shewhomust: (Default)
We had all day to make our way home from Derbyshire, and we'd thought er might spend some of it exploring locally, hanging out with other members of the party. But people had their own plans, so we just took time to stroll down to the bridge and walk a little way along the path, to where [personal profile] durham_rambler and his brother had seen a dipper the previous evening - and then we headed north. Back the way we had come, as far as Ladybower reservoir:

Ladybower reservoir


and a bit of a detour on minor roads around the reservoir, but nowhere we really wanted to stop and explore. Northbound, aiming for a route parallel to the A1, we followed Mortimer Road, the old turnpike road over the heather moors to Penistone. The town was festooned with yellow bicycles, perched above shop doorways and plastered across walls - this may have been something to do with the Tour de Yorkshire. We saw them again and again throughout the journey, but nowhere in such a concentration as in Penistone.

Then, quite abruptly, we were picking our way through continuous town, alternating entirely urban streets with stretches where the road followed the contours and gave wide open views. Oakwell Hall looked like an interesting place to stop, but when we got there we discovered the hall is only open at weekends (there was a wedding party being photographed on the steps, in the rain). We had lunch in the café and I bought a couple of cards at the gift shop, and if it hadn't been raining we might have lingered in the garden.

By the time we reached Masham, we were almost ready to keep moving and head for home. Should we stop? Should we carry on? Then [personal profile] durham_rambler spotted a wine shop, with a parking space right outside it, so we ended the day with some serious shopping (I bought an item of clothing, and how often does that happen?). The butcher had a special offer on venison, the delicatessen had Rakusen's Yorkshire crackers (which look pretty much like Rakusen's matzoh to me, but we'll find out when I open the packet) and the wine shop had wine. It had gin, too, because these days everyone makes artisan gin, but wine was what we bought.

After this excitement, I slept most of the way home.
shewhomust: (Default)
The good news: we are at the Plough Inn in Hathersage, have met and drunk tea with the family party that brought us here, and will later reconvene for dinner. It has been a frustrating couple of days, and I am very glad to be here, and ready to enjoy myself. Naturally, the first way I enjoy myself is to complain.

I have wasted a lot of time trying to be sensible and efficient. It is possible that the things I wasted time trying to do will work out, and I will end up being glad I did them, but we are not yet at that point, and I have steam to let off.

Kvetching )

On the other hand, when we were almost here, I demanded at stop at an interesting-looking circular building which turned out to be The Round Building, David Mellor's cutlery works: there's a David Mellor-related design museum, with a lot of cutlery (some of which I could certainly covet) and outside, an arrangement of street furniture (a bench, a bus shelter, a postbox, some bollards) and why not? The shop had some lovely, expensive, ceramics, but what I bought was a lemon zester (silly birthday present and a problem if not solved at least reduced). So that was good.

Time for a chapter or so of my book before dinner.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Before we had booked our October break in Brittany, while I was still trying to decide how to play this - very short - holiday, one option I considered was taking one of the shortest Channel crossings and spending a few days in the Somme. It's an area we have enjoyed in the past, as we drove through on the way to and from the ferry, and I'd be happy to look around. In the end we decided that it was worth taking a little longer over the journey, and visiting Brittany.

Almost as soon as we had that settled, the Guardian travel supplement, which must have been reading over my shoulder, published a double page spread on the Somme. And, as proof that we are on the same wavelength here, their recommendations include not only one of the hotels I had been considering (as recommended by my Routard guide, and, indeed, illustrated on its cover) but somewhere we have actually stayed in the past (and for which I had only a broken link). So that's all useful.

No, I'm not having second thoughts - but there will be other trips...
shewhomust: (Default)
For the benefit of anyone who doesn't already know this, [personal profile] durham_rambler and I run a small business building and managing websites, mostly for individuals, and since we've always found our clients mainly through word of mouth, quite a few of them are writers. So the work is always interesting, and takes us to fun events. But this last week has been exceptional, with work related outings on two successive evenings.

