A Good Match

A Good Match

I was looking through my photos for this week’s photo challenge on the theme of a ‘good match’ when I came across some that I took last summer in Gloucester. I was there to enjoy the spectacular celebrations to commemorate the 800th Anniversary of the coronation of the 9-year-old King Henry 111.

In the Cathedral, there is a stained-glass window depicting the original event, which took place in St Peter’s Abbey on 28th October 1216.  It must have been overwhelming for the young Henry to go through this ceremony just 10 days after his father, King John, had died.

The celebrations started with a splendid procession through the streets led by Knights on horseback. This was followed by a spectacular performance of the anointing, enthronement and crowning of the boy King in what is now the Cathedral.

The Cathedral was decorated beautifully with pungent herbs, grasses and flowers which would have grown locally in medieval times. Walking on the herb-strewn stone floor created a heady aroma from the crushed rosemary and lavender.

A local schoolboy, Fraser Martin, played the part of the boy king. He was very majestic in the role and yet vulnerable looking.  In fact, everyone was dressed so beautifully and took the occasion so seriously, that the atmosphere was literally awe-inspiring and very moving.

There was entertainment in the cloisters after the ceremony and a medieval tournament in the grounds. The very authentic looking ‘Barons’ and ‘Knights’ put on a wonderful show of fighting with medieval weapons.  They really were a good match.

Henry 111 went on to rule for 56 years and 29 days until 1272.



As Pure as Driven Snow

Shakespeare used snow as a symbol of purity many times in his plays.  Hamlet says to Ophelia,

Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow

my summerhouse

This week I have chosen a photo I took some years ago in my garden.  There is nothing so pure as a fresh fall of snow, and when it surrounds my sanctuary it is perfect.  This is a place where I found pure peace, in which to rest, reflect and recuperate.  You can find the story behind it, and more photos here… http://wp.me/p2gGsd-eV

Musicians,  poets and artists have often taken inspiration from snow.  To commemorate the centenary of WW1 there was an original play titled Will Harvey’s War performed at our local theatre.  I was lucky enough to play a singing farm-worker in that play.  We sang some beautiful songs reminiscent of the times. One of them was “Oh Snow”, with music by Edward Elgar and words by his wife, Alice Elgar.  It was exquisite to sing.   The music is absolutely beautiful and, with complex harmonies (I sang the Alto part) arranged by Caroline Edwards, our rendition was very moving.  The purity of the music perfectly captures a fall of fresh snow drifting and whirling in the wind.

O snow, which sinks so light,

Brown earth is hid from sight,

O soul, be thou as white

Be thou as white as snow


Then as the snow all pure,

O heart be, but endure

Through all the years full sure

Not as the snow, not as the snow.



400 celebration face of stars4

For All Time

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

What an enjoyable weekend I just spent in Stratford on Avon.  I was there to join in the celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and to commemorate his death 400 years ago on 23 April 1616.

The town, where I lived during my teens, was festooned with flags and shields from almost every nation in the world.  There were banners with Shakespeare’s likeness waving high across the streets or pinned to railings.  There was blue and yellow bunting in side streets and blue and yellow market stalls along the waterside leading to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  Shakespeare’s colours of blue and yellow amuse me as in theatre superstition wearing blue and yellow means you will forget your lines! My school uniform at Shottery Manor in Stratford was mainly purple but with blue shirts and blue and yellow striped ties. We wore straw boaters in the summer months with a purple blue and yellow band round them.  In the winter we wore purple felt hats with the same coloured band round them. Wearing the hats at the wrong angle on the head was considered a very serious misdemeanour and a detention would surely follow if spotted.

The RSC put on a special celebration, Shakespeare Live!, in honour of the occasion.  It included Opera, Comedy, Ballet, Hip-hop, Poetry, and of course extracts from the plays.  I thought the whole evening was a resounding success.  It appealed to almost everyone whatever their age or tastes in entertainment.

The well-known, justifiably renowned and much-loved, stars who took part included Judi Dench who took the part of Titania falling in love with Bottom played by comedian Al Murray.  The costumes were brilliant, the set was great, and the acting was superb.  The overall effect was slick, professional and absolutely hilarious.  I loved it.  There is a wicker sculpture of Titania and Bottom outside the theatre in the new Stratford Garden.  The flowers in it are all mentioned in the plays and the effect should be quite impressive when they grow.

Among lots of memorable performances in Shakespeare Live!, the most moving I thought was Sir Ian McKellan’s rendition of a speech handwritten by Shakespeare for the character of Sir Thomas More.  I, like most people listening I imagine, had visions of the horrific ‘Jungle’ at Calais and the wretched scenes of migrants behind the barriers and fences, which have been erected along European borders to keep them out.  Sir Ian McKellen brought tears to my eyes with this speech.  You can hear an earlier rendition of it here

The whole speech is written at the end of this post and here is a link to the very relevant and learned Shakespeare Blog.

On Sunday and Monday I indulged myself by taking a walk along the river Avon and revisiting many of the houses and museums connected with Shakespeare.  The weather was changeable but I managed to get some reasonable photos, especially at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage where the garden is a riot of spring colour with flowers including daffodils, bluebells and tulips.  I also spent some time in the newly restored Swan Theatre with its amazing abstract sculpture, ‘For All Time’ created by Steven Follen.  This representation of a head, shown in photo at the top, is made of 2000 stainless steel stars suspended from the ceiling by fine wires to make the shape of a 3 metre tall human face.  It is surrounded by other stars which closely represent the position of the constellations on the day of Shakespeare’s birth.

There are two additional places to visit in Stratford now, which in previous years were not open to the public.  One is King Edward the Sixth School for Boys, which Shakespeare attended.  His actual schoolroom is open to the public with professional actors dressed in costume teaching Latin and chatting to visitors in character.  It was a surreal experience being inside the actual classroom.  I have been to the school before in the days when Mr Pratt was Headmaster, but it was a joy to visit the most ancient parts of the building, which have been beautifully restored.

The second is Harvard House where John Harvard was born in 1607.  This is a three story Elizabethan house almost opposite New Place, the house which Shakespeare bought in 1607.  It is remarkably authentic in its preservation and restoration, with lots of oak beams and areas of ancient wall paintings.  John Harvard eventually married and emigrated to Massachusetts in America where he was a preacher and teaching elder.  When he died of TB he left 230 books and a very generous legacy to a fund for the founding of a new college.  This was to become Harvard College, the oldest institution of higher education in America.  The house is owned by the American University but looked after by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  It is worth a visit just to see the Bible Box.  This is a beautifully carved oak box for storing the treasured Bible.  After Henry V111 declared that all bibles should be written in English (not Latin) so that they were accessible to ordinary folk who could read, it became fashionable for families to keep a Bible at home.  Wealthier families would store their bible in such a box.

