Saturday, 29 October 2016

We are family, I've got all my sisters with me!

Once upon a time, there were three little girls. They were often dressed in the same outfits, shared a bedroom and divided their time neatly between playing nicely together and tormenting the very life out of one another. It can only mean one thing. They were sisters.
But that's the beauty of all that childhood stuff. It knits you together, irrevocably, and when you get to a certain age, you realise how very precious that is. As adults we rarely get the chance to be together, all three of us at the same time and in the same place, due to distance and commitments, so when we do, it's a real treat.
About a week ago, we all converged on Salisbury in Wiltshire. It's on a train line for the other two, so it seemed a good place to meet.
Update, thanks to Fiona: Those are mating swan towels on the bed!!

I was the last one to arrive as I had a four hour drive to get there (and a five hour drive back, horror of horrors). They were waiting for me, with a drink at the ready. Half a cider. Haven't been a cider drinker since I left Somerset thirty years ago. Turns out it's just like riding a bike, got straight back into it as though I'd never stopped.

We then popped up to drop our bags off and check out our rooms. Wow! Rather special! But then I knew that already, because Mim only went and stayed there last month! 
When we were kids, after mass on a Sunday, the priest, Father O'Brien would come round and say hello to everyone as we chatted outside. Every week he'd come out with the same questions. 'Who's the clever one, Mum? Who's the quiet one? Who's the naughty one, Mum?' We'd give each other the side eye, and shove someone other than ourselves forward for that last category. 

As kids, we generally accepted that Fiona was the quiet one. Well, this week we re-evaluated the situation. Turns out that number 1 daughter Fiona was the naughty one all along! When faced with our pristine beds, she launched herself, like kids do into freshly fallen snow. Look at that face. I can't look at these photos without laughing.
So eventually we set off, in search of lunch. My little sister, who had planned and organised all of this for me as a wonderful birthday treat, had also brought some bits and pieces she had found in a folder from our Mum and Dad's house before it was cleared out, so we looked at old photos and documents and generally reminisced and marvelled at what she had found.
That's a 1930s handmade cotton dress I'm wearing there, bought when I went on an adventure with Serena a while back
After that we all agreed, it was time to hit the chazzas. Amazing that all three of us like doing that. Salisbury was pretty good. I got a Jaeger velvet skirt, a tweed skirt and some plus fours!

Early evening, we went up to enjoy our fancy rooms and get ready for dinner, which Olivia had booked in the restaurant at the hotel. The food was lovely, and we washed it down with Peach Bellinis. All very delightful.
We had sweet potato chips with our salad. Delicious!
Olivia had brought a whole loads of snacks for after tea, just in case we were still peckish, but we really weren't, so we just hung out in her room, watching TV and chatting until bedtime.
It was the best birthday treat I could have hoped for, and I loved it, loved it, loved it!

The only downside to all this wonderful celebration is that you get to be what feels like much older at the end of it. I'll be Five-OH next month! Yikes. Guess I'll just have to go somewhere nice to soften the blow...

Monday, 24 October 2016

Allotment life

I haven't bored you with treated you to an allotment update recently, and really I need to before the gloom of winter descends and it's all just a distant memory.
If we ignore June, we had a pretty good summer here in the East Midlands, with plenty of sunshine and warm days. I'm not at all a sunbather, but I do love waking up to bright days and being able to wander around in flip flops and summer dresses. I hate having to wear loads of layers, and I miss the flowers in winter. I like swimming in the outdoor pool and eating supper on the patio, so although I die in the intense heat (after a lot of moaning), I truly do love summer best of all, with Spring getting a Silver medal and Autumn scooping the Bronze.
The blackberries this year were plentiful and delicious. Gentleman's Avenue, where the bigwigs of Nottingham had their plots. Our friend Dancing Dave has just landed one there. We're going up for a visit next weekend.
August/September was lovely so it seemed the perfect time to invite some friends up to see what it's all about, this allotment life. If I'm honest, I've hardly spent any time up there this year. I have two jobs and an unpaid role which take up most of my time and energy. Every year I say I'm going to do less work, but for the time being, it's just wishful thinking. Good job there's a man-who-can to keep things going.
So one weekend Serena and Claire came to see us. We hadn't discussed food or anything but great minds think alike. We took homemade scones, cream and jam made from the currant bushes up on Q's plot, and they brought wine and crisps. What a lovely combination that proved to be.
A surprise visitor. So beautiful!

