Recently, while my mum was staying with us (she lives a couple of hours away on the coast), we decided to spend the day in the nearby Georgian city of Bath. The weather was absolutely glorious, so instead of focusing on shopping as we usually do, we decided to act as tourists for the day and take in some of Bath’s major attractions.
First we visited Bath Abbey. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past the Abbey and enjoyed various concerts inside it, but acting the tourist I discovered that it’s one of the most visited places in the south west of England, and one of the largest examples of perpendicular Gothic architecture in the country. It was founded in the 7th Century and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th Century, and has been a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. In 973, the first king of England, King Edgar, was crowned here, and the service set the precedent for the coronation of all future Kings and Queens of England.
After admiring the Abbey, we decided to treat ourselves to morning coffee and a Bath bun at the Pump Rooms just across the grounds. Built in 1706, the Pump Rooms form part of the Roman Baths, and still retains some of the original Georgian features. While dining, visitors are treated to music provided by an excellent pianist, and there’s the opportunity to ‘take the waters’ of the hot springs still poured via the original marble vase, now over 200 years old. The waters are said to have curative powers. (sidenote: it tastes foul).
The Pump Rooms were very fashionable amongst 18th Century high society. Jane Austen mentioned it in some of her novels “Every creature in Bath was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours”, and it provided inspiration for other notable authors, namely Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein while staying nearby.
As we wandered around the city, my mum was fascinated by the living statue street performers. But on such a hot day she was very concerned that they were out so long in the sun without a break. Knowing my mum’s caring nature, I had the impression that at any moment we would be heading along to the nearest supermarket to order a supply of water for distribution amongst Bath’s outdoor performing artists! 🙂
We thoroughly enjoyed our day as tourists, but we did manage to get some shopping done, too. Why change the habit of a lifetime?
Smarty Pants … the new nickname AJ awarded Ms. Vivvy after she passed her Kennel Club Good Citizen’s Gold Award last week. She is incredibly pleased with herself, and I swear she knows that she’s done something of note, LOL.
It was quite a gruelling assessment (if not for the dogs, it was for the owners – phew!). We started at 10am and completed at around 11.45am. The tasks included: walking to heel along a busy road and not getting distracted by cars, people, noise and other dogs; A free run on the field where they had to come to an emergency stop when told (Vivvy was brilliant, and stopped immediately even when a swift decided to swoop down across her eye line at precisely the moment I shouted ‘stop’); and to retrieve a toy and bring it back to the owner. It also included being handled by someone unknown to the dog, leaving a bowl of food until given permission (which she’s been trained to do since puppyhood), and weaving in an out of bollards while staying close to heel.
There was also a two minute stay, thirty seconds of which required the owners to go out of sight of their dogs – something we’ve been working on for a while with little success, because usually as soon as I go out of sight she comes to find me, LOL. But bless her, she didn’t move an inch on the day.
So, our golden girl now has the hat-trick: Bronze, Silver and Gold. We’re very proud of her.
Where to now? Well, we’ve been thinking about applying for her to become a P.A.T dog (Pets as Therapy). When my late aunt was in a care home, we took Vivvy and she was absolutely amazing. Lots of the residents wanted to make a fuss of her and she absolutely loved it. She was very calm and it was lovely watching her bring a smile to people’s faces. There is also the opportunity to work with children who have problems reading. It’s been discovered that when children read to dogs their confidence and reading ability greatly improves. So there’s much to think about and many options open to explore.
Whatever she does next, we know she’ll be a little star. We couldn’t be more proud of our Golden Girl.
Taking a well earned rest!
I love napkins/serviettes. Not just the crisp white linen varieties found in restaurants and at formal dinners, but the pretty paper versions. They make me happy. I know that sounds daft but sometimes it’s the small things scattered throughout the day that bring a smile. I tend to pick up packs of paper serviettes while out and about, and almost always bring them home from trips away, both home and abroad.
While at lunch last week, Jane (after looking at me sideways when I admitted my fetish for paper napkins) helped me demonstrate a particularly pretty variety used by our eating establishment. And no, we hadn’t imbibed too much wine 🙂
Napkins/serviettes have been around a long time. The first napkins were used by the ancient Romans who used pocket-sized pieces of fabric to mop their brows while eating. The Spartans used lumps of dough to wipe their hands, a practice which morphed into sliced bread used by the ancient Greeks. Paper napkins came into use after the invention of paper in ancient China during the 2nd century BCE.
