Remeniscing

Last night while relaxing, snugly before bed, with Classic FM playing on the air and the lights turned down low, an image from my childhood played before my minds eye. I lay thinking of when I was a child, no older than ten years old. I used to love dancing, to throw my arms and legs wildly around to the music, in no planned coordination. I used to whirl around my bedroom for hours, in my favourite red leotard stitched with gold tinsel. As gloaming approached, I whizzed my preadolescent body around the floor. I danced to (if you can believe it) my mum’s old 33 1/3 RPM’s, called The World of your 100 Best Tunes, which originated from a BBC radio programme. The LP’s featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade, (a piece of music that always sends me reminiscing when I hear it on the radio). Among others was Holst’s The Planets. My favourite of all the pieces is Uranus, The Magician, (it’s not played half as much as it should be!) The music is so theatrical! To my child’s mind the music imagined a fantastical parade of skeletons and wild beasts, overseen by a master who wore top hat and tails!

While thinking of this happy memory, lines from a poem by Ted Hughes, part of his award winning Birthday Letters, popped into my thoughts. The poems all address his marriage to his first wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The poem in question is called: God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark. I think it was the image of my younger self dancing and tinsel adorning my clothes that brought the lines of the poem to my mind.

‘You danced on in the dark house, Eight years old, in your tinsel. Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced… Then dancing wilder in the darkness…’

‘Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter –

With Hypnos caressing my eyes and Morpheus awaiting to lace my sleep with dreams, I decided to dig out the poem the next day, re-listen to Holst’s The Magician and write a post bringing them both together. Which I hope I have succeeded.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x


God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark

By Ted Hughes.

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

© 1998

Sunday Sevens #14

Normal Service now resumes… after my foray into The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild.

Though 30 Days Wild may have ended, nature still plays a big role in my daily life. From noticing the birds visiting the feeders, to the plants we have growing in the yarden, there is always something to record. This week my ‘bonus’ plant, the borage has flowered. I call it my ‘bonus’ plant as I did not sow the seeds this year, however their appearance has been most welcome.

I took another walk up the ‘jungle’ that is the alleyway between our houses. I noticed lots of thistles growing, and snapped one happy mason bee enjoying his lunch.

I’d just like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Louise who very kindly sent me a ‘I love wild’ badge from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, along with some stickers from the 30 Days Wild campaign that I never received due to not ordering a mail pack, (I will next year!) As an aside, there has been so much friendly camaraderie during this years 30 Days Wild, I have come across so many lovely people with insightful blogs. It’s been nice participating.

beware

Let me tell you a story. A few weeks back I was having lunch when I heard a racket at the front door. Someone was trying to push something through the letterbox. I went to open the door and found a red jacketed Royal Mail postman trying to push a thin letter through the door. ‘Having trouble?’ I asked. He then informed me by brandishing his injured thumb, that Artie had sliced him as he delivered the post on a previous occasion. I had hoped it was just a one off event, but then last week, the same happened to another postman! Seeing a pattern develop I hurriedly found a cage protector for the letterbox. I could imagine being put on the Royal Mail’s list of houses to avoid! I do have such a naughty cat!

51PtmxP6VqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This week I finished the Mark Edward’s psychological thriller, Follow you Home. I had not read his work before. I only acquired the download due to an email from Amazon saying as I was been on their mailing list, I was entitled to a free download out of a possible three. Two looked like romance, chick-lit novels so I opted for the gritty thriller! Do you know, for a freebie it wasn’t half bad. The antagonist had superhuman strength for a 70 year old and the protagonist seemed a bit of a wimp, not to mention the stereotypical Hungarians, and feeble women, but I enjoyed it none the less.

David has been preoccupied with the house. We have an issue with damp. So Saturday, he took up one of the floorboards to see what was under the house. Lots of rubble was what we found! I shook my head thinking ‘bloody builders!’ David has hatched a plan on creating ventilation under the front door. I hope it solves the problem!

This time last week I was racked with aching limbs and a fever. I haven’t a clue what brought it on! Thankfully, I have recovered. I am more like my self again. I am writing this post with Classic FM playing. I have been enjoying David Mellor’s Light Music Masters show. I am feeling warm and cosy, have a full tummy and a nice glass of Soave to hand (I thought I would try something different)!

