shewhomust: (bibendum)
I couldn't include any pictures in my posts from Kendal, because my notebook had decided to log me out of Flickr, and Yahoo declined to log me back in. For once this wasn't because I had forgotten my password (I didn't get that far) but because Yahoo didn't recognise either of the e-mail addresses I offered it. The sensible course of action would be to return to the attack, armed with a note of my password and ID, and I will, but first, here are the pictures I would have posted - and maybe one or two more, because I can!

Under a cut, because pictures! )

We listened to the weather forecast, which told us that Storm Ophelia would hit the north of England around midday, and decided to cancel the visit we had planned to make on our way home, which would have delayed our return until the early evening. But we wouldn't take the fast road, either; after all, it is both high and exposed. Instead we took the scenic route - and scenic it was, until we hit thick fog as we descended into Weardale. But the road out of Kendal was lovely, and we stopped in Melmerby for lunch at the Old Village Bakery (no longer the bakery, which seems to have been taken over by a toymaker, but still a good café). As we stepped out of the Bakery, the clouds thinned just enough for me to see the disk of the sun, clear and red - and then it vanished into cloud again. (The Guardian blames this phenomenon on Ophelia bringing in sand from the Sahara). We crossed the green to visit Andy Goldsworthy's Washfold (part of his Sheepfolds project):


And then we came home.
shewhomust: (watchmen)
Two panel-type events today, both in the Council Chamber, which left us well placed for a little light retail in between. But first, a technical note. Two, in fact. The first is about sound, and it returns to an issue I've already mentioned, but which is exacerbated if the event is in the Council Chamber. If you are organising an event, you need to know this: deafness is a disability, and you must do what you can not to exclude people who have this disability. Kendal's Council Chamber actually has a hearing loop, which is great, because it means that [personal profile] durham_rambler can tune his hearing aids direct to the sound system, and this gives him optimum audibility. If a speaker says "Oh, it's OK, I have a loud voice," they may well be right. But if you aren't using the mike, you aren't going into the loop. At one point this morning, I wanted to say something to [personal profile] durham_rambler and he couldn't hear me, because he was listening to the speakers on the loop. (The specific problem with the Council Chamber is that the microphones are positioned as if for a Council meeting, and we don't use the room that way, so saying "Please use the mike!" is not a simple request.)

My other technical takeaway from this festival - and I don't suppose this is going to come as a surprise to anyone) is that being able to project images is all well and good, but being able to project the actual images you are talking about is even better. I became somewhat frustrated by this morning's session on 'Telling the Truth'. Darryl Cunningham introduced his 'Seven Amazing Scientists You May Not Have Heard Of' (it's not called that, but I don't know why not), Fumio Obata talked about his (LICAF-commissioned) work in progress on the nuclear accident at Fukushima and Hannah Berry introduced her new book Livestock (which I had seen in preview at Wonderlands, of course) and each of them said something which I thought could be illustrated by one of the images that - oh, no, sorry, you've just missed it! The unending repetition of the sequence of images gave me plenty of chances to confirm my suspicion that that was indeed a rather prominent typo, which probably wasn't the intention. Not an actual typo, in that the three books all appeared to be hand-lettered, and I could have gone total geek and asked about that, but instead I asked another question suggested by the constantly cycling images, about the use of colour (and was relieved to discover that this was a good question, in the senae that all three artists and moderator Alex Fitch had something to say about it).

Commercial break: time to tour the dealers' rooms and buy things. Including Myfanwy Tristram's Everyone Loves a Puffin postcard. Because it's true. That's the only one of the things I bought that I've really had a chance to read so far.

Then back to the Council Chamber to hear Benoît Peeters explaining why Rodolphe Töpffer is the father of the graphic novel: short version, because in the first half of the nineteenth century he was publishing narratives which consisted of both words and pictures and arguing that both were equally important. For future reference, here's Töpfferiana central, and here is Töpffer's Essai de Physiognomonie (on Gutenberg Canada), a title which seems to have one syllable too many, and I noted that Peeters was having trouble pronouncing it. The Festival has published a new translation / edition with the catchy title How to Create Graphic Novels, but it's worth clicking through to Gutenberg to look at the original, just to see what the nineteenth century could achieve in printing. 'Autolithography', says the scribbled note on the margin of my programme: well, that makes sense. But I can't remember the reasoning behind: "Töpffer v. Umberto Eco - Töpffer wins!"

