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.

Friday, 4 November 2016

France 2016- Prix De L'arc De Triomphe Chantilly

The stunning backdrop of the Château de Chantilly is just perfect for the racecourse at Chantilly. Owned by the Institut de France, the château houses the Musée Condé. It is one of the finest art galleries in France. Not only that it was the setting for the James Bond film 'View to a Kill'. Additionally footballer Ronaldo got married here in 2005.

Pink Floyd played two nights of the Division Bell Tour here in 1994.

Chantilly Racecourse is a Thoroughbred turf racecourse for flat racing in Chantilly, Oise, France, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Paris. It's a busy horseracing and and stands on 65 hectares next to Chantilly Forest. A right-handed course, the main course is 2,400 metres long, with another at 2,150 metres, plus a round course adaptable from 1,400 to 2,400 metres. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is normally run at Longchamp. However ongoing renovation work has resulted in the race being moved temporarily for 2016. the race should return to its historical home in 2017. Before the races we had a wander through Chantilly and it really is a lovely place. The England football team were based here in the 2016 Euros. Reminded me of a larger version of Olney with similar style of brickwork. But today was all about the racing and we were keen to get in , which was easier said than done ! We virtually did a full circuit before finding the correct entrance. It really is a beautiful course with all the surrounding forest, I even brought a few French conkers home to plant. I was surprised that it wasn't too busy , I remember Longchamp being rammed and difficult to get a bet on. It really was a picturesque setting as the band came out prior to the first race and the jockeys walked the track.

The betting was totally different to the English system with no on course bookmakers. Not only that any bets had to be done via a computer terminal system thing which only added to the confusion. Something that came back to haunt us when we thought we had first and second in a forecast at good prices. The other thing with the French betting is they don't pay out as quickly as here. So thinking we were sitting on a nice pick -up we re-invested only to find we hadn't covered all bases.... There was a large contingent from the UK and in particular Ireland who didn't take long to get into the full party spirit. I spotted Andrew LLoyd-Webber in the parade ring along with Trainer John Gosden, but it wasn't to be their day either. The big race did have a British winner though in the shape of 'Found' ridden by Ryan Moore and trained by Aiden O'brien in Ireland. It won convincingly and was one of those you wonder how you overlooked at a price around 10/1... Winners were definitely thin on the ground but it was all about the occasion and taking it all in. Without really noticing the crowd had swelled and I was struck by the mess created of empty beer and wine bottles and wrappers. What had started out as a serene landscape had become tainted by ignorance. No doubt the cleaners would get to work afterwards and restore to it's former glory but that didn't seem the point. 

There were great views of the horses from on the rails.
It turned out to be a beautiful early Autumn afternoon and as the afternoon slowly drifted into early evening there was a wonderful light over the racecourse. Hopefully one or two of these photos might have captured the mood?