Sunday 28 June 2015

A Narnia Experience

Hello, thank you for popping in. Have you had lovely weather this weekend?  Tick.  Have you stayed up late watching Glastonbury and/or the football on the tellybox?  Tick.  I am pooped.  I have had a busy weekend, visiting the Shrewsbury Food Festival yesterday and Narnia today.  Please allow me to explain.

If you are wondering what on earth I am talking about, The Chronicles of Narnia are a series of seven children's books written by C.S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s, the most famous of them probably being The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  I read the books when I was twelve years old and I loved them, I saw TLTW&TW at the Westminster Theatre in London in the 1980s and I watched the BBC television series not many years later.  More recently, films have been made but I haven't seen them, possibly because my children thought they were too old or possibly because I'm a bit of a purist!  


Oh come on, surely you knew that I would still have them? 
So, when we were invited to a Narnia Experience at St Lucia's Church in the village of Upton Magna, I couldn't resist and nor could some of my friends: eleven of us went, aged 4 to 70something. 
From the outside, the church looks like this -
However, once we had been ushered through the wardrobe doors and past the fur coats hanging on the rail - if you are familiar with the story you will understand why we had to enter this way - the inside of the church had been transformed to look like this -
People gasped.  A lot of hard work had gone into this and I reckon that every artificial Christmas tree in the village is now in the church.  We were ushered round by stewards as the story unfolded in a performance by adults and children which lasted for about 45 minutes.  There was a LOT of applause at the end.  However, that was not the end of our Narnia Experience.
Back in the community centre, there was tea and cake, good cake -

£1.50 for a cup of tea and a slice of cake like this -

That's not all, there were also family craft activities: I could have made a lion mask like Aslan, a set of panpipes or a shield like Peter's -

Two of us painted rather lovely plaster animals.  These were apparently made by a dental technician, hence the perfect attention to detail -

 I could have had my face painted.  This teenager painted her arm -

As I said, I could have had my face painted, but I didn't.  However, two of us couldn't resist it, especially the lovely lion who had never had her face painted before!
And the cost of all this fun?  £2.50 for adults, £1 for children.  It was less than half the price of yesterday's outing and I had more fun.  So thank you to everyone involved, to Di for inviting us, to St Lucia's for hosting.  They are holding a Narnia-themed family service at 9.30am next Sunday, 5th July, if you fancy it (I'm afraid I can't make it). 
What a weekend: to Shrewsbury and back again via Narnia, with Glasto thrown in on the tellybox! 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 27 June 2015

An Afternoon in Shrewsbury

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I am still on a post-meringue-success high.  Today the sun has shone and we have been on a family outing to Shrewsbury.  I thought you might like to see where we have been - I should warn you that this is a photo-heavy post so if you need to make yourself comfortable, do it now, before we go any further.  As ever, you can click on any photo to see it enlarged if you want to.
Shrewsbury is our lovely county town and sits within a loop of the River Severn.  First of all, shall we deal with the matter of pronunciation?  When I was a child I was taught that the proper way to pronounce the name of this town I had never visited was, despite its spelling, Shroesbury, so when I moved to Shropshire I was surprised to discover that everyone I met called it Shroosbury.  Since then, I have met some residents who call it Shroesbury and it might be a class thing.  I say Shroosbury and so does The Teacher, who lives there. 
We parked by the river, near the English Bridge - there is a Welsh Bridge too, on the other side of the town. 

As we walked along the path beside the river we came across a few of these plaques -

The Wakeman School and Arts College closed in 2013 and this is its legacy to Shrewsbury: between 1983 and 2013 every student at the school made a ceramic tablet which depicted a window or building in the town.  Most of them collected their work before they left the school but about 1,000 of them never did and so these have been mounted and are displayed inside and outside buildings all over the town.  It's called the Wakeman Trail. 
A bit further along, this "window" made me smile -
Can you see why?  It's not a window at all, it's painted on in the space where the window was!  These steps led up to the bridge -
but we didn't climb them, we carried on along the path under the bridge - phew! there were no trolls - and then stopped to look back at the bridge itself -
Can you see the fish in the stonework by the arch?  Now for the obligatory pic of cute cygnets on the river -
This pub on the opposite bank seemed busy and it looked as if some of its customers had travelled there by boat -
See how the residents of these houses are making the most of their steep riverside gardens
And this daughter of a former rower was delighted to see these young men travel past -
 We turned away from the river and towards the town when we reached The Quarry, the town's public park -
At last we had reached our destination: the Shrewsbury Food Festival.  We paid our £6 entrance fee and entered the park. 
There were stalls all around the edges of the park as well as in the middle.  They were selling food, drinks and crafts and I didn't take enough pictures.  There were bands playing on a stage and there was a climbing wall.  And there was some very cute pork and beef "on the hoof" -
Look at this: it's a van with a wood-fired pizza oven inside! -
On such a warm, sunny day I was very glad of a delicious lemonade and lime from this stall
While we were queueing I saw a girl wearing a lovely skirt so I asked her if I could photograph it and she agreed! -
And then we saw our favourite ice-cream van.  Florence is a converted VW split-screen camper van dating from 1966 -
And the reason we are so fond of her?  She came to The Teacher's and Flashman's wedding last summer and was quite a hit. 
The festival is still on tomorrow if you are in the vicinity and you fancy it.  You can find out more here.  I shan't be there because I am going to Narnia.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Midsummer Day

Hello, thank you for dropping in, and thank you for the kind comments some of you left on my last post.  I really do read and appreciate all of them.

The year has turned. Sunday 21st June was the day of the solstice - summer here in the northern hemisphere, winter if you are south of the equator.  The days are now shortening here, each sunrise coming a little later than yesterday's.

