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Friday, 18 July 2014

Days in the week leading up to THE wedding of the year....

So, at the end of May, my darling daughter got married to the lovely man she met in Australia four years ago.

Within weeks of their romantic engagement in Florance, we were swept up in a whirlwind of wedding planning. Where would it take place? When would it be? What type of wedding? All seemingly big decisions , which were made without fuss and quite quickly.

It would be a wedding from home, in the village church down the lane where brides have been married since the twelfth century, carrying on an ancient tradition.

And the reception would take place in a marquee in the field behind our cottage, thanks to the generosity of Ian and Sharon, our friends and next door neighbours ,who gave us the use of  their field.

At the beginning of the week, the marquee men arrived and quickly set to work in the sunshine

My darling mum,  known to most of us as Mama ,had arrived the day before , so while the marquee went up she had a grandstand seat to watch the proceedings.

And by the first evening , when the bride to be arrived home, in a car
full of important things - the dress, the shoes, the bunting, the orders of service, decorations, etc, she gasped with delight  as we sat in the garden with a bottle of prosecco to look at such an important feature of her wedding day.

What happened during the next few days are a blur. A busy blur of frenzied activity, laughter, frowns, goodwill , hard work , pulling together , and a real sense of friendship as we all went about doing what needed to be done for the big day.

Lucy's brothers Billy and Callum took a few days off from work to help, and Grace and Ellie, two of Lucy's bridesmaids were here for three days, working their socks off, as was Harry the bridegroom . On Friday Sarah and Emma the two other bridesmaids had arrived and they were all in the marquee dressing the tables, stocking up the bar, and doing a hundred and one jobs.

Lucy had already made 108 metres of bunting the week before, and by Friday afternoon, most things were in place.....

And yes, the posh loos had arrived!

Meanwhile Mama and my friend Dot had finished decorating the church with flowers.....

Then back in the kitchen, after making about 600 canap├ęs, I sat down with Mama and my friend Eileen who'd arrived to pitch in to hull 60 pounds of strawberries....

And we found that when you're sitting down , chatting and having a glass of wine at the same time as hulling, the job doesn't seem too bad!


By now, we all were tired .It was time to get changed, and go down to the pub in the next village for a meal..and to celebrate my birthday and the wedding anniversary of Mr Thinking of the Days. That's one birthday and anniversary I won't forget in a hurry....being with our extended family - my most favourite and most loved people in the world and with friends, knowing the next day was going to be the biggest day in my daughter's life so far.

But before we made our way home ,, I received an unexpected surprise....a delicious and delightful looking cake made by Grace, who I've known since she was a few months old, and who will always be part of our family.

By then I was nearly in tears of love and gratitude, not just for the cake, but for everything. But I was also excited and apprehensive at to what tomorrow would bring . After all, torrential rain was forecast, would I sleep, would everything be ok? Would Lucy and Harry enjoy their big day?

And yes, you'll have to wait for pictures of the bride, the dress and the wedding shenanigans until the next blogpost....!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A day which was meant to be

I went to a very special wedding on 24th May....that of my darling daughter. I haven't blogged about it yet because I'm waiting for her to do the honours first - after all it was  her special day! Later this week though, I will post photos and thoughts of the most amazing , emotional, beautiful day..

But this Saturday lunchtime, I 'm thinking of another wedding which is taking place today, thousands of miles away in Louisiana in the good old US of A.  My friend Shannon is getting married to James...and their love story is something out of a fairy tale.

Shannon and I have known each other for about six years....

and last February we met up in Ely in Cambridgeshire with her lovely daughter Lauren and two other writers  Denise and Susan. See here

Let me tell you about Shannon. She's beautiful, fun, feisty, full of Southern charm, dynamic and a damn good writer. She also has an inoperable brain tumour.

When we met in Ely, although we laughed til we cried, there was also an underlying sadness for Shannon....and it wasn't just the brain tumour which was causing concern, things weren't going right in her personal life.

By June, Shannon was in the middle of a divorce, and received the worst news from her doctor, that surgery wasn't an option to get rid of the tumour.

She flew back to Louisana  the next day determined to live her life to the full. And sitting next to her on the plane was an airline pilot called James. They talked, they laughed, they kept in the contact, and as for the rest....well, dear reader, she is marrying him today!

So today Shannon, I wish you all the happiness in the world with your handsome pilot as later this afternoon as you walk down the aisle .

 James, you've made my friend so happy already...I can't wait to meet you.

Have a lovely day today and all the other days to come...

Today's track is for you both .....


Monday, 7 July 2014

Days when it's time to stop and ....

High summer, which here in England means temperatures of about 20 Celsius if we're lucky. Not for us the certainty of being able to eat outdoors when we feel like it and the assurance that plans for days out can be kept to.

