Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Dancing with Children aka Car Fest 2015

How was your bank holiday weekend? Here in the UK at the end of August we have a public holiday and we all get a long weekend. It's the time of year when the motorways turn into car parks filled with people heading (usually) for the coast. And it's also when it usually rains. Heavily. Some months ago I got tickets for a 3 day music and car festival and I crossed my fingers and hoped for sunshine.
Our tent is somewhere in this crowd and to look at those dark clouds you wouldn't believe we came home with sun tans but we did!
This wrist band represents my first proper festival so naturally I flashed my band at all the check points in the coolest way possible as if I had been going to festivals since my pram years. Truth is, I'd made myself a promise that I wasn't going to complete my 50th year without having added this to my list of experiences.
Didn't it look bright and colourful when the clouds lifted?
I'll list the bands we saw in a minute but here were some other things to take pics of.
This is how I want to go to work. I'm sure my old megane could do this manoeuvre. How hard can it be.
Here's a stunt rider literally jumping through hoops.
I wouldn't like to land that bike from that height. Reinforced saddle anyone?
I remember the Boomtown Rats rocking my little teenage world and have a special soft spot for the uncompromising lyrics "Don't wanna be like you, don't wanna live like you, don't wanna talk like you at all. I'm gonna be like, I'm gonna be like, I'm gonna be like ME!" Thanks Sir Bob.
And this is why this post is titled as it is. All around us were parents, many with very young children, sharing the music of their youth with their children, lifting them high so they could see the stage, dancing with them and singing to them. The evenings were cool and damp but the atmosphere was warm. It was good to be reminded of the power of music. Many years ago I helped organise an International Arts Festival in Newcastle. We had groups from Spain, Poland, America, Italy, Indonesia and Russia. Relations were sometimes strained as national and political mistrust hung in the air. This was the time of Glasnost and Perestroika and the Berlin Wall was still firmly in place. A Russian choir and an American dance troop had finished a performance in the oldest church in the town and were standing at opposite ends of a church hall ignoring each other while the local vicar dispensed tea and biscuits and tried, unsuccessfully, to smile away the tension in the room. One of the Russians uncovered a piano in a corner of the hall and started playing. A few of his friends joined him and the music which had been classical (their speciality) changed to pop. Heads turned as they began singing Beatles songs in perfect English learned from Western radio. The atmosphere in the hall changed dramatically as we all, Brits, Americans and Russians drifted over to the piano, hesitantly at first not wanting to break the mood. We joined the singing, nodding recognition of the familiar songs and hoping the smiles would melt the barriers. This was after all, a time when there was huge mistrust between the nationalities in the room which wasn't helped by the fact that we'd discovered the KGB minders with the choir had ignored UK Embassy conditions and were armed. But the music broke through even their forbidding disapproval until we were all singing at the top of our voices. The highlight was "Nah, nah nah, na na na nahhhhhh, na na na nahhhh, HEYYYYY JUDE!!" We sang that over and over and over for at least 20 minutes. No one wanted it to end, the Americans and Russians had their arms round each others shoulders and the vicar was in tears. A week later we were all preparing to return home and addresses were swopped between people who had no common language other than music.
Here's a trick you can try with your JCB digger.
The fireworks drew a "wwwwwwoooooooo" of delight from the crowd.
This group are The Red Barrows and they perform ground based aerobatic displays. It was lovely silliness performed with great gusto and suppoerted by a delightful tongue in cheek commentary.
I don't want all these sunny pictures to give you the wrong idea. There was still mud.
The crowd getting set up for the evening.
A lovely red sunset
....and out come the umberellas as the rain begins again...
Children In Need is a big UK charity who raise money all through the year culminating in a full evening of fund raising and feedback on how the moeny has been used on BBC TV.
This was our route back to the campsite through the fairground.
Apparently there were 30,000 people there.
The busiest area was always in front of the two main stages. And the beer tent.
The children had these cute little covered trucks and saw everything in comfort.
This is what happens to the quality of photography when your blogger has tested 7 different types of gin in the tasting tents. I didn't do Gary Barlow justice which brings me to the line up. Seasick Steve, Texas, The Feeling, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Midge Ure, Level 42, The Shires, The Beautiful South, Paloma Faith, Scouting for Girls, Boomtown Rats, Jools Holland, Bellowhead and Take That. Not bad huh?

