Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dance me to the end...

I can hardly sit still, I'm so excited. All year, I've looked forward to this night, this journey, this hand on my arm, this man at my side. Sometimes I wish that the Willow Manor Ball came along more often, but in truth, the waiting is part of the fun, and I don't know how I would manage to do this much shopping more than once a year. Not that I haven't enjoyed every wild, extravagant moment of it. I mean, a Cartier bracelet! Can you believe it?  What I love about this bracelet, by the way, is that it's really a watch, so when I'm dressing for the ball, watching for my escort (I'll tell you later who that is, but I've already given you a clue!) I can sneak a look at the watch to see how much time I have left.

My dress isn't complicated, thank goodness. This year I went for a young, romantic look, because I know how much that kind of silhouette complements my slim figure and my long, glossy hair. I chose my dress quite early, because I fell in love with it at first sight, but I wasn't sure what colour I wanted it to be until I found these earrings. Bingo! I thought at first that I would choose the pewter colour in the centre for my dress, and I still love that colour, but after all, this is a party, and a party calls for colour, so I've decided on the blue.

Then I went looking for shoes. That took some serious shopping. Do you have any idea how many fabulous pairs of shoes there are? I finally got it down to two pairs, but I couldn't make up my mind between them, so I bought both. This morning, I took out the two pairs of shoes and had a long talk with myself (and with them, actually, but don't tell anyone!) Suddenly, I was absolutely sure which pair I wanted to wear. Aren't these gorgeous?

And now, the pièce de résistance -- my wonderful, beautiful, stunning, absolutely unforgettable dress.

Just picture it in that luminous blue -- at least for now. Soon, very soon, there will be a knock at the door, and I will open it to greet my date, and we will be on our way to the manor, and all this will be real, not just images on a screen.

I mentioned my hair, didn't I? Well, this is the arrangement I decided on. My hairdresser has done herself proud. I promised to bring her some photographs from the ball. I just hope there will be an official photographer, because I don't know where I'd hide a camera in my gown!

The only really bright colour I'll be wearing is on my fingernails. I've fallen in love with nail art.
Even my mask will be understated. I want to waft through the room like a whisper, or like something you can't quite remember, but can't quite forget. Do you think I've captured that look?

All right. The time has come. He is at the door, looking distinguished, somehow looking mature and yet as youthful as when we first met.

Yes, it's Leonard Cohen. When he called, I confess that I played hard-to-get for a few minutes, but that was just until he promised to sing to me at the ball. Then I smiled and said that of course I would go with him.  He returned my smile, because he knew all along what I wanted.

Now we're off. We have the Lear jet, of course, and the limo at the other end, but it's still a long trip to the Manor, so we had better get going. Oh, look. Champagne. How thoughtful!

You know what I want Leonard to sing, don't you?

*Except for the photo of Leonard Cohen, which is a Google image, and the Willow Manor Ball badge, which is used by permission, all these images come from Pinterest, my department store of choice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Be it ever so humble....

Yes, we are at home. We decided not to spend the night in Vancouver last night, because we wanted our own pillows; we got home some time after 7:00 p.m. and managed to stay up until 9:00. That was 22.5 hours after we got up, so we figured we had done our best.

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. and watched television for a while; then went back to sleep, only to wake up at 5:00 a.m., absolutely famished. I headed for the kitchen, figuring there might be something edible there, even though we had been gone for a month: and there was Robin, out in the back room, gathering up some tomatoes that he had left to ripen. They had indeed ripened, so both of us carried tomatoes to the kitchen, made sandwiches, ate them, and went back to bed. I finally surfaced at 9:00 a.m., and I've had a great day.  Robin's jet lag is worse than mine, this time. Maybe that's because instead of trying to take a nap this afternoon, I went for a pedicure. I can wholeheartedly recommend the pedicure (with foot and calf massage, of course) as the perfect post-flight experience. It is after 6:00 p.m. and I am just starting to feel sleepy.