Which is why it's been a wonderful surprise to have visitors, one from Canada and three from Seattle from across the pond....and to be able to do things we normally can't.

I love being outdoors on an English summer evening. To be able to drink chilled glasses of prosecco while feeling the softness of the grass underneath my feet. To have friends and rellies around for supper and eat under the early evening sun

and sit outside into the long evening until darkness falls at way past 10pm...

even though it was a bit nippy by then...and even Liz from Toronto was feeling the chill.

Last Thursday the Americans arrived and were here for the 4th July too...

which we didn't celebrate with fireworks. We don't do fireworks ever here . Living in a thatched cottage,  being clumsy, and setting off fireworks would be too risky. Instead we chose the safer option, which cousin Melinda and Aunt Avril wanted to do, was to go and see the Leicester of Richard III. Greg decided on a game of golf.

But we did have nine for supper around the kitchen table - all family, laughing , drinking, eating and talking,....and oh how we talked .

When they left on Saturday lunchtime, and my darling daughter headed back down south,the house suddenly seemed very quiet, especially after such a very busy week.

A feeling of tiredness washed over me, and I decided that I would embrace the quietness and solitude.
I would do what my mum is always telling me to do...stop and smell the roses.

I haven't got any roses left in my garden but I did find time to sit in the garden , smelling the herbs and flowers

My faithful furry faced friend decided to follow suit...

and that , by and large was Saturday. Apart from cooking , washing and ironing and going to the allotment, I did nothing.

Sunday was even more restful... I really did stop . I read, and listened to Radio 4. I caught up with the Archers, and a wonderful documentary about the musician Jeff Buckley's visit to London twenty years ago . Do listen, it's available until this Sunday to listen again to.

And then in the afternoon, Boo and I settled on the sofa for a ringside seat watching the men's final at Wimbledon.

Bliss, even though I felt exhausted afterwards. It's tiring watching tennis.....

One thing I will never tire of though, is listening to Jeff Buckley's music.Today's track is one of my favourite tracks of his - it's called "Everybody here wants you".The beat, the voice, the emotion, and the passion still get me every time I hear it.....

Listen, love it and press repeat.....

Friday, 27 June 2014

The day of the Summer Solstice when Kasabian came to town

There's some lovely parks in Leicester - grand, ornate parks laid out  by the Victorians, so that the masses could get out into the fresh air on their day of rest and relax.
Victoria Park  just outside the city centre isn't one of the grand ones, but there's over sixty acres and it's a lovely space to walk, to play tennis, to play football or just relax in any season. I love it in Autumn...


It's a very open space, where in winter, the icy winds can tear you in two... but during the balmy days of last week , two kilometres of huge, three metre high barriers were erected, enclosing about forty acres of the park...

They were there for this....

Kasabian, the Leicester band with the big attitude, four number one albums and a very loyal following  were back in the city for a party. A very big party - of fifty thousand people who streamed into the park in the blistering heat on a scented tide of sunscream, bodyspray and beer to get their places near the front

Support acts were Beardyman, Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and Australian band Jagwa Ma, who only got together in 2011 in Sydney. Their sound for me just suits the sunshine...especially on "Come Save me" which is a sort of Beach boys on crack tribute...


As the late afternoon became evening, the temperature cooled but the audience warmed up as Rudimental took to the stage


Then as the sky changed, the spot monkeys climbed up to do their  jobs

And at long last Kasabian took to the stage ..and there was a  genuine sense of anticipation as the
 bright pink backdrop, mimicing the album artwork of 48.13 , electronically counted down to the performance. I was in the middle of the crowd...headphones on , live on BBC 's The Beat with Dean Jackson, describing the mood, the day, and audience reaction.


Tom Meighan, Kasabian's lead singer is not known for his modesty or reticence....and he swaggered around the stage singing his heart out, genuinely seeming so proud of what the band had achieved in getting this event put on in their home city.
Serge Pizzorno had previously promised us all that this homecoming show will be "the greatest thing we have ever done" was he right? Well yes, it was the best live show I've seen the band perform, and I've seen them about six or seven times.Technically so good, the vocals were as clear as you like, the girls on strings played their hearts out, Serge danced more than I've seen him do before...and the band enjoyed themselves. From the very first song "Bumblebee" , they romped through a large proportion of their back catalogue...treating the audience who were dancing along and singing to their hearts content.

Halfway through though, I had another live insert to do...and Dean Jackson asked if Tom Meighan was talking much in between tracks .....all I could say on live radio , was that he was saying a few words . I couldn't have repeated most of them...the f word is Tom's favourite adjective, noun and verb...

