Sunday, 7 August 2011

Camping in the rain!

Jeez! So much for the BBC weather forecast! Supposed to be just a light shower at about 4pm today. There was indeed a shower earlier, at about 6pm - and it wasn't tooo heavy, although I wouldn't have called it light as such (we hung around at the Farmhouse Tea House for a while after we'd finished eating simply to dodge the heaviest bit.... and then just got a bit wet on the walk back to the campsite. But THIS?? No mention in the forecast of torrential rain at 10pm! The new tent is certainly being put to the test - and to be honest I'm a tad nervous. We're in the inner sleeping tent, Bob has settled down for the night, and so has the dog, it would appear - but I'd planned on trudging over to the loo block in a bit - leaving it till as late as possible in hope of not being woken up needing to go in the early hours of the morning. I just hope the rain eases off soon - no way am I venturing out in this downpour!

I woke up before 5am this morning - it was feeling cold that woke me - I'd made the rookie mistake of only wearing a t shirt and a jumper - should've worned my hoodie as well! Tonight I will be wearing all 3 necessary layers.

Rain is easing off a bit now. I'm listening to some Edinburgh Comedy previews, on my laptop, streaming via BBC iplayer website. Earlier we both listened to a Mitchell and Webb episode, but I've put the headphones on now (seriously couldn't hear the speakers at all when the rain was hammering down just then!) Bob is asleep now, which is another good reason for the headphones.

Here's hoping for a water-tight night!

Saturday, 6 August 2011


I'm sitting here in a reasonably comfortable folding camp-chair, typing by the light of an electric camp-lantern. I can hear Radio 4 on the little radio Bob is listening to in the sleeping tent as he drifts off to sleep (it's only 10.15pm, but camping makes early bedtimes more inevitable). I can also hear the wind in the trees outside the tent - a very pleasant and soothing sound. I am sitting here in my anorak, as well as the usual layers under it - cos tents don't have heating. But it's no hardship - I've totally relaxed, what with the Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer I've just finished. Mind you, that means I'll soon have to trek across the campsite to the toilet blocks: certainly the main disadvantage of a tent sans en suite.

The dog is cosy on my airbed and my sleeping bag (I will turf her off shortly when I take her out for a last widdle before settling down for the night.)

It rained quite heavily earlier - thankfully not while we were putting the new tent up (that went remarkably smoothly without a blazing row!) No leaks, and a pleasant, if rather loud, drumming sound. Less pleasant was the noise of the nearby raucous group of campers - glad they've quietened down now!

Camping is wonderfully relaxing and companionable, more so even than our preceding week in a cottage (which was also lovely and relaxing). A week in a tent really is  the 'get away from it all' option - with no Telly and (hence) evenings spent so differently from usual as we play cards or scrabble (Rummy this evening - which I won, due to one big 'catch')

On the other hand, the reason I am able to sit here and type this is that (unlike the cottage last week) I have been able to pay to have wireless internet. Not very old school, but even Bob didn't begrudge me it, with the advantage of googling bird identifications and weather forecasts and other bits of useful info.

Our main (joint) journal of the holiday is - as usual - hand-written in an exercise book. This is just an extra - the 'late night special'.

I am, however, trying to restrict my use of Facebook and Twitter (and I haven't been on AF at all) - part of the holiday ethos and keeping it more as 'our' holiday, just me and Bob. Hence I haven't updated my status or tweeted at all while I've been away (yet).

Last week I only  had my phone to contact the internet (and I have a feeling my bill next month may be a bit of a corker, due to the amount of data downloading without wireless!!); this week I have good wireless connection via my laptop. I wonder if I can maintain my self-discipline or if I will secumb to the temptation and start going mad on Facebook and Twitter. Bob has even asked me to upload a particular photo of a bird, which (if it's what we think it is) is quite an unusual spot at this time of year! It looks like a Water Pipit, but such birds are only supposed to be in the UK in the winter. Have posted the photo on a bird-watcher website, so we'll see if anyone can help.

Right, time to sign off and trek over to the loo block. Goodbye from tent-world. xx

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Dictation is beguiling!