I hope you have a good week ahead,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

The Daily Post, Daily Prompt – Glass!

Sunday Sevens #7

This Sunday Sevens has been rather hard to compile. I only seem to be taking pictures of plants and food recently. Oh. I need to find some excitement in my life!

During breakfast on Sunday, (I have mine snuggled up in bed while listening to Classic FM) David called me downstairs. He had spied a new visitor to the yarden. It only stayed briefly and I didn’t have time to take a picture but I think it was a male Black Cap. He probably just used the yarden as a pit stop on his way to better feeding grounds, much like the Chiffchaff earlier in the year.

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By Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

David cooked Sunday dinner. He used a curry base and added spices to make a very tasty Rogan Josh.

We attended a family funeral mid week. Funeral services always make me think of this Emily Dickinson poem

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

After reading Kate Riordan’s second novel, I bought her first novel the Girl in the Photograph. It was only £2.75, second hand from Ebay. It’s another one of those novels that has parallel narratives.

While passing the University of Liverpool, I caught sight of this very striking statue in the quadrangle!

For Saturday’s meal I cooked a vegetarian bean chilli. However, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, which you can find here. I just used what I could find in the store cupboard. I swapped borlotti beans for pinto, used red lentils instead of puy and left out the marmite altogether! It made for an inexpensive yet healthy meal, even if it was rather hot with two teaspoons of chilli powder! I thought it was very tasty!

For the final picture, in the past few weeks I have been monitoring a strange plant that has been growing in the yarden. At first I didn’t know what it was but now that it’s budded, I remember planting snake’s head fritillary bulbs a year ago.

Have you had any strange looking plants grow in your garden? Cooked any yummy meals recently?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

The Results!

The Classic FM Hall of Fame countdown on Easter Monday was a bit of an anti-climax to be honest. The top six entries were all non movers! Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending was at number one for the third year running!

Chart 2

And where did the pieces that I voted for get too? Well, as can be seen above Elgar’s Nimrod Variations stayed at number 4! The others are as follows.

Chart 1

The next set of results are for the Big Garden Bird Watch 2016. Follow the link to see regional results which opens up in Excel.

birds

Did you see any of these species in your garden/yarden? My results for the year can be found here.

Sunday Sevens #5

The fair weather on Good Friday, here in the UK, lulled us into a false sense of hope that it would last the duration of the long weekend. I have recently heard the term yarden and thought it was apt to my green space. It is a yard but not quite a garden. David and I made use of the sunny weather and planted out the french beans.

I also scattered a packet of the free wildflower seeds I received from Grow Wild. They are a national outreach initiative from Kew Gardens which aims to transform local spaces into wildflower havens. Visit their website if you would like to request your free pack.

On the radio, I have been enjoying 12 hours of music each day this weekend, as Classic FM count down the top 300 pieces in their Hall of Fame. It started on Friday with the piece at number 300 being the theme from John Williams’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. I wonder where the pieces I voted for will be?

While relaxing to the music I took the opportunity to sit and devour Melvin Bragg’s novel, Grace and Mary. It is about a son who is coming to terms with his mother’s dementia and also follows the story of her birth mother. It is a sad read. The narrative started slowly but it soon picked up speed and I read it in a few days.

Recently I was recommended a book. The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan. She is a new author to me. I referred to Amazon so I could put the book on my wish list, but I accidentally pushed the Buy it Now button and the message on the computer screen read: your order will be delivered to your Kindle. I hadn’t intended on buying the novel, but perhaps it will be a happy mistake as I begin to read it this weekend? Have you bought anything that you didn’t intend to? 

Earlier in the week I watched David Tennant’s version of Shakespeare’s Richard II. Previously I had enjoyed his Much Ado About Nothing with Catherine Tate. I found that play hilarious! Richard II was a different beast entirely. In Act three, scene three Richard is talking to the Duke of Aumerle about the impending loss of his crown. The nihilistic attitude of Richard struck me to the quick! I pray I won’t be so defeatist in the face of my struggles!

51mUvUX2rIL._SY300_

 

Richard II: What must the king do now? …
…must he be deposed? … must he lose …
I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer’s walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little little grave, an obscure grave.