Monday, 24 August 2015

Flying Ants

In all the years I lived in Scotland I never once saw a flying ant.  So now, when they appear in the grass and  between the paving stones of our English garden, I am fascinated by them.  Expect them on dry, warm days.  The story goes that they won't appear if there's any risk of rain. These little orange fellas start running around first.  When I saw them I took it as a sign I could safely hang out some washing.  Turns out we have stupid ants who forgot to check with the Met Office.  It rained.
Then when you look hard enough you can see the entrance to their burrows.
And before you know it they're everywhere...
I'm still trying to work out what the orange ants do.  They seem to make sure it's all clear before the winged ants come up and then they seem to clear away any winged ants which have a wing missing.  Since nature is pragmatic I presume these failed ants are taken back to the burrow and used as a food source.
The able bodied winged ants who are not mopped up (anticide?) head for the tallest thing and climb up it.  They're looking for the highest launch pad they can find.  
Loads of 'em!
My research (wikipedia) tells me these winged ants consist of virgin males and females who spread their wings to get as far away as possible from the parent nest and give them a greater chance of mating with other ants from other nests.  Once they have mated on the wing, the males genitals explode and they die.  I'm not making it up.  I read it on the internet.  It must be true.
Imagine, you're a young ant-about-town off on your first date.  It's all going well, you've escaped the nest, avoided being chewed up by the ground crew, got up a blade of grass and made your maiden flight.  Up there in the clear air you've met a nice lady ant.  She's given you the wink. Turns out you both like the same things - grass, Wings, Adam and the Ants.  Some soft lighting, some Barry White on spotifly (sorry) and you're making sweet, sweet ant magic.  You lean back but just as you're about to blow smoke rings, BOOF!  Genitals blown to bits.  No "it's not you, it's me", no "I just think I need to focus on my career right now".  You're history.  Literally.
I feel sorry for the male ants.  The females take the next generation to establish a new nest.  Job done.  Many comments on flying ant forums (yes really) are written by people panicking about the number of flying ants which have appeared in their gardens and homes.  They wonder if bleach will get rid of them.  Relax.  They'll be on their way soon and for some, their fate is worse than a blast of bleach.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Village Day 2015!

We have a Village Horticultural day each year.  And every year we say we'll enter something for the show and see if we can win a prize and every year we either forget or go on holiday.  This year however, we were ready and as a family team entered 26 classes in the crafts and cookery sections.  But before I tell you how that went, here's a flavour of what trundles along the end of our lane on the way to the showground at the other end of the village...
 The village brass band.
 A ginger bread house.
 Ooompa loompa's from Willy Wonka (which we suspect was put together by the local biscuit factory).
 The local toddlers group on an under the sea themed float.
 Commemorating VE Day 1945.  The lady leaning forward is haggling with a black marketeer for some stockings.  If they kept that banter up all along the high street they did well (it's a long high street) and the float was fabulous!
 And here's a very small section of the tractor parade.  We're surprised every year at just how many tractors turn out, there must be about 50 and we're only a small village of 1800 souls!  We're beginning to wonder if our second car should be a tractor.
 The children play their part too on all types of transport.  The little pirate looked a bit grumpy despite having the best make-up of the day.
For most of the summer, I'd been completing a quilt starting 3 years ago and abandoned.  I prefer to complete one project before I move onto another and I'd made myself a firm rule that I was not allowed to start ANYTHING new until I'd got this quilt sorted.  When we had warm weekend weather I sewed outside.
When it was raining I took my time indoors trying to match the stripes on the binding.  Note to self - never do a striped binding again.
 It very nearly worked...
The fabric was clearly on the wonk.
And - ta dah!  Finally, here's the finished quilt.  I ended up really enjoying the free motion quilting on this with all the wavy swirls depicting the water round the British Isles.  And if you look at it from the reverse (which I forgot to photograph!) the quilting creates a union jack again.  You'll just have to take my word for it.
So how did the quilt do in the competition?  A second prize place which I was very pleased with.  There was fierce competition and the quilt which won was properly beautiful with perfectly matching points, lovely hand quilting and clever fabric contracts. Next year I'm aiming for first!  Unless we forget or go on holiday.
 Other classes did well too, the monsters pulled one of 5 Highly Commended's.
 As did a fimo bracelet
 My best class was in the greetings cards section.
And finally - my first 1st placement.  Hooray!!
Man child No1, won third in the sketching section despite having to enter the adult classes and a photo I took of a market in Budapest gained another Highly Commended.  I must confess to failing spectacularly in the cooking section.  Nothing for the chutneys, pickles, sloe vodka (quite happy to keep quaffing that though) or blackberry liqueur.  But it gives me an excuse to make more this autumn and we're getting close to foraging season.  
It was a good day!  And to top the weekend off in style Himself and I had both our Mother's (mine from Scotland and his more locally) visit us the day after our competitive success and all mama's like afternoon tea don't they?
We made our own Afternoon Tea menu, cut the crusts of the sandwiches and ate cake!