Sunday, 13 October 2013

It's only taken a move to London to have a close encounter with a heron

This weekend, I finally got the opportunity to have a little explore! Admittedly, it wasn't a planned explore, but I'm glad it happened because it really brought me back to feeling like my proper self!

I've spent the past month and a bit absolutely loving life. It still doesn't feel quite real that I actually live in London, and I'm sort of finding myself waiting for my visit to come to an end. But it is real. I do live in London. And I've now been in my own place for a week, so I really really live here now!

The pace of life here is something you're aware of, but that you don't really notice or think about until you take a step back. My visit to Norwich a couple of weekends ago made Norfolk feel s l o w. But then I thought, perhaps London is just that fast? ... I'm now thinking it's probably a bit of both. I've been swept into a real whirlwind here. At work, at home, at play. Everything just flashes by and so much is happening all the time! I love it, because I'm someone who manages to make flashing by happen even when most people would feel as though there was not a lot going on, but it is exhausting!

This weekend, I got lost. At one point, I couldn't help but wonder whether I was doing a bit of a Rosie's Walk through some rather conspicuous areas (massively geeky teacher/children's literature reference alert!!), but I was absolutely fascinated nevertheless, and loved that I was completely out of control of where I was headed.

I'm a commute-lover. As long as I can watch the world go by with some pleasant musical accompaniment/interesting conversation to ear-wig in to, I'm content. But at the same time, it was rather refreshing to be off the beaten track and to have some new experiences this weekend.

As with most people, I am a creature of habit, so like to return to places where I can be comfortable in the knowledge that I will enjoy myself. I am also a water-baby (who can't swim), so am always drawn to the sea, lakes, and rivers to paddle, wander and stare at reflections. On Saturday I discovered the River Lea upon getting completely lost whilst im pursuit of a retail park where I was intending to purchase exciting items such as lightbulbs and timer switches. As I walked through the gate that took me along the 'River Walk' (so the sign told me), I couldn't help but feel that that wasn't actually what I wanted to be doing. However, as I continued along the path, narrowly avoiding cyclists and dog-walkers abundant, I began to feel quite glad that I had taken such a monumental detour, particulaly as I neared a tallish grey/black feathered friend with a long beak; which in my ignorance/Norfolk-girl-snobbery I assumed couldn't possibly be a heron in London, but must instead be a 'wooden thing'. It transpires that herons London are, unsurprisingly, a lot more tame than those fleeing the scene in Thornham, as he stood all tall and proud as I gingerly walked by (those beaks really are long)! Fortunately, I did eventually make it to the retail park for my boring shopping - I had to make sure the day was at least partially productive to allow for fraternising with river birds.

Wandering all the way to and from Stamford Hill along the cycle route, exploring a little more of the local area, Shoreditch on a rainy Sunday, it's been quite the weekend of adventure! I'm now on a mission to have a little explore each weekend to keep inquisitive Laura entertained. Plan is to choose a point on the tube, and go! I'm excited!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Postcards to Norfolk

31 days ago I finally made the move to London!

A lack of blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking may well be a sign that life has just got that dis-interesting, but I'm hoping it's all or more to do with how busy I've suddenly become!

I've always loved to keep busy and thought I was already pretty good at it.. but over the past month I think I might have begun to learn what busy really feels like! This weekend I finally took a step back to view my new London lifestyle from the clearer air and slower pace that Norfolk provides (as well as SO MUCH SKY). I don't think I could have come from a more contrasting place, and it was certainly entertaining to observe the comparisons!

A lover of life and someone with the ability to appreciate and admire beauty in almost everything and everyone, I stand in good stead for the time ahead of me in London!
Instead of feeling beyond guilty like I thought I would following a weekend where very little school-work has been attempted in comparison with the past few weekends spent in school (or at least with my laptop forming some kind of arm extension around the house and surrounded by laminating to be cut up), I am heading back to London with a clear head and a large dose of let's-do-this attitude and determination to get as far ahead of myself as possible (keep on dreaming over-enthusiastic Laura)! Teaching is HARD. But instead of moaning on about the trials and tribulations of my first month, I will just revel in the success of survival. Every day has been an adventure, and as soon as one days ends I can't wait for the next! The cynic in me is waiting for the novelty to wear off, but a big reason for my choice to teach was that there will never be a dull moment, and when working with children, there certainly never shall be!

Upon returning to my blog, I am suddenly aware that my move to London has rendered the address redundant. Instead of postcards (or realistically in this case, rambling letters) from Norfolk, I shall write postcards to Norfolk (and with my new found hectic schedule, postcards is exactly what they will be!). Expect awe at the magnitude of London from a young woman coming from a town where her house is the tallest building she knows, recounts of ventures into new parts of the city, and tales of my wandering into everything and everyone as I gaze in wonder at everything above and around me. It's going to be fun!

