanings, my use refers to art, architecture and inspiring achievements. Ridiculous is obvious although as you will see it held a few surprises! My first example was an exhibition of sculpture in a local National Trust garden.  I shared an exhibition set here with you last year of stained glass flower sculptures but this time was very different.  Several of the metal pieces were awesome and delicate, others were ridiculous. The setting enhanced the work too. I could not find what technique the artist used to create the sculptures  and ran out of time sorry. I hope you enjoy the images I’ve included.

My week in Bristol was based in a different part of the city, more multicultural and I met some fascinating characters on my journeys into the centre by bus.  As I mentioned last time I love Bristol,  the highlight was visiting St. Nicholas Market with my grandchildren and all eating different street food from various countries then sharing them. Memories of the day remain and I cherish them.

I visited Clevedon with a friend to photograph the pier which was a feat of Victorian Engineering. Boats still pick up from the pier to take visitors along the North Somerset Coast, a trip I am determined to make. The houses epitomise the wealth of past eras, some from trade in Bristol and people becoming upwardly mobile. Sunshine made the day more enjoyable with the reflections from the water and feel good factor.  I hope the photos help you to capture the beauty of Clevedon Pier.

We moved on to Tyntesfield, a Victorian country house and estate lived in and expanded by four generations.  I originally visited 10 years ago and the changes were amazing.  The interior of the house reflected the Victorian interests in art, technology and innovation.  Many original pieces of furniture remain all beautifully restored by National Trust experts and volunteers. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to visit the gardens but did pop into the Church which was a history lesson itself. Two photos give a glimpse if you are ever in this part of the world. Tyntesfield would be on my sublime list.

Finally, the ridiculous. By chance on our wanderings with my son and family we came upon an exhibition in the Centrespace Gallery which houses temporary exhibitions. Umbrella Covers were the subject of this fascinating exhibit. Nancy 3 Hoffman Director and Curator of the Umbrella Cover Museum hosted our visit.  Nancy 3 is the current Guiness World Record Holder for Umbrella Covers.  Her home and museum are on Peaks Island, off the coast of Maine. A true eccentric and enthusiast, not as ridiculous as we initially thought. Nancy 3 played her accordion and we joined her in singing the Umbrella Song.  My grandsons were fascinated. We all had great fun, do check out Nancy 3’s website.

The Movies were Dunkirk and Victoria and Abdul, very different but both thought provoking. Quite a month!

 

 

http://www.umbrellacovermuseum.org

Moving On

 

The Big Birthday has passed amidst great celebrations that lasted over a month! Guess what – I feel so lucky still and mysteriously the same person inside as I did at 69! Maybe a bit wiser!!

Food played a huge part as I dined in “different countries” from Spain, France, Mexico, America as well as Britain. Cuisine I mean of course. I’ve eaten fish, tapas, burritos, vegetarian, pizza, pasta and delicious deserts. I have tasted some wonderful wines, cocktails and gins. Now back to reality, lose extra weight and think about the next decade.

Moving on is necessary for many reasons. One year on from my breast cancer I  had my first check up and all seems well thank goodness.  I have had time to reflect on the events of last year helped by a week house sitting in Bristol, which remains one of my favourite cities. Peter stayed at home so I had lots of time to think and work out what next.  I made a list of priorities which I hope to tick off as I put them into practice. Number one is to use what time I have left (who knows what time any of has?) to live my life to the full but in ways that may not seem to be achieving all the time. Small things like walking, seeing friends, yoga, my choir and my family are valuable experiences in my tapestry that I weave and expand daily.  Some of you might wonder why I talk about these as achievements but it is easy to take things for granted so I plan to improve therefore achieve. I realise I was in danger of being in a rut. Fatigue is a lasting side effect of radiotherapy and it has become easier at times to say to myself I feel so tired I can’t be bothered but when I try I always feel better – small steps maybe but good.  Not great achievements but an important lesson. Learn to value what one has particularly oneself.

So in Bristol I did some things I have wanted to do for a while. I took a trip around the Docks in the sunshine and viewed the city from a different angle. The Matthew replica of John Cabot’s ship that sailed the Atlantic in the 15th century and “discovered” Newfoundland, now part of Canada, was especially interesting from water level.  The Docks, many converted to museums, galleries, cafes and apartments echo with the bustling commercial wealth the city.  Now technology rules but a sense of community was essential for daily life and is part of the area just different. The SS Great Britain, one of Brunel’s great developments, is now a museum but it was huge when viewed from water level.  An interesting commentary was provided by a young man in charge of the boat which brought past events and people to life.  One thing that was pleasing about the trip was the number of different nationalities just in a short hour who shared the experience with me.  Despite some of the awful events over past weeks we all enjoyed being together sharing a good time.  I revisited Bristol Gallery to see a few of my favourite paintings, also the Red Lodge parts of which are Tudor with a replica knot garden. I walked back through the city streets, multicultural, busy, varied and interesting.  A fascinating cityscape.

