A birthday weekend……

20190809_180259_003 copy.jpegKatherine 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…….20190810_130928 copy.jpgand we loved the wheeled gypsy hut, where Aiisha showed off her versatility with her Dad’s instrument of choice…20190810_131147 copy.jpg                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.20190810_154028 copy.jpeg20190810_154028 2 copy.jpeg20190810_154807 copy.jpegWe then couldn’t’t resist the beach where the tail end of a storm was apparent. Luckily the weather held off for us.20190810_162034 copy.jpeg20190810_161453 copy.jpeg20190810_161810 copy.jpegThe 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…… 20190811_113306 copy.jpg20190811_113411 copy.jpgAQ copy.png  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!z copy.jpgzz copy.jpgNext 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?xx copy.jpgy copy.jpg55 copy.jpgtt copy.jpgWe then celebrated all that bravery with snacks in the nearby American Diner which was actually enjoyed by all of us.20190811_125612 copy.jpgWhilst 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). 20190811_160617 copy.jpgAiisha’s top said it all. Lucky. We won an enormous haul of sweets, of which you can see a part……20190811_162451 copy.jpgWe crossed the river on the little ferry for a change, and thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the seaside.20190811_165110 copy.jpg20190811_165236 copy.jpgAdventures were now coming thick and fast. A riding lesson got us up early the next day. After kitting out…….20190812_095620 copy.jpg              ……..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.20190812_100122 copy.jpegA 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…20190812_114353 copy.jpgcrossing the medieval bridge…..20190812_114406 copy.jpgand crossing and re-crossing the stepping stones.20190812_114930 copy.jpgAll 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.20190812_115229 copy.jpgOur 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!20190812_122848 copy.jpg20190812_124241-copy.jpg20190812_123845 copy.jpgWe 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.20190812_135107 copy.jpgThe 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. 20190812_135456 copy.jpgPulling up from the hamlet (just a farm and a cottage and a church (plus usually an ice cream stall!), we soon had good views.20190812_140929 copy.jpgThere were several kinds of trees with plenteous nuts (perhaps betokening a hard winter?).20190812_144929 copy.jpgAnd pretty garden fronts as we descended once more to Lerryn.20190812_154423 copy.jpgThe 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!20190812_154654 copy.jpgOur 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…20190813_132054 copy.jpegand the restaurant where we eat well.20190813_133620 copy.jpegWe 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. 20190813_151348 copy.jpegMarazion itself is quite captivating…….20190813_151519 copy.jpgSix ferries were in continuous use (it was Bank Holiday after all), so we didn’t wait too long.20190813_152505 copy.jpeg20190813_153138 copy.jpg20190813_153244 copy.jpegOn 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……20190813_161223 copy.jpg                    and making use of the odd canon for a resting point…..20190813_161802 copy.jpg20190813_161857 copy.jpgInside 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!20190813_163209 copy.jpg20190813_163711 copy.jpeg20190813_163841 copy.jpg                   The queues for the ferries to get back to the mainland were long to say the least, but we made our own amusements. 20190813_170641 copy.jpg

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……….

Reading matters……

26662 copy.jpgAlways a pleasure to read a Folio Society edition, and Phineas Redux the fourth in the series of six Palliser or ‘Parliamentary’ novels is by common acclaim one of the best of Trollope’s extensive writings. He certainly appears at the top of his powers, whether in his descriptions of riding to hounds (one of his own favourite things) or his semi-satirical take-offs of some of the great issues of the day particularly the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland and the Reform of the political system. He also appears a prophet before his time in his sub-plots involving the possible introduction of decimalisation and the positioning and powers of the monarch in a constitutional crisis. Having said all of this, Trollope as usual develops all these themes around the life and loves of his main character, and Romance plays an equal part to Politics. His characters are very strongly drawn and in a novel of some 700 pages we get to know them well! A large part of the second half of the book concerns the court case where Phineas is accused of attempted murder, and Trollope revels in his taking to pieces of the legal system as it existed. So, not only is Phineas Redux a page-turner, it is a detailed and extensive commentary on the constitutional, political and social life of Victoria England and in that equal to the efforts of Dickens. Only two more novels to go. Far more demanding of time and concentration than War and Peace!

517kyouWPXL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBecause we are in the middle of selling our home and hope to move to the North West, I have bought second-hand copies of two excellent books ‘The Treasures of Lancashire’ and ‘The Treasures of Cheshire’. These are very detailed portrayals of51ckmYLGwkL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg the two counties in terms of the countryside and towns, which are described succinctly and well, and the treasures therein, with emphasis on the churches, public buildings and houses to be found. I must say that I took great pleasure in reading these minutely and I discovered so much new about areas I know well enough. Not only have the two books strengthened how much I am looking forward to moving, they have directed my attention to considering alternative locations for our new home. These books weren’t available new any more and I only paid between £3 and £4 each. A real bargain.

