Sunday, 17 May 2015

Meanwhile, down on the allotment...

We've been busy busy busy at the allotment his week - potatoes and onions are up and growing well and I've managed to keep them relatively hoed and weeded and neat and tidy this year so far, hoorah! Hoof loves hoeing, Dot loves helping out too and everyone loves getting out the hose and watering!

There's a few seedlings coming up in the row of carrots Fluff and Papacrow sowed, we weren't expecting much with them anyway as we don't have the best soil for tap roots.

I sewed a few peas left over from last year in a small corner and they're just about up - a bit nibbled but hanging in there.

Dot has a flower bed round the side of the shed which is doing well, and I've planted sunflowers round the top of the main strip.

I gave the shed a really good tidy up and now we can get in and out of it and use it again, hoorah!

We have tomatos in grow bags in the greenhouse which are a decent hight already with a few flowers, and today we bought and put in a cucumber and, most excitingly, a melon! I'm really interested to see how the melon does!

Also today we stripped back the plastic from behind the shed and dug over the slightly compacted but very rich, dark earth - full of big fat worms, hoorah - and put in a couple of courgette plants (aka zukini) and a mystery squash of some kind.

Oh, and Papacrow put in some more rows of onions and some garlic. Maybe a bit late but they're all sprouting and going mushy so they might as well go in.

Still to do - a tidy up round the goosberry bushes which have small fruits on already, and the rhubarb which is looking to flower (must look up what that means, have a vague memory it means we can't eat it this year).

Also the raspberry canes have been over run and are almost invisible, the old strawberry bed needs a tidy - have been putting it off because it's so crowed in there it's hard to take out what you don't want without running fowl of what you don't want to take out!

And all the grass needs strimming, of course. The brambles that I massacred earlier in the year are back as I assured Papacrow they would be and need tidying and tying back.

I have some runner beans and sweet peas to go in and the area is cleared, dug over, ready and waiting. Will also need to drag out canes from under the pile of wood in the shed, ho hum.

All the wood in the shed and the various pallets lying around under the apple trees need sorting and turning into what they're destined to be (compost heap and edging, mostly). The shed roof still needs recovering - must do that soon!

The apple trees have blossomed nicely. We've left it way to late to lop branches off, but that MUST be done in the autumn this year - there are branches getting all over the shed and greenhouse.

The really exciting news is that a nice lady from the allotment down the end of our row gave us a slide that her son has outgrown - it just fits nicely under the apple trees and of course everybody loves it!

Monday, 11 May 2015

April Project, The Human Body

Well we had lots of fun with this one! We mostly worked from books - these following ones from the library. Wig wrote a fine essay on the lungs.

I seem to have managed to leave out a 'our bodies' board book though, which Hoof really enjoyed.

These were from our own shelves.

We also watched some Nina and the Neurons, Beautiful Bodies on the iplayer, drew round ourselves and made lots of posters where we then, of course, labelled various parts and drew internal organs on and so on. We also got out the models we have of the human hand, eye and brain and used them.

We were so busy in April that this project naturally bled into May a bit so that we could do all the activities we wanted to!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Planet Folkestone Comic Con

Since we met the lovely Virginia Hey (aka Zann from Farscape among other things) at WynterCon last year, I have followed her on twitter and she mentioned a few days ago that she was going to be at a comic con in Folkstone today. Well, that's only 60 odd miles from us, so I thought it wouldn't cause any harm to check how much the tickets were...

Then of course I found out Tom Baker was going to be there. Tom Baker. The forth Doctor. My doctor.

Luckily it was cheap AND there were tickets left so Roo and I saddled up along with Fluff, Petal, Dot and Hoof. Wig didn't fancy the long drive, Saurus wasn't bothered and poor Papacrow was working, so we didn't have any problems fitting everyone in the car! 

Fluff's been loving some Classic Doctor Who recently, especially some forth Doctor stories and really wanted to dress up as him - we had half a day and no money to throw some costumes together so just used what was around the house - luckily he already has the hair for it and looked great!

Of course there were lots of other forth Doctor cosplayers there - but Fluff was the only one with the foresight to bring jelly babies (his idea) and offer them to people - this was a great idea, people loved it and he got lots of attention and people wanting photos and all sorts - he loved it!

Dot was a Dalek and they both enjoyed getting as many photos as possible with other Doctor cosplayers!

There were lots and lots of brilliant costumes, too.

 Being seasoned convention goers now (ahem, this was our second) we met some old friends - the steampunk book seller, the lovely Virginia Hey as I mentioned above, and to my great joy we even bumped into Professor Elemental!

It was LOVELY to see him again, Roo's grown about three feet since last we met!