Of course I visited Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare, his wife Anne, and other members of his family are buried.  It is traditional for all the dignitaries and important visitors who attend the bard’s birthday celebrations, to bring flowers to the grave.  At this time of year, when daffodils are still abundant, the sight and smell in the church is quite literally breathtaking.  There was a rather unusual floral tribute with Shakespeare’s dates on it.  It was standing on trestles with a huge candle at each corner.  It had been processed through the town earlier in the day looking rather coffin-like.

I have celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday in Stratford many times, most notably the 400th anniversary  one in 1964, but I have never before attended a commemoration of his death. It was odd as both events occurred on the same date.  But I have to say it was all very tasteful ~ well except for the countless people wearing Shakespeare masks?!

Do enjoy some of my photos below.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

The Seven Ages of Man on Stained Glass in the Swan Theatre

Holy Trinity Church

King Edward Sixth School

Around The Town

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery ~ very close to my old school!


Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity. 

A blur of exotic dancing


Ann Blagdon at WI

Ann Blagdon at WI

When I saw that the prompt for the weekly photo challenge was the word ‘blur’, I was instantly transported back to a dance festival I attended in Russia some years ago.  It was the most amazing experience and included traditional dance from various ethnic groups which have settled in Russia over the centuries.  There was Greek dancing as well as Armenian, and both were wonderful.  But the most memorable was the cossak dancing.  With their boots, blousy shirts and billowing trousers, the dashing cossaks perform a truly acrobatic dance full of jumps, kicks and bends.  They really are a blur and photos are hard to take.  However, I have some super photos of a dancer that I watched closer to home.  Her name is Ann, and she gave up her day job to pursue the art of Egyptian Belly Dancing.

Ann came to our WI and gave a fascinating talk about the history, myths, legends and meanings associated with this type of dance.  She also told us about the costumes and how “Belly Dancing” got its name.  Her fascination with the dance started when her Lebanese friends in London inspired her to find a teacher.  She was learning classical Indian dance at the time. Over the last twenty years Ann has perfected her craft and she is now a very talented dancer as well as an inspirational teacher.  When Ann dances it is spellbinding, beautiful, graceful and charming. Every movement is significant and tells a story.

Her costumes were ravishing, colourful and exotic.  To cover up she wears the traditional Egyptian Galabeya.  She buys her costumes when she attends the Soukh or market at the Egyptian Hafla or party.  Most of her costumes are made in Thailand or Turkey.  According to Ann, Egypt is considered the birthplace of belly dancing, but there are variations in different regions.  She certainly takes her dance seriously.  In order to get to know and feel the spirit of the dance, she spent time living in a Bedouin tent in the Sinai desert!

She is an amazing woman and a beautiful dancer so I have picked her to illustrate this week’s post.


Oh What a Year! 1963

Shottery Manor

I sing in a lovely choir every Friday morning and I love it.  The songs we sing are varied but there is always one that catches our mood, gets us laughing, crying or dancing, and lights up our voices.  This week it was the old Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons number, Oh What a Night!  It was released in December 1975, but the words recall “late December back in ‘63”.  I bet you didn’t know that the song was originally going to be about December 1933 and Prohibition?  However thank goodness Valli persuaded them to change it to a song about first love in ’63.  You can play the song as you read my blog by clicking on the icon on the sidebar.

Oh, what a night, late December back in ’63
What a very special time for me
As I remember what a night!

I made a passing comment that I was sweet 16 in 1963 to the amusement of some of the older choir members and horror of the younger ones.  But as so often happens with music it then brought up all sorts of memories.

1963/64 was a very special year for me.    I was in my final year at Stratford Grammar school for Girls learning in the most beautiful setting imaginable.  I was studying English literature at ‘A level’.  My main text was King Lear.  I’ve mentioned before that in those days it was possible to pay 4 shillings in pre-decimal money, which is 20 pence now, and stand at the back of the theatre to watch Shakespeare’s plays.  I took full advantage of this and I was there in 1962 when Paul Schofield played King Lear in what is recognised as the greatest performance of the role of all time.  It left an indelible impression on me which stays with me even now.   The main themes of the play have universal and timeless significance,

  • Appearance versus reality
  • Justice
  • Compassion and reconciliation
  • The natural order

Our English teacher, Miss Southall, was an inspiration too.  All black hair, flowing gown and long legs, which she bared to the sun during summer term.  This meant English classes were held on the lawn in the beautiful walled garden with its Dovecote, in front of the magnificent Shottery Manor which was the setting for the sixth form.  The school was, and still is, just a stone’s throw from Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Shottery.  It oozed history with its old oak floors, wood panelling and not so secret passages which could have been priest holes.  We were convinced that there was a tunnel leading from the Manor into town but no-one ever ventured in far enough to find out because it was pitch dark.

According to school history, the oldest part of the Manor was 14th century when it was owned by Evesham Abbey.  In 1402 the Bishop of Worcester granted a licence to John Harewell of Wootten Wawen for a priest to celebrate Mass in the Oratory of the Manor.  This room became our sixth form study.   The house stayed in the Harewell family for centuries but in 1919 the manor was bought by Mr A D Flower on behalf of the trustees of the late Edgar Flower.  The Flower family were very significant to Stratford on Avon.  Edward Flower started Flower’s Brewery there in 1831 and his sons, Charles and Edgar continued the business making rather a lot of money.  Fortunately the Flowers had that wonderful Victorian ethic of using their money to benefit the community, (I wonder what happened to that in Britain?), and they used it to develop the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.  Charles donated the land by the River Avon and in 1875 launched a campaign to build the theatre.  He also donated the money to build the theatre (about £1 million in today’s money), which opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing.  Charles also gave the cottages opposite so that the rents could be used to maintain the theatre.

The last members of the Flower family to live in the Manor left in 1951 and it was empty for a few years.  But thank goodness Warwickshire County Council bought it and it was turned into the first Girl’s Grammar School in the area.  It opened in 1958 just in time for me to arrive.  I was very lucky to get in at all as I had moved from the north of England where my education record was patchy to say the least.

I started school in a converted Chemical Works by the shipyards on the River Tyne.  I remember there was a huge room which was partitioned off for different age groups.  My delight, and my downfall, was to peep round the partition to see what was going on in other areas.  The grass is always greener etc….

