Frozen in Norway

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland in Oslo park

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland in Oslo park

One of the many joys associated with having grandchildren is that you get to watch the most beautiful films at the Cinema, or enjoy Disney videos at home, without feeling silly.
Recently I have been captivated by Frozen which I watched with Ben and Rosie. In the film Elsa the Snow Queen sings ‘Let it Go’, which is one of the songs our choir sings. It really is a most beautiful song, but when the children and their parents sing along together it is truly moving. This weekend we are performing it in a concert at the Tuckwell Open Air Theatre.

The film, Frozen, is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Snow Queen.  When my daughter, Anna,  was young she played a part in a local production of the fairytale so it has a special place in my heart.  Also, the dramatic landscape of Norway was the inspiration for the setting apparently and I had a wonderful holiday in Norway some years ago.

If you have never been to Norway, I hope this film will inspire you to go. In July 1999 I flew to Oslo then travelled by train across Norway. Trains and boats are really the best way to travel for seeing scenery I find, and in Norway there is so much to see. The countryside was truly spectacular and very rugged with snow-covered mountains, icy glaciers, breathtakingly beautiful fjords and waterfalls, wildflower covered meadows and lakes so still that it was hard to tell what was real and what was a reflection.

Reflections in a still lake

Reflections in a still lake

There is a real port called Arendal in the South of Norway which becomes Arendelle in the film, Frozen. But it is in Bergen that you find the exquisitely preserved old buildings of Bryggen which feature in the film. There is a fish market in Bergen just opposite these ancient timber buildings. I was a bit shocked to find whale meat for sale alongside fabulous salmon.

Shopping for Salmon in Bergen Market

Shopping for Salmon in Bergen Market

Also in the film you will see Stave churches. There are many of these beautifully preserved churches in Norway. They were built mostly of wood during the middle ages. The largest is Heddal near Notodde. It is a beautiful fairytale church which dates back to the 12th century. There are several of these Stave churches around Bergen and we decided to visit the Fantoft Stavkirk on St Olav’s day. I caught a bus with my husband from Bergen and we had a very pleasant journey to the church. As we went to enter the church my husband realised he had left his wallet with all our money, tickets and passports on the bus! Fortunately I had a mobile phone with me and I managed to find the telephone number of the bus company. I rang them and sadly explained our situation. Imagine my delight when they said the driver had found the wallet and was finishing work for the day soon. He offered to drive back to where he had dropped us on his way home and return the wallet to us! He would not take any tip and seemed surprised that we were so overwhelmed with gratitude. Call me an old cynic but I just can’t imagine this happening in the UK.



My husband and I intended visiting the church on the way to Troldhaugen where Edvard Grieg lived. I say the house but actually it was like an estate with a very impressive villa which is now a living museum. There was an island where visitors can enjoy free lunchtime concerts of Grieg’s music in the summer months. There is also the cabin where he worked. By the time we got there we had missed the concert and only had time for a rushed visit.
There are several fjords which could be the setting for Arendelle but it is claimed that it is Nærøyfjord, an arm of the Unesco-listed Sognefjord. I can believe that as it is so spectacularly beautiful. We travelled on the famous Flam railway passing huge waterfalls to reach the fjord. Along the way we could hear beautiful operatic singing and we could not work out where it was coming from. The train stopped under a waterfall and from there we could see a woman standing on the very top of the mountain. She was producing that magnificent sound which echoed around the fjord. From there we travelled by boat to one of many little villages dotted around the fjord.

Village along the fjord

Village along the fjord

Also in the film, Frozen, Elsa flees across a glacial landscape which resembles the Folgefonna glacier. It could equally have been the Hardanger Glacier, which we saw, and flew over. It certainly is a bleak and barren place when viewed from the air.

Frozen Norway Norway from the air Hardanger glacier seen from plane

Watching Frozen brought all this back to me so I fished out my photos. Enjoy!

