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……
Although we know our place and stayed in the apartments in……..
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….)
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”.
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.
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.
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.
For Christmas, my brother gave me an “Experience” but suggested I choose my own so that it would be something that I wanted. I decided it had to be fairly local and reduced it to 4 possibles: a skid pan at Thruxton, a hot air balloon flight from near the leisure centre, a falconry day at the Hawk Conservancy or a flight/trial lesson in a small plane from Old Sarum airfield. I decided the first was too scary, the second was a waste of champagne (why do all balloon flights include champagne?) and couldn’t decide between the other two, so let my brother decide. I think he tossed a coin and it came out on the flight. He then arranged this (the voucher was only for 6 months so not until a about May) and GoFly phoned me up and sent me the voucher.
I then had to arrange the date and time with the company and they sent me confirmation by email.
The day dawned and it was quite windy and a bit rainy, but that gradually cleared so the flight went ahead, instead of being cancelled as I feared. The lad who had done the flight before mine, had his cancelled on 2 or 3 previous occasions. I arrived early – and managed to park in the wrong place so had quite a way to walk instead of just a few steps. The young man in charge showed me the weather map and the rain going and the wind decreasing. Then the instructor led me out to the plane.
He had to get on first to make sure everything was OK and to fit in the extra bottle full of water (seen below the wing) behind the back seats to give us extra weight for ballast. I think I am not heavy enough! The instructor then got on board and told me to follow him. I should only walk on any bits painted black. I got in, the door was shut, the seat belts done up and lots of pre-flight checks done. Then the instructor spoke to the “control tower” (2 huts on top of each other!) and we taxied to the end of the grass runway. He then did more tests, spoke to Boscombe Down air traffic control as they are in charge of the local air space and we had to clear the flight with them. Heights etc would depend on what aircraft they were flying. After waiting ages for the Old Sarum control to respond we were given clearance to take off.
We gathered speed along the (slightly bumpy) runway and were then in the air and banked to pass Old Sarum.
We then headed up the river, initially, and then up to the A303 and Stonehenge. We didn’t get very close to Stonehenge as I think we were not supposed to cross the A303.
I tried to take several pictures of it but the wing blocked out most of them. We then headed roughly southwest passing over the countryside where one can see some of the marks left from previous ages agriculture and settlements.
It is from the air that one can see how rural Wiltshire is and how the fields cover much of it and the houses and roads very little. There are a few wooded areas and the instructor pointed out that the flight was more turbulent when we were going over the trees.
Then it was my turn! The instructor pointed the plane in roughly the right direction and showed me where to aim for. Turn the wheel left for left, right for right(!!), towards for up and away for down. I was told the pedals are only for steep turns/banking.
I think I did OK – until it got a bit rough again and I wasn’t sure if we were going up or down – the control panels are all at the instructors side.
After that we banked and turned again so that we were heading for the Fovant Military badges.
We flew alongside these…….
…….and the headed back towards Salisbury.
We flew south of the city ready to turn towards Old Sarum airfield.
As we approached the airfield we had to look out for other planes, but we didn’t see any, which was good. The instructor contacted the airfield and got clearance and did a really good landing – then spoiled it by saying he doesn’t always manage such good ones! We taxied to the place where the plane was left – and that was my “experience” finished.
We went back to the headquarters of GoFLY – a wooden hut – and I was presented with my certificate!
Did I enjoy it? It was slightly scary at the start when I saw how small the plane was and that it only had one propeller/engine! But once we got up it was wonderful and it would have been great to have a bit more time doing the actual flying so I got a better feel for the controls. I would love an hour next time (hint, hint!!) when I understand one flies down to the Isle of Wight and round the Needles and back. With the sun out it actually got quite hot in the plane.
Many, many thanks to my brother for the experience.
My friend T tends not to go for walks unless she is with someone, so I said I would go for a walk with her one Monday and where would she like to go? She later asked if we could we go to Bournemouth for the day instead. Well a day in Bournemouth is a bit longer than a walk but I gave in, especially after another friend had pleaded for her – and at that stage the weather forecast was quite good. As the day got closer the forecast deteriorated so I wasn’t happy, considering the weather last time I went. In the end we had a bargain that if it rained she would buy my lunch and if it was nice she would come for a paddle.
The day came – cloudy and drizzly and it even rained while we were on the bus. It had stopped by the time we arrived, so we could have a coffee/tea in the Lower Gardens. Then we headed for the front.