I was not in infants for very long as I was what they called in those days, ‘a sickly child’.  I was underweight (hard to imagine I know!), undernourished, with Rheumatic Fever and a heart condition.  I eventually got back to school in the juniors but was so far behind that the teachers didn’t even try to educate me.  They gave me all the little jobs to do, which was great by me!

On Monday mornings my job was to fill up all the inkwells.  I went to the office to mix up black ink powder and water in a jug with a long spout.  I then went from desk to desk.  Each wooden desk had a hole with a ceramic pot in it.  I poured the ink into the pot until it reached the rim.  We used ‘dip pens’ in the juniors in those days, just a wooden handle with a metal nib on the end which you dipped in the ink then scraped on the edge to take off the excess.  The youngest infants still used chalk and individual slates.   I had to be very careful with the ink as washable ink was unheard of.  This stuff would stain permanently!

As you can imagine this job could take all morning if necessary; however there was also free milk to give out and wafers to sell.  In those days children didn’t bring fancy cool bags or plastic lunch boxes filled with snacks to school.  If they were very lucky they would have a ha’penny (1/2d) to buy some wafers.  These wafers were the sort you get on an ice cream ‘sandwich’.  They came in big boxes and were sold 2 for 1/2d.

Many children were undernourished in those days as it was just after the war and there was still some rationing.  The recently formed NHS did a wonderful job of providing supplements for children.  We got little bottles of orange juice, cod liver oil by the spoonful not capsules, Virol malt extract and I got a tonic too.

I can honestly say I don’t remember learning a thing at primary school except to sing, ‘Flow Gently sweet Afton’ and to make an advent calendar out of matchboxes for Christmas.  It was my inspirational, well-read and self-taught father who taught me what I needed to know: how to read, write, do maths, to identify constellations, wonder, dream, question, listen, love.  He had an open mind and an open heart.  It was he who convinced Miss Williams, the original head teacher of Stratford grammar School for Girls, that I was a suitable candidate for her school.  I am so glad that he did.  Because, since 1963, thanks to that education, I have been able to plough my own furrow.

St John's School, Felling

St John’s School, Felling

Upper Sixth Shottery Manor

Upper Sixth Shottery Manor

My Stratford Blog  http://wp.me/p2gGsd-5c

So what else was on at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1963 that I watched for 4s (shillings)?

The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors, Edward 1V, Henry V1, Richard 111, and the newly adapted history plays under the title of the Wars of the Roses.

In 1963 the director was Peter Hall with John Barton, designer John Bury, and music was by Guy Woolfenden

And the actors in these plays had names that have graced theatre, television and film for decades:

Paul Schofield, Vanessa Redgrave, Dorothy Tutin, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Judy Dench, Roy Dotrice, Ian Holm (a fabulous Richard 111), David Warner ( a dreamy Henry V1), Janet Suzman, Clifford Rose, Penelope Keith, etc….

And what else was happening at home and abroad in 1963?

Major William Hicks Beach (Conservative) was MP for Cheltenham and Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister in UK until Sir Alec Douglas Hume succeeded him in October.

The Beatles released their first album, Please Please Me and rapidly rose to fame.

Britain had the worst winter since 1946/47 when I was born.  The snow lasted until April.

The Great Train Robbery took place in Buckinghamshire with millions of pounds stolen.

In June 1963 the first woman to travel into Space was a Soviet Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova.  She orbited Earth 48 times, spending 71 hours in Space.  She parachuted to earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet.

Tens of thousands of protestors came from all over the world to join the CND march from Aldermarston to London to protest about the Hydrogen Bomb which threatened world peace.

Thousands of African Americans were arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation.

Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during a march on Washington for jobs and freedom

President John F Kennedy made a historic Civil Rights Address in which he promised a Civil Rights Bill

The first Sindy Doll was marketed by Pedigree.

In October the Rolling Stones played at the Odeon in Cheltenham. The Beatles played there on 1st November.

Pope Paul VI succeeds Pope John XXIII as the 262nd Pope.

The second James Bond Film ‘From Russia with Love’ opened in London.

22nd November 1963 was a terrible day.  Not only did authors CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley die, but President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.  Lyndon B Johnson was sworn in as president.

The first episode of Dr Who was aired on television in November 1963.  During the 60s the series was in black and white.

Pop, Poets and Plays

Community Choir at Tuckwell

Community Choir at Tuckwell

It’s been quite a cultural summer so far for me in the Cotswolds. I sang in a super concert at the local open air theatre, which was amazing. There were 150 of us aged from 5 to 90 singing together in the community choir. Sometimes we split up and sang in individual choirs, and we sang such a variety of songs. It was great to listen to the other choirs, especially the children. The setting was magical. We were in a dell surrounded on 3 sides by trees and with a stream running behind. On the fourth side was a tiered seating area. All the trees were sparkling with lights and there were candles along the paths and down the steps. The theme for dress was ‘festival’ so there were flowers in our hair and lots of pretty dresses. It took me back to my teenage years in the 1960s. I loved every minute of it. Sitting in the audience were two ladies who are direct descendants of a Gloucestershire poet who coincidentally is the subject of the rest of this post, Will Harvey.

There have been all sorts of commemorative events going on to mark the centenary of the start of World War One. Here in Gloucestershire I was involved in a production of a brand new play called Will Harvey’s War at our local theatre, playing the part of a singing farmworker! The play was based on a previously unpublished manuscript written by Will and only recently discovered. It has now been published as a book entitled The Lost Novel of F W Harvey

Will Harvey, better known as Frederick William Harvey DCM (26 March 1888~13 Feb 1957), was a local man, born in a small village called Hartpury in Gloucestershire. I have very fond memories of Hartpury, as my daughter did her degree in Equine Studies there at the college. The setting was perfect. There used to be a great village pub called the Canning Arms where live Jazz was played every Monday night. My husband and I used to go regularly to enjoy the music, the food, and to chat with the great licensees, John and Jean. Sadly, like many country pubs, after Black Wednesday the Canning Arms suffered in the economic downturn and closed. It is now a private house.

