A Typical Saturday!

Most of my Saturday’s start with a trip to the shops. There is only two of us and Artie (the cat), living in the house, but every weekend the shopping bill nears or exceeds ¬£100!! ūüėģ

Today’s shopping consisted of buying lots of fruit and vegetables and cat treats! ūüôā People say I spoil Artie, but with a face like this, how can I not?! ūüėÄ

Artie

Artie

Usually by noon we are home, the shopping is put away and I have attempted some kind of flower display with a new bouquet I have bought!

Recent flower display

Recent flower display

We occasionally have lunch in the living room. David lets the finches come out of their aviary to stretch their wings and fly around the room. Today, Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches sat on the sofa with me!

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

After lunch, it is all about cleaning the house. It can take up to two hours! If I am alone, it can take more! David helps by vaccuming while I do the dusting, dining room and bathroom.

If it is sunny outside then I forego doing the floors until Sunday and go out into the garden and enjoy the flowers, birds and insects.

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Today though, it was cold and cloudy so after doing the chores I listened to Classic FM and noticed a House Sparrow visiting the feeders.

After 5pm I turn my attention to the kitchen. I listen to Saturday Night at the Movies¬†while making a start on¬†the evenings meal. Tonight’s meal was my version of a Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with home-made Wholemeal mini loaves. I got the recipe from the¬†Change for Life website/recipe app, though I adapted it.

Recipe for Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup:

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil for pan
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed/chopped
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 chilli chopped
  • 1 pepper chopped
  • 2 celery ribs chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 850ml of¬†vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can mixed beans
  • 1 can sweetcorn or frozen
  • Handful of red lentils (it was a last minute addition)
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (I got ours from the garden!)
  • Pinch of ground black pepper and salt to taste
Coriander

Coriander

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion until softened.
  • Then add the celery, pepper, chilli and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes (use your discretion as to when to stop cooking.)
  • Add the chilli powder and the tomatoes and bring to the boil.
  • Pour in the stock and add the tomato puree, mixed beans, sweetcorn (drained if tinned) and lentils (if using). Heat and¬†simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  • Add the coriander (if using) and season with some salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and serve¬†with a slice of wholemeal bread
Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup

Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with Wholemeal Mini Loaves

For the wholemeal mini loaves I followed the recipe I use for easy¬†white bread. I just changed the strong white flour for¬†Allinson Wholemeal Seed & Grain Bread Flour. It’s delicious, I don’t think I will ever go back to baking with just white flour again!

Saturday evenings tend to be a mixture of wine and music while David often plays on GTA5 with his brother and cousin. At the moment I am reminiscing about playing Final Fantasy VII in the 90’s. The story was engaging, had a baddie that you love to hate (Sephiroth) and the music written by¬†Nobuo Uematsu¬†was out of this world too! You can listen to Final Symphony on Spotify, though I actually bought the mp3 from Amazon!

I shall sign off now and enjoy the last remaining light of day.

Goodnight!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

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One Magnificent City!

This bank holiday weekend¬†coincided with Cunard’s 175 year celebrations here in Liverpool. The city witnessed a three day spectacle as Cunard’s three Queen passenger ships visited the River Mersey.

On Sunday the Queen Mary 2 docked at port and in the evening there was a laser display projected onto the three Graces followed by fireworks.

Monday was the main event! The Queen Mary 2 was to leave Liverpool to meet and greet her sister ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. So, David and I decided to go to Crosby Marina in anticipation of seeing the ships. I am afraid I got carried away with all the excitement around this event.

Crosby Beach

Crosby Beach

So on a cloudy, cold Monday morning (25th May 2015), we headed to Crosby. We arrived¬†just after¬†9am. We managed to find a street to park the car and walked towards the beach. Other sightseers were walking the coastal path, laden with chairs and binoculars, both of which David and I could have brought with us if we had thought on. However, we had to be content¬†with standing as we overlooked the beach dotted with Sir Antony Gormley’s Another Place statues and brave the relentless onslaught of the chilling wind. It felt more like winter than late spring!

