Monday, 2 March 2015

Has it really been a year?

At the beginning of February it dawned on me that I had been writing my column in the Lincolnshire Free Press for a whole year. It hardly seems possible that I have managed to find something to write about each week. It's been a great thing for me to do, forcing me to be disciplined in my writing whereas the blog is more forgiving if I lapse. In both places I am free to write about any topic I like - and that brings me an enormous amount of satisfaction.
Here's my Happy Birthday message to myself in one of last month's columns.
Happy Birthday Trish Takes Five

Despite me telling you that our next SADOS production was going to be Half a Sixpence, there has been a change afoot. We didn't have the right amount of people and particularly not enough chaps, so instead we are performing a selection of musical theatre numbers and pop songs. Guess who will be returning to the stage?
Mrs Overall comes back into spotlight

Children's birthday parties have been in the news lately - parents charging for no-shows, arguments about whether you can ask for money instead of gifts - so here are some memories of my own and Rory's birthday parties to compare. The photo opposite is, I think, my sixth birthday, and there's me in the top right hand corner, in the white dress.

The changing face of children's birthday parties over the years

I didn't take a photo of Brown Hart Gardens when Dougie and I first found them in London last September. But on a second visit I did and am sharing this little oasis with you, along with my other favourite unusual places in the capital.

Seeking out the unusual in London


Thursday, 26 February 2015

In search of Lindisfarne Mead

Known as the 'nectar of the gods' Lindisfarne Mead is a rather delicious fortified wine produced on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast. Made with honey, fermented grape juice and fortified with spirits, this mead is made exclusively at St Aidan's Winery on the island. It is one of the many reasons people cross the causeway from the mainland each day, ensuring they return before the tide comes in.

The word 'honeymoon' is derived from an old Norse custom where newly-weds drank mead for a whole 'moon' to increase fertility and the chance of a happy and fulfilled marriage. I wasn't intending to drink it for a month, but a bottle or two to take home would hopefully put a smile on my face and wouldn't be enough to have any impact on my fecundity, with a bit of luck.

With this in mind, we set off from our holiday home in Seahouses last August and drove up the coast a short distance. The tide was out so we crossed with care and joined the other visitors, walking from the main car park into the centre of the village, not quite in the same manner as St Aidan would have made the journey in 635AD from Iona to found his monastery.

It was a beautiful day, perfect for seeing the castle and the priory at their very best.

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Priory

View across to the village on Holy Island

I even managed what I felt was quite an 'arty' photograph (see below)

Upturned herring boats used as storage sheds on Holy Island

We walked, we sat, we stopped for an ice-cream, we looked in some of the little shops for souvenirs. All the while I kept saying to the family that I knew the winery was somewhere close. I had been to the island before, many years ago, on a school trip, when I and a bunch of daft teenage girls thought we would be completely inebriated just by having a sniff of the mead, never mind a small taster.

It's not a large island by any stretch of the imagination and I don't quite know why I didn't ask directions. I thought maybe it had closed down and that the mead was sold in one of the souvenir shops. The family were getting rather annoyed at my quest for this magical elixir and suggested if we wandered back to the car park, we might see it on the way. We didn't. We did see some people ahead of us with a cream-coloured plastic carrier bag which looked suspiciously like it was holding glass bottles - but they were too far ahead of us and it was too hot to run.

I continued wittering about this until we returned to Seahouses. Later that day, in the shop round the corner from our accommodation, I found a whole shelf full of Lindisfarne Mead. In fact, every shop in the town was selling the stuff. Of course we bought it in the first shop we entered, then kept seeing it cheaper everywhere else.

We sat on the balcony that evening and poured the gloopy, golden liquid into two small wine glasses. It was heavenly.

"So..." asked Dougie, with an optimistic grin and a twinkle in his eye. "Has it got you going yet?"


Sunday, 22 February 2015

London Calling

As seems to be the way at the moment, real life has overtaken the blog world: it's been over a fortnight since my last post. Time for a catch-up methinks.

