Marmalade Awards


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I’m thinking about deleting this blog as I’ve written in it so little recently.

The weekend after Valentine’s day was a very ordinary stay-at-home chilled family weekend, just me and my husband all snug in our little house. It sounds boring but when you’ve been working during the week it’s nice to have some time to stay late in bed and catch up on the odd jobs which need doing around the house and garden.

Last weekend we went to Penrith for the Marmalade Awards and Festival! Mike had entered a jar of marmalade for the competition; it didn’t win but it got a respectable score and he picked up some useful tips on how to improve for next year.

It was a wonderful weekend. Meals out in cosy country pubs, spectacular views of Ullswater lake and Aira Force waterfalls, of course the festival itself and just being able to spend a totally relaxed weekend with each other in such beautiful surroundings.

The event itself was the epitome of gentle and innocent fun. It was held at Dalemain House, a large and lovely country mansion (I’ll post links when I’m on a PC). Highlights for me were:

Paddington Bear – of course!
Over 1,700 entries into the competition, all individually scored and commented upon, and set out in the grand rooms of the house itself.
Around 250 ‘artisan marmalades’ which you could actually taste! They were all very different from each other – surprisingly so – and included some weird and wonderful flavours involving figs, bergamot, lapsang souchong, brandy, rum, piña colada, gin, vodka, vanilla, pumpkin and a whole range of things I forget.
Toast and marmalade ice cream by Ginger’s Comfort Emporium. Better than Ben & Jerry’s!
The biggest jar of marmalade on record.
Michael Bond’s daughter was there.
interesting talk by food historian Ivan Day, including tasting of a wonderful pudding made to an old recipe.
Music by the Dalemain String Trio, with soup and marmalade cake, in the beautiful setting of St Andrew’s church in Dacre.
A very useful and informative marmalade-making workshop/class by ladies from the Jam Jar Shop.

There are probably things I’ve missed but you get the picture!

Must dash now. I got a part – albeit a small one! – in the most recent casting of my local am dram group, so I’m occupied with rehearsals two nights a week again.




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I prefer to call it paino practice as it seems more appropriate for the poor buggers who have to listen to it.

I have rather an ambivalent relationship with the piano. I’m not very good at it, and I doubt I ever will be, yet somehow I persevere. Granted, I don’t persevere very much – on a good week I might practice for half an hour a day, which isn’t nearly enough – but I’ve been banging away on it pretty consistently for over a year now.

On Sunday I took Mike to see a piano recital as an early Valentines present. Sort of to make up for my incompetence which he has to hear nearly every day. It was a really good concert. I’d never been to anything like that before, really – a small orchestra concert a few weeks ago, but not a proper piano recital. I did almost have to prop my eyelids open with matchsticks, but that was down to tiredness, not the quality of the performance!

My nan was good at the piano. I wish I’d inherited her talent. She must be turning in her grave listening to me! Maybe I should take up an instrument I’m actually good at, but I’m not sure what that might be, and buying an instrument is very expensive just for the sake of a trial run. So I stick with the one that’s already there.

On Saturday we went out for lunch at a country club restaurant in the middle of nowhere with a roaring fire and lovely scenery. It was the Christmas present from my father in law and very nice it was too.

I feel unaccountably happy. I have a lot to look forward to, work is challenging enough to keep me occupied and outside of work I’m busy but in a good way – a sort of homely and comfortable way. The days are getting lighter – 17:15 and still light in the sky today! – and I feel enthusiastic about creative pursuits.

All work and no play


In late February and March I’m delivering seven work-related events. I guess to some of you that wouldn’t even break a sweat, but it’s a lot for me considering I’ve never done it before! Five of them are training and two are random other ‘sessions’ where even I’m not fully clear about the topic yet.

(I hate the term ‘delivering’, but ‘leading’ sounds far too, well, leaderly for what is simply a training session. You don’t really talk about a teacher ‘leading’ a lesson, do you?)