We stood in total for three hours during the spectacle. I could not feel my fingers they were that cold! Other spectators also shivered as we all waited for the Queen Mary 2 to leave her berth and make her way to the mouth of the Mersey to greet her two sisters. The crowed swelled. Many even went out towards the edge of the tide (that was going out) to get a better viewpoint. Where David and I stood was good enough, over looking the coast but high enough so no one could be in the way!

In the Irish Sea out in the distance we could see the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria as they made their joyous approach to the city. Seeing them draw ever closer gave us something to distract from the cold. The sun briefly made an appearance before being blanketed by a thick bank of cloud that did not shift. I was afraid that none of my pictures of the event would come out due to shivering too much!

Then from around the headland the top of the Queen Mary 2 could be seen, she looked so close! She had left Liverpool at 10.45am. The crowd seemed to buzz with excitement. Cameras started clicking and I juggled with three!

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The Queen Mary 2 lead by the mighty Mersey Ferry stopped opposite where David and I stood. She sounded her horns to her sisters. The horns sounded so forlornly to me. The crowed cheered in response! As Queens Elizabeth and Victoria came closer along the coast, Queen Mary 2 pivoted and faced her bow back towards Liverpool. Queen Elizabeth was the first to pass Queen¬†Mary 2¬†heading along¬†the river, followed by¬†Queen Victoria.¬†Queen¬†Mary 2¬†brought up¬†the rear as they both followed Queen Elizabeth¬†in a cavalcade towards more awaiting crowds in the city! With the¬†Queens’¬†departure the spectacle at Crosby was at an end!

While David and I returned home, the Queens paraded up the Mersey and turned 360¬į before lining up side by side in front of the Cunard building, one of the three Graces. The ships seemed to dwarf the city’s skyline! There was even the obligatory fly over by the Red Arrows en-route to Blackpool! Their flight path took them over our house. A¬†thundering sound¬†announced their approach but it was over too quickly for me to get my camera out. I saw nine red jets flying in arrow formation from my living room window!

I watched the remaining festivities at the Pier Head via webcams. After the three Queens had lined up before the Cunard building the city said its farewell to Queen Mary 2. Queen Victoria docked and Queen Elizabeth anchored in the middle of the river, but she too would leave the city after the second showing of the laser show and fireworks. Queen Victoria would leave the city on Tuesday.

I thoroughly enjoyed¬†witnessing the three Queens from Crosby beach, even though I was frozen to the bone. Spectacles like these truly show what a magnificent city Liverpool is. It’s street cred is definitely on the increase and quite¬†rightly¬†too! ūüėÄ

© 2015 Christine Lucas

Polar Bears, Traffic Jams and Ducks!

It’s been a busy weekend!

Friday, David and I both had the day off work and we drove the two hours to Doncaster to, Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We had visited preciously but this time I wanted to see the newly arrived Polar Bears. YWP has two at the moment, Victor and his grandson Pixel.

Pixel was the more active of the two as can be expected and I enjoyed seeing him frolic in the huge lake they have in their enclosure. We stopped to listen to the Polar Bear talk and the keeper said they hope to house up to at least eight male Polar Bears! That will be something to behold!

In their collection YWP also have shy Amur Leopards and Tigers. There was one Amur Tiger on show, (the other is off show nursing cubs!). The Tiger showed a spectacular Flehmen response to a smell on a bush. This is when the cat smells a scent and shows its teeth by scrunching up its nose. Even domesticated cats do it as well!

We spent 4 hours at the park and left at 3 pm, ‘in plenty of time to miss the rush hour traffic’, I thought! We were not so blessed as when we visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park the previous weeks as it was intermittent driving and then stopping from the M1 to the M62! We hadn’t even reached the dreaded M60 before it was 5pm and David was starting to feel dizzy!

I managed to get David to agree on stopping off at a service station. Birch was only 1 mile away when the dizzy spells started, probably brought on by too much driving, sun stroke and hunger! We both had a Costa each and then David had a Burger King chicken sandwich and I had a very fattening vegi burger. At 26g of fat I would have opted for the salad if I had known! I wish fast food could be healthy as well as convenient! The break did us both good. It roused my spirits and as we hit the motorway again, the traffic jams eased so it was a straight, none stop route back home! Poor Artie was left alone for 11 hours straight, he must have thought we had deserted him!