My Japanese Maple

My little dachsund walking amongst the Acers at Westonbirt

My little dachsund walking amongst the Acers at Westonbirt

Drained and sitting weakly by the window, I hear the drone of aircraft returning to their bases from the Fairford Airshow. Too high to see, yet they fascinate me with their power and the skill of their crew. The washing machine is rattling in the background, an unbalanced load of sheets and towels, detritus from my weekend sickness.
I feel the cleansing warm breeze waft through the open door, cooling me down and I hear the maple tree shiver to the chinking of delicate chimes. That tree is my pride and joy, a foliate friend, a deciduous delight. At 12 feet tall it is unbridled and bushy. Grown from first generation seed gathered at Westonbirt, it’s not like those at garden centres. This is a thoroughbred tree, the debutante of the Acer world, a Palmatum in its prime. I’ve nurtured it for 8 years since it started to grow in a humble yoghurt pot in the dark. It progressed to a plant pot on the windowsill then a tub on the patio. At three, petite and pretty, it seemed perfectly happy in its miniature world.
By the time we moved house 5 years ago I was so attached to it that it had to move with us. I felt it was ready for its own space in the earth. I was careful to plant it in a sheltered spot as Acers hate wind on their leaves. And judging by how it has thrived, it seems to have found its niche. At the moment it has seeds on it, like miniature sycamore wings, and masses of new branches which form arches and tunnels. My grandson, Stanley, loves to hide among the branches. I know he’s there of course as I can see his little truck sticking out but I still have to call out in a worried voice,
“Stanley where are you…?”
He instantly appears giggling every time. It’s adorable.
I’ve had to sacrifice a conservatory for my maple tree as I couldn’t bear to risk damaging the roots by digging foundations So my maple and I will just have to sit together in our shady spot growing old together. But it is worth it just to look forward to autumn when it will be glowing red and gold. Stunning
If you want to see some beautiful Acers at Westonbirt just click on this link to a previous post

That’s the way to do it!

