Happy and Glorious

Like the rest of our great nation, I watched with pride Team GB competing in the Olympics in Rio.

The team exceeded expectations by coming 2nd in the medals table and passing their target of 66 medals. Among the medals there were unexpected successes; bronze for Amy Tinkler in women’s floor and bronze in all round individual men’s competition, gold on pommel and floor for Max Whitlock in our fantastic gymnastic teams. Also gold for our women’s hockey team in a nail biting and exciting game that kept me on the edge of my seat.

team GB medal winners Rio 2016

But what I really loved about the Olympics was seeing the athletes from all the different countries united by a common goal and belief. The games were a platform for forgetting political differences and conflicts if only for 2 weeks.

My favourite picture by far is the selfie taken by gymnasts Lee Eun-ju of South Korea and Hong Un-jong of North Korea.

Surely this photo epitomises the true spirit of the Olympics and hope for peace in the future.

north and south korean selfie

 

Old Twinkle Toes

There’s nothing I like better than flicking through the channels on a rainy Sunday afternoon and finding an old Hollywood Musical. So imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Royal Wedding starring the most fabulous Fred Astaire.

I love watching Fred dance and could happily do so all day. So much has been written about him and his career that I could write pages and pages. So I have chosen some of my favourite things to share.

  • Fred started dancing professionally at the age of 6, meaning his amazing career of dancing, acting, choreographing, singing, television presenting and teaching spanned over 8 decades.
  • The notes made after his first screen test evaluation read…. “Can’t act, can’t sing. balding, can dance a little”. He was signed on at RKO by David O Selznick who was won over by Fred’s charm.
  • He had very large hands so he curled his middle fingers while he danced to make them appear smaller on screen.
  • Before Fred came along dance was filmed using many takes and camera angles, he changed that with long takes and wide shots so it was like watching a performance in it’s entirety.
  • Ginger Rogers starred with Fred in 10 films. In Swing Time he serenaded Ginger while she washed her hair with “The way you look tonight”, which is one of my favourite songs. It won an Academy award for best original song in 1937.
  • His last but one screen performance was on Battlestar Galactica, he agreed to do it because his grandchildren were fans of the show.
  • Fred Astaire was the very first name to be listed on IMDb (nm 0000001).
  • Fred and Ginger are buried in the same cemetery, Oakwood Memorial Park in California.

One of the 2 dances I learnt while doing the On Broadway dance course was Top hat, white tie and tails. This was definitely my favourite dance and we had so much fun learning and performing it. While we did our very best,  there is no one quite like Fred when it comes to dancing, so enjoy….

 

For King and Country

It was time again for my bestie, Jane, and I to do our usual May pilgrimage to the beach chalet in lovely Dunster.

As we have both had a lot going in our lives that has prevented us getting together as much as we would like; we had a lot of chatting, coffee drinking, cake eating and laughing until we cried to catch up on.

But we also felt we needed to do something we hadn’t already done on our previous visits. Our first outing was to find the infamous Hobby Horse on Minehead seafront.

The May day celebration wouldn’t be complete in Minehead without the procession of the Hobby Horse, or the Sailors’ Horse. This has been a tradition for centuries and it’s origins were thought to come from a bid to frighten away the Danes. These days the horse parades through the town accompanied by drums, accordions and a load of locals/visitors/holiday makers.

The horse is actually a hessian cover over a wire frame with a nightmare inducing freaky mask, ( I don’t do masks!). At one point Jane and I were chased by the creature along the seafront, I still don’t really know why we ran in the first place! Despite this trauma we had a good time marching along in step with the drums until a thirst built up and we needed a pint in the actual Hobby Horse pub.

hobby horsehorse and us

 

For Day two I planned an afternoon revisiting the English Civil War at Dunster Castle, definitely something we had never done before.

The castle played an important role in the English Civil War, which I touched on in a previous post. So it was an obvious place for the Taunton Garrison to stage a historical  re-enactment.

This group brings the 16th and 17th century to life with music, drama and demonstrations. We were entertained, and deafened, by gun and canon fire and wandered around the tents showing activities from the era. But the highlight of the afternoon was when we were welcomed into the army as new recruits. When all the surrounding children were equipped with their pikes, minus the dangerous sharp pointy ends, we were allowed to join the line. The leader of the garrison explained that we would be learning how to handle our pikes, charge and march. I was worried about the marching as Jane has no sense of direction and doesn’t always know her left from her right. But I was wrong to fret, she took to it like a pro and looked like she was born to march.

After all that activity a cream tea was definitely called for and the little café in the castle grounds have the best scones.

