Monday, 26 May 2014

Jersey Beans!

The Grand Jersey Hotel
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We are back from our short break in Jersey. I have to say that the island is wonderful - but the weather wasn't! It didn't stop us from having a good time though - it just stopped us from going on the beach!
We had a nice view of the sea from the balcony though!

I have never been to Jersey before - although Nathan has for work. He's never had chance to explore the island. We flew from Manchester and had a very nice one hour journey. Getting into the holiday spirit we had a cheeky Prosecco on the way over.

We dropped our bags of at the hotel and went off to explore and find lunch! Stopping off in Royal Square we sat outdoors at the Cock and Bottle and watched the pigeons - and a very naughty little boy called Luka trying to kick them! Luckily his mother intervened and made him stop! It all felt very French so we ordered two Croque Monsieur and sat people watching in the sunshine.

A man making a ship in a bottle - in a bottle!

We had a walk around town and had a look at the harbour and wandered into the Maritime Museum and Occupation Tapestry was an afternoon well spent! We learnt about the history of shipbuilding on the island and the tapestry told, in twelve panels, one embroidered by each of the twelve parishes of Jersey, the story of the German occupation. During the second world war the island was occupied for five hard years. The were forced to drive on the right, change the clocks to German time and learn German in schools. Worse than that radios were banned and livestock and food were taken for the soldiers. On our way back we walked on the beach very briefly!
Spectacular food!

On our first night there Nathan took me to a restaurant he had tried before The Candlelight at the Revere Hotel. It was a very short walk from our own hotel and we managed to dodge the showers. N had stayed here previously while working here - he'd had a bar meal before but had seen some people having steaks flambéed on swords at their table and was eager to try that this time. I chose a poussin - also flambéed on an eighteenth century sword!

They disabled the smoke alarm first!
The food was absolutely delicious and quite spectacular! I don't think I've ever had such a dramatic meal :-)

The next day we found out more about the occupation and liberation of Jersey. We walked into town and got a bus up to the amazing Jersey War Tunnels inland. It was raining so we thought it best to stay indoors. It was surprising to find out how many tunnels there were underground. The Germans used slave labour, prisoners from Russia, Spain, Portugal and other places to dig out and build this underground hospital. They were treated terribly, starved and worked to death.

Rules under occupation

The islanders did better, although as the years and the war wore on thing got worse. Radios were banned and more rules and regulations came out every day. They found ways to hide food - even in one story - putting a piglet in bed with the granny to avoid detection by the German soldiers.

They were only one month from starvation when liberation came in 1945. It was nice to come back out of the cold, dank tunnels into the sunshine. We went up to the café for tea and cake and sat outside optimistically. Sadly though the sky darkened and the rain came down in a storm.

Walking back from the bus station to the hotel we got absolutely drenched. So, we thought we might as well sent the afternoon in the swimming pool. We went into the spa and warmed up by swimming, sitting the Jacuzzi and enjoying the steam room and sauna alternated by tropical rainforest showers.

The Boat House was our choice for the second evening. Nathan was hoping that we could stroll round the bay from St Helier to St Aubin - as it is a beautiful walk - only about 3 miles. Sadly it was bucketing down again - so we had to opt for a taxi.

At The Boat House

 It was a seafood restaurant - but the starter we shared was a "Greek Slate" with houmous, baba ghanoush, salad, mixed olives and warm flat bread. It was yummy! Then N had a fish mixed grill and I went for "catch of the day". We watched the tide come in as we ate the delicious food. The taxi driver on the way back told us how his father had been imprisoned by the Nazis during the occupation.
 He also told us that last week it had been boiling hot, the beaches had been full and everyone got sunburnt! Hmmmm... seems like we chose the wrong week :-)

Gerald Durrell's Wildlife Park
The next day we decided to have a change from history and war and do something completely different! It was going to be a sunny one, so caught a bus to 
Durrell Wildlife Park and had a very interesting and fun day!

The military making a new gorilla playground
I had read My Family and Other Animals at school as one of my O-Level texts. It was wonderful to finally see what he managed to build in Jersey and hear about all the great conservation projects that are still being undertaken in his name. They are not a zoo - they are a wildlife park that undertakes breeding programmes to help protect endangered species and increase their numbers.