I've already been online, looking at cottages to rent next year. We probably won't do another narrowboat trip this coming fall, or stay in a hotel. I did not enjoy being without a kitchen during our hotel stay, and Robin is thinking that if we were to have weather next year like what we had this time, he'd just as soon not be standing outside, steering a boat. I'm excited at the prospect of having a home of our own for the month and taking our usual day trips.

Meanwhile, we will be heading to Texas in January, and before that, there's NaNoWriMo to keep me busy. And work, of course.

Thank you for following my English adventure story. I hope you'll come back to hear about the Turtle's next voyage.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Far from the Madding Crowd

We were indeed far from the madding crowd, at least for a little while. Our journey today: Lyndhurst to Burley to Picket Post to Verwood to Three-Legged Cross to Bere Regis to Tolpuddle to Puddletown to Higher Bockhampton.....

And here we had a respite from our travels, because here, at last, we found the Hardy Monument -- not the huge monument on the hill. We found that several years ago, and I wrote about it here. I said then that I would make a pilgrimage to the Real Thomas Hardy's monument on my next visit, but that was three years ago, and it took until today for me to realize my ambition. When we got to Higher Bockhampton, we made our way to the car park and saw that we could walk through the woods to the cottage in which Thomas Hardy was born. We did that; the path led uphill through a lovely, serene [if muddy] wood, then down, down to the cottage -- and, across the lane from the cottage, the monument I'd been seeking. This monument is about a tenth the size of the one honouring Captain Hardy, but it is tasteful, and when you've been looking for it for years, it looks pretty good.

As we walked through the woods, I thought about the fact that this was where Hardy wrote Far from the Madding Crowd, and where, I imagine, his world-view developed. This was the landscape that formed him. I found a tree that I dubbed the greenwood tree, though that was my own fancy. I don't know what particular tree, if any, Hardy had in mind -- or Shakespeare, either. I kept thinking: Hardy walked here; Hardy stopped and took in this view.

When we got back to the car, we drove just a few minutes to Dorchester, in search of the elusive Costa Coffee. We found it with no trouble at all, actually. The trick is to go to a town big enough to have one.

My next pilgrimage will be to Max Gate, the house that Hardy designed. We were probably a couple of blocks from it today, but by the time we got to Dorchester, we were beginning to look at our watches. We wanted to get to Portland Bill, just for the view, and time was short -- so off we went. Max Gate will have to wait until next year.

Okay, then. Our trip continued: Dorchester to Winterborne to Weymouth to Portland. Up the hill and out to the point, from which, since the day was indeed clear, we could see forever.

We couldn't stay long, but we just had to see this view once before our holiday was over. After Portland, we retraced our steps as far as Bere Regis, then veered off through Wimborne Minster, Ferndown, Ringwood, Burley, and finally home to Lyndhurst.

I do love English place names.

Tomorrow, we'll turn in our rental car and take the train to Richmond, where we will spend the night with a friend who will take us to the airport on Monday. There might be a bit of silence here at the Turtle tomorrow, because our friend doesn't have a computer. (!) On the other hand, maybe I'll find my way to a Costa Coffee and post from there.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gliding through the Cotswolds

It did not rain today. Well, it sprinkled for a few minutes, late this afternoon, but for the most part we had bright sunshine. When David got the word that his glider flight was on, he called us; picked us up in Lyndhurst; and drove us all the way (about two hours) to Shenington in  Oxfordshire, where we found  Shenington Gliding Club.  There was a brisk wind, but apparently that wasn't a problem. People had been gliding happily all morning, and now it was David's turn.

I half suspected that Robin would want to fly, but he was happy to stand with me and watch. David was given very thorough pre-flight instructions; then he donned a parachute, climbed into a glider with his instructor, and leapt into the sky. This club uses a powerful winch to get its gliders airborne. I had never seen that before, and I found it both exhilarating and a bit shocking to watch.