A1vSQ2LZa1L copy.jpgFor some light relief, as both the Trollope and the guides were demanding of concentration, I have been re-reading ‘Engel’s England’. His book is not a gazetteer, he explains, “nor a guidebook, nor a compendium of England’s best anything”. It is, rather, he claims, a celebration of “the most beautiful and fascinating country on Earth”, though even the determinedly upbeat Engel cannot avoid an Anglo tone of loss and melancholy. “By way of subtext,” he notes in passing, “I visited all 41 (Anglican) cathedrals and lit a candle to my late son in each.” But that in no way gets in the way of his genuine desire to see what makes the different counties tick, and to find the quirky or humorous things that will both amuse us and inform at the same time. This he does in spades and very funny he is more often than not. He is warm, human, funny and cutting at times. The sort of man who would be interesting to talk to in the local pub, knows a lot, plenty to say, empathetic and probably very willing to stand you a pint or two. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip around England in his company (as I did the first time).

 

Our first visit to Tresco….

tresco a (Custom).jpg   A last-minute decision to take advantage of the Locals offer (£25 each return)  to visit the Scillies again on a day trip meant an early start. The alarm was set for 5.45am and that proved just right. In arriving at Penzance we joined the small queue to pick up our tickets – the staff were incredibly helpful and efficient………20190716_080540 copy.jpgand in no time at all we were wandering along the harbour to board the Scillonian. 20190716_081614 copy.jpgThese are the mini containers which hold passengers’ luggage, but also anything and everything that the Scillies need that they don’t have or grow themselves.20190716_081145 copy.jpgSeeing Penzance like this early in the morning makes you wonder why you don’t get up early more often.20190716_081556 copy.jpegAnyhow we were soon settled in for the 2 hours 45 minutes journey with a coffee and lovely fresh warm pastry each and the Times crossword, sudoku, word wheel etc which are our daily attempt to activate our brains for the strenuous days of retirement.20190716_082625 copy.jpg The sea was placid, the day hot and sunny as we exited the harbour.20190716_092256 copy.jpegEverything secured nice and firmly….20190716_092319 copy.jpgIt’s always interesting to see places from a different angle…here Mousehole.20190716_093308 copy.jpgAnd it’s a joy to arrive in the scattered isles of the Scillies……20190716_120404 copy.jpegbefore berthing in St Mary’s……where we hopped off rather sharpish to ensure we made the inter-island ferry to Tresco our destination for the day.20190716_122623 copy.jpg5139361_b9c7efa9.jpgYou see all kinds of craft, and nearing Tresco……20190716_122949 copy.jpeg……….the incredible white-sanded beaches gleamed in the sun, and all of them were, as they often are apparently, practically deserted. Paradise!20190716_124731 copy.jpgPentle_1.jpgOn our walk to the Abbey and Gardens there were flowers galore growing wild..here one of my particular favourites Agapanthus…20190716_125107 copy.jpgand everything was super-sized…20190716_125646 copy.jpgAll this before we got to the Gardens….20190716_125656 copy.jpgBefore visiting the Gardens themselves we had a light lunch in their cafe sitting in the beflowered courtyard soaking up the sun. After that we were ready. Now if you don’t like pictures of flowers, plants, settings like the Garden of Eden look away now…….20190716_132506 copy.jpg20190716_132604 copy.jpgand there was wildlife too…here a magnificent Golden Pheasant…I don’t think you should be feeding them bananas but still. I also saw a red squirrel, apparently introduced on the island by Judy Dench’s husband of all people……20190716_132642 copy.jpegThe shapes against the blue sky were pretty special and the feeling you were in some tropical paradise, rather like the Eden project but all outside in real-life as it were, never left you.20190716_134021 copy.jpg20190716_133116 copy.jpg20190716_134651 copy.jpg20190716_133150 copy.jpeg20190716_133412 copy.jpg20190716_135247 copy.jpg20190716_133447 copy.jpgAnd it wasn’t just plants and flowers that were special, there was a huge range of modern sculpture something I would normally take with a pinch of salt but here somehow all very appropriate…..20190716_142039 copy.jpgThis particular sculpture of a balancing box lies below the Abbey house itself where the Dorrien-Smiths who own Tresco (yes it is a private island) live……20190716_134104 copy.jpgeven the well was turned into a piece of sculpture…..20190716_134345 copy.jpg20190716_134440 copy.jpg20190716_134725 copy.jpg20190716_135415 copy.jpegThe Shell House (1994), a pretty shell grotto designed and made by Lucy Dorrien-Smith, has a shell-themed tile floor, and individual initialled tiles commemorating members of the family can be seen amongst the shells on its internal walls. But the craftsmanship was incredible. The finest shell house I have seen, and I have seen a few.20190716_140010 copy.jpeg20190716_140022 copy.jpeg20190716_140126 copy.jpeg20190716_140236 copy.jpg20190716_143546 copy.jpg20190716_140429 copy.jpegTowards the end of our stroll around the gardens we happened upon a fruit and vegetable area which was patently not part of the main run of things. Our assumption was that this was maintained (in tip-top condition) for the Abbey owners themselves.20190716_140919 copy.jpgIt also contained cutting beds, again probably for the owners vases.20190716_141228 copy.jpgWe had the ferry to catch at 3.30pm to link up with the Scillonian, so we reluctantly left the gardens. On our way to New Grimsby a mile away we passed huge swathes of Agapanthus..20190716_142027 copy.jpgthe outside of the house itself….20190716_142445 copy.jpgand finally had beautiful vistas opening up of the sea……20190716_143824 copy.jpgI noted in the outskirts of the hamlet that they had even named a square after me (very nice of them)20190716_144332 copy.jpgand passing the beautiful cottages in their verdant setting we made our way….20190716_150912 copy.jpeg ……to the Flying Boat Bar and Bistro with its enviable views….where we just had time for a quick if very expensive pint no doubt delivered by the Scillonian and then ferried to the island….The_Flying_Boat_View_3.jpg

