Katherine and Aiisha came hot-foot from Spain to share a birthday weekend. My 70th. On our way to our first ‘adventure’ – ice skating at the Pavilions in Plymouth, we passed Charles Church, bombed out during the war but given almost a sculptural quality with the background of the Drake Shopping Centre. It almost seems planned to set the old church off….perhaps it was. Skating was good. The next day we chose to have lunch at the Duchy Garden Centre so that Katherine could look at some plants for her new garden in Edinburgh. Aiisha and I decamped for a short while to the new children area which was very nice indeed…….and we loved the wheeled gypsy hut, where Aiisha showed off her versatility with her Dad’s instrument of choice… Lunch over we set off for Carlyon Bay where Katherine had bought tickets for a show by the Knee-High Theatre Company called The Dancing Frog. After a lacklustre start it developed into a really really fun show. I haven’t enjoyed myself as much for a long time, and I really must write them a review. Pleasure and laughs were had by all and I did think the puppetry was amazing. Ten out of ten. The audience of all ages were captivated.We then couldn’t’t resist the beach where the tail end of a storm was apparent. Luckily the weather held off for us.The biggest ‘adventure’ perhaps came the next day when we visited the nearby and well-named Adrenalin Quarry. Neither F. nor I were participants, but we certainly enjoyed watching. Katherine and Aiisha proved fearless in attempting first The Giant Swing…… Apparently the first drop from what seemed an enormous height was ‘scary’ but thereafter things got a little better. Aiisha was heard to say in the gentler parts ‘I want to do it again’ at which those watching burst into laughter…they were absolutely stupefied that one so young had attempted this in the first place!Next was the zip wire which went from the heights at one end of the quarry to the other. Not quite the longest or most terrifying in the world, but certainly up there. Rather them than me. Who knew such things were within 15 minutes drive of us?We then celebrated all that bravery with snacks in the nearby American Diner which was actually enjoyed by all of us.Whilst Katherine did some work the next day, Frances, Aiisha and I drove to Looe to play the arcades as it was a bit inclement. We all had a great time playing the twopenny dip where you roll coins to displace other coins (and prizes). Aiisha’s top said it all. Lucky. We won an enormous haul of sweets, of which you can see a part……We crossed the river on the little ferry for a change, and thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the seaside.Adventures were now coming thick and fast. A riding lesson got us up early the next day. After kitting out……. ……..Aiisha showed much aplomb in dealing with her horse – and with the lady instructor who was to say the least formidable. All the adults looking on were quaking in their shoes. However the lesson was indoor and out, and went down very well with our intrepid rider.A fine day was then promised so we went on one of our favourite walks the circular route from Lerryn (our favourite Cornish village) to St Winnow. After stocking up at the terrific local stores we set off along the for now dryish river…crossing the medieval bridge…..and crossing and re-crossing the stepping stones.All the cottages are without exception lovely and, unusually it seems to us, nearly all lived in as opposed to used or owned by holidaymakers. That accounts for the hugely lively village life.Our first objective was a particular bench with a view, and this is where we had our pasties and cakes from the shop. One of the best lunches ever!We then aimed for St Winnow’s and along the way Aiisha picked up and fashioned her own walking stick which not only proved useful but also was a great prop for her impressions of “an old lady walking”. Very good.The church was bedecked for a wedding and whilst this was all very pretty, it had meant the closure of the ice cream stall. Not as disappointing as it might have been as we were all ftb. Pulling up from the hamlet (just a farm and a cottage and a church (plus usually an ice cream stall!), we soon had good views.There were several kinds of trees with plenteous nuts (perhaps betokening a hard winter?).And pretty garden fronts as we descended once more to Lerryn.The tide was now in. All in all a special day and a very long seven and a half miles for young feet…all done without a grumble!Our last full day together was my birthday and we had lunch at the Godolphin Arms now turned into a somewhat boutique hotel. Sensational views from the car park…and the restaurant where we eat well.We planned to look at the beautiful gardens on St Michael’s Mount but on the way to the ferry (the tide was in) we were waylaid. Marazion itself is quite captivating…….Six ferries were in continuous use (it was Bank Holiday after all), so we didn’t wait too long.On reaching the island we found the gardens were closed, but this enabled us to climb up to the castle itself, looking for the Giant’s Heart on the way up…… and making use of the odd canon for a resting point…..Inside we did a rapid tour and completed a successful quiz, and enjoyed the special atmosphere of this amazing place. We also were able to see some of the gardens! The queues for the ferries to get back to the mainland were long to say the least, but we made our own amusements.