The saga with my elderly aunt has continued. You may remember we helped her buy a retirement flat near us in Lincolnshire and, two weeks after she moved in, she became poorly and had to go to hospital. She remained in hospital from mid-December to the beginning of February. Eventually, after many visits and discussions, she returned home with what we thought might be the right level of social care: three visits a day to help her shower in the morning, make her dinner and settle her for the night.

Within a day of her being discharged we were decidedly uneasy about whether this was going to work and in less than two weeks, we realised that she just wasn't coping with independent living, despite having some care to support her. Dougie spoke to the manager of the residential home located in the same village as his GP practice (so he knows it extremely well) and they agreed to take Betty in for some respite care. We all needed time and space to think long and hard about the way forward.

With some disappointment but overriding relief, we have all agreed that Betty needs 24 hour care. So, having spent less than four weeks in the flat, it looks like we will be putting it on the market...and her previous house in Hertfordshire is still going through a sale process! Betty will stay in the rest home, Dougie and his partners can provide her medical care and I feel sure that, despite her sadness, this is the best way forward. I can now visit her, take her out and actually go back to being her niece rather than her carer.

St James Court, a Taj Hotel
(photo supplied by the hotel)
Whilst all this was going on, knowing Betty was now safe, we did manage to nip away to London last weekend to pick up Dougie's suit...remember the one we bid for at an auction? We secured another last minute bargain at the St James Court, a Taj Hotel (£119 a night again) and had two very restorative nights in the city after a very emotional few weeks.

We drove down on the Sunday morning, parked at Stanmore station and picked up the Tube into the city centre. A couple of hours were spent pootling round the V&A looking at masses of random stuff...ceramics, furniture, architectural models...before an early dinner at a Byron Burger restaurant in the Strand. George Osborne may have a point - the burgers were delicious. Back to our room, having bought some chocolate, crisps and wine at a Tesco Express, and we had a wonderfully lazy evening; watching telly, soaking in the bath and quaffing Pinot Noir from a coffee mug.

The next day, keen to make the most of our stay, we were up early doing a bit of shopping, lunch at John Lewis and then to the tailor's where Dougie looked the business in his new blue suit with its purple satin lining. I haven't taken any photos of him yet but I promise I will soon.

Somerset House next. Why have I not been there before? The courtyard was being prepared for London Fashion Week but it was still a great place to mooch about and we found Tom's Deli, next to Tom's Kitchen, where we sat on stools looking out of the window, with a very reasonably priced cappuccino and a cupcake.

Too full for a big dinner but needing something, the Hampton's Bar at the hotel proved to be the perfect place for a very civilised drink and some sharing platters (mezze and Indian). We had the papers to read and the resident pianist was plinky-plonking very beautifully in the background. Just lovely.

The best bit of this impromptu weekend was a Monday evening performance of Miss Saigon.  That morning I had spent an age looking for tickets, trying to suss out where would be the best place to sit and finally plumped for a loge. I had never heard of a loge but it's a bit like a box, though front-facing and sticking out from the dress circle. I don't know if many London theatres have loges but I can recommend them - great view of the stage.

Miss Saigon was absolutely wonderful. I cried from start to finish, keeping my hanky permanently fixed across my nose and mouth to lessen the noise of my sobs. Jersey Boys had been a fantastic evening's entertainment a few weeks ago but this was on another level: all the pent-up emotion and anxiety of the previous weeks came flooding out in one massive, cathartic outpouring.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Car games, Broadchurch and whisky

For your amusement, here are the latest Trish Takes Five columns I've written for the Lincolnshire Free Press. Feel free to comment on the website itself if anything interests you.

Playing The Pub game (or Pub Cricket) and the Shakespearean Actor game while travelling down to Exeter.

Galloping ahead with car games

Trying to get to grips with Broadchurch having missed the first series.

Must have been living under rock?

Whisky cocktails and memories of Burns Suppers

'Too much whisky is barely ever enough'