I end with a poem for Stephen Booth, who passed away in 2013. Stephen was a regular visitor to Tresco for fifty years and the poem was written by his brother, Ted Booth.

Tresco

What island is this

Prospero’s cell perhaps

there the grey beard goes

and isn’t that pretty gardener

Miranda in disguise

or are we all Crusoes

shipwrecked on the beach

waiting for man Friday

and a ready cooked pie

or is this Treasure Island

with Jim and Captain Flint

making for the village store

where X marks the spot

and untold treasures wait

or is it a mad hatter’s

golf course with untold buggies

criss crossing the greens

or has a bit of Barbados

broken loose and floated

its palm trees

across the Gulf Stream

and into our garden.

 

Ted Booth

December 2013

Afternoon tea at Fowey Hall……

luxury-family-hotels-fowey-hall-cornwall-eat-21.jpgAs part of our Christmas present from Katherine, we had a voucher for afternoon tea at the Fowey Hall Hotel. We had visited once before and came away extremely disgruntled with atrocious service. This time the service was impeccable.20190703_154216 copy.jpegThe tea was lovely, the weather great, and the setting and views tremendous.20190703_161809 copy.jpg20190703_162027 copy.jpg20190703_163624 copy.jpgAs you might expect we were sated and decided we had better work off some of the culinary inputs by steeply descending into Fowey.20190703_163910 copy.jpgSome people might regard Fowey as twee. But it is one of my all-time favourites.20190703_164213 copy.jpg20190703_164213.jpgThe harbour and town were busy. Whilst enjoying the views, staring down into the waters we couldn’t believe our  eyes when we saw a group of the most enormous jellyfish at least three or four feet long…..20190703_165421 copy.jpeg20190703_165455 copy.jpeg

House-hunting in Cheshire……Part 2

we 20190617_122118 copy.jpgWe were off for another week’s house-hunting in Cheshire, having narrowed our search down to Sandbach and district and, rather than belt up the Motorway, we decided to use the ‘old’ route up through the border country. What a terrific decision. So pleasant driving through the rural and idyllic counties of  Monmouth, Hereford and Shropshire then into Cheshire. And always an impressive start to a journey to cross into Wales via either of the Severn bridges….20190617_122222 copy.jpgWe broke the journey for lunch at All Saints in Hereford. It was a wonderful find. The cafe is incorporated in the fabric of the church in such a way that it greatly adds to the atmosphere and the every day use of the church itself. It is so well done and the food is unusually delicious. More city centre churches should do this as well as this one does, and reap the benefits.20190617_134500 copy.jpgSuitably refreshed, we took the opportunity to look round the church itself (another bonus to the church of having the cafe) and it was fascinating. Basically it is      Fourteenth Century.               20190617_140504 copy.jpg                   There are some wonderful misericords….20190617_141127 copy.jpegbreathtaking Minton tiles…20190617_141204 copy.jpegand a famous, indeed infamous, rude carving in the roof…..d49df3f3892cec2874e7d2cbd2aa24c4.jpg        ….apparently the current vicar wanted to make some money out of this by publishing postcards etc but he was stopped by the PCC who ruled it out as too inappropriate! 20190617_141929-copy.jpg                   Our little tour of the church over, we wandered around the town itself to admire many wonderful buildings…..20190617_141631 copy.jpeg.20190617_142420-copy.jpg                 …we noted how bucolic the city really was….not many city centres after all have offices for a cattle society….

