The Vivian Quarry Trail

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing about our most recent day out. As a treat for my birthday David and I planned another walk. My intention was to take a stroll around the Vivian Quarry overlooking Llyn Peris and then embark on another Welsh wild swim at Padarn. However it was only the walk we achieved, I couldn’t find a suitable, peaceful site to swim from at Padarn.

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Map

After an early start, we arrived at the car park for the Llanberis Lake Railway around 10am. Parking was a very reasonable £4 for all day. From here there are a number of walking trails you can take around Padarn Country Park. After a quick pit-stop, David and I headed towards the Vivian Trail which would take us past old barracks towards a viewpoint overlooking the Vivian Quarry and Llyn Peris.

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Dinorwig Power Station

The Vivian Quarry is part of the larger Dinorwic Quarry which was the second largest slate mine in it’s time. It has now become the back drop to the Dinorwic Hydroelectric Power Station. Tours of this engineering feat can be booked from here.

Our walk took us through woodland, the path creeping steadily upwards past disused quarry buildings and old barrack houses where the quarry-men would live in spartan conditions.

We spent a good four hours walking the path and taking pictures. I definitely see another visit to the area in future as there are many more paths yet to be explored. We returned to the car and went looking for a suitable place in which to have a birthday swim at Llyn Padarn.

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Llyn Padarn

Unfortunately all the beaches were full with canoeists so I forgoed a swim, until next time!

Have you visited Llanberis? What are your memories of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #27

It’s that time again! Time to join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Overall its not been a bad week!

A gift: At the beginning of the week David said there was a cosmetics sale on at his work’s shop. He then surprised me by handing me a large box with some gorgeous brushes, eye shadows and lipsticks. It shows he does think of me sometimes 🙂

Culture: The hump day saw David and I attend the Liverpool Playhouse for a production of Gabriel starring Liverpool born Paul McGann and Belinda Lang. Set in occupied Guernsey during WW2, the action takes place in a farmhouse where a family of women live. Their survival during the occupation is due to the mother’s fraternization with the Germans. While there are moments of humour, there is also some toe curling observations. The womens’ lives are thrown into jeopardy with the arrival of ‘Gabriel’ who is found washed ashore. He has no recollection of who he is but he can speak fluent German! Is he a messenger sent from God to smite the Germans, or an SS officer come to oversee the concentration camp at Alderney? His identity is left ambiguous, but the ending leaves you shocked and saddened.

No visit to the Liverpool Playhouse could be complete without Cheshire Farm Ice-cream at the interval. Mmmm gorgeous!!

Literature: The book I have started reading this week is the seminal piece by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve been reading it while on the bus going to work, stuck in traffic due to building works. While on the daily commute I have been clocking up the miles for #Walk1000 miles: My tally for the week has been 27 miles, which has taken me over the 300 miles mark! Also as I walked between bus stops I kept looking for signs of spring. One day I witnessed a buzzard soaring over the city being hounded by a brave pigeon who must have been protecting its young. Then as I passed a grassy verge I saw a flash of blue. A huddle of forget-me-nots crowded all around!

dressShopping: On Saturday I dragged poor David around Speke Retail Park looking for clothes for work. As I have been toning up with doing 30-40 minutes of treadmill, five times a week, I have dropped a dress size and as a result all my size 8’s are too big for me! Sick of wearing only a handful of clothes I went in search of spring dresses and trousers.

I managed to get two short dresses which will look ok over leggings or tights and a pair of linen trousers which will be a welcome change from Lycra!

Yarden: With the wonderful sunny and warm weather we had over the weekend, David, Artie and I managed to grab a few hours in the yarden. Its amazing just how much the plants have all flourished. I snapped a fine specimen of a snake’s head fritillary and also one plant I can’t ID. Can you?

Visitors: On arrival from work everyday this week, David and I have seen cheeky pigeons sitting on the window ledge, looking into the kitchen. They have been waiting for us to throw seed out for them! Do you have any feathered friends?