Time for an all-day breakfast at the Farmhouse Kitchen: [personal profile] durham_rambler is traditionalist, mine involved generous amounts of smoked salmon and watercress. Then we headed out in search of all things Finnish. I loved the Archipelagogo exhibition of mad felt sculptures by Felt Mistress Louise Evans (this always makes me think of my friend F, who claimed to have found a shop advertising 'You can get felt here!', and threatened to go inside and demand 'Feel me!' - but I digress) and beautiful, intricate watercolours by Jonathan Edwards. It seemed to me something that was genuinely inspired by Tove Jansson while still being genuinely original, and I took pictures. Many pictures.

Our visit to the Finnish village fizzled out in a darkened room. We came into the Box in the middle of a showing of Moomins on the Riviera, which demonstrates all the things I don't like about the Moomin comic strips (as opposed to the books) - and wait, what was that, right at the end of the credits? Was Mymble really voiced by Alison O'Donnell? Our - that is, Shetland's - Alison O'Donnell? IMDB is no help here... Anyway, he venue closed at four, so there was only time for the first half of a documentary about how the Moomins conquered the world, before we were sent out into the night with nothing but a piece of salty liquorice in compensation. I'd have liked to see the rest of the film. Obviously, there's an element of self-justification in explaining why it's a good thing to merchandise characters to which people have an emotional attachment; equally obviously, it's a good thing to keep the books in print, and for an income to flow to Tove Jansson's family. I'd have liked to see what the film had to say. Oh, well.

And that's the Comics Festival for another year.
shewhomust: (watchmen)
We continue to explore routes between our cottage on Greenside and festival venues in the centre of town. This morning we picked up Captain French Lane (the internet won't tell me anything about Captain French) and followed it all the way down to Highgate; this evening, having shopped at Tesco (microwavable paella for dinner) we climed up the side of Wainwright's Yard,and so directly to Beast Bank. In between, there were comics-related events. For the first time, the Festival offered - and we bought - passes which give access to all daytime events. This is great, because we didn't have to decide in advance what we wanted to do, and it's an encouragement to try an event we wouldn't have paid separately for. The downside for the organisers is that they don't know in advance when events are oversubscribed, and they have tried to counter this by scheduling events at quarter hour intervals, so that if you can't get in to your first choice, there won't be too long until another event starts. Which is clever, but means that events may clash, not because they are scheduled at the same time, but incrementally, because they overlap. I would have found this very frustrating, had Peter Milligan, a guest I had looked forward to seeing, not had to cancel - which was a disappointment, but made life simpler. Now, provided I gave up any idea of getting books signed, or enjoying any of the restaurants and cafés of Kendal, I could attend all of my first choice of panels.

We split up for the first event of the day. [personal profile] durham_rambler went to see Tony Husband, whose work he knows from Private Eye. Verdict: couldn't hear, speakers were too far from the mike. At the 'Chip on Chip' panel (Chip Zdarsky interviewed by Chip Moser) I had the opposite problem: Zdarsky held the pair's single mike too close, causing distortion and breaking up. Unlike, I suspect, the majority of those there, I've never read Sex Criminals, though people keep recommending it. I'm a fan of Howard the Duck, both Steve Gerber's original and Chip Zdarsky's reboot, so I knew it would be a fun panel, and it was (though maybe even more fun for the panellists than for the audience): typical of the flavour of the thing is that when Chip M asked Chip Z for some images, he was told Oh, just use whatever comes top of a Google image search. This news story provided one of those images, which confused me because I was convinced that what I was seeing was a man dressed as the Marsupilami (no, it's Garfield).

I'd identified a promising source of all-day breakfasts at the Farmhouse Kitchen, but we didn't have time before our next event, so we bought pasties and hog roast at the market, and headed back to the Brewery to hear Bryan Talbot talk to Peter Kessler about the final chapter of Grandville. This was just an opportunity to eavesdrop on a really interesting conversation, while admiring images from all five volumes of Grandville blown up on the big screen. There were things that seemed to bother Peter Kessler which I didn't find puzzling (like why you would use a computer font for your lettering) or where I saw what the issue was but not why he was so concerned about it (these people are fish! and they are eating fish!) but he was an interested and intelligent questioner, and drew out some interesting remarks from his interviewee. We didn't follow them across the road to the signing, as we wanted to go to the next event (and although I did buy the book an hour later, the signing queue was still ridiculous)ETA.