20190617_142221 copy.jpeg                        we said hello to Elgar on the cathedral green….. 20190617_142505 copy.jpg20190617_142540-copy.jpegand marvelled at the exterior of one of our great cathedrals…..20190617_142513 copy.jpg20190617_143525 copy.jpegResuming, we eventually reached our destination – Holly Cottage near Holmes Chapel, and settled in to farmyard life! 20190618_172231 copy.jpgThe cottage was everything you would want and we had our own little garden..20190619_114429 copy.jpgand the owner’s farmhouse was just typical of Black and White Cheshire…20190619_114403 copy.jpgAfter some serious hard work house-hunting the next two days, for F’s birthday on the 19th we went in the evening to ‘The Lost and Found’ in Knutsford. We travelled by train from Holmes Chapel calling at many little stations on the way – every small village in this part of Cheshire seems to have its own station. Remarkable.20190619_172121 copy.jpgThe restaurant was full of character and we really enjoyed ourselves.20190619_183927 copy.jpeg20190619_184637 copy.jpgOn a ‘day off’ we again used the train to go to Liverpool  – somewhere I haven’t been for a long time. As soon as you come out of Lime Street station you are confronted with the most marvellous array of public buildings among them St George’s Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, various museums and the Central Library, all worthy of a capital city. Indeed we both had the feeling that we were in somewhere much akin to Barcelona or Lisbon.  Who knew that Liverpool was as impressive as this? We were taken aback.20190620_112127 copy.jpeg20190620_112139 copy.jpgOpposite was the Empire Theatre where I once, with my first girlfriend,  saw Ken Dodd perform. The show started at 7.30 pm, and by midnight Ken was informing us that the doors were locked and we wouldn’t get out until he had finished! The Empire has the largest two-tier auditorium in Britain and can seat 2,348 people.20190620_112452 copy.jpegA lovely park set off all the buildings around here. 20190620_112958 copy.jpgAs we progressed through the city towards the sea the buildings remained impressive.20190620_113722 copy.jpg20190620_114532 copy.jpg20190620_114619 copy.jpeg20190620_114809 copy.jpeg20190620_114920 copy.jpg                       It’s always nice to see the Liver birds…on the Royal Liver Building……20190620_115113 copy.jpeg20190620_120354 copy.jpg20190620_120718 copy.jpgAnd the front of the city facing the sea was busy and stylish…..full of museums which unfortunately we had no time to see….20190620_120859 copy.jpg20190620_121114 copy.jpg20190620_121127 copy.jpg20190620_121427 copy.jpgWe walked from the pierhead towards the Albert Dock and along the way noted the last sailing ship to operate commercially out of the port, astonishingly working the Irish route until the 1950’s.20190620_121609 copy.jpg20190620_121635 copy.jpeg20190620_121834 copy.jpg20190620_122133 copy.jpgThe Albert Dock itself was lovely, a great conversion, full of people. The flats looked stylish but the shops and restaurants were leaning a wee bit towards tat and greasy food unfortunately. But that didn’t take away from the splendour of the buildings and setting.20190620_122251 copy.jpg20190620_122153 copy.jpg20190620_122651 copy.jpeg20190620_123309 copy.jpgWe moved into town to seek somewhere to eat…20190620_124225 copy.jpegand because we couldn’t find my carefully researched rooftop cafe with a view, we ended up in the shopping centre and a rather conventional lunch at John Lewis’s….not to be sniffed at with a glass of wine. The shopping centre was great too…… very clean, modern and sleek and there was a nice ‘grassed’ area for lunch and watching buskers…all in all a memorable visit to a city that has recovered all its old vim and vigour and self-esteem. I almost like it better than the greatest city of them all (Manchester).20190620_152600 copy.jpg20190620_143035 copy.jpgAnother of our trips out was to Tatton Park…..National Trust, although even as members we had to pay a £7 parking charge which seems a bit steep. Still all money goes to a good cause I suppose. 20190621_164104 copy.jpgJust as when last time we had visited Lymm Hall it was really notable how friendly, helpful and knowledgeable all the guides were. It makes a visit so much more rewarding. But then, as we all know, everybody is friendly in the north west! the entrance hall is rather splendid…..20190621_151722-copy-1.jpegand the spectacular painting ‘The Cheshire Hunt 1839’ almost dominating the hall shows three generations of the Egertons who owned Tatton.20190621_152005-copy.jpg20190621_151647 copy.jpegThe music and drawing room is the most ostentatious room in the house; Tatton’s collection of Gillow furniture is unrivalled. Wilbraham Egerton’s ownership (1777–1853) saw the commission of many pieces especially for the house. 