A lovely few days was completed when we dropped Katherine and Aiisha off for a night’s camping with friends. We escaped to a night of central heating and TV viewing at home! Don’t know who had the best bargain……….
This weekend to an unknown (to us) Met opera at Vue cinema in Plymouth. The thing about this particular opera for us was that there were absolutely no tunes or melodies throughout. Everything seemed like speech that was sung in one plane as it were. Yes, the singing yet again was admirable and amazing in its power and intensity, but the plot was light and, as I say, no tunes to be hummed on the way home. Not at all memorable. The divas get huge praise in the press however.
Adriana Lecouvreur unfolds in Paris in 1730. The setting reflects a nostalgia for the Rococo era that swept over Europe and the Americas around the turn of the last century when Cilea was composing, evident in other operas (for instance, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut) and in architecture.
Paris, 1730. Backstage at the Comédie-Française, the director Michonnet and the company prepare for performance, in which both Adriana Lecouvreur and her rival, Mademoiselle Duclos, will appear. The Prince of Bouillon and the Abbé de Chazeuil enter, looking for Duclos, who is the prince’s mistress. They encounter Adriana and compliment her, but she says that she is merely the servant of the creative spirit (“Io son l’umile ancella”). The Prince hears that Duclos is writing a letter to someone and arranges to have it intercepted. Left alone with Adriana, Michonnet confesses his love to her, only to be told that she is in love with Maurizio, whom she believes to be an officer in the service of the Count of Saxony. Maurizio enters, declaring his love for Adriana (“La dolcissima effigie”), and the two arrange to meet after the performance. Adriana gives him a bouquet of violets as a pledge of her love. During the performance, the prince intercepts the letter from Duclos, in which she asks for a meeting with Maurizio, who is in fact the Count of Saxony himself. He is to meet her later that evening at the villa where the prince has installed her. Determined to expose his seemingly unfaithful mistress, the prince arranges a party at the villa for this same night. Unknown to him, Duclos has written the letter on behalf of the Princess of Bouillon who was having an affair with Maurizio. Maurizio, receiving the letter, decides to meet the princess who has helped him pursue his political ambitions. He sends a note to Adriana to cancel their appointment. Adriana is upset, but when the prince invites her to the party and tells her that the Prince of Saxony will be one of the guests, she accepts in the hope of furthering her lover’s career.
The princess anxiously awaits Maurizio at the villa (“Acerba voluttà”). When he appears she notices the violets and immediately suspects another woman but he quickly claims they are a gift for her. Grateful for her help at court, he reluctantly admits that he no longer loves her (“L’anima ho stanca”). The princess hides when her husband and the Abbé suddenly arrive, congratulating Maurizio on his latest conquest, who they think is Duclos. Adriana appears. She is astounded to learn that the Count of Saxony is Maurizio himself but forgives his deception. When Michonnet enters looking for Duclos, Adriana assumes that Maurizio has come to the villa for a secret rendezvous with her. He assures her that the woman hiding next door is not Duclos. His meeting with her, he says, was purely political and they must arrange for her escape. Trusting him, Adriana agrees. In the ensuing confusion, neither Adriana nor the princess recognize each other, but by the few words that are spoken each woman realizes that the other is in love with Maurizio. Adriana is determined to discover the identity of her rival, but the princess escapes, dropping a bracelet that Michonnet picks up and hands to Adriana.
As preparations are under way for a party at her palace, the princess wonders who her rival might be. Guests arrive, among them Michonnet and Adriana. The princess recognizes Adriana’s voice as that of the woman who helped her escape. Her suspicions are confirmed when she pretends Maurizio has been wounded in a duel and Adriana almost faints. She recovers quickly, however, when Maurizio enters uninjured and entertains the guests with tales of his military exploits (“Il russo Mencikoff”). During the performance of a ballet, the princess and Adriana confront each other, in growing recognition that they are rivals. The princess mentions the violets, and Adriana in turn produces the bracelet, which the prince identifies as his wife’s. To distract attention, the princess suggests that Adriana should recite a monologue. Adriana chooses a passage from Racine’s Phèdre, in which the heroine denounces sinners and adulterous women, and aims her performance directly at the princess. The princess is determined to have her revenge.
