Saturday, 22 April 2017

Ely Cathedral

Bank Holiday Monday and a little trip out to the picturesque City of Ely in Cambridgeshire. The landscape is completely dominated by 'The Ship of the Fens'The Anglican Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity or 'Ely Cathedral' .The cathedral has its origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an abbey church. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Built in a monumental Romanesque style architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Its most famous feature however is the central octagonal tower, with lantern above, which provides a spectacular internal space and, along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark.

The Chapel is 100 feet (30 m) long and 46 feet (14 m) wide, and was built in an exuberant 'Decorated' Gothic style. You can't help but be impressed by the sheer vastness once inside and it does feel like being on a ship. I always enjoy a good stained glass window as well as savouring a feeling of spirituality that you don't get anywhere else. Leaving the Cathedral we headed down towards the river where we were treated to some live operatic music from one of the narrow boats. It is the River Great Ouse that flows through the southeastern boundary of the city. The riverside and Jubilee Gardens host a variety of events throughout the year from the annual Eel Day which includes the World Eel Throwing Competition ....Anguila Anguila is the scientific name of the remarkable fish that is best known by the name that gave Ely its name – The Eel. The type of eels that live in the river in and around Ely are European Eels and they have a fascinating life cycle which is spent partly in the ocean and partly in freshwater rivers like Ely’s Great Ouse.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sonata Arctica - Wolverhampton

Another different venue in Wolverhampton, this time in the shape of 'The Slade Rooms'. Named of course after the 70's Glam Rock band featuring Noddy Holder. The venue holds 550 according to its website and hosting an eclectic program. Headlining tonight are old favourites from Finland 'Sonata Arctica', supported by fellow Finns 'Thunderstone' and first up from Canada 'Striker'.

We were quite lucky to even see Striker as a few days earlier in Belfast they were unable to perform due to their singer losing his voice! Even tonight he struggled and was helped out by the rest of the band. I think a few in the crowd had turned up just to see the next band 'Thunderstone'. They were impressive enough and very much in the mold of 'Avantasia'. Another example of a very good Finnish power metal band. Must admit to be feeling excited at seeing Sonata Arctica again , a band I have a lot of time for . I did have a cheeky glimpse at previous set lists on the tour so had a good idea of what to expect. I suppose if you are promoting a new album (The Ninth Hour) it is bound to be top heavy with songs from it.The truth being we just want to hear the classic tracks we know so well. While their music is seriously technical, there was a light atmosphere throughout the small venue the use of a light up mic stand for Toni Kakko and keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg use of a keytar helped add some fun features to the performance. A superb night , the highlight being 'Full Moon' from Sonata Arctica oh and not forgetting we also had a marriage proposal from a fan on the front row to his future wife. Beautifully handled by Toni and i'm pleased to say the young lady did say yes. iT would have been great to hear some favourites such as ; 'Replica', 'The Cage' 'Kingdom for a Heart', 'San Sebastian', 'Victoria's Secret' , 'Flag in the Ground, or even 'Las drop falls' but it wasn't to be. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Loreena Mckennitt - The London Palladium

First ever trip to the world famous London Palladium built in 1910 and someone i've been waiting a long time to see. Just walking into this magnificent theatre you can feel the culture oozing out of the walls. Inside the ghosts of those who have been before circle high above the stage and into the upper circle looking down approvingly. A perfect setting you might say for the delightful Loreena Mckennitt and her 'trio' companions 'Brian Hughes (Guitars,Bouzouki)and Caroline Lavelle (Cello, Recorder and Vocals).