As a walk had been the original purpose of the day I made T walk with me to Alum Chime as it is somewhere I remember my grandparents liked. Having got there I didn’t dare tell T that I wanted to walk up and explore it!
This time there were quite a few beach huts open (there is one in the picture above) and more people on the beach.
Also more people in the sea.
However, having reached Alum Chime it was time to head back to town for lunch at a cafe T had in mind – if she could find it! This was successfully accomplished – a place called “Flirt” which she told me was an LGBT cafe. I probably wouldn’t have realised if she hadn’t told me, but there were features which did indicate it! As it was not raining we paid for our own lunches.
Then we headed back to the beach. On the way we passed a “Build a Bear” shop, which I had heard of but never seen so I insisted that we go in and have a look. We got the general idea – choose bear (or dog or …..) get it stuffed to ones required hardness, get it sewn up, choose extras. The clothes for bears seemed quite expensive and I don’t think I need another bear – Arthur might get jealous.
We then made it to the beach for our paddle, but couldn’t go in deep as T’s jeans wouldn’t roll up very far. Guess what? It was cold!
Even though she had been reluctant, T decided that she had actually quite enjoyed the paddle. The sand now seems to be at the same level as the promenade so there was nowhere to sit to dry our feet and put our shoes and socks on. We had to lean against a lamppost instead.
It was then time for our ice-cream, but on the way we encountered a group of drummers and stilt dancers.
As there were people talking to some of the audience I think they were trying to convert us – but I am not sure what to! They didn’t approach us so we went and got our ice-creams – not the nicest we have had, but a necessary part of the experience of being at the sea-side. We sat on a wall to eat them, but T’s legs were too short so she was swinging them backwards and forwards like a small child! (I have seen her do the same in church sometimes.) However, it was me who spilt ice-cream down myself.
It was then time to get the bus home.
Was it a good day? Well T said she enjoyed it! It was MUCH better than last time because although it wasn’t sunny it was dry, much less windy, mostly quite bright and warm. It was good to paddle and have ice-cream and walk and have a good lunch – so yes, a good day.
The white bag contains “clothes rag” i.e. clothes that have got beyond the stage of even wearing them round the house!
The items are mostly books and jigsaws – some of which I got from the shop in the first place! There are a few gifts which I know I will never use and the pot was given to me with the instruction to take it to the charity shop if it was no use to me (it wasn’t!).
I have replaced the suitcase with a new one with wheels and the bag had gone into holes – a pity, it was very useful. I used those to take the things down to the shop – although I have only done one load so far…..
Will the things be useful? Well, I hope they can sell some of them and they were always wanting books when I worked there.
Meeting in a coffee shop for a drink and a chat is has become a major part of weekly retirement activity – perhaps too major? I have two places that I often go so have loyalty cards for.
The first is the SP2 coffee shop & community centre, where I volunteer on a Thursday morning. I have several friends who I meet there, usually on a Saturday morning, but it can be at other times too. If I go in and am not specifically meeting anyone there is usually someone around whom I know and chat to.
The other regular haunt is the Cathedral Refectory – the plumbery, as it is where they used to do the lead working for the Cathedral roof. There is one friend whom I meet there and we go so regularly that we are sometimes mistaken for Cathedral guides, who I think get reduced rates! We haven’t taken advantage of this mistake, though.
There is a major problem to this – I have decided that I am not sure I really like coffee! The instant stuff is fine but the real stuff is a bit strong and bitter and the milk is a bit filling. In the Cathedral I have started ordering “one shot, skinny” which is usually OK but is still too strong sometimes. In SP2 I have been having a can of Elderflower Pressé when the weather is warm – but that doesn’t count on the loyalty card which only applies to hot drinks. Otherwise I can have a pot of peppermint tea or sometimes a regular latte or cappuccino if I need waking up and it is not near lunch time. When I work there I get a free drink anyway. I used to have a mocha, but I have gone off that at the moment, too.
SP2 is closed on Saturdays over the summer – so where are we going to meet? And the other friend whom I see at the Cathedral, has a sick husband, so is having problems leaving the house for long enough to go into town for coffee! Fortunately I have plenty of other things to do……
So? I don’t have to worry about what I want to drink until September!
As another of my “days out instead of a holiday” I had been planning to take the bus (using my bus pass!) to Bournemouth. I really wanted to go before the school holidays proper started, so as things worked out it had to be the day after visiting the “dig”. As my grandparents used to live in Southbourne (50 years ago!) I always assume that I know Bournemouth, but in fact I don’t think we often went into the town and even if we did it has changed enormously since then.
