Saturday, 27 July 2013

Getting Crafty :-)

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I had a fun morning at work.

Window Spider!
Yesterday Tracy and I were sent a big box full of craft materials - ready for the craft sessions we are doing with the kids in the library on 28th August. Tracy suggested that we have a go at each project before we had to show the kids how to do them. Also, that would mean we'd have an example of how each one should look when it was finished - if we managed to make them correctly!!  "Here's one I made earlier" type of thing :-)

The first one I tackled was a window decoration - a translucent sheet with various creepy designs on them - just waiting to be coloured in.

I chose a spider :-) That was pretty easy to start with.. Then I tried the coaster - a foam spider shape with slits in so you could weave some coloured ribbon through it.

Awesome Coaster :-)

Then there was another self-adhesive shape to stick on the back to hide the ends of the ribbons. Then you finished it off with some stick on eyes, mouth and fangs. Lovely :-) I am really happy with that - I'll put my mug on it.

My Scratched-out Skeleton
Then I had to try the scratch art skeleton. A body shape in black - with a wooden scraper tool so that you could etch a design in it - to show the rainbow colours underneath. I had to find a good picture of a skeleton on the internet - just to guide me when drawing on the shapes. Then I got scraping! It reminded me of when I was little and used to have  whole set of these - with metal tools of different shapes which you could use to make quite intricate designs. (If you were artistic!)

I was really pleased with how this came out! Tracy had chosen to so a mobile - which had a LOT of pieces. She had to colour each one in - and she was making such a good job of it that it isn't quite finished yet. It is going to be epic!!

So now we can put them on display and encourage the real kids to sign up for our session! :-)

Peaceful afternoon
The afternoon was really warm - so I decided to sit in the shade of my shed and read a book. I wanted to make the most of the warm weather. I found a perfect spot to sit and read my book.

I managed to finish it too. It is called "The Girl from Station X - My Mother's Unknown Life" about a woman who discovers through her mother's diaries that she worked at Bletchley Park during the war. it is fascinating - I loved it.

It was a very pleasant afternoon - but now I'm sat by the open French Windows listening to the rain. It is nice to be cool!

We shall see if this is the end of the heatwave!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Things I am looking forward to....

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How are you all coping in the heat?
I am quite liking it - apart from the nights when it's impossible to sleep. If we are going to have proper summers for a few years I think we need to adopt a continental mentality where you have a nice siesta in the afternoons and stay up late at night. :-)

Glad it's Friday - we are looking forward to strolling into town and seeing The World's End tonight - hopefully in a severely air-conditioned cinema! In preparation we have already watched this week - Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - as World's End is the third in the Cornetto Trilogy. I have high hopes for it!!

Something else we are REALLY looking forward to is a trip to Edinburgh next weekend - to see a bit of the Festival Fringe. I have been once before and it was just great! Everywhere you go you get handed leaflets and are beseeched to "Come and see our show!" We ended up seeing a wonderful play about a hairdresser who secretly wanted to be a plumber. It also included video they had taken on the streets of Edinburgh asking them what they secretly want to do. It was really good - and then afterwards the cast came into the audience and asked us what we wanted to be!

This year, however we have booked a couple of shows ahead - as we really don't want to miss them. The first is Susan Calman 's show - a comedian who we love from The News Quiz and Dead Boss - which was a great comedy on TV that I really hope is coming back :-) Nathan was particularly keen when I showed him one of her tweets from when she was in Venice. She said she spent the time looking at the building for handholds so she could climb them - like she did in Assassin's Creed.  He is just the same! I'll mention a place - like maybe Boston and he'll go "Oh, I've been there" and I say when did you go to Boston??? And he says "In Assassin's Creed!"

That should be fun. The other one we've booked - chosen by him this time is Festival of the Spoken Nerd - which as you might have guessed is a show with some pretty geeky people in it - including Matt Parker the stand-up maths comedian who he saw there a few years ago.

The rest of it we'll leave to chance - and see what happens. N is particularly excited as Ray Guns Look Real Enough (the band we saw at Modern Jago at the Critter Awards - you remember the guy who wore the tiger onesie!) are also in Edinburgh when we are - so we may get to catch them. I'd also like to see the Distraction Club if we can - featuring another Radio 4 regular - Mitch Benn. I saw also that he has a book out, called Terra - I really must buy it. Maybe I could get it signed if I bump into him???