 

The fourth year anniversary of my father’s passing will be on Monday, so David decided to cook a curry. My mum and my youngest brother joined us. It was an evening filled with food, laughter and cava, and where we talked the world to rights! It’s always nice when the family can get together. For the table’s centrepiece I bought some spring flowers. My father liked tulips so it was a fitting commemoration.

I’ll sign off now by wishing you all a very happy Easter, and if you don’t celebrate it then have a happy Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #1

I have wanted to try another blog challenge (after my 12 hours of Day), for a while now and recently Sunshine and Celandines posted a list of some inspiring challenges to do! So I thought today, I would give Sunday Sevens a try!

sunday-sevens-new-logo

At the moment I’m feeling ‘pumped!’ Seeing the late winter sunshine this morning has given me a much needed boost to my mood. I awoke on a lazy Sunday to bright blue skies!

Photo-2016-02-07-10-51-28

Winter sky

On Monday I cooked my Mum’s favourite meal from my repertoire. Quorn Swedish Meatballs and Spaghetti! The recipe is pretty straightforward and does for 3-4 people.

  • 10897834_10155104847620271_8473106121928313571_nCook 140g of spaghetti (for 2 people) or 280g (for 4)
  • In a pan fry 1 white onion (chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
  • When the onion is soft add a jar of Dolmio sauce for meatballs (or any tomato based sauce), 1 tbsp of brown sauce and handful of frozen peas
  • Crumble one low salt vegetable stock cube and add a bag of Quorn Swedish Meatballs, (or other vegetarian equivalent)
  • Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stir occasionally. Serve on bed of spaghetti.

Tuesday was the Christian celebration of light, Candlemas. Once again, Sunshine and Celandines wrote a lovely blog post on the subject. I find it fascinating that most religions of the world have some kind of festival of light! Apparently Snowdrops are also called Candlemas Bells and symbolise the ending of winter. My perusal of the garden at the weekend brought the wondrous sight that I have Snowdrops growing!

On Friday I met up with a work colleague I had not seen in almost three years! We caught up over a Costa coffee and buttered toasted teacakes! 20160205_112255

At the start of 2016, I suggested to David that he should cook at least one meal every month, to give me a bit of a break! Saturday’s have become the day when we try cooking something different. So this Saturday he planned the evening meal.

Last month David made a curry, and again this February he decided to make another one. He is determined to find a recipe that tastes like our favourite take-away, Saffron! For almost three hours he took over the kitchen! The curry turned out to be one of David’s best! He served it with rice, and sides of naan and vegetable samosas!

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David’s Pasanda 

While David sweated in the kitchen, I sat with Artie and relaxed while listening to John William’s soundtracks on Classic FM!

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Artie

Have you undertaken any blog challenges?

Christine x

2016 Classic FM Hall of Fame.

It’s 20 years since Classic FM started their yearly poll on the nations favourite classical music.

In 2016 I have voted as follows:

My choice for number three: goes to Antonín Dvořák Symphony No 9 (From the New World).

I chose the scherzo as an example of the vibrancy of the piece. Though I do love Leonard Bernstein’s 1962 version with the New York Philharmonic.

Over the past year I have enjoyed listening to the 9th symphony, when it plays on the radio. It makes me want to know more about Dvořák, of his life and his works.

My choice for number two: has got to be Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from his Enigma Variations.

It has always been a piece of music that stops me in my tracks. Whether it be cleaning, cooking or changing the bed sheets, I always have to stop and think, to reflect as the music drifts around me. I chose this piece last year and it reached number three in the chart, so who knows. Maybe we can get Elgar and his Nimrod to number one??

And for my number one, this year: I have picked a Rachaminov, but not his piano concerto number two, (which is divine) and had my vote for previous years! I have decided to go against the grain and vote for his symphony number two! It is only one of a few symphonies that I can listen to in its entirety. The others being Mahler’s 5th, Beethoven’s 5th (you can see a pattern there? – must be something about the 5th symphony!), Sibelius’s 2nd symphony and Dvořák ‘s 9th symphony!