Will Harvey moved to Minsterworth and went to the King’s School in Gloucester, where he met Ivor Gurney, a chorister, who went on to become a noted Gloucestershire poet and composer. Along with Herbert Howells they became lifelong friends. Kings school, being a Cathedral school, has a strong music and arts tradition, but it was listening to Elgar’s, Dream of Gerontius that informed Will’s ideas on beauty and creativity. Coincidentally, I worked at King’s School for a time in the 1990’s and have written about it before http://wp.me/p2gGsd-Gp

After school Will trained as a solicitor, but at the age of 26, the First World War intervened in his life. Within days of the war starting in August 1914, Will joined the 5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a private. After a few months training, the battalion was posted to France where Will proved to be quite a hero. He was awarded the DCM or Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery. Will was later trained as an officer then sent back to France. Unfortunately, during another brave venture into enemy trenches, he was captured and spent the rest of the war in various prisoner of war camps. Although he made several unsuccessful escape attempts, it was in the camps that Will developed his poetry and writing skills. His most famous poem is Ducks, which he wrote after seeing a picture of ducks on the ceiling of his prison hut, drawn by another prisoner

It is often thought that The Wipers Times was the first trench newspaper, but actually the Fifth Gloucester Gazette came first and Will Harvey was a contributor. It was fortunate that Will was allowed to send his poems home for publication. His first volume was, A Gloucestershire Lad At Home and Abroad, which was soon followed by, Gloucestershire Friends, poems from a German Prison Camp. https://archive.org/details/gloucestershiref00harv

He also wrote about his wartime experiences in Comrades in Captivity. Altogether Will had about 400 poems published. He wrote of war and nature and animals as well as poetry for children.

After WW1 ended, Will came back to Gloucestershire and settled in the Forest of Dean. His poetry was so popular that he was known as “the Laureate of Gloucestershire“. But, now married to a nurse called Anne Kane, Will went back to his career as a solicitor in order to earn a living. To his credit he became known as “the poor man’s solicitor”. Indeed, Will was so compassionate to those facing prison that he often gave his services free. This was great for his reputation but not for his business and eventually it had to be sold. After that, Will joined the BBC and spent years promoting the people of the Forest of Dean, its arts’ scene, culture and heritage. Will’s friends, Ivor Gurney and Howells both set some of Will Harvey’s poems to music. Even today his poetry is set to music by local folk musicians such as Johnny Coppin. He sings of Gloucestershire, its traditions, its people and its culture.

Will Harvey is remembered on a memorial stone at Gloucester Cathedral and a new biography is being published this year.

The whole cast on set at the end of the show

The whole cast on set at the end of the show

Frozen in Norway

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland in Oslo park

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland in Oslo park

One of the many joys associated with having grandchildren is that you get to watch the most beautiful films at the Cinema, or enjoy Disney videos at home, without feeling silly.
Recently I have been captivated by Frozen which I watched with Ben and Rosie. In the film Elsa the Snow Queen sings ‘Let it Go’, which is one of the songs our choir sings. It really is a most beautiful song, but when the children and their parents sing along together it is truly moving. This weekend we are performing it in a concert at the Tuckwell Open Air Theatre.

The film, Frozen, is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Snow Queen.  When my daughter, Anna,  was young she played a part in a local production of the fairytale so it has a special place in my heart.  Also, the dramatic landscape of Norway was the inspiration for the setting apparently and I had a wonderful holiday in Norway some years ago.

If you have never been to Norway, I hope this film will inspire you to go. In July 1999 I flew to Oslo then travelled by train across Norway. Trains and boats are really the best way to travel for seeing scenery I find, and in Norway there is so much to see. The countryside was truly spectacular and very rugged with snow-covered mountains, icy glaciers, breathtakingly beautiful fjords and waterfalls, wildflower covered meadows and lakes so still that it was hard to tell what was real and what was a reflection.

Reflections in a still lake

Reflections in a still lake

There is a real port called Arendal in the South of Norway which becomes Arendelle in the film, Frozen. But it is in Bergen that you find the exquisitely preserved old buildings of Bryggen which feature in the film. There is a fish market in Bergen just opposite these ancient timber buildings. I was a bit shocked to find whale meat for sale alongside fabulous salmon.

Shopping for Salmon in Bergen Market

Shopping for Salmon in Bergen Market

Also in the film you will see Stave churches. There are many of these beautifully preserved churches in Norway. They were built mostly of wood during the middle ages. The largest is Heddal near Notodde. It is a beautiful fairytale church which dates back to the 12th century. There are several of these Stave churches around Bergen and we decided to visit the Fantoft Stavkirk on St Olav’s day. I caught a bus with my husband from Bergen and we had a very pleasant journey to the church. As we went to enter the church my husband realised he had left his wallet with all our money, tickets and passports on the bus! Fortunately I had a mobile phone with me and I managed to find the telephone number of the bus company. I rang them and sadly explained our situation. Imagine my delight when they said the driver had found the wallet and was finishing work for the day soon. He offered to drive back to where he had dropped us on his way home and return the wallet to us! He would not take any tip and seemed surprised that we were so overwhelmed with gratitude. Call me an old cynic but I just can’t imagine this happening in the UK.



My husband and I intended visiting the church on the way to the house at Troldhaugen where Edvard Grieg lived. I say the house but actually it was like an estate with a very impressive villa which is now a living museum. There was an island where visitors can enjoy free lunchtime concerts of Grieg’s music in the summer months. There is also the cabin where he worked. By the time we got there we had missed the concert and only had time for a rushed visit.

There are several fjords which could be the setting for Arendelle but it is claimed that it is Nærøyfjord, an arm of the Unesco-listed Sognefjord. I can believe that as it is so spectacularly beautiful. We travelled on the famous Flam railway passing huge waterfalls to reach the fjord. Along the way we could hear beautiful operatic singing and we could not work out where it was coming from. The train stopped under a waterfall and from there we could see a woman standing on the very top of the mountain. She was producing that magnificent sound which echoed around the fjord. From there we travelled by boat to one of many little villages dotted around the fjord.

Village along the fjord

Village along the fjord

Also in the film, Frozen, Elsa flees across a glacial landscape which resembles the Folgefonna glacier. It could equally have been the Hardanger Glacier, which we saw, and flew over. It certainly is a bleak and barren place when viewed from the air.

Frozen Norway Norway from the air Hardanger glacier seen from plane

Watching Frozen brought all this back to me so I fished out my photos. Enjoy!



That’s the way to do it!

