A friend decided she wanted to start a book group so that she would read a greater variety of books. As she is dyslexic and sometimes has problems concentrating on reading, I was not sure how this would work out, but said I would support her and come along. The other friends who said yes are one who reads a lot and one who is dyslexic and has hardly read at all (except for books needed on courses). Fortunately, another friend has joined and she is also a great reader.
We started with the BBC’s Big Read list of the 100 most popular books (from 2003!). We went through and marked those we thought possible and eventually decided to start with Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”. Amazingly, everyone managed to finish it in the month we had decided on. I borrowed a copy from the library, having read it before but not remembering much about it.
When we came to discuss it, most people thought it was OK – but I didn’t like it much. We considered why the “me/I” was so wet and pathetic (!) and the fact that it was well written so we could (mostly) believe in the characters.
The second book chosen was “Catcher in the Rye” – again I have read it, but years ago when doing teacher training as it was supposed to give us an insight into the mind of teenage boys, I think. It was still on my bookshelf. It was interesting to see the different copies that we brought along.
We all hated it! One person said she only managed to finish it by pretending it was a “case study” from psychology. The person who instigated the group didn’t finish it – but she had read it before. We decided it was well written because we all found Holden Caulfield a realistically irritating and depressing teenager and we considered why he was so irritating, whether he had any reason to be so (apart from being a teenager) and how he was like and how different from teenagers today. It was written in 1951…..
Having all been depressed by it, we decided we needed something rather lighter for next time, and opted for “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Again, I had read it before and it was on my bookshelf.
Again the variety of different copies was interesting to see. Most of us enjoyed it and were in the range of thinking it from laugh-out-loud funny to mildly amusing. One person thought it made no sense and gave up after about chapter 6! We exchanged thoughts on what we found amusing – but all liked Marvin, the paranoid android.
For next time we are going to read “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald and it has been agreed that we read as much as we can in the time, as it is quite long for the slower readers.
So, is a book group a good idea? I am not sure yet! It does slightly restrict what I read and can therefore be a little frustrating but on the whole I read enough and fast enough to be able to read other things as well.
Day 4, Wednesday, was a day off so I had a slow start and then followed a walk I had picked up at the “Discovery Point” in the hotel. It was an easy one and about three and a half miles. From the hotel it went along the road for a short way and then took a path that went along the side of Tennyson Down and round to the back and the……
This is a scaled down version of the signal/warning beacon that used to stand where the Tennyson Monument now stands. From the beacon I walked up towards…….
There were quite a few wildflowers on the downs including……
It was then a gentle walk down towards…….
……and the hotel. I made a slight detour to the back of the hotel to look at……
Part of them have been turned into……
From there, I went to have my lunch on the sea front. It was bit windy so after that I went back to the hotel and wrote postcards in a sheltered corner by the swimming pool and then wandered into the village to post them and have a look round. It was then back to the hotel for a cup of tea and then get ready for dinner.
Day 5, Thursday, was Godshill, Appuldurcombe House and Ventnor Botanic Gardens. The coach left us at……
……which was a pretty village, now spoilt with far too many tourist shops. We had a look at the church and then started our walk to Appuldurcombe House which we approached by…….
……and had lunch outside…..
……looking over the park and the fountain. The house was apparently one of the largest and grandest on the island and was supposed to have 365 windows, 52 rooms and 7 staircases – not sure I believe that – the windows anyway. From the picture above it looks very good but it is in fact….
…..with a restored roof and glass in the widows only of the rooms overlooking the fountain. These are not decorated or furnished but do have interpretation boards – including describing the scandal associated with the owners of the house at one stage!
After lunch we continued our walk, including up a long and fairly steep hill. We then made our way to Ventnor and the…….
I liked the tropical house best, all hot and steamy with…..
All the walks finished at the Botanic Gardens that day so the coach picked us all up from there.
Day 6, Friday, was supposed to be Alum Bay and The Needles, but I have been there before and was not impressed so I went to Amazon World instead. This involved getting the bus from Freshwater Bay to Newport and then another bus from Newport to Amazon World. When I went in I was in a tropical area so hot and humid. There was bird song and when I stopped I could see small birds flying around. This was one of……
There was a pond with fish in and a plank over it with what looked like a line of model turtles – and then…..
