Saturday, October 27, 2018

Winter Droving 2018

Penrith, Cumbria, UK. Saturday 27-October-2018.

This is our third Winter Droving festival [2016, 2017]. When we realised that it was the weekend before our wedding anniversary it was an ideal opportunity to organise Lake District double-header.


A packed programme of live music, craft stall, street food and a candle lit procession.


I didn't think any of the bands were professionals but what they lacked in slickness they made up for enthusiasm. It was great to see such grass roots music.


This group fronted by three female drummers had an almost had a punk ethic to it. "Let's form a band, dress up in fancy dress and bash out some music". On further listening it became apparent that these were well rehearsed numbers and all done with smiles on their faces, clearly having a good time.



Eliza Gutteridge is semi-professional and has appeared on The Voice. Mid-set a couple of mobile buskers passed through including this mobile piano.


Then time for some street food from the Jamaican stall: Jerk chicken and festivals (a fried dumpling).


It was time for the Drovers' Cup, a four-part event with four teams competing: firemen, farmers, bar staff and locals. First was the egg throwing with the firemen showing some serious motor control and catching skills; they had clearly been practising.


Second section was the day of beer relay race. They substituted fruit squash this year to reduce the spillage of good beer. Again the firemen won.


The next was another relay race, this time with bales of hay and sacks of potatoes as befits a rural themed festival.


The last leg was Cumberland sausage eating. Four sausages and two members from each team. Though of sausages determined our menu planning for the following evening - sausage, mash and onion gravy.


At this point it was time for a wander round the stalls and then to Dockray Hall for beer and supper with our hosts and friends. A few held the table whilst the rest of us went out for the parade. Flaming torches - but no pitchforks.


Ram.


Howling Wolf.


Sheep.


Horse.


Stag.


Wild boar.


Then it was back to Dockray Hall for more beer to round off the evening.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Pollino National Park

Civita, Calabria. Friday/Saturday 05/06-October-2018.

Our friend Sue was visiting Calabria for a work conference. The plan was that she would come and join us for a couple of days since she was already down in Southern Italy. When we looked at public transport getting from Tropea to Cisternino by train was going to take a bonkers 11 hours. In the end we decided to go and collect her but break up the journey.

We drove over to Civita in the Pollini National Park and to spend the night in an AirBnB and have a look round. The big attraction in town is the Devil's Bridge over the gorge so we walked down, had a look and walked back up. Took about an hour although reading some of the reviews you'd think it was a major transcontinental trek!


A good view down the gorge. This was as far as we could go as a flash flood earlier in the year had claimed the lives of ten walkers and the path was inaccessible.


The town itself is very atmospheric and also is one of the pockets of Albanians in Italy scattered across southern Italy.


That evening we had an excellent meal at L'Antico Uliva recommended by the B'n'B. The town had a weathered look about it.


The next morning we had time to visit Cosenza and get a dose of faded glory.


The old town has definitely seen better days and many of the building were looking sadly neglected.


Our friend Sue caught a train part way, from Tropea to Cosenza, we picked her up from the station and drove her the rest of the way back for her visit to Cisternino. So that was nice.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Wandle Fortnight 2018

Wandsworth, London.

Wandling: Beer, a long walk and a short walk.

We were always planning to come back to the UK in September to celebrate my birthday. But when we heard about the Wandle Fortnight we decided to bring the UK flight forward a few days so that we could take part in a couple of the events. Wandle Fortnight is a "community-led celebration of all things Wandle running from September 8th to September 23rd".

Saturday 15-Sep-18.

Saturday was a bit hectic. It started with an early train to Reigate to do a park run followed by a cup of tea with my sister, followed by lunch with my mother in the residential home, then a train back up to London for the Wandle Beer festival.

They had about 60 beers on tasting. You got a pint glass with marks for a full pint, a half pint, and a third pint. That way, by drinking thirds, you could try a wider variety of beer. You bought a voucher for 5 pounds marked off in 10p. As you drunk your beer they scored off the relevant price 10p's. Any unused value on the card could be donated at the end of the evening to the nominated charity the Cat Protection League - a most worthy cause.

There seems to be something of a trend these days for brewing IPA of which I am not great fan. So I went for the two milds that were on offer and then tried a variety of porters.