Gorilla ignoring its new playground :-)
 In fact - we saw an exhibit of the critically endangered Chicken Frog that had a notice saying that they were going home soon!  The gorilla enclosure was full of soldiers when we looked - I thought they had evolved rather quickly - but it turned out to be the Monmouthshire Royal Engineers who were constructing a new playground for the gorillas.

When they finished the soldiers all thronged around the enclosure as the gorillas were let out again. I think they were a little disappointed as they completely ignored the whole construction! Eventually one of them sat on one of the platforms - to much applause.

Eating - bat style!

I did enjoy seeing the bats - they were awesome! Thy squeak so cutely and were pretty active flying around and hanging upside down to eat and drink.

Argumentative flamingos

I loved the bird aviaries too - especially the ones where there were free-flying birds. It's really cool to be able to see how they behave. The flamingos made us laugh as they were so argumentative! They kept grumbling and pecking at each other. All very innocuous but very funny to watch.

Beautiful birds!

We had such a good day! We went into the Gerald Durrell Story - an exhibition about his life and works - including the many books he wrote. N had never read My Family and Other Animals - the book that started it all, so we bought a "50th Anniversary Special Edition" of the book. I am really looking forward to re-reading it too!

The dodo is the symbol of the Durrell
We spent all day in the park and only had to dodge one shower of rain. it was wonderful! On the bus we saw the north coast of the island and it looked just gorgeous! I would definitely love to come back and explore the beaches and cliffs in the sunshine! The roads are very narrow and winding - so we had a few hair-raising moments on the journey there and back! The driver was very restrained and only let out one rude word!

N says "It's just like Hanley on a Saturday night!"
Statue of Gerald Durrell and his Ring-Tailed Lemur

That evening we had reserved a table at the hotel restaurant - as we thought we'd be too tired to go far. Also we were very intrigued as it had an interesting-looking menu.

 Richard Allen is the chef of the Michelin starred restaurant the Tassili - named after mountains in the Sahara. It is a tiny restaurant within the hotel - and we decided to give it a try on our last night there.

There were not more than half a dozen tables and we were led to the rabbit table - it had a lovely
sculpture of a hare - each table had a different animal.

The Sommelier came over with the cocktail menu and asked which we'd like for a start. I chose a Bellini and N had a Grand Jersey. They were both made with champagne and we sipped them as we looked at the menu choice. There were so man set meals - and I chose £From the Land" and N went for "Land and Sea" They were both five courses and came with a different wine for each one. It was just like the stuff you see on Masterchef!! We always think it looks a bit crazy - but the food was out-of-this-world! It looked amazing and tasted just lovely. I ate absolutely everything and loved it all. We started with an Amuse Bouche - which was a crispy shell filled with garlic and broccoli cream and sat in a pool of beurre blanc. Yum!

My beetroot salad with teeny macaroons!

Then we progressed onto the starters and the Sommelier came to tell us all about the wine we were going to drink with it. We had different ones - since we had different menus. He would say "And now we are going to New Zealand, this grape is late season and grown on the slopes of...." I wish I could remember it all!

My dessert entitled "Raspberry textures"

There was a pre-dessert (raspberries and some kind of cream in an elegant glass) then our actual dessert. Over three hours we had the most wonderful food and wines. It looked pretty and tasted divine! We were rather tipsy by the time we finished!

Surprisingly we did manage to get up and just about made it for breakfast on our last day!

We decided to get "Le petit train" round the bay to St Aubin, do a little souvenir shopping, get lunch and then come back and get a bus to the airport. Guess what? Yes! It was raining again so our plans for a romantic walk along the esplanade was again thwarted. The train was fun though - and we got a running commentary as we went along. We learned a bit more about the island and who lives there. Nigel Mansell has a home there and until his death last year Alan Wicker lived there.

Arriving in St Aubin, there was a craft market on and some very strangely dressed men with bells on their legs and black make-up on their faces. I think they were Morris Dancers! There was also a lady with a big bushy beard - who they introduced as "Fresh from her victory at the Eurovision song contest..." She had a tuba too.

They did play music and danced in the rain! We had a walk around the village after that and then went inside The Tenby pub - to keep dry and have lunch. It was nice but after the previous nights food it seemed like a big stodgy meal!

Goodbye Liberation Square!
Finally we got the little train back and had a last look around St Helier, including Liberation Square. Then it was time to get to the airport and fly home!

