Sunday, August 25, 2013

arnos vale blackberry+apple crumble…

Moira+I went to the stunning Arnos Vale yesterday morning for coffee, as you do.
I love walking around this wonderful, wooded cemetery and, today, our walk resulted in an unexpected bonus – blackberries! I just happened to have a couple of plastic bags in my shoulder bag (that I’d completely forgotten about) and so we helped ourselves to a few of the huge number of blackberries that were growing there.
The resulting blackberry+apple crumble was delicious (and there’s still a pie and a tart to go!).
I think we’ll be going back to Arnos Vale again very soon – to be mesmerised by the multitude of fascinating gravestones… and for some more blackberries!
PS: was tempted to write something about “life beyond the grave” (or something similar)… but then thought better of it!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

alan partridge: alpha papa

After some fairly full-on family/child-minding days, yesterday was very much a day for relaxing, walking, sketching, drinking coffee and the like (you get the idea…). An afternoon trip to the Watershed cinema also seemed appropriate but, unfortunately, “Looking for Hortense” (with Kristin Scott-Thomas) wasn’t showing at that time, so I plumped for “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa”. Actually, I’ve never really been an Alan Partridge fan and so this was probably a mistake…
In fact, I almost enjoyed the film. It’s clever, funny and predictably excruciating as he attempts to salvage his public career while being chief negotiator in a hostage situation at North Norfolk Digital Radio (you get the drift!). I thought the film worked better than the TV shows but, for me, the one laugh-out-loud moment didn’t even include Partridge (but a very brief piece involving the radio station security guard on Cromer pier… I won’t say any more!).
I’ve just read one of the reviews in The Guardian which describes it as a “coup de cinema… in its own superficially low-brow, cheapo way”… “it's a FabergĂ© egg disguised as a Kinder Surprise; an intricate piece of engineering done up to look like a whoopee cushion”.
I’m not sure we saw the same film!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

running over rocks

Moira+I spent the weekend running over rocks…
Well, not literally. We were at a retreat run by our great friend Ian (Adams) at the Ammerdown Centre (situated between Radstock and Frome… and set in beautiful grounds). “Running Over Rocks” is the title of Ian’s second book – which explores spiritual practices for living/bringing goodness to the world in difficult times.
I have to say, I’m not very good at signing up/attending courses and the like (I think I fear that I’ll end up making a complete fool of myself… or worse!), but the weekend proved to be a really enjoyable, relaxing and stimulating time.
Obviously, much of this was down to Ian… but it was significantly helped by the other, lovely people on the retreat. We very quickly gelled as a group – which made conversations easy (and laughter plentiful!) and allowed us to share thoughts, insights and experiences with ease. It also proved to be quite a creative weekend in terms of ideas generated – even mini-art installations and ideas for our own personal tattoos (don’t worry, I have no immediate plans for displaying mine to the world)!!
A lovely, inspiring weekend.
Photo: avenue of trees, Ammerdown Centre.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

oxford get-together

Moira+I have just had a lovely couple of days in Oxfordshire with Alan+Lesley.
Rather than trying to cram in too many things into a single day, we decided on an overnight stay at The Bat+Ball pub in Cuddesdon. So, we met up on Friday morning and spent the day in Oxford - relaxing over morning coffee at Quod, then beer+lunch at The Turf, followed by afternoon tea+cake at Patisserie Valerie (as you do)… and, in between, going to see the impressive Master Drawings exhibition at The Ashmolian and an amble round Christ Church Meadow in the sunshine. This, naturally(!), was followed by yet more eating+drinking back in Cuddesdon during the course of Friday evening.
As if we hadn’t already eaten ourselves silly (and, of course, we HAD to have breakfast too!), our cousin David and wife Sally came out to join us for lunch yesterday at the pub!
VERY good to take the time to catch up… and lovely to be able to spend time in Oxford again.
Life is good!
Photo: me, Moira, Lesley+Alan at The Bat+Ball, Cuddesdon.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