The first came about through our newest client: in fact, David Almond's website is our current Work in Progress. So we were very excited to be invited to a preview of David's own Work in Progress (or one of them), a collaboration with Kathryn Tickell (and fellow musician Amy Thatcher) with the title 'Tales & Tunes'. What the write-up on Kathryn Tickell's website doesn't tell you is that first they decided this was something they'd like to do, then they established that it was financially viable, and only then did they start to work out exactly what they would do. If they'd simply put together an evening that alternated readings and music, I don't think anyone would have complained, but in fact what is emerging is something more ambitious, and although David does read, and Kathryn and Amy do play (and Amy dances, too) the really magical moments are when the music weaves around the words and all three of them work together. Once you realise that this is possible, you want more of it, and so did the artists, and this was a fascinating glimpse of the creative process in action.

I had looked at the dates of the planned tour, and been very disappointed that I wasn't going to be in the right place at the right time to see it, so the invitation to this preview was doubly welcome - only now I'm doubly disappointed that I won't get to see the finished piece.

That was Wednesday evening (yes, it was worth missing the pub quiz) and on Thursday we went to a party to celebrate the publication of Ann Cleeves' new book, The Seagull - from our newest client to one of our longest standing. The party was at the Old Low Light (not to be confused - though we did, of course - with the Low Light) in North Shields. There was Seagull beer, brewed in honour of the book by Whitley Bay Brewing Company, there were old friends to catch up with, there was even a little work-related chat - and afterwards we adjourned to the Staith House gastropub next door. It must be longer than I realised since I last visited the Fish Quay which seems to be undergoing gentrification.

Time for bed: The Seagull awaits.
shewhomust: (Default)
Before going shopping yesterday morning, we compared our diaries for the coming week (so that I could plan the shopping) and beyond: it looks as if September will be quite busy, and October - well, October is looking a bit silly. In a good way, with many things I am looking forward to, though I wouldn't have chosen to have them all happen in the same month.

That said, we have taken advantage of a planned trip to London to add a few days in France, so that bit of it is self-inflicted. We have now booked the overnight ferry to Brittany and back, and four nights in between.

We were at the Botanic Gardens today: we went to the orchid show at Josephine Butler college, which is next door, so why not? Once we had admired the sheer variety of orchids on show, from the beautiful to the sinister, and from the huge colourful blooms to the tiny green things in bottles supplied by Equatorial Plants, we went for a walk in the gardens. This ought to be the cue for a photo of some autumn foliage, but the North American Arboretum failed to oblige, so instead, here's what I found lurking in the bamboo:

Hiding in the bamboo


I had bought the first damsons of the season at the greengrocer's, so there was damson crumble for pudding.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
This morning's e-mails included a request from the Council: they wanted my opinion. "Dear Customer," it began, which isn't a great start - I think of myself as a resident, a Council Tax payer and occasionally an elector, but not as a customer of the Council. Never mind, here's what the e-mail said:

We would like to hear about your experience of contacting Durham County Council.

We would appreciate it if you could take a couple of minutes to complete a short survey to give us your views.

Your feedback is important and will help us to develop and improve our service.

That survey in full )

Apologies for the boring post: I wanted a record because County Council 'consultations' are an ongoing game.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Friday night's 'masterclass' tasting at Majestic was of malbec - allegedly an immensely popular grape, but it had only tempted in five people (the fact that it's a bank holiday weekend may have had something to do with this). Inevitably, this justified opening fewer bottles than usual, and our wine guru for the evening (Paul? not Mike, who has previously filled that rôle, anyway) whizzed us through the five wines pretty briskly. If these notes are sketchier than usual, put it down to that: some of the new world wines were pretty high in alcohol, we were knocking them back, and we realised that if we just cashed in our vouchers and ran, we could catch the bus before the one we usually get. So one again, I departed without tasting notes, and this is from memory.

The five wines were: one French, one Australian and three from Argentina, in that order.

The French wine was Rigal's L'instant Truffier - not a Cahors, but from a Cahors producer. Pity not to include the thing itself, the original malbec, and although that would have raised the price, I'd have thought the budget could be adjusted elsewhere. I suspect they just don't stock any. Anyway, this was not popular: "Very French!" said someone, and this clearly wasn't praise. T thought it was fine - good tannin, enough fruit, needed to be served with food (various tasting aids were provided, and it went well with the pork scratchings) - but not spectacular.

The Australian was, I think, this First Class Malbec from the Clare Valley: the most complete contrast possible (I suspect the tasting order was 'let's get the randoms out of the way and move on to Argentina'). I could retaliate by saying it's "very Australian". I could nurse a glass through an evening at a poetry reading, say, and enjoy the big, bright, upfront fruit - but I wouldn't serve it with food (I suppose you could set it as a jelly and serve it as dessert). Other people's mileage varied spectacularly.