(First time written on my phone, I know I'm going to hate the layout when I reach a computer!!)

Monday, 29 July 2013

Our garden

Although this is the shortest summer I have had in 5 years, it certainly feels like a summer well-deserved after a long, long year!

Having had to abandon all hobbies in favour of endless planning and resource-creating, I have already begun to make attempts to reclaim my pre-PGCE self. Yesterday, I finished the third book I have read since I finished the course, and the fourth book I have finished in 4 years whilst escapism into fiction has been replaced with endless academia. The book was Summer Book by Tove Jansson (author of the Moomin series – although this is one of her ten adult novels) and it was very idyllic and nostalgic with beautiful, simple imagery throughout. While summers for Sophia and her grandmother seem to be marked by events of interest, mine take a rather more habitual turn (particularly the parts of summer spent at home). Each year I seem to find myself doing the exact same things that I have done every year before. Already, having spent less than a week at home, this summer is no exception! 

Days will usually go in one of two directions (or, more often than not, consist of a combination of the two)

1.      A day spent in the garden 

2.       A day spent reminding myself how to play my instruments

As I write this, I am sat on the decking in the garden enjoying the sunshine, surrounded by an extraordinary amount of butterflies and buzzing things (I admit, the buzzing things are slightly off-putting, and slightly too close to my head, but it’s a comfort to know that they’re certainly not dying off in our garden)! Today the temperature is only in the low 20s, and there is a slight breeze rustling through the trees and tickling my neighbour’s wind chimes. To my right is brilliant blue sky, to my left the clouds are looming, but I’m convinced that the temperature won’t drop too far and the rain won't come and force me to move! Not quite the conditions to participate in my favourite garden pastime, a day like today is instead an opportunity to entertain my inner-middle-aged-lady and do a spot of gardening! Of course the hard graft is Dad’s responsibility, so I’m left in the fortunate position of being able to use the garden for a bit of horticultural therapy – if horticultural therapy isn’t a thing which someone is capitalising on, it most definitely should be!

When we first arrived at number 111 our garden was more like a jungle; overgrown, and overrun with brambles and stinging nettles. There was a ‘pond’, which was literally a washing up bowl sunk into the ground, and a stray kitten which had already claimed the jungle as its own. Over the years the garden has grown into what it is now, but throughout, one thing has been constant, and is the reason why I love it so much; the garden at number 111 is really just an extension of the house. Although perhaps whilst in its jungle-like state it was less accommodating, as we stripped away the interior of the house, so too was the exterior stripped back to discover what lay beneath. 

The top of the garden nearest the house; the washing up bowl/pond
was in amongst this somewhere
The bottom of the garden; this is where we now park our cars!
(I don't even know what the metal thing near the fencing post is?)
The first part of the garden to be uncovered was the small patch of grass which still remains today. In the early days we would sit out on the grass for lunch with the kitten (to whom the jungle really belonged).
Not the most attractive photo of any of us. Oh the 90's!
Nowadays there are also three patio areas and the decking to choose from and we’ve even upgraded from a picnic blanket to patio furniture where breakfast, lunch, and tea are consumed whenever possible! Al fresco dining is quite the luxurious experience in the Brockway household, although I do feel for my poor, unsuspecting neighbours who have had to bear witness to countless risqué conversation topics over the years whilst I have entertained my girl friends! Our patios have provided the perfect place for an over-spill of guests at parties thrown by my brother and I, whilst in my younger days and the beginnings of my ‘musical career’, the decking became a stage for concerts performed to my long-suffering parents (photos of which I am massively upset not to be able to locate)! Oh wait..

Year 6; this is what Laura the clarinettist looks like!
Throughout our childhood, the garden was brought alive by mine and my brother’s imagination. Our sheds lie between a cherry tree and a medlar, and when we were smaller, lighter and more limber (I say this, I may have to test the theory!), we had our own little treetop world to play in. We could easily spend hours up there, on look-out (or rather, spying on the neighbours), and pretending to be explorers. The beauty of our garden is that it is split into two. At one end lie the patios and the decking. At the other, secreted away by a Dogwood and various other tall and wide shrubs, is the lawn and our trees. We used to camp out for the day, making fires and sneaking to the house for provisions!

In the very early stages of stripping the interior of the house, lots of floorboards were kept outside providing excellent den-building materials! Suddenly the trees were exclusively our own as we built entrances at the bottom which only we were small enough to squeeze through. As exciting as these floorboards were, my favourite piece of abandoned furniture must have been the bath, which of course became a boat amongst other things and took us on many exciting adventures around the world! Unfortunately we couldn’t convince mum and dad to let us keep it.