On Saturday, not content with walking for miles the previous day, we headed into Liverpool city centre to wander the streets in search of ducks! We followed the Aquaducked map and snapped the 20 ducks on display. They each informed of 20 firsts that had happened in Liverpool! Amongst one of my favourites was the Beetles Duck. It was indeed colourful!

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Update on the garden 1

It’s been a busy few weeks back at work so I have not had much chance to peruse the garden, well not as much as I would like! The weather has not been so great either… I am sure last year’s weather was much better than how 2015 is turning out! I am waiting for the sun to shine and the mercury in the thermometer to rise to 20¬į as I want to invite family around for a BBQ! As it is I am still waiting!

David today commented that he liked the ‘purple flowers in the shaded area of the garden.’ I informed him that it was the aubretia, it has spread substantially in the past few weeks, threatening to overcome the dwarf rhododendron, but I will cut it back once the flowering has ended.

Aubrieta

Aubrieta

Other news in the garden… the tulips have faded and all 15 bluebells have flowered, they look lovely! The scabiosa is flourishing for a second year and the wallflower has bushed out so much it is swamping¬†the beautiful pink blooms of the azalea and shadowing the French lavender that has many more buds on than last year!

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The honeysuckle is once again covered in flower buds, (it has always been a good grower). I have more bulbs sprouting… could be the orchids I planted? They are amongst the gladioli and lilies so it is just a waiting game as to what flowers.

Last bank holiday Artie and I were outside in the garden. Artie was chasing flies and other insects and I was weeding the garden, when a familiar buzzing passed by. ‘It’s a bee!’ I cried, but Artie had also seen it and darted at it, pinning the poor creature to the garden wall. I threw Artie off and watched as the poor bee, a Hairy Footed Flower Bee, staggered about. We gave her (for it was a female solitary bee) some sugar solution and let her rest. We did not find a carcass so I hope¬†she was only stunned and managed to fly on her merry way, otherwise a passing bird could have snatched her up. I prefer¬†the former suggestion. I shall have to keep Artie out of the garden come the time the cat mint blooms or he will have¬†a field day with the Honeybees…who I hasten to add, sting!

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony!

I’m not an expert in classical music. I don’t know much terminology nor can I decipher notation. I listen just because it makes me feel. Some pieces make me feel serene: Allegri’s Miserere, some make me want to dance, Arturo M√°rquez’s Danz√≥n No. 2, and others just simply take me to a place both spiritually and emotionally that is unparalleled by any other medium! For me, Gustav Mahler’s music does that above any other composer. I may be a bit biased as Mahler was the composer who made me turn away from my ‘pop’ loving years of the 90’s to re-acquaint myself with classical music, but his symphonies especially his later ones from the 5th onwards often have me quaking with a mixture of heightened emotions!

Gustav-Mahler

Gustav Mahler

There is joy to be heard in Mahler’s work for example his 1st Symphony bristles with youthful energy. Love is to be found in his¬†3rd Symphony, not only¬†human love but of nature too. His 9th Symphony is filled with heavy pathos and heartfelt resignation¬†but it is not done in a depressive way, it’s more of an enlightened way, which enables deep soul searching. And then there is the fear and tragedy that punctuates his 6th Symphony and resonates so powerfully in his 2nd!

It is Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, entitled the Resurrection, that I now turn my attention to.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performed¬†the Resurrection¬†twice this April, on Wednesday 29th and again on Thursday 30th. I booked tickets for the Wednesday performance. It was almost a full house! We were in the ‘cheap seats’ up in the gallery but we had a perfect view of the brightly illuminated¬†orchestra.

Mahler's 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Mahler’s 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

I read the programme notes before the concert and Stephen Johnson mentioned that in the early performances of Mahler’s first three symphonies, Mahler gave detailed accounts of each movement and what ’emotions they aroused.’ However he¬†was not entirely satisfied with having to tell the audience what to feel, what he meant by his music. Mahler said, ‘In my conception of the work I was in no way concerned with the detailed setting forth of an event, but much rather of ¬†a feeling.’ This remark resonated with me and on the night of the concert the feelings became manifest sending goose flesh and shivers all over my body. In fact the performance of the Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Sir Andrew Davis reverberated deep within my body and I felt the effects long after I had left the hall and stood shivering outside awaiting my bus! Even David who is not a Mahler fan said he felt ‘shivers’.

