Wednesday 20 July 2011


When we returned from Amsterdam back in May we had five weeks at home before we were off again.

I had expected that the time would fly by and it did. By now it was the second week in June. I am not sure which gave me the bigger headache, getting the garden ready to survive a week without any attention or deciding which clothes to take away with me for our unpredictable English weather.

We set off late on Saturday morning, destination Cornwall, stopping en route at my alma mater, where one of my university flat mates still lives with her husband. Then North Devon where husband's grandmother used to have a house. So first stop Bath, where we stayed two nights. Late afternoon we managed to have a walk around which gave me the chance to take some photographs and immerse myself in the once familiar surroundings. Here is the abbey with the Roman Baths in the foreground.

By the time that we reached the Royal Crescent the sky had clouded over and looked to be threatening rain. At that point we returned to our hotel as we were without coats or an umbrella.

Later we enjoyed a meal and a good evening with my flat mate and her husband. Sunday was a very wet day. So wet that we spent the afternoon in our hotel room reading the Sunday papers, which is actually quite a luxury as it usually takes me until about Wednesday to read them. On Monday morning we headed off to the village of Parracombe in North Devon. Husband wanted to see the house that his grandmother had owned and I had never been there so it was all new to me. Having arrived at our destination we decided that we would deposit our luggage at the hostelry where we where staying before going to investigate the village. If only I had known what I was letting myself in for.

The Hunters Inn (above) where we were to spend the night was accessed from the main road by a single track road with no passing spaces. Luckily we did not meet anything coming in the other direction. Afterwards I found that there is another slightly wider road to the inn. As you may have realised it is fairly isolated which meant that we had a peaceful night, a good meal and a bit too much to drink!

Next morning we had a late breakfast, then set off for our final destination of St Austell in Cornwall where we arrived early afternoon. This was to be the best day weatherwise. After settling ourselves into our hotel where we had this view over Carlyon Bay from our bedroom window, we went for a walk along the coast path.
The following morning we awoke to blue sky and sunshine. We set off to the Lost Gardens of Heligan armed with anoraks and umbrellas and it was not long before needed them. I am sure that these gardens look better in the sun but the sleeping Mud Maid

and the Giant's Head were oblivious to the damp weather.

By the afternoon the sun was out again and we stopped off at the picturesque fishing village of Mevagissey

on our way back to St Austell. Thursday again dawned bright and sunny but the rain clouds rolled in even sooner than the previous day. Fortunately this was the day that we had decided to visit the Eden Project, much of which is under cover in the biomes which was just as well, as there were several downpours whilst we were there.

That afternoon we visited the attractive port of Fowey.

Friday, our last day in Cornwall, dawned wet and windy and that is how it stayed all day. Eventually we plucked up the courage to venture out and took ourselves off to St Mawes and Truro. At St Mawes the wind blew my umbrella inside out and we took refuge in a coffee shop. Truro was thoroughly wet and miserable. On Saturday we made the long drive back home.

We were home for five days. Just enough  time to wash two suitcases full of clothes, go to work for two days and do some more washing before packing a bag to head off down to Surrey on the Friday. We were staying at The Ship in Weybridge where we had our wedding reception, twenty years ago almost to the day. We had a good journey down and stopped off at the Royal Horticultural Society's Wisley garden to stretch our legs.

The next day we were off to Wimbledon. We had tickets for the Centre Court. As we had guessed our seats were up in the gods under the roof. They were actually the back row. We had to climb about five flights of stairs to get to them. I suppose that we had what you would call a birds eye view of the tennis. This is the view with Roger Federer serving.

I was very surprised when he lost the following week as he looked to be in a class of his own. From our vantage point I began to understand why the tennis commentators wax lyrical about his game. We had a very good afternoon seeing seven hours of tennis, finally leaving the All England Club about 8.30 pm. On Sunday it was back home once again.

No more trips planned now until September, when we are going to Brittany for a week. That was booked last Sunday on yet another wet and miserable summer's day. We have to keep our spirits up somehow!

Friday 8 July 2011

Hot July Night

Around here, Monday 4 July was the hottest day of the year so far. When we left home to drive to Manchester, about 6.15 pm, the outside temperature was a balmy 25 degrees centigrade. The concert did not start until 8.00 pm and we thought that we had allowed ourselves plenty of time but the traffic in Manchester was heavy, which meant that it took longer than we had expected to get to the concert arena. However, we still had 30 minutes to spare. As we approached the MEN arena husband decided to ignore the sat. nav. and park in the multi storey car park next to the arena - big mistake! We had previously parked there and had managed to find a space on one of the lower floors. This time we crawled up nine floors, to the roof, before we found a space.

Joining the queue to get into the MEN arena we had the chance to observe fellow Neil Diamond fans both male and female, who come in all shapes and sizes aged about 21 to 81. Once inside we took our seats and waited. The auditorium was warm and getting even warmer as it filled up.The start of the concert was delayed to allow members of the audience who had not taken their seats to do so and still people were coming in after the concert had started. Why buy tickets for a concert and miss some of it?

Eventually the concert was about to start. The band and backing singers had taken to the stage. Then the arena was plunged into darkness. We had been warned that this would happen. The band started to play but where was the man that we had all come to see? As the spot light picked him out in the centre of the stage the audience rose to its' feet and greeted him with rapturous applause. He began with Soolaimon - husband's favourite followed by Beautiful Noise which is my favourite. After that I was enjoying myself too much to remember exactly what was played when. At the end of the third number Neil Diamond paused for a drink of water and commented on how hot it was up on the stage with the heat from the lights and went on to say that the air conditioning must be 'malfunctioning' and he would like it on. He played another number then stopped again and complained about the heat. At this point a fan threw him a water spray which he used to spray his face and whilst doing so said something like 'right now this is as good as sex'. After the fifth number he said that the conditions on the stage had improved. The auditorium was also noticeably cooler. After that the concert passed uneventfully. Neil Diamond was on good form, relaxed, amusing and thoughtful. Despite the heat we enjoyed a wonderful evening's entertainment spending more time on our feet than we did in our seats. It is hard to believe that Neil Diamond is 70 years old. Nowadays, there is not so much hair and the voice is a bit lower and deeper and sometimes a tad ragged, but he could still melt an iceberg.

All too soon the concert was over and we were back at our car on the roof of the multi storey car park - big mistake, as I said before. By now it was 10.20 pm. Marshalls at the car park empty it from the ground floor upwards. On the car radio Johnnie Walker was interviewing Neil Diamond. It was slightly surreal to hear the voice, of person that we had just seen on stage, coming out of the radio. Never mind the spookiness, listening to the radio passed the time. It was 11.15 pm by the time the cars on the ninth floor started to move. It had been a night to remember for more than one reason.

(Hot August Night is the title of a Neil Diamond album released in 1972 which I amended accordingly).

Monday 4 July 2011

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to Americans and non-Americans everywhere. I am celebrating today because the maternity leave that I have been covering finishes tomorrow. I had expected that I would now stop practising, but I have been asked to work one day a week for the next nine weeks. That bridges the gap between working two days a week and working no days a week. It seemed like a good idea to break myself in gently to the world of being a lady of leisure. Yes, I intend to be a housewife, just like Kate.

This evening, husband and I are going to Manchester to a Neil Diamond concert. What better way could we celebrate July 4 than in the company of one of America's most successful and charismatic singer-songwriters. I am sure that we shall have a good day and hope that you do too.