Upon visiting friends, it often felt as though most gardens belonged to their parents, where they were expected to keep off the grass and away from the flower beds! Our garden has never been like that; it is a place for anyone who may come to be there. As a friend even said to me today, ‘your garden feels like you could be anywhere in the world when you’re sat in it’. I don’t think it will ever lose its magical qualities, even in adulthood. 
Food & wine on the decking this summer, bliss.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Today I climbed a hill

Today I climbed a hill. It’s a hill I’ve been wanting to climb(/drive to) since I moved to the city in 2009, and as my time in Norwich comes to an end, I’ve been attempting to tick off a few spots!

Throughout the year, I’m constantly in a slight predicament. I believe that the reason us Brits talk so much about the weather is because in our country, it’s actually really interesting! I love the seasons; and although I may moan about each one a little when it’s around, there’s certain things about Spring, Summer, Autumn, and actually probably mostly Winter, that I just can’t get enough of. As I began to write in Winter, I’m pretty sure I’ve already hinted at some of my cold weather loves (did somebody say CHRISTMAS and snuggly jumpers?). But finally the season of sunshine is upon us, and I don’t think I’m ever happier than when the sun is beating down on me and I’m lying outside without a care in the world.

Having been spoilt with ridiculously long summers for the past six years, I am very aware that this is my last one of such excessive length for the foreseeable future, so every bit of it is being made the most of! The main aim for the summer, as I’m sure I suggested when writing about the Gorillas, is to embrace my inner Norwich tourist and to explore some of the lesser known (to me) parts of the city. I have, of course, also been making frequent visits to my favourite parts and absolutely intend to continue to do so until someone finally drags me away...

The tourism began with a closer look inside the The Cathedral of St John The Baptist on Earlham Road. A massively impressive building which I have walked past at least every week if not every day on occasion, I had not ever taken a proper opportunity to look inside. I can safely say that the pews are highly uncomfortable, and that lots of ceiling gazing once occurred at a concert, but wandering around was much more pleasant. As Catholic Cathedrals go, it is not too expensive and covered in gold, but instead boasts bold and relatively modern architecture in the grand scheme of things (its building completed in 1910), and is just really very big! No matter where in the world, I like to step into churches and cathedrals – just another 30 to go in Norwich!

In the same day, we also stumbled upon Cow Tower whilst on the Gorilla Trail. Although not nearly as impressive, it made for a pretty picture or two, and I’m glad to have seen it having had it allude me for four years.

The beach of a Monday evening should happen every Monday evening was the decision made after a trip last week! I’m a little bit of a North-Norfolk-coast-snob, but I may have been persuaded that it’s not all bad in this direction after a trip to Winterton (where I had never ventured before) for an evening wander and some fish and chips. I say that I am never happier than when the sun is beating down on me and I’m lying outside without a care in the world, but actually, put me on a beach and it doesn’t matter what the weather! On this occasion we were actually very lucky, as even the sea was a highly acceptable temperature for a paddle – oh I do LOVE to be beside the seaside.

A day spent on Cromer beach yesterday, and I admit the hill (part of Mousehold Heath by the prison on Britannia Road) was a little exhausting as we were battered by winds whilst waiting for the sun to appear for the perfect picture. 
But I could happily sit and gaze at the view of the Norwich ‘skyline’ for a really, really long time.

P.S I know that most seem to go to Mousehold Heath with visions of the ‘romantic’ powers of a view leading to a spot of canoodling, but I’d recommend going with romantic intentions or otherwise! (The ‘awkward-situation-making’ powers, as loud conversation and your camera shutter snapping the view result in teenagers resembling meerkats in their startled state, are also quite the highlight)!

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Summer has finally reared its beautiful head, and upon completing my PGCE year, the time has come to make the most of Norwich before I disappear! Although I did have to return to school on Monday and Tuesday of this week, there was no need to prepare for the two days and so last weekend was well spent ‘relaxing’ in the only way I know how... by wandering for miles. A most exciting occurrence in the form of a friend returned from a year abroad in America meant that a very English weekend was in order; so we became tourists in our own county, and in what has been our own city for three and four fond years. 