Sir Andrew Davis is not a conductor I have seen perform before. I know of his reputation but have not seen him conduct live. He is a conductor of much energy, jumping and jigging on the podium with his¬†long tail coat flapping. He did not carry a baton but commanded the orchestra with the shape of his expressive hands. You could see that he really¬†had fun with the orchestra. His years of experience showed. I was surprised to read that Davis was 71 years old he really moved about with the energy of a younger man, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him!

Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis

The sound from the orchestra was breathtaking. In the 2nd Symphony there are moments of light hearted fun (the L√§ndler) and solemn solemnity as found in the Urlicht¬†performed by the Mezzo Soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers. I could find no fault in her performance, nor that of the choir, however Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo said the ‘German text wasn’t as crisp as it could have been.’ The brass for me still played a bit ropey at times (though they got the loudest cheer come applause) and some passages¬†sounded a bit muted in the hall. In her review, Catherine Jones said ‘even the controversial new acoustic, which tends to over-amplify the brass, acted in the work‚Äôs favour by adding depth rather than overpowering the whole.’

Alfred Hickling reporting for the Guardian¬†remarked at the ‘frenzied’ attack Davis gave Mahler’s second. I found that the pace was ideal, though brisk it sounded better than some languishing performances of the symphony. Hickling commented mainly on Davis’s appointment as¬†Conductor Emeritus. On the night he was presented with the award and made a speech saying he was ‘deeply touched and honoured’ by the gift and relished ‘the prospect of making music regularly,’ in Liverpool, a ‘wonderfully vibrant city, of which the Orchestra is the finest jewel.’ I’d have to agree. While Davis was making this speech and the orchestra and chorus performed Mendelssohn’s¬†Lauda Sion Op.73¬†I felt overwhelming pride and respect for the Liverpool Philharmonic, and with this being their 175th year anniversary¬†there is much to celebrate!

My most favourite part of the Resurrection¬†Symphony (apart from Urlicht) is about 10 minutes into the finale. It is the orchestral version of the¬†hymn like chorale that will finish the symphony. When I listen¬†to this part that steadily builds up into a triumphant crash of¬†percussion interlaced with strings and trumpeting brass I always imagine the golden¬†rays of a rising sun stretching its light¬†over a slumbering countryside. Sheep rear their heads from a night of rest and a horse drawn carriage trundles along a narrow country lane. Under Davis’s command the Liverpool Philharmonic played this passage to awe-inspiring heights, some would call it apotheosis, (no recordings I’ve heard come close to it!) The sound filled the entire auditorium! My heart swelled¬†with emotion and I have never heard the orchestra¬†sound so loud, so passionate, so emotional, I indeed had a tear in my eye!

The only jip¬†I had was with the audience, of hissing coke bottles being opened, mobile phones tinkling and the guy behind me humming along to the choir! But none could detract from the performance which culminated in the most rousing finale I’d ever heard!

What would Mahler have thought? If he had heard the mobile phone he would have undoubtedly stopped the performance, like he did when someone had a coughing fit at one of his performances.

Though undoubtedly what Mahler would have thought is of little¬†consequence. Personally, I came away from the hall feeling satisfied. A young couple in front of¬†us talked¬†about how religious¬†the symphony was. I have a feeling Mahler’s Resurrection¬†is¬†more emotional¬†than religious, whether it is a ‘spiritual¬†religious’ or a ‘spiritual¬†emotional’ is another discussion. What is for certain is that there is no ‘judgement’ in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. Stephen Johnson in his programme notes says that, ‘the 2nd Symphony marks a huge progression from darkness and death through to light and affirmation of life and love.’ There ‘is no judgement…There is no punishment… an overwhelming love illuminates our being. We know and are.’ It can only be a good thing to be all knowing at the end of it all. The end of all things.

© Christine Lucas 2015.