Saturday, 26 June 2010

Race Week and The Hoppings

I can not believe I am writing this! It is too hot in the garden so I left the patio still tufty with a few remaining grassy cracks, moved to weed the border in the shadow of the beech tree, had an al fresco sandwich and have now moved indoors to wait for the sun to drop from its midday zenith.

We Ladies walked at the site of Gateshead's Garden Festival, held some years ago; we could see fields of poppies but unfortunately quite a lot of dog muck too- why is it that some folks think if they are at the beach or countryside they don't have to clear up after their dogs?

Race Week in Newcastle is a big deal; in bygone times the Temperance Society set up a 'dance' (The Hoppings) or fair on the Town Moor in objection and opposition to the gambling which happened at Race Week.... (Races = from which we get Grandstand Road between the Duke's Moor and Town Moor). Race Week is the last full week in June and the Hoppings come every year forming the largest travelling Fair in Europe. We walked over the 3+ aisles of side shows, roundabouts, waltzers, dodgem cars, candyfloss (& fudge....& chips!!) stalls; it is an assault on the senses with noise, lights, colour, smells, caravans, vardos,showmen, gypsies and masses of visitors. I missed J cos we always go in the freak show- isn't that terrible, I hear you say! He has gone in there curious since he was little but hayfever & age prevent him from coming with us these days- sad!

The Northumberland Plate goes on for 3? days this week at Gosforth Park Race Course; today is Ladies Day and tonight taxiless, butterfly-coloured girls will tiptoe gingerly along the Great North Road's gravelled paths back to the city (via the 3 Mile Inn) clutching feathery, flowered fascinators in one hand and diamante strappy sandals hanging from their other hot little mitt!

I hope they have their factor 50 on as it has been a blistering hot day and we have all had a reminder when D3 bravely had 2 moles removed at the RVI. I am gravystained between my toes- I will get the hang of this nonstreak ,streaky mousse eventually

D3 has also howled at me as I finished 'Cold Mountain' by Charles Frazier.... I have optimistically trudged in all weathers and in all sorts of terrain with Inman in that book!!!!! She knew! Now I have started to read 'The Bookseller of Kabul' by Asne Seierstad

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Grand Tour

'So where have you been?' I hear you say! I have been gallivanting hither and thither....... amid fields in England which are wheat and poppy filled... and verges which are overgrown with dog roses.

I missed the Blaydon Race- 'twas on the 9th of June.....'

I went to Sicily via D2&M's in London. Sicily had a heatwave while we were there; it is an island with culture fusion- strategically placed in mid Med so everyone wants it.... taking it from the 2 indigenous tribes were....Greeks ,Romans, Carthaginians, Arabs, Byzantines, Spanish, Normans.... and it wasn't till the Unity of Italy in the late? 1800s that it was brought into Italy. The building styles reflect all the occupiers. The Valley of the Temples near Agrigento had survived from 500BC; Pizza Armerina??? (oops- it was too hot to remember the name properly ) has the biggest area of mosaics in the world; the Roman tessellations eg of hunting scenes and bikini-clad concubines were magnificent but spoiled by a lack of tourist infrastructure and Italian mayhem. Monreale cathedral was beautiful with fewer dusty madonnas than usual and SO much gold sandwiched between glass in order to create wall mosaics like you have never seen- adorned further with magnificent white flower arrangements for a wedding.... From Naxos (wherein we spent much time in a seafront bar) we visited Taormina (wherein we spent much time in a bar!)-rather touristy but being geet culture-vultures we went to visit the roman amphitheatre. Mount Etna towered above the island but we decided not to climb another volcano.Syracuse provided us with a fun,eating & dancing boat trip. Guides Susan,Luigi, and Marie Louise were excellent and our group really bonded & were very caring of each other.

We came back through Gatwick and via a 'Could you just pop into my ex-house in West London and pick up a few things I left there please?'!!trip right round the M25; thus midnight saw us still on the A1 northbound.

Morning saw us southbound on the A1 to Brimham Rocks to see J&J.

