Friday 22 May 2009

Wonderful last Thursday night

Late last Thursday afternoon I caught a train from Chester to Manchester to meet my husband. On arriving at Chester railway station, late courtesy of the taxi which arrived late to collect me, thinking that I was short of time to purchase my ticket I headed straight for the new fangled automated ticket machine. In my haste to buy a ticket I purchased a return ticket instead of a single.This is the third time that I have used this machine and only once have I managed to purchase the correct ticket. This machine has no instructions and could never be described as user friendly. Realising my mistake, I debated queuing at the ticket office to change the ticket but decided that I did not have the time to join the queue. The risk of missing the train was too great. At Manchester Piccadilly station I was met by my husband. Our intention was to walk towards Manchester Victoria which according to him is a 15 minute walk. Manchester was at its' best. It was raining heavily so I suggested that we wait until it slowed down, but he did not want to do that so we set off. I did manage to get him to shelter when the rain became even heavier, then he had the bright idea of getting a taxi. By now we were already half soaked. We clambered into the taxi and were whisked away to the restaurant that we were aiming for. The evening had not yet started and already three things had gone wrong. But now, that we were in the warm and dry, perhaps things would improve.

We had a very nice Chinese meal swiftly served but no so swiftly that by the time we went out it had stopped raining. Now for the purpose of the trip to Manchester. We headed for the MEN area. We were early. We had a wander around then made our way to our seats. The warm up act came on, on time at 7.30 pm to a half empty arena. Whoever they were, they were so loud that I was vibrating with the music, if you could call it music. After half an hour they left the stage. The lights went up and still the arena was not full. Amazingly for another half an hour the audience casually sauntered in. As I had nothing better to do I quite enjoyed watching them. They came in all shapes and sizes from teenagers, through heavily pregnant to senior citizens, with walking sticks, white sticks and hearing aids - I am not kidding. By 8.30 pm the arena was as full as it was going to get. The lights went out and Eric Clapton and his band took to the stage. For a 64 year old, who lived life in the fast last during his twenties and thirties, he looked very good, with a full head of glossy brown hair, his only concession to ageing appeared to be his trade mark metal rim spectacles. Wearing a casual black, short sleeved shirt and denims he spent two hours on stage performing from his repertoire of hits. My husband is the fan, so I have to say that I did not recognise some of the numbers that he played. However, I did recognise I Shot The Sheriff and Layla which was performed as an easy listening number rather than the raw version which was a hit all those years ago. Then he went on to murder Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Judy Garland would have turned in her grave if she had heard it. And of course, he had to play Wonderful Tonight, the song that he wrote for the model, Patti Boyd who he later married. After an encore, they were gone. Clapton was good and he is still master of the guitar but his voice is not what it was.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Eleventh hour booking

Last week's break had been pencilled in for some time. My husband had taken the time off work and we had planned to go to the Lake District. We had not got round to booking any accommodation and when it became apparent, earlier this year, that we needed to be 'on call' to get my mother into a home, we decided that we would have to do a last minute booking. Last year we made the same plans and were not able to go to the Lake District because my husband was not well. We stayed at home, gardened, went to Ness Botanic Gardens and visited Another Place. Hopefully next time, that we plan to go to the Lake District, will be third time lucky! We needed to go to my mother's bungalow in Sussex, to collect some more clothes and bits and pieces, which meant that the most logical destination would be in the south of England. We had decided on the New Forest and Tunbridge Wells. So we found ourselves, at 11 pm on the last Bank Holiday Monday, trying to book accommodation via the Internet. After a compromise we stuck a pin in the computer screen and booked ourselves two nights in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent and two nights in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest.

After a reasonable journey down to Tunbridge Wells on Tuesday, we checked into the hotel where we were given room number seven, which was called Victoria. It was almost a suite, with a separate sitting room, a good sized bathroom and a large bedroom with an enormous bed. Albert was the next room. After unpacking and a cup of tea we went for a walk around Tunbridge Wells eventually finding The Pantiles - photographed right. This hotel was a good find and we would go back again. The only criticism that I had, was on our first morning we were woken, half an hour before we had set our alarm clock, by an alarm call that we had not booked. After that I unplugged the bedroom phone each night.

On Wednesday morning we drove into Sussex to my mother's bungalow, where we spent a couple of hours sorting out her clothes and shoes. I didn't know that she possessed so many. We left with a suitcase full of clothes, a holdall full of shoes and several other bags of miscellaneous belongings and headed back towards Kent. We had lunch at the Swan at Lamberhurst, where my husband had a Stilton ploughman's and I had a ham sandwich, after which we both felt so full that we could never imagine wanting to eat again.

Then on a perfect sunny May afternoon we set off for Great Dixter - the home and garden of the gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. Over the past few years, as I have worked on our garden at the cottage, I have become a great fan of Christopher Lloyd. This was somewhere that I had never expected to see, as it is about 300 miles from our Cheshire home, so this was to be a real treat and it did not disappoint. From the village of Northiam we followed the signs that took us about a mile down a single track road
until we came upon the house that we have seen
so many times on television gardening programmes. Great Dixter is a 15th century timber framed hall house. We were allowed into three rooms. The construction and the beams are amazing. My husband was particularly impressed. Considering the time of year I had not expected too much of the garden, but it was an absolute riot of colour and the planting is exquisite. I took so many photographs that it has been very difficult to select just one for this post. It was the nearest thing to gardening heaven. After this anything else was going to be a let down.

On Thursday morning we set off for the New Forest. We were there by lunchtime and spent a cool damp afternoon wandering around Lyndhurst. It is an attractive little town full of estate agents, tea shops, charity shops, antique shops and gift shops not seen in the Chester area unless they are there and I simply do not see them, because I live here.

The following day the weather was no better so we opted for a drive around the New Forest to see the places of interest. The New Forest is England's newest National Park. It is busy market towns and picturesque villages of thatched cottages and old world charm with stunning scenery, but we were not seeing it at it's best. Nevertheless where ever we went we saw lilac, hawthorn, laburnum, horse chestnut, clematis, bluebells and rhododendrons in flower. Then there are the ponies and the cattle grazing freely. Pictured right is the pretty village of Burley, where we stopped for lunch.

There is history to the New Forest, too. In the churchyard in Lyndhurst is the grave of Alice Hargreaves (formerly Liddell) who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The village of Sway was the setting for Captain Marryat's Children of the New Forest and in the churchyard of the tiny village of Minstead is the tomb of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

The hotel in Lyndhurst was not worth a mention. Needless to say we will not be going back there. We enjoyed our break. We had too much to eat and too much to drink and now it is good to be back to normality, whatever that is.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

One becomes two

When I posted The Winds of Change, a few months ago for a photo tag, several of you asked to see a photograph of the tree when it was in blossom. So here you are and as you will see it is not one tree but two!

The tree with the white blossom comes into flower about two weeks before the tree with the pink blossom and by the time the tree with the pink blossom is in flower the white blossom tree has finished flowering. I took these photographs a couple of weeks ago and I apologise for the quality of them. I cannot try to improve on them for another 50 weeks as at the moment most of the blossom is lying on our patio!

Hazy daze update

This last week has been more difficult than the previous week. When I telephoned the home in desparation, after Easter, the only room that they could offer me was in the nursing home on the same site as the residential home. So for the first week my mother was in the nursing home. Then a week ago now, they moved her into the residential home. This made her more confused then ever and very angry. She thought that she was in an hotel, when she was in the nursing home. Now she realises that she is not in an hotel, but is not sure where she is.

Later today we are going away for a few days - back in a week's time.