Tuesday 27 February 2018

Snowdrops at Doddington Hall

A couple of weekends ago, my friends Katy, Alison and I went to Doddington Hall, just outside Lincoln, for the start of their snowdrop season.  The weather was reasonably kind but the wind was bitterly cold.  Doddington Hall is a beautiful red brick Elizabethan house and well worth a visit, though on this occasion, it was all about the gardens.
 I was struck by the topiary - like a chess set - which immediately made me think of Alice in Wonderland (apparently, there was an Alice event there last year).
A very kind person had made this very photogenic arrangement with the old pump, a hellebore and some horseshoes.
 The kitchen garden had some amazingly knobbly fruit trees with gnarled branches.
 They almost looked alive.
 In the main garden are some venerable sweet chestnut trees which (the information stated) were 450 years old.  It is amazing to imagine what they have lived through.
 Under the trees we saw snowdrops, cyclamen, crocuses, aconites and the occasional daffodil.  A lovely spring flower carpet.
 Just beautiful.
 There were some lovely vistas with early rhododendrons, and a splash of colour from the witch hazels.
 More snowdrops and crocuses, with some lovely shadows...
 ...twirling shapes created by the sweet chestnut branches.
 More witch hazels, lighting up the scene.
 I particularly liked the smooth trunks of these paper bark maples (I think).  The bark had been peeling away and left a beautifully smooth surface underneath.  I like the way the snowdrops echo the white bark.
 I had a go at this grass maze.
 The wire unicorn sculptures echo the topiary ones at the front of the house.
 Mistletoe was growing on these trees - we assumed they were apple trees.
 Another lovely vista (the wind was really cold at this point - the crocuses are remaining firmly shut here)
 Everywhere we looked, there was another enticing view.
 This clematis seemed very happy on the wall.
A final view of those sweet chestnuts.
Here are the topiary unicorns at the front of the house, standing guard.
It was a lovely visit with lots of beautiful early spring flowers to enjoy.

Thursday 22 February 2018

An evening with Elly Griffiths

(photo from https://ellygriffiths.co.uk/)
Last week, Chris and I went to hear Elly Griffiths talking about her books. I have read the previous nine in the Ruth Galloway series (murder mystery with a forensic archaeologist set in Norfolk) and have been lent one from another series (1950s murder mystery series set in Brighton, I think) too.  She read an excerpt from Dark Angel, the tenth in the Ruth Galloway series and said that she was already working on number eleven in the series, The Stone Circle.
(image from Amazon)
She also spoke about a standalone book, to be published in November 2018, called The Stranger Diaries.
(image from Amazon)
This sounds right up my street - here's the description:
'Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder.  As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year.  Then Clare's life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body.  The investigating police detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal.  Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary.  Writing that isn't hers...'
Sounds good!
Elly Griffiths told us that she liked Wilkie Collins (a kindred spirit - well, I really like The Woman in White and The Moonstone, although I haven't read any other of his novels) and mentioned the part where Count Fosco writes in Marian's diary in The Woman in White as the inspiration for this part in her story.  She was very entertaining, enthusiastic and erudite, so I would recommend going to see her if she is in your direction.

Friday 16 February 2018

Cakes, biscuits and cards

 I recently had a birthday (they do creep up rather quickly, I'm finding) and to celebrate, I did some baking to take to work.  One colleague is vegan and one is gluten free, so I had to make sure they were catered for. 
I made gooey, squidgy (extremely unhealthy, but delicious) gluten free chocolate brownies, with ground almonds instead of flour.
 Ginger biscuits with a swirl of icing are my go-to biscuits for my vegan friends. 
There was, of course, a chocolate cake (another go-to recipe) with chocolate buttercream icing and chopped up Twirls on the top.  This got lots of compliments, with one colleague saying it was the best chocolate cake they had ever tasted.  Praise indeed!
Of course, after receiving presents, there are the thank you cards to write.  I have just got a few more to do, but I decided to make them myself this year, so here are the first set.  Simple designs with die cuts and stamped sentiments.  I think the clean and simple (CAS) look suits my cards.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Yana and the Yeti - Pickled Image Theatre

photo from http://pickledimage.co.uk/yana/
Last Saturday, we went to a local theatre to see 'Yana and the Yeti' by Pickled Image.  It was advertised for 5+ years and there were quite a few children there.  It was a multi-layered story, focusing on friendship and acceptance.  While the children identified with the friends and bullying, there were other issues such as displacement which were more aimed towards adults.
The puppets were very engaging - Yana herself had blinking eyes and a movable mouth.  The puppeteers manipulated the puppets with mastery, care and precision and there was not one moment when the puppets weren't 'alive'.  When Yana went to sleep next to the Yeti (in the photo above), you could see them both breathing.
The backdrop was of a mountain filmed over twenty four hours and added to the whole magical ambiance of the piece.  The writers had created their own language for the performance, which had what sounded to be Scandinavian influences, but it was easy to follow.  The audience was invited to come and meet the puppets and their puppeteers after the performance and that was fascinating.
There is a short promotional film here about the performance which gives just a small flavour of the atmosphere and production.  It was a wonderful way to escape into a different world.

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Suffragette and #Vote100

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst - photo from wikipedia
One hundred years ago today, women in England (over thirty years old, who met the criteria of owning property) were given the right to vote.  It was something to be celebrated, but it took another ten years for women to received the same voting rights as men.
I watched the recent-ish film 'Suffragette' starring Cary Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep at the weekend and thought it did a good job of showing the difficulties that women (and the men who supported the Suffrage movement) underwent.   Some women were force fed in prison and there are some harrowing accounts here of the brutal treatment this was.

Every time I exercise my right to vote (and I always do), I am grateful to these amazing women who stood up to the government and made their voices heard.
There are many events all round the country as part of the #Vote100 campaign.
I hope that the many women all over the world who still need to make their voices heard can be inspired by the suffragettes.
Thank you to all of the women and their male supporters who enabled us to vote.
Edited to add: Channel 4 have created a thought provoking advert for the #Vote 100 campaign - the link to youtube is here