I could make a stab at reconstructing which three Argentine wines we tasted, but guesswork would be involved, so let's just say that the first one was unmemorable, and the third was a big hit with the other participants, but I thought it didn't justify the additional price (and had a bitterness on the finish which I didn't much like). The one I enjoyed, bought to take home and would buy again, was Parrilla, a classic, well-balance wine.

We also bought to take home what appears to be the joker in the pack: when I searched Majestic's website for French malbec, it didn't tell me about the La Baume Grande Olivette (that's weird: nor does the producer's website, and for a while I wondered if it had come from somewhere else - but no, search for it by name and it appears! Anyway, lovely, juicy, new world style malbec but with good structure, I'd have to taste it alongside the Parrilla to be sure which one I preferred, but that wouldn't be a hardship.

We're unlikely to make the next couple of sessions (chardonnay and sparkling wine, neither of which attracts me enough to make up for the less-than-ideal schedule). But I'd go again if the right topic came up at the right time.
shewhomust: (guitars)
It's a Bank Holiday weekend, and the radio promises us mayhem on the roads. We have no intention of going anywhere. Last weekend, though, we paid our annual visit to Whitby, to spend some time with the Bears who were there for their summer holiday, otherwise known as Whitby Folk Week.

24 hours in Whitby )
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Today is the centenary of the birth of Charles Causley. There's a festival in Launceston to mark the occasion, but it doesn't seem to have troubled the national media.

The first poetry book I ever owned was Dawn & Dusk, contemporary poetry for children edited by Charles Causley: it was published in 1962, so I think it must have been given to me when it was new. There were a couple of Penguin Comic and Curious Verse collections which I knew cover to cover and inside out, but they were household property, and Dawn & Dusk was mine. Causley had included a couple of his own poems, so that's where I first read Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience. He's often described as a children's poet, and he did write poems for children, but he also wrote poems about children, which is not the same thing at all. There's nothing in the form or the language of this poem which a child couldn't manage: he's perfectly justified in calling it a 'nursery rhyme'. But the theme of innocence and experience, the series of disquieting questions with which the poem ends - there's nothing childish about those.

Later in the 1960s (I can't find an exact date) Causley was included in the third of Penguin's 'Modern Poets' series, and that's where I first met his Ballad for Katherine of Aragon. Being a ballad, it lends itself to being sung: this isn't the setting I first learned, and I like that one better - but this is the better performance:



The other poem from that collection of which I can still recite solid chunks is a bit of an anomaly: Betjeman, 1984 envisages an Orwellian future in which Betjeman's love for the past is applied to the disdained trivia of the writer's present. Jerome K. Jerome got there first, but Causley achieves an unexpectedly wicked pastiche:
Take your ease, pale-haired admirer,
As I, half the century saner,
Pour a vintage Mazawattee
Through the Marks & Spencer strainer
In a genuine British Railways
(Luton Made) cardboard container.

Eventually (presumably in 1997) they brought out a 'Collected Poems', a volume to get lost in> I open it now and find myself reading an old favourite, or something entirely unfamiliar. I could sit here all night. But [personal profile] durham_rambler would not forgive me if I failed to mention the Ballad of Jack Cornwell, another little-more-than-a-child whose innocence was taken from him in the Battle of Jutland:
I woke up one morning
Unwound my sheet of clay,
Lifted up my tombstone lid
And asked the time of day.
I walked out one morning
When the sun was dark
Left my messmates sleeping
Deep on Manor Park...


Search the internet and you find plenty of obituaries and appreciations, not so much poetry: which is perfectly proper, as it is still in copyright. Go buy the books. But first, a few free samples:
shewhomust: (Default)
I collected my new glasses from the optician yesterday morning.

There's a conversation which I have now had with a succession of opticians, each time I need new glasses: the optician says "I think it's time you had varifocals," and I day "These are varifocals!" This time, he followed up by asking why, in that case, I had three pairs of glasses (varificals, reading glasses, and a pair for working at the computer)? The new ones, the claimed, would do away with all that...