Professor Collywobbles 1
Can you guess what links the English Civil Wars (1642–1651) between Oliver Cromwell’s ‘Roundheads’ and King Charles’s ‘Cavaliers’, Samuel Pepys’ Diary, Charles Dickens’ ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, the famous Geordie inventor Robert Stephenson, a pub in London’s Covent Garden, and the Italian clown Joe Grimaldi?
Well, last night at WI we were enlightened and entertained by Professor Collywobbles, who managed to squeeze them all in to his talk on the history of Punch and Judy!
To be honest I was not keen to go. Having never been that keen on this traditional seaside entertainment, I was going to give it a miss. But I am so glad I went.
Now Punch and Judy shows would seem to be as British as fish and chips, but in fact we learned that they hark back to Italy’s commedia dell’arte, a type of improvised comedy based on stock characters. Punch is probably based on the character of Pulcinella, a nasty, aggressive fellow with a long, beaky nose.
We were told that the first reported show was seen on May 9th 1662, and was immortalized by no less than Samuel Pepys in his diary when he wrote about seeing, “an Italian puppet play…the best that ever I saw” in Covent Garden. It was performed by an Italian puppet showman, Pietro Gimonde, known as “Signor Bologna.” But they may well have started even earlier because of Oliver Cromwell. He closed all the theatres during the Civil War apparently, so sketches with puppets or Marionettes were put on at street corners and public places. These anarchic early shows were aimed at adults but children did gather to watch them with their family.
Before long, Punch and Judy shows had sprung up all over London. Judy was at that point known as Joan.
We heard how, by the 19th century, thanks in part to Robert Stephenson, the railways were taking off, and people were travelling to the seaside for days out or holidays. ‘Professors’ saw the opportunity to make money from the crowds and so they began tailoring their shows for children while still retaining some adult jokes. Thus began the tradition of Punch and Judy shows at the seaside.
Professor Collywobbles told us that early Punch plays would have been performed with marionettes, but as the show developed glove puppets were used. They were cheaper to make and easier to carry. Soon mobile booths were designed to carry everything in, and, covered in red and white cloth, these became the stage with the addition of a decorative proscenium arch. The man who operated the puppets was called a ‘professor’ and he often had an assistant who was called a ‘bottler’. The bottler would usually play a musical instrument, warm up the crowds, and collect money in a bottle. Sometimes a live dog, called Toby was used alongside the puppets.
Punch’s screeching voice was, and still is, created with the aid of a swazzle, which sits at the back of the mouth and is pushed to the side when other characters are ‘speaking’. It is quite difficult to understand all the words Punch says so the bottler or other puppet characters often repeat his lines.
I discovered that other countries have long had their own shows with the Pulcinella character. It was very popular in France. In America, George Washington is recorded as buying tickets for a puppet play featuring Punch in Pennsylvania in 1742.
I read that across Europe shows might star Punch himself, or St George and the Dragon, the Spanish Don Cristobal, the German Kasper, the Turkish and Greek shadow puppet star Karagoz, the elaborately costumed French icon Polichinelle, or the pleasant-faced comic, Guignol. Nowadays, In the USA The contemporary fan can see the Sid & Nancy Punk Punch & Judy Show in Brooklyn, or on the West Coast, catch a performance of Punch & Jimmy, which is Punch “with a Gay twist”.
The professor told us that in the UK, the storyline of a Punch and Judy show can be different in every performance, with stock characters ranging from crocodiles to policemen. Changing public taste and social awareness of issues like child abuse however, means that the traditional nature of the show is being adapted. ‘Unsuitable’ characters like the Devil or Pretty Polly, Punch’s mistress, are now less common, while Punch’s unacceptable habit of beating his wife and baby is often left out.
There is an annual gathering of Punch showmen in the grounds of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. In 2012 the TV reported that Punch and Judy professors from all over the world gathered at Covent Garden for “the Big Grin”, a celebration of Punch and Judy’s 350th anniversary. They performed in front of the Punch and Judy Pub. Built in 1787, this pub was thought to be named after the puppet show performances that took place in the nearby piazza for the children of flower-sellers – Covent Garden originally being a flower market.
A typical Punch and Judy show today will probably include traditional characters such as:
Mr Punch ~ a violent, rude and not at all politically correct, character who solves his problems by using a ‘slapstick’ which is where the phrase ‘slapstick comedy’ comes from, plus Judy ~ his long suffering wife and the Baby. There may also be a Policeman, a Crocodile, a Skeleton and a Doctor. Often there are props like sausages.
Joey ~ the clown, based on the real life Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) who was a tragic character and the world’s most famous clown, is a traditional character.
Other characters, which used to be regular but are now only seen occasionally, include Toby the dog, Hector the horse, Pretty Polly ~ Mr Punch’s mistress; the Devil, the Beadle, the Hangman ~ known as Jack Ketch, and Mr. Scaramouch.
Some characters are now only seen in historical re-enactment performances including the Servant or Minstrel, and the Blind Man.
My Collywobbles told us that he rarely uses other characters including Boxers, Chinese Plate Spinners, topical figures, a trick puppet with an extending neck (the “Courtier”) and a monkey.

Mr. Collywobbles certainly taught me to appreciate this art form and inspired me to go off and search the internet for more information. There is a basic plot or storyline in Punch and Judy which was actually printed in 1828. Prior to that the storylines were handed down and developed orally. But, like most good showmen, Mr. Collywobbles adapted his performance brilliantly to the audience, and kept the humour topical.
And as for Charles Dickens? Well he was a great fan of Joe Grimaldi and he loved Punch and Judy shows. In 1849 he wrote,

In my opinion the street Punch is one of those extravagant reliefs from the realities of life which would lose its hold upon the people if it were made moral and instructive. I regard it as quite harmless in its influence, and as an outrageous joke which no one in existence would think of regarding as an incentive to any kind of action or as a model for any kind of conduct. It is possible, I think, that one secret source of pleasure very generally derived from this performance… is the satisfaction the spectator feels in the circumstance that likenesses of men and women can be so knocked about, without any pain or suffering.

—Charles Dickens, Letter to Mary Tyler, 6 November 1849, from The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol V, 1847–1849
Charles Dickens referred to Punch and Judy shows in several of his books to make a point or draw an analogy. Indeed in the Old Curiosity Shop he introduces a Punch puppeteer and his Bottler in the characters of Short and Codlin. They meet and travel with Little Nell and her grandfather throughout rural England revealing a lot about life on the road.

All in all it was a great evening. True to the WI ethos it was inspiring and educational while being a lot of fun.

A timely boost to my morale

I am delighted and reinspired to have been nominated for the Influential Blogger Award by Obscured Dreamer. In fact Cat has done me a great favour as I have been somewhat overloaded by life recently, which has stopped me posting. I am often inspired to write and there have been many beautiful photo opportunities I would have loved to share. But I have been too overwhelmed to focus. So,” thank you Cat”, for the boost to my morale and the renewed drive to write.
Here are the guidelines for acceptance – really very straightforward.
To accept this award, the awardees must do the following:
1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a blog post and thank the Blogger who awarded you. Do not lump this award with any other award in a “basket”, “bouquet” or “collection” etc., I would rather you didn’t accept the award.
3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).
5. Include an embedded video of your current favorite song (YouTube has almost everything, just copy and paste the link into your WordPress editor). If a video is not possible you can embed a SoundCloud track

At the moment I am busy rehearsing for two shows and a concert to commemorate the centenary of the first world war so my choice of songs is influenced by that. On Saturday I took part in the Armed Forces Day at a nearby military museum. It was a scorching hot day in the Cotswolds and young lads from all the armed forces were turned out beautifully in full uniform. They must have been so uncomfortable. There were even some international servicemen and women there as part of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). The ARRC Headquarters are nearby. There was a flypast by Spitfires and a Hurricane which was very impressive. The song we sang as part of our mini show was written in 1915 as young men were marching off to fight, leaving their sweethearts at home.