Well, I did lead four sessions last year in a similar style, but on a slightly different topic, so it’s not totally new to me…

I’m kind of excited about such a busy month. I’ve never had this much responsibility at work before and I’m enjoying myself already before I’ve even done one session. Not because I get to feel important!

South of France


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My mystery destination was the south of France.  I love it there, even though I was working.  It has the same attraction as a holiday place – familiar faces, greetings, streets, shops and views, but without the time to find out any of the bad things you discover when you live there.

The weather was unseasonably cold.  It rained for almost four days together, and when the sun came out the temperature was still low.  In the mountains it was snowing.

On Wednesday Mike and I went to Antibes and visited the Fort Carre there.  I was quite excited by the little look-out posts at each bastion.  They’d make excellent cells for recalcitrant slaves or subs!  I can dream of buying the fort and making it into my house.

We also went to the Picasso museum.  Now, I must confess to being really uncultured in this respect as I’ve never liked Picasso’s paintings that much.  When I look at them I can admire his ideas and how much he was ahead of his time, and the passion behind the work and the creativity of his thinking… but they don’t touch me on an emotional level.  Yet seeing them in the flesh is completely different!  Still I’m not totally in love with all of his work, but his ceramics I really, really like.  They seem to shine out a very spatial-masterful, fun-filled, form-and-texture experimentation.

On Thursday we went to the Ile St Margaurite, just offshore from Cannes.  This was a lovely experience!  It is a very quiet island with not much there except the old fort/prison and a reservoir, but it has a strong atmosphere.  It feels adventurous and like another world, like anything could happen there.  There could still be prisoners there, below the earth, below the old prison.  You could half expect to find a message from one of them as you follow the paths through the woods or across the beach.  There was also a big house on the side of the island which looked as though it was empty.  It was surrounded by a fence, but peering through I was sure I could see a door swinging open.

At leisure at the weekend, we looked at houses in eastern Europe.  (I mean, we weren’t in eastern Europe, the houses were, but we were in the comfort of our own bed!)  Prices are so cheap, and I’ve often had a longing to just go somewhere completely random, a country where I don’t speak the language, and find a different life.  But I know it isn’t really a good dream like that.  I know that I would probably be isolated, struggling with the language and not able to make friends or find work, short of money and with a cold damp house.  On the one hand I’m an incurable optimist, on the other an incurable pessimist!

I’m worrying about so many things at the moment that I shouldn’t be worrying about, like Mike’s health, which of course I can’t do anything about, and just worrying in general, which I think is down to the time of year and the weather and the darkness of the skies.  I know I have nothing really to worry about… maybe not so much worry as a kind of restlessness, a feeling that things are not going quite smoothly but no one else seems to see it… I am sure it’s just my imagination, though.

It’s been snowing in England this last weekend.  I feel so nice when it snows!  Even though I was actually ill, it didn’t seem so bad.  The snow and the white sky reflects so much light into the house and everywhere.  It lifts my mood and makes all kinds of things seem possible, while at the same time transporting me back to my childhood and making me want to indulge in cosy, craft pursuits; making things, or playing music.

Meet, greet


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Went to a classical music concert last night and heard some great music. It seems a bit strange that although I played plenty of classical music on the flute, I never went to an actual concert until recently. I played in our little scrappy local amateur orchestra, and enjoyed it, but I never learned anything about composers or styles. I just played the music that was put in front of me. And I guess I wasn’t interested, because when you’re 13 it isn’t the done thing to be interested in classical music. Not that my track record with pop was much better. Good job I discovered metal, and my niche!

For some reason strings music sends me to sleep, even when it’s quite energetic. It must be something to do with the quality of the sound. I’d love to have a go at playing the violin, but that’s more to do with my guitarist background than anything else – I want to see if I can do it, and I feel as though I ought to be able to do it (ok, there’s the bow, but I’ve got the hang of putting my fingers on strings in the right place at the right time!). But for listening, string music doesn’t appeal to me as much. I like piano, brass and woodwind.

