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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The day we went orff to Ascot

Tuesday am

This time last week, the picnic was packed and I was slipping into something uncomfortable. A pair of shoes with high heels....not totteringly high, but high enough for me. Oh, and I was putting on a frock.....the girls and I were off to the races. To Ascot for the first day.

The Friday fizz night gang left Leicestershire at about nine thirty, the Range Rover packed with champagne, a picnic, prosecco and hats. Four large ones. The red Range Rover isn't mine you understand, it belongs to Fiona. Or Saint Fiona as she is now known...for driving us, abstaining from the fizz and taking us on a tour of Windsor, Ascot and its environs.

We were there to celebrate Laura's forthcoming nuptials in August to Giles, (she's the elegant blonde in the black scarf) and in celebratory mood a bottle of champagne was popped open as soon as the car was parked. The picnic table was erected and we all stuck into smoked salmon, tarts, salads, cheese and bread in the sunshine. Oh and another bottle of champagne.

Bliss - well at this stage, we were all still wearing flip flops and feeling rather relaxed as we watched a parade of race goers totter past the car in eye catching and eye watering outfits of many colours. We thought it was time that we joined the throng walking over to the course, but we were all rather perturbed by our neighbours car, which had swung in earlier. Four or five jolly Irish ladies got out immediately and left, but we couldn't help noticing the dead magpie splattered all over their windscreen. True, it wasn't going anywhere, especially not to the races, but we had thought they might remove it. They didn't.

So, it was race time.

First stop was to see the Royals in their carriages....

And to have  a look at the runners in the first race.

Now, I'm not a gambler, but I thought I should have a flutter on the first race.

So I chose number three...because it was a good looking horse , and I also liked it's name. What do you mean, I should have looked at its previous form?

Anyway, we settled ourselves in the grandstand and watched a few races...Fiona won, but that was about it....

We walked around ,saw more horses, had a few more drinks and wondered at all the bottles of champagne being thrown down race goers necks at nearly a hundred pounds a bottle..... and I got the giggles when I overheard at the bookies,  someone who was somewhat miffed with her lover, husband or whoever he was....she quelled him with a ferocious stare saying "Oh do bugger orff Timmy!"

Timmy, in his tails, sloped off rather timidly.......and it was all part of the joy of Ascot...whoops of delight as horses won, overheard snippets of gossip in the Ladies, and sheer amazement at some of the outfits.

The afternoon flew by and within what seemed a few minutes, the last race had been run, and it was time for the sing along, attended by hundreds.

Songs were sung en masse from "New York ,New York" to "Land of Hope and Glory", and the crowd were still singing  as we walked off into the early evening sunshine with sore feet.

Back at the Range Rover , we glanced over at the Irish ladies car, and yes, the mangled magpie still lay on the windscreen, completely rigid by this time, despite the evening sun.. We opened a bottle of Prosecco, devoured a lovely runny Brie and biscuits , and chatted about the day and said hello to our next door neighbours as they came and sat down behind their car to have a drink.

We left them and their magpie in the car park, as we made our way home, tired but happy. So Ascot, it was lovely, but would anyone like to invite me into the Royal Enclosure next year for even more fun?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The day a banana got in the way in the bookshop

There was a slight kerfuffle as I walked into my favourite bookshop yesterday. Two new people were on duty and one of them was battling with the till and the credit card machine to everyone's delight and consternation..

 The Saturday help, as they were billed, were slightly older than the usual type doing  work experience. They did know lots about writing books and the publishing world but when it came to till skills, let's just say they were distinctly below average. No, that's not true -  one of them was, the other wasn't even let loose on such a delicate instrument while I was there.

But did this matter? No, not at was all part of Independent Bookshop Week 2015 , and author Nina Stibbe and publisher and writer Jon Reed were here at the Kibworth Bookshop to promote the week itself and the bookshop. Oh and the publication of the paperback edition of Nina's delightful novel "Man at the Helm," a book which made me smile, cry at one stage, and want to bash the father character around the head with something more substantial than a mere paperback.

Nina threw herself into her new role....with a little help from Debbie James who owns the bookshop.

After seeing what happened when Nina tried to use the credit card machine, I decided to pay cash for my purchases. Even this, was not without difficulty. Nina couldn't get the till open...and then she found her half eaten banana was in the way.

More laughter....Nina is as warm, irreverent and as funny as her books, and so friendly.

And John Reed, the Saturday boy who was on coffee duty, gave service with a smile and made a lovely cup of coffee.

 I only know Jon Reed through Twitter....we both love listening to the Archers, and the Sunday morning tweetalong just wouldn't be the same without Jon's ascerbic, funny comments and filthy innuendos so it was great to meet him too and catch up on our shared Archers addiction.

It would have been so easy to stay in the bookshop for much longer  to soak up the banter, busyness and general all round happy atmosphere. But I had a drinks and lunch party to go to, Nina was there to sell books and chat, and Jon had more coffee to make and bags to fill, which they both did admirably.

Debbie was all smiles as usual, and once again, she makes you realise just how precious a local, independent bookshop is, and why it's importance in the community can't be underestimated. Long live independent bookshops everywhere.