Pearls

I thought they were extinct

Or at least an endangered species

But at the Faversham Hop Festival today we spotted them.

At first just a pair

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But later,  a whole posse of them

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Performing “Roll out the barrel”,  “My Old Mans a Dustman”  and so many more.

It was great.

There were hops a plenty

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In garlands

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And on hats.

And Faversham is lovely

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It has a Physic Garden

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A rather beautifully decorated brewery

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And a gunpowder mill.

Every town should have one.

Ahem.

The festival was noisy,  bustling and good fun.

Beer was flowing freely

But as I cant stand the stuff we sampled other local produce instead.

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All in the name of supporting small local artisans you understand πŸ™‚

Yum.

Sun and slime

The first sunny day in what seems like forever.

The 2015 man-free holiday.

An annual tradition,  a few days of catch-up chat,  laughter,  and the opportunity to see some of the more eccentric aspects of British life.

Today we headed to Brightlingsea for the Opening of the Oyster Fishery.  

The Mayor and the great and the good headed off in boats

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Proclamations were made and a long lunch was had to celebrate the start of oyster season.

Well,  there is now an ‘r’ in the month.

Shockingly,  there is nowhere in Brightlingsea to sample oysters so we headed down the coast to Whitstable,  a fab,  retro,  slightly bohemian seaside resort on the Kent coast.

Couldn’t move for oyster shops there!

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I’ve tried oysters before,  and yes,  they are still disgusting second time around.

Imagine swallowing a giant,  slightly salty and fishy tasting bogey and you’ll get the idea.

Not that I’ve ever tasted a giant,  slightly salty and fishy tasting bogey.   But if I had,  that’s what it would be like.

Hope no one’s eating as they read this!  πŸ™‚

Hops and cream teas tomorrow.

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Fiction Friday

You would be forgiven for thinking

  

That Armageddon, or at least a small tornado combined with an earthquake, had passed through Leamington on Wednesday

  

But no.

It was nine 8 year old girls, over for an Easter/Spring Arts and Crafts and baking day.

My ears are still bleeding from the screaming.

Oldest child locked himself in his bedroom but eventually gave up, got on his bike and went to seek sanctuary at a friends house.

He may have broken the land speed record in his haste to get away.

But, out of chaos came forth order.

Of a sort

   

      

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

 

 Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson.

Absolutely fabulous!

 It is described on Amazon as  techno thriller.  But really that does not go anywhere near capturing the depth and breadth of this book.

Set in an unspecified Arab state, it deals with censorship and control, social structures, hacking and the cyber world and mixes these uber secular themes with Djinn, fables and myths, and ideas on the power and evolution of language. Language as a power source to knowledge and to magical realms and ultimately heaven. Language and books, in particular holy  books such as the Koran,  offering a source code whose sophistication evolves with mankinds ability to decode and use it. 

Throw in elements of the Arab Spring, a love story and the Thousand and One Nights and there you have it.

Magical Realism at its best.

Next Week I shall Mostly Be reading

   Clovenhoof by Heide Goody and Iain Grant.

What if the devil was fired from hell for gross negligence and had to forge a new life trying to quietly fit in in suburban Britain?

Hmm, thinking about it I’m sure that would explain a lot about Tescos on a Tuesday morning….

Hope Your Easter is a happy and chocolatey one

Bud dha Boom

Sunday was our last day in Paris.

It had to be done.

A short Metro hop to the Ile 

  

Notre Dame

Beautiful French Gothic.

And even better?

  

Yay, a bit of dead person.

Still not sure who is in here, but I have several books on relics (bien sur) so hopefully I will be able to track them down.

Then a quick wander around the old and quirky Ile

   

 

A sombre moment en route to the Metro

 

A very brief stop in possibly the most expensive tea shop in the world 

 

One look at the menu (cups of tea starting at 10€ each) and we were running out of the door like we’d just robbed the place.

I was quite impressed by how fast we could run.

Must be all that yoga strengthening the leg muscles.

And then?

A very long and very leisurely lunch at

 

The Buddha Bar.

A place full of the young, stylish and beautiful of Paris.

Chiselled cheekbones, designer labels, effortless style and sophisticated conversation. 

 

 Hello Tracey, hello Julie πŸ™‚

The food was ok.

A buffet style set up featuring an unusual mix with pastries at one end, continental breakfast at the other and curry and noodles in the middle.

Most dishes running out very quickly and being replenished in a very leisurely manner.

I think the whole concept of buffet dining /instant food is anathema to the Parisian dining ethos.

But!

You don’t go to the Buddha Bar for the food.

You go to see and be seen.

Or in my case, just gawp at the beautiful people.

Au revoir.

  

Oh la la

So, Saturday night in Paris.

So, three child free Mums on the loose.

So, three child free Mums being sensible and cultured and grown up and sophisticated.

Ha!

Saturday night we hit  

 

Yep, The Moulin Rouge in all it’s flamboyant, kitsch glory.

We didn’t book for the meal before the show, so when we arrived the place was absolutely packed.