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Finally: David and I had a lovely Sunday walk with Riley. We visited my favourite Liverpool park, Festival Gardens. The air was filled with the trill of great tits, bees hummed about in the undergrowth and orange tips and speckled woods fluttered along the woodland pathways. What a perfect way to start a day.

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That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #26

I thought I would gather together all the pictures I’ve taken of my week and join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Signs of spring: Spring has definitely sprung here in the NW of England. At the beginning of the week we had beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. On my daily walk to the bus stop for work, I enjoyed the blossom on the trees and snapped at a gorgeous magnolia tree in all its flowery glory.

Walk 1000 miles: I feel I haven’t achieved many miles this week. On Wednesday I had to attend a course on autism which lasted all day! I certainly didn’t get much mileage done that day! My tally for the week has been 21.4 miles. A culmination of 298.6 miles for the three months January to March.

Wildlife: The results of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch were released this week. Follow the link to the results video. #1 was the house sparrow, with the starling a close 2nd.

logoI heard this week about the initiative Wild About Gardens, in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts and the RHS. Their focus this year will be bees and they have put together a wild bee action kit to download. Sophie from Sussex Field Notes has some very informative facts about bees on her blog. I’d recommend a read.

In the garden: I had an impromptu day off on Thursday. So I visited my mum for a coffee. It was nice to catch up and to see my oldest cat Evie looking so well. I took a tour of my mum’s yarden and admired her camellia. Notice my surprise when I perused my yarden at the weekend and notice my camellia had beautiful flowers too. 🙂

Culture: David and I haven’t long got back from a live performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphonyat the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Sadly I came away from the concert a little underwhelmed. It was not the RLPO’s best execution of Mahler’s 5th. I found the tempo slightly laboured and they seemed to be playing with broken french horns!!

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That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2016

Sharon from the wonderful Sunshine and Celandines suggested the topic for today’s post. I already do a yearly video compilation (watch out for that in the new year), but I thought I would post 12 pictures (or video) that give an impression of the year 2016!

So here goes!

January: 

The year began with a little trip to North Wales. On a cold, drizzly day David and I visited Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin. The weather made the scenery even more atmospheric! Who knows how many ghosts wander the rugged, unforgiving slate scattered landscape?

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Rhosydd Slate Quarry, Cwmorthin

February:

On another of David’s days off work, we visited the Lake District and took a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater. Little did we know, we would visit the shores of Derwentwater several times in 2016! I had discovered a new hobby!

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Derwentwater

March:

With spring just around the corner, March was all about the yarden! I busied myself with planting free packets of seeds that I’d requested from Grow Wild, a Kew Gardens initiative!

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April:

The much anticipated Hans Zimmer concert in Birmingham came and went in a blink of an eye! A good time was had by all that night! Hans himself introduced film classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy.

May:

In May, David and I returned to the shores of Derwentwater. This time I bravely stripped to my swim suit and slipped over rocky stones to embark on my first ever wild swim! It would be the beginning of many swims undertaken in 2016 in scenery that is nothing but inspiring!

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Facing Blencathra

June:

For the second year running I took part in The Wildlife Trusts, 30 Days Wild. This year I packed even more wild into June. We built a pond, harvested our first crop of maris bard potatoes, grew borage for bees, and I even went without technology for a day!

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Maris Bard Potatoes

July:

In July, David and I took a day trip to Sheffield to see their herd of colourful elephants.

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August:

The year wasn’t all fun days out and wild swimming! There was lots of hard work to be done on the house. With detritus clogging up the space under the hallway and sagging/rotten beams found under the dinning room, the long summer days were filled with the sawing of wood and hours of reconstruction.

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Dining room floor

September:

At Browns Liverpool, I partook in my first, but very rich afternoon tea. The red velvet cake was delicious but the whole afternoon was a sugar overload!

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Afternoon Tea, Browns, Liverpool

October:

Autumn became centre stage in all its colourful glory as I participated in Wild October! I watched a garden spider spin its web, relived childhood by kicking fallen leaves, turned 40 and holidayed in the Lake District.