My own grandfather joined up at the age of 14 years 8 months and was sent to WW1 as a bugler. Thankfully he survived. One of the plays we are rehearsing is called Will Harvey’s War. This will be the subject of a blogpost soon as Will Harvey was a first world war poet from Gloucestershire who deserves to be better known. He wrote a poem called the Bugler

GOD dreamed a man;
Then, having firmly shut
Life like a precious metal in his fist
Withdrew, His labour done. Thus did begin
Our various divinity and sin.
For some to ploughshares did the metal twist,
And others—dreaming empires—straightway cut
Crowns for their aching foreheads. Others beat
Long nails and heavy hammers for the feet
Of their forgotten Lord. (Who dares to boast
That he is guiltless?) Others coined it: most
Did with it—simply nothing. (Here again
Who cries his innocence?) Yet doth remain
Metal unmarred, to each man more or less,
Whereof to fashion perfect loveliness.
For me, I do but bear within my hand
(For sake of him, Our Lord, so long forsaken)
A simple bugle such as may awaken
With one high morning note a drowsing man
That whereso’er within my motherland
That sound may come, ’twill echo far and wide
Like pipes of battle calling up a clan
Trumpeting men, through beauty to God’s side.

The other play we are rehearsing is called Carried on the Wind. It does not glorify war. It just shows how it affected the ordinary people in Gloucestershire.

There are many blogs that I follow regularly for their joy, wisdom and beauty. Many expand my horizons by taking me to places I will never get a chance to visit. Others introduce me to art, poetry, music, films or books that I know nothing about. In short they enrich my life. Some of them I have mentioned below.

Leaf and Twig ~ a simply beautiful blog I have been following right from the start

Campari and Sofa ~ this shared blog is just so stylish, quirky and different. I love it.

Plain Talk and Ordinary Wisdom ~ the title says it all really ~ “kitchen table stories to inspire and warm your heart” Pat writes a terrific blog

A View from my Summerhouse is Sherri Matthews’ blog and it is just a joy to read.

Easter Ellen, Overcoming to becoming ~ a gentle, sensitive and sometimes painful blog that I love

On Dragonfly Wings with Buttercup Tea ~ Becca is a prolific blogger who is so gifted. She always finds a beautiful photo to accompany her posts and poems.

Celebrating Sunshine ~ just beautiful thoughts and images that lift me up.

Source of Inspiration ~ Pat has found her place in the world and has acquired so much knowledge which in her wisdom she is gracious enough to share.

Derwent Valley Photographers ~ I love photography and I love the North East of England so this site is a pure joy.

The Inscrutable Paths of the Spirit ~ such purity of thought and expression is found in this blog, it brings peace and comfort into our troubled world.

Positive Boomer ~ it’s hard to argue with the sound advice on this blog!

Espirational ~ this blog I found recently aims to provide “a 10 minute vacation for the soul” ~ it succeeds for me

Do pop by and enjoy these inspirational, influential and just plain enjoyable Blogs!

Fireworks for Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday


Tonight there will be the start of the celebrations in honour of William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday. The celebrations will be spectacular in Stratford on Avon, his birthplace and the home of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Resurrecting an old tradition, there will be a massive firework display over the River Avon behind the theatre. The display starts at 10.40 so it will be a late night for me but I am hoping to get a good view from the bridge in the Bancroft Gardens. I used to walk this way to school every day when I was a teenager so it will bring back lots of memories.

In addition to traditional pyrotechnics, the special birthday display will feature an 8 metre high frame (note this is smaller than the 1830 one!) depicting Shakespeare’s face, which will light up in ‘stars’ made of fireworks. It will be based on the Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare from the First Folio, and reminiscent of Juliet’s lines about Romeo~

Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

If you haven’t read my blog about the 400th Birthday celebrations you can find it at this link~ http://wp.me/p2gGsd-5c

There is also a wonderful Shakespeare blog here ~ http://theshakespeareblog.com/2014/04/fireworks-for-shakespeare/

The Remembering Tree, 2013. Bancroft Gardens, Stratford upon Avon

Well it has been a strange and wonderful weekend with its usual ups and downs.

The weather was so lovely today that I set off for Stratford on Avon, where I spent my teenage years, to see the spectacular Christmas lights and decorations.

I always enjoy the walk from Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare’s final resting place, past the Dirty Duck pub where I spent many a happy evening in the 60’s hobnobbing with the likes of Eric Porter, John Hurt and David Warner, through the park, across the Royal Shakespeare Theatre balcony, along the riverside towards the Bancroft Gardens.  I love to pop into the theatre just to see what is coming up ~ Peter Pan and Wendy starts this week (tickets still available), as does the stupendous Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (totally sold out before opening night)!

I usually drift over to the canal basin to see the houseboats before heading into town.  Today however, I was stopped in my tracks by a spectacular tree which seemed to be covered in one of those blankets made out of colourful knitted squares, which is exactly what it was!

I discovered that it was called the Remembering Tree and people had worked from 4am to 11am to fix all those squares in place in memory of someone they loved.  Money raised by this venture was going to a charity which you can read about here.

As it got dark I headed up Bridge Street to see the colourful lights before reaching my destination ~ Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  This year the house is transformed by a laser light show accompanied by some excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays being enacted from inside the house.  It is truly worth seeing.  I apologise in advance for the poor quality of my photos which is partly due to the crowds, partly to my excitement and partly to my battery failing!

Leaving the light show I was stopped in my tracks by a busker singing the most beautiful songs in a tenor voice which flowed like warm chocolate on a cold and frosty night.  After singing his own songs, he sang requests from the small crowd that gathered.  he then sang Christmas Carols.  His name is Karl Loxley and the crowd were deeply disappointed to find that he had no CDs to sell!  Hopefully he will soon and I will certainly be listening out for him.  Listen to Karl sing Bring Him Home.

So those are all the ups in my day ~ only one down to report ~

I was so excited to arrive in Stratford that I forgot to pay for parking!  Of course Stratford wardens are like Rottweilers and they don’t miss a thing ~ so I got a parking ticket.  Do you know it was worth it because I felt as if I had been to a free concert and I had a lovely day!