If you don’t want to miss out on the fun of these re-enactments you can find information on their Facebook page and website

 

 

 

 

Jewel in the crown

On the first Sunday of every month there is a farmer’s market on the Tyntesfield Estate, a beautiful setting that deserves a post of it’s very own.

Among the stalls selling the usual farmer’s market fodder is the star of the show….or of this post.

My good friend, Ann, is a very talented jewellery maker. As a child she started experimenting with bits and bobs and her dad’s tool kit to make earrings. this love of jewellery making grew and she has been selling her wares for about 14 years, after being asked to take a stall at a local country market.

Ann is mainly self taught, although she has completed courses in stained glass and fused glass work. She is a qualified adult tutor and  taught jewellery making, glass painting and silk painting for a community education centre. Ann also has done teaching in some groups and on a one to one basis.

As well as selling at markets and fayres Ann makes commission pieces, she made me a beautiful tiara for my henna night and has recently made a wire sea glass creation for a customer.

Ann makes beautiful jewellery from her retreat in her back garden, I have bought quite a lot to give as presents or to keep for myself. She loves creating and selling, finding it very relaxing. Meeting lots of people and bravely facing the changeable British weather, Ann always has a busy weekend schedule of markets and fayres around the South west.

You can find Ann on her Facebook page here, and her website here and here.

 

The art of being British

I came across this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and it really made me chuckle, there are many things on list that are so true for me, especially number 17. This has happened to me on my route march home after work. It is absolutely necessary to keep up the pace after overtaking to avoid looking like a ninny as the person goes sailing past!

What it’s like to be British!!!

  1. Worrying you’ve accidentally packed 3 kilos of cocaine and a dead goat as you stroll through “Nothing to declare”
  2. Being unable to stand and leave without first saying “right”
  3. Not hearing someone for the third time, so just laughing and hoping for the best
  4. Saying “anywhere here’s fine” when the taxi’s directly outside your front door
  5. Being sure to start touching your bag 15 minutes before your station, so the person in the aisle seat is fully prepared for your exit
  6. Repeatedly pressing the door button on the train before it’s illuminated, to assure your fellow commuters you have the situation in hand
  7. Having someone sit next to you on the train, meaning you’ll have to eat your crisps at home
  8. The huge sense of relief after your perfectly valid train ticket is accepted by the inspector
  9. The horror of someone you only half know saying: “Oh I’m getting that train too”
  10. “Sorry, is anyone sitting here?” – Translation: Unless this is a person who looks remarkably like a bag, I suggest you move it
  11. Loudly tapping your fingers at the cashpoint, to assure the queue that you’ve asked for money and the wait is out of your hands
  12. Looking away so violently as someone nearby enters their PIN that you accidentally dislocate your neck
  13. Waiting for permission to leave after paying for something with the exact change
  14. Saying hello to a friend in the supermarket, then creeping around like a burglar to avoid seeing them again.
  15. Watching with quiet sorrow as you receive a different haircut to the one you requested
  16. Being unable to pay for something with the exact change without saying “I think that’s right”
  17. Overtaking someone on foot and having to keep up the uncomfortably fast pace until safely over the horizon
  18. Being unable to turn and walk in the opposite direction without first taking out your phone and frowning at it
  19. Deeming it necessary to do a little jog over zebra crossings, while throwing in an apologetic mini wave
  20. Punishing people who don’t say thank you by saying “you’re welcome” as quietly as possible
  21. The overwhelming sorrow of finding a cup of tea you forgot about
  22. Turning down a cup of tea for no reason and instantly knowing you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake
  23. Suddenly remembering your tea and necking it like a massive, lukewarm shot
  24. Realising you’ve got about fifty grand’s worth of plastic bags under your kitchen sink
  25. “You’ll have to excuse the mess” – Translation: I’ve spent seven hours tidying in preparation for your visit
  26. Indicating that you want the last roast potato by trying to force everyone else to take it
  27. “I’m off to bed” – Translation: “I’m off to stare at my phone in another part of the house”
  28. Mishearing somebody’s name on the second time of asking, meaning you must now avoid them forever
  29. Leaving it too late to correct someone, meaning you must live with your new name forever

    31  .Running out of ways to say thanks when a succession of doors are held for you,  having already deployed ‘cheers’, ‘ta’ and ‘nice one’.