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November:

The iconic Weeping Window from the Tower of London poppies came to Caernarfon Castle, just in time for Armistice. The poppies are touring the UK, thanks to 14-18 Now, and are a fitting memorial to the fallen.

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The Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle

December:

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Christmas Tree

December is all about Christmas and spending time with family. My little 3ft Christmas tree, adorned with birds and polar bears always goes up on the 1st. Artie once again had an Advent calendar to count the days to Christmas, and this year I managed to get a Christmas wreath for the front door!

So there you have it, my 2016 in pictures!

For some this year has been a harsh year, but for David and I there have been more happy times than sad. Indeed we have made many wonderful memories out of new experiences this year.

I wish you all good health and happiness for 2017! Let’s make it a year to remember!

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Blogs I’ve Enjoyed in 2016.

Since it’s December and the end of the year is fast approaching, I thought I would share with you all the blogs I have been enjoying over the past 12 months!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oSharon’s wonderful Sunshine and Celandines, has become a long standing blog which I follow. She writes about food, days out/holidays and her life with gorgeous Labrador Hugo. I have enjoyed our blogging friendship and the sharing of writing topics such as joining Wild October!

Keeping with the theme of nature. Another three blogs which I look forward to reading are:

  1. Ramblings of a Roachling, where Louise posts beautiful pictures of her walks and life in the Peak District. She also blogs at 30 Days Wild!were 30 days has become a life long love affair with nature.
  2. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed writes a fantastic blog with detailed pictures and information on the critters that live in her not so manicured garden!
  3. During June’s 30 Days Wild I came across Emma’s Discovery Hub and Twitter page. Both are full of informative facts on wildlife.
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Grasmere

A source of inspiration for my recently discovered ‘wild’ swims, is SwimmingTheLakeswhere the author is challenging herself to swim every lake and tarn in the Lake District!

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Mexican Quinoa

My favourite ‘go to’ website for recipes is Chungah at Damn Delicious. Her One Pan Mexican Quinoa makes a wonderful nutritious meal and the ingredients can be swapped and changed depending what’s in the store cupboard.

When the mood grabs me, I dabble in a little creative writing. Sue’s weekly #writephoto, where she posts a visual prompt, is and can be stimulating, as you can read here.

Classical music is another big passion in my life. I don’t know how I came about Charlotte Hoather’s blog but I enjoy reading updates on her performances and her studies.

If the London theatre scene is more your thing, then Rukaya vlogs about the many stage shows happening in London!

So there you have it, a small snapshot of some of the blogs I follow. If you have any blog suggestions then do post them in the comments below. I look forward to discovering many more fantastic blogs!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

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41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

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On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Hans Zimmer – Live on Tour

03_HANS-ZIMMER_live-on-tour-2016_Foto_Steve-GilletI first realised the music of Hans Zimmer in The Lion King (1994), the soundtrack earned him his Oscar! I didn’t care much for the songs of Elton John but the orchestrated pieces were breathtaking. He managed to convey all the emotions in the film; love, terror, heartbreak and joy. Listening to Stampede, if you close your eyes you can imagine the buffaloes bearing down on Simba.

Over the years, I have accumulated many of his soundtracks. Fan based videos on YouTube are a great source to go to, as well as Wikipedia and Amazon. I could list all of his soundtracks, but I won’t. You can read more here.

Biography search results suggest that during his early career, as well as writing themes for BBC TV shows, (Going for Gold being one of them), he produced and featured briefly in the video of The Buggles’s number one hit single, Video Killed the Radio Star (1979) which was a theme from my early childhood. So even though I was not aware of Hans Zimmer as a composer, his music contributed to the soundtrack of my 80’s.

In 2001 he received great acclaim for his soundtrack to Gladiator. I was a little slow on the uptake but since then most of my free time has been filled with the music of Hans Zimmer. For me, he seems to be the go to composer whether you want to be energised as in the rollicking tracks of Inception or to have a good cry, the music from The Dark Knight Rises seems to hit a particular cord with me.