In an enclosed cage there were caiman – I think – crocodile like animals. Glad they were well enclosed! After enjoying the birds I moved on to the following rooms which I think had much larger birds, possibly monkeys and in one room, in tanks, snakes and other reptiles. Some of them were very well camouflaged and hard to see. Then it was outside, where there were various enclosures. One had rhea and…..
……another had wallabies, including an…..
…….and one could buy food to feed to them. Some people had done so but the wallabies weren’t interested so I didn’t bother. There were also…….
…….which sme people had paid extra to go into the enclosure and feed. Round the corner were….
……and a notice on their enclosure said if we wanted to go into the enclosure and there was no-one there to find a keeper – so I did. I had to wait, but was talking to another young man there who said he was a keeper at London Zoo and in charge of lemurs, spider monkeys and something else I can’t remember. The keeper arrived and let us in – we had to leave bags in the outer enclosure as they had food in and the lemurs would have found it. When we got in some of…….
……and soon after one went to the London keeper (he says his don’t do that!) and then one…….
It is looking out of the bars because……
……..next door started making a lot of noise – they were jealous of the fuss the lemurs were getting, maybe?
We were told there were a male, a female and 5 daughter lemurs. The sons have been sent to other places. One of the daughters was born in May last year and the keeper thinks…..
……and produce another baby this May. After leaving the lemurs, it was time to go and get the bus back to ensure that I got the connection to Freshwater Bay – which I did.
That was the final day, so on the Saturday it was minibus, then ferry, then 3 trains to get home.
So was it a good holiday? YES! One of the best I can remember. The good weather helped (notice the blue skies in the photos), but also the walks were fairly short, so I didn’t get too tired and were combined with some sightseeing. The group of people on the holiday were also (mostly) very pleasant and were not too noisy so we had some quite walks and could hear the birds and sometimes just the silence, which was wonderful. The trouble is that one can’t go again as it couldn’t be as good!
Yet another holiday with hf holidays, this one on the Isle of Wight, staying at……
The walk on the Sunday was to…..
…….which were not at their best as it was too early for the roses and for the herbaceous borders, although the bluebells were out. The walk there was great, though. First over the golf course and onto and along the downs……
There were cowslips and orchids and loads of bluebells and even a couple of larks singing overhead – lovely. We followed the Tennyson Trail for part of the way and had to wait at the start of…..
……for a taxi to come to pick up one lady who was not coping with the distance/speed (she was very slow)/heat. Her husband didn’t go with her! We continued on, mostly through woodland, to…..
……and from there down to Mottistone Gardens which we had plenty of time to explore before the coach picked us up.
Day 2, Monday, was……
…….and a Roman villa. It would have been a vineyard as well, but it was closed – which was a good thing as far as I was concerned. We started at Havenstreet and I headed…..
…….towards “Train Story”, but a notice said it didn’t open until 11.00 and our train was at 11.15 so I got a drink instead. When the train arrived we walked along it looking in at the carriages.
Do you remember the individual compartments, leather straps to hold up the windows, the “don’t lean out of the windows” and “don’t open the door when the train is moving” notices? The posters on the walls and the mirror? We had third class carriages, but they were’t that different. We took the train along to Wooton at one end of the line and then right to Smallbrock Junction at the other end – reminiscing as we went!
We came back part of the way to……
…..which was a request stop. The driver had to be told we were getting off there before we started. From there…..
We walked along paths and fields, mostly, and had some good views, including……
After climbing a fairly steep hill we eventually came out to a view over…….
…where we were heading. We had plenty of time to look round as well as have drinks. It was a bit oddly interpreted, but there were some interesting mosaics……
A good day! I want…..
Day 3, Tuesday, was to………
……which I didn’t find that interesting. The walk there was again pleasant, along…..
…..often with good views, but also along woodland paths. The day was notable for the amount of….
…..which was fairly smelly and for the……
We had lunch……
…….before walking the final stretch to get there. I looked at…..
…..and thought it would be nice to go up there but I probably wouldn’t be able to get down! I enjoyed the…..