Professor Collywobbles 1
Can you guess what links the English Civil Wars (1642–1651) between Oliver Cromwell’s ‘Roundheads’ and King Charles’s ‘Cavaliers’, Samuel Pepys’ Diary, Charles Dickens’ ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, the famous Geordie inventor Robert Stephenson, a pub in London’s Covent Garden, and the Italian clown Joe Grimaldi?
Well, last night at WI we were enlightened and entertained by Professor Collywobbles, who managed to squeeze them all in to his talk on the history of Punch and Judy!
To be honest I was not keen to go. Having never been that keen on this traditional seaside entertainment, I was going to give it a miss. But I am so glad I went.
Now Punch and Judy shows would seem to be as British as fish and chips, but in fact we learned that they hark back to Italy’s commedia dell’arte, a type of improvised comedy based on stock characters. Punch is probably based on the character of Pulcinella, a nasty, aggressive fellow with a long, beaky nose.
We were told that the first reported show was seen on May 9th 1662, and was immortalized by no less than Samuel Pepys in his diary when he wrote about seeing, “an Italian puppet play…the best that ever I saw” in Covent Garden. It was performed by an Italian puppet showman, Pietro Gimonde, known as “Signor Bologna.” But they may well have started even earlier because of Oliver Cromwell. He closed all the theatres during the Civil War apparently, so sketches with puppets or Marionettes were put on at street corners and public places. These anarchic early shows were aimed at adults but children did gather to watch them with their family.
Before long, Punch and Judy shows had sprung up all over London. Judy was at that point known as Joan.
We heard how, by the 19th century, thanks in part to Robert Stephenson, the railways were taking off, and people were travelling to the seaside for days out or holidays. ‘Professors’ saw the opportunity to make money from the crowds and so they began tailoring their shows for children while still retaining some adult jokes. Thus began the tradition of Punch and Judy shows at the seaside.
Professor Collywobbles told us that early Punch plays would have been performed with marionettes, but as the show developed glove puppets were used. They were cheaper to make and easier to carry. Soon mobile booths were designed to carry everything in, and, covered in red and white cloth, these became the stage with the addition of a decorative proscenium arch. The man who operated the puppets was called a ‘professor’ and he often had an assistant who was called a ‘bottler’. The bottler would usually play a musical instrument, warm up the crowds, and collect money in a bottle. Sometimes a live dog, called Toby was used alongside the puppets.
Punch’s screeching voice was, and still is, created with the aid of a swazzle, which sits at the back of the mouth and is pushed to the side when other characters are ‘speaking’. It is quite difficult to understand all the words Punch says so the bottler or other puppet characters often repeat his lines.
I discovered that other countries have long had their own shows with the Pulcinella character. It was very popular in France. In America, George Washington is recorded as buying tickets for a puppet play featuring Punch in Pennsylvania in 1742.
I read that across Europe shows might star Punch himself, or St George and the Dragon, the Spanish Don Cristobal, the German Kasper, the Turkish and Greek shadow puppet star Karagoz, the elaborately costumed French icon Polichinelle, or the pleasant-faced comic, Guignol. Nowadays, In the USA The contemporary fan can see the Sid & Nancy Punk Punch & Judy Show in Brooklyn, or on the West Coast, catch a performance of Punch & Jimmy, which is Punch “with a Gay twist”.
The professor told us that in the UK, the storyline of a Punch and Judy show can be different in every performance, with stock characters ranging from crocodiles to policemen. Changing public taste and social awareness of issues like child abuse however, means that the traditional nature of the show is being adapted. ‘Unsuitable’ characters like the Devil or Pretty Polly, Punch’s mistress, are now less common, while Punch’s unacceptable habit of beating his wife and baby is often left out.
There is an annual gathering of Punch showmen in the grounds of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. In 2012 the TV reported that Punch and Judy professors from all over the world gathered at Covent Garden for “the Big Grin”, a celebration of Punch and Judy’s 350th anniversary. They performed in front of the Punch and Judy Pub. Built in 1787, this pub was thought to be named after the puppet show performances that took place in the nearby piazza for the children of flower-sellers – Covent Garden originally being a flower market.
A typical Punch and Judy show today will probably include traditional characters such as:
Mr Punch ~ a violent, rude and not at all politically correct, character who solves his problems by using a ‘slapstick’ which is where the phrase ‘slapstick comedy’ comes from, plus Judy ~ his long suffering wife and the Baby. There may also be a Policeman, a Crocodile, a Skeleton and a Doctor. Often there are props like sausages.
Joey ~ the clown, based on the real life Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) who was a tragic character and the world’s most famous clown, is a traditional character.
Other characters, which used to be regular but are now only seen occasionally, include Toby the dog, Hector the horse, Pretty Polly ~ Mr Punch’s mistress; the Devil, the Beadle, the Hangman ~ known as Jack Ketch, and Mr. Scaramouch.
Some characters are now only seen in historical re-enactment performances including the Servant or Minstrel, and the Blind Man.
My Collywobbles told us that he rarely uses other characters including Boxers, Chinese Plate Spinners, topical figures, a trick puppet with an extending neck (the “Courtier”) and a monkey.

Mr. Collywobbles certainly taught me to appreciate this art form and inspired me to go off and search the internet for more information. There is a basic plot or storyline in Punch and Judy which was actually printed in 1828. Prior to that the storylines were handed down and developed orally. But, like most good showmen, Mr. Collywobbles adapted his performance brilliantly to the audience, and kept the humour topical.
And as for Charles Dickens? Well he was a great fan of Joe Grimaldi and he loved Punch and Judy shows. In 1849 he wrote,

In my opinion the street Punch is one of those extravagant reliefs from the realities of life which would lose its hold upon the people if it were made moral and instructive. I regard it as quite harmless in its influence, and as an outrageous joke which no one in existence would think of regarding as an incentive to any kind of action or as a model for any kind of conduct. It is possible, I think, that one secret source of pleasure very generally derived from this performance… is the satisfaction the spectator feels in the circumstance that likenesses of men and women can be so knocked about, without any pain or suffering.