I even met a fellow 80's cartoon character - Skeletor from He-man! I am Sheila the thief from Dungeons and Dragons in case you're wondering and Hoof LOVED being Spiderman. There were a couple of other Spidermen there and he enjoyed meeting them all!

Hoof really got into having his picture taken with people in fact, and the girls were delighted to meet this cosplayer again - she was also at WynterCon as a different princess. Dot had of course brought several changes of costume and switched to Snow White shortly after this photo!

This Loki cosplayer was lovely - her costume was amazing! There was so much detail! Some is lost a bit here, but take it from me - it was stunning!

 Of course we had to have a photo with Captain America.

And we got photos on the bridge of the Enterprise!

And in the Tardis!

We did finally get to meet Tom Baker in the afternoon, braving a big queue and being helped out by the Master! Tom was lovely, relaxed and friendly and so nice to the kids. He'd been signing photos all morning, at a Q&A session and then back signing again, I was impressed at how laid back he still was! I got quite tearful at how lovely he was - I love all the Doctors but he has always been my Doctor, the one I first thought of and still think of as truly being the Doctor, I think I had secretly steeled myself to have my illusions shattered but I needn't have worried, not one jot!

Everyone there was lovely - we got so much free stuff! Greedo gave us free Star Wars Legacy comics, we got free Magic Cards expansion cards which were amazing, and all sorts of bits and bobs - it was wonderful, well worth the (to us) slightly lengthy drive (about 2 hours). Roo and I agreed we'd definitely go again!

We came away with a modest haul of small crocheted daleks, a Frozen mug with a gothed up Elsa & Anna on it (Petal. Of course) and even a weather and terrain expansion pack for our Lords of War card game!

We had an absolutely wonderful, brilliant, amazing time and now we can't wait for WyntrCon later this year!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

La Fille Mal Gardee, Royal Ballet at the Cinema in May

Oh what a treat! The girls and I went along to this with high hopes and we weren't disappointed! Completely reworked by Michael Ashton in '59 this is a quintessentially english ballet, opening with dancers in chicken fat suits and almost contemporary, show style footwork.

The plot revolves around Lise, danced by the lovely Natalia Osipova, the beautiful and lively daughter of the Widow Simone, a character reminiscent of the pantomime dame and danced by a man - in this case Phillip Mosley. Lise is love with a young farmer Colas (Steven McRae) but her mother is persuaded by a wealthy vineyard owner to marry her daughter to his son, Alaine, a buffoon.

What follows is romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the harvest and its accompanying celebrations, with secret meetings between the lovers and Alaine trying to impress Lise, and plenty of intricate and beautiful dancing involving ribbons, including a big maypole dance where the corps de ballet successfully created a beautifully woven pattern and did NOT get a knot in their ribbons!

Absolutely key to the whole ballet, in my opinion, is the relationship between Widow Simone and her daughter Lise. Yes of course there must be great chemistry between Lise and Colas and Osipova and McRae had this in spades, portraying a loving, humorous but above all greatly tender connection. However, the interactions between Mosley and Osipova have a more difficult line to walk between bickery slapstick and loving filial bond and Mosley was surpurb - funny, poignant and at all times believable, he did not descend into two dimensional cartoonery, not even during the clog dance which he executed with great aplomb.

Steven McRae, who has an entertaining passing resemblance to Damien Lewis, was wonderful as the lover Colas. He had a tiny wobble - of the 'over so quickly I'm not entirely sure I really saw it' variety at the end of one of his first big sets of jumps and turns in the first scene of the first act. He must have known that from then on everyone's eyes would be on him more than ever the minute he left the floor - and he was rock solid for the rest of the ballet, danced the big choreography with grace and style and always a dashing twinkle in his eye and a humorous twist to his smile.

Paul Kay was a tour de force as Alaine - the choreography is deceptively rigorous and he made it look easy. His acting was impeccable, and despite truly achieving a face slapable irritation, at the same time he retained a certain amount of appeal and loveability. Very watchable indeed.

Natalia Osipova was truly amazing. I already knew she was fast of foot and big of leap and she romped through the demanding choreography as if it were all a delightful party put on for her benefit! The hard work she's put in to develop the more english style of arms certainly seems to have paied off. In the pre-show interviews she was shown as saying that she's naturally light and playful in real life so decided to be herself in the ballet rather than creating something new - this was absolutely the right decision, there was a genuineness and naturalness to her performance that was just so charming to see. She and McRae fitted beautifully together, and they successfully achieved the various manipulation of ribbons with great style.

The corps de ballet were wonderful, this ballet suiting the Royal Ballet company's eclectic collection of dancers far better than Swan Lake did. They actually used the height variance to great effect, having several tallest to shortest line ups which worked really well with the humour of the piece. I was also delighted to see Gary Avis again, in the small but rich role of the Village Notary in the final act. He emoted every last little movement with great style and dripped with character.