I got a new App for my iphone today - in fact i got 3! One creates handwritten notes from your finger-written scrawls on the screen - just a picture, and a bit messy, but quick. The 2nd transforms cursive handwritten words (again using index finger on screen) to produce typed text. Impressive but rather slow and (so far) v prone to errors) The 3rd is called Dragon Dictation, it was a free App and I must say, I'm impressed! (what follows was all typed by the dictation App as i spoke it)

I can use the keyboard to correct the text after I dictate the bulk of it - to add punctuation etc - and that's much quicker than typing it all using my finger on the tiny screen on the iPhone.

Obviously I have to be in a quiet room without the TV on in the background and I have to be in a place where it is acceptable to be speaking out loud like this. But honestly I am absolutely amazed at how accurate the voice recognition is when I've only just started using it and it has absolutely no problem with my accent at all - or with making out which words I am speaking.

Once I dictate the text I can either copy it and paste it into any application I wish or I can send it directly to Facebook or twitter. I can also put it straight into an e-mail and send it to anyone in my contact list or indeed to myself so that I can then use it on my laptop.

I can see this becoming a very useful way of blogging. I can also see myself using it when I want to create to-do lists or shopping lists more quickly than I have been able to in the past. Another useful thing would be to read out the text of something rather than trying to use an OCR scan which can often be irritatingly inaccurate. This method would only require me to read out the section of text and voilĂ  I would have it in an editable form ready to use in any way.

Granted speaking (rather than composing what one wants to say on the page) does make it more difficult to keep track of the shape of sentences and does perhaps lead to a less eloquent form of communication. However, on the other hand, it is a lot of fun!
Now to experiment with the punctuation that the application may be able to recognise! I wonder, if the signs I am speaking – will turn out to be correct? Yes! Every single one! I really am totally amazed!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

New Prometheus

I've now seen Danny Boyle's production of Frankenstein twice, once live in the theatre and once - today - in the cinema with the reverse casting. It's a remarkable piece, with bravura central performances by both Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein & Creature, alternating. For the live theatre experience, I had JLM as the Creature and BC as Victor Frankenstein. As many reviewers have remarked, the Victor part provides much slimmer pickings for the actor - but nevertheless I thought BC greatly enhanced the role, and I had a strong preference for his portrayal. Creature-wise, it was less clear-cut for me. In some ways I preferred JLM, in others BC. Just very glad I got to see both. I certainly got more from it the second time, noticing more of the thematic elements and pondering the issues raised.

Some aspects of the staging were wonderfully effective and memorable, although the train did seem a little odd: a fabulous bit of theatre but it seemed somehow 'stuck on' and unnecessary. Stylistically it was so much more impressionistic than the rest. I 'got' the evocation of the industrial age, the power of steam, the clamour of modernity, the monstrous-ness and strangeness, as seen through the frightened creature's eyes, seeing a train - and the seamy, teaming urban streets (of where?) for the first time. But despite all that it still seemed gimmicky.

I loved the use of the revolve, and the huge bits of scenery that rose while rotating - reminding me of Windy Miller et al emerging from the musical box in Camberwick Green

I must read the original novel to get a sense of how the adaptation remained true to it or shifted towards the playwright's own concerns.

I think it's from the book - the oddly 'anti-science' / daring to take on God's role slant - odd since Mary's lover / soon to be husband Shelley was staunchly atheistic, and Mary herself was certainly enlightened - the daughter of two radical and exceptional parents, who taught her to be a free-thinker.

Victor in the play (and novel?) seems deeply unsympathetic and flawed. Driven by pride, unable to foster normal loving relationships. The beginning of the play is also frustrating because Victor isn't 'active' in the creation of the creature - it happens in his absence - almost as if the lever clicked accidentally when he wasn't intending it, and lo, the creature emerges, solo, birthing itself. In terms of the drama it's an uncomfortable compromise - a fabulous un-worded sequence of him learning to use his body. But at the cost of a crucial aspect - Victor's agency, his responsibility, his creatorship (which is later asserted over and over again) And his momentary appearance, just to throw a cloak and exit, is clumsy dramatically. Didn't like that either.