……and the donkeys, who were not working the wheel as they didn’t have enough staff that day. This is…..
…..and Jill was in the stable but too busy eating to come out and see us. Juno and Jack were supposed to be in the field, but Jack is apparently an escape artist and can let them all out of the stable and had escaped from the field without there being any obvious gap! The walking groups also finished at the Castle that day so we all got the coach back together.
Good days, lovely weather, (mostly) pleasant people.
(See part 2 for the rest!)
I denied it! It wasn’t me!
Well, actually that wasn’t what they asked. It was about the nerve agent poisoning of the Skripals who live up the road and round the corner. This was nearly 4 weeks after the attack so there was little hope of me remembering anything in detail. I could remember a bit as it was just after it had snowed so it was possible to remember what I had been doing on the Saturday and Sunday, which was one thing I was asked. They also wanted to know my name, date of birth, mobile phone number, whether I had any other devices with SIM cards, my car type and number and colour, did I know the neighbours, had I had any visitors or deliveries on the 3rd or 4th of March and had I seen anyone I didn’t know? The last was impossible – I am always seeing people I don’t know going passed the house so wouldn’t notice especially. I also got the car type a bit wrong!
The other thing they asked was would it be OK if they wanted to search my garden. It is a bit late – I have collected leaves and put them in the Green Bin and had it emptied twice since then!
For two weeks after the cordon was put up, we had Welsh police during the day and they got to know us. There has been a lot of activity up the road for the last two weeks with more police who change every week – or the ones from Avon and Somerset, every day. We had some from Cambridgeshire and from Northumberland, then Devon and Cornwall and more Welsh. I think there were some others but I have lost track as there are so many more to talk to! They have cordoned off the children’s play park and have stationed police at the bottom of the road by me, guarding the back path. At the top of the road there have been between 2 and 4 “Incident Response” ambulances, up to 11 police vans and also police cars and other police obviously involved in the investigation – or something. There are sometimes lots in black clothing wearing baseball hats with POLICE written on. It does make going up the road difficult at times – negotiating the vehicles in a fairly narrow road. I nearly managed to run over 3 of the black clad men…..
Then one day we had……
…..and the normal car for the police who are guarding the back path, all just outside my house. They had also blocked off the back path and put up screens. They seemed to be searching the woods and path – no doubt for the container that held the nerve agent.
It was unfortunate that it was raining and I had walked from town and wanted to go up the path at the time. I went through the back woods on the very muddy path and the policeman at the top let me go when I begged him just to let me get home and told him he could watch me do so if he wanted! They opened the path again about an hour later.
It is all becoming quite wearing, when we have to negotiate large vehicles and when each new batch of police want some ID – which I don’t always have with me, especially if I am going to the gym. The reason I talk to them on my way out is in the hope that I will be recognised when I return. Sometimes one just has to give one’s name and address but it would be nice to go out or return home without having to check in with the police.
So? The policeman who interviewed me looked about 16! Isn’t that a sign of old age? He himself admitted that he had a baby face, though.
You might have noticed that our city has experienced a ‘little’ problem with a nerve agent attack on two of our citizens. Their house is up the road and round the corner from me and I have seen the gentleman in question around and probably said “Good morning” when we passed each other.
As well as cordoning off areas of the city – notably the main route from Central Carpark to the town centre and cathedral, which is also the route from Sainsburys to the market – there is also a cordon round our roads. This is generally looked after by nice Welsh police during the day. They are mostly there to protect us from the press. I noticed one day that they were escorting some press down the road and the next day one of the policemen was putting tape by the alleyway into the bottom of the road. I showed him where the other entrance was and later took them a cup of tea. I have seen some of the press being sent away since then, too. Can’t imagine why they bother – there is nothing to see!
Due to the recent snow it has been a very cold job for the police – especially as they have 12 – 14 hour shifts! I gather that people at the top of the road (where they mostly are) have been giving them cups of tea and someone made them lunch on Sunday. We have different police overnight and on Saturday we must have had people from the Met. By Sunday morning we had this:
Providing extra security!??