No other living composers music has had such a profound effect on me as does Hans Zimmer’s. So imagine my excitement when his Live on Tour was advertised last year! For many years, it has been a dream of mine to see the music of Hans Zimmer being performed by a live orchestra, but for the man himself to be performing on stage also is something I never comprehended.

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In London two years ago Hans Zimmer did ‘trial’ arena shows because he didn’t believe ‘anybody would actually show up’. I was tempted to go but the cost, not just of the tickets but of travelling and accommodation put me off. So last year on the day tickets were released I eagerly snapped up a couple for the Birmingham date. It may have cost a small fortune but to have a dream come true, it was worth it! A month later I was reeling as they released a new date in Manchester, but that is by the by. Birmingham it would be!

April 12th 2016: Being my nosy, inquisitive self I already knew what to expect come the day of the concert. I was looking forward to One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight medley.

The Barclaycard Arena was relatively easy to get to by car but due to certain roads being closed in major roadworks we left with plenty of time. Inside we were subjected to bags being searched and the boys being frisked! Once finally past security, I bought my programme which was £10, in London it had been £15! Then went in search for our uncomfy seats.

We sat in eager suspense for 40 minutes, then the lights in the arena dimmed and an excited hush murmured from the crowd. Hans Zimmer, his guests and a 70 piece orchestra took to the stage just after 8pm, even though there were still a lot of empty spaces in the audience. People were still being shown to their seats while the choir sang 160BPM from Angels and Demons, which irked me somewhat. I took some pictures but they weren’t very good. I wish I had taken my camcorder but didn’t know whether photography was allowed.

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What I like about Hans Zimmer is that he collaborates with (and mentors) people from diverse musical backgrounds and this concert was no different. It felt more like an ensemble production rather than a one man show.

The first set went too fast! I almost blinked and missed it! It was wonderful to hear so many favourite themes. We were entertained by Gladiator, Czarina Russell sung it so beautifully. The Lion King performed by Lebo M made everyone teary and Tina Guo flicked her hair as much as she did the bow across her cello for the Pirates of the Caribbean medley. The sound was impeccable, not ear tingling as in some concerts, and the lighting was inventful, in the second half of the show it became more akin to a rock concert!

There was a 20 minute interval. We went to stretch our legs before the darker second set began, which was filled with superheroes, inhuman guitar riffs and drums that reverberated through your body.

Even though at times there was a lot of bombast, the quieter moments where Hans Zimmer talked anecdotally about his career were more intimate, even in a big arena space.

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The Dark Knight medley did not disappoint. I sat through it tapping my feet and grinning, much like the Joker. I felt bereft when Interstellar pipped up. I knew that the show was drawing to a close. As the final triumphant bars of Stay vibrated around the arena, Hans Zimmer stood conducting from the front. The note faded and he took a bow as everyone in the audience stood to their feet. Some of us stayed standing knowing that he would come back onto the stage for an encore. I was surprised that quite a few people left before he came back to perform the medley from Inception. ‘Fools,’ I thought as Mombasa lit up the stage like a rave. The night ended with Time. If there was a piece of music that was written to describe the human condition, then Time would be it! Heart-achingly painful and yet so brief. The night ended on the wave of Hans Zimmer’s hand and the audience standing to its feet once again.

There are moments in life when I wish I could push the rewind button and relive the experience again and again. This concert was exactly like that, if I had a fairy godmother I would suggest Manchester! :p However I will just have to make do with watching the videos I took and others like them on YouTube. I hope you enjoy the concert compilation I have mixed below and any feedback is appreciated.

In the future, I look forward to Hans Zimmer’s next installment for the Ron Howard film, Dan Brown’s Inferno. I wonder if it will be just as good as his Da Vinci Code soundtrack?

I will end the post with Hans Zimmer’s own words taken from the concert programme. I found them very profound.

‘Concerts are in real time…I get to be…part of you; and you be a part of me. Only in this very moment does this exist. We’re lucky, in these tumultuous and violent times, to have art and music to lean upon and unite us. At this very moment it is at its most essential. It breaks through the boundaries…and just allows us to be people united in common enjoyment and pleasure for a few precious hours. My hope is that tonight my music speaks to you personally, wherever you are in your unique story.’