In other news I am now the Social Media Manager for Interference - yeah - I've been promoted from just Moderator!! That means I will be tweeting and mentioning it on Facebook quite a lot. It is already showing improvement on how many people are talking about it - N looked at the stats and showed me! It's an experiment for a month - see if it increases the number of games played or new members! I even got a book out of my library about Online Marketing to help :-)

If you haven't had a go yet - jump in and try it. Or just have a look at the pictures that some of our players are drawing - they are amazing! I love Dusel's stuff (as does everyone on there!) It you look at the first page - you can see which drawings have been voted the best of the week - and all time. Check them out :-)

Off to get a cold, cold drink now... Have a good weekend!


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

I want a Library Cat!

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The Alpha Boiler
I am back at work this week. However - before I came back we did have a last fun day having a new boiler put in!

Isn't it a beauty? The old one had been on the blink for a while and finally gave up the ghost on Thursday night and the plumber was coming the very next morning to put in the new one. Good timing! Except that it happened half-way through Laura having a shower. She wasn't pleased :-)

The plumber, Lawrence was wonderful and arrived when he said he would and put in the new boiler and sorted out our dodgy pipework (which involved going in through the roof!) all in one day. He was very tidy too. I'd recommend him to anyone. Get in touch if you want his details!

Me and Laura rocking out :-) 
Actually the fun day was on Sunday. Nathan. Laura and I went to the free Stone Music Festival. We'd caught a bit of it last year - in the pouring rain - and enjoyed a band called the Kaiser Monkey Killers. We heard that they were on again this year so we decided to go.

I'm only drinking water :-)

The Christians

What a difference this year - the sun was shining and the town was packed with families enjoying the warmth and the good music and food and drinks from various outlets and stalls. Murphy's Marbles were on when we got there - bizarrely singing Fairy Tale of New York in the blazing sun. It was quite funny as everyone was singing along and when they'd finished one bloke in front of us shouted "Merry Christmas" and everyone laughed :-)

We grabbed some food in the Poste of Stone then went out to see what else was happening. The KMK were on after lunch. They do Indie Covers - songs by the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys and can you guess which other band??? :-) They do lots of others too. They sound really good and everyone sing along because we all know the words. Good fun.

Feline customer :-)
Then we watched a band called Honey Ryder (named after the Bond girl) who were a little more folky - like Fleetwood Mac. They were pretty good and seemed to have quite a few fans wearing their t-shirts. Then later in the evening the headline band came on stage - The Christians. I remembered their songs from the 80s - especially Ideal World and Harvest for the World. They were great and brought the festival to a close brilliantly. It's a shame we'd only managed to get down there for one day - it had been on all week, with many different kinds of music available.

He had a wander around
Then Monday it was back to work!! It was lovely to see Tracy again and catch up with her and all the customers. We even had an extra customer - a cat!

I've always wanted a library cat since I read the book about Dewey the Library Cat in America. It is a great book and such a heart-warming story. I think every library should have a cat. Maybe ours will pop in again soon. :-)

Having a look through the front door.

I love this book!

Another Favourite Cat book :-)

Friday, 12 July 2013

My Week wih Kenneth

The stage is set for the Q&A
On Thursday we were on the Virgin Pendalino back off up to Manchester to see Sir Kenneth Branagh again. Not in the play this time but at a private audience and Question and Answer session arranged for the Ken Friends (internet fan club) by his wonderful P.A. Tamar. Jude and Maggie had organised this for us - as ken-friends had travelled from all over - quite a few from America - to see his Macbeth. I think he likes the fan club because they raise money every year to fund bursaries for actors who couldn't otherwise go to drama school.

Festival Square

This time we were meeting in Festival Square (which had temporarily taken over half of Albert Square, in front of the Town Hall) where much of the Manchester International Festival 2013 was taking place.

Macbeth everywhere!
We had to go round the back at 11am and meet all the other Ken-Friends who were there. They checked our names against the guest list (squeeee!!) and we were allowed into the compound. There I met up with Toni (another ken-friend) and Rob (another long-suffering partner!) who I hadn't seen since Ken's last live performance as Richard III in Sheffield over ten years ago! It was great to see them again :-) There were about 40 of us altogether.

Then the official photographer gathered us together and prepped us on how to have a great photo taken. He wanted us to close our eyes until he said "Open" then open them as wide as we could - then the third photo he took after that would be perfect!