—Charles Dickens, Letter to Mary Tyler, 6 November 1849, from The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol V, 1847–1849
Charles Dickens referred to Punch and Judy shows in several of his books to make a point or draw an analogy. Indeed in the Old Curiosity Shop he introduces a Punch puppeteer and his Bottler in the characters of Short and Codlin. They meet and travel with Little Nell and her grandfather throughout rural England revealing a lot about life on the road.

All in all it was a great evening. True to the WI ethos it was inspiring and educational while being a lot of fun.

The Joys of Cornwall

Derelict mine building at Wheal Coates3

Old tin mines stand tall

Telling stories of the past

On Cornish coastline

I recently spent another lovely week in Cornwall. I wanted to be near the sea while still being near Truro for my hubby’s regular dialysis sessions, so I opted for a cottage in St Agnes. St Agnes is a beautiful, unspoilt little town on the North Cornwall coast. It is full of fascinating relics from the days when tin and copper mining was the main industry. It seemed strange to me to see derelict tin mines visible from behind houses and forming the boundary walls of gardens. In fact tin is still produced in St Agnes at the Blue Hills Mine, the only place in the UK that still produces it. St Agnes is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it has been designated a World Heritage Site. I can certainly see why. I just loved the rugged land and seascapes. Even in our state of unfitness we were able to walk some of the coastal path. This leads to sights that can never be appreciated from the road. One of these is Wheal Coates Mine. It is truly amazing when seen from a distance with its three shafts and its spectacular position on the side of the cliffs. In fact the mine goes all the way down to the sea and at high tide you can hear the waves crashing against rocks through a grid in the ruins. It was possible to get into this mine via a large cave at a nearby beach. There is a local legend that says Wheal Coates is haunted by the spirits of the miners who died there. I expect the eerie sounds of the sea account for the legends.
I’ve always been interested in industrial buildings. I guess this is mainly due to my father’s influence as he was a steel man from the age of 13 and he developed in me a passion for ships, bridges and buildings. The other reason could be because of where I grew up. I lived in the Felling, a shipbuilding and mining area in the North of England. I skipped past the railway station and shipyard every day on my way to school and there was a derelict engine house complete with winding gear at the end of our street of 2 up and 2 down back to back miners’ cottages. These were our adventure playgrounds. Children were never allowed to play on the grass or ride bikes in the municipal parks in those days! Parks were for floral displays and grown-ups to walk in and the park warden was fierce.
Being a traditional and romantic sort of person I regret that industrialisation almost destroyed the crafts of blacksmiths, weavers, spinners, millers and grinders. But I find there is great beauty to be found in the derelict buildings, in the machinery that drove the mines and the mills, and in the engines that turned their wheels and moved their goods

Around St Agnes there are beaches, bays and coves with caves where wreckers and smugglers, no doubt, once hid their treasures. We visited a pub reminiscent of Jamaica Inn. The pub is called the Driftwood and it has a fascinating history. It is a 17th century building which in its time has been a warehouse for the tin mines, a ships’ chandlery, and a sail maker’s loft, before becoming a characterful old pub. It is built of Cornish stone and slate and ship’s timbers and spares. Behind one of the fireplaces in the pub there is a tunnel which was uncovered during restoration. It is said that this was the secret escape route for the wreckers and smugglers of the area as it leads all the way to the beach.

The cottage we stayed in was perfect and my joy was complete when my daughter came to stay for a couple of days with my adorable grandson. He just loved the sea and sand, the horses in the paddock and the trampoline in the garden. We took him to Lappa Valley Railway, which is kiddie heaven in my book. Built on the site of yet another ruined mine, there are castles and treehouses and adventure equipment to satisfy any age. There are also 12 steam engines giving rides on trains which Stanley really loved. There is also a boating lake, café, shop and everything you could want for a fun day out. I loved it.

