Friday, 25 August 2017

End of Summer Catch Up

The long school holidays are coming to an end now and routine will be back soon.  I'm ready for this now, a bit restless and also keen to escape the noise and disruption at home. Work has now started on our downstairs kitchen extension and this is the view outside the back window.



As I write this the builders are filling the large trench with wheelbarrows of concrete from a lorry parked on the road - tough work and it will take them a long time.  Over the past few days I have developed huge respect for the two men who are here all day.  I've watched them demolish the existing porch, fill several skips with rubble and dig the foundations.  They had a mini digger to help with the digging but otherwise it is just hard, dirty and fairly unpleasant physical work. Despite this, they are friendly and uncomplaining. Makes me feeling guilty about moaning about my own work, which is really very enjoyable most of the time, especially when viewed from the perspective of the summer holiday.

The last few weeks have been fairly quiet and uneventful.  I've been attempting to improve my fitness by going to the gym more often and after writing this I'm off to Aqua Aerobics which is a bit of variety.  I'm not that keen on treadmills and machines and prefer classes, my favourite being Zumba, where I generally make a fool of myself but don't care much as it is good fun. We had one evening out to another Storyhouse production - 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in Chester's Grosvenor Park. I'm always wary of rain on these occasions but luckily it was a lovely clear evening if a bit chilly: we were prepared with blankets.   Another excellent production, really inventive with the fairies being represented by...... cut-off red rubber gloves waved around.  Sounds crazy, but it worked. The ending was really magical as the skies darkened and the lights came on.


Theatre in the Grosvenor Park
We also had a day trip to Anglesey mainly  to pick up Kate who had been staying with a friend on a caravan park there.  En route we called in Caernarfon where I'd never been and had a walk around the pretty town and the outskirts of the castle - couldn't go in as we had the dog with us.  Then we had a leisurely drive around the Anglesey coast, stopping for lunch by a beach in Rhosneigr.  Wales is so beautiful - we should explore it further. I've resolved to take more advantage of all the the lovely places to visit nearer home n the next few years.

Husband and half of dog at Caernarfon Castle.  


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Summer Outings: Dunkirk and NGS visits

I'm trying to get back to my habit of weekly blogging. No excuses really as I have lots of time at the moment with three more weeks of summer holidays before we return to school.  I'm making the most of my time of this year, mixing the usual list of household tasks with more pleasant activities.

On Friday evening we went to see Dunkirk at the local Vue, paying the extra for the IMAX which promises a better experience because of the bigger screen and superior sound quality as recommended by the reviews.  It was worth it: I felt completely 'immersed' in the action as Mark Kermode described in his review, with the sound of the gunfire seeming to come from below us.  This isn't my usual kind of film - I prefer more dialogue and usually dislike nonstop action - I despise Bond films for example.   Kate had seen the with a friend just on a standard screen a couple of days before us and she said she felt she was there and didn't notice the time passing when she watched.   The big draw for the younger female audience was Harry Styles, who plays one of the young soldiers, trying desperately to escape and behaving in a fairly ruthless and unpleasant manner while doing so.   Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance also appeared, though there were no real star parts as there were three interlinked stories and the action shifts from one to the other.  This was sometimes confusing but I didn't get so lost that it was frustrating.  I also usually object to blood and gore and I suppose this is where the director Nolan made compromises in his attempt to capture the reality of the soldiers' experience. Although there were plenty of explosions, gunfire sinking ships and dead bodies, none of them were badly mutilated, so the film was awarded a 12A.  Go and see it if you can before it finishes on the big screen.

A totally different outing this weekend was a trip to another garden.  I've got the little yellow booklet provided by the NGS, the National Garden Scheme, which arranges for people to open their gardens to visitors for charity.  Every Sunday this summer I have tried to visit one of these and this week it was Abbeywood, not a private garden this time but somewhere which is a wedding venue.  But one of the best gardens I visited was actually walking distance from home, a small suburban gardens which backs onto the railway and was absolutely packed with plants.  Abbeywood was full of dahlias which used to be popular when I was a child in NI, but fell out of fashion for a while.  Now they are everywhere - B&Q had rows of colourful pots when I went there the other day.  We also went to Eaton Hall, home of the new Duke of Westminster, who is 26 and apparently the 9th richest man in England. The garden is open for charity four times a year and is very impressive.   I loved the rose gardens - there are four with different colour themes and the kitchen garden.  I'd dragged Kate along that day, promising cake and she was less impressed, thinking it disgraceful that one family has so much wealth. Here are some not terribly good phone photos which will give you an impression of the gardens I have visited.  The first four are from Abbeywood, the others Eaton Hall.














Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Summer Outings: Julius Caesar at Storyhouse



It’s been a year since we moved into our new house close to Chester town centre.  I do miss being close to the countryside and my more peaceful garden but this is outweighed by the fact that we can now walk most places we want to go.  This summer holiday I have been taking advantage of this more, going to all sorts of events in Chester, which I may not have bothered with if I had to find a parking space first.
So in the last couple of weeks I have visited our new library/theatre/cinema Storyhouse on numerous occasions. I dragged slightly reluctant Kate to see a performance of Julius Caesar (Guardian review here - Chester doesn't often get a mention so I feel quite proud.) Kate enjoyed it in the end and so did I.  I sometimes feel a little ashamed to admit that I don’t tend to enjoy performances of Shakespeare’s plays much, but this was an exception, probably because I have never taught it. It began in the auditorium outside the theatre where the audience formed part of the crowd greeting Caesar as if he were a victorious politician.  Echoes of Donald Trump. Then we all took our seats in the theatre and watched him address the crowds.  I also liked the scene where Caesar does his morning yoga routine while his wife tries to persuade him not to go to the senate on the Ides of March. .  It was all modern dress and Mark Antony was played by a woman which some people in the audience didn’t like.  I thought she was very good, and especially convincing in the scene when she changes the crowd’s response to Caesar’s death through her powerful speech. The performance has now transferred to the open air theatre in Grosvenor Park.  I’m not sure how they will recreate it there without lighting and the clever device which provided blood for the murder scene by dropping it from above.

I've also been to a poetry workshop at Storyhouse and an exhibition of modern art in the cathedral. But I'll keep these to another post.