Church Gate Farm is the best B&B I have ever stayed in; wonderful hostess, breakfast, bedroom.... I could just go on and on..... We did a tour of 'life below stairs' in Beningborough Hall (National Trust); We called in at Nun Monkton village with village green,duck pond and maypole (huge!)and the pub 'The Alice Hawthorne ' provided us with delicious food.

The following day we visited Ripley for fudge, icecream and a tour of Ripley Castle.

The washing machine is working overtime again but being knickerless is worth all the time away.

We have been back down to London in the company of shrieking S. African vuzuvulas (is that what they are called?)and the commentary on the appalling play of the English World Cup team; inspite of the hollering of commentators over the top of said noise, we had a lovely weekend all together.

Oh no! Today is the longest day when the sun is at its maximum up north- tomorrow the days begin to shorten towards winter... aaaaagh! no! We are still having sun , sun and more sun; fingers crossed it stays this way this week as forecast.

On the gallivant

When I stepped out with a washbasket onto the back step this morning, I was greeted by the faint drift of perfume. Sweetpeas? Yellow roses climbing the back fence?
I am home.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Long days of summer

The days are long, sunny and Bank Holidays provide 3 day weekends; up North the sun never really sets- there is still a glow of light in the sky right through the night. Yet the days are not long enough for me! That said I have loved the full house and young busyness...

The borders are filled with small yellow & orange Welsh poppies,columbine (aqualegia), bluebells and peaony roses; the trees are heavy with blossom of yellow laburnum , purple and white lilac, pink of sweet chestnut and creamy white blossom of whitebeam and chestnut while our rotary dryer is 2 days heavy with duvet covers, sheets and towels from all the visitors. The call of the ironing basket (standing counter high off the floor!) is loud but the call of my garden is louder- I need to be out in the sunlit lawn and borders weeding ; yesterday I planted up troughs of geraniums, added strawberry plants to those H gave me in my posh planter; I earthed up the 3rd tub of spuds and planted cauliflower plants (in a tub formerly containing our home-done compost). I should show you some photos of this abundant and verdant vegetation but there isn't time at present to download the camera (yes I have done it!)& this computer which A. kindly sorted for me- probably on a temporary basis A.said-is playing up with weird messages threatening 1 hour before things happen to it! A bit like Charlies' Angels?... This will self destruct in 10 seconds....

Last week we walked from Matfen Schoolrooms Teashop- brilliant cheese & bacon scones & lovely people; Matfen Garden Fete is well worth a visit on July 11th; the earth was parched & cracked. One night last week we had much needed rain which topped the water butt up- I labour nightly with my watering can, watering pots & troughs of pansies etc & also filling the bird bath (how the blackbirds splash in it- now with their fluffy babies- and how I hate the neighbours' stalking cats... I don't mind if they eat for survival but well fed torture I loathe). We have lots of nests in the garden- pigeons, goldfinch (H1 is thrilled with that one!), blackbirds.

Visitors started arriving on Friday night for D3's annual Eurovision party- an awful song so we knew we wouldn't win (we were last!) but the best party ever. I worked feverishly at food, beds & cleaning. Where do people get their ideas & hatmaking skills?! I chose Iceland so made myself a volcano hat (with pyroclasts and ash cloud). On Sunday a group of us Quaser Lasered- such fun- but in view of the inexplicable, sad events of Cumbria, I don't think I want to write about the fun of shooting people in a pleasure park game. Later we played 221B Baker Street,Stop the Bus & other games while eating Ferrero Rochers and chocolates which the Ambassadors-R. from Gateshead and M. from London-brought me.

Monday Bank Holiday was sunny so we all went up to the Breamish Valley for a picnic; we built dams across the rocky river Breamish, played quoits and went to the Ingram church Garden Fete-quintessentially English with Northumbrian pipes, straw hats, coconut shies, scones, teas, Pimms, sunshine and tombola.Later we headed back for Sunday dinner (on a Monday!)and boule.

I managed to find time amid visitors and washing to finish 'The Portrait of an Unknown Woman' - a book which manages to tell the tale of Thomas More's family, Henry V111's desperate struggle for an heir, the Reformation and Holbein's paintings laden with secret symbols. I have also just finished 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' too- a simple, must-read book by John Boyne- let me know what you think- it won't take you long to read it but.......