The summer in Norwich is always full of surprises, and last week the gorillas descended! During one of my teaching practice placements, one of the teachers had been commissioned to paint a gorilla, so I’ve been very excited to see them, and my first weekend off seemed the perfect opportunity! GoGoGorillas! are a collection of sculptures painted by local and regional artists, community groups and schools. Each one is sponsored, and will eventually raise funds in an auction at the end of the event for Break charity and the Born Free Foundation. There are 53 large gorillas, and an additional 66 baby gorillas decorated by local schools across Norfolk; it is currently rather difficult to walk more than a few paces in the city centre without being accosted by one in a shop window, or bumping into one as you turn a corner!

As a self-confessed walkaholic, I didn’t think that 53 gorillas in a day would be too much of a challenge, but it turns out that Norwich isn’t the tiny city I think of it as, and the gorillas are pretty well spaced out! However we did manage a respectful 30ish, and many more babies! At this point I don’t feel that writing about them does them the best justice, so here are a few of my favourites to speak for themselves (absolutely, definitely worth doing the trail if I may say so - I am determined to finish it at the next opportunity)

(Claim to fame gorilla - saw him/her in the progressive stages)

More gorillas this way; possibly the most colourful of my Facebook albums!
Post gorillas there was recovery in the form of summer cocktails at The Assembly House (which I will miss HUGELY), and a very tasty macaroon selection from Macarons & More (which I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered)!

The next day we bounded off to the Sainsbury Centre and prompted by a staggering collection of artefacts from around the world, created a bucket list of countries to visit, before paying a visit nearer to home to the ponies and donkeys at the sanctuary behind the lake. A picnic on a jetty, and a good old fish and chip lunch the day before; I do believe I’m quite good at being typically English (particularly good at being stubborn in my determination to walk everywhere; our feet HURT by the end of the weekend - so much for 'relaxing'). 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Duck Egg Designs

African Elephant Fabric Print
In most of my spare moments lately, I seem to find myself longing for a home of my own, or at least dreaming of putting my own stamp on a place next year; I complete my post-graduate degree in 7 days, and have a job to go to in London for September! Thus, I’m in a constant state of extreme excitement and nervousness. I'm excited because I suddenly feel as though everything really has been worth it, and the potential for me to live my dream lies ahead of me. I'm nervous to start a new job, move to a new city, and begin a new phase of my life – I just have to make sure it all runs smoothly now! Having always been extremely interested in interior designs since the days of Changing Rooms and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, dreams of how my own home may take shape have certainly changed over the years; but are always in the back of my mind nevertheless. Of course I won’t be buying a home of my own for next year, but this time, I’ll be renting indefinitely as opposed to for a fixed term as I have been while I’ve studying at the UEA. In Norfolk I seem to be in interior heaven, and as the summer approaches I envisage I shall be making frequent visits to the many antiques barns, independent designers around the coast, and the open studios filled to the brim with stunning art work. I’m spoilt for choice (if money were no object at least)!

Most recently I have come across Norfolk-based (although not entirely Norfolk-based as they also have ‘nests’ in Chelsea, Kent and Gloucestershire) Duck Egg Designs and can’t stop browsing the beautiful products on their website;

Child's Wicker Chair
The staple colours in their designs are light and fresh and would make the inside of any home feel like it was on the coast, or at least in the countryside. What with currently being in the process of looking for residence next year, I am extremely aware of how much I will miss the coast when I move to London (as if my love for the coast wasn’t blindingly obvious enough)! For that very reason, I can imagine my home next year is going to be scattered with nostalgic items and decorated in ‘beachy’ colours and memorabilia to make me feel at ease. Although I obviously moved out of home to come to university, the move over this summer feels a little more real as it will be on a more indefinite basis. Suddenly I feel a little more grown up, which at the moment seems to be drawing my inner child back out of me. For the past few weeks, I have been listening to all the music I listened to when I was a young teenager, and as I browse the Duck Egg Designs website, the beautiful items for children leap out at me! When I was growing up, we used to move around quite a lot as a family, so memories of moving into our current family home are very striking. My favourite thing about our move to our current family home was the trip to a huge antiques barn where I got to choose some furniture to go in my bedroom. The most memorable piece was a cream wicker chair that sat in the corner of my room. It was my first chair and I used to sit and read in it for hours! This lovely little sky blue wicker chair is even child-sized (and admittedly slightly more expensive than mine was, but certainly in much better condition, particularly by the time mine had been abused by our builders on their smoking breaks)!

Norfolk Crab Fabric Print

I first came across Duck Egg Designs on an episode of Kirstie’s Vintage Home where a couple created their own print fabric to make into a blind. All of the fabric prints are so pretty, but I particularly love the Norfolk crab print (can’t wait to go crabbing this summer!) as it’s so characteristic of my Norfolk, but my personal favourite are the African elephants as I have a penchant for anything elephant (as can be seen from my ring collection)! The Norfolk-themed items really strike a note with me; as well as the Norfolk crab print, the Blakeney, Burnham and Wells stripe fabrics reflect beautiful, seaside colours.