And today, 24th June, is Midsummer Day.  It feels a little odd that 21st June is the first day of summer, astronomically speaking, and we celebrate the middle of summer only three days later!  Our summers are not really six days long.  But it does seem that summer is really here now: we have had sunshine and warm (but not hot) days and the garden is blooming; the end of the school term is looming; The Mathematician has returned from university (and is wondering how to fit everything she has brought back with her into her bedroom).  Here is the sky two hours after sunrise on this Midsummer morning -

I have often thought before that I would like to celebrate Midsummer Day but it's difficult when it falls on a school day and I really do think that it should be celebrated on the actual day.  This year, however, I decided to do it.  I know that bonfires are the traditional way to celebrate midsummer but it wasn't really practical.  In some European countries floral wreaths are worn, but that didn't seem practical either, and I would rather look at flowers in the garden or in a vase for a week or more than woven into a wreath that wouldn't last longer than a day. However, we need to eat and a special meal seemed the way forward, so I did a bit of research and what I came up with was...strawberries.  Just the thing, I thought, they sing of England in summertime as well as being essential to the celebrations in some other countries. 

Normally I am happy to eat these just as they are, but I wanted something a bit celebratory.  I considered shortbread - my mother makes shortbread and serves it with strawberries and cream during the summer and it is yummy, but I wanted something more cakey.  I considered a Victoria sponge, very English and a match made in heaven, but I didn't have enough butter (and yes, when I make it, I always use butter).  And then the perfect idea formed in my head: midsummer mini pavlova!   I know that Pavlova was invented in New Zealand but meringue, cream and strawberries are the ingredients for Eton Mess which is surely English.  I could make some individual meringues, I thought, whip up some cream and artistically and abundantly strew with strawberries. 
Except that I have never made meringue before.
But with Nigella (Lawson) on my side and the necessary ingredients in the kitchen, I whipped up these beauties.  Well, OK, they do look a bit rustic, but I am DEAD PROUD of myself. 

And the verdict from The Best Beloved and The Mathematician?  "No soggy bottoms, not too's a good bake." A GOOD BAKE!!!!  Get me!  (If you are not familiar with The Great British Bake Off I regret that this will make no sense to you.  Sorry.)
At this point I should like you to know that when The Best Beloved came in from work and found me preparing strawberries with the meringues cooling on the side he said, "Just like a proper wife."  I pointed out to him that I was holding a very sharp knife (and I was aware that he didn't really mean it).  And I should like to point out to you that he comes home from work every evening to a dinner cooked by me.
So, what did my midsummer mini pavlova look like once assembled (for which the credit must go to The Mathematician)?  Are you ready?  Ta-dah -
Served in the best bowls.  See how the tablecloth co-ordinates with the dish?  Do not on any account go thinking that that was accidental!
Now then, in my Midsummer Vision we would be eating this outside in the garden.  Yesterday we ate dinner in the garden and sat there awhile afterwards with mugs of post-dinner Earl Grey, chatting and relaxing, enjoying the balmy evening and the buzzing of the buzzy creatures.  It was the first time we have been able to do that this year and it was an absolute treat.  The sky looked like this -

Today, however, is a different matter.  The sky is cloudy and grey and the dining area in the garden is definitely not beckoning us to "come hither".  We ate indoors because we are sensible.  That midsummer mini pavlova was flippin' delicious.  But later, as I have done every evening this week, I went outside to look at the Midsummer sunset.  Here it is -

I had an idea that I would end this post with a quote from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and this one leapt out at me:
My soul is in the sky.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 19 June 2015

Five On Friday

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  Summer is almost here and at last it's warm and sunny!  Today I am joining in with Amy at Love Made My Home  so if you have time and you fancy it, please hop over and see who else is joining the party today.
Today I am going to share with you five things which I have been enjoying in my garden this week.

1.  Weigela

We are very fond of this plant for two reasons: firstly, the bees love it and I love to watch them flying in and out of those bee-shaped bells.  I am very keen on bees.  Secondly, this plant was given to us by the Best Beloved's grandmother, a very keen gardener who we called Nana, grown from a cutting she took from a shrub in her garden.  Nana used to have a little knife and a plastic bag in her handbag for surreptitious (and possibly illegal) cutting-taking wherever she went.  We loved her very much and although she died almost sixteen years ago, it's lovely to have her still with us in this plant.  It's been in flower for several weeks and is going over now, carpeting the grass beneath with petals, but there will be more flowers in September.
2.  Aquilegia

These are almost finished now but I do love them.  We bought one years ago and it has generously and cheerfully seeded itself all over the place.  You may know them as Granny's Bonnets but my favourite name for them is Columbine. 
3. Geranium

Not pelargoniums but hardy geraniums.  These have spread like wildfire and I should have cut them back but I couldn't bear to because the bees love them so much.  They are by the patio and the gentle buzz of bees going about their work is very soothing as I sit with a cool glass of something/soothing mug of tea. They will flower all summer so they are good value, and these are special because they came from my parents' garden.  Thanks, Dad.
4. Philadelphus

I planted this for it's smell as much as it's looks, it's absolutely swoony.  The flowers only began to open a few days ago and should keep going for several weeks, so I am looking forward to sitting in the summerhouse with the doors open, breathing in the wonderful fragrance.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!
5. Sunsets
We have had some absolutely stunning sunsets this week.  Here's one of mine -
I wasn't at home on Wednesday evening so I rang the Best Beloved at 9.15pm and asked him to go outside straight away and photograph the sky!  This is what he took with his DSLR -  
Finally, here is the view from the garden last night, taken on my little Canon -

So there you are, five things I have enjoyed in my little haven this week and thank you for letting me share them with you, especially if you have come here via Amy's Five on Friday.  I shall be back over the weekend with news of an exhibition I went to last night, so hope to see you then.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x