The theme I found very interesting was the nature/nurture one: a blank slate of a human treated appallingly and becoming a murderer as a result. The burning of the cottage with the family inside, was linked to his reading of what heroes of old do when they are wronged - he seeks violent revenge, following their model (this was clearer with BC as the creature)

Another aspect that popped out for me was the treatment of disabled/disfigured people. We may like to think we are so much better now - that the reactions to the creature's appearance were backward and intemperate - scarcely believeable even. But I wonder. Those who look odd, different, ugly - they do experience terrible rejection. The child, Victor's brother, isn't innocently immune from this - he is just as repulsed.

Elizabeth is the only sighted person who tries to be more accepting. Ironically, her very 'right on' attempt proves to be too late, too naive...too dangerous!

The arguments about slavery versus freedom, mastery with or without responsibility, rights, and about choice or lack of choice, about designing a person to fulfill the needs of another person - these are all fascinating to me. The (voiceless) female creature - created and then, at the last moment, destroyed by Victor: would she have loved the creature back or rejected him? Would they have bred? And if they had, why did Victor assume that this would be abhorrent - and why call them a new species - why not just reanimated humans, producing normal human babies? Why assume the female would be fertile anyway? - presumably because the knowledge of the time did not include such details of how the conception process comes about, and how sterilisation works.

I particularly like the bit when Elizabeth challenges Victor when he explains that he had made a man - asking him why he hadn't married her years ago and created a human the normal way, by giving her a baby!

I found the scene between the creature and Elizabeth shocking and upsetting - properly so.

(this piece is somewhat unfinished but I'm going to post it as it is)

Monday, 17 January 2011

I'm not a muso, musings (Part 1 & 2)

Minchin is an absolute waltzer! I mean it - he just loves that funky 3:4 time.

Several times recently I have been struck by the growing number of his songs which are in that time signature. I have been swept away by fantasy-visions of ballrooms full of ladies in cinderella-style voluminous skirts twirling, viennese style, as the 1-2-3, 1-2-3 swirls and weaves its spell.

I want to dance to Minchin-music. I want a vast extravaganza of theatrical gorgeousness, with me in the middle of it all. (Maybe, if Tim gets to create his own dream musical, it might be one featuring one of those amazing set-piece full scale dance numbers - a great big beautiful waltz
- the kind that no-one can afford to stage any more.)

As it is, I have already experienced a sense of being stifled when at his recent live gigs - having to sit, rather than being able to stand up and bop around to the funky bits. The waltzing-urge just takes it a stage further.

Lullaby is the one which Tim overtly refers to as a waltz, but there are quite a few others that you could just as easily waltz to, cos definitely 3:4. White Wine in the Sun (and Drowned - I think?) are the other key ballads that are in waltz-time. Even bits of Cheese (and Tim waltzes around himself at that point in the song).

What about Teenage Years - it sounds syncopated, but I think it's possibly also 3:4??

What else? I may need help identifying them (looks silly if I can't make a decent sized list: not much of a thesis if I can't come up with at least a few!)

Matilda? Any waltzes in that? There's the 'don't cry little girl' song by the escapologist (later it's sung at the same time as My house, but can't really remember the latter or its time sig). Then there's the strange little song Trunchbull sings, about the dwarf folding paper hats with his mind ...and horses - I think that's in waltz time. But I thought I had spotted one or two others. Hmm - further pondering required.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I also want to write about the song Beauty (not in terms of its time signature, but rather its lyrics and melody - it's oddly haunting and elusive while at the same time niggly. It's not a hugely popular number - and I can see why, but I'm driven to delve into it further: at the point I thought I'd worked out what it meant, I suddenly realised that Tim knew only too well the inadequacy of what the song 'seems' to be saying, and that the critique is itself part of the intention - the listener isn't supposed to unquestioningly agree with the singer-persona. Superficial beauty isn't true beauty, surely? The deliberate irony of it being a song against beauty/ the ease of 'beauty', in music, which is itself beautiful, ( although sung by a man whose voice - while suitable for a rock god - is by no means a 'beautiful' one: I am left wondering what the song would be like if sung by someone like, say, Josh Groban? I would love to hear that.) yet it's at the same time jarring lyrically - and musically, although I'm not quite sure how - so that the emotional attachment to the song doesn't happen - hence the bemusement of audiences - how are we supposed to react? It enacts its thesis!

