Monday, February 20, 2023

Di and Viv and Rose at The Penrith Players Theatre

Penrith, Cumbria. Thursday 16-February-2023.

After our last experience at the players theatre [A Bunch of Amateurs] we were looking forward to this production and it vastly exceeded our expectations.

To quote the ad:

"Di and Viv and Rose is a funny and thoughtful exploration of friendship’s impact on life, and life’s impact on friendship. 

Aged eighteen, three women join forces as freshers at university in 1983 and decide to share a house. Life is fun. Living is intense. Together they feel unassailable. 

On the surface, they seem unlikely friends, other than their shared love of the music of the artist formerly known as Prince. Di, a sporty lesbian business student, bursting with energy; Viv, a judgemental, driven, ambitious design student intent on escaping her roots; and Rose, more middle-class, insouciant, a student of Art History.  It’s the early 80s and their friendship, over the next twenty-seven years, is the subject and the heart of this light, amusing and entertaining show.  

Written by Amelia Bullmore, the play shows how their solidarity precariously survives physical separation, varied career paths and life's challenges."

The three leads did an absolutely brilliant job. Congratulations to Charlotte, Elinor and Emma on three excellent performances, very convincing, they inhabited their roles. The whole thing was riveting is "what will happen next?" kind of a way with plenty of plot twists to keep you engaged.

If I were to cavil the the author didn't quite manage the ending, it sort of just stopped without a dramatic full stop. That notwithstanding bravura performances all round with a good number of laughs delivered along the way.

Looking forward to the next production.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Penrith parkrun Event number 390

Penrith, Cumbria. Saturday 18-February-2023.

This week a cool Saturday saw 293 people run, jog or walk the course, of whom 48 were first timers and 32 recorded new personal bests. Representatives of 24 different clubs took part.

We had a couple of milestones. Wade Tidbury achieved his 100 parkrun milestone.

Alison Rowsell celebrated her 100 volunteer milestone. 

Nine of those first timers were doing their first ever parkrun and we hope to see them again next week. The other 39 are tourists visiting from other parkruns around the country. Some are opportunistic parkrun tourists - if you happen to be away see if there’s one nearby. Others plan every weekend to tick off another venue or complete a challenge like the alphabet. One of the great things about parkrun is that whenever you are away from home, you can simply turn up at the nearest parkrun armed with your barcode (#DFYB) and be assured of a warm welcome. 

The lakes being a tourist destination we get plenty of visitors. There is a steady supply of people staying at Centre Parcs. Others are here because of specific events such as weddings, music competitions, or simply visiting friends, etc. This week we had, amongst many others, sisters Lorraine Chamberlain and Nicole Rose visiting from Coventry taking the essential frame picture (with Andrew Richardson trying to photo bomb!)

We also had Dave Bottoms, one of the run directors from Keswick parkrun, over our way to do some shopping!

Note Dave's yellow and black buff (aka Cow Cowl) indicating that he is a member of the facebook group UK parkrun Tourists who are keen parkrun tourists having done at least 20 different UK venues. If you see one it means they are available to chat, go up and ask them where they are from. We had visitors from Stockton, Whitley Bay, Scotland and many more besides. 

Thanks to our lovely volunteers who make our guests feel so welcome.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Support Your Local Library: The Gothic Pub Rock Opera

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Cumbria. Wednesday 15-February-2023.

Well that was different. We were given a voucher for Theatre by the Lake as a Christmas present from Nigel and Siobhan. Looking at the program over the following couple of months this looked like it might be entertaining and so it transpired to be.

We decided to have a pre-theatre supper in the associated café, booked ourselves in for 6 o’clock and had a tasty lentil and roasted butternut squash dish and a couple of drinks.

Even before the performance started we were amused by the set as it had a number of jokey book spines featuring such titles as "Better than the Film" by A. Smithee - a bit of a cinematic in-joke.

Performed by Black Liver, a husband and wife team it told the tale of a would-be West End musical with a suitably implausible plot involving the threatened destruction of a local library. There was also an amusing interval competition to think up Mills and Boon titles for a romance between an unlikely couple. We laughed. We groaned. 

Photo via Black Liver of this actual performance.

The show was a series of humorous songs, interspersed with audience banter and a running gag involving tribute band evenings. They impersonated a number well known people into the bargain. All very droll and entertaining. Excellent.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Yard After Dark

Brunswick yard, Penrith. Saturday 12-February-2023.

