Glencoe and Loch Etive

Since holidaying in the town of Fort William our journey to and back home passed the famous Glencoe valley. The Three Sisters need no introduction. Bidean nam Bian as they are also named, create the picturesque and iconic scene which so many travellers have photographed. On our journey home we had to stop off and take a picture of this wondrous mountain range.

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However before we headed towards the Glencoe valley, we paid a short visit to Glencoe Lochan, some 20 minutes drive from Fort William.

Glencoe Lochan is a man made lochan created by Lord Strathcona in the 1890’s. Lord Strathcona was governor general of Canada before returning to Scotland. He created a landscape planted with North American trees to aid his homesick Canadian wife. However Lord Strathcona’s attempts failed and the couple later emigrated to Canada. Today some people comment that the lochan looks like a miniature Lake Louise in British Columbia.  I had planned on a wild swim here, but on the day the water looked brown and uninviting and there was no easy entrance into the lochan. Sadly I gave this swim up and made my way towards Glencoe and Glen Etive.

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Glencoe Lochan

Glen Etive is some 30 minutes drive along the A82 from Glencoe. The Glen is accessible via a winding single track road with passing places. As we drove deeper into the Glen, a white rapid River Etive surged to our left. In the distance low lying clouds drifted enticingly over the loch. There is a car park to the north end of Loch Etive with some access to the loch-side. On arrival I noticed a distinct salty scent to the air, thus being because Loch Etive is a sea-loch.

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Loch Etive

We made our way to the shoreline and stood on a sandy beach overlooking Loch Etive. Though the entrance looked inviting, I wanted somewhere more secluded. So we headed south towards a small ruined jetty, where once ferries docked. Having found a decent entrance point I began my rigmarole of getting ready for a swim. I don’t know whether it is because I chose poplar viewpoints to access the water but whenever I go for a swim, I always seem to draw a crowd. Loch Etive was no different. While I was fighting the rain and midges whilst trying to strap various accouterments to my person I noticed a man with a dog watching from the jetty, then a young couple joined him. Then to my horror a man with a fishing rod was seen poking his head from the jetty wall. From experience and reading stories from others’ I know that swimmers and fishermen do not mix! I was fearful of confrontation! Thankfully, I kept my distance and the fisherman seemed to go back to his watch.

The entrance to Loch Eive was deceptive. Though the shallows looked rocky, it soon smoothed out into a bed of sand and seaweed. Much like Loch Lomond, I walked out into the water. I really enjoyed the swim in Loch Etive and was in the water for around 15 minutes. Terrence the thermometer clocked 13° but it felt much warmer.

While swimming, the man with the dog walked to the loch-side and stood chatting with David. His dog (a terrier) barked at me, and I wanted him to come swim with me, but he wasn’t that kind of dog. So I swam alone. As time passed the rain grew heavier. Worried for David, I cut short my swim and stumbled back onto land, where I hurried into my Dryrobe® and threw everything into my rucksack. I would get dry and changed in the relative warm confines of the car.

Loch Etive was my final swim in Scotland for 2018. Perhaps I can get up again next year?

Have you swam in a Scottish Loch? Visited Glencoe and the surrounding area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Plan B!

For our most recent visit to the Lake District I had planned Wainwright walks and double lake swims. However, in reality not all plans came to fruition, but that was ok. While we were out and about in the Cumbrian hills we tweaked our plans and covered as much as we could, with the time that we had. This was no more truer than our last day in the Lakes, when instead of driving straight from our base, Hermiston Guest House to Buttermere, we lingered a while in Keswick.

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Derwent Water

Morning in Braithwaite dawned bright and crisp, a perfect autumn day. While having breakfast, we watched as clouds from the mountains drifted down to the lower valleys and lakes. We left the B&B shrouded in mist hopeful of seeing some cloud inversion over Derwent Water. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late and only captured the fierce sun burning the remaining cloud away.

Depending whether you are brave enough to face the Honister Pass or not, Buttermere is some 30-40 minutes drive from Keswick. We arrived at Buttermere around lunchtime and had difficulty in finding parking. Both National Trust car-parks were full, (due to it being a beautiful day and the Half Term holidays). Thankfully we managed to find a lay-by beside Crummock Water, though being a good 20 minute walk to the lake of Buttermere.

Plan A: I had prepared a one mile walk from Buttermere to Bleaberry Tarn via Burtness Wood, where I would take my 10th swim of the year. However we arrived at the lakeside of Buttermere around 12.30pm and with the best of the day behind us. I decided to deviate from the plan.

Plan B: To take a walk to a sheltered beach around Buttermere (eastern side), and from there embark on a swim, before lunch. I wanted to savour the sunshine as my last swim in Buttermere was cold and dreary. We passed the lone tree and as the path alongside the lake became broken with fallen trees and boggy with mud, we found a wide shingle beach with unparalleled views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

David had his lunch, while I stripped to my tankini and waded into the water. The water was warmer than Small Water the previous day. Terence clocked 12°C, but in the sunshine it felt much warmer, deceivably so.

