Monday, 12 August 2013

Ashes, Alnwick and Alnmouth

During this brief visit back to England we dashed up to the north east, the day after we arrived back in Yorkshire. A year ago, Mark had bought tickets for the first 2 days of the Ashes test match in Durham, and had booked 3 nights at Lumley castle Hotel, which overlooks the Riverside cricket stadium in Chester-le-St.
Lumley Castle Hotel, Co. Durham
 Visiting the north east is always good as it gives me a chance to catch up with some family members. My grandmother, Alice, was born in Chester-le-St. and although there are not too many relations still living there....there are a few.

Before the cricket even started, we had dinner at the castle, with my cousin Audrey and her husband Len. I was their bridesmaid 54 years ago !
Me, in 1960, behind my cousin Cindy, at cousin Audrey's wedding
Lumley Castle Hotel is fascinating. Most of the building dates back to the 14th and 15th century. Even the renovations date back to the 17th century. Stories of ghosts abound, but generally, it has a very good reputation, service and food being excellent. The decor is “interesting”. In an attempt at authenticity, the bathrooms are a little over the top.....including plastic reproductions of old masters.......not a good idea in my mind. However, as most of the public rooms, as well as the bedrooms , are genuinely very very is a spectacular place to stay.

Bathroom, equipped with plastic old masters

The hotel reception

The cricket was, as always, like a game of chess. We only had tickets for the first 2 days, and things moved slowly, but I am genuinely interested in the way a test match develops, and am very happy to watch hours and hours of not a lot happening. The crowd is always worth watching anyway!
Legends: Michael Holding and Ian Botham

This is what cricket is all about

Men in shark suits......of course.

Men......of idea what they were supposed to be dressed as, but they had a good time

The crowd, including members of the barmy army , creating a plastic glass stacked snake

Me with a couple of Aussie umpires, during the lunch break
Boxing if you needed telling

After our 3 nights at Lumley Castle, we headed further north, to Alnwick. We visited the castle there, and were very impressed by the way it has been developed following its Harry Potter one of the places where much of the Hogwarts action was filmed in the first 2 films. The castle also features in some early Black Adder scenes and in Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”
The entrance to Hogwarts.....I mean, Alnwick Castle

Broomstick flying lessons

(We were interested to learn that in one scene of the Costner film, a baddie is kicked out of a window by Friar Tuck.....the kicking out scene was filmed in Carcassonne, and the scene of the same baddie, landing, having been kicked out of the Carcassonne window, was filmed at Alnwick) .

After a wonderful few hours, when we decided that we must bring the 5 year old grandsons here, we drove a further couple of miles to Alnmouth. Lesley, another of my cousins lives here, and we stayed with her for our last night in the north east. I have met up with her a few times over recent years, but have not seen her husband since their wedding day 40 years ago. We had a few years of gossiping to catch up on.
The beach at Alnmouth
Cousin Lesley and I, 40 years after my last trip to Alnmouth
My last trip to  Alnmouth, 40 years ago....when Lesley got married. Mum is on her left and I am on her right.

We returned south, the Ashes Test still continuing at Chester-le-St. As I write this the result is still not clear. Mark has just called through to me ( he is watching it on TV as I type) that it is going to be a “ nail biter”.

So, I think I’d better go back into the living room and bite my nails with him.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

If Johhny Depp was an opera singer

With just a few days left in Caunes, before a 3 week trip back to the UK, I am posting some further thoughts about this incredibly lovely town we have found to live in , here in the Languedoc.

Having the children and grandchildren here for the last 2 weeks has meant we have not been involved in what has been happening in the village. Most of our time has been spent by the pool, or taking the kids to other places to play with water….lakes and beaches….

However, last night we attended one of Caunes' “Vendredi Classiques”.

On most Fridays during July and August, there is a village meal, followed by a concert in the grounds of the Abbey. I attended several last year when I was here on my own, and Mark and I have made a point of going to them this summer, when we have been here.
Last night, we left 2 of the children and 2 of the grandchildren at the house  to manage a pizza tea themselves. Jess and her friend Freni, who is visiting, had been left at Narbonne station earlier in the day, for their trip to Barcelona.

 Mark, his sister and brother in law ( who had just arrived having cycled from Surrey….770 miles ! ) and I went to the village meal and then onto the concert.
Celebrating Hannah and Rick's arrival from Surrey, after 770 miles of cycling
The concert featured a baritone, Frederic Cornille, and the Chamber Orchestra of the Cevennes, directed by Francois Gilles.

It was a stunning evening, despite being relocated from the Abbey’s amphi theatre to the adjoining church, due to the high winds.

Frederic Cornille had every woman in the audience eating out of his hand, as soon as he walked on……and when he started to sing…… was just out of this world.
Frederic Cornille
He began with Papageno’s song from “The magic Flute”, which had everyone smiling. The he sang “Vieni all finestra” from “Don Giovanni” and undertook some serious flirting with the audience.

He then performed a tremendous rendition of an aria from Handel’s “Serse”. The lightheartedness had gone, and the passion and soulfulness was intense. His whole body was involved with everything he sang.
Frederic Cornille....with Francois Gilles in front, conducting.
He ended with a fast and furious “Largo al factotum” from “The Barber of Seville”, and thoroughly earned his standing ovation.
For such a small town....the quality of the concerts has always amazed us.....but this took it all to another level. It was wonderful.