Sunday, 29 June 2014

Van Morrison at Hampton Court Palace

One of the important lessons that I learned from my last O.U. module was that the human brain is flexible, ever-changing and programmed readily to absorb new ideas and new experiences and to weave them into its neural pathways like bright strands of threads in an ever-expanding tapestry.

That's if we take the time and make the effort...
Work, work can consume us and well, while one's work should be a passion, it should never be a monogamous relationship, we should devote as much, if not more, time and energy to exploring, adventuring and to gathering new experiences as possible.  We should flirt with fun.

The Ragazzo and I pursued this notion recently.
I do not see enough of my son. He's busy with his music studies in London, playing with bands, attending festivals, being a young man. It takes a little ingenuity sometimes to entice him to spend time with his mother. Sometimes I have to resort to irresistible lures.

Van Morrison at Hampton Court Palace.

It wasn't my first time.
Years ago I took my BF's widower to Hampton Court Palace to see Van Morrison. We both desperately needed some fun after Jeannie's death, it was a perfect solution, we laughed for the first time in weeks, we even danced in an aisle. Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl will do that for you.

We could have arrived early and enjoyed a picnic on the grass. Many others were doing so when we walked through the palace in search of a drink and a slice of pizza for The Ragazzo. There were Posh Picnics. I really do not feel comfortable with posh-anythings, too pretentious, too look-at-me-I-am-special, too much of too muchness, the credit crunch has taught me to live modestly and the tickets had already cost £140.  We queued for a latte and a brownie, it was 8:15, we were to be the last served, strict orders, no serving after 8:15, they told the smartly-dressed man from a Posh Picnickers' tent nearby, no coffee for you, you are too late. He looked disappointed. So we ordered four extra coffees for his Posh Picnicker's party. He was taken-aback, but happy. It was an evening for good deeds and being nice, our second, we'd already given a hitch-hiker a lift to the motorway on the way into the city.

We had good seats. Unable to chose the precise ones I had spent a long time playing games with the booking website until the system had chanced-upon the ones that I wanted, end of a row, in the middle of the raised stand, not too far forward, not too far back. Perfect.

Van Morrison sang and played for an hour and a half. Many people got up and shuffled off to the toilets somewhere down on the left of the stage, lots of champagne in those Posh Picnics, or too many glasses of beer at the bar-tent perhaps. We laughed as they emerged and were obliged to wait until the stewards had rounded-up a certain-sized group before permitting them to return to their seats like sheep going through a gate. We didn't leave our seats. Our eyes barely left the stage. We were mesmerised and entranced, carried away by the music which was so melodic it felt like a musical mental massage.

And by the splendour of Hampton Court Palace. Those bricks, I whispered to The Ragazzo, were all hand-made, their size and contours unique to the craftsmen who fashioned them... Those chimneys, with their beautiful patterns, you don't see them often, why don't people have twisted chimneys now?

But mostly we just sat and smiled and let the music fill our souls. Mother and son...

There was no Brown Eyed Girl this time. We were disappointed. We love Brown Eyed Girl, it's the one song that I am obliged, by some primeval stirrings within me, to dance to. But there had been many songs, and there had been Moondance and we had had a wonderful time.

And we were not shepherded out as soon as the show was over and the applause had died down and people were drifting away. We were permitted to linger, to wander through the deliciously-night-scented rose garden in search of toilets decked with lights like a fairy grotto, to stand and gaze at the palace and wonder how it would have been centuries ago.

Did Anne Boleyn walk in the gardens with her brother and her musician and did she look up at the windows where a king's eyes watched her with suspicion, and did she feel a twinge in her pretty neck? Did Jane Seymour cast modest eyes to the grass when an adulterous monarch came upon her walking with her friends? Henry VIII would have liked Van Morrison, we decided. And he would have had a Posh Picnic of princely proportions!

And so we left, agreeing to return in the daylight to spend a day exploring Hampton Court Palace. We'd been before of course, but The Ragazzo had been a boy and now he was a man and we would both see it through fresh eyes.

And we drove the sixty-something miles home to the Doll's House.
Mother and son and a Van Morrison CD playing Brown Eyed Girl...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Making hay....

It has been a while...

Spring has blossomed into early summer
The swallows have returned to skim across the green
Butterflies flit from flower to flower
Fuzzy bumble bees buzz among the bushes
The planet continues on its path

Work is as demanding as ever with changes thrust upon us, the insecurities of out-sourcing half of our tasks to India, colleagues leaving to seek better career paths, new managers to get to know, a new role to embrace.

The only certainty is that nothing is certain.
That we have as much control as a feather floating on a breeze.

I have submitted my last assignment for my Art of English module and, all being well, my last assignment for my O.U. studies. Which means that I should soon be granted a BA (Hons) Modern Language Studies. There will be no more O.U. studies, the fees are now beyond my modest budget and, anyway, I feel I have reached my destination, at least where that path is concerned.

It's been a long, rocky road to this arrival point.
Through child-rearing, a husband hostile to my ambitions, the departure of said-husband and single-motherhood, returning to a career, working myself to a burn-out, fleeing to France and returning to carve out a new career.
A long and rocky road and one on which I have sometimes stumbled, frequently fallen, but finally finished, crawling on bloodied knees towards the end.

But it is over and now I can relax and take more time to wander aimlessly on the village green.
To pause to admire a red kite circling overhead.
To stop to smell the flowers.
To make hay when the sun shines between the showers.

Except that I have been making not hay but elderflower vodka.
Spurred on by the success of last year's cherry vodka, every sip of which transported me back to the sunny days of that summer and to the pleasure I found in collecting those cherries and turning them into a rich, red, fragrant and leg-wobblingly potent drink, I decided to try this year with elderflowers.


It's ridiculously easy, no magic involved. Just flowers, lemon rind, sugar and vodka.

So after an early walk to collect the blossoms while the dew was still upon them...
And, of course, pausing to admire the irises that grow with their feet in the pond...

Here you have it...
Elderflower vodka ready to go into a dark place for a few weeks before being bottled and enjoyed with a spritz of fizzy water and a few lemony ice-cubes. 

Making hay
Making elderflower vodka 
Carpe diem