It's too soon to be sure, but I was sceptical and I remain so. I'm still wearing my old glasses now, to view the computer screen. I think the new varifocals probably give me a better chance of reading something in the course of doing something else - checking a recipe while cooking, for example - which is a good thing in itself, even if I still prefer my reading glasses for, well, reading. I'm not disappointed, because I didn't expect anything else. And I'm still happy with the frames I chose, which is a relief!
shewhomust: (bibendum)
On the Monday of last week I received an e-mail invitation to a medieval banquet at Ushaw. Here's the pitch from their website:

Explore the sophisticated, delicate, and international tastes and flavours of medieval cuisine in a fantastic six course medieval banquet. Served in the stunning Professors' Parlour, this amazing banquet will present an array of traditions and dishes from the eastern Mediterranean and the Baghdad Cookbook to English recipes from the 15th century, via French collections and the Durham sauces.

Durham University library holds a significant copy of Richard II's cookbook Curye in Inglysch, from which a number of our dishes draw inspiration, and all of this shall be accompanied by tantalising medieval spiced wines. Local, international, timeless, and time-bound: medieval food in a nutshell.

Canapes and pre-dinner drinks will be served in the Exhibition Theatre, with a private viewing of an exciting new art initiative at Ushaw. Come and meet the artist, and some of the academics she is working with.


It wasn't cheap (which I'm guessing is why that last-minute e-mail campaign), but it wasn't impossibly expensive, it sounded interesting and Ushaw is a stunning setting (this page on their website gives some hints) so we went for it.

help! I am turning into one of those people who photograph their food! )
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
At the dentist's this morning (just a checkup, thanks, and all is well) I noticed for the first time a picture behind the reception desk. It's a slightly generic painting of a stone bridge over a river, with the title in bold capitals: Victoria Bridge. It looks like a pub sign, and come to think of it - yes, says the dentist, we just brought it inside when we converted the pub (which I remember well from when we used to live up that way).

Things change, but the past is not effaced.
shewhomust: (Default)
On 14th August 1967, the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act came into force, closing down the UK's pirate radio stations. I remember listening to the last broadcast of John Peel's Perfumed Garden. The show had always run on the basis that no-one bought advertising during its late night slot, and no-one listened, including management, so Peel could ignore the station's top 40, and play what he liked. As the station's last day began, he just extended the show until morning - 5.30 am, according to Wikipedia (and here's a track listing).. I won't say I heard it all, but I slept and woke and slept again and as it came to an end I was still there. I remember Peel saying that 'they are closing the gates of the Perfumed Garden, but we are on the inside' - and I got up and went for a walk, because that was what I wanted to do. And realised when I got home that I had gone out without a key, and had to sit in the porch until someone else woke up to let me in.

Later that afternoon I turned the radio on again to hear Radio London sign off (with the station signature tune, which was known as Big Lil.

It was 50 years ago, I was in my teens, and Wikipedia says that the Perfumed Garden had only been running since May '67.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
But first, a sidelight on the subject from the Guardian news section: a recent report on the changes in British holidays over the last 20 years - with thanks to [personal profile] durham_rambler for remembering the magic word which allowed me to track down the article online: the information comes from the ONS (and here's the ONS report itself, which clarifies what is meant by words like 'average'). I read the headline, "Britons shunning two-week holidays in favour of short breaks" and thought it confirmed my suspicion, that these days it's all about the weekend break - but no, although these are now more popular than they were in the 1990s, the real growth is in the ten-day holiday. Which makes our Easter trip to Europe bang on trend - as was our choice of Germany as a destination! Another surprise is that Spain is by far the most popular destination (that may mean, overseas destination - I'm not sure), and has about doubled in popularity in the period we're looking at: I'd have guessed that package sunshine holidays had shifted from Spain to Florida, with the help of Disney resorts, but no - or perhaps that had already happened when the baseline was drawn. Yesterday's travel supplement notes that Barcelona is suffering from tourism overload, and blames AirBnB, cruise ships and the Olympics. So that's all interesting.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, an article about hill forts begins "As a nation, we’re not very good at appreciating our prehistory. We can just about take in Stonehenge, but prefer our history to start with the Romans – more manageable and all written down." Speak for yourself, sir! The article is linked to a new online atlas of hill forts, which is rather fine. If you search the Guardian for 'hill forts', the top result is this rather more sceptical article (but its main reservations seem to be about the terminology.

We could go to West Jutland and see the Vikings.

I probably won't take an island holiday in Croatia, not even for the pleasure of tasting a wine called grk - I'd be more tempted if it didn't rely on cycling (and scooters) to get around.