  From our perch on Row A of the Royal Circle we had a perfect view of the stage. it’s very easy to see why Loreena McKennitt is a twice Grammy-nominated artist. Third night of this 26 date European tour that started in Glasgow and ends in Eindhoven. A stunning performance, utterly magical. I went through all the emotions and was moved and utterly enthralled (some songs I think I forgot to breathe). To say her voice is haunting is an understatement. Not everything went strictly according to plan however... There were hiccups in the show. A harp string broke, a 'D' string I believe and a very rare experience Loreena told us. You wouldn't have noticed though as she continued playing like a true professional. There was also a hint of embarrassment as the words to Greensleeves slipped her mind but the audience filled in the blanks. The set list took a shuffle as the harp got re-strung and yet the concert still flowed beautifully.While all this was going on there was a bit of fill in and a couple of jokes too
 McKennitt has made the study of the Celts her life’s work and has shared it with the world via both traditional ballads and her own original compositions. The emigration section was very powerful. With diary extracts from those at Grosse Isle in Quebec, tending to the Irish refugees, to Loreena’s own musings on her journey to discover the Celts. It was a history lesson, a musical journey and a spiritual experience. Whatever you say I know that I almost floated down the steps of the theatre emotionally and spiritually uplifted.

Set List (First Half) 
Samain Nights All Souls Night
Annachie Gordon
Penelopes Song
Morrisons Jig
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Down by the Sally Gardens
The Emigration Tunes
The Lark in the Clear Air

(Second Half)
 On a Bright May Morning
 Stolen Child
 Bonny Portmore
The Bonny Swans
 The Lady of Shalott
The Old Ways
 Dante's Prayer

 Encore 1 
The Mummers' Dance

 Encore 2
 Full Circle

Friday, 17 March 2017

London - A few sights

Managed to get down to London early ahead of the Loreena Mckennitt concert  on what was a beautiful early Spring day. Perfect weather for having a wander and a few pints while the skies were blue and the sun was shining. Always like to visit Covent Garden to get my bearings and visit the Moomin store. As mentioned it was nice and warm so a thirst had been worked up so a perfect time to call into The Lamb and Flag on Rose street for a pint of London Pride.A  pub has been on the site since 1772and was a favourite watering hole of Charles Dickens amongst other literary greats.

Decided to catch the Tube down to Westminster and have a slightly closer look at the Houses of Parliament that we see so much of on the news just lately. The Houses of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. They stand right on the North bank of the River Thames. Across the other side of the bridge are views of the London Eye. Couldn't resist taking a quick selfy in front of The Elizabeth Tower, often better known by the name of its main bell, Big Ben. Seemed to be a lot going on and as I approached its near neighbour Westminster Abbey I soon understood why. There was a big celebration being held there to mark Commonwealth Day. Her Majesty The Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth was joined by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, The Duke of York and The Earl of Wessex. The Abbey bells were in full cry , you could hardly hear yourself think.It was at that point all the traffic was suddenly stopped and a Royal car went right past my nose. I took a picture and you can just about make out Camilla in the back if you expand it a bit. All the crowds were getting a bit much by now so I made my way off towards Trafalgar Square passing the famous bronze statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. The statue was installed on the north-east corner of the Square in 1973. Commissioned in 1971, it was sculpted by Ivor Roberts-Jones (1913-96). As you walk through Whitehall you can't fail to spot the entrance to one of the most famous streets in the world 'Downing Street'. All very heavily policed of course so no chance of a stroll up to the PM's place. Continuing the journey past Horseguards Parade where 'The Queen's Life Guards', mounted on immaculately groomed horses with breastplates shinning in the sun, present a stirring sight as they prevent unlawful entry of all carriages and cars through the Arch of Horse Guards.

Time for another pint just before Trafalgar Square in the Lord Moon of the Mall, and very well it went down too. Being a Wetherspoons it was much cheaper than the £4.50 paid previously (£3.40). By now it was nearly 4pm so after a quick walkr around Lord Nelson I made my way up to Oxford Circus in tome to meet Mrs A. Being a bit early I had to wait in the Argyll Arms which meant another London Pride. Upon her arrival we move on to The Cock in Gt Portland St a Samuel Smiths pub. Easily the best pint of the day in the shape of Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter. A cracking london pub with grand Victorian interior and a large bar upstairs and a full range of bottled beers.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Boxing Day Morris Dancing

Boxing Day and traditionally a time to get out of the house and gain some fresh air after being stuck inside the day before. Nothing more traditional in Moulton than spot of Boxing Day Morris Dancing. A type of folk dance that dates back to 1448. It was a bright crisp sunny morning so a good turnout from the village. The pubs were also all open so that helped the atmosphere too.
The music is provided on melodeon, fiddle and concertina and there are nationally renowned musicians among the group. They pride ourselves on being one of the best traditional dance teams in the country. Performing at traditional English Morris dances in the ways they should be done, dancing throughout the summer months at fairs, steam rallies, fetes, fun days, folk festivals and in many open places around Northamptonshire.