Something I’ve been looking for for a while now is an antique mirror and the oval mirrors by Duck Egg Designs are simply beautiful. I’m a firm believer in mirrors everywhere and anywhere (not just because I take so much pleasure in my own face, but also I’m a lover of light, and mirrors are great for bouncing what little light there may be in a room to every nook and cranny!), and I could see any of these mirrors sitting on the wall in various rooms around the house!

Painted Vintage Oval Mirror, White Oval MirrorVintage Oval Mirror

In all honesty, I’ll probably end up living in a cardboard box next year. But it’s always nice to dream. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Field Day

Ben Pearce, Stealing Sheep, Jacques Greene, Dark Dark Dark, Solange, Bat For Lashes, Four Tet.

Having had such an amazing time last year, decided to grace Field Day with our presences again last weekend, and so glad we did! Ultimately, I’m still not that accustomed to festivals as although I have now attended a few quite a few times, I tend to return to the same festivals so have hardly had a broad experience. I only mention this factor, as things that I now go on to say that ‘I love about Field Day’, may indeed be things that I’d love about other festivals too if I gave them the chance!

Ecstatic over SO MUCH NACHO
Obviously the notable thing for me about Field Day is the way that the line-up suits my musical taste and attitude to a T (tee? tea? One of life’s little mysteries)! Whilst last year it was Andrew Bird who caught my attention, this year I was lured by Four Tet and Jacques Greene. Although I go in with a very definite plan of what I will be seeing, at the same time, each year I have been introduced to new likes as I find myself sitting by a random stage while I graze the various food stalls (another great thing about Field Day, the INCREDIBLE food selection)! As I write this post, I am listening to Stealing Sheep who were the accompaniment to my enormous portion of nachos with piled up toppings this year.

Not only does the festival have a great line-up and amazing food on offer, but it’s all for an extremely reasonable price too (which is probably the main selling point while I’m still a student if I’m honest)! This year there are even super early bird tickets on sale for £35 which I've leapt at!! It may sound like a potentially risky move to buy this early, but having perused ‘Field Day Past’ (and had my mind blown by the price for consistently incredible line ups of the past) on Facebook, I’d say it's a risk worth taking;

I didn’t actually see that many artists due to a lot of unfortunate clashes, but I love how Field Day is a festival where the sun decides to shine so that lounging around and just taking it all in is made entirely possible, acceptable and highly enjoyable. This year ‘i’ from The Independent was available at the gates with the complete set-list and timings - yet another money saver, also providing somewhere dry to sit on ground that
Technicolour dreamcoat
Beautiful balloons
had unfortunately been rained on for a few days prior to the festival, as well as reading material for in between sets. My highlights were definitely Bat For Lashes and Four Tet, made even better by the fact that they followed on from one another! Both were highly aesthetically pleasing, with Natasha Khan in her shiny, rainbow cape and two-piece, and Kieran Hebden’s release of giant, colourful balloons which floated around above our heads for his entire set. I've been waiting 7 years to see Bat For Lashes as I’ve never actually made it to one of her gigs, so was very excited to see her at Field Day! She played a good mix of her old and new, her energy was boundless and she seemed so happy to be playing in her ‘back garden’ as she referred to Victoria Park; obviously her performance of Laura went down very well with me too, beautiful! I’d also never seen Four Tet live, and despite the silly males nearby who were only there to be in a good position for Animal Collective (although they did prove to be of excellent comic value), I was totally in my element! Thanks to a dastardly cold (IN MAY??) I hadn’t got the most energy on Saturday, but could not stop dancing the whole time – music and balloons is absolutely the best combination!

I don’t want this to turn into a review (if it hasn’t headed in that direction already), so won’t go through every act one by one, but had a truly beautiful day and can’t wait to be back again next year!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Festival festivities

Festival season is finally upon me and so far has been thoroughly enjoyable! This weekend marked the end of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, and although I haven’t made it to as many events this year as I sometimes do, I’ve really enjoyed those I have made it to, and have loved the buzz about the city for the past two weeks!