I packed a rucksack with suntan cream, sun hat, cardigan and waterproof – but in the end only needed half of those! What a contrast in the weather – it was very hot and sunny at the dig, and though the forecast for the next day was cooler, it turned out to be damp, drizzly and misty with a cold wind – typical British summer holiday weather, in fact!
The bus down was better than a “standard” bus – the seats were more like those of a coach and more comfortable, too. It takes about an hour and a quarter (depending on traffic and number of stops and number of passengers). The only excitement on the way down was when the driver had to break hard as a trailer in front “lost” two portaloos! Don’t know how he would get them back on – and they spilt chemical as they landed on their sides, of course. We didn’t wait to see.
I got off at The Square and walked through the Lower Gardens to the sea-front and pier. First stop was the Information centre to pick up and up-to-date map. Then it was time for a coffee – but looking at the weather that changed into a hot chocolate!
I looked at the pier and the beach. There were some brave (mad?) people in the water, but it wasn’t very enticing.
So I decided to walk along the Undercliff to the lift. None of the beach huts along there were open – what a surprise, considering the weather.
When I got to the lift I had a surprise – there had been a cliff fall so the lift was closed. One of the rails is bent and it was very obviously not up to being used. They are checking the stability of the cliff and have matting to help and say it will be at least 2 years before it can be repaired.
Instead I walked back a bit and up the zig-zag to the top and the Overcliff.
I then walked back along the East Overcliff Drive to the pier, stopping to look in the gardens of the Russell-Coates gallery. As it was lunch time and I couldn’t be bothered to go into the town, I had lunch at the Oceanarium cafe. When I came out the land-train was there but it wasn’t due to run for nearly an hour, so I walked westwards along the promenade to the west cliff lift. There didn’t seem to be much sign of that working, either, so as it was very damp and misty and windy with no views I walked back to the Lower Gardens……
……and strolled through them (less misty and breezy) and across the bridge back to the bus.
There was a short wait for the bus – which became full of foreign students – and an uneventful journey home.
So was it a good day out? Well, I have known better, but it did help me re-orientate myself to Bournemouth. I will have to go again as I didn’t paddle or have an ice-cream – both compulsory for the sea-side, but it really wasn’t the day for either. I might get off the bus at Boscombe next time and walk towards Southbourne.
I have been doing a short Future Learn course produced by the University of Reading called “Archaeology: from dig to lab”. The first week of this described their work in the Pewsey Vale, between Stonehenge and Avebury, where there have been digs for the last two years and again this year. On further investigation I found that one could visit the site. The first time I thought I would go it threatened rain and then for the Open Day I had a horrible cold and felt very unwell. So the Tuesday after that I managed to get there! It turned out that they had about 700 people on the open day, so I am quite glad I didn’t make it. When I went they didn’t have many visitors so students could give me individual tours.
The first part of their “field school” was on Marden henge. They use the field school to train their archaeology students how to carry out digs. I managed to find it without difficulty – the instructions on the website were good and a search on Google maps also helped – along with my 1999 road atlas of Britain! Having left just before 10.00 it took about 45 minutes. There was a field with a few cars and some portacabins which, having parked, I approached. A young man carrying a camera came towards me and offered to show me the site. He was one of the students and his job for the day/week(?) was filming, but I think he wanted a change!
Marden Henge is a very large henge. I had to look up what is meant by a “henge” and it seems it is a Neolithic earthwork that features a ring bank and ditch, but with the ditch inside the bank rather than outside. As an enclosure with an external bank and an internal ditch is not very good for defence they are believed to be for ceremonial purposes. We walked across the field to approached where they have dug trenches this year.
In fact the call for a tea break went just as we arrived, so most people downed tools for a bit. They were excavating the inner henge and had found floor level and post holes. It is all very subtle and relies on slightly different soil colours.
The infill from the post hole or a ditch is a different colour and texture and sometimes these infills are sent back to the lab so they can be more carefully examined for “finds” and also maybe for things like pollen so they can find the type of crops growing at the time.
On the “cut” behind it is just possible to see differences in soil colour. Each is given a “context” number so finds can be related to these.
I was shown some of day’s “small finds” which included some pottery (Neolithic?) and a tooth and an animal jaw.
They were all in a tray marked with the context number so they could be carefully recorded later.
