Writing a blog has allowed me to record events and places I have visited over the last twelve months. I only went outside the country on one occasion, to Portugal on a family holiday, but I have written about many special events in cities, towns and villages across the United Kingdom. Please bear with me – there are lots of pictures! – this is some of what I have been doing this year!
January – I started the year by joining a local village Art group. After retiring I decided I wanted to paint pictures. I had chosen Art and Design as a second subject for my degree and went to Art School part time whilst working and I had taught a little Art when I was teaching but I had never completely immersed myself in the subject. My interest previously had always been in the History of Art and Artists.I never really had the time or space to paint but I still needed a push to get me going.
Joining the group for a few months gave me the drive and confidence I needed to put paint on paper. Having the summer house in the garden of our new house has helped a great deal in that I can now leave everything as it is and go back to it at any time without having to put things away or set it up again.
The summer house has become a retreat where I can spend a few hours on my own and work on a few paintings. I have continued to paint throughout the year mainly with acrylics but I have also picked up a few pieces of charcoal and some pencils to create several drawings and have had some fun with mixed media. I am really enjoying the opportunity to explore Art once again.
February – I had written sports reports for the local Daventry Express for many years on matches involving Daventry Town Football Club and got involved at the club as a volunteer but as the year progressed I became less interested in football for the first time since childhood. The game was once so important to me but now I go to very few live matches and watch games on the television only occasionally. I am now finding many other outlets to occupy my time and interest. Writing, painting, music, walking and photography have replaced football it seems!
March – I started a travel blog at the start of the year. I write about local events, restaurant reviews and places I have visited both local, national and internationally. I have always enjoyed writing having written a music column for a local Northampton newspaper over thirty years ago when I was also managing several local rock bands in the town.
The travel blog has enabled me to record events almost like a diary and I have also reflected about several international exchange trips I made with students to Canada and Sweden when I was teaching. I have always enjoyed writing because it gives me a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction. It is even more rewarding when others comment on what I have written or have shown their appreciation for some of the photographs I have taken.
In March I made a two city trip to Liverpool and Manchester to visit the Anthony Gormley installations at `Another Place` on Crosby Beach and the National Football Museum in Manchester.There was a major exhibition celebrating the fifty years since England won the World Cup in 1966. I wore my original World Cup Willie badge to help celebrate the Boys of 66 achievements.
Whilst in Liverpool I stayed at the iconic Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool and managed a memorable stormy trip across the river Mersey on the famous `Ferry across the Mersey`. I have visited both cities on a number of occasions but there is always something new for me to go and see whether its to do with music, art or football.
April – I started planning the annual `The Daventry Round`. I had pieced together the seventeen mile walk after discussing the possibility of a circular walk of Daventry in a pub some years ago. For the past seven years I have walked the Round in June but having had two operations on a troublesome left knee in recent years I was no longer sure whether I could still complete it.
I walked five miles every day for about two months around the local country park clocking up about three hundred miles before convincing myself the knee would be okay! As it turned out I completed the walk in August with several friends and have since started to walk more regularly. I also made the annual pilgrimage to look at the brilliant display of bluebells in Badby Woods, a show not to be missed.
May – Whenever I go to the South West Peninsula it is usually to meet up with long time pals for a much loved reunion over several beers in the Padstow region of Cornwall. This year I also went to a wedding and visited one of my sisters in the neighbouring county of Devon. Both Ilfracombe and Hope Cove, Salcombe were delightful but I found driving around the narrow high banked lanes of the county sometimes very scary.
On my way home I stopped off at the Bohemian town of Totnes for many years long considered to be twinned with Narnia because of the hippy, musical and alternative culture of many of its inhabitants. I loved the town and visited an eclectic museum, The Timehouse Muzeum, which celebrates much of the countries social, musical and artistic developments as well as giving a nod to the beauties of Morocco!
June – In my early twenties I used to travel regularly to Cornwall for a couple of weeks in the summer with a group of nine friends. We took it in turns to sleep in the seven birth caravan or on the beach. About five years ago we began a reunion, meeting up to talk about old times and visit places we used to frequent regularly, staying this time at a local Travel Lodge, not the beach!
This year we hired bicycles and rode the 5.5 miles from Wadebridge to Padstow and back. Despite some of the group not having been on a bike for several years we had a great time and were able to enjoy a few refreshments in Padstow as none of us were driving back! Three of us also enjoyed 18 holes of golf at Lanydrock Golf Club, a beautiful course which was not too challenging for our handicaps.