The panel on the life and work of Tove Jansson was titled 'More than the Moomins', and consisted of Paul Gravett in conversation with Sophia Jansson (Tove's neice) and Tuula Karjalainen (her biographer). It was illustrated by a slideshow of photographs of Tove Jansson, a few of her paintings and plenty of Moomin drawings: I wished that instead of the cycling images we could have had the one that was relevant to what was being discussed at any given moment. Then again, it was warm in the theatre, and I slept badly last night, so it's no reflection on the panelists that I was tending to drift off. If I came away from the event thinking that I'd have liked to know more about the more than the Moomins, it may be my own inattention that's to blame. (If I really want to know more, we might be able to get to the show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery). Meanwhile, Jonathan Edwards was making a pretty image while we watched (doing things I didn't realise you could do with watercolour), and I hope to see more of his work at the Wildman Gallery tomorrow.

Finally, a fun panel on 'the greatest comic book cover of all time', introduced by Peter Kessler again. This was absolutely not about the greatest cover of all time, but a fascinating glimpse of practitioners talking about specifics, and often at its best when they cut in to comment on each other's choices. Duncan Fegredo proposed his copy of Halo Jones, because it was signed with kind comments about his portfolio; Chip Zdarsky proposed Aunt May's wedding to Doc Octopus, because seriously; Mariko Tamaki praised Lumberjanes and The Wicked + The Divine - which was on my list, though she chose the first sequence, the big portraits, and I prefer the more recent ones... Actually, what's brilliant about the Wic+Div covers is the way they work as a sequence. There was no discussion of whether covers of trade paperbacks work in the same way as singles. Other things not discussed: Watchmen (another brilliant sequence of covers) although it was included in the opening montage; Duncan Fegredo's own cover work; Brian Bolland (his name was mentioned, but that's all); Dave McKean's Sandman covers. It's the mark of a good panel, I think, that you emerge wanting to continue the conversation...

But not now. It's been a long day, and there'll be more tomorrow, for which I'd like to stay awake.

ETA: In fact, having decided not to pursue Bryan Talbot across the road in pursuit of a signed copy of Grandville: Force Majeure, I went to Page 45's room after an hour-long event, to discover that people were still waiting for signed copies. At first I thought I would join them, but realised that it was once again a choice between a signature and the next event, so I bought my book and left. Good decision. This morning Bryan told me he had been signing for four hours.
shewhomust: (watchmen)
As I had guessed, our cottage is not as far out of town as you might think, and most of the distance is vertical. Also, there is indeed a back door to the Brewery Arts Centre, though they lock it at dusk. [personal profile] durham_rambler found an interesting way down, past the birthplace of Postman Pat. through a park which would have offered a fine view over Kendal if it weren't for the trees, and down a steep and narrow alleyway - I said "I'm not coming back this way in the dark!" and in fact we found a return route which was even steeper, rather shorter and better lit (which is to say, lit in places). We collected our tickets and armbands from the box office, found a cashpoint, noticed that the Clocktower has been scaffolded (because 2017 is The Year of ScaffoldingTM) and had something to eat (and a couple of bottles of the Festival beer) back at the Brewery.

The gala opening event was Quick on the Draw, a display of live improvised cartooning, hosted by the National Cartoonists Society of America, and starring Guest of Honour Sergio Aragonés. Local MP Tim Farron introduced it, and stayed to be caricatured by various participants. He claimed to be a comics fan, but the only comic he named in support of this was Viz, so it was good that among the people who portrayed him were members of the Viz gang. It was a fun idea, but felt as if it was struggling to fill its allotted time (personally, I always feel that asking the audience to shout out suggestions is a bad sign). Aragonés had most of the best gags - I loved his sketch of why he hadn't got to play Batman (his huge moustache sticking out below the bat-mask) - and drew at an amazing speed. It was also a very male event - all credit to Sarah Firth, the one woman participating, and I loved the heavy black lines of her drawing, but her humour fitted very comfortably into the overall blokeishness of the evening. Comparing reactions on the way home, we agreed that we had enjoyed it less than last year's debate - well, that's hardly surprising.

