Live with a little “local” problem

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!

Police tape at entrance to alley

Police tape at entrance to alley

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:

Snowman has Met helmet!

Snowman has Met helmet!

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.

Blizzard like conditions

Blizzard like conditions

And it kept on snowing….









The wind did create some interesting patterns.

Drifts through the fence

Drifts through the fence

By the cars - bare patches and drifts

By the cars – bare patches and drifts

By the bins

By the bins

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.

Completed jigsaw

Completed jigsaw!

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…..


Another 50th Birthday

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.

Birthday banners and people gathering

Birthday banners and people gathering…..

.....including the community worker.

…..including the community worker.

Food prepared, cake ready and rector giving a short speech before cheers and singing.

Food prepared, cake ready and rector giving a short speech before cheers and singing.

The cheers and the present ready to give.

Appreciation and the present ready to give.

Birthday girl!

Birthday girl!

Candle on the cake.

Candle on the cake.

"The workers" with the cards on the shelf.

“The workers” at SP2 with the cards on the shelf.

So?  Good thing I have some older friends!

Birthday in Bath

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……

… I had been to before……

……to have a coffee and look at the map and decide where to go.

From there I went to……

.....Pulteney Bridge.....

…..Pulteney Bridge…..

…..and walked across it to…..

...Laura Place.....

…Laura Place…..

…….then up……

.....Great Pulteney Street.....

…..Great Pulteney Street…..

…..and into……

.......Sydney Gardens.

…….Sydney Gardens.

The weather was beautifully sunny, if a little on the cold side – but it was January.

In Sydney Gardens

In Sydney Gardens

From the gardens I went to Sydney street to look at……..

......number 4......

……number 4……

…..which is a house where…..

.....Jane Austen and her family lived......

…..Jane Austen and her family lived……

…..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…….

.....Milsom Street.....

…..Milsom Street…..

……(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……

......The Georgian Garden.

……The Georgian Garden.

I had discovered this on the Bath website.

The entrance......

The entrance……

…..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.

Georgian Garden from the end by the house.

Georgian Garden from the end by the house.

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……

.....Jane Austen Centre.....

…..Jane Austen Centre…..

……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…..

......The Assembly Rooms.....

……The Assembly Rooms…..

…..and was able to go in and admire…..

......the Ballroom.....

……the Ballroom…..

.....The Octagon Room....

…..The Octagon Room….

…..and another room, possibly used for concerts or maybe a card room?

Room in the Assembly Rooms

Room in the Assembly Rooms

I then decided that I ought to head for the station, so I went back down Gay Street, passing….

.....The Jane Austen Centre again....

…..The Jane Austen Centre again….

….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.


Help arrange a 50th birthday party

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!

The staircase

The staircase

Entrance door

Entrance door

People had been asked to bring food and soft drinks so we set up tables for those.

Food table and some of the decorations

Food table and some of the decorations

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.

Table with food people chatting

Table with food people chatting

The birthday girl had presents to open as well.

Presents to open

Presents to open

When we thought most people had arrived they were encouraged to collect food and find somewhere to sit and eat.

Food to eat...

Food to eat…

.....and chat when finished.

…..and chat when finished.

The band arrived……

.....and started to set up....

…..and started to set up….

.....and those arriving with them had their food.

…..and those arriving with them had their food.

It was then time for a speech from a friend and thanks…..

.....from the birthday girl.

…..from the birthday girl…….

……before the candles were blown out and the cake was cut.

The cake

The cake

The band provided music  – joined by John playing the spoons for one number – and conversations continued.

Band with spoons player!

Band with spoons player!

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.


Another trip to the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth

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.

The Mary Rose building

The Mary Rose building

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!

Entrance/exit to the Mary Rose museum

Entrance/exit to the Mary Rose museum

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.

Entrance to the Victory

Entrance to the Victory

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!)

Top deck

Top deck

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.

After leaving the Victory

After leaving the Victory

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.

Build a bookcase

A friend who is fairly disabled at the moment had bought a flat pack Ikea double cupboard with bookcases above, but was not able to assemble it.  I agreed to try to do it, with the help of another friend who can do the practical bits and help with lifting and moving things but can’t interpret the instructions.  Ikea instructions have no words, just pictures – of which some are fairly clear and some are not.  There are also little inserts and until one knows to look out for them they are easy to miss, which can cause problems.

We started one Saturday afternoon and it took us over 3 hours (probably nearer 4) to make one of the cupboards.  The hinges were the worst as it was not at all clear which way round they were supposed to be.  In the end we fitted them together with the doors off and then translated that into how to attach them – after unscrewing the supports about 3 times.  It took a cup of tea or two to get those hinges right!  I was really exhausted after doing it and muscles I didn’t know I had ached the next day.  I think it was from dragging and lifting the chipboard panels around and crawling and kneeling on the floor to get at the parts that had to be screwed together.

The next Saturday we managed to put together both of the top bookcases and the other cupboard and it only took  about 3 hours.  It helped that the bookcases were easier and we had a better idea what we were doing with the cupboard, but the hinges were still a bit of a problem.  I was still quite tired afterwards but not as much as the previous week and I didn’t ache anywhere near as much the next day.  It was a relief we got it done as I didn’t want to spend another Saturday afternoon on it.  The end result seems to be fairly satisfactory.

The end result starting to be used.

The end result, starting to be used.

We haven’t worked out how to fasten the two parts together – there didn’t seem to be a diagram to show that, so we just pushed them next to each other.  There is also a hook thing on one side and we don’t know what that is for either.  I still think I need to adjust one of the doors but I am not sure if the instructions on adjustments have been kept and the owner seems happy enough.

Would I do it again?  Not unless I really have to!  And I don’t think I would choose Ikea furniture for myself – however nice it is.