On the first night I headed to the Cathedral Close for the opening performance of Réve D’Herbert by Compagnie des Quidams. Each year the opening night involves a walking performance of dramatics, art, light, and music. In the past I have walked the highstreet following gigantic, robotic, pyrotechnic wolves, and enormous dinosaurs flying above my head. I admit that this year was initially less spectacular, although it did culminate in something quite mesmerising indeed! At first we stood for a long time watching tall, white figures with scarily painted faces wandering around between the crowds. Suddenly however, they stopped, forcing a circle to form around each one, and gradually whirled around on the spot, inflating and finally lighting up. Their giant inflatable heads then stuck out far above the crowds, lighting the audience around each one like beacons around the close which by this point had become very dark and ever so slightly eerie. Off they wandered again, this time less carefully, and I found myself ducking and diving to avoid giant, inflatable behinds! Still ever so slightly bored, it wasn’t until the end of the performance, which was further into the close, that I was truly hypnotised by floating orbs which lit the night sky, as large white balloons floated around the audience. As always, it was pretty magical and certainly very surreal; quite the experience.

On the fourth night, I saw Woodkid at the Theatre Royal. Having been to uncountable musical performances of a vastly varying nature, I often find it very difficult to answer the dreaded question ‘what’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?’ Nevertheless, I emerged from Woodkid’s performance absolutely reeling, and spent the entire time inside on the edge of my seat with butterflies all over the place! It may be that as a weak and feeble female, I’m automatically won over by the melting dark chocolate sensation that is his voice, or it may have been the fact that the lighting and set-up of the stage and the attire of the many strong men standing over enormous percussion instruments was so perfectly coordinated and just my colours (or my black I suppose I should say), but whatever it was, it was beautiful and quite the experience and I would absolutely definitely see the show again and again recommend that anyone who even likes Yoann Lemoine’s work a little bit should absolutely definitely see the show for a first time! Certainly a contender and an easy answer for the dreaded question if nothing else!

On the ninth night (this is beginning to sound like some kind of traditional tale), I was whisked off to the Spiegeltent for a Swing Spectacular! I very much enjoy dressing up in vintage-style clothes and dancing around to music from the 40s and 50s. There’s something about being transported back in time to an era that didn’t even have me in it that really excites me! The Spiegeltent is my favourite NNF venue so I had to make the most of my night in there for the Bo Nanafana Swing Spectacular as sadly I haven’t attended any other events in there this year. On approach to the tent I always feel a bubble of excitement rising in a child-like sense as it’s just so inviting and colourful and pretty and has a real presence! The interior is even better, with the beautiful dance floor (which every dance floor should be like in every way!), the booths, the bar, the ceiling, the stage, the stained glass; it’s all very magnificent and unique. Graced with the presence of Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer and his banjolele, it was quite the spectacular as promised!

One of my favourite things about the NNF is that it takes me to new locations, and my favourite place that has been open for access this year is The Undercroft at the top of the market! It may well have been open for festival installations another year, but I’d never been in there until the tenth day! It’s All Up In The Air is an art installation by Rhona Byrne and consists of hanging black clouds assembled from modelling balloons. Yet another surreal experience, I have taken a few people to see the clouds since my first encounter where I stumbled upon some ‘ninja knitting’ as apparently other people are loving the secretive nature of the location too!

Another year over and already I’m intrigued by what next year may have to offer... 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Grabbing horns, bobbing along, childhood nostalgia, and a little history

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote! I’ve been a crazy kind of busy, and by the time I ever have a moment to sit down and write, I feel like whatever has happened is suddenly rather irrelevant (it’s not just a case of nothing interesting happening, honestly)! I can’t deny I am a lover of being busy and I certainly feel as though I have an awful lot of purpose at the moment, which is never a bad thing! So I write to you with some of the ‘best bits’ of the last month I suppose; just to prove that I haven’t just disappeared into a deep, dark cave somewhere (although there’s still time).

Something that this year has taught me is that I need to grab opportunities and take risks. In a nutshell, there’s been a lot of bull-grabbing – or at least the horns of bulls. One pretty big ‘event’ over the past month has been my weekly swimming lessons! I’m still pretty ashamed to admit that I’m an adult taking swimming lessons, and apparently it’s quite unbelievable that someone who loves water as much as I do can’t actually swim in it? The decision was spurred on by my visit with a year 4 class to the public swimming pool where I had my own school swimming lessons. Memories of watching all of my classmates move up into the ‘big pool’ until I was the only one left in the ‘baby pool’ surrounded by many floats and with no clue how to actually move came flooding back, and the fear of slipping, falling in and just sinking slowly to the bottom made me think it was perhaps time to face my fear. I’m almost at the end of my 6 weeks of lessons now, and my confidence has certainly improved no end; so much so that I will definitely be booking in more lessons, and not just because I still can’t actually swim on my front but because I really enjoy bobbing about, and the exercise can’t be doing me any harm?