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

A Journey, The Winter’s Tale and Second Chances…

The Journey:

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Looking at the picture of Jonathan Firth and I, who I accosted outside of the stage door of the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. I have to admit that the resemblance to myself doesn’t seem real. Indeed the whole day had the essence of ‘fantasy’ to it and I think someone must have taken over my body as I was transported from my life in Liverpool to over the Pennines to Sheffield.

The day started like any other, David went to work while I had taken the day off so I could go to Sheffield, to the matinee and see Jonathan in William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. It is not my favourite play. Indeed I would like to see Jonathan play Macbeth, but that is my own fantasy.

David kissed me goodbye unbeknown what plans I had for the day. Last year we both went to Edinburgh, well David had to go as I demanded it! To see Jonathan play in Good Grief, but it was a disaster waiting to happen. I was so embarrassed to be watching the man I fantasied over while sitting with the man I shared my life with that I could not approach Jonathan at the Stage Door afterwards.

However, this time I vowed to myself that I would go. It was a second chance that I just had to take. I also had another reason to go too. I had to deliver all the lovely letters and messages of support to Jonathan from his Facebook fan page. I really couldn’t believe that I was the one playing ‘Hermes’, the messenger this time.

I managed to leave the house around 9.15am, all made up! I walked unsteadily on my four inch high heeled shoes; I wore them because I knew Jonathan was tall. Much taller than I! I said goodbye to my mum who said ‘I hope you get to see him!’ and made my way to the bus stop! Then I waited ages!! Well it seemed like ages. While I stood at the bus stop, the cold autumnal wind blew my hair about like medusa’s snakes; I dithered while holding the letters for Jonathan. Then the number 14 bus arrived (followed by many more as is always the case) and I dived on to it. It took me to Lime Street station. I had no time to get lunch so I bounded onto the on time, East Midland’s train to Norwich, which would take me to Sheffield and to Jonathan!

The sun in the North West of England was gleaming. It was a most beautiful autumn day. The wind was gusty but my spirits were lifted by the sun, azure sky and the lovely support from the other Jonathan Firth fans! My nerves struck around Manchester, but I swallowed my stress and just went with the flow!

Scenery flashed passed as the train made its way across country. City scape then the green vista of the Peak District opened up, beautiful countryside, herds of cows and lines upon lines of dry stone walls! The train’s conductor seemed a character!! He was on the PA system after Manchester saying ‘don’t squash your heavy items in the overhead lockers, or they can fall out and hit you on the head!’ He had me chuckling!

Sheffield:

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Before long I had arrived in Sheffield. I disembarked the train and then tried to find my bearings. I managed to get lunch of a Tuscan vege wrap and I ordered a café latte to go. I really needed the toilet, nerves and all but they were closed! So I had to just cross my legs and bear it. I followed my new Samsung Galaxy S3 sat nav, but I found that it was taking me away from the Crucible! Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to get lost and start panicking! So I had to rely on good old fashioned ‘asking’ people. I asked one guy but I didn’t think he was from Sheffield, so I asked a woman, who thought I was going for an interview. Did I look that severe? I found that her name was Margaret and she worked at Sheffield’s Radio Station. She was so kind and helpful that I have to mention her. She not only told me the way to the Crucible, she actually took me there! I am so blessed to have met her, and I thank her. I do hope she gets this message as I am most indebted to her. I was quite adrift when she met me. I was in a city I did not know, had technology that did not work and yet she welcomed me and guided me to my ‘rightful’ place. I thank you!

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I got to the theatre at 12 noon and before I headed to the Stage Door, I queued up at the Box Office for a programme as I thought, ‘if I am waiting at the Stage Door I may get other actors’ autographs too!’ The queue was long and it seemed to take ages for my turn. I was getting a bit impatient thinking, ‘I’m going to miss him at this rate!’ I paid my £3.50 for the programme and headed around the side of the theatre to the dreaded Stage Door!!