We understood that they would probably be in the air for about seven minutes, but in fact they stayed aloft for seventeen minutes, time enough to get a splendid view of the Oxfordshire countryside. I was shivering, so I went into the bus that serves as an office/waiting room, and I watched the glider wafting overhead. A few minutes later, I was still watching the glider when I happened to glance over to the field, and there was David, walking along, helping to guide the plane back into its parking place. I had been mistakenly watching the glider that took off a few minutes after David's did -- so I missed photographing his landing.

The photos I took, however, were definitely of David's plane. I was still standing outside at that time.

While I was waiting for the flight, I took a few photos of the surrounding countryside. David must have had a fabulous view from up in the sky.

When David landed, we drove back to the village of Wroxton and stopped at the hotel there to have a snack before we drove back to Hampshire. David and Sheila spent a couple of nights there back in the spring, when David tried unsuccessfully to take his glider flight. This was not the best of years for gliding -- until today.

Wroxton Best Western

Believe it or not, this is a Best Western  Hotel. We sat in a quiet lounge there;  I drank green tea, ate a salad sandwich, and warmed up. Then we walked across the road to visit a thatched church -- the first of those I remember seeing, ever. It was a Roman Catholic church called St. Thomas of Canterbury, and its front door was open; so we went in.

It turned out to have beautiful stained glass windows; something that wasn't obvious from the outside.

Finally, we headed for home, rather dreading the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. As it turned out, the traffic wasn't too bad, and we got back to Lyndhurst by dinnertime.

Tomorrow, we're expecting more good weather, so there may well be a trip to Dorset and another local football in our personal forecast.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something Old, Something New

I chose my  title in reference to this photo; it depicts HMS Warrior and, behind that, the Spinnaker Tower; but I might just as well have named it Robin Thursday, because this was definitely Robin's day.

It was raining when we got up this morning, and we weren't quite sure what to do. In the end, we went to Portsmouth to tour the ships. When we got to the historic waterfront area, I immediately got testy, because I couldn't see a Costa Coffee Shop, and there was no way I was going to go looking at war ships without a cup of coffee in me. "Where's Costa?" I cried. "I need a Costa Coffee!" But there was no Costa to be seen -- until we gave up and went into the building where we had to buy our tickets, and there it was. We drank our coffee, bought our tickets, and found out that our admission price included a harbour tour. The boat was to leave in ten minutes, so we got into the queue right away. For the moment, it wasn't raining, so we thought we would seize that moment. It was a good thing we did. We had about a 40-minute window of dryness before the sky opened again, and the cruise was 50 minutes long.

When we got off the tour boat, we scurried over to the Mary Rose Museum, where we found out that today was the 30th anniversary of the raising of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's favourite ship. The museum is in a bit of a schmozzle right now, because there is a new museum under construction, and a lot of the exhibits have been moved over there. The new museum is a dome; it is being built around and over the hull of the Mary Rose, quite a bit of which is intact. We watched a film about the ship and about the archaeological work that has been done over the last thirty years; and we had a look at what exhibits there were. One that interested me was the display of pocket sundials.  I had no idea there was ever such a thing as a pocket sundial, but by golly, there was.

Next on our list was HMS Victory, which involved a slog through the rain. Once aboard, though, we were mostly dry. There is a plaque that marks the spot where Lord Nelson was standing when he was shot.  My tour consisted of looking around, thinking [gun gun gun gun] Oh, look! A bucket. [gun gun gun gun] Oh, there's an officer's bed! [gun gun gun gun] Oh, my! Look at that writing desk.

I am not the best companion on tours of war ships. I pay attention to all the wrong stuff.

After walking through HMSVictory, we swam ran to HMS Warrior, a considerably newer, ironclad, steam/sail vessel. Again, there was some lovely china in the captain's quarters -- but my camera's batteries died suddenly, long before their time, so I don't have photos. (Next time, I'm going back to Eveready!) And by the time we finished that tour, even Robin had had enough of climbing up and down companionways while wearing water-soaked clothing. We drove home through a driving rainstorm on the M27, came gratefully into our hotel room, decorated its radiators with our various items of outerwear, and breathed great sighs of relief.

Later, we ventured out for a Chinese dinner down the street -- it had stopped raining, finally -- and still later, we went out to the pub with friends. The day ended a whole lot better than it started!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cars, Ferries, Trains, and Even a Bicycle!

Today's adventure started with a drive through the New Forest to Hythe. We parked the car there and walked to the Hythe Ferry terminal, which is just what we did on the day we were married. Again today we rode the little electric train from the terminal to the end of the 640-meter pier and boarded the ferry for the 10-12 minute ride to Southampton. On our wedding day, I made the trip in full wedding regalia, and I felt like royalty. Everybody wanted to wish me well and shake my hand. This time, I was dressed much less formally, but the trip was still fun. Robin and I sat in the second-to-last compartment on the train. Another couple sat in the last compartment, but there was no wall between us -- just different sets of wooden benches. When we were perhaps halfway down the pier, a man rode past us on a bicycle, only the top half of him visible; moving just barely faster than we were, so that he reminded us of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the witch bicycles past Dorothy in the middle of the tornado. We burst out laughing. That was a great way to start our journey.

When we got off the ferry in Southampton, we immediately boarded the Isle of Wight ferry (the slow one) for the trip to Cowes. That took about 50 minutes; I enjoyed reading my book along the way; when we got off, we discovered that we were in East Cowes. Oops. We really wanted to be in West Cowes. By land, we would have had to take a bus all the way to Newport, then back to Cowes, which would have taken at least an hour. It turned out that there is a chain ferry running from right beside the ferry terminal -- and it's free! So we boarded the chain ferry and rode across the open sea to West Cowes, a journey of about three minutes' duration.

We walked along the esplanade to Egypt Point; watching the birds, boats, and ships ply the water; huddling against a biting wind; keeping a watchful eye on the darkening sky. Along the way, we stopped to eat the pasties that we had bought down by the pier. I took pictures of everything except the pasties.

After a brief rest at the outward end of our walk, we turned around and walked back to the pier, caught the fast ferry, and rode back to Southampton in 25 minutes. This ride was much bouncier than the first one. I did not read. From there, it was another 10-12 minutes back to Hythe. When we got off the ferry, Robin rode the train back to the terminal, but I walked the length of the pier so that I could find the plank we had had carved. [I should explain that a sand dredge ran into the pier a few years ago -- a case of drunk driving -- and there was a campaign to raise funds for the repair of the pier. That's how we came to have a plank of our very own.]

A quick stop at Waitrose for groceries; another ride through the forest; and here we are, safe and sound in Lyndhurst.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A Day Off

Today was another family day. We didn't go to visit any cathedrals or cities, or do anything exciting, really -- just climbed into the car and went to Hythe in the rain, had a good long (and happy) chat, and came home in the rain. That being the case, I decided to take the day off from blogging. I mean, really, how much do you folks want to know about a day like that?

Then it occurred to me that this might be the time to display some photographs that didn't make it into the posts of the days on which they were taken (and probably some that did, but which I've forgotten posting).

So here goes:

First of all, here us one of the bridges
that we encountered along the canal.
The thing about these bridges is that they seem big when you're crossing them, but when you approach them in a boat, they appear to shrink, so that by the time you get to them, they're about the size of a can of soup. You may also notice that on one side, the tow path pokes out from the wall, giving you one more obstacle to avoid.
I seem to have a thing for reflections.

These poor horses were as wet as we were, but they had no central heating out in the field.

So were these guys, but they didn't seem to mind.


St. Michael (Coventry Cathedral)


Rugby School

Rugby High Street (pedestrian mall)

Captain Robin

What a lovely day that was.

Driving in the New Forest is always an adventure

In St. Michael's Churchyard, Lyndhurst

And finally, this little video I shot on the Isle of Wight. I could have stood and watched the water for hours.

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