This part of the evening was entirely consistent with my understanding of the word 'cartoonist', but the membership of the National Cartoonists Society is clearly broader than that, and the founder members of the UK Chapter of that organisation likewise includes some people I would describe as cartoonists, and others I'd call comics artists. But even that didn't prepare me for the announcement of the first winner of the Sergio Aragonés Award - ah, looking now at the programme, I see it's 'for Excellence in Comic Art', which makes more sense. Even so, if you set out to think of the artist whose work was at the furthest possible remove from what we had seen earlier, you might well have come up with Dave McKean. Accepting the award, he said much the same thing, that he was amazed at what he'd been watching. If you asked me to do something like that, he said, you'd have to be prepared to give me the topic and then go away for two days and leave me alone. And not mind if you came back two days later, and I said, 'No. Didn't work'.
shewhomust: (watchmen)
We left home this morning (just) on a mild autumn day, with a promise of high and gusty winds. Despite which we braved the A66 (notorious for its exposure to gales and other weather). It was indeed blowy at the top, but more dramatic was the grey curtain that came down as we passed the 'Welcome to Cumbria' sign. It is misty, and it is wet. Back down in the valley, there is less mist, but more wetness: we can see far enough to realise that - although last week's flood warning has been downgraded to yellow - the rivers are all still very high.

Our cottage this year is on Greenside, not a part of town I know. We seemed to take a very long way round to get here, and I'm hoping there's a more direct walking route down to the Brewery, where most of the festival events take place (the map suggests this would be easier if the Brewery had a back door). We seemed to be climbing quite high up, which given the general wetness is probably just as well. We have, as you can tell, grappled successfully with the keysafe and the wifi, and made a pot of tea. I have reacquainted my notebook with Dreamwidth, and decided I can do without Flickr for the duration of the weekend.

Later we will go out and collect tickets and a programme (because although the programme is online, there's nothing like a dead tree document you can scribble on). Until then, I have a book...
shewhomust: (Default)
Durham Book Festival began this weekend, and runs through next weekend, when we will be elsewhere. So our festival going has been restricted to three events.
  • Yesterday evening we heard John O'Farrell talking about his new book, Things Can Only Get Worse, and other topics, including his first book Things Can Only Get Better (which sounded more interesting) and his previous career in writing for such comedy programmes as Spitting Image. He was very funny, as I'd have expected if I hadn't been so ignorant about his past life, but I'd only come across him as a columnist. So I laughed a lot, spent an enjoyable hour, and wasn't at all tempted to buy the book.

  • This morning was Bob Beagrie's Leásungspell, a journey from Hartlepool to Whitby in the year 657 CE, a narrative poem in "a heteroglossic hybrid" (it says here) of Old English and other things, mysterious but never quite unintelligible, a performance piece for poet and musicians, with a soundtrack which mysteriously managed not to reference the Lyke Wake Dirge... This time I did buy the book, though I may not achieve the recommended strategy of reading it while listening to the recorded performance.

Lunch break: and it seems I was wrong to assume that the strange floral tribute to Saint Cuthbert had been removed:

Trio of crosses

Lunch was salads and paninis (and good coffee and lime-and-coconut cake) at Cafédral on the corner of Owengate: our timetable meant that we were ridiculously early, which is probably the only way to avoid the crowds here: it was getting very busy as we left. We'd brought the Guardian Saturday crossword, but something seems to have gone wrong, as we'd solved most of it by the time lunch was over.

  • This afternoon's session 'Labour in the North' was billed as "This fascinating event will explore the origins of Labour’s dominance in County Durham, what sustained it and the current state of play. It will also look at how Labour built a local social democracy that improved conditions for working class people and ensured their support for generations." It did nothing of the sort. John Tomaney had been commissioned by New Writing North to write something about Labour history for the event: he had chosen to write about Peter Lee (the essay he wrote is supposed to be on the website, but I can't find it; presumably a fuller version of this one). Rachel Reeves is a Leeds MP who has written a biography of Alice Bacon, one of the first women MPs (selected for an 'unwinnable' seat and then elected in Labour's 1945 landslide). There were interesting conversations to be had around either of these figures, but despite the efforts of moderator Michael Chaplin, they didn't really illuminate each other. I'd have been happy to listen to Rachel Reeves talking about all the Labour women she interviewed in her research.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
When we were in Whitby in August, BoyBear gave me this book (it was his birthday, after all) with the explanation that he had found it in a charity shop, and, on reflection, thought I would probably like it better than he had. Which I interpreted as meaning that he had not liked it, and as I liked it quite a bit, I wondered what the problem was. Recently I had a chance to ask him, and he clarified: "I enjoyed reading it. But..."