He said he'd learnt this while doing wedding photography and being sick of finding that there was always someone with their eyes closed on every picture!

Once we'd be briefed by him we were allowed into the Festival Pavilion (big tent) and take our places. There were quite a few seats set out - as the sponsors were going to be allowed into our Q&A session later (I'm sure I've go that the right way round - or maybe it was their session WE were gate crashing!) Anyway - the smaller of us stood on the stage and the others in front of it - then in strolled Kenneth Branagh himself looking fresh and casual in a black polo shirt and blue jeans. He said hello to each of us and shook each of our hands.

He chatted away about the play asking if we'd seen it and telling us a few insider secrets on how they conceal the blood sacs around the set to stealthily pick up at the right time and how he'd had a mishap with his on the first night and squeezed it too hard in the wrong direction and covered the Festival Director in blood. His seat is now known among the cast as the "blood seat" - so he told us to be careful where we sat if we hadn't seen it yet!

Then he stood in the middle of the line up in front of the stage so that we could al be photographed together with him. The photographer took quit a few shots - and as soon as I get a copy it will be on this blog :-)

Gordon Burns introduces the Q&A
He then went of to get ready for the Q&A session and we took our seats at the front. They then let the sponsors in and they began the session. Firstly Gordon Burns (of the Krypton Factor) came on and introduced firstly Alex Kingston, then Ray Fearon, who had been an excellent Macduff and then Ken himself.

He had a script with lots of questions for each of them that he ran through. How did Alex and Ray get the call to ask them to be in it? (He asked Alex over a cup of tea - though she said she only had water and Ray over something stronger - although h also clamed to have had just water!) How they felt when they got the role, how they interpreted it and lots more I can't remember. Sadly once they'd got the spotlights on them - no photos came out properly :-(

It as fascinating stuff - to hear how the venue and set and action had all come together as they rehearsed it. Gordon asked Ray about the first time he was in something with Ken  his first ever film acting job and when he was asked to do it there and then asked if he could think about it!! He said his agent had always told him "Never say Yes in the room" Lucky he did say yes and he's worked with him a few times now. He says Ken is a "very, very nice man"

All too soon the session was over and we all trooped back outside into the blazing sun. We were pretty peckish by now so went for some lunch with Toni and Rob. They are vegetarian and we'd spotted a place (on the internet) that was highly recommended by The Guardian and was nearby and did veggie food. It was the Armenian Taverna - in a basement under the Virgin building.

Remains of Rum Baba

Interesting Moustaches :-)

Good food and company!

They were correct - the food was great! I had a starter of hummus and bread and Nathan had an aubergine dip called Mutabal. Toni and Rob had a plateful of Vegetarian Mezze. After that I had some chicken in cream and mushroom and Nathan and had Madznov Kebab -  a spicy lamb kebab with egg on it. It was all delicious. I have to report that we did indulge in desserts too. The Rum Babas were magnificent in size and rum content :-)

After that we said goodbye to Toni and Rob, envying them as they were off to see Macbeth later. We did advise them to wear very little clothing, take iced water and a fan.

We did a little shopping then wandered back to the station through Piccadilly Gardens, where lots of people were enjoying the sun. However, when I got back to the station to come home I realised that my phone was no longer in my bag. I had last had it out in the Gardens as we walked along. We tried to ring it but it had already been switched off and the Sim taken out as the "Find My Phone" app didn't work either. We reported it to the police and then went to the EE shop to get them to stop the Sim so no-one could run up a huge bill for me. It was annoying - but it didn't spoil a wonderful day. It had a big scratch across the screen and I was thinking of getting another one anyway! I hope they can't sell it!

Nathan is great - he got me one of his old phones and set it all up for me with my new Sim card - so I am good to go again. I do think that the little phone pockets at the top of handbags are not necessarily a good idea. I will be more careful in future!!

What I did on my week off - Part 2

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On Wednesday we decided to go to Prestatyn to see Cathy and her beautiful new shop in the High Street there.

Nouveau Riche
In fact Nathan and I realised we've never been to the seaside together - and it was the perfect day for it! We went by car and made pretty good time in the heat! It was nice to find there was a free car park in the town - so we went for a walkabout to see if we could find Nouveau Riche.