One guilty secret of my time: I “binge read” a series of crime books by Peter May known as the Enzo Files, 6 books! Home now I look forward to the challenges ahead.

BIG Birthday

On 30th July I will be 70 years old! Wow!! I wondered what other key events happened in 1947, my birth being important to my family but what mattered to the world at large. Google enabled me to find a site which listed several key things: The Kon-Tiki Expedition; India and Pakistan became separate Nations; The Cold War started between East and West (lasting 40 years, more than half my lifetime); Sound Barrier was broken; Polaroid Land Camera demonstrated; Bell Laboratories invented the Transistor; UK Coal Industry was Nationalised; US “Marshall Plan” for Europe was announced. Many other things too but some of the above affected my life in subtle ways and the repercussions of others are still happening.

I remember my first radio, a Roberts transistor radio in a red case on a turntable to get best reception, key moment for me. The Polaroid camera I had in the early 70s, some family photos still remain though faded. The Cold War hung like a dark shadow with the threat of nuclear war and the strange information leaflets telling us to get under the kitchen table covered with a thick blanket! Oh and to stockpile tins!! Unbelievable today.  My children have asked me at times if it was a real threat, it was.  Everyday life continued but amongst some of the current world events it now seems unreal. I am sure some of you will have similar memories.

Normally zero birthdays don’t bother me, like any other birthday there is the promise of a new year ahead with good and bad things, rough and smooth patches but continuing friendships and creating new memories. Three score years and ten are somehow different! So how am I celebrating? I had my wonderful trip to Venice. Next there is a month long list of events with friends and family so how lucky am I? Lunches, dinners, visits and treats with dear friends, these have begun already! Our yearly choir concert was a marker for me of the past year’s health challenges and the support the choir have given me. It was a huge success raising £750 (not sure of dollars sorry) for a children’s bereavement charity called Winston’s Wish. We were ecstatic so went to the pub to celebrate! Yesterday a friend organised a Cocktail and Afternoon Tea, very British as we were in a marquee in the pouring rain! An Italian Meal with yoga friends Tuesday, Supper at a local pub Friday with my Book Club, lunch with darling Trisha at a Lavender Farm will be special. A big family get together in August when we can all be together, three generations of my family. On the day Peter and I have decided to have a quiet time of reflection, special meal at home and just enjoy the fact we are together after 45 years.  Seriously, I do feel very lucky and blessed.

Thank you too for reading my ramblings and your continuing support.

Flaming June

June has been a surprising month not at all what I had anticipated.  Finally, Peter and I managed another 3 night break away after months of me suggesting places from Spain, Croatia, France, Scotland and back to Wales.  On Monday 12th we sat having a “sundowner” when I mentioned an apartment I had found in Bowness-on-Windermere in The Lake District, Cumbria.  “Book it” says Peter, the only available date was Friday 16th for 3 nights, yes the following Friday!  It was available so I grabbed it.  Well someone was guiding us as it was a beautiful, attic conversion in an old house in the woods above Bowness with a great view of Lake Windermere from the sitting room window.  With stops the journey took over 5 hours (nothing to our friends in US) but to us Brits it’s a long way!!  Everything is comparative, we never thought about 6 hour round trip to airport when we lived in Spain.  It was well worth the effort. Friday evening we had a superb meal in a local bistro with good wine. Suitably relaxed we walked the half a mile uphill back to our retreat.  It took a long time but a comfy bed awaited so a good incentive!

Saturday morning we woke to brilliant sunshine which lasted the whole weekend.  Hot but fresh – perfect.  After a breakfast of fresh Danish and good coffee in a local bakery we got a boat (cruise boat) across the lake (one mile across) to Lakeside.  A steam train then runs alongside the lake for about 5 miles which was a real treat.  We stayed on and made the return trip, full of nostalgia for me as I remember steam train journeys as a child.  Boat trip back to Bowness, much busier now with tourists of many nationalites.  We managed to find a wonderful deli run by a young couple with a range of meats, cheese, pickles, olives etc but we decided on pastrami sandwiches, the best I’ve had since I was in Manhattan over 10 years ago – well worth the wait!  We found a secluded sheltered spot and ate our picnic over-looking the lake.  We were unsure what to do next but decided on a movie, air conditioned theatre and friendly staff.  Popcorn too.  The movie was Churchill starring Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson which has had some bad reviews but we enjoyed it.  We could have booked a three course meal at a local restaurant  for afterwards (including the movie ticket) but saw the deal after we had seen movie!  I was tired so maybe not best time for a big meal but I thought it was an enterprising idea for cinema and restaurant.  We had an Italian instead which was just right.  Up the hill again and another great night’s sleep.

