Thursday, September 19, 2013

Summer highlights

September already. Boy, does this blog see some serious fallow periods! Still, let's scythe away the lucerne and see what has been growing away during the last few months...

Only Connect
Some of those who know me got a shock whilst tuning into the best quiz on tv... yes, yours truly as a team captain on Only Connect! There were only eight teams taking part in series 7 so we were very lucky indeed to get on the show and to get three appearances. We started well, winning our first game against a very clever bunch of GPs, but then we came up against the eventual series champions in our second game and the resulting defeat was somewhat emphatic. The repecharge game that followed under the slightly complicated new series structure saw us pitted against a team who had, like us, won and lost one game. Unfortunately they got the better of us in a tense contest that was only decided on the final question. Bad luck Craig... I've still no idea what an iceberg submarine is either!

All in all it was an excellent experience and the people behind the show couldn't have made us more welcome or put us more at ease in the slightly surreal world of a tv studio. Massive thanks should go to Jim and Craig for humouring me when I suggested entering a team and for not running away when we got selected! Well done chaps, I think we made decent quizzers.
(c) Parasol Media & the BBC

Some Morrising
The summer has offered the customary opportunities for jingling and capering - chief of which this year was the trip south to dance at the Chipperfield weekend as guests of Greensleeves Morris Men. This was a great weekend helped by the scorching hot weather and the presence of lots of other eccentric folk.

Arriving on the Friday and pitching my tent in a handy school field I was excited to have an explore, and soon located my side, lurking outside the village hall, ready for their supper. We had a fairly quiet evening with a spot of singing in one of the village pubs, before retiring ready for the long Saturday programme.

Saturday involved a coach tour of the nearby area, beginning with the concrete delights of Hemel Hempstead and graduating to an afternoon of pleasant little pubs and National Trust tearooms.

Thelwall Morris levitating in downtown Hemel Hempstead
We finished the day with a formal Morris feast and some more singing and drinking.  The Greensleeves men couldn't have been more welcoming, and it was nice that we got to invite them up to Warrington this month for our day of Dance, even if the surroundings weren't quite as attractive as the ones they provided for us!

A few days in Northumberland

In recent years we have refined the UK short break down to a fine art.  This year was no exception! Using my family caravan in North Yorkshire as a sort of metallic base-camp, we zoomed northwards to Northumberland, spending a few days visiting the various NT and English Heritage offerings in the area, such as Chesters Roman Fort, Cragside and Holy Island. The whole experience was excellent, and we would have preferred longer to explore what is a delightful part of England.

Meredith loved exploring Lindisfarne Priory

Cragside was particularly impressive, giving us the chance to learn all about William Armstrong and what a supremely clever bloke he really was...

The Just So Festival

Earlier in the summer we had read an effusive preview for this festival in the Independent, and from this the slightly crazy idea of attending a festival whilst 7 and a half months pregnant seized Michelle with such vigour that we'd booked tickets before we could think about having second thoughts...

When the time came to go we were very grateful the weather held for us, as though spending a week in a muddy field might have some appeal for the Glastonbury crowd, it has little place as far as a family weekend away is concerned!

Just So was great, especially when viewed through the eyes of a four year old girl! While for the adults there were some downright bemusing and random aspects to it, the organisers definitely succeeded in creating something so magical that all the kids there were entirely wrapped up in the whole affair from start to finish, thereby rendering it a complete success and money well spent!

There was plenty to do, largely of the creative and expressive types of activities. There were bands, good food stalls and a team tournament encompassing the whole weekend. We chose to join the stags for this, who were a woefully underrepresented animal clan, and this meant fake antlers and black-painted noses were required. Fortunately nobody has got a photo of me in costume!

The highlight for me was the music on offer. We encountered some decidedly offbeat but extremely entertaining acts, chief of which were Perhaps Contraption and the Ten Pound Suit Band. I'd happily hear more of either...

The Ten Pound SuitBand entertain the festival crowd

A Big Hill

Well, not that big for me, but certainly pretty big for Meredith! Yes, she took on her first proper mountain - Ingleborough - via the limestone pavement above Chapel le Dale. Admittedly I carried her rucksack for most of it, and the steep descent down from the summit towards the boggy section was a *tiny* bit steeper than I'd remembered, but all in all she coped admirably, especially considering she'd been car-sick on our drive up that morning! Here's a proud photo, and hopefully the first of many hills climbed together.

A new arrival...

And yes, now that the summer is igoing-out, there's someone new coming. Of that, more shortly!

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