  1. Staring at your phone in silent horror until the unknown number stops ringing
  2. Hearing a recording of your own voice and deciding it’s perhaps best never to speak again
  3. The relief when someone doesn’t answer their phone within three rings and you can hang up
  4. Filming an entire fireworks display on your phone, knowing full well you’ll never, ever watch it again

 

But in my opinion the true test of British-ness is the humble and seemingly innocuous queue. It is a known fact that some Brits will join a queue even if they don’t know what the queue is for. But the queuing phenomenon is most evident at a bus stop. As I catch the bus to work due to lack of parking at the hospital, I believe I have become an expert observer of the bus queue.

I have discovered there are 2 types of bus queues; firstly there’s the stand one behind another type, where it is imperative to obey the rules of standing in line, to avoid the stares, the loud whispering and the wrath of your fellow passengers suspicious of your plans to jump the queue when the bus comes.

The second type can only be attempted with a group of people who catch the same bus, at the same time everyday, and have bonded over time by suffering from a crap bus service and phone apps that clearly lie when it says the bus is 5 minutes away. All the passengers have their designated place to stand and wait, (not in line). The only exception to this rule is during torrential rain and then everyone crams into the bus shelter. It doesn’t matter what time each person turns up, the group collectively know what order the passengers need to be in to advance and get on the bus.

In my bid to not become a creature of habit I don’t always catch the same bus, so I have 3 groups to negotiate in this way and luckily for me I have been accepted into each of them!

queue

 

All dogs go to heaven

While relaxing with the Sunday paper I came across a lovely story about a local hero that I had to share.

Whizz

Whizz the Newfoundland has been posthumously awarded the PDSA Order of Merit, the animal equivalent of the OBE. This exceptional dog worked most of his short life as a rescue dog for the Royal Naval Rescue, Severn Area Rescue Association and the Marine Volunteer Service. His owner, David Pugh, started training Whizz at the age of one and during his career he saved over 9 people including a young lady who almost drowned while suffering from an asthma attack.

Not only did he work hard patrolling the Bristol Channel and the River Severn with his teenage handler Ellie Bedford, he also raised a huge amount of money for charity. They demonstrated their rescue skills at the annual Bristol Harbourside Festival and also other Newfoundland Water rescue days where sponsored volunteers would be rescued to raise funds. David set up Newfound Friends which since it’s beginning in 1990 has raised over £750,000, CLIC Sergeant and the Oncology Units at Bristol Children’s Hospital have benefited from this money.

whizz and boat

If all that wasn’t enough, Whizz also brought joy to countless children and adults living with cancer by visiting hospices and hospitals.

Sadly Whizz died earlier this month from cancer at the age of ten. His cousin, Tizz, and his handler Ellie accepted his award of his behalf.

tizz and ellie

In Whizz’s memory, Newfound Friends will be holding a sponsored rescue event at the Docklands Scout Project, on the Isle of Dogs, to raise money for the PDSA  on the 5th of September of this year. For more details follow this link Whizz/PDSA

Dance like no-one is watching

 

In my never ending quest to find interesting ways to keep fit and because I can’t play netball at the moment due to my wrist injury, I decided to sign up to an 8 week dancing course.

After seeing a post on Facebook I registered for a free “On Broadway” taster session with Fitness Fusion. Run by Katy Robinson, a professional dancer of many years. who has been teaching dance since the age of 16. Based in Sheffield Katy created “On Broadway” dance classes for women to gain confidence, get fit, have fun and release their inner show girl. On each course two dances from the Broadway shows are taught with a teaching style that breaks down complex routines. By expanding her team, Katy has branched out to Derbyshire, Richmond Upon Thames, Cheshire and Bristol.

The taster session was very busy, full of women not really knowing what the next hour was going to bring. Katy and her instructor Charlotte taught us most of the dance made famous by Catherine Zeta Jones and Renee Zellweger at the end of Chicago, called Hot Honey Rag. Due to the session only being an hour there wasn’t time to learn the whole routine.

I loved every minute of it and didn’t need to wait to hear Katy’s sales pitch about the course at half time, to know that I was ready to sign up to learn more dances. Although I spent most of my childhood in ballet school, I never had the opportunity to do these kinds of dances. It was so exciting to get the chance at last and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait for long and before I knew it I was making my way to a little village hall to begin my dance adventure. At the time of writing we have just completed week 3 learning a routine from the musical Fame. Unfortunately we now have a 2 week break for Easter, so there’s a real danger of forgetting every step we’ve learnt up to now. We have one more week of Fame then it’s onto a Fred Astaire number from the musical Top Hat complete with props!

If this dance opportunity comes to your area don’t hesitate to sign up, you won’t regret it.

dance fusion

To find out more follow this link Dance like no-one is watching

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