I had been in correspondence with the theatre for the past week. Ruth seemed particularly helpful and another person I should mention. She answered my query about how long the play was so I could plan my train journey accordingly. Then she sought out and gave me information on how to approach the Stage Door and enquiring about actors’ availability. Then if that wasn’t enough help, she updated me that production shots of Jonathan had been uploaded onto their website!!

The Stage Door:

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I have never actually been to a Stage Door. I have been past them, but never hung around nor entered them. I felt rather silly. I just do not do things like this! However in I went and met with a rather abrupt older woman who said to my request about Jonathan. ‘He’s not arrived yet. I don’t know his availability. You’ll just have to wait outside and see him when he arrives.’

‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘I was just doing what I was told,’ being a novice and all! So back out into the chilling wind I went. I could have left the letters for Jonathan at the desk but I thought it would be better me giving them to him personally, at least that way I’d know he got them. I waited just over half an hour, but with raging nerves and feeling oh so foolish, standing there being all fan like! It seemed much longer!

My plan of getting other actors’ autographs didn’t play out. A few just walked past me without a second glance. Though to be fair I was not one to shout up and wave my pen and programme under their noses. I saw Daniel Lapaine arrive, then go back out and then come back again with lunch. Barbara Marten walked in quietly. One actor arrived via bike; I think it was Keir Charles. He just looked at me distrustfully and Gareth Williams smiled at me.

Jonathan:

I half worried whether I would recognise Jonathan, or would he sneak past while I wasn’t looking? I had my head buried in my phone texting when I looked up and there he was standing (alone) across the road from me waiting for traffic to pass. I thought, ‘here we go, put your brain into gear Christine.’ I didn’t know how best to attract his attention, so I just stood there waving at him (he probably thought I was insane!) and then I approached him as he crossed the road. I said, ‘I’m Christine, from the Facebook fan site,’ but I don’t think he heard me so I had to repeat myself. I don’t even know if he caught my name? ‘I have some letters for you,’ I said and I gave him the envelope with the little booklet I made. I hope he enjoyed reading all the lovely words of encouragement we offered him?

‘Thank you,’ he said and then I discovered he was still eating his lunch! Ops! I apologised profusely while he took a bite of what looked like a muffin or a flap jack. Sorry Jonathan!

I was quite surprised at myself. I actually spoke to Jonathan without my heart beating fast, clammy palms syndrome or my mouth drying up leaving me with a stammer. I remained cool and collected and asked questions easily. I hope I came across that way to Jonathan? Maybe his account of our meeting would be different? Possibly I was an annoying fan who asked too many awkward questions while he wanted to hurry into the theatre to get ready for the performance? But for me it was ultimately a most pleasant experience. I had envisaged a ‘train wreck’ of a meeting, where I would be so star struck that all I could do would be to look down at the floor and not face him! Thankfully that was not the case and Jonathan did not carry the conversation, it was well balanced, and dare I say it seemed quite relaxed?

Jonathan asked me was I going to see the play. I said I was, the matinee as I had to go back home later that day. He asked me where I was sitting; I couldn’t remember the number and then I felt a bit silly for saying, ‘in the front row.’

He seemed interested in his fan based Facebook page, said we were ‘doing a good job’ and looks at it from time to time!! I informed him membership had doubled in a year and he laughed with me when I said I had been promoted to co-administrator! I mentioned he met Florence (the other admin) last year in Edinburgh and he said he ‘remembered.’

I asked Jonathan how he liked Sheffield and he said he was ‘living in a nice part of the city.’

‘In an apartment?’ I asked.

‘Yes, we (the actors) get a list of digs,’ he replied.

‘That’s good.’ I said, knowing nothing whatsoever about the workings of a theatre company.

It came about that I had travelled from Liverpool to see the play. ‘Liverpool?!’ Jonathan exclaimed. ‘Had I come by car?’

‘No train.’

‘How long did it take?’

‘One and a half hours, so not bad.’

‘Direct?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did I come on my own?’