It was easy to spot - it is vert classy and has the most beautiful glass display in the middle of the entrance. Cathy and Rob have done an amazing job inside too - the d├ęcor and wallpaper and all the individual pieces of furniture go so well together and make such a cool and sophisticated vibe. The clothes and bags and accessories are fab too - you should all go and have a look :-)

We asked Cathy where was a good place to have lunch in Prestatyn and she promptly closed up the shop and took us for lunch to the Tudor House Tearooms just across the road! It was lovely to have a proper chat and catch-up - it has been a few years since we all saw each other. She was right too - the food and drinks were lovely - and the guys that own the place do fabulous cakes for all occasions too. Sadly our lunch was so huge - we didn't have room for dessert :-)

On the beach at last :-)

We made a couple of purchases back at the shop before setting off to find the sea! I had caught a glimpse as we had driven in but I wanted to paddle! We walked to the front at Prestatyn but it was a little pebbly. We did have a brief paddle - but Tracy (and the man in Tudor House) had told us that the nicest beach was at Talacre.

Sun, sea and sand

 So, we set off down the coast road to find it. It was pretty hot by now. When we got there the sea was quite a way out - so we walked across burning hot sand, wet sand that sucked us in and then lovely squishy sea mud until we got there! It was lovely and cool on the feet - but maybe a bit chilly to go for a swim! We walked along the sea's edge for a while. The beach was pretty deserted and we had a sit and hunted for shells. it was fun. Had to have an ice cream too - it's compulsory at the seaside after all!

We had a lovely day - and think we should book a beach holiday in the not too distant future! (After we've been to Las Vegas though :-) )

What I did on my week off by Berni ....Part 1

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Barburrito - did you
know burrito means "little donkey"?

I am so lucky at picking my time off!
Well, this year at least. :-)

We had a bit of a day out of the sun on Monday - after the Fun Day on Sunday. On Tuesday we got the train up to Manchester late afternoon and enjoyed a burrito at Barburrito at Piccadilly Gardens.

Excitement was mounting, as the time grew near to walk the few minutes  to Ancoats, find Murrays Mills and pick up our tickets for Macbeth, before being guided to the secret location by Festival staff.
Murrays Mills

Map of Macbeth

The entrance to Murrays Mills

This was a huge place owned by the Murray Brothers

We passed Cotton Street and Blossom Street (you can tell this was a cotton mill area) before finding the imposing mill, which has been partly refurbished.

There was quite a queue down the road, but we were soon let in to pick up our tickets - in black envelopes with the name of a clan written above our names. Volunteers told us we had to find someone holding up a sign with our clan name and they would take us to the venue. We sat waiting for the rest of our clan to join us - then we walked dawn the street and round the corner.

There was St Peters Church - a disused (for 50 years!) church that has also been reclaimed as a space for the Halle Orchestra to practice and record. We were let into a dark and gloomy space, hot and smelling of earth and candles.

There were no seats to speak of - we just sat close together on boxes. The place only fit in around 250 people and there wasn't a single space left.

We were all sat at either side of the central aisle and at the alter end there was already a hooded woman lighting hundreds of candles. This went on for around 20 minutes as everyone was brought in and seated. We were on Row C - right at the altar end.

Programme and tickets :-)

Inside the church - as we all arrived.

There was no sign or announcement but suddenly everyone went completely silent in the darkness and this lasted for quite a while until suddenly a battle exploded into the space. Soldiers in kilts and armour and thick woollen cloaks with shields and heavy swords were running and fighting right in front of us and then the rain started and it poured onto the cast as they slid around with the mud under their feet and their swords making sparks in the darkness. It was very close and you could feel the rain and if you were right at the front - the mud and blood. Then Macbeth himself was stood right in front of us, blood running down his face with his hair plastered to his head. And off it went - the whole of Macbeth at an amazing pace. As soon as something had happened at one end of the aisle, there was immediately something else kicking off at the other end. You didn't have time to think! Just got swept along by the unfolding events - as Macbeth himself was.  Where Hamlet is all introspection and dithering about whether to act - this was just the opposite. An opportunity arose and Macbeth and his Lady went for it on the spur of the moment - and lived to regret it as we know.

Lady Macbeth lights the candles
It was really wonderful. Sir Ken's performance was, as always, fantastic - he always makes the words so understandable the way he delivers them. Loved Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth - it was her at the beginning lighting the all the candles. You could see this was a couple who loved each other and would do anything for each other - even murder.