Literally up our Street. I can see Brunswick Yard from our front window. By day, it is a mishmash of architectural salvage, antique / junk shops, secondhand bookshop, coffee stall and home to Black Hand Wines. By night, several times a year, it turns into a beer, pizza and live music event. Apparently it used to be a regular feature pre-Covid and has just started up again. We missed out on the January event because it was sold out by the time we heard about it. This time we were quick off the mark.

An unusual approach to custom ticketing.

The beer was provided by Fell and the bar was manned by the regular staff from Fell Bar and Salsa. I’m not sure who was responsible for the pizza. The music was provided by Delagrave who are another local band that we have seen a couple of times previously. The seating on the left and beer tent on the right.

Freshly cooked pizza - very popular so they had a real production line going.

Beer and pizza - food of the gods.

The area where the stage was set up is normally occupied by a stack of Turkish carpets and rugs.

Delagrave with young videographer. Once they started playing the venue filled up pretty quickly.

Afterwards we had to go via home so Mary could start a bread dough in order that it could rise overnight. Then we popped down to Fell Bar for a nightcap and bumped into members of the band and a number of people I recognised from the audience. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Water’s Edge at Fell Bar

Penrith, UK. Thursday 11-February-2023.

I’m not sure why I haven’t done gig reports for previous bands in Fell Bar. I think it may be because they have been part of other events such as Winter Droving and festive events. As I was listening to this band I thought “They are good, I should do I write up” so here we are.

Water’s Edge are a local band from Keswick and for this gig appeared in a slightly reduced version. They were minus a guitarist and a sax player but on the other hand augmented by a recently recruited bass player. Just as well because they wouldn't have all fitted in!

They played two sets with a range of musical styles.  It was hard to pin down exactly where they fit in the musical spectrum. Some were straightforward indie rock songs, some were a bit prog rock, some had a tinge of folk. Their website describes it as "a compelling blend of entirely original material, ranging from  soulful ballads, through irresistible, danceable songs to epic anthems." I thought the songs showed real structure in their composition. Not simply repeating the same melody or riff all the way through but navigating their way through a number of sections to make up the whole.

Regardless of how they might be categorised, they got our toes tapping which is always a good sign especially being original material we had not heard before. We noted that everyone stayed on for the second set. Not so much voting with their feet as with their bums on seats. 

I suspect that most of the tracks were composed by the lead singer/guitarist, Lee Hawker, but I can’t say for sure. Shelagh Hughes on organ and violin plus backing vocals is clearly very accomplished musician and made a good double act with Lee. The drummer, Richard Burford, provided a steady backbone. The bass player that evening, Gail, is new to the band and only joined in some of the songs; presumably she is still in the process of learning their repertoire.

We bought their latest CD as we enjoyed the music. I think of it as ticket money since it was a free gig. Also the money goes straight to the band and helps keep music live. 

It is a couple of years since they’ve played a gig, partly courtesy of lockdowns. Hopefully they will get out and about more - they deserve to be heard. An enjoyable evening. 

Monday, February 06, 2023

Fell Brewery 10th Birthday Beer Festival

Glisky, Kendal. Saturday 04-February-2023. 

Fun cars, Bus Passes and Beer.

We haven’t been to a beer festival for a couple of years so we were very pleased when our friends Andrew and Sarah alerted us to this one organised to celebrate Fell Brewery's 10th birthday. 

The venue was Glisky, an old warehouse on an industrial estate in Kendal, apparently Fell's new music venue and events space. This presented a slight logistical challenge of how to get there and back whilst not entirely sober. Fortunately friends Simon and Claire, who now live in Windermere, came to the rescue with the offer of beds for the night for all of us. Mary and Andrew then hatched a plan - we would travel separately in the fun cars (Mary's MX5 and Andrew's pretty new Z3) and would use buses to get to and from the beer festival. This also had the advantage for us that we got to use our free bus passes.

Although food was on offer at the festival we decided on a light snack to line the stomach before we set off. No luck at the first three bars / cafés - all full on a damp Saturday in February in Windermere. The fourth had space but they had lost their chef (how careless!) however since we were in the door we had a beer anyway while waiting for the bus.

Once we arrived at the venue, the first order of business was a beer followed by a pizza. There were five beers in cask, the rest in keg. About a quarter of the beers came from Fell Brewery and there were many guest beers so a fair selection.