‘Yes,’ and then I told Jonathan that I had gone to Edinburgh last year to see him but that my fiancé was with me and it was all ‘rather embarrassing.’ Jonathan didn’t say anything to that, he just looked at me! Possibly the conversation could have died there and then!

I knew I was keeping him from going about his work, but I just kept asking questions! So many questions to ask and so little time! I think I must have gone into ‘reporter’ mode. ‘What made you do Shakespeare again?’ I asked and that triggered Jonathan into talking about his career doing Shakespeare, Henry 6th and TV/radio work. I probably should have said I ‘loved’ him in Henry 4th, but I just stood smiling and listening to him. He seemed happy to be working at the Crucible, said the theatre had won accolades.

He asked me if I had seen ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ before.

‘I’ve read it,’ I said. Jonathan then went on to say it’s a long play, but that he gets to have fun in the fourth act. He was proud of what the director Paul Miller said about the cast.

‘The company was the best he’d worked with in 20 years.’ That is some acclaim!

I managed to get Jonathan’s autograph. I felt a little silly asking for it, but Jonathan was gracious. Luckily I already had the programme and he kindly signed the front. I didn’t read what he had written until after we had parted. He signed: ‘All the best. Thanks for coming.’ Which I thought was a nice touch. Thanks Jonathan!

He said the theatre hadn’t given the cast any programmes and that he was interested in what was inside. So I leafed through a few of the pages for him and then he laughed at his cast picture, saying it had been taken for Victoria and Albert. I looked up at him smiling and said.

‘I think you should get a new picture.’ He smiled in agreement. I think that was the best moment for me, it seemed light hearted and fun and Jonathan was very close to me! Maybe a bit too close!!

A little before that I had asked Jonathan if I could have my picture taken with him, which he kindly agreed too, though he seemed a bit worried that he hadn’t shaved! I hadn’t noticed actually! Of course at the time of asking, there was no one about! Then David Mallinson (in a nice hat), who plays Antigonus in the play (and meets an untimely demise at the jaws/claws of a bear!), approached the Stage Door. I just looked at him and Jonathan asked him if he could take our picture, which he kindly did! That was when I glimpsed the director in Jonathan. Not content with a lamp post in the picture he repositioned us to the middle of the pavement. I just followed and stood beside him and smiled as David took the picture. Jonathan said it was a nice picture and it is, at least we are both sporting toothy smiles, but I seem so small standing next to him, even with four inch heels, Jonathan seems rather larger than life!

I think I must have been talking to Jonathan for 10-15 minutes. I felt awful for taking up his time. I thanked him and we both spoke over our farewells as Jonathan rushed into the theatre and I to take stock of the encounter!

The Play:

The Crucible’s performance of The Winter’s Tale is over three hours long! However to me the time just flew!! Like every other Twitter comment and press review that came before, I must reiterate that the acting from all the cast was top notch and the delivery of the language was just perfect. The play rattled along at such a pace that I will probably be thinking about it for some time to come. When you see Shakespeare done well, you really feel it!

The stage design was simple yet effective and I must confess that I did covet some of the lovely dresses the female characters wore, especially Perdita’s gorgeous white dress in the final act, oh I want, I want!!

The Winter’s Tale, is a ‘strange play’, (borrowing Jonathan’s words there). With it’s fantastical ending, it’s like a fairy-tale, rather like my meeting with Jonathan seems to me now. It’s like two plays stitched together. To me it resembles a Gustav Mahler symphony. The tragedy of the first two acts is starkly contrasted by the light hearted humour in the fourth. Jonathan did look like he was having fun on stage as the ensemble danced and joked about during the sheep shearing festival. At one stage Jonathan, in breaches and red nosed disguise skipped past me, I didn’t know where to look!

The Crucible itself looks a small performance area. From my seat I was trying to picture the snooker championship that goes on there and wondered how they accommodate two full sized tables! I was well placed in the ‘front row’ and due to liking end seats, I was right next to one of the entrances the actors used, in fact at one point Jonathan ran past me as he made his way onto the stage!