View of the Church from Cromer Pier
Talking of swimming, took a very lovely trip to Cromer a few weekends ago (not that I even paddled actually, it was FREEZING and very, very windy so I was a little too wrapped up). The last time I was there I’d been singing in the Church with the Festival Chorus and getting very chilly! It seems I’ve been experiencing a lot of nostalgia this month, because this time I was reminded of trips there with my family as a child when we would stay in West Runton and go off to Cromer for the day just for a change of scenery. I think it may have brought out my inner child slightly as I got all excited along the pier, and was a little over-enthusiastic about the Henry Blogg Museum where I made my very own medal with a fancy press. I have a bit of an affinity with the RNLI as my very own Grandad was on the lifeboats, and apparently in a picture or two at the Museum – which I thought I’d made up so sadly didn’t spot him this time – I’ll just have to go back.

My 'medal' from the Henry Blogg Museum
I’m not usually one for an interest in history, but personal history is always a little more appealing. My violin and bow have now been in my possession for (I think) about 10 years (how awful is it that I can’t actually remember how old I was when I got them even though I remember the whole experience so very vividly??) but I’d never actually looked into the history of my violin until very recently. There is an old concert programme that has sat in the case since the day I took it home, and I’d had a quick flick through it and kept it because it was quite cool having a programme from a concert that the previous owner had performed in.
Concert programme from June 1960, newspaper cutting of a
 photograph from the performance, and my beautiful violin
Little did I know that the owner was actually a pretty big deal in the violin and orchestral world, as concertmaster of the Hague Philharmonic for many years of his musical career! Theo Olof actually only died last year, and has left a huge legacy behind him – I can’t help but wonder if I’m even meant to have his violin or whether perhaps it was stolen many years ago and is still in the process of being recovered? For anyone who has got a bit lost/bored by this last tit-bit, MY VIOLIN IS ON GOOGLE IMAGES, it’s cool. He's also on Spotify performing a bit of Britten (quite apt for this post I'd say):

I’m deluding myself if I think that all of this would ever fit on a postcard. Hoping to have a little more time for ramblings so I won’t have to let a load out at once again in the near future! 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Food, glorious food

Food at home is always a rather wondrous thing, so I do dread the return to fending for myself, particularly for my stomach’s sake. For this very reason, each time I’m back on my own I endeavour to eat well – and it usually lasts for all of a week (but so far, it’s going extremely well – depending on your definition of ‘well’!) I might now be back to the ‘hard graft’ that is the week following extended birthday celebrations, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some very lovely guests to stay over my Easter holiday!

I absolutely LOVE playing the hostess, particularly to guests who will happily pander to my ‘rustic’ style of cooking. I’m also a huge fan of guests who will chip in rather than sitting back and watching as the kitchen burns down around me – experimental cooking is not always highly successful, and beyond the safety aspect it’s more fun with two anyway? I’m not someone who can actually create many dishes, but I’m quite skilled at the throw-everything-in-a-pan-and-see-what-it-tastes-like approach, as I have now tested out three times this week. Things that can always be found in my fridge/freezer/cupboards:

Garlic (of the smoked variety right now – smells AMAZING)
Tinned tomatoes
Orzo pasta
Pearl barley
Tuna (although had a horrendous realisation yesterday that currently, there is none!)
Quorn mince
Insanely large amount of tea
Porridge oats

For me, and so for anyone fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) enough to be staying in my house, breakfast in the week days is always the same; bowl of porridge with a LOT of honey. It’s nothing special but it keeps me going, and is probably one of the only things I can really stomach in the morning. Of course weekends are a little more special and there might be pastries or crumpets involved... but let's not get too carried away! Lunch consists of whatever ‘lunchable’ items are in the house, and finally tea comes around. I’m not someone who likes to make a huge effort with cooking, particularly after a day of being on my feet (and even more particularly after a day at work in a café!), and I also like to avoid washing up – hence the throw-everything-in-a-pan method. So the method was deployed on Tuesday of last week, to the praise of my friend – even if he didn’t eat it all because he has a small appetite (what is one of those and where do I get me one??).

Filled with confidence, I went a little more adventurous with my next house guest; pearl barley risotto with courgette and asparagus, YUM. For some bizarre reason, I then let her attempt to roast a whole aubergine on the flames of my gas hob – definitely something that needs another attempt because it was very tasty, if not completely cooked (had to keep rolling it around the work surface as the charred bits set alight, we know how to add drama to cooking)! The aubergine was accompanied with smoked garlic mushrooms and salted pasta, making for a rather forlorn looking plate but so, so tasty.