Expecting to be crammed on to a shared table somewhere behind a pillar we were amazed to be shown to a tiny table for three, right beside the stage.

Two bottles of champagne later and the pre-show warm-up crooner, singing American Rat Pack toons in a strong French accent, sounded uncannily like This, though fortunately he was not that shade of yellow.

Just a shade of Leo Sayer circa 1976.

Then the show.

Oh my God.

I knew the Moulin Rouge was famous for the CanCan.

I hadn’t realised it was famous for the dancers dancing, erm, topless.

But after spending an afternoon similarly exposed in the Hammam, we were hardened, in a distinctly unBritish way, to such things.

We could greet them with a Gallic shrug.

And lots of eye contact.

But.

The show is good fun.

It isn’t intellectual

Or high culture.

It’s a laugh

It’s pure entertainment

And it is distinctly and unmistakably French.

The theatre itself is slightly battered, slightly worn, but a wonderful example of fin de siècle architecture and interior design.

An architectural Grand Dame.

Afterwards?

A stroll through the, erm, colourful Pigalle area 

 

Ending up at a small bar 

Listening to a budding Edith Piaf singing in the corner and drinking absinthe.

Tres Parisienne. 

Bonjour Tristesse

Can’t quite believe we’re here.

Here being  a bijoux apartment in the Montmartre region of Paris.

You get off the plane and you are immediately hit by the sense of being in France.

It hits all the senses.

Sight 

 

Sound

Touch

Sound and taste

 

Hello Julie, hello Tracey.  Bon Appetit!

An afternoon scouting the streets around the Sacre Coeur

Early evening by the tower

   

   

An evening meal in the heart of the Pigalle.  

Couscous and red wine.

Perfect.

A bientot.

Reprieve

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It feels like spring is just about here.

Without winter really having shown its face at all.

A few frosty mornings.

A sprinkling of snow.

But already bulbs are staring to push through, and curling leaf buds appearing on some of the hardier (foolhardy) trees.

A dry day on Friday and we took our chance to explore close to home.

The beautiful Warwickshire countryside

Along country lanes

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Picking up a companion for part of the way

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Stopping at Chesterton church

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And pondering a “fixer-upper”

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A good day.

Fiction Friday

A postscript on the trip Oop North.

Sunday saw us shivering around Housesteads Roman fort.

Well, you can’t really visit Northumberland and not go to The Wall.

A masterpiece of ancient architecture

An unsophisticated attempt at apartheid

Bleak.

And very very cold.

I have never been to The Wall and not been cold.

It certainly makes you appreciate what those displaced centurions would have felt like, with the bitter winds whipping up their togas πŸ™‚

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And the thing the kids will remember from this trip?

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Roman loos.

And after an hour wandering around in the freezing cold, they actually started to look quite inviting.

Especially with the sound of moo-ing in the background.

It was just like being back in Hestons Little Chef.

Plus ca change…

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

Well unfortunately Gideon Mack has been put on hold whilst I have been racing through the first five volumes of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

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Racing because oldest child has been voraciously devouring these books and as they are, again, young adult books I wanted to give them a quick scan before handing them over.

And I have to say, these are so good.

Gripping, excellent story line, nice dose of biblical references which went completely over Oldest Childs head (” Who was Cain mum?”), lots of teenage angst over identity and friendships but not in a navel gazing Twilight way.

So so good.

And currently on special offer in The Works!

Even better πŸ™‚

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

Bwa ha HA!

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The New Phil Rickman.

Bought today and delivered instantly to my Kindle.

Reasons to be grateful #564 πŸ™‚

Oop north again

Another weekend away.

This time visiting Averil ( of the Calendar Customs web site fame) and John. (Hi Averil and John πŸ™‚ )

The journey up north, on a Friday, is always horrendous.

This time was no exception – nose to tail traffic, roadworks, fog. Lovely.

But we do have something en route to look forward to.

It’s a tradition.

We stop at the Heston Blumenthaled Little Chef on the A1 and visit the moo-ing loos.

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The loo ceiling is painted to look like a sunny day. And the toilets gently moo and baa at you as you relax to the sound of a stream gurgling in the background.

It really should be a tourist destination in its own right.

Saturday the boys stayed home for a mammoth board gaming session whilst Averil, Youngest Child and I caught the bus into Newcastle to try and wrestle up a bit of festive spirit.

Fenwicks Christmas window.

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You cannot see this and not feel like Christmas is just around the corner.

Youngest Child then attempted to eat her way around the world with Sushi for lunch followed by a Freshly cooked crepe from the French creperie in the Grainger market, followed by macarons from the French artisan baker, followed by bubble tea in Newcastles China town

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By the time we’d also gone down to see the revamped Quayside (not a dodgy nightclub in sight)

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St Nicholas cathedral

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And the disturbing vampire rabbit

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We were just about able to stagger back to the bus station to catch the bus back to Corbridge.

And I even heard a “bobby dazzler” and an “oh la la” during our wanderings

Perfect πŸ™‚