Inspired by Haiku-heights September Challenge ~ Day 5 ~ Ballet

In the 1960s I was still living in Stratford on Avon studying A Levels at Shottery Manor, which was the Girl’s Grammar School.  I have written a post before about the unforgettable year that was 1964 ~ Shakespeare’s quartercentenary.  I was totally immersed in the Shakespeare memorial Theatre at that time and met many very interesting and exciting people.  One of those who stands out for me was Rudolph Nureyev.  He had only recently begun his life-changing dance partnership with Margot Fonteyn.  Who could ever forget their performance of Romeo and Juliet ?  It could be that he is responsible for my deep connection with the Russian culture, language, and people.

Devoted to dance

A picture of perfection

Two souls become one

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in La Bayadère.

September started off very busy for me so posting my haiku has been a challenge too far!  However I think I have caught up now so if you have time you can read my earlier posts here:

http://wp.me/p2gGsd-Ou Shepherd

http://wp.me/s2gGsd-silver Silver

http://wp.me/s2gGsd-guardian Guardian

http://wp.me/p2gGsd-11m Frog

My 15 minutes of Fame!

Me on set with Tom Chambers

Me on set with Tom Chambers

It has been such an unusual and exciting week for me.  While I was on holiday in Cornwall, I got a call from a casting agent about doing some filming as a supporting artist for a BBC production of a TV series.  I had not auditioned or even applied for a part so I was very surprised and a little puzzled.  However the explanation was simple.  Earlier this year, I helped some students at the local university in the making of a short and very moving film, for their degree course.  In order to complete the whole project professionally I had to register with an agency which I did.  The film, “The Day My Name Changed” was produced, directed, shot and edited successfully.  One of the students was kind enough to write a glowing comment on the agency’s website about me, which apparently had been picked up by a casting agent who was looking for people of just my age and type.

So it was that I found myself working this week in the Cotswold countryside alongside professional actors I have admired for years.

The TV series is called Father Brown and it is set in some of the most beautiful Cotswold villages, which is perfect for me as I live nearby.   This will be the second series of the 1950’s drama based on stories by the author GK Chesterton, and starring Mark Williams who played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films.  The character Father Brown, who wears trademark shabby robes and a misshapen hat, is a bicycle-riding, crime-fighting, Roman Catholic Priest in the series. Sorcha Cusack plays the Parish secretary, Mrs McCarthy.

I can’t tell you the storyline or the other characters in the series we were filming for professional reasons but I can say the whole experience was fascinating and really enjoyable, if a little exhausting!

I was told to arrive on set by 7am prepared to work for up to 12 hours.  First I had to go to a costume area where I found everything hung up on hangers or bagged with my name on them.  There were underclothes from the 50’s including corsets, petticoat, suspenders and stockings with seams.  There was a hat, gloves, shoes, a handbag and a pair of glasses, all genuine 1950’s.  There was a dress and matching jacket.  Once I had got into all of this on one of the hottest days of the year I was a bit uncomfortable!  Next it was into the makeup and hairdressing area.  Here there were several superb makeup artists and hairdressers equipped with whole tables of boxes and bags of exciting things ~ brushes of every size and thickness, rollers of every colour and type, hairgrips and combs by the dozen, and more makeup than I had ever seen!

These wonderful artists sat me down and transformed me with heated rollers then pinned on my blue hat.  A covering of mat makeup and pink lipstick as per 1950 and I was done!

I hardly recognised myself and I thought I looked ancient and awful but everyone else seemed to think I looked ok so off I went to be photographed by Continuity.  The continuity people are amazing and very important when filming.  As shots are not necessarily filmed consecutively it is really important that every detail is right.  The arm holding the handbag, gloves on or off, the right glasses on, hair still in place, makeup still on ~ the continuity people are checking and photographing constantly.

When everyone had been through costume, makeup, hair and continuity, it was time to line up for more photographs and an inspection for approval by the Director of Costumes.  At this point details could be checked and adjustments made.  Hats swapped, jewellery dispensed or removed, cardigans and jackets altered on the spot, shoes changed ~ his word was final.  Only when he was happy were we allowed to get onto a minibus to be taken to the actual set for the filming.

It was at this point I felt like a real star as we were treated so well.  Everyone on the crew from the driver to the director knew each of our names.  They have a list of the actors and supporting artists with photographs and are expected to know them by name.  We were given bottles of water during breaks, coffee and tea was available at any time, and a lovely cooked lunch was provided from a big catering van, which everyone used from the most important to the least.  There were crew buses which everyone sat together on to eat lunch.  After lunch everyone had to go through costume, makeup, hairdressing, photographs, continuity and inspection again to make sure nothing had changed.  Then off in the bus for an afternoon of filming.

The whole experience was wonderful, and, at the end of the day, 5 of us were asked to stay behind for late filming.  I was really excited to be one of the 5 chosen.  Suddenly a sleek 1950’s black car drove smoothly down the road and stopped right where we were filming and out stepped one of my favourite stars from Casualty who was also a winner of one of the best shows on TV in the winter, “Strictly Come Dancing” ~ Tom Chambers!

I can’t tell you what he was doing there but I was tickled pink to be on set with him and to have my photograph taken with him.

It was a long day and it was very hot.  It was uncomfortable wearing all those 1950’s clothes and the stiletto heeled and pointy-toed shoes were killing me. I still think I looked awful.  But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  I enjoyed every minute and I got to do it all over again on Thursday in a different village wearing a different costume.

I do hope they ask me again!



All the world’s a stage

As I drove around the park area of Cheltenham today I noticed a road called Rowena Cade Avenue. I wondered how many residents of our lovely town know who she was, so I thought I would blog about her connection with the town and her amazing legacy. As this year is the centenary of the start of WW1 I thought this was appropriate.  Rowena spent her formative years living in Cheltenham where her uncle was Head of the Junior school at Cheltenham College.  Rowena herself went to Cheltenham Ladies College for a while. Rowena lived with her father James, and her mother, in a house called Ellerslie, which backed onto Pittville Pump Rooms. When the First World War started she was given the heartbreaking job of selecting and breaking in horses to be sent to the front.  Readers may have seen the play or film of Michael Morpurgo’s book,  War Horse.  This perfectly illustrates the horrors those poor horses were sent to.

After the war Rowena’s father had died and the rest of her family had dispersed, so she moved to Cornwall.  It was here she developed her talent for designing and making costume, putting on shows, and ultimately developing the unique and iconic Minack Theatre.  The theatre was entirely planned and financed in the 1920s and 30s by this inspirational woman, Rowena Cade.  The Minack was her passion and she literally worked on it until she died at almost 90 years of age.