But he does do beauty, of course he does - he certainly moves people with songs like Not Perfect and White Wine in the Sun, both of which are songs with lovely melodies, plus quirkiness, lyrical beauty, integrity and depth: in a word, truth (while avoiding those dreaded cliches). Humour and Beauty need not be mutually exclusive: beauty need not be uber-sombre and serious, surely? Is it about sincerity? True Beauty should be sincere, perhaps? Is that the problem?

The problem, perhaps, is that of the 'Meta'-view mode of thinking - which has a distancing effect, rather than allowing oneself to be fully and wholeheartedly swept away by the thing itself. I detect a suspicion of profundity too.

But why is beauty described as a harlot? Harlotry to me implies a form of (self?) deception for an easy (no-strings) contractually-based emotional/sexual release.

So, is it about the economic rewards of the songs that Mr Sony would've preferred?

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Looking back and summing up (Sept-Dec 2010)

(This honestly isn't of interest to anyone except me - only posting it as a blog so I have it safely out there in the ether - it's just a summing up - in boring diary fashion - of my Sept-Dec 2010. I haven't done a proper TYSIC review of the year yet - will do a separate blog about that in due course.)

After posting my last blog about the trip to Stratford with Bob, I was surprised to notice the long gap prior to that - I hadn't blogged between late July 2010 and January 2011. I guess I must be unbloggy in the Autumn for some reason. So, for the sake of my own future curiosity about the rear end of 2010, I will attempt to dredge up some memories to prove that I was alive and doing stuff between September and December 2010. My diary is no help, unfortunately: a much regretted synch-error obliterated ALL my iphone calendar info, past and future, not long ago. That was annoying, to say the least! I have mainly used Facebook to reconstruct a diary of the period in question for myself.

25th (?) Went to see Mark Watson - see previous blog about that
26th - term finished, so finished work for the summer!
28th - Went to see Gutted, a Musical at the Lyric Riverside. Loved it! (got a free ticket from Michael Legge via Twitter!)

2 week holiday (1st-14th?) wth Bob & Cadi in Dorset. First week in a lovely little cottage, 2nd week in our tent. Did no sketching, except for Minchin related stuff (the top trump cards); also writing out & photo for the lyrics competition. Holiday was happy throughout, barring the stress of getting the tent down on final day, which led to a bit of a vegetable oil related row! There is a full holiday diary in hand-writtn form.

16th - Wynn fell & cut his shin v badly - ended up in Hampstead A&E - I drove over to be there for him, and to bring him home again; then took him back on 18th to have the wound properly stitched by plastic surgeon.

17th Went to see Warhorse with Jooles & Emma (Vikki working on it of course) - a fantastic show!!

19th - Gethin's A level results: he did pretty well (a tad better than Wynn, in fact!)
21st Trip to Cliveden with Bob & Cadi - a lovely walk in a NT place new to us
22nd - trip to Hitchin to see Caroline
? 24-25th Lewisham 1st trip to see Jooles, then 2nd trip (the next day?) to New Cross to take Wynn's stuff to his new flat
26th - Went to see Toy Story 3 (3D) on my own (cos Bob wasn't too keen)
28th - Went for family anniv meal with Bob & both boys - think we went to Charlotte's? (Bob & I also went blackberry picking, apparently)
29th Went to see Inception with Bob in the 'posh' cinema (Screen Vue in Westfield) - our first experience of the difference. Sooooo nice!

