A night at the Ballet

I’m only really a fan of modern ballet and so the opportunity to see the touring Matthew Bourne production of “Edward Scissorhands” was a night out that I couldn’t miss.

Gorgeous sets and costumes, fantastic dancing and plenty of humour created an exciting theatre experience of the bitter sweet story.

I ought to watch the film again, but i really want to see thhe ballet again. An uplifting experience on a dank January night. Bravo!

Edward Scissorhands


Mystery and intrigue in the Library

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Terror and Wonder : The Gothic Imagination exhibition at the British Library in London.

If you like looking at old books and classic film posters and clips (and I do) then this exhibition is a fascinating joy.

Over two hundred rare objects trace the history of the Gothic movement over 250years. It was all represented; Castles, abbeys, ruins, passionate noblemen, tyrannical fathers, scheming monks, virginal heroines and resourceful heroes.

Gothic Partnership

The exhibition was split into six sections. Gothic beginnings; a taste for terror; Victorian monstrosity; decadence and degeneration; modern horrors and a weekend in Whitby.

Horace Walpole starts the exhibition off with his vivid dreaming in his Gothic villa at Strawberry Hill. The result was the Castle of Otranto. It was all part of the growing fascination with the medieval past and death.

From then it’s a journey through British Gothic literature and the ways in which it has influences all art forms and has maintained the ability to endure and entertain. Many artists and writers have adapted the terror and sensation to continually shock and excite audiences.

Gothic Monster

The British Library has dusted all the classic volumes it can down for the exhibition and relied on the BFI and other notable museums to lend out the curious. The most curious for me had to be the vampire-slaying kit on loan from the royal armouries!

The final part of the exhibition featured the specially commissioned photographs of the Whitby Goth weekend that now occurs twice a year due to the popularity of the event that’s been going strong for35 years.

I thankfully didn’t leave the exhibition terrified, just entertained and wondering about the dark shadows that the gothic imagination has cast across so many art forms and lives.

Gothic British Library Tales of Terror

New year, new hope.

First day of 2015, time for a bit of a fettle. Shame on me so much not approached. A pile of books and files full of photos. Thing is I am rather poor at using my digital photos. Not really sure where best to share them or how to edit them. I give up too easily. I love taking and looking at photos but, then it all falls over.

Here’s to trying a bit harder this year and trying to find some time to do “stuff”.

I don’t dislike Winter but in the massive file of unused photos I had from a Calke Abbey visit in a glorious Sepember last year, I found some very cheery photos that make me hope Spring is around the corner.


Peak fiesta time!

Previously it had always been a slight disappointment visiting Eyam. That’s probably unfair as it has a lot to offer; the plague history, good walks in the area and tea shops just to name a few. But I have always felt a tinge of disappointment as the sheep roast spit stood empty and usually the doors to Eyam Hall remained closed as I never managed to pick the right opening day. All that changed in 2013 when the National Trust became involved and I had looked forward to the opportunity to visit with the longer opening hours available.

Well thoughts of quiet Jacobean gritstone pailed on arrival into “Party Village” End of August Carnival time!

It is quite difficult to capture the bizarre frivolity that unfolded as we walked around the village. The Matlock marauders seemed as surprised as I was. A riot of motorised floats parading down the main street to the brass band beat, or was it the mexican samba or the whine of the highland pipes. World music in Eyam! More princesses than an Eastenders prom, Laurel and Hardy on a tractor (where else would they be?), a talent bus and a mississippi showboat with an intrepid troupe of cheeky cheerleaders. The occasional vintage car drifted by followed by an animated cluedo board.

We followed the parade, reminiscent of a modern day pied piper, past the plague houses and working sheep roast spit and the obligatory beer tents,  into the square. By time the band struck up “Sussex by the Sea” it felt like the right time for a sit down and a restorative cup of tea.

Cheer leading like never before

Cheer leading like never before

After a moment of hesitation in the square the parade seemed to decide it was the time to parade back up the high street So we followed again. I had the feeling they would parade up and down until the beer ran out or the party momentum was exhausted. It was certainly time for us to duck out.