That made a whole lot more sense. I, too, enjoyed reading it. But...

It's always a treat to read a book completely unspoilered, a book about which you know nothing at all. So I plunged in to the meticulous account of the work of the Home Office telegraphy department. Not present day, then. Victorian, with a very steampunk aesthetic. But telegraphy is very steampunk, when you think about it, so this could still be a historical novel, just described in a way I associate with the speculative. And it's good to be reminded that just because I don't recognise a historical event, that doesn't prove we're dealing with alt-history: maybe it's just something I don't know about. But I don't think it's giving too much away to say that the eponymous watchmaker is from the very first skilled at his work to a non-realistic extent, and eventually turns out to be rather more than that. Which makes the book speculative fiction of some kind.

So why hadn't I heard of it? Feel free to tell me that actually it was being discussed all over the internets, and I can't have been paying attention. That's certainly one possibility. Turning to the back cover copy (something I rarely do before I have finished reading a book) I see that it was a "Guardian Summer Read". Whatever that means, it implies some degree of visibility - but maybe not in a category I would have picked up on. Still on the back cover, the Irish Times praised it as an "ambitious debut" that combines "historical fiction, magic realism and elements of gothic fiction" - none of your nasty genre elements here, then!

Regard this as a public service announcement, then: genre readers, this book has much to offer. That's not to say it has no faults, though it's difficult to discuss them without giving away more of the plot than I'm prepared to: indeed, one of my reservations is about the neatness of the ending (though other readers may find this a plus rather than a minus). The watchmakers ability seems to change its nature part way through the book, and an 'explanation' for it is proffered which only makes sense if a scientific theory which was discredited in our world holds true in the world of the novel (which flirts with the subject, but doesn't quite lay its cards on the table). But there's a clockwork octopus, for which much may be forgiven.

Despite the steampunk, the book it most reminded of was Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I immensely enjoyed reading without ever quite becoming emotionally engaged with it.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Thanks to Erica, setter of last night's pub quiz, for the reminder that Sputnik 1 was launched on October 4th 1957.

Every day is the anniversary of something, and I do occasionally grumble at the obsessive observance thereof. But the 60th birthday of the space age shouldn't slip by unremarked.

I have a clear memory of walking with my father on a sunny day on Wanstead Flats, while he explained to me what this 'sputnik' thing was, and thinking it was very exciting. I was six at the time, so that clarity of the memory is not to be trusted, but I still think it's very exciting.
shewhomust: (Default)
  • The thing - whether a good thing or a bad thing, definitely a thing - about doing a big supermarket shop on Friday and then being out for much of Saturday is that the fridge remains more full of food than you would expect. Also the vegetable rack. I have been eyeing 'best before' dates nervously, but mostly they are fine, and there is bonus foodstuffs, and all is well.

  • I had meant to take my camera when we went out on Saturday to meet S. for lunch, and replace the photographs of the strange floral displays that I lost when my camera card died. But I forgot. As it happens, the bishop's mitre which had adorned the Market Place had been removed, and although we hadn't ventured up to Palace Green to check on the trio of St Cuthbert's crosses there, I'm guessing they'd gone tooETA:Apparently not. Ah, well. Anyway, the point of the excursion was not photography, but lunch with S., and that was good, though I think we owe her a better meal next time: that's twice we've suggested eating somewhere that we wanted to try, but weren't, when we had tried it, very impressed.