Moira+I went along to the Watershed this afternoon to see this rather lovely film, directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour. It’s a remarkable film in many ways: it’s the first film ever to have been made entirely in Saudi Arabia (the country doesn’t have a single cinema!) and it’s been created by the country’s first female director. It also pushes boundaries as far as its subject matter is concerned too – focusing on the realities of life in Saudi Arabia for women (and girls). Wadjda is the name of the sparky, strong-willed, 11-year-old girl who has her heart set on a beautiful green bike… BUT “bikes aren’t for girls”!
It’s a beautiful, charming and funny film – but also one that left me saddened by the male-dominated society within the country.
PS: There’s a section towards the end of the film, where Wadjda recites/sings part of the Koran, which is absolutely lovely.

july-august 2013 books

More book stuff:
The History of the World in Ten-and-a-Half Chapters (Julian Barnes): I’m a big fan of Julian Barnes, so it seems strange that it’s taken me such a long time to read this (it was first published in 1989). As you probably already know, the book consists of 10 short stories - widely disparate but with recurring points of contact. It’s a very intelligent, thoughtful book but, frankly, not one that I found particularly satisfying or engaging.
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure (Artemis Cooper): An excellent biography of this rather extraordinary man. I’d previously read, and enjoyed, Fermor’s book “A Time of Gifts” a couple of years ago (shortly after his death at the age of 96). Fermor was a travel writer/soldier who was blessed which the sort of memory that enabled him to quote huge chunks of classical literature plus an ability to learn languages virtually at will. He also had the ability to get on with people from all backgrounds (especially people of influence… and women!). A remarkable, enjoyable book.
Running Over Rocks (Ian Adams): This is a really excellent book by my great mate Ian. On one level, it’s a manual that explores and provides 52 spiritual practices for living/bringing goodness to the world in difficult times - but it’s much, much more than that. A manual perhaps suggests a set of strict instructions to be followed, but this book can be used in any number of ways – exploring themes, seasons of the year… asking questions, making suggestions, highlighting refreshing insights… daily disciplines, practical wisdom. I read it through, cover-to-cover but, over the coming months, I can also see myself focussing on particular themes and practices… and our weekly Ithaca group has also decided to use it as its latest “study book”.
It’s a beautiful book… beautifully written and I found its structure and layout both clear and appealing. I loved the small photographic images and adored his stunning poetry. In particular, I was able to identify with the writer himself… the book is highly accessible and shows great perceptiveness based on experience and knowledge.
Goodbye to Berlin (Christopher Isherwood): Set in the early 1930s and evoking the glamour+sleaze, excess+repression of Berlin society under threat from the rise of the Nazis. Isherwood lived in Berlin from 1929 until 1933 and the book is based on his diaries from this time. Poignant, charming and sad… and set against an undercurrent of growing fear.
The Great Galloon (Tom Banks): I wouldn’t normally include children books in my “reading diary”, but this one was written by our good friend Tom Banks… and is very good (“Being a mostly accurate tale of the voyages of Captain Meredith Anstruther, his crew and his celebrated Great Galloon”). Inventive, quirky and funny (with lots of laugh-out-loud moments!). I found it impossible not to read it (silently to myself, you understand) imagining the voices Tom would have used at one of his story-telling sessions!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

the boy who cried wolf!

Moira+I took Iris along to the open-air, matinee performance of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf!” at the Bristol Old Vic yesterday. Amazingly (and contrary to local weather forecasts), it didn’t rain! The production was based on Michael Morpurgo’s “Aesop’s Fables” and, in addition to the main title, incorporated other stories (“The Hare and the Tortoise” plus some lesser known tales “The Miller, his Son and the Donkey” and “The Donkey and Belling the Cat”).
We’ve seen a number of plays directed by Sally Cookson and they’ve ALL been excellent and this one was no exception. Combining music, humour and an engaging and talented cast, the show was very, very enjoyable.
A really lovely afternoon.