Choosing a beer from cask.

I started off with Fell’s ESB (Extra Special Bitter) which was delicious. I wish that Fell did more of that, and certainly offered it more often in Fell Bar.

We found a table up near the DJ to eat our pizzas.

The pizza was excellent: hot and delicious with generous topping.

Once eaten we retreated to benches round the side so we could converse.

As there were no other bitters that I could see and rather too many IPA's and sours I did my usual routine and worked my way through the stouts, starting with the lowest ABV and working upwards. It’s good to have a theme. Measures were either 2/3 or 1/2 a pint depending on ABV or price. 

My choices (Brewery, Beer, Style, ABV):

  • Fell, ESB (Extra Special Bitter), Bitter, 4.8%
  • Fell, Loam, Dry Irish Stout, 4.2%
  • Track, Navigator, Stout, 4.2%
  • Fell, Byre, Stout, 5.7%
  • Fell, Export Stout, Stout, 6.8%

My favourite of the stouts was the Byre. Mary's taste in beer is diametrically opposite to mine so no chance of an overlap. Her choices were:

  • Gan Yam, Pop, Pale Ale, 5.2%
  • Black Jack, Ragged School West Coast Pale Ale, 5.6%
  • Farm Yard, Breezy Gose It, Fruited Gose, 4.0%
  • Pilot, Peach Melba, Sour, 4.3%
  • Fell, Cracked Earth, Red IPA, 6.0%
  • LHG, Walk Through Walls x Basqueland, Hazy IPA, 6.5%

She enjoyed them all but her beer of the evening was the Black Jack's West Coast Pale Ale.

The winner of the best name goes to Sureshot's "You Boys Could Use a Little Churching Up". Clearly fans of "The Blues Brothers".

The place was busy, a successful event. Lots of people from Penrith known to us so a very sociable evening.

I had a chat with one of Fell's brewers extolling the virtues of their ESB so here's hoping we see more of in Fell Bar.

The next morning our hosts provided a delicious breakfast of sausages and egg in a bun. Bidding them goodbye we headed south and went for another walk from my "Walks with History" book, this time focusing on the Industrial Revolution. On the far side of Windermere, a 6k tromp through lovely woods taking in High Dam, Stott Park Heights and Stott Park Bobbin Mill. And back home just in time to buy some Herdwick mutton for supper.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Burn’s Supper 2023

Roundthorne Hotel, Penrith. Friday 27-January-2023. 

We have dined on haggis, neeps and tatties most years, helped by the fact that Mary’s birthday is the day after Rabbie Burn’s. Some years it is a simple supper at home, at other times we go for a restaurant or an organised formal supper. This year the Rotary Club of Penrith were hosting a Charity Burn’s Night at the Roundthorne Hotel on the day after Mary’s birthday. Excellent! 

We booked and drove up with the plan to abandon the car, walk home (downhill all the way) and drive up the next day in Mary‘s car to retrieve mine.

I would guess that many of the attendees were members of the great and the good of Penrith. They looked like mostly retired, professional types: solicitors, accountants, doctors, businessmen of all stripes.

I was one of the few, not wearing black tie but I was wearing my McLellan tartan tie, a dress shirt with my McLellan crest of arms cufflinks and a green tweedy jacket – rocking that country Laird look. The top table:

My previous experience of a formal supper (Burns Supper 2019) sadly, did not include the address to the lasses and the reply to the laddies that I had been expecting, so I was pleased to see that this was on the agenda that night.

We had the full piper piping in of the haggis, the recitation of the address to the haggis, although being at the far end of the room I think I missed the stabbing of its gushing entrails but I did take a sip of whiskey during the address. The toast to the lasses and the reply from the lassies were suitably humorous and entertaining.

Haggis, neeps and tatties were a starter rather than the main course which was a very tender shoulder blade of beef.

Obviously, we were seated on a table with complete strangers but, as the nature of these events, you chat to whoever you find yourself next to and they were all charming company.

There was a charity raffle and silent auction. When the results were announced we did very well - we won a bottle of Famous Grouse whisky and Mary won the auction for a day’s cookery class. She has opted for a day of fancy bread making next month. 

There was dancing which I sat out until the last when I was coaxed on to the floor for a variant of strip the willow where I more resembled a pinball than a dancer.

Then at midnight it was time for a downhill walk to help sober up. Well done to all the organisers for an excellent evening!