Of course with all that Norwich has to offer, I have no choice but to take people out to eat too. I’m not a food critic, I just love food. For this reason (and just because I don’t like my posts to be too long and rambly and this one has already gone beyond an ‘easy-reading’ length), I will just say that everyone should make a visit to:

The Workshop; Gin & peach juice and Chair stacking
The Workshop on Earlham Road; incredible food, great drinks, amazing ambience, very tolerant staff, and a host of games to play. This time we had halloumi, fig and honey, artichoke, aubergine and mozzarella and the infamous Workshop pizza to accompany games of Rummikub, Jenga, Chair-Stacking and Scrabble with way too many tiles!

Grosvenor Fish Bar; have become a rather huge fan of their ‘Big Mack’ burgers served with a slice of lemon and lots of healthy salad, very fancy! Best fish and chips, great prices, lovely, friendly staff, and of course the added bonus of close relations with The Birdcage making for the perfect place to have an accompanying drink.

Waitrose; not for general shopping you understand, I am a poor student. But when the sun comes out there is nothing nicer than a walk around the lake at the UEA, a wander along the river, and a picnic by the mill or on a jetty consisting entirely of fancy, unhealthy bits and pieces from Waitrose. Pork pie with apple and fig chutney, watercress and salmon quiche, potato and leek tartlet, butterscotch and pecan yum yums and two extremely large and unhealthy slices of cake were the components of our picnic last weekend.

Food is my favourite.

Friday, 29 March 2013

On the train to Cambridge

Currently sitting on my bed with a pile of bags at my feet after a successful day’s shopping and merriment-making with Mother in Cambridge. After the disappointment that was Christmas, we did wonder why we were stepping out in the cold again this morning – but we made sure it was worth it!

As we sat on the train this morning (Mother like a child with a new toy with her new iPod, shouting at me as soon as the headphones were in, dancing around, and making general noises of excitement as each new song came on!) I partook in a spot of people-watching. It led me to realise that I’m still rather unsure of the rules of train etiquette despite many, many train journeys, and am almost convinced that I have my very own set. I do, however, understand that people-watching when in close proximity must be executed in the most secretive of manners!

The plethora of reading materials was a sure sign of the eclectic mix of passengers today. The first magazine that caught my attention was a rather risqué French magazine with lots of scantily clad ladies decorating the advertisement pages. Sneaky peaks of the various articles as the lady (who I’m going to go right ahead and assume was a French tourist) flicked through the pages gave me a prime opportunity to practise my French de-coding. I can confirm for anyone who has ever had the pleasure of experiencing my French, that it is still as appalling as it always has been – the word ‘homosexuels’ was about as far as I got.

In front of French-tourist-lady as she will now be fondly known, was eccentric man with wispy grey hair sticking out at all angles from underneath a woolly hat. He had chosen to bring a selection of large newspapers to peruse. As a passenger, my heart always sinks a little when someone with a broadsheet decides to occupy the seat next to mine. There is NOT ROOM on a train for enormous sheets of paper. Also unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for him), the content of the Financial Times was not as entertaining for me as de-coding risqué French magazines.

My attention was then averted to the opposite side of the carriage from French-tourist-lady and eccentric-wispy-hair-man to where a family off out for a day trip sat. They were the sort of family who were clearly prepared for all eventualities with their waterproof coats, multiple layers of woolly clothing and gigantic rucksacks for the unfortunate parents to drag around for the day. Father and son sat opposite me; father with his multi-pack of fishing magazines, son with the Simpsons. I could only assume mother was reading ‘Woman’s Own’ or another magazine that would firmly cement the stereotype.

Just beyond French-tourist-lady, eccentric-wispy-hair-man and the family-on-a-day-trip sat passengers who cast my mind back to my childhood and early teenage years, as a young boy ripped open the cellophane covering a new magazine and eagerly fished out the free toy whilst ‘let’s-pretend-we’re-all-grown-up’ coffee was drunk by chattering friends. 
Nowadays I may sit quietly in my seat, but clearly my mind is whirring away! 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The power of a wander

I might not think Lynn has much to offer on the doorstep in comparison with Norwich but this Sunday I took a stroll to some of my favourite bits and actually found it very pleasant! I'm not a photographer by any means, but couldn't abandon the postcard idea entirely; and they are often chosen for the pictures after all?

1&2. The Walks; The Bandstand and Red Mount Chapel
     3. Underneath Greyfriar's Tower
     4. St Margaret's churchyard and some pretty white crocus flowers
     5. King's Lynn Town Hall (complete with actual tourists)
     6. The Art's Centre courtyard - my favourite sun trap in the summer! 
     7. Stock Fish Rack sculpture on the Green Quay
     8. Pilot boat and some seagulls
     9. Compass on the Purfleet Quay pointing me to none other than childhood hero, Captain John Smith
    10. Picture Postcard and a view of Vancouver's behind.