4817085997_f6c7d05976_b.jpgViews from many of the rooms were of the 50 acres of gardens and series of lakes for which Tatton is well-known. they descend all the way down to Knutsford town centre. Lewis William Wyatt and Joseph Paxton, architect of Crystal Palace, designed various elements. 20190621_160243 copy.jpgThe Library is a perfectly symmetrical room, in keeping with the formality of the neo-classical style. It houses one of the largest and most important library collections owned by the National Trust with over 8,000 books in this room alone, many still in their original covers and in mint condition. We had a fascinating conversation with the guide in this room who is very knowledgeable about the books and gives one of their 10 minute talks on the library. We will be sure to go. 20190621_152927 copy.jpgNo-one can resist a portrait of any of the Tudors…..20190621_155640 copy.jpegAll in all time very well spent. We then were able to drive through the grounds past the lakes into Knutsford where we had another wander around this delightful town.20190621_174159 copy.jpg20190621_174437 copy.jpg20190621_170550 copy.jpgParts of Knutsford seem very Italianate….you could almost be on the side of Lake Garda. They are nearly all the work of Richard Harding Watt (1842-1913) who was a local philanthropist, traveller and idealist with a passion for building, who made his fortune from glove making in Manchester. He worked with four professional architects to transform the townscape of Knutsford with a series of eccentric buildings.20190621_172740 copy.jpg20190621_172958 copy.jpg20190621_173101 copy.jpgElizabeth Gaskell of course used Knutsford as Cranford and there is a suitable monument to her in the town……20190621_174750 copy.jpgWe also strolled along the side of Knutsford’s own lake…how pleasant!20190621_173613 copy.jpgOur little garden waited for us in the sun at the end of the day…20190621_191529 copy.jpgOne day we looked again at Tarporley a wonderful small village/town. nice to live here but a bit too expensive for us…..20190622_113023 copy.jpg20190622_125938 copy.jpg20190622_131126 copy.jpgSunday lunch was at the Bells of Lower Peover. yet another fantastic Cheshire pub….there are many.20190623_140435 copy.jpgWhilst there we had a good look at St Oswalds and a little stroll around the lanes….20190623_122901-copy.jpg20190623_122624 copy.jpg20190623_122712 copy.jpg20190623_123509 copy.jpgDriving on to Rostherene we were greeted by the vicar in the church and had a very interesting half hour conversation with him. Amusingly on the way out we bumped into presumably his wife who asked ‘Well, did you learn a lot?!’ with eyebrow raised!20190623_143053 copy.jpgAmazing how sentimental the Victorians were..there’s nothing like the Victorians!20190623_144454 copy.jpgThe view from the back of the churchyard to where the vicar directed us was lovely…..the deepest and largest mere in Cheshire. We had a great 10 minutes admiring the scene.20190623_151230 copy.jpg 20190623_151825 copy.jpgUnusual to see a gravestone we would more expect to see where we live near the sea…..20190623_152158 copy.jpg A good week both for house-hunting and enjoying Cheshire. We decided to return home the ‘old’ way again.  On our way a delightful village green…20190623_160113 copy.jpgand I couldn’t resist stopping to take a pic of the roadside verge. How much better it is when less cutting of verges takes place….20190624_112311 copy.jpgThis time before exiting Cheshire we called in to one of the prettiest villages in Cheshire in the deep south of the county – Malpas.20190624_114049 copy.jpgIn its centre and at its highest point stood the magnificent church of St Oswalds.20190624_114517 copy.jpgVery imposing gateways to the churchyard were set off by some imposing buildings…20190624_114153 copy.jpg20190624_114631.jpgInside there are many treasures. This oak chest dates from the second half of the 13th century.20190624_114728 copy.jpg20190624_114746 copy.jpgThe roof is quite exceptional being a fine late C15 camber-beam affair with ornate bosses and angels (restored but none the worse for that) on the corbels. 20190624_115307 copy.jpeg20190624_114751 copy.jpgIn the Brereton chapel the tomb is that of Sir Randal Brereton and his wife, and is dated 1522. The monument in the Cholmondeley chapel was erected in 1605 and represents Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and his second wife, Mary.20190624_115109 copy.jpegThe usual little children and followers carved around the tomb itself are cute….20190624_115153 copy.jpeg20190624_115418 copy.jpeg20190624_120102 copy.jpgLunch stop this time was in Church Stretton which I hadn’t visited since a sixth-form History trip in the sixties. Spreading over its hillside site it made a good last stop.20190624_133031 copy.jpg

