Tuesday, 30 June 2015

She who hesitates is almost lost!

My journey home from the Cotswolds took an unexpected twist.  Having travelled down on the west side of the country, using the M6, which is what we normally do, I decided to ring the changes and come back up on the east side.  I drove along the M42, which is never a great experience at the best of times, and I had actually congratulated myself on 'so far, so good' by being in the right lane, when suddenly, with split-second timing, I found myself in the wrong lane and heading, irrevocably, for the M6 Toll.  Despair, dismay, and intense irritation as I realised I had to pay another £5.50 toll.  How did that happen?  

The M6 Toll road is probably the best £5.50 you can spend in the UK.  It's like going back to the M1 in the 1960s.  When everyone else is having a nose-to-tail nightmare on the M6 and Spaghetti Junction, the rest of us are bowling along the toll road without a care in the world. I didn't feel quite so tickety-boo on this occasion, but it wasn't the end of the world .... until the overhead motorway signboards read 'M6 closed Jnct 16 - 17'.  And so it began.  We crept for miles and miles and miles and miles.  At one point engines were turned off, and we just sat.  Three lorries had had an accident and that was that!  The recommended speed was 40 mph, 4 mph would have been nice.
 I got to know my neighbours quite well.
The late evening sun was still shining by the time I reached the end of our lane.  It was 9.30 pm and I had left at 11 am.  It's a good thing BBC Radio 4 have a range of very good programmes on Fridays!  I listened to all of them, and was glad!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Highgrove

When a Plantlife e-newsletter plopped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I had a trawl through the news items, and there was notice of an evening to be held in the garden at Highgrove, Prince Charles's home in Gloucestershire.  I have always wanted to visit.  It is renowned for being a very beautiful garden.  The evening involved a walk through the grounds, dinner and a talk from Plantlife's botanical specialist, Dr Trevor Dines.  So I thought, why not?  The event started at 6pm, which gave me time to drive down to Tetbury, and then drive home the next day.  So I booked myself a ticket and a hotel room!  

Tetbury disappointed me.  I found it to be surprisingly dingy.  And it suffers from the overwhelming effect of traffic, relentlessly trailing through the town centre.  Having lived in Scotland for 20 years I have now become extremely spoilt when it comes to traffic.  I notice that it starts to build up when you reach Lancaster, travelling south on the M6.  By the time you reach the south of England, it is all-consuming.
I think this hare felt much the same as I did about the endless stream of cars going past his shop window.  He doesn't look very impressed.
Amongst Highgrove's many wonders is a well-established wild flower meadow.  This was to be the focus of the Plantlife evening.  We were lucky enough to be able to walk through the meadow, on a new path created for, and only trodden by, the Prince himself.  The walk through the garden was fabulous, followed by a thumpingly good glass or three of Pimms, decorated with oranges, strawberries, fresh flowers, mint - a delight to behold!  And then an excellent dinner, followed by a talk by Plantlife's botanical specialist, Dr Trevor Dines, about wildflower meadows and the Coronation Meadow initiative, started by Prince Charles in 2012, to mark the Queen's jubilee (http://coronationmeadows.org.uk).  It is a sobering statistic that, over the last 75 years, we have lost 97% of our wild flower meadows in the UK.  That can't be allowed to continue - read more here http://www.plantlife.org.uk/uploads/documents/REVERSING_THE_TREND_Report_Draft_FINAL.pdf  

It was a real shame that I couldn't take any photographs during the visit to Highgrove. Understandably cameras, mobile phones or any video equipment are now allowed on the Estate.  It is a royal home after all, and we walked very close to the house.  You can get a few glimpses of the garden here, http://www.highgrovegardens.com/meadow/index.html.  There is also a wonderful book about the garden, with lots of photographs, which I might put on my Father Christmas list!

On Friday, instead of just heading for home, I decided to drive through the Cotswolds to visit the Whichford Pottery.  I drove along some lovely lanes, full of the wild flowers of June - meadow cranesbill, hogweed, wild rose and elderflower.  Glorious stuff!
I have a few Whichford pots in the garden, but haven't visited the pottery for several years. It has developed quite a lot!  
In celebration of William Shakespeare's 450th anniversary next year, they have a great range of pots inscribed with lines from his plays.
I was able to have a wander through the workshops.
Here are some flowerpots commemorating the birth of our new little princess.  They are still unfired pots so the terracotta colour is not yet evident.
They even have a dog to match the clay!
 A new addition to the Whichford experience is a little cafe.  A colourful place, which I rather enjoyed!
There must be plenty of early spotted orchids in the locality.  They had picked some for the table decorations!  
I had a little something to eat and drink, before heading off up the motorway, north.  More of that in another post!


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A wedding weekend

I've got a bit of catching up to do.  The last three weeks have passed by in a total blur.  Happy arrivals from Australia, mad scramble in a party of ten (5 children, 5 adults and Ryanair) to Palma, Majorca for a long weekend to celebrate my youngest son's wedding to his lovely lady.  And then, in a trice, the longed-for visitors from Melbourne were gone again, and back down under.  How could a fortnight go so quickly?  It's taken me a good week to start to touch the edges of normal life again.

The jaunt to Majorca was wonderful.  The wedding was magical.  Ryanair wasn't.  But we got there and back safely, so that's the most important thing.  The constant head-counting of children was a significant feature of the weekend, but we stayed in a great, family hotel in Port de Soller, and with so many family and friends all in one place, a successful weekend was guaranteed.

Here are some photos from our wonderful, happy, and memorable Majorcan wedding weekend.  

Here we are, my little Aussie granddaughter and I, waving to you from Port de Soller.  
Port de Soller is lovely seaside town, with a good beach, lots of cafes along the seafront, a tram which takes you inland a little way to Soller, or just along the front for a jaunt.  
There are lots of cafes, good tapas, 
and local seafood for both man
 and beast!
 Beautiful, sun-loving flowers, of course.
Further down the coast we visited a cafe in a little rocky cove, which was built into the rock face.  
On the first evening my brother and I had a catch up, strolling along the front at Port de Soller, looking at the boats.
There were fishing boats
 super yachts.  This is the Salperton
which couldn't have been more luxurious if it had tried - 
There were also superstars - Hugh Laurie here, filming a new series set in Palma, for the BBC.
 
A lovely old boat which had made its way from south Devon, which was rather more my cup of tea than the fabulously expensive boats.  Having said that, I have no wish to be on the water, just looking is fine by me! 
This one only appealed because of its name.  We lived, for a short time, on the Bahamian out island of Abaco back in the 1970s.
On the wedding day we had to endure a half hour taxi drive to the venue.  Spectacular scenery, but a twisting and swooping road along the coast which made most of us feel distinctly car sick!
But the journey was worth it.  How's this for a wedding venue?  Probably the most romantic place I have ever been!  The wedding was everything my son and his new wife had dreamt it would be.
On the last day, lunch in the sun, while the thunder rumbled in the distance.  Time to go home!