2nd Sept - Bob and I went to Lisa's for a celebratory Anniversary meal (21 years)
4th-5th Sept - Scout Family Camp - fun, despite feeling unwell: Campfire went pretty well, despite me feeling iffy.
8th - Dreadful play at Richmond theatre with Ian H (a Morse travesty) So bad it was fun!
Bob away for a week at a conference in Germany (returned 11th) - came back with a yearning to possess an expensive set of replica fossil models - I granted his wish in due course, despite the high price!
12th - met up with Caroline and Diane (who was over in London for a course)
15th - got to be a 'cover supervisor' with the class for an afternoon
21st Sept - went to see Dara O'Briain at Hammersmith Apollo- with my son Wynn. Very much enjoyed that.
22nd Sept - conclusion of extensive cosmetic dental treatment (started early Aug): very happy with the results! : well worth the money!
25-26 Sept: went to visit my Dad in Belfast cos he was in hospital. My brother also popped up for a quick visit on the Sunday.
Mon 26th - Live at the Apollo recording with Emma

2-3rd Oct: 2 dogs came to stay
10th - Hyde Park to view the half-marathon, with Emma & Jooles (met a certain runner)
? - 1st Jason Byrne radio recording - with Gethin & Lida
13th - Jason Byrne radio recording (on my own this time) - a much funnier show than last one
15th - Minchin & others at Union Chapel
16th - Storm premiere at TAM
23rd - great shopping trip for clothes with Bob (outfit for the wedding)
23rd (evening) Wynn was home for a visit - had a lovely long natter that evening.
26th Oct - Minchin preview gig at 100 Club (I think?): involved hanging around outside on pavement afterwards, rather than going to the pub....but quite good fun, with the other Feeters.

30th - went to see Burke & Hare with Bob, and really liked it (not sure which cinema - may just have been VIP seats in normal one, rather than Westfield Screen one)

31st - Went to see Minchin (along with others) at Lyric Hammersmith.

2nd - First there was a problem with the central heating (engineer came & fixed) and then the Dishwasher stopped working - engineer came, but took a while to get the needed part.
Sat 7th Nov - went to Stoke Poges (with Sandra) to see the Scout District's fireworks

Went to my niece's wedding in Cardiff on 20/11- with the whole family. Fell and fractured my arm while trying to have a shower in the (horrible) Travelodge the night before. Knew it was VERY sore, and very difficult to drive, but didn't realise there was a hairline fracture (cos I could wiggle my fingers). Wedding was lovely, despite my arm. The Hotel on the night of the wedding - the reception venue - was absolutely lovely. Drove us all home from Cardiff to London on the Sunday

Infinite Monkey Cage recording - 22/11 (the one with Minchin: I had also been to another IMC recording a couple of weeks before this - also v enjoyable)

27th - Cinema outing with Bob - the posh one again. Harry Potter

Frost Fair (with arm in a cast) - Fri 29th Nov
A week off work (while arm was in back-slab cast)
Back to work when arm in a full (pink!) cast.

Masterminded the Beavers (and Cubs presentation at Church Parade early in Dec. For once, I pre-cast and handed out scripts in advance - which made things a lot easier!

Masterminded Beaver & Cub Xmas show - rehearsal on 3rd, performance on 17th. It went pretty well, in the end!

11th December Went to see Matilda in Stratford-upon-Avon (by train, with Emma) cos unable to drive due to dodgy arm)

Went to see Tim Minchin at the O2 on 14th Dec, and then saw him again in Nottingham on Sat 18th Dec.

Jess (Wynn's girlfriend) joined us for Christmas, arriving on Christmas Eve. Had a nice Xmas eve meal that night (ham etc) - and then both Jess & Wynn came to Midnight Mass with me (Anglican, although Jess is RC).

Christmas Day was my happiest day of the whole year - and the best Christmas for many, many years! Cuddles were enjoyed! Gifts opened in suitable frenzy! Board games were played! TV was watched (Dr Who, new Bill Bailey DVD)! Vast amounts of delicious food was eaten! Sweets & chocs were consumed. Boxing Day was also delightful - particularly the walk (and sledging) up on Horsenden Hill in the snow with Jess & Wynn (Gethin was working so couldn't come along)

Jess attempted to leave on 27th, but 'bounced back' for an extra couple of days.