A sudden downpour sent us scurrying into the shed Q has fashioned from some bits of wood he was given, including a child's Wendy House. It's still awaiting a finished door and windows, but hopefully by winter it will be watertight, so he can seek refuge and make himself a cup of tea. 
Then the following weekend Phil and Varanya visited. This time we had bread, cheese and a cup of tea. It's one of the rules of nature, that everything tastes better outside, so we really enjoyed it.
The allotment has a very special feel about it. It's easier to relax and unwind up there than anywhere else I know. There's the most amazing variety of wildlife, big skies, the wind blows and you feel free. I love it, much more than our garden.

I'm already looking forward to next summer when we can have some more friends to visit.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

She was a day tripper

I had a bit of time off work the other week, and there was talk of maybe going away for a few days, but we didn't get our act together, so after careful scrutiny of the weather forecast, I persuaded Q that a day out was in order.

As a driver, I find train trips such a luxury. No traffic, no mystifying one-way systems and no hassle with parking. Plus, it can be quicker. Twenty three whole minutes to Newark-on-Trent, a small market town on the banks of the River Trent, bursting with civil war history. Plus you get to see fields and orchards and woodlands and into people's back gardens. Much better than roads.
That's the ruined Newark Castle there, 12th century if you're interested. I like the fact that it sits within a park, accessible to all, and actually there were quite a few people just sitting there, basking in the early autumn sunshine.

That's a me-made patchwork skirt there, been slowly adding to it for months, thinking it might end up as a bedspread, but I had a rush of blood to the head and decided to make it into a skirt. It looks fine from the front but from the side I look a bit like one of those crocheted dolls who use their skirts to hide the loo roll. Not exactly the look I was aiming for, so it may find itself on a bed yet.
We'd been given some hot tips about where to go for eating and drinking, but the rest of it was free form, just wandering and exploring.
We sat outside for a coffee and it felt positively continental. We both agreed we could be on holiday and rebranded our day out as a mini-break.
There are a few plaques referring to the siege of Newark during the Civil War, but I plumped for this one because it features Charles the First's Queen, Henrietta, who happens to share a birthday with me*. When you get to my age, you want to share photos with someone older than you, and she is. 357 years older to be precise.
*some sources give it as a day earlier, in which case 357 years and 1 day older.
We missed a trick, visiting on practically the only day of the week there is no market. Some days it's a fruit and veg type market, but on others it's a flea market. I'll be going back on flea market day.
There's a big old church just off the Market Square. It asks for donations from people taking photographs, £1 for stills and £2 for videos. Being the well-behaved, law-abiding citizens we are, we did as we were told. I saw a couple of buckets on the floor and put my coins in. Turns out they were the buckets to collect rainfall. Oops.
A carved wooden door within a door, and vintage grafitti on the choristers pews! 
And guess what else there is? Only a vintage shop called Vintage Vixen! I had heard of it before, but had completely forgotten about it, so what a nice surprise. The lady who runs it was lovely and her prices were very reasonable, so we spent a happy half hour rummaging through the rails. I saw a few things which I thought...oh, yes, Mim would like this and ooh, that would be perfect for Curtise. Turns out there were a couple of things which were perfect for me too; a pair of 1980s dungarees and a red dirndl skirt. I've hardly stopped wearing them since I bought them, so I'm sure they'll be coming to a blog post near you soon.
Me-made patchwork skirt, t-shirt, necklace, cardigan and belt charity shopped, earrings and havaiianas gifted

After shopping and a slap up lunch, we took the train back to Nottingham for part 2 of our mini-break, a drinky in the Famous Spiegeltent, (a mobile dance hall) which had popped up in the Market Square. This one was built in 1920 in Belgium and has even hosted Marlene Dietrich.
I had a whole bottle of prosecco to myself (OK, it was an individual serving) and he had a pint while we took photos and sang along to the Blue Danube

Da-da-da, Da-da-da, Da-da-da-da-da. Can't hit the right notes, but I know all the lyrics.

That velvet canopy was so beautiful, and actually the whole interior was really cosy. I could just imagine Ms Dietrich hitting those high low notes.
After all that excitement we went home and had a cheese and wine evening for two. The perfect end to a perfect day.