It was better attended than the photo makes it look. There were a number of people seated behind me when I took this photo. We were joined for a couple of pints by our friends Gavin and Tania. When we had done enough beer tasting we headed off to Tooting Market for something to eat and a glass of wine at the always excellent Unwined.

Sunday 16-Sep-18.

The 30th anniversary of the inaugural Wandle Trail walk from Charing Cross to Croydon. You might wonder why it started at Charing Cross. It’s because the Long Distance Walkers Association don’t think the Wandle Trail is long enough so they added on an extra 5 miles. Oh my aching feet!

The newly opened promontory at Battersea Park.


The Wandle Creek, now improved by the removal of the barrier .


Looking the other way towards Bell Creek.


A small detour to the underpass by Wandsworth Bridge where a scene from Clockwork Orange was filmed.


My Dad was a great film buff and would have loved to know I lived so close to this spot.


The snuff mills at Morden Hall Park.


We followed the full path down to one source of the Wandle at Carshalton Ponds and then across to the other source in Wandle Park.


A long day and a long walk.


The walk ended up in Croydon and we took the tram home for a long soak in warm bath.

Wednesday 19-Sep-18.

Doing stuff about Wandsworth Town centre I always like to have a peer at the ex-Ram Brewery site to see how the river is doing. A pleasant surprise to see that the site is now open and there is a foot bridge from the High Street over the river so you can now access a stretch of the river previously hidden within the brewery.



The new landscaping is in full foliage.


On both sides. Not very extensive, and one might even say cosmetic, but a great improvement on the previous vertical sided concrete channel.


View back towards the new footbridge, Wandsworth High Street and Southside shopping centre.


View towards the Armoury Way road bridge.


Thursday 20-Sep-18.

Mapping the Mills - Walk 2. "Explore the significance of the River Wandle in establishing a millennium-long tradition of flour milling in Wandsworth. Walk, from Earlsfield Station to the Causeway, Wandsworth Town". Organised by The Building Exploratory.


Not just flour mills but calico, snuff, gunpowder, and more. The reason the river was so popular was that it's steep drop made for a fast stream good for turning mills. We only walked a short stretch of the overall river but covered the area I know best. Fascinating to learn where the various mills had been and some the the political and economic history that shaped the changing industrial landscape.

There are not many photos of this walk as we were too busy listening to our very well informed guide. You can read more and download a map and guide on the Wandle Valley Park Mapping the Mills page.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

King Lear at the Duke of York's Theatre

London. Thursday 20-September-2018.

Second of the Shakespearean double bill this week, King Lear as a birthday treat. Transferred from The Chichester Festival Theatre.


We went for a nice meal beforehand and then off to the Theatre Royal to see that well-known thesp Ian McKellen in what he has said will be his last Shakespearean stage role. It is nearly a decade since we saw him on stage last, in Waiting for Godot, and he was just as impressive now.

King Lear review – Ian McKellen’s dazzling swan song weighted with poignancy
4 out of 5 stars. Duke of York’s, London.
The 79-year-old star shines brightest in play’s darkest moments, in what may be his last big Shakespearean role on stage, writes Arifa Akbar in the Guardian:
"There is a sense of an actor putting the finest last touches to his majestic legacy: in McKellen’s incarnation as the arrogant ruler undone by age, infirmity and filial disobedience. [...] McKellen draws out Lear’s signs of dementia – the angry outbursts, the sudden memory blanks – and infuses his performance with such compassion that we feel for this “discarded father” long before his breakdown in the storm. [...] Whatever its inconsistencies and imperfections, this production still dazzles, McKellen shimmering brightest at its dark, tormented heart. " Full review...
King Lear review, Duke of York’s: a devastating lead performance from Ian McKellen
4 out of 5 stars. Duke of York’s, London.
writes Ben Lawrence in the Telegraph:
"McKellen is spellbinding from the very start: we first see him as a much-decorated monarch aware of his own consequence, before the machinations of his inner circle begin to work in tandem with his own unravelling. Then he is capricious, avoiding all eye contact and looking perpetually into the middle distance as if searching for something lost in the mists of time, grabbing at thoughts like dandelion seeds. [...] Still, this is a production that subtly but devastatingly shows the effects of dementia and of ageing, and that is down to McKellen who, throughout, has carefully shown its gradations as well as its non-linear effects." Full review...
Several times as we have staggered out of various late night venues I have jokingly said we should have the Rolls Royce ready and waiting to whisk us home. So the final birthday treat of the day was a limo waiting right outside the theatre to whisk us home without having to bother with public transport.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre

London. Tuesday 18-September-2018.