We then went back to the portacabins and looked at some of the pictures. They had done a lot of geophysics – resistivity and magnetometry – partly to find out if the river had been in a different place in Neolithic times and partly to see if there were any other changes in the soil, which might indicate something of interest. I can’t say I could interpret the photos though! I was then taken to the “finds” hut, where another student was recording the finds. She showed me several things including a tiny broach – which even had the pin and I think she said was Saxon. There were some flint scrapers and a beautifully made flint arrowhead and a decorated piece of bone which probably was part of a comb. There were also 2 trays full of pottery, all decorated in the same way so probably part of a large pot. There were loads of other things but too many to show.
I was then given a map to the other part of the field school dig – at Cat’s Brain longbarrow. I managed to follow the instructions and get there without any problems. This link (I hope) shows an aerial photo of the dig site. The dark areas show ditches which surround the central part of the barrow. The entrance is where the gap occurs and they thought that the rest was a semicircle, but are finding that at the opposite side there might not have been ditches so it might just have been 2 parallel ditches. That is part of what they are investigating and one place where they are digging now.
They were again finding post holes, which would have had wooden posts to hold up the roof, and these are being excavated. Much of the soil from the ditches is being removed for sampling and to search more carefully for “finds”, as ditches are so often where rubbish is thrown – and yesterdays rubbish is today’s archaeological treasure!
The chalk that seems to have been used for the mound and the ditch infill material are at least clearly different colours! It was suggested that the chalk was fairly local, but had to be brought in and the white colour would have shown up – in the same way that the “white horses” cut into the hillsides do today.
It was all fascinating, but needs a really good eye for detail – the changes in soil type are sometimes quite subtle. I hope that what I have written is correct – but it is quite hard to remember all the detail and there was more, I think, that I don’t remember!
It is interesting that they have to finish digging by Saturday – and there is still a lot they hope to uncover. The final week is for “back-filling” – putting the soil back so the farmer can use his fields. It is a good thing I didn’t wait another week before I went!
So did I enjoy it? It was fascinating. I have done several Future Learn archaeology courses, but this is the first time I have seen a “dig” in real life. I don’t think I would be very good at the practical stuff – hard physical work, in hot sun or rain and looking for details I would find it hard to pick out! Could quite fancy working on the finds and classifying them maybe?
I think this counts as one of my “holiday” days – days out instead of a holiday – even if it was only half a day.
Having been told I had a bloodshot eye one evening, I foolishly looked at it first thing next day. Even more foolishly, I then thought about it – I am very squeamish about eyes….. I then thought that I was feeling sick…… Next thing I couldn’t work out what way up I was or where I was! I realised I was on the bathroom floor…..
Having sorted that out I got myself back to bed, having vaguely noticed that there was blood on the knob at the bottom of the radiator. When I had rested a bit I turned over – and noticed there was blood on my pillowcase…… I then had to consider what to do, as I was still a bit groggy. I decided to phone my friend K, who has my key and is a nurse (even though she no longer does everyday nursing). She was concerned enough to come over. She looked at me and mopped up the blood which was on my shoulder just below my neck – not on my head, which would have bled a lot more. She also phoned the doctors, who said that a doctor would phone back. Meanwhile I had some breakfast and K had a drink. When the doctor phoned back she decided she ought to see me, so made an appointment for 12.00.
K went home and I washed and rested and pottered a bit until K picked me up and took me to the doctor, who looked at me and asked me questions – like had I knocked myself out? How would I know? I would not have been conscious whether I had fainted or knocked myself out and I had no idea how long I was on the floor. She took my blood pressure and decided I ought to have an ECG, so we had to wait until a nurse could do that. The eventual result was fine, but my pulse was low as is my blood pressure – but not as low as when I had my health check earlier in the year. The doctor also thought I should have an X-ray of my neck in case I had cracked a bone in it! That had to be done at the hospital and not until late afternoon. K took me home again and I found someone else to take me up to the hospital – I was very grateful to K but she had already done a lot and was also trying to sort out her mother who was moving into a care-home.
About 3.30 the friend picked me up and she knew where we had to go for the X-ray. There is sometimes a long queue, but it wasn’t too bad and moved quite fast, so they took 3 photos at different angles and said I would be told if there was any problem. Then I was taken home again.