L’enfer, c’est les autres

I have a love / hate relationship with meeting people. Sometimes I dread it, sometimes I can’t wait, sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. I prefer social situations to work. I like mingling with people informally and having a casual chat. I hate having formal meetings; I feel like I’m being interviewed or conducting an interview, and that doesn’t seem very friendly. I don’t sound very hard-nosed, but remember the Aesop’s fable about the wind and the sun, and who managed to get the man to take his cloak off?

Up, up and away


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Had a terrible night in the apartment where I’m staying! The air con kept making clicky noises a frequent intervals all night. To add injury to insult, they sound just like the noise my alarm clock makes when it’s about to ring. Was on edge all night and when I did fall asleep for a short while I had bad dreams.

Nevertheless, I am away on business and with Mike as well, so in my eyes the sun is shining even though it’s actually raining where I am. It’s nearly time for lunch on the first day and I’ve already had a number of one-to-one meetings, but I’m enjoying myself. I’m slightly hampered, though, by not wanting to say too much about exactly where I am, as much for the sake of other participants as myself.

It’s far from being a holiday – we’re both working for 4 days – but I deliberately didn’t create a category for work because I don’t want to encourage myself to write about it. I suppose this counts as a ‘getaway’ – getting away from the norm, at least. We do have two days to ourselves before travelling back.

Foreign travel, can’t talk about work or say what line of business I’m in… if you want to think I’m a secret agent, be my guest! I wish it was that exciting!



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row of wooden faced houses in norwayI’ve been distracted for the last few days with house-hunting.  I love viewing houses; I’m terminally nosy.  I could happily book fake appointments with estate agents until the cows came home and spend a weekend pottering around various residences both second-hand and new!

At the moment, my house is fairly small.  Not too small – people in Tokyo have to put up with a lot worse! – but small compared with, say, a house in the USA or Australia or even on the European mainland (except the Netherlands).  My house is a typically English Victorian terrace, with two downstairs rooms and a tiny kitchen tacked on the back.  Upstairs there are two bedrooms – a master bedroom large enough for a double bed, and a smaller box room – and a bathroom.  The bathroom is a generous size, one of my favourite things about the house.  The master bedroom, while not exactly palatial, is larger than some of the master bedrooms I’ve seen in new houses recently.  It doesn’t have built-in wardrobes but there is room for our own free-standing wardrobe and various chests-of-drawers.

Even the downstairs, while compact, is made more spacious by the existence of two rooms, giving an extra wall against which to rest things.  However, the design of this kind of house – they are all identical – means that the back room has three doors, leaving only one corner door-free.  This makes it hard to place furniture because you have to be able to reach all of the doors, and it can easily drive you a little mad!

I’ve always found my little house to be big enough for my requirements – but then, I’ve never been a keen cook.  Since being in a relationship my humble abode has acquired a lot of kitchen gadgets as well as a double helping of books, tools, camping paraphernalia and other necessities of life!

It’s not treasure


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red berries with green leaves on an iron drain coverAt work, I feel like Harry Potter and his friends in the vault at Gringotts, when the treasure was enchanted and everything that they touched multiplied uncontrollably.  Except instead of treasure it’s my jobs at work; every time I start doing one of them, it spawns more and more…  February and March are going to be busy months for sure!

I drew a van today.  I looked at my drawing and thought: ten years ago that would have been an exciting page.  It would have blossomed with wing-mirrors and lights and towbars and hubcaps; on swathes of panel the logo would dance; the contours would come unravelled and somewhere, probably, would emerge the framework of a mad superhero’s vehicle, replete with parts.  It wouldn’t have been anything like this weedy, insipid pencil outline of some lame-ass fucking van.  Sure, it looks like a van; there’s no question what it is; it’s in proportion.  But it isn’t ART.  No way no how.  Ok, I could say I only had a pencil and a sheet of A5 – no colours, no fancy ‘media’.  But a good artist can make art out of anything, out of the mud from the ground.  I’ve no quibbles with my pencil.  It’s me that’s the problem.  I feel like I’m starting all over again from the beginning.

On the subject of art, this is an interesting website; take a look!