A bit of culture, a Shakespearean double bill this week. First up Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo. Three and a half hours of ancient Egypt and Rome. I'd forgotten how long the Bard's plays are, you certainly get your money's worth.

At the start of the play the director came out to inform us that this was the first night of a new staging and to bear with us if there were any glitches. There were some amazing moving parts to the scenery - swimming pools and battleships - but they all seemed to rotate smoothy.

Photo by Johan Persson

Photo by Johan Persson

It always takes me a few minutes to adjust my ear to the Shakespeare's dialogue but once attuned it was fine. It is all dense stuff and you have to pay attention. The reviews all seem to agree that this is a fine production.

Antony and Cleopatra review – Okonedo and Fiennes are a magnificent match,
4 out of 5 stars. Olivier, London Simon Godwin directs a terrific and epic National Theatre production, filled with passion and delusion, writes Michael Billington in the Guardian:

"Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo are at the top of their game as the self-deluded lovers, and director Simon Godwin proves yet again that he combines a contemporary eye with a fastidious ear for Shakespeare’s language. [...] this is a fine production that reminds us that Shakespeare’s play is death-haunted from the start and that its self-glorifying lovers exist in a dream of passion." Full review...

Antony and Cleopatra, Olivier, National Theatre review: Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo offer blazing star power,
4 out of 5 stars. Simon Godwin's production of the Shakespearean tragedy proves to be an astute and moving work, writes Paul Taylor in the Independent:

"Simon Godwin’s astute and moving modern-dress production of Antony and Cleopatra succeeds in conveying the cultural differences between Rome and Egypt without ever resorting to the condescension of kitsch.  This is a penetrating and considered account of a complex, twisty play. That it comes across with such walloping emotional immediacy is thanks to the blazing star power of Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo." Full review...

One down, one to go...

Friday, September 07, 2018

Giardini di Pomona

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Sunday 02-September-2018.

An absolutely fascinating open day at the Pomona Gardens botanical conservancy with a huge collection of over 600 varieties of fig and a guided tour from the amazingly knowledgeable Paolo Belloni.

It started off with an exhibition of figs, of course, in the courtyard plus other produce.


A circle of hay bales with just some of the various varieties on display.


Quite the selection of black and green figs, cut open to show how different they were inside.


Also other fruits on display, a trough of quinces and some speciality apples.


These apples are not only red on the outside but also have red flesh.


Also nuts - hazelnut, walnut, almond, and pistachio of which more anon.


Chris started chatting to Paolo Belloni who then, Pied Piper-like, lead us on a tour acquiring more and more followers as we went. We started in an adjacent orchard with a collection of citrus fruits and some water lilies with water filtration properties.


Across the road into the main arboretum where we met and tasted a range of figs. I was amazed at how different a fig can taste.


We also encountered a pistachio tree. I've never seen a pistachio tree before although I did know they grow on trees.


Close up of the pistacchio.


The final tree was a Kaki, Japanese Persimmon, with a real story behind it.


"The rebirth of time" Kaki tree project 
On 9 August 1945 Nagasaki was bombed with an atomic bomb. It seemed that any living creatures were dead, however, under the rubble, it was noticed that some plants had survived including some kaki trees, although rather battered. One of these, very weakened, returned to good health after being treated of the botanist Masayuki Ebinuma. This tree belongs to the local variety of the area of ​​Nagasaki called "Tongo". 
From the fruits of this khaki tree, which survived the bombing, seeds were obtained.  So "the second generation kaki seedlings" were born. 
In 1994 Ebinuma started to entrust the small plants to the children visiting the city asking them to grow them to become symbols of peace. 
In August 1995, thanks to the contribution of the artist Tatsuo Miyajima was born the project "The rebirth of time" kakitreeproject.com.
Following Paolo in a silent meander through a lavender maze we arrived at the tree.


Persimmons on the tree.


After that we went up to yet more fig trees where Paolo was experimenting with a system of micro-terracing using small linear mounds filled with organic materials acting as both reservoir and water run-off control. An absolutely fascinating couple of hours.

A fitting final view, the Kaki tree and lavender maze: