strange_complex: (La Dolce Vita Trevi)
I'd never been on a hen-do before yesterday, and I don't think my introduction to the tradition was entirely a typical one either. But I enjoyed myself enormously marking [ profile] ms_siobhan's impending nuptials.

Gathering in York )

Afternoon tea )

Evening dinner )

Drunken but charming emo boy )

Sunday leisure )

ETA: Oh, by the way - did anyone who was in the restaurant find a purple scarf when you left? I'm pretty sure I left it on the floor by my chair. No worries if not - I think it only cost 99p in the first place. But it was deliciously soft and fluffy and a very lovely shade of purple... :-(

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
On Saturday, I reached the grand old age of thirty-two, and went on an outing to Castle Howard to celebrate. I had [ profile] redkitty23 and her partner, Vincent, as house-guests for the weekend (en route to a Primatology conference in Edinburgh), so we were able to pile into Anna's cute little retro-style Fiat 500, swoop [ profile] big_daz up from Wortley, and head off out into the countryside.

At first, we were guided on our way by 'Ken', the Australian voice on Anna's Tom Tom, but he unfortunately let us down by taking us straight into an all-but-stationary traffic jam going past York. Luckily, however, we had an alternative Yorkshire navigation system available to us: Daz Daz, armed with Local Knowledge and a road atlas. And so it was that we found ourselves bowling through Georgian brick-built villages and along sunlit country lanes, listening to The Cure while our hair whipped around in an invigorating breeze, and only got to Castle Howard half an hour later than Ken had said we would. [ profile] snapesbabe and [ profile] matgb, alas, were not so lucky, and despite gallant efforts to join us were eventually forced to turn back before they had even arrived. :-(

And this was a great pity, not only because it deprived me of the opportunity to lust over their new purple Ka, but also because Castle Howard is ace! It really is a stately home par excellence, with expansive grounds, beautiful formal gardens, fountains, peacocks, endless opulent drawing rooms, rococo furniture, plutocratic portraits and so on. But I think what I liked best about it was the extensive collections of Classical sculpture (which seemed to go on and on in every hallway and corridor), and the answering neo-Classicism of the building itself and the works of art which adorned it. It began to feel as though you couldn't turn a corner without seeing something Classical or Classically-inspired: which is quite frankly exactly how I think the world should be. ;-)

Anyway, a day like that is probably best told in pictures, rather than words, so here are some of my favourite photos from our outing )

... and if you liked those, you can see the full gallery here.

As we left in the late afternoon (Ken still relegated to the boot in favour of Daz Daz), Anna suggested that we should eat out in the evening. I'd planned to cook us a casserole, but who would cook on their birthday when friends were offering to take them out instead, eh? So we ended up at Jino's, where we guzzled delicious Thai food, and the waiters put a candle in my ice-cream when Anna told them it was my birthday, and then returned home to mine for frighteningly potent cocktails.

Presents were mainly books from my family, but Anna got me a beautiful orchid, while Daz (who clearly knows me far too well) got me an enamel K-9 pendant like the ones shown below (just one, though!), and my parents got me a Tiffany floor lamp to go in my dining-room:

Presenty goodness )

So, all told, an excellent day, and some nice mementos of it to take away with me. So far, I'm enjoying being 32. It feels like a nice solid, self-confident age to be - properly into my 30s, in contrast to 31, which felt a bit apologetic about it. It's also a multiple of eight, which I've always thought of as being 'my' number - not necessarily my lucky number, but just the number that signifies me. As being born on the 2nd of the 8th and growing up in a house with the number 82 will tend to make you think...

Here's to my thirty-secondthird year on this planet, then. I intend to make the most of it.

Chez Handel

Saturday, 29 July 2006 19:32
strange_complex: (Handel)
On Wednesday, I visited the Handel House Museum with [ profile] redkitty23, who had not seen it before, and specifically the current Castrati exhibition, which neither of us had seen before.

I think the best bit was the three large portraits of Farinelli, Senesino and Guadagni, all lined up in rich, colourful and self-assured glory in Handel's rehearsal room. But I also enjoyed the general sense which the exhibition conveyed of the extraordinary range of castrati singers Handel had worked with, as well as being in a place where lots of people were getting to listen to Alessandro Moreschi singing for the first time (on a CD in the main exhibition room). [ profile] redkitty23 was underwhelmed: "He sounds drunk," she said. But at least she had the chance to listen to him and forge a reaction. Meanwhile, those who were more taken by him had the opportunity to buy the OPAL CD of his surviving recordings and Nicholas Clapton's book in the gift shop.

There was a worst bit, too, though: the very tedious woman on duty in Handel's bedroom, who just could not shut up and let us take in the atmosphere of the house in peace. I mean, I get that she knew lots of stuff about Handel and wanted to share it with us. But I already knew practically everything she said anyway, and she just didn't pick up on hints such as giving very short answers and not making any eye contact which were supposed to convey to her that I just wanted her to leave me alone and let me experience the sense of Handel's presence in my own way. Interestingly, when I began mentioning this on the phone to my Mum, who had visited the exhibition in the spring, she immediately said, "Oh, I know exactly the woman you mean: she really was irritating, wasn't she?" It made me realise that my experience probably wasn't unique, and think that perhaps I should write an email to the people who run the house, just politely pointing out that although some visitors might welcome a very chatty and enthusiastic guide, others prefer to be left to themselves. I'm sure that woman wouldn't want to think that she is actually having a negative impact on some people's experience of the house, and a polite word or two about how to tell the difference between people who want to talk and people who just want to look might help to prevent that in future.

Wednesday was also one of the hottest days of the week, which perhaps wasn't the most sensible time to go down to a big, dusty, busy city. In fact, we went shopping in the afternoon around Oxford Circus, and I wasn't at all surprised to hear on the news that the following day many of the shops we had visited had had to close due to power-cuts caused by too high a demand on air-conditioning systems. Still, we managed, and although we didn't really buy anything in the end, we had a very nice lunch (mmm, grilled halloumi!) and some much-needed iced coffees before getting on the train.

That was probably the last visit I'll make to London before I go off up to Leeds: but definitely a good one.

La Sorella

Sunday, 21 August 2005 20:45
strange_complex: (Default)
Well, my sister, Charlotte and her partner, Nicolas, should be in the air on their way home to England now. We had a really enjoyable weekend together: for them, mainly exploratory; for me, nostalgic.

On the Saturday, we took a coach tour up along the east coast of NI to the Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and other attractions. The weather really came up trumps, presenting us with possibly the hottest, brightest day I've experienced since I moved to NI, and meaning that we were more worried about slapping sun-cream on every five minutes than whether our umbrellas were going to blow away (a more normal problem round here). The sun brought out the best in the scenery: Nicolas enjoyed taking fabulous pictures of it with his posh digital camera; I enjoyed taking snap-happy ones with my £7.97 Tesco's number.

The only down-side to the day was the moment our coach juddered to a halt in the middle of the road... having apparently run out of diesel! We could have gotten pretty cheesed off with the driver at this point for being dim enough to let that happen, but he was such a good-humoured chap, who'd been cracking jokes with us all along the way, that we just took it in our stride. He did save the day, anyway, by managing to coax it back to life no less than three times - just enough finally to roll, engineless, into a petrol station in Portrush. He arranged for some people on the coach who were doing an optional extra tour of a whisky distillery (not including us) to be picked up by another driver in the area and taken onwards, while a bunch of those of us who remained pushed the coach the final four feet needed to get it within reach of the diesel pump, and pretty soon we were on our way again to enjoy our time at the Giant's Causeway.

In the end, we got home a couple of hours later than intended, but we didn't feel we'd missed out on anything we'd expected to see, so the diesel episode just became all part of the fun. I have a photo of the driver grinning sheepishly as he filled up the tank, and can now say I've helped to push a broken-down coach! Oh, and I also managed to pick up excellent birthday presents for both [ profile] damien_mocata and [ profile] finthecat for their birthdays next weekend, which I'm pretty sure they'll love.

Today was much more lazy, after the long day yesterday. We got up around 11ish, gathered ourselves together, and headed down for lunch in the Crown Liquor Saloon. The skies were grey, and by the time we'd finished our lunch it was raining. But we decided to do the tourist bus anyway, especially when we saw that the company who do it had got their covered buses on the route in response to the weather. It wasn't much of a photo opportunity due to the rain-streaked windows, but interesting nonetheless. Finally, we had a nose around the University, and the Botanic Gardens given that the rain had eased off again, and then it was time to drop them at the Europa bus station for their bus to the airport.

That's the last time I'll act as host in NI, and funnily enough it was for the exact same two people that I hosted in Oxford for the last time before I left there last year. The next person who arrives to see me here will be my Dad, with a big van ready to take me home. Home? Yes - it still is, is the honest truth.


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