Did someone say duck out?

Eyam Hall beekeeper enjoying the samba sunshine

Oh, what of the Hall? well, relatively subdued and quiet, so looking around the rooms and garden proved to be quite pleasant. It was very pleasing to finally have the chance to look around and have the added bonus of purchasing some Peakland White cheese from the shop in the courtyard.

Eyham Hall front

Eyam in the Sunshine

As I write this I am still wondering if I witnessed all that on a quiet day in Eyam that turned out to be a carnival fiesta. But I have the photos so it must be so!


Eyam Hall Garden


Fantastic contraptions fly again.

Two reasons prompted me to return to Birmingham:-
1. I’d been in town recently and noted that the Emett exhibition was on in the Birmingham Art Gallery Gas Hall and,
2. I’m kind of missing the Emett Water Clock that used to live in the Victoria Shopping Centre.

I’d have to say that I thought the Exhibition was well worth the £5 entrance fee.
If you can resist the urge to dash into the main hall where all the whirring machines are on display you are treated to a potted life story of the man.
There are lots of his cartoons from the Punch magazine that he contributed to and some lovely artefacts from the Festival of Britain including a cine camera
film of the long dismantled ‘Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway’ which carried over 2 million people around the festival site.

The urge to dash into the main hall became too much and it’s sort of three main areas; the machines from the Chitty Citty Bang Bang movie, machines that were comissioned by corporate companies as promotional material(?) (they obviously had more imagination and humour than they do today) and the Cloud Cuckoo Valley mechanical railway
Starting with Chitty. In the movie the machines feature as Caractacus Potts’ crazy creations.
There’s the Clockwork Lullabye Machine to help you sleep at night; the Hot Air Rocking Chair, complete with fitted carpet slippers; the Little Dragon Carpet Sweeper which looks rather like a useful, mechanical pet with bellows; and, more exotically, The Exploratory Lunacycle – a dustpan and bicycle version of an Apollo  Moon Rover, operated by a spindly moustachioed pilot wearing a gold fish bowl and colander helmet, followed by the wacky golfing machine

But my favourite was the FeatherstoneFlying machine. Just loved it,especially the cat.
The following video captures the exhibition better than words and photos can, simply because you have to see the machines in motion to appreciate the crazy beauty of it all.

And a mini Featherstone Gallery that I loved so much.

Viking Shuffle

The day had dawned on an eagerly awaited trip to the Viking exhibition at the British Museum with the Brackenfield bandit.

Replica helmet, real jawbone with teeth.

Replica helmet, real jawbone with teeth.

I had heard mixed reports of the exhibition experience from the overcrowding in the exhibit, to the managing of expectations on the remains of the Viking ship.

I have to say that the first part of the exhibition was too crowded for me. You basically had to queue or shove your way to the display cases to see the exhibits. It is timed ticket entry but there is no “crowd” control as such. Okay so people view exhibits at different paces and those who choose an audio tour are immediately going to slow the pace down as there is usually so much interpretation to hear on the audio tours. But it was disappointing.

I’m not sure what the museum can do to keep everything flowing at peak times, e.g. a Saturday afternoon. The temptation to keep selling tickets where there is demand is too great a money collecting opportunity to turn down.

Once in the main hall where the Viking ship dominates there was more room to manoeuvre, marginally. First thing to mention here is that the reconstruction of the ship is impressive, and there is a little bit more of the original timbers around than the rumoured “one plank” Lots of silver and gold to see in the cases in here and a selection of skeletons to prove that the Vikings weren’t that welcome in Dorset and came to a sticky end.

The Lewis chessmen make a typically grumpy appearance and there are various examples of battle equipment to marvel at if that’s your thing.

Over all I am glad I went, rather than just saw the live relay at a cinema. However if you prefer up close and personal then that would be your best bet or buy the catalogue for the smaller items. I think nothing can capture the vision of the ship though and using your imagination as you shuffle around the exhibits with everyone else.