Sadly it will be another year before I can go away again due to the shortage of holiday dialysis spaces around the country. But until then I have my photos to remind me of the fun we had and the beauty of Cornwall. Enjoy!

All of a Flutter with Real Confetti

confetti fields 17

We took a drive out on Friday to a lovely part of the Cotswolds, the village of Wick near Pershore. I was keen to see the fields of Delphiniums at Wick while the weather was good.
Acres of delphiniums are grown by Charles Hudson on the Wyke manor Estate, which are dried and sold as natural confetti for the Real Confetti Company. Apparently delphiniums, apart from growing in a range of vibrant colours, keep their colour indefinitely once they are dried, while rose petals go brown, carnations go black and marigolds shrivel up. This makes delphiniums perfect for confetti. Being totally natural, they biodegrade and don’t litter up churchyards and wedding venues, many of which have banned paper confetti for this reason.
The village of Wick is a delight to behold. It is really ancient and retains every bit of its character. It must be the quintessential English village with its old church, thatched cottages and beautiful manor house.
The house is called Wyke Manor, using the ancient spelling, and it has a very long and illustrious history. It was owned by John Nevill, 3rd Lord Latimer, involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1538. Upon his death in 1543, he willed the manor to his widow Catherine Parr. Catherine later married King Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) as his sixth and last wife in July of 1543. She was 31 years old and he was 52. The marriage didn’t last long as Henry died in 1547 so Catherine outlived him. A small piece of Catherine has returned to Wyke Manor recently as a lock of her hair came up for auction. The hair is mounted in an oval frame on ink-inscribed paper which states “Hair of Queen Catherine Parr, Last Consort of Henry, the night she died September 5th 1548 was in the Chapel of Sudeley Castle”. The current owner of the manor, Charles Hudson, paid £2,160 for the hair, in order to return it to the manor.
Catherine Parr's Hair
After Catherine died, the estate passed to Anthony Babington, who was later executed for treason after plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth I! It then passed to Sir Walter Raleigh, who was also executed.
The Hudson family have owned the Wyke manor Estate since the 1760s and the current owner is Charles Hudson and his wife, the writer Cressida Connolly. I was fascinated to learn that Cressida is an authority on Ladybird Books, which I have always rated highly.
The people of Wick that I met were absolutely lovely and pointed me in the direction of the shop at the back of the manor house. This is not like any shop I have ever seen before. It is literally a part of the stable block and there are children’s bikes scattered all over the yard. Inside the ‘shop’ a lovely young lady, who must have the best job and workplace in the world, was boxing up exquisite dried petals into pretty boxes. Along one wall is a vast array of open boxes each containing different coloured dried petals. The smell and colour and atmosphere is hypnotic. I felt as if I had walked into a fairytale. Honestly, if you get the chance you just have to go along and experience it.
Well I spent so long soaking up the atmosphere that it was getting decidedly overcast by the time I headed off to the actual confetti fields. But I rushed to get as many photos as I could before the light failed, the heavens opened and I got soaked! It was definitely worth it though. Enjoy my photos.

A timely boost to my morale

I am delighted and reinspired to have been nominated for the Influential Blogger Award by Obscured Dreamer. In fact Cat has done me a great favour as I have been somewhat overloaded by life recently, which has stopped me posting. I am often inspired to write and there have been many beautiful photo opportunities I would have loved to share. But I have been too overwhelmed to focus. So,” thank you Cat”, for the boost to my morale and the renewed drive to write.
Here are the guidelines for acceptance – really very straightforward.
To accept this award, the awardees must do the following:
1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a blog post and thank the Blogger who awarded you. Do not lump this award with any other award in a “basket”, “bouquet” or “collection” etc., I would rather you didn’t accept the award.
3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).
5. Include an embedded video of your current favorite song (YouTube has almost everything, just copy and paste the link into your WordPress editor). If a video is not possible you can embed a SoundCloud track

At the moment I am busy rehearsing for two shows and a concert to commemorate the centenary of the first world war so my choice of songs is influenced by that. On Saturday I took part in the Armed Forces Day at a nearby military museum. It was a scorching hot day in the Cotswolds and young lads from all the armed forces were turned out beautifully in full uniform. They must have been so uncomfortable. There were even some international servicemen and women there as part of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). The ARRC Headquarters are nearby. There was a flypast by Spitfires and a Hurricane which was very impressive. The song we sang as part of our mini show was written in 1915 as young men were marching off to fight, leaving their sweethearts at home.