I swam back and forth along the bank for about 20 minutes, my longest swim this year! At one point I had an audience, and another time a woman asked me what the water temperature was like! I don’t wild swim for the spectacle it creates. I do it to feel closer to nature, to the environment. Since the dawn of indoor swimming pools, wild swimming has took a step back in the nations’ psyche, but hopefully with its recent resurgence, less people will be shocked at seeing someone swimming in a lake!

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Buttermere swim

Back on land, struggling to get dry and warm, I experienced one of the worst shiver attacks I have had while wild swimming. I should have known from my Wast Water swim that being in cold water for over 15 minutes tends to affect me more, more so in autumnal temperatures! This blog post from Open Water Woman is very enlightening about the affects of cold water swimming on the body and resultant hypothermia if not adequately monitored.

Buttermere maybe my 10th and final swim of this season. If so, I have certainly ended on a high! My final swim of 2017, in one of my favourite lakes. I couldn’t have planned it any better. Sometimes plans are not meant to be followed.

Have you visited Butteremere? Been convinced to try wild swimming? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks so much for reading,

Christine x

A Celebration by the RLPO!

I had been excited about attending this concert for some time. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and chief conductor Vasily Petrenko had earlier in the week been wowing the audience at the Royal Albert Hall, London in the biannual Classic FM Live. Friday’s programme borrowed heavily from their earlier London performance, though sadly Petrenko did not return to Liverpool with his glittering sequinned jacket which he wore in celebration of Classic FM’s Make Some Noise charity.

Vasily Petrenko

Vasily Petrenko Picture: Ian West/PA

David and I were in the cheap seats in the upper circle. The auditorium filled up nicely, but was not a full house as Thursday’s performance of the same programme was. I was thankful for this and we enjoyed a unobstructed view of the orchestra!

View from our seats

View from our seats

After the National Anthem, the orchestra started the evening as they meant to go on with a Celebration Overture composed by Nigel Hess and commissioned for the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary! It was a fun opening to the concert though I was more interested in what came next.

Ji Liu who had also graced the stage of the Royal Albert Hall with Petrenko and co on Tuesday, came to Liverpool to perform Rachmaninov’s ultimately romantic second Piano Concerto!

Ju Liu

Ji Liu

It is undoubtedly my favourite piano concerto! I love the lyricism of the piece and the second movement (adagio sostenuto) is spine tingly good. Ji Liu cuts a very slender frame on the stage and at times during the performance the piano seemed too small for him, (if that make’s any sense)! He played the piece deftly and with skill.

During the opening movement (moderato), I found that the orchestra seemed to drown out the piano at times. I have noted this earlier in my review of Nobuyuki Tsujii‘s performance of Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto. Perhaps this was why the orchestra was surrounded by padding that adorned the walls? In part to rectify the change in acoustics due to the earlier renovations? Either way, the performance was exceptional.

While Ji Liu took the audience into the slow, second movement, made famous by David Lean’s Brief Encounter, I prepared myself to be swept away with romantic feeling. However the reality was that any sentimental musings were disrupted by some unfortunate, who coughed and retched about five minutes into this musical reverie. I imagined the poor stricken soul expiring in his chair. I gripped David’s arm hoping the gentleman would recover or graciously leave the auditorium. He thankfully recovered so we could all enjoy the remaining performance which culminated in Ji Liu coming onto the stage three times to raucous approval and then satisfying the appreciative crowd with his rendition of Skyfall.

After the interval, the Philharmonic continued their celebratory mood, with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila, Vaughan William’s English Folk Song Suite and Verdi’s Aida march and ballet music. The concert was rounded off loudly with the much played 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. I would have loved this performance even more, if it were not for the recorded playback of cannons near the cymbal crashing culmination! To me it seemed a little forced. I was content with the wonderful playing of the percussion section whose bells sounded glorious!

Overall it was a fun concert to see and a great start to the Philharmonic’s new season. I look forward even more to Petrenko’s Mahler in November when the RLPO perform Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, a symphony very close to my heart!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

‘If…’

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‘…music be the food of love, play on,’ says Orsino from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; or What You Will! 

This production was the much anticipated opening play of the ‘new’ Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.

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*Spoiler Alert: If you are intending to go to see this play then don’t read on…*

It also happened to be one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I just had to go! I had booked the tickets since November 2013 and grown increasingly excited as time drew closer to the event, the 21st March 2014!!

Alas that date has now come and gone too readily but the memory of seeing the first performance in the new Everyman leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy!