Fierce chap we met in the shop.

Fierce chap we met in the shop.

An added bonus is that the Sutton Hoo exhibits in the British Museum have had a display make over for the event too and that was an interesting display to look at. I hadn’t seen the original helmet before and thought it was now on display at Sutton Hoo. But no it’s currently residing in Bloomsbury 🙂

A day is never enough, always too much to see in the British Museum. So a cuppa in Russell Square had to conclude the trip.

Siege! Bring cake!

It’s a good ten years or more since I last visited Bolsover Castle and after hearing about the new improvements for 2014, I was very keen to visit again. Very kindly the Brackenfield Bandits offered to take me along.

The added bonus this weekend was that there was a special event on too. Siege! A living history display of the Civil War battle for the Castle in 1644. Parliamentarian versus the Royalists. There were the encampments to visit and the battles to witness on the main display field.

Beating the drum

Beating the drum

Protecting the castle

Protecting the castle





Very cleverly re-enacted by the Cavaliers and Roundheads with foot soldiers and cavalry. Smoke and fire; a general hellfire of a rumpus.

Making ready

Making ready



Leaving the battle raging outside, once inside the Castle walls the riding school was open to see with very informative historical displays and then onto the little castle looking much spruced up with its winter improvements. Replica furniture and tapestries helping to give it a more living history feel than before.

Castle and garden

Castle and garden

The major improvement is the wall walk where visitors can now “walk in a cavalier’s footsteps”! It’s quite impressive and the views are stunning. I am not sure I felt quite as if I had “walked back in time” but the Stuart music that was drifting up from “Blast from the Past” in the garden was helping set the tone.

Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past



Even time for a cuppa and some homemade cake near the fountain. I hadn’t expected to make a cake but the previous day a new recipe try out had produced more cake that anticipated. Still, always room for cake with an appreciative audience! A reclaim the weekend cake! Here’s the link:-

Rhubarb and Orange Cake

Most impressed with the visit and the event, a very pleasant day out. Probably worth going back soon as there is a lot to see and at weekends the riding school offer demonstrations too.



Flowering Cherry Tree Walk

Something different for an evening walk. A walk around the Nottingham University Park to look at the flowering cherry trees.

I had been looking forward to this but after the recent fair weather was wondering if there would be any cherry tree still flowering. Our guide did explain that it had been difficult to pitch the walk at the optimum time due to the mild winter and spring. Predictably we had missed the early flowering trees but as the University Park has over 25 varieties spanning early, mid season and late flowering periods there was plenty to look at.

Most of the varieties are of far eastern origin, being imported in the early 1900s, they heyday of flowering cherry fascination.

We saw a rare Prunus “Tai-haku” which had been rediscovered in a Sussex garden in 1923 and reintroduced back into Japan in 1932 after it had become extinct in its native land. That was sadly past its best so no photograph.

The following photos are mostly of the Prunus “Shogetsu” which at its flowering best, and it know best by its trade name “blushing bride”







One of my favourites is pictured here, the Prunus serrula or Tibetan Cherry which is usually grown for it beautiful and unique glossy red-brown bark and peeling corky bands. The flowers are actually quite insignificant.




A two hour walk around the extensive University park learning more about flowering cherry trees than I knew possible and the whisker tip and drip-tip leaves. A substantial and significant collection of trees. Thankfully the rain held off until the end, but a few rays of late sunshine would have brightened up the photos but alas it wasn’t to be. Still it didn’t spoil the walk and guided tour.

Easter Imp

Good Friday in Lincoln was very busy.

Lots have changed since my last visit two years ago and lots haven’t. On this trip my intention was to visit the Joseph Banks exhibition at “The Collection” and to explore the Bishops Palace next to Lincoln Cathedral.

The main town remains pretty much the same. The University now dominates Brayford Pool and I didn’t have time to look around there but I understand that there are now lots of restaurants and hotels around this area. A hive of activity and a far cry from the days when you struggled to get a cuppa down there.