Reading matters……

20190608_111645-copy.jpegThe Flesh of the Orchid’. I must have bought this for the cover, many moons ago! A racy, pacy, totally American, totally unbelievable, thriller from James Hadly Chase which was devoured in no time at all over a couple of night’s bed-time reading. Just the thing for late night reading but, having finished it, the only question was ‘What was that all about then?’ Shallow characters, murders too many to count, chase after chase. Did I really read such rubbish? Well yes and it was quite enjoyable.

Having so enjoyed the first Trollope Palliser novel ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ I just had to read ‘Phinneas Finn’, the follow up. The plot summary by the Trollope Society is as follows……unknown-1.jpeg

‘Phineas Finn, a young Irishman just admitted to the bar, was elected to Parliament from Loughshane through the support of his father’s old friend Lord Tulla.

His genial temperament soon won him many highly placed friends in London society, among them Lady Laura Standish. Although Phineas was in a sense committed to marry a childhood sweetheart, Mary Jones, he fell in love with Lady Laura. She, however, had sacrificed her fortune to pay the debts of her brother Lord Chiltern, and valued her position in society above her romantic love for Phineas. She was deeply and intelligently interested in politics and the maintenance of a salon needed money and position, and she found both in the person of Robert Kennedy,a wealthy MP representing a group of Scottish boroughs.

In Lady Laura’s circle of friends, Violet Effingham stood nearest to her, and when Phineas sought to marry her Lady Laura was bitterly angry, not only because she considered that he was being untrue to her, but that she wished Violet to marry Lord Chiltern. Violet did in fact love him, but his violent temper and manner of life did not seem to insure her happiness. When Lord Chiltern learned that Phineas was his rival, he challenged him and a duel was fought in Belgium, with no serious results. Both men were soon sensible of their folly, and shortly after they became reconciled Violet accepted Chiltern.

Phineas, by taking a government post to enable him to pay his way in London, lost his seat in Loughshane, and through the good offices of Lady Laura was offered Loughton, her father’s pocket-borough. His career seemed assured until from a matter of principle he voted against his colleagues on a bill for tenant right in Ireland, and was forced to resign. In the meantime, life with the harsh and priggish Mr. Kennedy had become impossible for the high-spirited Lady Laura. She rejoined her father and eventually, to escape her husband’s demand that she return to him, went into exile at Dresden.

Mme. Max Goesler, a wealthy and charming widow, interested herself in securing another seat for Phineas and, when he refused to allow her to finance the cost of the election, offered to put him in possession of her great fortune by their marriage. This he was too proud to accept and, discouraged by the net result of his years in Parliament, returned to Ireland where he married Mary Jones.’

Trollope’s own views were somewhat surprising to say the least……..”It is all fairly good except the ending, – as to which till I got to it I had made no provision. As I fully intended to bring my hero again into the world, I was wrong to marry him to a simple pretty Irish girl, who could only be felt as an encumbrance on such return. When he did return I had no alternative but to kill the simple pretty Irish girl, which was an unpleasant and awkward necessity.”!! Wow.

Hugely long, hugely enjoyable but as with his other books in the series easily readable as it was written for serialisation. I thought I might read a chapter at a time, like the original Victorian readers, but I found that I wanted more and inevitably read two or three each night. I think Trollope is just an amazing writer. His direct approaches to the reader – in asides in his own voice – are so much like the pieces to camera which film directors seem now to have established as an art form. They must be based on a reading of Trollope, or so I like to think. Characters so strongly drawn you really care about them.   It is just incredible that Trollope wrote so much whilst holding down a full-time job. What a man.

9781408801499.jpg‘Einstein’s Riddle’ is….’riddles, paradoxes and conundrums to stretch your mind’. It is divided into sections headed ‘Logic and probability’, ‘When reasoning goes wrong’, ‘The real world’, ‘Motion, infinity and vagueness’, ‘Philosophical conundrums’ and ‘Paradoxical all the way down’. We get involved in the toughest logic problems, lateral thinking puzzles, and tests of mental agility. By turns entertaining and infuriating, I really enjoyed pitting my wits with some superb problems. Exceptionally involving.

 

Reading matters………

 

lam_201978.jpgThe Folio set of Trollope political novels has been sitting on my shelves unread for, what, 15 years. Just to look at the 6 meaty volumes, and even though I am after all retired, it seemed a daunting prospect. However I have read and re-read the Barchester Chronicles by Trollope several times, so I thought let’s give it a go. ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ is the first in the series. Although long (even ardent admirers and critics have said so) , the chapter lengths are such that one can easily get through 2 or 3 just before sleep. That is because, like Dickens, he wrote for serial publication in the first instance.