July – There are a number of quirky and unusual events taking place in villages and towns across England in the summer months and one of the most successful events to take place in Northamptonshire is the Welton Soap Box Derby. This years derby was the most successful to date with over 2500 spectators lining the 500 metre downhill course. With 42 soapbox carts competing and a record 101 soapbox runs completed throughout the day it really was a fantastic free day out for all of the family.On Saturday 15th July 2017 there is only one place I shall be!
August – Countryfile Live was a new event which allowed visitors to enjoy every aspect of the British countryside and the chance to meet their favourite Countryfile presenters, take a peek into Adams Farm and watch exciting live arena shows including daredevil trapeze artists. Add into the mix a collection rare breed animals, demonstrations of the latest farming machinery, outdoor fun for kids, hundreds of food and craft stalls to shop from, the best of British food and drink to sustain visitors throughout the day and you have a wonderful day out.
The weather on the day I visited was excellent and there were a large number of visitors so I was disappointed not to access the Countryfile Close- Up events in The Big Barn with presenters being introduced to the audience. There were lots of other activities I missed simply because there was so much to see and I couldn’t be everywhere at the same time but overall I enjoyed the experience and I would recommend friends visit the show next year.
September – Although I lived in Great Missenden for a couple of years during the nineteen seventies I didn’t really have much knowledge of the children`s writer Roald Dahl until many years later. I was twenty years old and had met a young lady in Cornwall during one of my never to be forgotten long, `summers in the sun`. I decided to move to Buckinghamshire from Staffordshire to be with my new found love. What I didn’t know at the time was one of our countries greatest ever children`s writers, short story writer, poet, screenwriter and fighter pilot was living within the same village. From what I can remember no one in the small Buckinghamshire village ever spoke about him or pointed out his house to me, which on reflection was a huge disappointment.
It was a love, not to last! I had a few jobs as an assistant to a furniture removal driver and as an electro plater, something I had tried my hand at some years before back home, but needless to say the relationship fell apart and I returned to the factories of the West Midlands, but my short time in Great Missenden was forever etched in my mind.
The year marked 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl and I was lucky enough to visit two of the events which celebrated this milestone. As an occasional artist of no repute I was particularly looking forward to visiting the House of Illustration, a museum I had never heard of until recently. The exhibition consisted of original Quentin Blake illustrations which had been prepared for Roald Dahl’s classic story The BFG.
I had never been to The Shard before but I had seen it several times on television and in photographs so a celebration of the writer`s birth seemed like as good an excuse to visit for the first time as any. It was a magical afternoon with guests being transported into the world of Roald Dahl’s books with a colourful and transparent installation adorning the triple-storey atrium windows.
October – If you are interested in the history of the brewing industry or are just curious about how the beer in your glass is produced then the National Brewery Centre will answer all of your questions. I had a very informative tour of the museum and would recommend it to anyone looking for a stimulating and exciting day out in the area. You don’t need to be a real – ale geek to appreciate the wealth of objects, relics and artefacts of the brewing industry. Simply have an interest or curiosity about how beer is made and the social importance of the industry on people’s lives is also thought-provoking.
I also spent a wonderful weekend helping with the October harvest of cider apples picking the autumnal fruit with over fifty adults, children and dogs in the small Northamptonshire village of Welton. I really enjoyed my time `apple picking` and will look forward to doing it all again next year. If you would like to join in the annual `apple picking harvest I would recommend it without hesitation. See you there next year?
November – The last time I visited the County Ground was in 2008 when I had the pleasure of watching Kiwi Ross Taylor hit 150 runs off 154 balls for the New Zealand tourists on the final day of their tour game against Northants. I was back in November for the inaugural Northampton Winter Food Festival and with Christmas just six weeks away I was looking forward to picking up a few presents and tasting some of the best food and drink from across from the county and further afield.
I enjoyed my day at the first Northampton Winter Food Festival. There were a wide variety of food and drink stalls to visit and a good selection of creative craft stalls to browse for those unusual and unexpected gift ideas. I thought the Foodie Lounge was a good idea; listening to some of the stall holders talking about aspects of their industry and the food demonstrations were very informative and entertaining.
December – I first went to the German Christmas Market in Birmingham eight years ago so with the festive season fast approaching I thought it was a good time to reflect on my last visit a year ago. The ‘Frankfurt style’ Christmas market claims to be is the biggest in the world outside of Germany and Austria with over 180 stalls so I was expecting it to be extremely busy but as it was a cold and breezy Monday morning there were surprisingly few people about. I once again enjoyed my time at the Christmas Market because it put me in the right frame of mind for the oncoming Christmas celebrations. On my next visit I shall arrive later in the day to get the full effect of the Christmas lights and a greater atmosphere with bigger crowds out for the evening festivities.
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