The practical soon became an art form, too. Elaborate napkin folding techniques date back to the time of Louis XIV of France and to 16th century Florence. Today, it is not uncommon to find intricate folding designs both in restaurants and at private functions.
Who knew the simple napkin/serviette could have such an interesting history?
I love spring. It’s my favourite time of year. Not that you’d know spring had arrived yet in the UK as, after a short warm and sunny spell last week, we still have chilly days and some strong winds. But, all that aside, the garden seems to be springing (ha) to life.
One of the best things about this time of year are the colourful displays in the garden. Not only bulbs I remember planting, and those lovely little spring shrubby flowers, but a few surprises, too. I don’t know how they get here, but every year there seems to be something I don’t remember planting or seeing before, obviously courtesy of the birds dropping seeds? Or seeds flying about on the wind? I’m not sure, but I’m very happy to welcome most of the new things in the garden. And the best things is they always seem to plant themselves in exactly the place where I would have put them. Spooky.
For instance, this beautiful flowering shrub/tree arrived a couple of years ago. It sprung up right where we can see it from the kitchen window, and we love it. Don’t know what it is, but it’s so pretty.
This year I’ve noticed some lovely ground geraniums popping up in a space by the window, so again when they flower we’ll have a good view from the living room. Of course, Ms. Vivvy had to investigate this new arrival to check out if it’s edible or just for show. She wasn’t especially pleased when she discovered it was the latter.
As spring morphs into summer I’ll be keeping a check to see what other new delights await. What about you? Any flowers ever arrived in your outside space that surprised and delighted you?
I’ve just taken up a new hobby – photography. Well, it’s not technically new since I’ve had an interest for many years, but lately I’ve been doing more of it and find it increasingly enjoyable.
Creatively, writing has become all consuming, so I wanted something I could pick up and put down as a kind of switch-off from the head-pounding that comes from battling with plot holes and building character arcs. Photography fills that role and takes me out of my head and into the lens, so to speak.
In the past, whenever I took on something new or got enthused about it, I headed straight for the how-to books, or the search engines, and threw myself in at the deep end in an effort to learn everything possible about it. But not this time. I want to learn organically. So, no books, no courses, no internet searches (well, maybe the odd one). It’ll just be me and the camera. Learning together.
Doors and gates have always fascinated me. They beg the question ‘what’s behind there?’ and off goes my imagination (yes, the writer is never far away). Playing around with visual effects is fun, too. This gate from a neighboring village, found while out on a walk with Vivvy, is pretty romantic, but change the hue and tone and it becomes almost spooky. Two potential stories in the offing for the price of one snap. That’s not a bad investment of time and effort.
Of course, if I’m ever in any need of visual inspiration there’s my stalwart companion and favorite photographic subject always ready and willing to oblige. Especially if there’s a treat in her immediate future.
It’s been just over a year since I joined an adult ballet class and I have to say that I’ve absolutely loved every moment of every class. Like many of us, I attended dance classes as a child but put those dreams away as I grew up and the realities of life intervened. But I never lost the love of ballet and have taken the opportunity to see as many live performances as possible over the years.
The classes I attend are friendly and relaxed with a great teacher and fab mix of fellow dancers. We always enjoy a good laugh or two, while doing our best to improve each week. Alongside the sheer joy and pleasure of dancing, it is such good exercise and has many benefits. Some benefits I’ve found are improved balance, better coordination, stronger legs and ankles, and more flexible hips. I’m sure it’s good for the memory, too, as I now seem to remember new step sequences and routines far easier than when I first started.
I’m so glad I took the plunge last year and enrolled for the class. Just goes to show it’s never too late to rekindle old loves and pleasures. Never in a million years did I ever envision that I’d be arabesque-ing and petit jete-ing (or at least attempting to) at this stage of my life.
So, this very enthusiastic amateur will leave you with a look at how the professionals do it, with my favourite dance from my favourite ballet: the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker. Enjoy.