We visited the Minack Theatre while we were on holiday in Cornwall. The weather was spectacularly good which made the setting all the more wondrous.  The stage is made of stone set against a backdrop of the cliffs and sea.  There is a stone balcony, stone pillars, stone boxes and all the terraced seating is tiered into the cliff face and made of stone.  Many of the seats have the year carved into them as well as the title of plays performed in that year.  The first play to be performed there was The Tempest in 1932.   There is a seat with 1939 carved into it and the next one says “Break for the war”!  Some of the stone seats have huge cockle shells carved into them.

Around the theatre is a spectacular garden with plants from all around the globe.  The plants were chosen by Rowena to withstand the salty winds coming off the sea, as well as the very wet winters and often hot, dry summers.

Minack theatre is open all year round to visitors.  If you are lucky and you visit between in spring or summer months you may see a play, concert or opera.  You would be advised to take a cushion and have something warm to wear as the seats are solid stone and it can get very cold.

While we were there, the performance was the Marriage of Figaro.  This year there is surely something for everyone, including:

Pygmalion, Tosca, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Producers, Oh What A Lovely War, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The full programme can be found on the website http://www.minack.com/

I took lots of photos as the weather was so good.  I hope they give you an insight into the wonderful achievements of Rowena Cade.

Race For Life

Inspired by haiku-heights prompt “measure”.

It was too darn hot

But the girls ran the distance

In the Race for Life

Like any mum I am really proud of all my children, but at the weekend two of my daughters exceeded even my expectations. They both run regularly to keep fit and are naturally competitive. They are also very caring people who do a great deal for charities that are close to their hearts. So they both signed up to run the Race for Life with the aim of raising money for Cancer Research charities.
It was a scorching hot day on Sunday as they donned their pink tee shirts and set off for the Racecourse. The organisers made no allowance for the heat and kept the runners out in the sun for an hour while they literally “warmed up”.
There were literally hundreds of runners on the course, some walking, some jogging and some running. But my girls both managed to run the 10k distance in less than 1 hour. An amazing feat in view of the heat and the crowds they had to battle through to finish.


Laughter and Lyrics Choir I'm the white haired one 7th from left and caroline is the gorgeous oneon the right of the middle

Laughter and Lyrics Choir
I’m the white haired one 7th from left and Caroline is the gorgeous one on the right of the middle

An emotionally charged post for Haiku Heights prompt word ‘crescendo’.  I joined a ladies’ choir this year run by Caroline Edwards at the Everyman Theatre.  It is held on Friday mornings and several of my friends including those from WI joined too.  Lots of choirs popped up in the UK after the charismatic Gareth Malone appeared on TV to prove that everyone could sing by setting up choirs in all kinds of establishments.  Of course in order to make a beautiful sound you need a great teacher to whip you into shape.  We have Caroline for that and she is wonderful.  She has moulded our lively group of women into a choir!

We have a great deal of fun, drink lots of coffee, eat lots of cake, chat a lot, and have become firm friends who support each other.   caroline runs several choirs who will all get together on 15th July for a grand show at the theatre.  It is a sell out concert.  My heart breaks that after all my practicing I won’t actually be there on the night.  However I have enjoyed every minute with our choir ‘Laughter and Lyrics’.  The last song we are singing at the show is Sing ~ I know that along with a backdrop of video images produced by the fabulous Mark Kempner, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.  I will post a clip after the event when it goes public, but for now listen to Gary barlow and the Military Wives Choir as you read my haiku on ‘crescendo’

Deep emotions flow
To spine-tingling crescendo
Heartfelt harmony
Together we stand
Black with a splash of colour
Hearts break while we sing
‘Latte and Lyrics’
Choir gathers, faces aglow
Singing with gusto

Caroline’s choir grows
Along with coffee and cake
Gathering goosebumps
Perfect performance
As 5000 women sing
Hymn ‘Jerusalem’

I recently went to the Annual general meeting of the WI at Cardiff Arena again.  As always it reaches a crescendo when the 4000 plus women sing Jerusalem.  When you are part of it the sound is wonderful.   This clip is from 2010 when I was one of the women singing.


Believe in yourself

Laughter and Lyrics Choir

Laughter and Lyrics Choir

Yesterday was very emotional for me in so many ways.  I belong to a choir called “Laughter and Lyrics” which meets every Friday morning in the restaurant of the Everyman Theatre.  We have only been singing together for a few months and we are all of different ages and from varied backgrounds.  But I think we gel as a choir and make a beautiful sound together.  Of course singing is very emotional at any time but yesterday was especially so as we had been invited to sing at a service to celebrate the life of the much loved father of one the ladies in the choir.  The service was in a beautiful little church in one of the most idyllic villages in the Cotswolds, Dumbleton, and the sun shone on it.

As I sang in that beautiful church with our choir of wonderful ladies I felt privileged to be there, blessed to be alive, and grateful to be me.

One of the songs we are practicing for our show in July is “Believe”, written by Lin Marsh.

It is often sung at final assemblies here in the UK when pupils are moving on to a new school.  It is so uplifting and affirming.

I hope you enjoy listening to this  You Tube version of it, and know that it is meant for you.


Pariah ~ Haiku

Mary Magdala ~ Pariah?

Mary Magdala ~ Pariah?

Mary Magdala

Spilt oils on his feet and wept

Begging forgiveness


Judas, pariah?

Or pawn in a cosmic game

At Gethsemane.

We have just finished performing the Gloucester Mystery Plays in the fabulous setting of Gloucester Cathedral and Worcester Cathedral.  The plays were directed by Sheila Mander and received some very good reviews.   One former actor said,

 “Her motley crew of patches, rude mechanicals, all shapes, sizes, ages, levels of acting ability, musicianship and technical support experience were met together to serve one of the greatest stories ever told – amateurs and professional all – with God (we all know that He would really like to be Jeremy Irons) topping and tailing the entire affair. The spirit of Ye Olde rough and ready Middle English Mystery Play tradition is both honoured in its purest form and updated to modern relevance in a beautifully structured piece. Each actor, amateur and professional alike, somehow manages through simple, honest and often movingly unsophisticated service to this mammoth narrative to deliver one of the most touching and engaging pieces of theatre you could ever wish to attend. It is indeed theatre fulfilling many of its most powerful functions. Like smokers who quit the habit judge people who smoke, ex actors like myself can be an impossible audience to please. This little gem pleased me no end. It is charming, challenging, provocative but most essentially of all it is warmly approachable.”  I can’t weait for the next production!  Enjoy some of the photos below of rehearsals.