I can't wait to go again!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Fun Night in the Toilet :-)

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Yay! We are off to Jersey tomorrow - but just wanted to post a few photos from out night out on Saturday.

Museum at Night

Gladstone's Bottle Ovens

I told Nathan I was taking him for an unusual night out - but wouldn't tell him where we were going! I drove us to Longton - and pulled up outside Gladstone Pottery Museum. He said "Oh well I guess we can park here as the museum's closed." But - the museum wasn't closed! It was staging a special event as part of Museums at Night

The event was called Toilets by Twilight and described as:

Nathan enjoying his night out.
"Explore ‘Flushed with Pride’ after dark and visit the Modern Toss ‘Cistern Chapel’ exhibition to celebrate a decade of their edgy humour. Meet toilet experts and ask them about the history of the humble loo and enjoy a screening of ‘Carry On At Your Convenience’. £5, includes a glass of wine/soft drink. 1970’s fancy dress optional but encouraged! Over 18s only, please."

As we went in we were given a glass of wine and introduced to two experts on the toilet. Munroe Blair was the technical expert - having worked in the sanitary ware industry over 40 years. Angela Lee was the expert on the social and historical aspect of toilets.

They were really friendly and chatty and had lots of stories to tell about the various toilets. Angela has been privileged enough to see the famous old toilet in the House of Lords! I think Munroe was a little jealous of that. She is so obsessed by toilets she has even been to Russia to looks at theirs!

They took us round the "Flushed with Pride" exhibition pointing out the interesting things and telling us stories. We even got to hear the musical chamber pot - which is usually locked away in a glass cabinet. It was all really fascinating as they are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about it all!

The Lady P

We had a good look around - I saw my first ever female urinal - called the Lady P. You are meant to sit facing the wall - it's meant to cut down on cubicles and therefore queues for the Ladies!

What do you think? Would you use one??

The Famous Thomas Crapper
The older ones were riveting too - in fact it was interesting how the fashion for different types of toilets come round full circle. Some of the early ones were all about earth closets - and some of the latest developments are composting toilets that don't use water.

How elegant!
Actual working model

The Tipper Toilet was connected to the kitchen sink and used waste water from that to tip the pan and flush away the soil. How clever was that?

Also Angela and Munroe dispelled the myths that the inventor of the flushing toilet was Thomas Crapper. He was one innovator among many who worked o the designs - so there were quite a few engineers and designers responsible for the toilets we use today.

I am very grateful to them all!!

Transfer-decorated with toilet designs

Remember pulling the chain?
What I liked best though were the toilets with intricate designs that were beautifully decorated. I think there is a definite lack of such loveliness in bathrooms today! We saw toilets shaped like dolphins and flowers and highly decorated.

We also popped into the "Cistern Chapel" to see an exhibition of the (rather rude) art of Modern Toss. They produced the Periodic Table of Swearing - which became quite a hit on the internet. However - as it suggests - it is quite offensive so don't click on that link above if you are offended by bad language.

That means you too, mum and dad!!

The infamous print.
After we had looked round and asked all the questions we wanted to - we were whisked upstairs, plied with more wine and sat down to watch the classic film "Carry on at your Convenience".

I haven't watched a Carry-On film in years - it is quite shocking how dated they are now! In fact, most of the male characters in it would now be up in court as part of Operation Yewtree by now, if it wasn't fictional!

The interesting and relevant part was that it was based in a toilet factory and some of it was filmed in Twyfords in Hanley.

It nicely rounded off a very unusual - but fun - night out! Thanks to Nerys, who brought the leaflets into my library. Otherwise I might not have known about it!

I definitely want to go to another Museum at Night event next year! Well done Gladstone Pottery Museum and staff. You are all obsessed and crazy - but brilliant!!


Sunday, 18 May 2014

TOWN comes to the Library!

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Joy performing TOWN
On Monday night we had a first at the library - a performance of TOWN, a verse drama by Joy Winkler, former Poet laureate of Cheshire. She is touring the show throughout Cheshire and as a special favour to us, ventured into Staffordshire! We are really glad she did!

My dad keeping Nathan company on the door
As soon as the library closed at 4.30pm Caroline, the amazing leader of the Poets arrived to help me get the place ready. She made the whole night possible by asking Joy to come and perform here and help get more people into my library. We set out the cakes, cups and chairs - ready for a sold-out audience to arrive and enjoy the evening.