I heard one of the policemen in charge of the investigation saying on the radio that the people of our city were being very stoic. What other choice do we have but to live with the town as it is – parts cordoned off and guarded by police from various forces? The press have cameras pointing at nothing – must be very boring for them too. We also have to put up with regular visits from very noisy (press) helicopters, who hover overhead.
So? Life continues. We put up with detours to get to where we want to go; press around – they seem to have (temporarily?) stopped asking stupid questions; our city mentioned in most news bulletins; much reduced footfall (a problem for some shops); some shops closed off; wondering if the victims are improving at all. We chat to the police – especially “our” nice Welsh ones and admire the snowman. One makes the best of it and hopes our lovely quiet city will return to normal fairly soon, although we have been told it might take a while yet (weeks, possibly months) as it is “a crime scene”…….
OK, so I can’t actually hibernate but I have been feeling like doing so! This is because like many others I have been indoors, trying to keep warm and finding things to do. It snowed a bit on Tuesday but it all disappeared again on Wednesday then on Thursday it snowed again, gently at first, then produced blizzard like conditions with lots of snow and an east wind.
And it kept on snowing….
The wind did create some interesting patterns.
As you can see from my footprints it was quite deep – well over a foot in the drifts. It had blown up over 7 inches against the front door too. AND it has kept on producing more snow showers……
So what did I do when hibernating? Not anything useful, like cleaning or filing, of course, but I have phoned, texted or emailed others who I thought might be stuck in by themselves and appreciate a bit of contact. But mostly I have been completing “The World’s Smallest 1000-piece jigsaw” of ‘The Lost City of the Incas’. Yes, I did start it over a year ago and completed about half of it, but I put it away for the summer. I got it out after Christmas and have been making (very) slow progress so decided now was the time to get on and finish it. The pieces are so small that I was convinced that I had lost some especially as I couldn’t find the pieces for some gaps. I found a couple of errors and correcting those helped but even so when I got to the last 2 pieces I tried them in the wrong places and the last piece I tried wrong way round! But it is complete.
Now all I have to do is take it apart and start a new one….
So what now? Hopefully the weather will improve and we can all get out – although they are suggesting it will rain and then freeze on hitting frozen ground so we will have acres of black ice and skidding cars and people falling over and broken bones…..
I have too many friends who are younger than me – another one who is only 50! We celebrated in the SP2 cafe, where she is a volunteer, on the day before her birthday – a day when she was working there.
So? Good thing I have some older friends!
As I had several people who all wanted me to do different things on my birthday I decided to take myself to Bath. I went on the train which is easiest, as the station is nearly in the centre of Bath. I didn’t leave very early but the journey is only just under an hour. I read a book about Jane Austen on the journey, which I had started several days before.
On first arrival I went to the Tourist Information Bureau – which had moved, so was not too easy to locate. All I wanted was a decent map – but they didn’t have any really good ones so I bought the best they had. I then went to a……
……to have a coffee and look at the map and decide where to go.
From there I went to……
…..and walked across it to…..
The weather was beautifully sunny, if a little on the cold side – but it was January.
From the gardens I went to Sydney street to look at……..
…..which is a house where…..
…..for a few years after leaving Steventon and first moving to Bath.
I then went back the way I had come but turned the other way when I had crossed the bridge and gradually headed towards…….
……(but not to look at bonnets and gowns) and at the top headed across to Gay Street, another place where Jane Austen and her family lived in Bath. I went down it a bit and then across a side street before going up Gravel Walk. This goes behind The Circus and behind number 4 there is……
I had discovered this on the Bath website.
…..was through a wooden gate and then up some steps. The garden was laid out in the late 17 hundreds and later covered over, but has been restored to as close as possible the original form. Before the Gravel Walk was made the garden had been set out just to be seen from the house, but paths were added later to reach the gate into the Gravel Walk.
There is no lawn, just gravel in the middle but January is probably not the best time of year to see a garden!
As it was then after 1.30 I went to the……
……on Gay Street and had lunch in their Regency Tea Rooms – soup with a cheese scone, a hunk of brie and some salad then a pot of tea. I had a table with my back to the portrait of Mr Darcy(!!) but I could see it in the mirror opposite.
After my leisurely lunch I walked up to…..