But we are plotting a few days in France in October, since we have an engagement in London: time to make some decisions about that...
shewhomust: (Default)
The 'out' component of the evening was another wine tasting at Majestic, the third we have been to, and we have yet to encounter any of our fellow tasters twice. This time Mike took us through a 'pinot noir masterclass' which was nothing like as formal as that suggests - I wouldn't have minded a list of what we were tasting and the opportunity to scribble on it. What I learned was pretty much what I already knew, that with pinot noir you get what you pay for, but that things don't really get interesting until I'm way out of my comfort zone. Actually, the first and the cheapest wine we tasted (which may have been Chilean) was thin and fruity, high in acidity (reminded me of the wines we bought in Coiffy, on the edge of Fance's wine-growing regions) and I liked it, though it wasn't generally popular. I've had more approachable pinots at the price. Chapel Down produce pinot noir in England, but they have to blend it with something called rondo to get a saleable wine which isn't very like pinot noir at all - and it's quite expensive. But the two outstanding bottles were both over £20, a Saintsbury from the Napa Valley and a Cloudy Bay (NZ). To be fair, no doubt there's Burgundy as good as either as these - but not within the budget.

We returned home on the bus for the 'in' part of the evening: a quick supper and a bottle of Gran Volante Spanish red, which Majestic are promoting quite heavily, but which I found memorable mainly for the fact that the winemaker's name is printed on the cork - I don't think I've ever seen that before! And there was time for an episode of I Know Who You Are, a Spanish thriller which we are - not exactly binge-watching, but the closest we come to it. Successful lawyer emerges from the forest, claiming to have amnesia; in his crashed car is the phone belonging to his niece Ana, now missing, and traces of her blood. Does he really have amnesia, and did he kill his niece? He looks pretty guilty, but it's more interesting if he isn't - or at least, that's my take as of 5 episodes. Time for another one...
shewhomust: (ayesha)
Seen on a holiday coach: Wilfreda Beehive (they're a coach holiday company, apparently, so that makes sense).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
As we drove away from Lindisfarne at midsummer, we called in at the farm shop in Belford. In past years this has been a favourite stop, and a good place to buy supplies, but this time there wasn't much that appealed. Blame it on the circumstances: we didn't need food to cook on the island, and I suspect we caught the shop before they were really awake. So I bought a bag of bread flour with added seeds - I'm sceptical about bread-flour-with-added-whatever, as I am about cheese-with-added-whatever, but this seemed worth a try.

The first batch I baked with it, I used it neat. Which is to say, not quite neat, as my process uses white flour for the sourdough starter, and three times the same quantity of various flours for the loaf itself. So, 1:3 white flour: seeded flour, and it made a soft, sticky dough which rose spectacularly. I'd been thinking of making rolls for dinner anyway, and was quite glad I had, because it felt too fragile to bake in a tin (and there was a slick, almost putty-like feel to the dough which was not entirely agreeable). The rolls were fine, and very light, if not as full of flavour as my usual bread (I had also been cautious with the salt, which was a mistake).

So I added buckwheat flour to the next batch. Counting the starter, that's 1:1:2 white flour: buckwheat: seeded flour. This, too, rose like mad, both in the bowl and in the oven, and it tasted more interesting, but still not as good as my usual loaf - though I did enjoy the more open texture, especially toasted (who am I kidding? I ate it all toasted).

You'll think me pretty slow on the uptake, but around this point it occurred to me that maybe these features were not some magical property of this particular brand of flour, but a result of using a higher than usual proportion of white flour. So the next loaf was, still counting the starter, 2:1:1 white flour: spelt flour: wholemeal, and it, too rose better than my usual loaf (in which the starter provides the only white flour). I added walnuts and used the last of the walnut oil, and it was fine, but still not as good as the more wholemeal mix. Which doesn't prove anything, but does support the hypothesis.

The loaf I made yesterday, and sliced into this morning, was 1:1:1:1 white flour (starter): seeded flour: buckwheat: wholemeal, and I was surprised how good it is. The more open texture toasts well, and the combination of buckwheat and wholemeal emphasises the nutty flavour. If the seeds in the flour contribute anything, it's subliminal, which isn't to say that they don't contribute. But when this bag runs out, I'll try these proportions with white flour before I try to hunt down another bag of the seeded.

Of course, if I continue to reduce the proportion of seeded flour each time, the bag will never run out.