Here is the plot summary by eminent literary critic Prof John Sutherland…

‘Alice Vavasor is a 24-year old mature woman of character and beauty (with a mere fortune of £400 p.a.). She has two suitors. One is her Byronic cousin, George Vavasor – a ‘wild man’. The other is John Grey, an honest but unexciting ‘worthy man’. Which should Alice accept?

George killed a break-in burglar as a child, and has a Cain-like scar on his handsome face. Alice was earlier engaged to the wild man but jilted him, thinking him (rightly) too wild. He has loosely conceived political ambitions and is a ‘radical’.

Alice, engaged to John as the novel opens, declines to ‘name the day’. It will be the most important day of her life, but also the day on which her ‘freedom’ will end. She, and all her property, will, thereafter, belong to her husband along with that declarative ‘I do’ (the Anglican wedding service, at this period, contained the woman’s promise to ‘obey’).

Alice, after an ill-advised holiday with George in Switzerland, jilts John. But George, in the ensuing long engagement, goes entirely to the bad. His business and political ambitions fail. He is disinherited and brutally assaults his sister, Kate, who has devoted her life (and her own chances of marriage) to advancing his career. He attempts to murder Grey and finally skulks out of England, a ruined man (he is revealed to have had, all the time he was engaged to Alice, a common mistress). John reassumes the fiance’s role.

A parallel plot follows the affairs of Plantagenet Palliser, heir apparent to the Duke of Omnium, and Lady Glencora McCluskie, heiress to a Scottish industrial fortune. Their arranged marriage is doubly threatened. First by childlessness and more seriously by Glencora’s infatuation with the ‘godlike’ Burgo Fitzgerald. Burgo drinks, gambles, and is penniless. But he is ‘beautiful’ and Plantagenet is anything but beautiful. The fact that he is a good man does not outweigh that fact. Burgo sets up an elopement which Plantagenet foils in a dramatic ballroom scene.

On a lower, comic, level Alice’s aunt, Arabella Greenow, also has her two suitors. One is a stolid Norfolk farmer, the other a raffish military man. She chooses the latter ‘because he is better looking’. The narrative examines, from three angles, permutations of marriage for prudence or marriage for passion. Always the woman’s choice. At the end of the novel the three heroines are happily married and Plantagenet has an heir for the duchy of Omnium.’

John Sutherland thinks this novel is all about ‘power’. I think it is, as so often with Trollope, about weak and strong personalities, social position, money problems and ‘will she or won’t she?’ It is also very much about the importance of England itself at this time. Here is John Sutherland again…..

The opening sentence of Can You Forgive Her?, with its relaxed ‘clubman’ tone, conveys the sense of a novelist serenely confident about where power in England resides:

Whether or no, she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation.

Ten thousand people in England – the most powerful nation in the world – have the levers of power, prestige, and patronage in their hand. ‘Big People’, Trollope calls them. Trollope was, he felt, not yet a ‘big person’, but not far off it.

It was a matter of authorial pride with Trollope that (unlike, say, his fellow novelist Wilkie Collins), ‘when I sit down to write a novel I do not at all know, and I do not very much care, how it is to end.’ He let his fiction happen, in his famous ‘before breakfast’ early morning stints.’

I have to report that, as I suspected but was unwilling to test for so long, this was just as involving as Barchester. I was gripped with the characters and their development and didn’t mind the lack of plot as such. Really, really, really if you want to know about the tight-knit world of Victorian upper middle-class and high society, Trollope is your man. Great stuff. And I was only a little surprised to hear that lead singer of the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant, wrote the song Can You Forgive Her? in 1992 after reading Trollope’s novel whilst on holiday.

So, whilst Stephen King might poke fun at the book’s length, joking that for modern audiences a more appropriate title might be Can You Possibly Finish It?, I beg to differ. It’s a book I couldn’t put down. 

 

Reading matters…….

Wanting some lighter reading I picked through our shelves and chose a Fifties copy of 006 copy.jpgGeorge Simenon’s ‘The Blue Room’. I often think it is quite surprising how French (and other) writers are stylistically worlds apart from British authors. Same with films of course. It was a real pleasure to read this short but very satisfying novel so quickly. Just recovering from a hernia operation I hadn’t much else to do….I certainly couldn’t walk anywhere. French authors seem much more capable of getting right inside a character so that you almost become the character yourself and feel what they feel. In this case an adulterer on trial for a murder he did not commit as a result of what the French call ‘une grande passion’  or an intense relationship and affair. The ingredients of the novel were straightforward – a small French village where everyone knows everyone, an illicit affair, an interrogation. The result – something extraordinarily powerful. This book is in translation although you certainly would not know it, and who is to say how good the translation is. But the writing is top quality and expressed with economy. Having said all  this I am glad that I have just, by accident, seen on-line the following comments on Simenon by John Banville………

‘He has a Nabokovian ability to convey in words the tactility of things, although the words that he employs and the sentences he makes of them are always humble and plain. He prided himself on his modest vocabulary and the spareness of his language; having finished a book – which he would do in the space of 10 days or so – he would emerge from his study shaking the finished manuscript by the spine, in order, as he joked, to get rid of the last remaining adjectives.’ 