…..and was able to go in and admire…..
…..and another room, possibly used for concerts or maybe a card room?
I then decided that I ought to head for the station, so I went back down Gay Street, passing….
….and getting lost, but sorting myself out with the map! I had allowed time for that and had plenty of time to catch the train.
So did I have a good birthday? Yes; the weather was wonderful (for the time of year) and I greatly enjoyed wandering round Regency Bath in my own time and way.
I was asked before Christmas if I would organise the decorations for the 50th birthday party for a friend and I agreed to do so. She is very not “girly” so I threatened to do them all in pink! In fact another friend had got her some tea-light holders with silhouettes of cats, which she thought would make good table centres and as they were turquoise that became the main colour scheme.
The community worker prepared the invitations, which were given out before Christmas.
As usual, some people replied, some didn’t and nobody really noted who said yes, so we had to guess at about 50 people coming. I went down to the local party shop and looked at everything and decided what to get and then about 4 days before the party I got the decorations and ordered the helium balloons.
On the Saturday of the party I went and collected the balloons and took everything to SP2 where the party was being held. The community worker, her husband and I set up the tables, put the “silver” (I think it was grey) table roll over them, set the tables and put up the decorations. Did I say that the entrance and stair decorations were pink?! Well, it had to be done – and she did think I might have done all the decorations in pink as I had said I would!
People had been asked to bring food and soft drinks so we set up tables for those.
We then went home and returned a while before the party was due to start so we could sort out last minute details and make sure everything was ready. The birthday girl arrived almost first (as planned) and others arrived and got drinks and chatted…….
……after putting their food on the table.
The birthday girl had presents to open as well.
When we thought most people had arrived they were encouraged to collect food and find somewhere to sit and eat.
The band arrived……
It was then time for a speech from a friend and thanks…..
……before the candles were blown out and the cake was cut.
The band provided music – joined by John playing the spoons for one number – and conversations continued.
Eventually people started to leave and we cleared and tidied up – trying to persuade people to take home the excess food! The birthday girl took home to turquoise and white balloons but refused the pink one for some reason!
So did it go well? The birthday girl said that she enjoyed it and things did seem to go smoothly. Even better there were enough contributions to pay for her “experience” at the Hawk Conservancy with some left over to provide some cash for any extras that she wants.
Having bought a ticket for the dockyard which enabled me to go as often as I wanted for a year, when I felt like another day out I thought this would be a good idea. I had the rest of “The Mary Rose” to look at and as it is inside it didn’t matter if it was cold. I therefore used my Senior Railcard to get to Portsmouth Harbour – with plenty of time on the train to read my book!
On arrival, after the bag search and having my ticket checked, I went straight to the building housing the Mary Rose and had a coffee before going into the museum.
Having looked at part of it before, I knew to pick up a folding stool as I went in. I then skipped the parts I had spent time on and spent about 2 hours looking at the rest. I am still amazed at how much they have found and how much they can tell about the people on the boat, just from their skeletons and possessions. Some things are in such good condition – musical instruments, shoes……. I was glad of the stool at times!
By the time I had finished it was time for lunch, so I went to Boatshed 7 (I think) and had pizza and chips (and coleslaw). The timing was such that I wasn’t sure if I had time to look round the Victory, but I decided I would and catch a later train if necessary.
On going into the Victory one is warned about slips, trips and low beams. Only the first was not a problem as it was dry! They also provide a free audio guide. At various points on the tour there are places where one points the guide at a device and one can then listen to some information relevant to that point on the ship. A lot of them were about the battle of Trafalgar. including the preparation for leaving port, until it got to the repairs needed after the battle (somewhat extensive!)
The bits I liked best were seeing the quarters of Captain Harvey and Nelson and also the below deck parts where it explained about the cooking and had models of the food provided. The places where they kept the things needed to repair the ship were interesting, too. Can’t say I was that interested in the battle but I do understand a bit better what happened.
As they said, the tour took about an hour if one listened to all the parts. I then had time for a quick cup of tea at the Mary Rose cafe before going to catch the train home.
Was it a good day out? I would say yes – could do just what I wanted and some of the things to see are fascinating.