Sunday back to the lake but we crossed this time on a small ferry which pulls itself over on wires, I don’t understand how it works but it was a great way to cool down!  On the other side we walked up to a restored Claife Viewing Station originally built in the 1790s which had wonderful views of the lake. Next we walked 4 miles (and back!) alongside the lake through woods,  families were picnicking on the “beaches” generally enjoying the rare sunshine.  It all reminded Peter of Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie, Ohio, where he attended a conference.  Some of you will be familiar with this place.  Back to the deli and we stocked up for evening meal in the apartment after packing so much into 2 days.  One treat awaited for the next morning before returning home. (Note the rare photo of the Smiths together!)

My book club read this month is Haweswater by Sarah Hall.  Coincidentally, Haweswater Reservoir was 20 miles north of us so Peter was happy to divert.  A valley was flooded to create a new reservoir to supply water to Manchester and a dam constructed.  The work commenced in 1929 and was completed in 1940. Inspired by the building of the dam the book is a fictional story about the village of Mardale that was originally in the centre of the farming community, their lives and the impact of the dam.  I was so overcome with the beauty of the place I forgot to take a photo! Peace and tranquillity with all that history under the water.  It was an emotional experience, I have discovered my family originally came from this area in the 1790s so Cumbria remains in my genes.  I recommend the book which is a well researched first novel by a sensitive writer. I’ve also read and enjoyed The Wolf Border Sarah Hall’s latest novel which was also set in Cumbria but begins in Idaho about the re-wilding of wolves the Lake District.

I always feel I’ve been away ages following one of these breaks and think I enjoy them more than longer breaks these days.  Just to note the weather has returned to “normal” for summertime which makes the whole weekend even more special. Another June Surprise was an unexpected lunch with friends at their house. Two added guests arrived which I think will make you smile!

Gallery

“Mish-Mash”

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I have found it difficult this month to write a blog! I had loads of random thoughts (Mish-Mash) about various activities I have done in the past month and cannot focus enough on any of them to develop them fully. … Continue reading

Singing with Macapello Choir

One year ago I told you about my Macapello Choir at a singing day at a big Choir Convention in Bristol, I cannot believe a year has passed but then it has been a challenging year.  Macapello Choir’s latest performance was on Sunday 9th April 2017 at this year’s Choir Convention.  Some of you may remember reading about last year’s Convention where we performed the song we had written ourselves, When Will I See the Sun. This year we managed to be slightly different to all the other choirs by walking onto the stage singing, yes singing and walking! Risky!!  We performed four songs in total. First walking on, two songs whilst on the stage, the fourth as we walked off again, singing! Wow despite our reservations it went down a storm!

The Convention brings together 16 choirs from the south west of England for a day’s singing.  The first part of the day consists of combined singing, about 500 people together, in four part harmonies.  We learn the songs on the day so it is always fun and a great way to meet new people.  We have a lunch break then same format applies.  Four experience musicians lead the day but in the evening each choir performs a variety of songs.  Some choirs were ambitious this year which added to our anxiety levels.  One large choir performed a piece by Bruckner another a piece by Elgar, this is the level of choral societies rather than community choirs so we were suitable impressed.  One group sang a tribute to David Bowie, other performances range from Gospel through Swing to Classical.  Standards vary of course but everyone is enthusiastic and enjoy the performance.  Accolades from one’s peers always feel special.

We had to wait until the second half to perform our songs again making us nervous.  The adrenaline kicks in once we start but our leaders keep reminding us to breath, smile, relax, focus – all at the same time! We began with Well I woke up this morning with my mind set on Freedom … a lively, uplifting gospel song.  We settled ourselves down then sang Your Children which I have told you about before.  Next was our ambitious  Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold one of the themes from the film The Hobbit. The Basses have the lead in this and as we only had 3 we were apprehensive, especially the three guys! Well, we earned a standing ovation.  In shock we walked off the stage singing Famba Naye a rousing African song which many of the audience knew so they sang along with us.  We  managed to keep within the time limit – just – 8 minutes for the whole thing! Our choir leaders Dave and Lisa were over the moon as the other choir leaders congratulated them on our achievement. Sadly I’m not able to share all the sound files.

What a night!  We sang on the coach home although we were exhausted. I love being in my choir as many of you know but an occasion like this makes me feel so proud of a group of people of all ages (top heavy on over 50’s at moment!), backgrounds and skill levels who come together to make such wonderful music.


The venue is beautiful with great acoustics.

 

 

Click here to hear Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold