Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peterborough

First, a scene of decadence and restraint. Guess which one I was having...


John and I went to Peterborough yesterday to see the wonderful Kate Rusby play. She was not in as good voice as the concert we saw in December, but the band was completely on form and it was a great concert.

Having lived in Peterborough, there were a few places that I wanted to see again. The cathedral was as stunning as ever, even in the rain:

The ceilings are incredibly ornate - they have mirrors around so that you can look at them without craning your neck. I love all the angles in this shot:

Katherine of Aragon (wife #1 of Henry VIII) is buried there, and Mary, Queen of Scots was, for a time. Here's M,QoS' blurb:


And here's the cathedral in the evening, all lit up. No, we didn't have the tripod.
However, despite my emotional attachment, the rest of Peterborough (with the exception of John Lewis, the Lakeland branch, and Pizza Express) is...a dump. It was filled with people who looked like they were either coming from or going to a drug deal, and every other store was a "Cash for your jewelery!" or similar. It was never Bury St Edmunds, even in the early 90s, but we were glad to leave. Sketchy.

Obviously, there are some great places nearby, and the outlying villages within the city are much nicer, but the city centre was dismal. We ended up moving our car from the initial place we'd parked it because we didn't want to walk through the neighborhood at night. And I've lived in New York.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cold Weather + Snow + Flu = Book Reviews

The weather has been decidedly un-lamb-like for the end of March. Maybe this weekend will be better. John and I have also had some kind of flu-thing since Monday - fever, dizzyness, achy all over, and a general desire to sleep. John's record was sleeping 21 hours in a 24 hour period. I wasn't far behind with about 18.

Anyway, when I haven't been sleeping, I've been tucked in bed, reading. I've FINALLY finished Behind The Scenes At The Museum, by Kate Atkinson. It's won all sorts of awards, been praised by everyone to ever lay eyes on it, and I HATED it. I thought it was really dull. The characters, however, were very well-drawn (but nobody was particularly likeable). It picked up in the last 100 pages or so, but I didn't think it was worth slogging through the rest.

I then read Kate Morton's The House At Riverton. The premise was extremely similar to Atonement, although I liked Riverton much better. Kind of a cross between what I wanted Atonement to be and Water For Elephants, although not as good as 'Elephants.' The sensibilities of the 'downstairs' staff in a big country house in WW1 England were extremely well-captured, and the overall mood was perfect.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Snow?

We'd planned on doing lots of gardening this weekend. As a result, it has snowed, pretty consistently, every day. It's really windy, so the weather has been changing back and forth from bright sun to swirling snow. The only snow that really stuck was yesterday morning, though. Here's the Stowmarket church on Sunday morning as I was going to ring the bells:


And here's the door to the bell tower:


And here's OUR front door:


The upside has been that we've gotten to watch LOTS of episodes of Lost. We're now almost done with Season 2 and we're both hooked. The last episode that we watched was a little scary - I kept dropping stitches in my knitting.

Last night, since I hadn't watched enough TV, I watched the movie adaptation of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency on the BBC. I loved it - it had perfect pacing and really brought the books to life. Recommend it!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Orford

The small boy is leaving on an epic trip to New Zealand tomorrow, so we had him for the day since we won't see him for a few weeks. The weather was forecast as 'heavy rain', but it looked sunny outside so we decided to go for a walk. We drove out to Orford, on the coast. It rained and snowed intermittently the whole way there (lovely day for a walk!), and while we didn't exactly follow the path we set out to, we had a great time.

We visited Orford church, where there's this Britten dedication:

Because the weather was so foul (it started to snow again), we turned back from the walk through the fields and went to Orford Castle (managed by English Heritage). Having worked for the National Trust, I understand that these properties take a lot of upkeep and need a lot of money. However, it was £12.30 (about $25) for the three of us to get in. And that did not include the audio guide (don't remember how much) or the guidebook (£3). Dunno...maybe the audio guide was free and I wasn't paying attention - a lot of people had them. But there was NO 'interpretation' (the NT/EH term for 'stuff written about where you're standing') anywhere in the castle - just little headphone logos with the number you were supposed to key in to the audio guide thingy. So the fact that the dimly lit stone room labeled #12 (nearly the same as the previous dimly lit stone room #11 and not far off #13) had something interesting happen there 500 years ago was lost on us. At least it wasn't snowing in the castle.

Here's a pic John took from the roof:

And here's mine, from a different angle:

We walked down to the quay, where they were having a spring tide. We've had a lot of rain in the last few weeks, and the boardwalk was underwater. Lovely bench, though.

Here's part of the harbor - there's more water than there usually is!


I love this one:

We were all feeling v. cold, windswept and hungry, so we stopped at The Jolly Sailor for lunch. James had a burger, I had fish & chips, and John had plate of chips. Decadent. Oh, and I had a 'half' of Broadside (a v. tasty Adnams brew). And then wanted another 'half', as John was the designated driver so I could be free to be the designated drunk.

Here's the blustery sky over the harbor and Orford Ness:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Afternoon in New York (via Bury St. Edmunds)

John was working yesterday (and today, yuck), so I went into Bury on a mid-afternoon train to putter around and have an early supper (you'll see why in a minute). After the grand splurge of £1 for five buttons for the sweater I'm knitting, I ended up in what I think is a newish restaurant in Bury: California Kitchen.

It was predictably silly on the music front (Beach Boys on a loop), but I ordered a cheese quesadilla with sides of guacamole and refried beans. It was really tasty. Not quite Baby Bo's or Uncle Moe's, but the refried beans were just the right kind of creamy and the guac was nice and chunky. The salsa was reasonably spicy, and with fewer chunks in it than I'm used to. It was more of a sauce, like those at Uncle Moe's. It was all suitably Mexicano. I kept expecting my friend Felipe from New York to pop out from behind a corner and yell 'surprise!'


The reason I was having a 'linner' (not 'brunch'...think about it) was that we were off to the Met for the evening. To see Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes".


Since I haven't entirely cracked teleporting, we went to the Live from the Metropolitan Opera broadcast in Bury Cineworld. Despite the fact that our tickets said Peter Gri, they still let us in. It wasn't exactly full - I was surprised. There had been quite a lot of interest from members of the choir and the last time we performed Britten in Bury we had a very good turnout. There were about 40 people in the audience. I think the turnout was low because of a combination of relatively depressing subject matter, 20th century opera, and a £25 ticket price.

The reviews from the Times, the New Yorker, the Guardian, and the FT were all extremely positive, so we were really looking forward to it. The Met Orchestra was sublime, as usual, Donald Runnicles was incredible, the chorus were suitably unified and oppressive, and the soloists were fantastic. As the reviews point out, Anthony Dean Griffey's diction stole the show. In a role initially written for Peter Pears (Britten's partner), he was completely different but extremely effective. What a voice.

There was some commentary with Natalie Dessay (from the upcoming production of La Fille Du Regiment), which was unintentionally very funny. One of the screenings was in the Aldeburgh (pronounced 'all-BRUH') movie theatre (where Britten & Pears lived and where Grimes is set), which they showed, along with footage of the beach, the high street, and the Britten-Pears house. However, Ms. Dessay has an extremely strong French accent and kept calling it "All-DE-BURRRughhhhh", to the general hilarity of everyone around her. The Brits in the broadcast (among them the BBC East presenter, the director, and Maestro Runnicles) kept emphasizing the 'all-BRUH' pronunciation, to no avail. She also kept trying to get poor Anthony Dean Griffey to give his analysis of what the whole thing meant and whether or not Grimes was evil or not, and Griffey was trying to emphasize that it was up to the audience to decide.

I loved that they spent quite a bit of time before the production started zooming the cameras around the Met - it felt like we were in New York. Opera singers aren't really designed to be viewed at close range, though, in HD on a 20-foot tall screen. There was much sweating that we didn't need to see.

It's a 5+ hour production of Tristan & Isolde next weekend - I'm not sure I can handle 5 hours of Wagner. We'll definitely be back for either La Boheme or La Fille du Regiment, though.

I snuck a picture of the screen at intermission (don't arrest me!).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Basil

I planted some seeds last weekend, and the basil have been the first up. They look so small and vulnerable. (The pyrex jug is chipped, which is why it's being used as a planter.)


We've been having a problem with our freezer - the repair guy came this morning. When I got home from work on Thursday, it was beeping, telling me that the freezer compartment wasn't cold enough. It was cold, but not what it should have been. After multiple middle-of-the-night beeping-induced investigations v. early on Thursday morning (coupled with the fact that I was having a bout of food poisoning), I called the helpline on Friday morning. The repair guy came today, knelt down in front of the freezer, pushed the door trigger button, and listened. Apparently our fan is frozen, because of a design flaw with the freezer's insulation. He's added whatever insulation was required and our freezer is now happily defrosting. Frost-free, my foot. At 10:40am tomorrow we can turn it back on and put stuff back in it. The frozen peas et al. are currently in a coolbag in the garage - there will be an inspection as to how frozen everything still is when we turn it all back on. This is the SECOND design fault with an otherwise fab fridge. Bah.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Really Terrible Orchestra

I loved this article in yesterday's NYT about the Really Terrible Orchestra in Edinburgh. Mad Scottish people...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Doughy

John has been a baking fiend this weekend - he made wholemeal bread, two baguettes, and pizza today. All of my meals today (including a snack) have revolved around bread, and while it was all glorious, I'm feeling a little...doughy.

The baguettes were perfectly crusty on the outside and really savoury - we had them with some ham and brie and felt very civilized.


I've also started some seeds in pots on the window ledge in the kitchen - it's east facing and gets lots of sun so they should grow reasonably well. Cherry tomatoes, courgettes, chili pepper, and some herbs. The first three will move outside for the summer once the frosts stop.

The sweater is coming along; I realized that there WAS a method to the pattern's madness and figured it out.

I also finished Penelope Lively's "Consequences". Fair warning, the Amazon site is FULL of spoilers - don't read the reviews! I loved it from the beginning but for some reason put it down for a week and a bit. I'll blame Lost. The book was what I had hoped "History of Love" would be. My favorite part was something I hadn't noticed in any book before - the narration morphed from character to character over the course of the book, but not in a chapter-by-chapter way - it was much more subtle. Definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring/Not Spring



We went for a walk on Sunday after lunch and there were lots of spring flowers poking up through the grass. Mild, sunny, and generally spring-like.

Then, today, we had a milder version of what New York weathermen call "wintry mix." You know the stuff - freezing rain mixed with snow. I went bell-ringing in Buxhall and got to ring in rounds, but it was COLD in the church! The Stowmarket bell tower has a hatch that can be closed, but the one in the Buxhall church is more of a loft - it's open to the church on one side and extremely breezy. Must be nice in the summer! I can now keep in 'rounds' (when all the bells ring in descending order)...well, mostly, anyway.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mum's Day

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK - it's a different day than the American one but the same idea. We cooked lunch for Freda & Travis (veggie shepherd's pie) and heated it up in their oven - it was really tasty and Freda was psyched not to have to cook. We even banished her from the kitchen while we did the dishes.

This morning at 10 I went to the church (between the early and late services) to watch the Stowmarket 'band' ring the bells. I hadn't seen all eight rung before - it was quite spectacular. I even got to ring in rounds (with someone else standing by on my bell) - it was SO much fun! I took a video of them all ringing. I love it!

video

I was in Bury yesterday, picking up some supplies for my new knitting project (a sweater) and stuff for a care package. I have a friend in the US who's going through a bit of a rough patch, and as the recipient of some awesome care packages, I thought it was time to share the love. I'll post pictures of what I sent AFTER the package arrives (in case she decides to read the blog...)

The sweater is foxing me at the moment - I knitted the bottom rib for the back panel, and then the pattern said this:
Next Row. Patt 6, (patt2tog, patt 6) 5 times, patt2tog, patt 5, pick up loop between last and next st and work into the back of this loop (now referred to as m1), (patt1, m1) 5 times, patt2, (m1, patt 1) 6 times, patt 4, patt2tog, (patt6, patt2tog) 5 times, patt 6.
I thought I knew what they were talking about, but then I lost track of where I was and have pulled it all out to start again. Knitters, what 'patt' are they talking about? The ribbing that I have been knitting for the past 8 rows? The next pattern that appears in the next section? From what I can tell, I start this 'Next row' with 118 stitches and end with 118 stitches and then move on to the cabling and main body of the sweater - can I just do one more normal ribbing row and carry on? Will it kill the sweater?