In the main town the usual high street suspects remain and as ever Stokes coffee shop stands proud as the Lincoln institution is it. In fact by town centre standards Lincoln didn’t seem to be doing too badly.

I started the climb towards the Cathedral. Lots of new restaurants have appeared here too, Carlucci’s being very prominent. I was looking for the Cheese Society and found it, but alas no room at the inn for this wary traveler on Good Friday so I walked back to the strait and browsed the Cheese Society shop instead. Very friendly staff with plenty of tasting opportunities awaited me inside. I eventually emerged with a nice piece of cheese and I continued on.

I have to say that I cheated and did not walk straight up Steep Hill as I made a detour into The Collection. It’s a lovely exhibition space, free too. Very interesting Joseph Banks exhibition with plenty of significant exhibit loans. A local lad celebrated handsomely, I wonder what he would have made of that? A wander through the Roman collection fired up a thirst but yet again the cafe was full; maybe we have become a nation of coffee drinkers and natterers?

Avoiding Steep Hill didn’t mean that I had found a sneaky flat way to the Cathedral, there’s really no escape, you have to climb the hill at some point. I meandered my way through a pretty street via the temple gardens. Steep Hill loomed in front of me, and, a shock, a “For sale” sign over Readers Rest. I stopped to catch my breath;  the bookshop was no more. I was surprised in one way as maybe I though its reputation might have been its salvation, but reputation doesn’t pay the bills and on further investigation I have discovered that business ends were not meeting. It’s said that charity shops etc. have captured some of the market for second hand books, and the internet, I can’t really say why this owner called it a day. I haven’t the facts. It had closed in March 2014. I stood for a while and pondered on the happy memories of trips to Lincoln that included a visit to the shop and a book purchase. However there’s little point in my bemoaning, as my one book purchase every two years is hardly going to help keep the wolf from the door.

Further up the hill it was pleasing to see that some of the shops were familiar; The Pie Shop, the Wig and Mitre. There were some new ones too.

Lincoln West Door Approach

Just at the top of Steep Hill, the usual West approach to Lincoln Cathedral

Outside the castle and cathedral there were plenty of people milling about but I had decided to walk towards Bailgate to see the Newport Arch. Still a remarkable Roman ruin but I didn’t take a photo as it was somewhat covered in scaffolding. I looked at the information board and boggled that it was actually still standing after the infamous lorry incident in the 1960’s. The photo is quite alarming. This article explains the current repairs and also shows the 1960’s photo. Newport Arch

From here I walked around the North side of the Cathedral for a different view to the normal ones of the Cathedral and made my way to the Bishops Palace. I have to say this was the quietest part of Lincoln that I saw all day, obviously off the main drag but quite pretty on a pleasant spring day.


East Side of Cathedral

East Side of Cathedral

Not many takers for the Bishops Palace but the admission price seemed okay for the super audio tour provided, the views of Lincoln and the Cathedral and, it is still a significant ruin.

View of the mighty Lincoln Cathedral from inside the Bishops Palace

View of the mighty Lincoln Cathedral from inside the Bishops Palace

From the Palace there was a different view of the glass window. I hadn’t noticed before but the window features two lime tree leaves.

Two lime leaves in the window

Two lime leaves in the window


I enjoyed returning to Lincoln. There was plenty more that I didn’t see, so there I have my excuse to return sooner rather than later.


End of Cheese week

Well, I did my best during Cheese week to find some new cheeses to try.

Peakland White from the Hartington Dairy is proving so popular that I was unable to obtain any from the Cheese Factor in Chesterfield, but at least I tried a crumbly Lancashire to go with the nice Olive Bread I had brought on the market.

Completely new to me was the cheese brought at Welbeck, a soft cheese called Waterloo made by Village Maid

Waterloo Cheese

This proved to be very tasty indeed with the Bakehouse Biscuits (Great Taste Award winning for 2013) and a glass of Henrietta made by the Welbeck Abbey Brewery.

Okay, so not an extensive attempt at Cheese tasting, but Cheese if forever not just one week………..I shall continue my adventures in cheese