Mum and Dad arrived evening of 30th - and stayed with us till morning of 2nd Jan. A lovely visit. Included visit to Nat Hist Museum on 31st, to see the Wildlife Photography Exhib (both W & G came as well) Also a trip to Chiswick Park on 1st without the boys). Also watched all the Eric & Ernie progs on evening of 31st

Bob's birthday on 2nd Jan - after I got back from taking my parents to the airport, Bob, Wynn and I went up to the British Museum and had an amazing lunch at the restaurant there. Didn't got to any exhibitions in the end - instead did a spot of window & real shopping - mobile phone for Bob, visit to his favourite book shop, HMV, researching guitars for Wynn.... A really lovely day together.

Monday 3rd Jan - final day of holiday for me. No idea what we did: just lazing at home I think.
(Bob was off longer and went to Malvern with Wynn for a couple of days 4th/5th)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

What a very fine week-end!

Bob and I went to Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday (Sat 8th Jan 2011); we delivered Cadi to our friends, Nigel & Jill, then hit the road by 11am. A very quick drive up the M40 - with lots of happy nattering along the way - meant we got there by about 12.30. We left the car at our B&B in Shipston Rd, then took a rather a long - and BITTERLY cold - walk into town along the route of the old tramway.

First stop, the new RSC theatre, in search of lunch at the restaurant on the top floor, hoping for fine views while dining. Despite the best efforts of an annoying v large group of wrinklies, who seemed intent on 'bumping' us, we got a table (whereas they were turned away - ha!).

Sadly our table was sans view (there's an outer and inner circle and we had a wall between us and the windows (but I went a few steps to take in the INNER view - on the other side of us - of the sheer drop right down to the foyer - yikes! Bob chose not to look....) Nonetheless, it proved a good choice of eaterie. For starters Bob had sophisticated leek with blue cheese soup and I had a delectable salmon salad, then for main course I had an amazing vegetarian pearl barley risotto, while Bob had faggots (!) which he said were delicious. Couldn't resist dessert as well - I had a very modern version of lemon meringue with honeycomb mess (all in a little glass tumbler) whereas Bob just had vanilla icecream. Coffees to finish ofcourse.

We went to try to buy tickets to go up the theatre's tower, but I overheard someone in front of me in the long queue at the box office being told that the next timed ticket for the tower wasn't for at least 90 minutes, so we scrapped that idea and headed into town for a wander around instead.

I've been to Stratford many times, but it was Bob's first time. We didn't want to pay to go into any of the Shakespeare properties, but enjoyed seeing the many elizabethan buildings from the outside. Window shopping soon turned into actual shopping - and then some!

It's quite a haul:
First I got a lovely new necklace of polished stones (not cheap but reasonable) plus a pair of inexpensive silver celtic knot earrings in Past Times. Due to the cold, we then bought a hat for me - in Fat Tuesday I think. Next Bob bought a couple of books in Waterstones (one on unusual places in London, the other about the diet of early homo sapiens. We browsed the street market but managed not to buy anything there. Later, we sought a thank you gift (and a few souvenirs for ourselves) in the shop attached to Shakespeare's birthplace: I bought a fridge magnet, a thimble, several greeting cards, a Shakespearean canvas bag (!), souvenir sweets BUT DIDN'T BUY the cheesy Romeo & Juliet snowglobe: I thought Bob was joking, but he's been going on about not being allowed to get it ever since (although that may still be him teasing me, I'm not sure..)

A few doors up, we bought some typically touristy biscuits to take back for our dog-sitting friends. On the same (pedestrianised) street, a busking juggler's pet rabbit - called (predictably I suppose) Thumper - was roaming rather further than he was supposed to, but without ill effect.

Heading back down the main street, the gravitational pull of a couple of clothes shops advertising their January sales proved too strong. In the end, (after a trying on session, with Bob in traditional position sitting at the changing room entrance, giving his verdict on each item) we bought me: an embroidered cardigan, 2 tops and a long scarf. Like a child with new shoes, I switched as soon as having paid and wore the cardigan and scarf for the rest of the day.