In previous years I have been glued to the radio, listening with bated breath as to which composer achieves the accolade as being the nations favourite. In 2016 I shall worry less about whether Rachmaninov or Vaughn Williams gets to the top spot. I will just be enjoying the countdown over the Easter weekend.

Will you be voting in this years poll? Who will get your vote?

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

Micro – Actions!

This past week I have embarked on the You with Jamie Oliver app. It’s all about positive changes you can do, one little step at a time. You are set daily/weekly challenges. Previous one’s I have had were, ‘the best part of the day‘, ‘what makes you happy‘, and ‘think positive.‘ You take a picture to symbolise the topic. One was to show ‘beauty around you.’ So I took a picture of a Passion Flower.

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

This past week however I have found it rather difficult to be positive, what with the boiler being serviced and a leaking pump found! It made us £300 the poorer, though come the winter we will hopefully be toasty!

This weekend has been fun. We had planned on going to Chester Zoo before our membership ran out, but the weather was dodgy so we spent the weekend at home.

It was Saturday after 4.30pm which I really enjoyed. With the radio cranked up as Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies, celebrated Hans Zimmer’s music. I embarked on chopping vegetables and cooking the evening dinner. I used and adapted Jools Oliver’s Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup. My volumes are to serve three people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 1 x 400 g tin of borlotti or cannellini beans. (I used borlotti beans)
  • 1 litre low salt vegetable
  • Hand full of barley
  • 35 g baby spinach or kale (I used kale)
  • 150 g frozen peas/ green beans. (I just used a handful of peas and 75g of green beans)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Start by preparing the base of your soup. Peel, roughly chop the carrot and potato, trim, wash and roughly chop the leek. Peel and very finely slice the garlic, chop the onion and then pick and finely chop the rosemary.
  • Heat a lug of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, then add the rosemary. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chopped carrot, leek, onion and garlic. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly, with the lid on.
  • Add the beans (drained), chopped potato (small,) and a hand full of barley. Then finally add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes – add a little more stock or water if you think it needs it. (Leave the lid on.)
  • Finally, add the spinach or kale and chopped green beans/peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still vibrant green. (Keep the lid on.) Have a taste and season, if needed, then tuck in.
  • Serve with bread… I was requested to make Focaccia.
Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

The recipe for Focaccia was taken from an Asda seasonal brochure.

Ingredients:

  • 250g of Strong White Bread Flour
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 7g of easy bake yeast
  • 2tbsp of reduced fat olive oil
  • On red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Chopped sprigs of fresh oregano, (I used some from the garden!)

Method:

  • Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl
  • Pour in the oil and used 15ml of tepid water, mix the ingredients together to form a soft dough
  • Turn the dough onto a floured surface and begin to need, adding more flour until the dough is of a smooth texture.
  • Place the dough in a bowl and put somewhere warm for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.
  • While the dough is proving, chop and fly the red onion and garlic. Leave to one side once cooked.
  • Chop some oregano and leave to one side
  • Once the dough has risen, knock back and then flatten into required shape.
  • With your finger press small indentations into the top of the dough and then sprinkle the onion, garlic and oregano on top.
  • Put in a pre warmed oven at gas mark 6/200° and cook for 30-35 minutes, until golden.
  • Remove from oven, and serve.
Focaccia

Focaccia

Sunday was a lovely early Autumn day. The sun shone and David and I spent over three hours in the garden, cleaning and pruning. I planted some of my bulbs, of Aliums and Snake Heads for the coming spring. Fingers crossed they grow!

Artie enjoyed spending time in the garden and in between terrorising the bumblebees and honey bees, he relaxed taking in the sun.

Artie

Artie

We still have many birds visiting the feeders, and not an hour goes by that numerous Goldfinches are seen feasting on the Sunflower/Nyger seeds.

How many Goldfinches can you See?

How many Goldfinches can you See?

Dinner this Sunday evening was a vegetarian roast. I boiled kale, peas, sweetcorn and green beans in a pan while in the oven Quorn Turkey style slices were cooking alongside Aunt Bessie’s Herb and Garlic roast potatoes. I made some sage and onion stuffing and mixed up some vegetarian gravy. Finally I microwaved some mushy peas for David!

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Now I am nursing a headache before the working week ahead. How have you spent your weekend?

Christine xx