Wonderful! ( I don’t think he used a single exclamation mark either).

We have quite a large Crime section on our shelves (bigger than in either of our s-l300.jpgbookshops), and there are quite a few novels which we perhaps haven’t read or have forgotten reading. One such was Nicci French’s ‘The Red Room’. Totally coincidence that I chose The Red Room immediately after The Blue Room! In fact fool that I am I have only just noticed……..Anyhow what an unexpectedly great read this was. In a somewhat different way to Simenon, French also got right inside the head of our protagonist, a female psychologist helping to solve a series of murders whilst trying to get a grip on her own private life. The scenario and plot were utterly believable and all the characters well drawn. A really gripping Crime novel of the first order.

Unknown.jpeg‘How Many Socks Make A Pair?’  is what’s called a book about surprisingly interesting everyday maths. It does fulfil its function. However, Rob Eastaway sometimes explains the maths and sometimes doesn’t – with his ‘you get the idea of this, but I won’t go into it in detail as the maths is a bit complicated’. I found this frustrating as sometimes you get the impression that he is just serving you up one puzzle or conundrum after another. Still, enjoyable on the whole……..

A Family get-together……

20190504_103652 copy.jpgAlways nice to have a family get-together and this one to celebrate two birthdays Katherine and David. It was good that Aiisha could explore our new play park in the village which seemed to go down well….20190504_103803 copy.jpgand from there an easy transfer to the Amusement Centre in Looe with more rides and the opportunity taken to win two unicorns.20190504_132148 copy.jpgThe beach was good too with Aiisha dressed for the weather and David apparently fearful..20190504_151424 copy.jpegA Birthday cake at home was well received.20190504_181859 copy.jpgNext day, a Sunday, we were off to Falmouth for a proper Birthday meal. We parked by Kimberley Gardens with its even better play park……..20190505_131210 copy.jpg20190505_131922 copy.jpgwhich even pleased some of the adults……20190505_134122 copy.jpg20190505_134845 copy.jpg                           A nice place to live here with its Edwardian houses….20190505_135031 copy.jpg20190505_135035 copy.jpgVery big fish in the pond too…20190505_135142 copy.jpg20190505_135407 copy.jpgOur meal was at the Star and Garter winner of Best Foodie Pub in the South West by Food Magazine. Great views.20190505_142230 copy.jpegPost lunch some light exercise on Gyllngvase beach. A nice day all round. 20190505_171440 copy.jpg20190505_171654 copy.jpegOn the following day we went to Lydford Gorge in North Devon, lots of steps through woodland, to see the 30m White Lady waterfall20190506_143408 copy.jpeg20190506_143810 copy.jpeg20190506_143921 copy.jpg20190506_143954 copy.jpg                       We then wandered along the trail (this goes from one NT cafe to another!)…..20190506_145324 copy.jpga beautiful walk…..20190506_145354 copy.jpg20190506_151514 copy.jpgwith the occasional rapids and falls…20190506_151704 copy.jpg20190506_152350 copy.jpgin parts it is quite narrow with a deep drop and the handrails then prove useful.20190506_153118 copy.jpg                        and at one point there is a ‘money bench’ with inserted coins of all ages and descriptions…….I must admit I am easily impressed sometimes, but all of us were agreed it was a magnificent walk and worth repeating.20190506_154050 copy.jpgOn the last day we went to the climbing wall at Looe which said it would be open but wasn’t. We took the opportunity then to have a look round the Sardine Factory which tells you all about the history of Looe particularly as a sardine centre, and Katherine told us that it was very similar to the one in L’Escala. 20190507_104827 copy.jpg20190507_104850 copy.jpg                 Now where am I?20190507_104947 copy.jpg20190507_105251 copy.jpgNext stop was Victoria services to fill up with lpg and there we found that the Climbing Centre was absolutely terrific and more than made up for our disappointment in Looe.  I thought four and a half year old Aiisha was astonishing and totally unfazed. maybe a new long-term hobby for her?

20190507_121951 copy.jpg20190507_121955 copy.jpg20190507_122156 copy.jpg20190507_122320 copy.jpg20190507_122543 copy.jpg20190507_123041 copy.jpg20190507_123254 copy.jpg20190507_123346 copy.jpg20190507_123350 copy.jpgI might, just might, try this climbing business for myself sometime and see if I can allay my fear of heights.