I think it is important that traditions such as these are maintained and supported. Judging by the turnout there is certainly a lot of positivity within the village. After the Morris Dancing followed something called 'The Mummers Play'. Whats a Mummers Play ? Well i shall tell you as you ask so nicely. Again it's a folk play performed by amateurs whereby all the cast end up on 'stage'. Usually a dual of some kind takes place with the loser being brought back to life by a Doctor. In this particualr version we were treated to an appearance by 'Donald Trump'. The word mummer is sometimes explained to derive from Middle English mum ("silent") or Greek mommo ("mask"), but is more likely to be associated with Early New High German mummer ("disguised person", attested in Johann Fischart) and vermummen ("to wrap up, to disguise, to mask ones faces").Glad thats cleared that one up. Essentially its a comedy about a Doctor with a magic potion that can revive the dead. Other common characters include; St George (minus a dragon), Old Father Christmas, who introduces some plays, the Fool and Beelzebub or Little Devil (who demands money from the audience). A good mornings entertainment was followed by a trip to the pub where I was mistaken for one of the Morris Dancers. Not wishing to disappoint the lady I was very modest and stated that I didn't do too much really but it was kind of her to say that she was impressed with my dancing!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Norwich - Weekend Break

A pre - Christmas getaway at a luxury hotel set in 150 acres of woodland with it's own golf course! Just what the Doctor ordered. Not that I play golf these days of course ,long time since my sticks saw the light of day. I will take full advantage of the gym, pool,sauna, steam room and jacuzzi though thank you very much. Set just outside Norwich and locate half a mile from the 'Park 'n' Ride' the Dunston Hall is the perfect location. Saturday morning saw a trip into Norwich the County Town of Norfolk via the aforementioned 'Park 'n' Ride'. First port of call was the ancient market place, established by the Normans between 1071 and 1074, which is today the largest six-days-a-week open-air market in England. Very impressive and puts Northampton's to shame. From the market we took a short walk to Norwich Cathedral. The Norman Cathedral has stood for over 900 years !The cathedral spire, measuring at 315 ft or 96 m, is the second tallest in England despite being partly rebuilt after being struck by lightning in 1169. Inside the Cathedral is equally impressive. The ground plan remains almost entirely as it was in Norman times, except for that of the easternmost chapel. The cathedral has an unusually long nave of fourteen bays. I got talking to the Pastor who was telling me that he was evacuated from London to Weedon in Northants during the war. He also said that it costs £3000 a staggering day to heat the Cathedral. The Cloisters are the passageway that linked the different parts of the Cathedral. In the ceiling there are over a thousand bosses. What is a boss I hear you cry ? Well it is a knob or protrusion of stone or wood,often found in the ceilings of buildings, particularly at at the intersections of a rib vault. In Gothic architecture, such roof bosses are often intricately carved with foliage, heraldic devices or other decorations. Many feature animals, birds, or human figures or faces, sometimes realistic, but often grotesque: the Green Man is a frequent subject. I do love a Green Man so was very happy to capture the two below. From the Cathedral we took the short walk to Norwich Castle founded by William the Conqueror some time between 1066 and 1075. I didn't go inside the Castle but did walk all the way around which provided stunning views of the City and Cathedral. Definitely a great place to visit with plenty to see. Enjoyed a well earned couple of pints amongst the Norwich City football fans prior to their home game with Brentford. Was tempted to tag along but Mrs A had other ideas involving the 'John Lewis' store.