Thursday, 18 August 2011

Barred in Stratford: A Bit of a Big Dig!

Good Evening Dear Friends . . .

 . . .  and welcome to yet another Thursday evening in the study at Myrtle House; I am, as you can probably tell returned from foreign parts and relatively sound in mind and body, so please feel free to pull up a seat and rest for a few minutes while I regale you with tales of my travels in the shires of Hamp and Dorset!

The reason for the journey was, of course, to re-unite the Old Duchess and her brother in the swirly swishing wishing well waters of the sea just off Bournemouth in a rather swell location called Sandbanks.  My original plan had been to pop over to a nature reserve called Brownsea Island a little further west in Poole Harbour to do the deed but, on the day, the weather was just a little too grey and tending towards squally rain so I made an executive decision and deposited her, as requested, in the briny from the end of the groyn pictured above.  The picture was taken about a minute after I had done it and the weather changed perceptibly so perhaps she was insisting that I listen to her - for once at least!

The task having been completed - and photographs taken, shells collected as momentos it was then time to explore further afield.  So it was all aboard the chain ferry to the Isle of Purbeck (which, of course, isn't) and the lovely Olde Worlde charm of Swanage where a most lovely repast was had in the company of good folk. It really is quite a lovely little watering hole and somewhere I had never been before - I can thoroughly recommend it, not too crowded but quite picturesque.

Then it was over to a rather sad and forlorn place called Tyneham Village; in a remote valley and reached by traversing Army Firing Ranges  - when the big guns weren't looking - its population was evacuated on December 19th 1943 because the army needed the space to practice wars or some such silliness . . . they were told they would be allowed back but this has never happened and the tales of bitterly disappointed people are posted throughout the village which now stands as a monument to uprooted lives.  It is a bit of a trek to get there but well worth it, and certainly worth more time than I had allowed for it . . . it is, indeed, somewhere to explore more fully in the future.

On the way back up north I elected to visit somewhere I, as a writer, should be making a monthly pilgrimage to . . . I refer, of course, to Stratford Upon Avon and, if you can possibly imagine this, it was my first ever visit! I was very impressed by the number of places that Old Father William had lived/owned/walked past at some point in his life and was intrigued to see one with an archaeological dig in progress . . . access was allowed (for a fee, naturally) and so I entered the building and peered around the corner to see the extent of the dig at which point a curator positively bellowed at me from behind a desk that I could go no further without payment.  I said I was merely looking to see the extent . . . I got no further; who did I think I was to be allowed to walk around without paying? I did point out, in somewhat vociferous terms, that I had been on the point of entering but now would require the strength of several equines of inflamed temperament and possible mental instability to force me to stay! He was so rude!  

So I have no hesitation whatsoever of recommending that, should you be so foolish as to attempt to visit the dig at Nash's House, you either throw your purse in first or simply punch whoever happens to be behind the desk before they get a chance to insult you! it really quite spoiled my day there, despite the charms of the theatre which could have persuaded me to linger longer into the evening . . . ah well, maybe someone involved with the preservation and presentation of the nations most treasured properties will read this and "have a word" perhaps?

Anyhow, I am returned and so is the Famous Sally Dog; freshly bathed and smelling momentarily sweeter than normal thanks to the ministrations of the good folk at Talbot House who she loves dearly. There was a good deal of excited scampering about and licking at our reunion but they are quite used to me by now  - Sal was equally excited and watered each and every tree in sight in my honour; I was very proud.

And so here we are, in the study with the light fading and my keyboard glowing; work is cantering on a pace and may even be finished by next week's deadline; tomorrow is a day for meeting counsellor chums and so much and many tea and cakes are to be consumed with glee and by me.

I hope you have a fun Friday and - if a Tweeter - remember to #FF me; have a lovely weekend and may you be swathed in riches of kisses always!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Nostalgia . . . *

Good Afternoon Dear Friends . . .

. . . and welcome to Saturday in all its silentness and solitude; I sit in the study and listen to various pieces of music that I have loved over the years and think of all the associations they bring with them ... Listening to Elgar I am reminded of the time I used to spend in Barryfield, a very large Victorian house in the depths of Stockton Heath, where I would sit in the music room and compose on the (rather poor) piano some twenty plus years ago . . . when the strain of creativity would get too much for me I would resort to listening instead to some of dear old Sir Edward's stuff that fitted the surroundings so well; the house had rather nice grounds including an orchard and looking out at this with the sound of the Enigma Variations or Serenade in E in the background summoned up the essence of the Edwardian period very nicely for me - a sort of pre-war innocence which, with the gift of hindsight, was already tinged with the sadness of premature loss.

As the music continues and the sounds of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis fills my head and heart - for it is one of my most favourite pieces ever - I am transported, not as one might expect to Tudor England, but to its filmic counterpart A Man for All Seasons with the inimitable Paul Scofield as the doomed Thomas More dying for his faith . . . it also starred a practically juvenile John Hurt as the arch-betrayer of both More and Fisher, Richard Rich. The music has a rich lusciousness and also a stark, bare harshness reflecting beautifully the themes of the film - faith and betrayal and, subsequently, of life and death. 

It has been quite a day for nostalgia really; and, although obviously still August, the stillness of the air reminded me of the turn of the year with its inherent beauty and sadness . . . in fact, the memories have been flooding over me quite a lot recently; I've spent some time driving around Cheshire and re-encountering places like Great Budworth where I once wanted to live - there was a house I adored there; it had French windows there and it was always my dream to have a study with such windows where I could place my piano (grand, of course!) and look out into the garden as I played! - and all the twisty lanes and byways of rurallity . . . the fantastically named but ultimately disappointing Antrobus, and a number of places dotted around on the banks of the Weaver . . . 

Talking of venturing abroad, in a few days I am leaving the shire and journeying south.  It will be a holiday of sorts but the main purpose is to take the Old Duchess on her last outing; one of her requests was to have her ashes scattered near Sandbanks in Bournemouth that they might mingle with those of her brother who she loved dearly and so I am off to stay in Winchester and spend some time exploring that wonderful and historic city before slipping the thirty miles or so to the coast and saying a final farewell to her earthly remains  . . . and as I type that sentence the music has changed to Nimrod which we played as she entered the chapel at her funeral, very apt and moving . . . the plan is to take the boat over to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour and say goodbye there.

This, of course, also means that Sal is off to spend time in her favourite hotel, the really quite splendid Talbot House in the wilds of Worthington . . . she actually loves the family who own the kennels and so I can leave her there for a few days without feeling too guilty . . . but before all that though I have lots of work to do on my portfolio in order to actually qualify as a fully-fledged counsellor; my colleagues on the course have received their certificates and are now "proper" . . . to be honest, I am sadly lacking motivation for such things but it does seem a waste of four years hard work if I don't do this final task - a mere six thousand words or so; if it were fiction it wouldn't be more than a couple of days work . . . so I have to buckle down to it next week before the outing, oh hum!

Anyhow, I still have a breathing space before Monday and so I shall leave you to your weekend as the music  - An Oxford Elegy by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an enduring masterpiece and all time favourite - swells and breaks like waves of memories over my head until I am drowning in images and times gone by . . . have a wonderful weekend liberally bespattered with sunshine and love

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος(nóstos), meaning "returning home", a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning "pain, ache".