Go to the theatre

A friend was going to the theatre and the person going with her had to drop out, so I was asked if I would like to go.  I admit that I was a bit doubtful when I saw the information, but agreed to go.  The play was called “Joan” and was about Joan of Arc (sort of) but was a one woman show and had won prizes at The Fringe (2016).


It was in the small theatre, which is a nearly circular set up, but when we got there we were not allowed to sit on the fixed seats but on others which they had set up totally in the round.  I think our timing was right, so we were in the middle row of three which was not too “exposed” (front row) and didn’t have the uncomfortable high bar type chairs (back row).  The actor was around already and did seem to be a bit nervous but was OK when she had got going.

The play sort of followed the life of Joan of Arc but was really about gender and whether it is OK to be cross-gender or act/behave like the other gender – specifically female as male.  The actor has been a drag king champion and I am not surprised at that – she took 3 separate male roles, as well as being Joan and was very convincing in all of them.  I was also impressed at how quickly and easily she put on make up (in front of us) to give herself a beard or moustache.  The play was very well done with the only props being 4 boxes, 4 mirrors and some costumes and the woman played all the parts – except a couple of men from the audience had to do things.

Did I enjoy it?  Not very much (but my friend thought it was really good).  I always dislike it when people are pulled from the audience and have to do something, especially if they are being made fun of – as one man was a bit in this.  I was not totally comfortable with some of the things that she did when challenging gender stereotypes either; they seemed a bit inappropriate.

Would I go to another “challenging” piece of theatre like this?  Maybe; maybe not…….  Lets say I might think about it a bit more carefully before I say yes.

Go to an event at a literary festival.

Salisbury has had its first literary festival!  Not that I would have known about it if friends hadn’t mentioned it.  There was one event with someone who wrote a book we had read and discussed earlier – Joanna Cannon.  Her book  “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep” is one I have never been quite sure about.  It is well written and a good book with some funny parts but I wasn’t sure that I liked it and I know that several other people felt the same.  I suspect, for me, it is because it is not a “comfortable” book – but you might have to read it to see what I mean.

One of my friends got the tickets – Saturday at 12.00 in the Playhouse.  We were to meet at 11.30 and I was on time, for once.  The friend who got the tickets was there before me though and she said that the friend who had been the one who was most keen on the book wasn’t coming.  The other person coming arrived about 11.45 so we went in and found seats.

I wasn’t at all sure about the whole thing, but Joanna was introduced and interviewed by one of the main people behind the festival and I did enjoy it.  She spoke well, but a microphone might have been good – I was straining to hear at times.  It turns out that she is actually a doctor – a psychiatrist, in fact.  She wrote most of the book in lunch breaks and was, I think, amazed when it became a best seller!  She is not practising as a doctor at the moment – too busy being an author.  She says she likes to go into the psychiatric hospital to encourage creativity of all types, as a means towards healing.  She started writing – a blog initially I think, as a means to relieve the stress of being a junior doctor in a hospital (not a psychiatric one, where she says she never feels stress!)   Knowing she is a doctor explains why there is an acknowledgement in the book I have just read to:  “Jo Cannon…. for answering all things medical”.  It didn’t make sense before I went to the event.

There were other events at the festival, including one with Phillipa Gregory, but I haven’t been to those.  Never read any Phillipa Gregory and not sure I intend to!

Would I go to another literary festival event?  Yes, I think I would, so will have to look out for the next one in Salisbury.

Would I read another of Joanna Cannon’s books?  She described a bit about her next book and read a bit and I think I will read it.  It comes out in the spring, but I will wait until the library has it or it is in paperback.  I think it again will not be a comfortable read and possibly might make me cry!  The one after that she has an idea for  might be the same……

We meet again……


.......Chateau Impney, Droitwich.

…….Chateau Impney, Droitwich Spa.

Although we know our place and stayed in the apartments in……..

.....the stable block.

…..the stable block.

Initially everyone congregated in our apartment as we were there before Simon (this year’s organiser) and we had milk for cups of tea/coffee.  Also we were downstairs so easier to access and had no low beams to knock heads on.

(Apologies to everyone, but most photos of people have at least one person – and often more – blurred.  Mind you that might be preferable at our age!  People will move and talk….)

Sharing my apartment...

Sharing my apartment…..

......also sharing.

……also sharing.

Drinks and nibbles in the living room.....

Drinks and nibbles in the living room…..

....and in the kitchen.

….and in the kitchen.

Probably discussing football.....

Probably discussing football…..

We had dinner in the hotel bar.

Next day, most of us went to Droitwich in the morning.  Some people did the official tour and others followed the “Town trail” – after we worked out that the map went one way and the route described on a (separate) leaflet went the opposite way!  Quite an interesting town – they have natural salt springs and so had a salt industry from Roman times and still have salt baths – more salty than the Dead Sea, apparently – for “arthritis and nervous complaints”.

Mural showing the main features of Droitwich Spa.

Mural showing the main features of Droitwich Spa.

Those of us who did our own tour had coffee and biscuits in a church hall – a very nice one, with very pleasant people.  Thanks very much, Ken.

After the tour we split up, although many of us made our way to Hanbury Hall, where some looked at the house and some the gardens and some both!  Most then met up in the tea-room gardens, where it was pleasant to sit as the weather was warm.

Hanbury Hall

Hanbury Hall

In the evening we had our own separate room for dinner, which we had ordered before hand.



The meal was excellent and not too heavy, which was good when there are 3 courses.



The dinning room

The dinning room

They also arranged for us to have breakfast in the same room the next day, which was a very nice way to say farewell.

Many thanks to Simon for making the arrangements.  It was a very pleasant weekend, although we missed Susan, Hugh, Glynis and Malcolm – but hope to see you all next year.