Cup of tea and a bit of a rest in an ok tea room (the elizabethan building itself was lovely, with sloping floorboards, but the victoria sponge was horrid, unfortunately). This was followed by a browse in a fantastic second hand book shop - Bob found a very reasonably priced 1st edition of some book he knew, while I bought quite an expensive book about Morcembe and Wise (Bring me Sunshine).

Next was the search for a pre-theatre light meal. Old Town House, and the place next to it, had no space, so we just headed straight for the Courtyard Theatre and ate in the little cafe there - didn't really want a big meal anyway, after our big meal at lunchtime- baked potatoes with filling (and a glass of wine for me) was just right.

Had a little look in the theatre's Matilda shop - I bought a Matilda fridge magnet and an RSC canvas bag - and then we found a chair (one between the two of us) to wait in the foyer.

The show itself was wonderful - we were sitting in the circle, although right round at the side. I liked seeing everything from above this time, although I wasn't crazy about the side-on angle, and it seemed much harder to make out the lyrics of the songs this time, which I thought was due to the sound being not so well balanced for that part of the auditorium. Bob was tired and feeling slightly under pressure, cos he was aware that I was really hoping he would like it. Nonetheless he did enjoy and like it - 'just not as much as you do', as he put it.

A quick icecream at the interval, but no chance of getting a drink from the bar (I'd forgotten to order anything beforehand). By the end, Bob and I were both swelteringly hot and rather thirsty. Narrowly avoiding Bob's tiredness-tetchiness turning into out-and-out grumpiness, we rather enjoyed the quite long walk back to the B&B in the cold night air, with a totally clear sky filled with stars, pausing only to identify a few constellations, and to pick up a couple of soft drinks from an all-night garage.

To sleep, perchance to dream.... Nice comfy bed in a perfectly adequate B&B - but Bob had been spoilt by his (discounted) night in a lovely hotel (The MountPleasant) in Malvern last week (which I had also booked for him & Wynn, I might add!), so he was intent on teasing me for my penny-watching ways. Next week-end away, he says, we must go for the posh hotel option (yikes!)

The next morning, we enjoyed a nice leisurely start to the day, and had a full English breakfast, to set us up for the day. We then had to do lots of ice-scrapping before setting off in the car by a different, more scenic, route home - via the Cotswolds. We hadn't planned on much of a stop, but when we saw the signs pointing towards the Cotswolds Wildlife Park, we decided to go & have a look. Not cheap to get in, but we went ahead - and I'm very glad we did - we thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and plan to go back sometime in the summer months as well. Despite the bright sun it was jolly cold, and Bob (in true gentlemanly fashion) lent me his hoodie as an extra layer. As a result he was barely warm enough (despite his 4 remaining layers!). I was cosy, except for my toes.

Can't begin to remember all the cute, the ugly, the fascinating and the bizarre creatures we saw. I was surprised by how active so many of the animals seemed to be - they seemed to be enjoying the sunshine as much as we were. I think our joint favourite was the group of Pallas Cats - an ancient species of wild cat that looks like a particularly cuddly but slightly grumpy domestic cat. But the Red Panda came a close 2nd. Oh and the penguins, the meerkats, the lemurs, the warty pig (!), the giant tapir, huge snakes, fruit bats, white rhino, cameleons.... The wolves were amazing too, but rather sad and disturbing, as they were pacing in a repetitive, institutionalised fashion - and were in an enclosure that didn't really seem large enough for them.

We had a spot of lunch in the little cafe - just soup and a roll was enough after such a big breakfast. Having indulged in a final bit of retail therapy (just another thimble, Cotswolds honey for our friends and some sweets for later) we took to the road and the drive back to London didn't take as long as we expected - we were back shortly before 3pm! Having helped Wynn to find his passport number, I collapsed and had a post-drive nap for an hour before going to collect the dog and then taking Wynn to the tube (too tired to drive him all the way to New Cross!)