But after that , there was time to enjoy the last few tracks at the side of park...

and have a laugh with BBC Radio 's Ed Stagg....who'd I bumped into earlier....

After that, I watched fifty thousand people walk off into the night, singing, shouting, as I sat in my little satellite truck waiting to be allowed out of the production control area and off the park...and marked the end of the summer solstice in a queue.

Today's track just has to be one from Kasabian, doesn't it? So here's "Re Wired" ...and their video makes me chuckle....


Saturday, 14 June 2014

A hot day at BBC Gardeners World Live

Was it really a year ago I came to the BBC Gardeners World Live show at Birmingham's NEC? Well yes it was, and doesn't time fly by?
The normally soul destroying, packed in like sardines, bus ride from the outer wastelands of the NEC car park, was an absolute delight this year thanks to Sue, our driver. With a West Midlands accent and a gravelly voice which hinted that she may smoke a hundred Marlborough a day, she kept up a non stop cabaret as she drove to us to the show...and actually got the sardines laughing and even talking to each other. Top marks Sue...
You can tell the real GWLive fans - the excitement was palpable as they almost ran towards the entrance gates, unfolding their jumbo trollies as they did so, eyes scanning the horizon for plants. Rare plants and loos.
I took things a little more steadily, and enjoyed a casual wander through the show gardens first of all and as it was very early, managed to get a really good look at all of them.
The Twenty One Senses was a garden which appealed to definitely more than Aristotle's five senses. Such a vibrant, cheerful garden by Yvonne Matthews and Andrew Richards which embodied sight, smell (not just the fragrance from the plants) , taste as they began to cook, touch, and balance in the planting .

And I just loved this border...

 And it was my sense of smell which drew me to the Spice garden....plants from the Middle East , Africa, Asia and the Americas with homage to the  ships which brought their precious cargoes of exotic spices back to England and Birmingham. A very thoughtful and cleverly designed , not to mention aromatic, garden  which suddenly made me feel very hungry.

By now, the heat was intensifying the wafts of scent drifting along from the plants....and the Kitchen Garden Talks tent, situated right next to a Pimms stand   was looking increasing be able to sit in the shade, sip a drink and listen to the ever gorgeous Phil Vickery.

That man has such a lovely way with him. Self deprecating, interesting stories and some banter between him and Jim. That's Jim Buttress, the former royal gardener who has bloomed into a real TV personality in BBC 2's The Big Allotment Challenge .

But let's get back to  Phil...and why not? I interviewed him eight or so years ago when I had a spell as presenter of our lunchtime show. He was so charming , and told me the first love of his life was a Bridget.

Out in the sunshine was a very easy on the eye garden which attracted me - firstly because everything was so accessible to buy, and also because there were a couple of garden loungers in there. An important part of anyone's garden surely? Down the Garden is a garden for all ages.

It's a given that the RHS Marquee is a teeming mass of noise, colour, scent and brio. Some of the displays were beautifully bold


But there were two gardens which caught my imagination and my heart at BBC Gardeners World in the RHS Marquee and one outside. Both commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War 1.

Now this is a subject very close to my heart. As regular readers of this blog may remember, my great uncle Percy was killed at the age of 19 in Flanders, and for a number of months I've been working on a BBC radio series called World War 1 At Home.

So I was very interested to see how the war would be interpreted through garden design. Firstly, Birmingham City Council's display in conjunction with the British Legion and the charity Thrive was a tour de terms of scale and attention to detail.

Yes , there were poppies, but so much more....we walked past the sandbags...


into the display, where we walked on duckboards ...through the sombre shades of a recreation of a trench while overhead grassy planes hovered overhead.

before coming into the brightness

Really, it was quite remarkable.

Outside,  I also was struck by the stark simplicity of Andy Tudbury's garden "We shall remember them". It's a place to sit, to be silent....and this garden really is a labour of love for him.

Firstly, two of his ancestors died in World war 1, both only in their twenties. Secondly, Andy was commissioned to do this only two weeks before the opening day. Two weeks to design, to source plants, a sculpture...and build the garden. Talking to him , he admitted he's had sleepless nights and it has been hard work, but the pride on his face as he showed me around, and the admiring sounds from visitors has proved it's been worthwhile.

The rosemary for remembrance planted by the seat, and the ghost like swaying of the silver white planting were so effective...

At BBC Gardeners World Live, there really is so much to see and inspire...ideas to mull over, new plants to fawn over...and even though we had to queue to get on the bus  to take us back to the outer wastelands of the car park, there was still lots to see, as I shamelessly ogled the jumbo trolleys and bags of other visitors to see what they had been tempted to buy...

Please note...although I work for the BBC, I am not paid to go to go this show or write about it..I visit the show and write about it, because  I love gardens and gardening, and I want to!