Afterparty

Aug. 10th, 2017 06:32 pm
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Saturday's lunch party didn't break up until late in the afternoon, by which time [personal profile] durham_rambler and I were ready for some quiet time with the newspaper and the internet. But by late evening, we revived enough to feel that a breath of air, a little walk, some light refreshment would round the day off nicely. Saturday night on the main drag is pretty lively, and we walked straight past the tapas restaurant which had been our first option: there's nothing wrong with live flamenco music - indeed, there's much right with it, if that's what you're looking for, but on this occasion it wasn't. We didn't have to go far, though, to find ourselves in a much quieter street, and the Golden Cross looked very inviting:

The Golden Cross


Did it live up to its promise? )

On Sunday morning we headed off to Wem, to continue the party at the home of our hostess. By this time most of the stragglers had departed, and the only other house guest, apart from ourselves, was a schoolfriend who had, in the intervening years, returned to her native Newfoundland, and who was staying on to join the unbirthday girl and another schoolfriend for a short break in Trier (this is apparently our fault - I hope they are enjoying it!). I can't call Sunday a quiet day, because we talked non-stop - but the pleasures were those of conversation, and we tore through the crossword at record speed.

We set off for home on Monday morning. The plan was for a minimum of delay and diversion, as we had to be in Durham for a meeting in the early evening, but we needed to fit in a lunch stop and a little essential shopping, and initially we thought we might take the M6 all the way, and break somewhere pleasant, Kirkby Stephen, perhaps? But it was not to be. Signs on the motorway warned of long delays ahead, so we turned onto the M62, and stopped at 'the Boroughbridge services' (otherwise known as Morrisons supermarket). Oh, well...

So the fun part of the weekend was shorter in practice than it had been in anticipation, but no less sweet.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
From Saturday's Guardian:
Back in St Ives I picked up a summer job in catering and started spending more time on the beach and in the water. One evening I went out paddleboarding and as I paddled back into the harbour, I witnessed the most gorgeous sunset; the whole harbour was glowing. That’s when I realised this was where I was meant to be. I imagined how magical it would be if a mermaid swam into St Ives on an evening like this, and what a stir it would cause. Then I thought maybe I could be that mermaid.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We had a splendid and exhausting day yesterday about Wightwick Manor, about which I will probably have more to say when I have sorted out my thoughts (and my photos). Now we are in Shrewsbury: we arrived yesterday evening at the Lion, where we are staying, and mentioned as we checked in that we are here for a party to be held in this hotel: "Oh, you're here for S.'s party! Isn't she lovely? Have you known her long?"

We don't have time for more than the briefest look at the town. Last night we walked up the hill to the Square, and dined at 'Côte - a pseudo-French bistro, one of a chain but nicely done, if loud. This morning, between the showers, we took a brief walk along the town walls, and visited the Cathedral (it's a Catholic cathedral, and by Pugin, but although the commission originally went to AWN Pugin, he died before he could carry it out, and the design is in fact by his son Edward, aged 18). I'd have thought it a worthwhile visit anyway, but I was completely bowled over by the work of a woman artist completely unknown to me:

Noah's Ark


The Cathedral has several windows by Margaret Rope, and they are wonderful.

Time to return to the hotel, put on our party finery, and party. Inevitably, we had less time to talk to the unbirthday girl than we would have liked, but she was very good at introducing us to people, and making sure we had someone to talk to. We thought we were doing pretty well telling people that [personal profile] durham_rambler had been at University with S. in the late '60s, but we were seated at lunch with even longer-time friends, including a schoolfriend and the French penfriend of her teenage years (and her equally French husband). There was a quiz, memorable mostly (to me, at any rate) for the cultural dexterity with which our Frenchman identified a picture as the star from the movie about Welsh miners playing in a band, which I was able to name as Brassed Off (despite it not, in fact, being set in Wales...), which enabled another member of team to name Pete Postlethwaite. Leaving me to explain the title Brassed Off to the French couple who knew it as Les Virtuoses.

There was music, provided by someone's expertise with Spotify, which was interesting: I've been thinking I ought to try it out, but, um, this tiny sample was resistible. Eventually we gave up on it, and just continued chatting, untilwe all collapsed. And tomorrow we will go and visit S. at home, which I hope will be our real chance to catch up with her. But now, maybe a breath of air...

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