The building itself has an organic feel to it, perhaps something to do with the bare bricks featured in the walls? I read on their website that they had kept 25,000 bricks from  the old Everyman and interposed them into the new building. The new Everyman looks crisp and clean and bright!!

On our arrival, (as I dragged David along with me) we were welcomed by one of the ushers who was smiley and helpful, pointing us to where we should go, (the theatre was upstairs!). I bought a programme, and at £3.50 seems to be the going rate nowadays.

We made our way into the auditorium and found that our seats were on the stage! I knew the Everyman had retained it’s thrust stage, (where the audience  is seated around three sides), though I thought it would be a bit like the Crucible in Sheffield, but no! The entire front row sits on the boards of the stage!! A little too close to the action for comfort? We found that that was not the case, I think we had the best seats in the house!!! 🙂 The cast utilised the space on the stage really well and we could see all that went on, not like when I went to see The Winter’s Tale in Sheffield and found that a lot of the cast stood with their backs to the front!

Twelfth Night seems to have been an inspired choice for the first performance, for a reborn theatre in a city ankle deep in culture! The play’s themes of love, loss and reunion is interlaced with an abundance of mirth!! I don’t think I have laughed so much during a performance of a play, as I did during Liverpool Everyman’s Twelfth Night! The whole cast were top notch! There were the heavy weights of TV and theatre, Matthew Kelly (Sir Toby Belch) and Nicholas Woodeson (Malvolio), but there were also, (obviously) a lot of talent from the region. With a very able Jodie McNee as a convincing Viola, Pauline Daniels as the impish Maria and Paul Duckworth who for me was arresting as the fool, Feste! Not just because he pranced around camply in heels and make-up, but because his character seemed to grow in stature throughout the play! Natalie Dew was entertaining as Olivia, her comic timing was exquisite and Adam Keast as Andrew Aguecheek reminded me of Rik Mayall in Bottom!

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Photos by James Maloney.

The stage was relatively austere. I liked the shards of glass on the floor, perhaps mirroring the different aspects of the self? I think Twelfth Night looks at the self and persona and how we project that to other people. It is highlighted by Viola’s words, ‘then think you right: I am not what I am!’ Hanging from the gantry there were orchids in flower pots and at the back of the stage there are revolving frames where foliage peeked out. 

The performance even had a pool of water in the stage floor where Viola and the captain sprung out breathlessly at the beginning of the play. A nice touch, however I think for the rest of the performance the actors were aware of the perils of falling into it. (Perhaps they could have covered it up?) Even those seated in the front row, (one even with a dislocated toe) were weary when the cast members strode between them and the pool and at other times were put on guard when Sebastian (Luke Jerdy) rode around the stage on his tandem! That said tandem almost caused a catastrophe in the final scene where Viola and Orsino, riding into the ‘sunset’ almost careered into the pool! It spouted laughter from the cast and audience alike and highlighted the knowledge that the actors all seemed to revel in the merriness of the play.

For me the first part before the interval was more enjoyable than the second. The second being more mischievous in the mockery of Malvolio. Thankfully there were no power cuts that marred previous performances! The comic element in the first part seemed riotous at times. You could tell that this was the first production of a brand spanking new theatre! With the cast singing (the songs were given a modern lilt), The 12 Days of Christmas, throwing a big present for the audience to catch and the offering of treats! It all seemed very celebratory! Even one member of the audience was caught up in all the mirth as before him was a trolley laden with jellies! Malvolio (Woodeson) shouted to the man ‘get your hands off the jellies!’ The audience member took it all in his stride and even hid his head in his shirt for shame! There was much fun and laughter to be had by all and I seemed to sit throughout the three hour plus performance with a constant smirk on my face! Even Toby Belch (Kelly) and Andrew Aguecheek (Keast) joined the audience at one stage. There were empty seats next to a lady two seats from myself. Kelly and Keast seated themselves merrily besides her asking whether the play had ‘started yet’ and it would be better once, ‘the drunks had arrived!’ The ad-lib nature of this scene was hilarious!

The play ended with Malvolio spitting out his curses for revenge, Viola and Sebastian were reunited and the lovers joined with their rightful partners! The finale was again very joyous with the cast dancing around the stage to party music. The audience clapped along and the culmination was streamers popping loudly and balloons falling from the heavens. One landed in my lap and as the cast walked off the stage, I reached out for another balloon bobbing in front of me. I forgot the seats retracted and fell back on my bottom laughing loudly!! David couldn’t help but laugh too and we walked out of the theatre, thoroughly entertained and with two balloons!

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It was the first play in the new Everyman and returning home, it was to ‘our’ home that we returned and not our parents. There had been many firsts that night!

With Malvolio’s words ringing in my ears… ‘some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.’ I wonder whether that is the reincarnated Everyman’s will, to achieve just that!

Christine Lucas 2014!