Enjoying the Interval
Then Joy and her husband John arrived with all their equipment and paraphernalia - including two very nice old chairs. It took a while to set that up - then the poet Andrew Rudd arrived with his musical instruments - as he was to accompany Joy during TOWN with his music. Not only that - but he was also going to read some of his poetry before the interval. So this involved moving more furniture around and plugging things in until everything was ready for the performance to begin.

Nathan arrived and had agreed to be on the door taking tickets and money. I was hoping that everyone who had ordered tickets would turn up and pay - and mostly they did! We could only fit 40 people in - and we had 38. There were some of the poets from Caroline's poetry group - The Keele Poets - and some library staff from around the district, including my boss Terry. My parents and brother Dom and wife Sharon came as well as friends, Jo and Mawb. Also lots of customers of the library.

Andrew reading his poetry.
First up was Andrew, who read us some of his poetry. He is both moving and funny. Everyone loved his "found poem" which consisted of notices that he had read on the bus in Liverpool. I liked all of them especially the one about observing children during a boring maths lesson. He was great!!
 After the poems, we had the interval with tea, coffee, cakes and juice. Joy is so talented - she even made us some cakes too. The flapjack and lemon drizzle squares went down very well :-)
During the interval people had chance to buy books by Andrew and Joy - and get them signed.
Once Caroline rang her bell everyone went and sat back down and Caroline introduced Joy and her verse drama TOWN.
It is the story of Rosie who is 16 and looking for her birth mother. She turns up in the TOWN (who is also a character in the play) and with the help of Barnaby, who organises a parade there and a Boy, who is also looking for somewhere to belong, she finds some kind of closure. It I funny and emotional and you could have heard a pin drop in there as everyone was transfixed during the whole 45 minutes. Joy recites the whole thing from memory and does all the different characters in different voices.

Welcoming everyone to the library
It was wonderful - and she received rapturous applause at the end. As I went up to thank her and Andrew and give them little gifts for bringing their poetry and music to Silverdale, Joy surprised me by giving me a beautiful lily plant and a medal - for selling the tickets for the show so quickly. Seems I was the best ticket seller of 2014! I am very proud of my medal - I will treasure it forever!

Caroline introduces TOWN
It was so nice to see so many people from Silverdale and beyond coming together for such a great night of entertainment.

We packed up as much stuff as we could and Terry offered to come by the next morning to wash up - so that we could go home early-ish! Joy and John and Andrew went off back to Cheshire. They had distributed feedback forms and I think most people had filled them in. I'm sure that they got lots of really good comments.

Actually N and I went up to The Bush pub afterwards with Mawb and Jo - as we felt we deserved a drink! Terry was true to his word and arrived at 9am the next morning and did ALL the washing up and drying - while I opened the library and served customers. Thanks Terry!! Some customers came in and told me how much they had enjoyed it - which was great!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Hectic Weekend!

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We had an interesting afternoon on Saturday when we went to where my brother, Dom, works - the huge Sainsbury's warehouse off the A500. It is actually run by logistics company DHL and they were having their annual Open Day so that friends and family can see where their loved ones work and what they have to do!
It looks so huge from the outside - when we parked up in the car park. We were let in through the security gate and signed in.
They took us upstairs and gave us tea and muffins while we waited for our 2pm tour.
We were taken into a meeting room and given a safety briefing as well as the background to the companies - both Sainsbury and DHL.

Then we were given hi-vis jackets in yellow and had our bags and phones locked away in a room - as there was to be strictly NO photographs while we wee being shown round. They said it was because they have a number of innovations in the warehouse that they didn't want Tesco to know about!

The guys who showed us round seem to love their jobs and are very proud of the place. It was so organised and clean and safety was paramount in every areas we visited. There are so many things you don't think of when you go to the supermarket. Like how did all those different products get to your local store. The racks and racks of goods were so high and the machines - huge cranes really - that reach them all are amazingly fast. It looked like fun - and very hard work!

In the hand-picking areas workers can walk 10 -12 miles a day and lift the weight of an adult male killer whale each day.

Also, I had never thought how dangerous it would be to have lots of aerosols in one place. So dangerous that they have a special bomb-proofed area for them - where the air is changed every hour and machines are constantly sniffing the air to  make sure no gases are escaping. Just one damaged can could mean disaster so this area is closed down very quickly if there is a problem. The people who work in this area are highly trained. We weren't allowed in.