  • I got out of bed on Friday with a stiff and slightly painful arm, and assumed I had been lying awkwardly in my sleep. It didn't give me any trouble while I was swimming - apart from one twinge when I twisted my arm back - but nor did it clear up during the day. By the evening, I had to be helped on with my coat. It was the sort of pain I get when I've spent too long at the keyboard, but higher up the arm, and it seemed likely that what I was dealing with was a trapped nerve. Yesterday morning it was worse, and not just first thing in the morning, when any ailment involving stiffness is at its worst. I contemplated taking it to the doctor when they reopen for the week. But today, of course, it is very much better. So this is just for the record, to remind myself what it was, and when.

  • Saturday evening was intersectional, in that F had gathered the pubquiz team together for a rerun of a session he had previously conducted with the wine club he and C belong to. Although this is the first time we have done anything purely social with this particular group of people, the quiz itself is sufficiently sociable that it didn't feel very different (and although it had been on the cards that the occasional wife, child or previous attender might turn up, this didn't happen). We did focus to quite a surprising extent on the wines, though, all of which were Austrian, all of which came from the same supplier, and none of which was less than enjoyable. And that includes three reds, though it's no surprise that the stars of the evening were white. One was the first we tasted, a Gelber Muskateller from Heidi Schröck, luscious and floral: the seller's notes say "2011 Vintage: The 2009 had that intense 'wow, what was that?' quality when you first encounter it and the 2011 is similarly fascinating. It is a medieval herb and rose garden in a glass. What sitting on a warm day in the rose garden of Castle Howard, or in Vienna, would be like if you could bottle it." I'll take their word for that. Even better was the Pinot Gris from Josef Lentsch, with the sweetness and edge of dried apricots, and a distinct smoky edge (ah, I see that although our notes didn't mention it, it is very discreetly oaked). The smoker in the party had to go out for a cigarette while drinking this.

  • Last night, we watched a BBC documentary about Charles Causley: a curious mixture of clips and talking heads. I'd have liked to know more about his mother: they make a big fuss about how he lived all his life in his mother's house ("He devoted his life to teaching, poetry and his mum") but then don't mention her until her death. Likewise, although he didn't uproot himself, he certainly travelled ('to Israel, France and East Anglia', I think it was, at one point). But the talking heads were well leavened with poetry. I don't know why some of them were felt to need subtitles, and some weren't. And although Jim Causley was never actually visible, his settings were liberally provided (and he got to speak as well).

Monday morning comes down to earth with a bump, with the news that Tom Paley has died. Not a surprise: every time we saw him he was older, and frailer, and I did notice his absence from Whitby. But I'm sad that we won't see him again. It's the end of an era. Have a random Guardian article asking why he isn't a folk celebrity - oh, Guardian, this is what folk celebrity is!
shewhomust: (bibendum)
As I said, D. was visiting us last week. He spent a couple of days making visits further afield, but [personal profile] durham_rambler and I also took a couple of days off, so that we could do fun things together. On Wednesday we returned to see the Cathedral's Open Treasure, now complete with actual treasures of Saint Cuthbert and much improved thereby. No pictures, because photography is not allowed - except in one alcove, where robes are provided in both children's and adult sizes, so that you can photograph each other dressed as monks. Perhaps, I suggested, I could dress up as a monk and then just happen to be standing next to this hogback tomb carved in the likeness of two bears? But the attendant was firm: only in that alcove there. While we were in town I took a couple of pictures of the new floral decorations, but my camera card has died, so I can't post those either...

However. Last Saturday was the last day of the visit, and D. suggested we go to Vindolanda, a Roman fort and settlement just south of the Wall. Since [personal profile] durham_rambler and I had not been there for a very long time (longer than we realised, it turns out) that's what we did. It was there that my card gave out, but since it happened quite early in the day and [personal profile] durham_rambler had a spare card I could borrow, damage was limited. Just to tempt you, this is probably my favourite of the pictures I took that day:

Another corner of the fort

The hills in the background, a hint of the vicus in the foreground (I've no idea what the round stone with the hole in it is) and in between the masonry of the fort wall, with that distinctive playing-card corner.

Want more? Under the cut! )
shewhomust: (ayesha)
This is one of those boring posts - in this case about local planning issues - that I write because I want a record of something. I don't expect anyone else to be interested.

The story so far )

Now read on: )

Don't think I've been brooding over this post for the whole of the last week; part of the last week, yes, but it's also been a long time in the writing because D. has been visiting us, and we've been going out and having fun. So the next post will be more entertaining - or at least better illustrated!
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:

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