As I visited the first matinee, the auditorium was half empty, or half full depending on your viewpoint. I presume the evening performances are better attended? I do hope so!

The slow menacing entrance of the ‘bear’ raised a small titter from the audience. I was expecting a brown bear as Bohemia is suggested to be in Europe, hence a European Brown bear, but what the costume department went for was more of a Black bear, or to me it even looked like a Spectacled bear! Either way, it was a cute addition!

It’s very hard to pick a standout performance as all the actors were fabulous! I particularly enjoyed Patrick Walshe McBride’s comic take on the young shepherd as a country bumpkin, especially his pronunciation of ‘see you these clothes?’ But you have to go and see the play to appreciate it. I shared a few uncomfortable glances with Keir Charles’ Autolycus as he stood right before me stuffing his purses down his pants. Again I didn’t know which way to turn! And Jonathan was just Jonathan, his command of the Shakespearean language I have always admired!

The Journey Home:

I felt quite saddened when the play ended. I was having such a good time being entertained by the cast. As the actors came out on stage for their ‘curtain call’, I wiped out my camera to film it. I got the slightest impression that Jonathan wasn’t best chuffed to see a camera being waved about in my hand. Though in my defence I want to capture every moment, especially once in a lifetime moments like this!

As the lights brightened and the audience began to mill out, I checked my phone and saw the time was 5.15pm! If I was quick I may have time to catch the 5.40pm train home! Otherwise it would mean hanging around another hour! Could I do it? Find my way back to the train station this time without getting lost? As I left the Crucible I noticed it had been raining, the floor was wet, but thankfully the rain had stopped. I was reluctant to leave Jonathan but as I left the theatre I said a solemn farewell, almost like a prayer.  I thank him for being perfectly wonderful to me.

Rushing in high heeled shoes is not conducive to looking good, so I waddled like a penguin back the way Margaret had shown me almost five hours previously. And did I reach the station in time? Yes! Did I get the right train? Yes! Though at first I thought I had not as I sat there for half an hour as the train carried me forwards in a bubble of silence. There was no PA system saying the next station would be Stockport until we were in Stockport! Then I relaxed.

I had imagined I would come home all tearful after visiting Sheffield and meeting with Jonathan, but on the contrary I did not. I felt quite blessed to have had the experience. I had met with some kind and helpful people in Sheffield and Jonathan had been lovely! I was proud of myself for doing something so out of my comfort zone! It showed me that I can do anything I put my mind to!

I now smile to myself as I remember reading my diary written when I was just 19 and in my first flush of ‘desire’ for Jonathan. My young, innocent self had scrawled ‘I wish I could meet him.’ I can now safely say I did, ‘but only 18 years later!’

Liverpool International Music Festival 2013

Below find more footage I took of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko, opening the International Music Festival in Sefton Park.

I am not a big festival goer nor a big fan of bands but on discovering that the Philharmonic were performing at Sefton Park only 15 minutes drive from me, I knew I just had to go! On the Friday I was so very excited, I was like a child waiting for Father Christmas to visit! The rain stayed off and the music and setting was enthralling! I hope you think so too. 🙂

RLPO playing John Barry’s James Bond Theme.

RLPO playing Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

RLPO playing Holst’s Mars from the Planets.

Mmmm Man of Steel and Mexican Cooking..

Friday was another of my days off work. This week I have worked a full four days at the hospital! The ‘heat wave’ has continued to bless us with high temperatures, in the mid 20 degrees (although it was a bit too humid by far!)

After the success of last weeks BBQ (these BBQs are costing me a fortune!) another family BBQ is planned for tomorrow!

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For last weeks BBQ I had vegetarian Mediterranean sausages swilled down with sparkling rose wine. This week I have got Quorn peppered steaks and to serve with salad and Pearl potatoes, swilled down with Merlot wine :p

Today was also David’s day off and after going to see Man of Steel at the Showcase cinema, (just to listen to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack!) David did some work on the house and I cooked a Mexican stew (which I saw on the Good Food website!) and substituted the chicken for Quorn chicken, added kidney beans and served with tortillas. Yummy!

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