Mini DHL pallet!
It was very impressive what a community spirit there is n the place and how much they do for charities in the area. In fact they also support an orphanage in the Dominican Republic as well as donating pet food to dogs and cats homes and raising money for local causes.
It took a good hour just to walk from one side to the other. As we left we were given a goody bag (a nice cotton one) with pens, pencils and this very cute mini-pallet with notepaper on it.
N and I both enjoyed the visit and learned a lot - it was something quite different to do on a wet Saturday afternoon!

Then of course Saturday night was party night - as it was Eurovision 2014!! N's friend Greg was actually there and we kept looking for him on the TV. He was spotted doing some patriotic flag-waving behind the hosts in Denmark!
Eurovision 2014

We went over to my parent's house in Cheadle as did Dom, Sharon and Sarah too. We ordered pizza, ate some of my mum's potent sherry trifle and watched the whole thing.

I was quite taken with Iceland's colourful entry - with it's lyrics of peace and harmony. Alas it did very badly. As did another of our favourites - the bonkers song from France about moustaches! It was a beard that won the night - with a song that sounded like it could be from a James Bond film.

None of us predicted the winner at all. So, it looks like the competition will be from Austria next year. I wonder if it's about time we went to see it live?

Talking of live entertainment - we have our very exciting event in the library tomorrow night. TOWN will be great fun I am sure. Have to make sure my library looks good - and go nd get some cakes first thing in the morning!

Will be back with photos from the night very soon!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Cast not a Clout...

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Meet Donald and Daisy
Here we are in May already! It hasn't been a bad day - I like it when the days get longer and warmer. We went over to Stone today to see Nathan's parents. They've been having some demanding visitors lately and we went to check them out.
Sure enough they turned up on cue. If there is no food outside for them - they come and rap on the window with their beaks!

Quite a few things are happening this month. There is the first ever play to be performed in Silverdale Library featuring Joy Winkler - former Poet Laureate of Cheshire. We are really looking forward to it - and we only have 2 tickets left!. It has even been featured in The Sentinel. I am pretty excited - it will be a first for Silverdale. It is the story of a woman returning to the town where she was brought up in search of her birth mother. People who have seen it before have likened it to the monologues of Alan Bennett. :-) We are also providing refreshments and CAKE!

I will post pictures from the event next week!

Also on Saturday it is Eurovision - so we will be having our usual family party. This time round at my mum and dad's house in Cheadle. Cue silly hats and party food from round the world!

Before that though - we are going to do something we've never done before - go on a tour of a warehouse! My brother works for Sainsbury's Distribution and they are having an Open Day. He invited us to go - so we thought Why not? Could be interesting! We drive past it n awful lot - so at least we'll get to see how it looks inside! Not sure if we get any free samples like you do at Cadbury World!

Also this month N and I are going on a little holiday - to Jersey! N has been there before - for work - but hasn't had chance to explore properly. I have never been - so am looking forward to that! The Grand Jersey Hotel looks pretty nice. We need a break before the next Education fair. That will be in June - the Sunday Times Festival of Education. So, we need to recharge our batteries before then!!

Also we have a few birthdays to celebrate in May - Nathan's mum's and my dad's - as well as my good friend Janet's. Talking of Jan - she came over a few nights ago for a game of Settlers of Catan. It is a board game that we have recently got into - thanks to Jan buying me one for my birthday! So, she came over, we had pizza and chocolate fudge cake - and she beat us all!
 It is a game of strategy - and she was pretty good. We need a rematch!!

Damn You Autocorrect!!
I also had her in fits of giggles when I showed her my two Damn You Autocorrect books. They are the only things that literally make me laugh until I cry! They are just examples of text messages where the autocorrect feature has altered something without the sender realising. Usually into some QUITE different from what was meant. The replies are funny - from various shocked friends or relatives! I can only read a few pages at a time or I can't breathe!!

Laura had a birthday last month and we went to Derby for the day. We also made her a vegan cake! It is a chocolate cake and it was pretty nice actually.

Happy Birthday Laura!
 In Derby we had fun in the Westfield Centre - tried on a few hats and checked out the Bunnification Station. It was Easter time so they were offering to paint your face like a bunny and give you some bunny ears. However for some strange reason it was just for kids.


Does it Suit Me?


Looking Good!