We all loved it. Dot fell asleep before the interval again, but I'm glad to hear it's going to be released on DVD so she can watch the rest of it. Petal stayed awake all the way through and we both came home with stars in our eyes and went to bed dreaming of flat fifths. The 'wow' factor quality that was a little missing, in my opinion, from their Swan Lake was back here in spades - it was wonderful.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

April Book Log

New to me:
Prince of Prigio by Andrew Lang
Picked this up in the library shop - it's a lovely copy, too - thinking it was a separate illustrated version of a story I had in an anthology somewhere, but in fact not only was it an original tale penned by Lang himself but it was also new to me! It was wonderful and I really enjoyed it!

I'm sure there were other things this month, I read a bit more of the tree book for a start, but mostly I finished the book I've been writing, hence the lack of anything else on this book log!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Blossom and books and other good things

Oh dear. Poor neglected blog. Still, the book I've been working on is finished or at least, the first draft is. 97,500 odd words in two months or so, in just snatched times and evening sessions. Not bad, eh?!

Roo got his school place and has just completed his first week. Not his school of choice and a bus ride rather than a walk away, non the less their use of tech, individual learning, inclusiveness and an environment of mutual respect impressed me. His first week has been how you might expect... Shadowing another pupil he hasn't found the work very relevant or challenging but hopefully next week with his own timetable and options it will be more stimulating. He's just about got to grip with the buses too.

The allotment has been very busy, we've been down there a few mornings a week, going for the little and often approach this year! Potatoes, carrots, onions and a few peas are all in and showing signs of life. The growbags and tomato plants are established in the greenhouse and we've planted flowers in both seed and seedling forms. The strawberries, that I still haven't moved, are flowering like mad. I think the dead leaves have been keeping them going so I've left them alone, just encouraging them to run into a fresh patch and keeping that weeded. So, we'll see how they do this year.

We've had a trip to Paradise park and are off to Knockhatch tomorrow. Tennis, football, karate, ballet and tap are all in full swing and we've even been swimming! There's mass excitement at the dance classes as they get ready for a show in June and we've been the little park a lot, taking out the scooters and skates and frequently getting out twice a day now we have a little nice weather.

The cherry trees on our are street are in full, glorious, barby pink flood. It didn't seem so terribly early this year so I looked back to last year and they were flowering at the end of March, beginning of April. We're now at the end of April, beginning of May and it does feel more timely. Helps that we've had some sunny days, I expect.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ivan the Terrible, Bolishoi Ballet at the Cinema in April

Another Yuri Grigorovich ballet from the 70's, unsurprisingly this is in no other ballet company's repetoir than the Bolshoi's. Set to a collection of Prokofiev music including some written for a film about Ivan the Terrible, this was predictably stabby and full of conflict and violence and madness, hence I just took myself and not the girls.

The setting was striking with a raised area at the back and six great ropes coming down into centre stage that were used effectively as bell ropes throughout, with six assigned male dancers, the ropes looped up when the scene was elsewhere. Anna Nikulina (I think) danced the part of Ivan's wife, Anastasia, with a beautiful poignancy, there was fantastic chemistry between her and Mikhail Lobukhin as Ivan, and also between her and Denis Rodkin who was Prince Kurbsky, a high up general and a noble, also in love with Anastasia but still loyal to the Tsar, fighting in his campaign against the  until his emotions got the better of him and he was persuaded by the scheming boyars, disgruntled at the less well bred Ivan's accession, to connive in a poisoning plot which unfortunately kills Anastasia rather than Ivan, causing Ivan to descend into madness and carry out against the treasonous boyars.

There's a moving scene between Anastasia in the agony of death throes, and the appalled Kurbsky who then flees, and clever scene after her death where Ivan dreams of his dead wife and dances with her in her shroud - a great excuse for another pas de deux, I thought!

Denis Rodkin was astonishing as I've come to expect, Mickhail Lobukhin was STAGGERING. I'm used to model where the ballet is hung on the prima ballerina, it was really interesting to see one where the male lead is really the primary role and character. There was a lot of power and intensity required in Ivan's choreography and my goodness me did Lobukhin deliver - he obviously left it all on the stage in an incredible performance that culminated with him being suspended, crucifix style, over the centre of the stage within the bell ropes. Poor man was in bits for the curtain calls! Rodkin was nicely composed after a decent sized break between his last appearance and the end, Lobukhin was firing on every cylinder to the very end.

The music did work really well, despite being a collection of different pieces and not written for the ballet, the costumes were effective and fitted well into the story throughout, the staging was striking and effective, the choreography was interesting, with lots of jumps and leaps and turns for the men as you'd expect from the Bolshoi, the performances were top notch and I really enjoyed it.

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