If you want to see it live - you can go to your local cinema on July20th. They are streaming it world-wide that night. I would definitely recommend it! Have a look here for information: Macbeth at NT Live

At least the cinema will be air-conditioned! We were absolutely sweltering all the way through - it was so hot - then towards the end they have this massive fire at one end - I am very surprised no-one fainted! There was no interval - once you wee in you weren't let out again for two hours!

It was quite an experience - I don't think I'll ever see a Macbeth to beat that one.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Summer here at last!

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Halloween in Summer?

Hasn't it been gorgeous? It has been so hot we've had to open actual windows in the library!

Actually it seems a bit strange at the moment at work as we are gearing up for our Summer Reading Challenge 2013.

Creepy Books

This is where we encourage school children to keep up their reading skills over the summer holidays by taking out and reading six books.
The strange thing is that this year's theme s CREEPY HOUSE - and it seems like we are putting up Halloween decorations in the blazing sun.

Summer Skeleton :-)
Still, Tracy and I have thrown ourselves into the challenge. Tracy crocheted a vey creepy spiders web and I have put up a skeleton to greet people as they come in. We have a Monster Hunt set up through the library - so we are ready to go on 13th July. Let's hope that we get hordes of kids in this summer - so we reach our targets this year :-)

Chick Lit Galore
For our other readers I've tried to make things summery still - with our Chick Lit display. Can't beat a bit of beach reading this time of year.

If you are looking for an easy reading gem that is a real page-turner  - I have just read this one: Lost and Found by Tom Winter.

I loved it - great writing style makes it gripping - I couldn't put it down. It was about a dissatisfied woman, Carol who is unhappy and can't see a way out of her miserable life.

Beach books :-)

This book is awesome...
Her friend suggests that she writes everything down - at least that will make her feel better. She put the letters in the post box with only a smiley face on the envelope. These end up in the undeliverable mail office and a lonely postman facing impending retirement with terror starts to read them. It is such a good story - check it out if you can.

Anthony Hammond makes a moon gazing hare

The Daleian Singers by the lake.
In my other job - as clerk to Silverdale Parish Council we have been organising a community Fun Day - just to bring the villagers together and get them all up to see the new Country Park that is right on their doorstep. So it took place on Sunday and I was so happy to see that the weather was so hot and sunny. It is the first one that the PC has organised and we didn't know how many people would turn up but we needn't have worried as we had over 2000 people there. Nathan and I went up to the site at 7am to start blowing up balloons and putting up signs. The fun fair arrived around 8am to start setting up and the other attractions gradually got there one by one. By 10 am - the opening time everyone was there - including the much-needed ice cream van!

Nathan conquering the climbing wall.
I did a spell on the gate selling programmes. Nathan went home to print out more signs as people seemed unsure where to park and where some of the attractions were. It was a really day but seemed to fly by! There was a male voice choir - the Daleian Singers who performed on a platform overlooking the lake. I was magical!

Loved the chainsaw sculptor, Anthony Hammond who made animals out of tree trunks using a chainsaw. He was amazing! He made an owl, an eagle and a hare. He is giving two of them to the Country Park to keep. It will be nice to go back there and see where Andrew, the ranger, decides to locate them.

I saw lots of happy kids. The climbing all was very popular - it as free so anyone could have a go. Nathan tried it - he was braver than me!!

View of the lake

The female blacksmith was really happy with the day as she said she'd sold more than at other events. She wasn't too happy with the weather though - as it was very hot at her forge when the temperature was so high anyway.

Pole turning on a lathe

I did feel a bit sorry for the birds of prey - but they were under shade and they each had a trough of water by them. They looked happy enough and seemed to enjoy all the attention they were getting.

The Daleian Singers

 Below are a couple of videos taken on the day:

 Me having a go at pole turning on the lathe.


The Daleian Singers perform by the lake - do you recognise the song?

Anthony Hammond and his chainsaw.

So all in all it was a successful day! Some of the organisers went to The Bush afterwards for a well-earned drink or two. I wouldn't be against helping to organise another one next year.....

As for this week - well I have the week off. I have one or two exciting plans - including seeing Kenneth Branagh doing Macbeth tomorrow night in Manchester. I have to say I am just a little excited - I'm sure you'll hear all about it pretty soon.

Also looking forward to a day tip to Prestatyn to see my friend and former colleague Cathy who has opened a fashion shop on the High Street there. It's called Nouveau-Riche and I can't wait to see it.

More news soon!