Adriana has retired from the stage, devastated by the loss of Maurizio. Members of her theater company visit her on her birthday, bringing presents and trying to persuade her to return. Adriana is especially moved by Michonnet’s gift: the jewellery she had once pawned to secure Maurizio’s release from prison. A box is delivered, labeled “from Maurizio.” When Adriana opens it, she finds the faded bouquet of violets she had once given him and understands it as a sign that their love is at an end (“Poveri fiori”). She kisses the flowers, then throws them into the fire. Moments later, Maurizio arrives, summoned by Michonnet. He apologizes and asks Adriana to marry him. She joyfully accepts but suddenly turns pale. Michonnet and Maurizio realize that the violets were sent by the princess and had been poisoned by her. Adriana dies in Maurizio’s arms (“Ecco la luce”).
Before going to Vue we had a bit of time to kill so, for a coffee and exploration, we drove to the Royal William Yard which we had not visited before. It was a revelation…………………..an historic piece of Plymouth restored with sensitivity but very grand. Constructed between 1825 and 1831, Royal William Yard is in fact considered to be one of the most important groups of historic military buildings in Britain and the largest collection of Grade I Listed military buildings in Europe. Pretty impressive credentials.Described as the grandest of the royal victualling yards, ‘in its externally largely unaltered state it remains today one of the most magnificent industrial monuments in the country’. Released by the MOD as recently as 1992, Urban Splash have transformed the buildings into mixed-use restaurants, shops and flats, and it is all pretty special, although you do get the impression that it is not as well-visited as it ought to be.Bistrot Pierre where we had our coffee was pretty good too, an excellent looking menu, and they have just opened two of the buildings across the square as hotel rooms. They look swish.Yesterday back to Vue Plymouth this time to see the film ‘Stan and Ollie’. Steve Coogan as Stan and John C. Reilly as Ollie were absolutely brilliant and with oodles of preparation took to their parts with perfection. ‘Stan & Ollie’ tells the story of how Laurel and Hardy, with their golden age long behind them, embark upon a tour of the music halls of Britain and Ireland in 1953.
Despite the stresses of the tour, past resentments coming back to light, and Hardy’s failing health, the show must go on: in the end, their love of performing – and of each other – ensures that they secure their place in the hearts of the public. It’s about love, passion and comedy. You come out of the cinema just loving their humour but at the same time feeling for them….when up becomes down it’s tragic to see. For once all the five star reviews are thoroughly deserved. If you get chance, watch it…….
Having just seen an episode of Flog It! from Mount Edgcumbe, and as it was such a nice day that is where we headed. The views on the coast road come from left and right….in this lay-by Plymouth is over the Sound to our left and to the right is Tregantle fort which had its red flag out signifying live shooting.Sometimes you believe you are surrounded by a landscape of water with the sea on one side and numerous creeks and inlets to the side, in front and behind…We started off at the bottom end of the Edgcumbe estate with a drink in front of the fire at the Edgcumbe Arms. This then steeled us to face the cold but beautiful day.First stop the Orangery…We then made our way along the coastal edge of the estate taking in various temples and follies….One of the gun batteries showed how strategically placed Edgcumbe is – looking out over Plymouth Hoe, and one of the many very good information boards showed the location of an amazing number of shipwrecks in this part of the Sound. I would have thought that when you had made these waters you were safe – but apparently not!The path took us through various parts of the garden which we hadn’t seen before…and we noticed our first burst of Camellias….This is ‘Milton’s Temple, c. 1755 – a circular Ionian temple, with a plaque inscribed with lines from the poem Paradise Lost, “overhead up grew, Insuperable heights of loftiest shade…..” John Milton, (1608–1674)’.The walk was not without its efforts, but all very worthwhile and we saw very few people indeed which was good.I intended to climb this folly I think for the views but on approaching it I noted some very serious snogging going on at the top level, so I left well alone!From here I tried out my panorama mode….not too bad……and it was just past here that we noted that the grounds do contain the National Camellia Collection….what a cheering sight on this winter’s day……..Back at the house we visited the Stables area where all the trades used to be located – the blacksmith, wood turner and so on, all the buildings now used by independent crafts people……The house itself is not open until April….We made our way back to the car along a splendid avenue of trees……..Days like this, cold and clear, remind us of winter days in York……they should be enjoyed to the full.