I had been feeling a bit groggy for part of the day, but by the evening I decided I was well enough to walk to the polling station and vote – not that it made much difference in this constituency. I decided that I was back to normal by the next day – but avoided looking at my eye! I also removed the dressing from my shoulder/neck as it was not bleeding and was better with the air at it. I think I probably knocked my head on the radiator as there was a sore bit when I washed my hair next day, but I am glad I wasn’t aware of that before or it would have been hours in A & E!
A week later I bought 2 lots of flowers and delivered them to my friends as a thank you for taking care of me and giving me lifts to doctors and hospitals.
The scabs on my shoulder/neck came off but it is still quite itchy where they were.
So? Must remember not to look if people tell me there is something wrong with my eye – they can tell me when it is better or if I should take it to the doctor! I suppose I could look if I am sure there are only soft things to fall on…..
Having failed to book a holiday this year, as I wasn’t up to thinking about it, and then realising I wouldn’t have the energy anyway for my usual walking holiday, I decided to have a series of days out, instead. There was the trip to the Hawk Conservancy, of course, but that was giving a friend her birthday present, so I am not sure if it counts. Anyway, I decided that I had heard a lot about “The Mary Rose” but had never been to see it so that should be one of my trips.
I then worked out that it was almost half-term and during that week it was likely to be busy and after the holiday schools often take children on educational trips, so it could be full of children. That meant that the week before half-term was likely to be best, so it became my first trip.
It is an easy train journey down to Portsmouth Harbour, so I got the 9.33 train – so I could use my senior railcard and get a day return. Taking a book to read on the train, I had a very easy journey down and it is less than 5 minutes walk from the station to the “Historic Dockyard”. There were bag searches at the entrance and then I decided to get an all inclusive ticket for the dockyard which includes all the museums, a harbour trip and can be used again at any time within a year. By the time I got my ticket and got in it was only a short time until the next harbour trip so I decided to wait the 10 minutes or so and do that first.
The boat was “The Jenny M” and as it was a lovely day we mostly sat outside, but under the shade of the awning. We sailed down the side of the harbour, keeping the regulation distance from the destroyers, which were in port.
We also saw some of the ferries that sail from Portsmouth – for Spain, France and the Isle of Wight.
We then sailed back, closer to the other side of the harbour, looking at the marinas and the hillside beyond, then across the mouth – after we had waited for several ferries – they were bigger than us! Some of the forts beyond the mouth were pointed out. I think they said they were being turned into hotels for holidays?!
We sailed passed the Spinnaker tower and it was explained why it is blue, rather than the red Emirates colour, even though they are the owners. (All to do with football!)
We dropped some people off at Gunwale Key and picked others up there, before going back to the dockyard. The trip was supposed to take 45 minutes, but was actually about an hour. We got off the boat near HMS Warrior, which comes from the late eighteen hundreds – something to visit on another day.
I then thought it was time for lunch, so had that in one of the cafes – but it took a while as there was a queue to get food and another to pay.
After lunch I set out for the building holding “The Mary Rose”, which is at the far end of the dockyard. On the way up one passes what I think are figureheads from ships.
Then to “The Victory”, again something for another trip.
This is undergoing restoration work and the topmasts have been removed as they think that the weight of them is pushing the masts through the hull! There is another figurehead near there – “The Trafalgar” I think.
Then it was on to the Mary Rose building. There is first an introduction to the ship and its history and a short film representing the ship sinking. One then passes on to the museum. What is left of the ship itself has been reconstructed and one can view it from several levels. One enters at main deck level and on the opposite side of the room to the remains of the ship, a replica has been made to show what would have been there. Later on one moves to the lower decks and then to the top.
At the ends are the artefacts found with the ship – the number is amazing although less than half of the actual ship still exists. They are mostly displayed in themes, such as the chief carpenter and what he owned, wore and used. There are loads of explanations and I found some of the belongings quite fascinating – like the shoes of various people and how different they were and different sizes. They had provided stools to take round to sit on and I wished I had taken one as there was so much to read.
About half-way round I got tired and wasn’t taking in what was there although some of the things on the archaeology looked really interesting. I decided I would do better to come back another day to see the rest – especially as I got caught up near a group of noisy school children! I walked through to the end of the “visitor route” taking only a cursory glance and went and had a cup of coffee in the cafe.
It was then time to go back to the station and catch the train home.
So was it a good day out? On the whole, yes, and the good weather helped! It was tiring but I look forward to going back to see the rest of the Mary Rose display and the Victory and maybe HMS Warrior – although I know nothing about the latter.