My own grandfather joined up at the age of 14 years 8 months and was sent to WW1 as a bugler. Thankfully he survived. One of the plays we are rehearsing is called Will Harvey’s War. This will be the subject of a blogpost soon as Will Harvey was a first world war poet from Gloucestershire who deserves to be better known. He wrote a poem called the Bugler

GOD dreamed a man;
Then, having firmly shut
Life like a precious metal in his fist
Withdrew, His labour done. Thus did begin
Our various divinity and sin.
For some to ploughshares did the metal twist,
And others—dreaming empires—straightway cut
Crowns for their aching foreheads. Others beat
Long nails and heavy hammers for the feet
Of their forgotten Lord. (Who dares to boast
That he is guiltless?) Others coined it: most
Did with it—simply nothing. (Here again
Who cries his innocence?) Yet doth remain
Metal unmarred, to each man more or less,
Whereof to fashion perfect loveliness.
For me, I do but bear within my hand
(For sake of him, Our Lord, so long forsaken)
A simple bugle such as may awaken
With one high morning note a drowsing man
That whereso’er within my motherland
That sound may come, ’twill echo far and wide
Like pipes of battle calling up a clan
Trumpeting men, through beauty to God’s side.

The other play we are rehearsing is called Carried on the Wind. It does not glorify war. It just shows how it affected the ordinary people in Gloucestershire.

There are many blogs that I follow regularly for their joy, wisdom and beauty. Many expand my horizons by taking me to places I will never get a chance to visit. Others introduce me to art, poetry, music, films or books that I know nothing about. In short they enrich my life. Some of them I have mentioned below.

Leaf and Twig ~ a simply beautiful blog I have been following right from the start

Campari and Sofa ~ this shared blog is just so stylish, quirky and different. I love it.

Plain Talk and Ordinary Wisdom ~ the title says it all really ~ “kitchen table stories to inspire and warm your heart” Pat writes a terrific blog

A View from my Summerhouse is Sherri Matthews’ blog and it is just a joy to read.

Easter Ellen, Overcoming to becoming ~ a gentle, sensitive and sometimes painful blog that I love

On Dragonfly Wings with Buttercup Tea ~ Becca is a prolific blogger who is so gifted. She always finds a beautiful photo to accompany her posts and poems.

Celebrating Sunshine ~ just beautiful thoughts and images that lift me up.

Source of Inspiration ~ Pat has found her place in the world and has acquired so much knowledge which in her wisdom she is gracious enough to share.

Derwent Valley Photographers ~ I love photography and I love the North East of England so this site is a pure joy.

The Inscrutable Paths of the Spirit ~ such purity of thought and expression is found in this blog, it brings peace and comfort into our troubled world.

Positive Boomer ~ it’s hard to argue with the sound advice on this blog!

Espirational ~ this blog I found recently aims to provide “a 10 minute vacation for the soul” ~ it succeeds for me

Do pop by and enjoy these inspirational, influential and just plain enjoyable Blogs!

A Saint~Me?

There is nothing more pitiful than a defenceless child at the mercy of cruel, heartless, ignorant and selfish people. Such children are so vulnerable, easily hurt physically, traumatised mentally, and damaged emotionally.
The lucky ones can take a lifetime to recover. The unlucky ones cut short their lives, unable to live with their wretchedness.
So in response to today’s DPChallenge, If in 300 years time I were to be known as a saint for anything, it would be for being a defender of the defenceless child.

The lion and the lamb

The lion and the rabbit