Thursday, 22 June 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

Goal Zero Rock Out 2
Solar Rechargeable Speaker
It's so gloriously summery at the moment that the last thing you might want to do is browse the internet. Surely we're all lapping up the sun and enjoying ice cream and picnics?! For those of you stuck at home or at work though I have tracked down a post's worth of great deals and special offers.

I'm starting at All Outdoors who have a variety of items reduced at the moment including this Goal Zero Rock Out 2 Solar Rechargeable Speaker. Perfect for chilling out in the garden or on the beach, runs for up to ten hours on bluetooth with recharge times of two hours by USB or eight hours of solar power. It is on sale at £75.85 at All Outdoor, reduced from £99.99.

Gandhak stripe jersey dress 
If your wardrobe has let you down recently, head over to the Weird Fish Summer Sale to stock up on practical and attractive clothing for the outdoor life. I love Weird Fish style, especially the Macaroni range, and there are lots of cotton dresses, tops and tunics from which to choose as well as their wickedly humorous fish pun t-shirts. Weird Fish are offering up to 50% off. The Summer Sale starts today and continues until the 2nd of July.

For perpetual offers on beach reads and holiday books, sign up to the Alibris newsletters or keep an eye on their dedicated vouchers page. It seems to me as if there are always deals of around 10-20% off! Usually a minimum spend applies, but this is split into tiers so you can get a satisfying reduction without having to stretch your budget to do so.

Waitrose offers 
Are you entertaining in the near future? Save yourself a bit of the preparation stress, especially in this heat, by ordering the makings of a sumptuous (and fairly healthy!) summer dessert from Waitrose. Waitrose is currently offering 25% off Summer Desserts and this deal lasts until the 27th of June so you still have a few more days to take advantage. Let me know if you do so we can pop round to help with the actual eating as well! There's discounts on beers and barbecue food too.

Finally I guess we'll all be cooling off with more showers than usual so The Body Shop's latest sale is neatly timed. You can save up to 50% on the Recommended Retail Price of items included within the “SALE” category online between 9am on Monday 19th June 2017 until 9am Tuesday 18th July 2017 or whilst stocks last. Offer applies ONLY to items in this category and does not apply to any alternative products.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Exploring the Eye Town Trail

Eye church 
We are camped in a gorgeous wild flower meadow in the tiny hamlet of Braiseworth in Suffolk. Surrounded by tall trees for shade and with space for just five units, Frog's Hall campsite is absolutely perfect for us! It's a Camping And Caravanning Club CS with minimal facilities - electric hookup, drinking water and waste disposal - run by Denise and John who are friendly and very helpful. On arrival we were given the loan of a comprehensive information pack detailing local cycling routes, shops and businesses in Eye, dozens of leaflets for attractions in the area and further afield, and a map of the nearby footpaths. Traffic noise is rare and the soundtrack here is basically birdsong and a light breeze rustling leaves. Idyllic! Frog's Hall is great value at £13 a night though you will need to bring your own toilet (we are glad of our portable toilet!)

Lacons brewery plaque 
Having not travelled far from Wood Norton to get here we had a whole afternoon to explore and decided to walk into Eye and do the historic Town Trail, a leaflet for which was in the information pack. Eye is about an hour's wander away on quiet single track roads and footpaths. In hindsight it probably would have been better to have cycled in because, with the town walk as well, over three hours turned out to be a bit much on the hot afternoon but we didn't realise that until too late of course!

In reality little more than a good-sized village, Eye was actually designated a borough until the 1970s complete with its own mayor and local government. A prosperous trading centre until the railway didn't come here in the 1800s, Eye can possibly blame its lack of subsequent growth on trains taking all their potential business to Diss. However, back in Norman times, nearby Hoxne was a flourishing market town until Eye stole their thunder and trade - what goes around comes around?

Eye's church and castle both date back to the Normans with one William Malet being given the Honour of Eye by William the Conqueror. His original castle has been rebuilt several times and is now again a ruin, but one that stands high on the original bailey around which the town centre is shaped.

There are many old buildings dating from various periods dotted around and I enjoyed discovering a number of them including thatched cottages, medieval town houses and Victorian facades disguising older structures. There are good independent shops one of which sells knitted cakes, a proper hardware store and The Bank which is now a not-for-profit cafe and art space where we went to a fantastic gig! We climbed up to the ruined castle to look over the town and then descended to the Co-Op where we discovered Wendy's House baked slices - delicious! Dave enjoyed Raspberry And Coconut and I can recommend the Banana, Date And Pecan!

Walking home along a different footpath route, I loved finding ourselves at a farming version of a Richard Long sculpture!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Jonathan Byrd (and Jess Morgan) at The Bank in Eye

Jonathan Byrd and Johnny Waken
Photo by The Bank in Eye 
We originally planned our current trailer tent holiday around two gigs near to each other on consecutive nights. Sadly the Philip Henry and Hannah Martin library gig was cancelled (that's the third we've had cancelled this year. Perhaps we should stop booking our tickets so far ahead?!), but we were treated to an absolutely fantastic evening in the little town of Eye on Saturday. Eye is a historically interesting destination in itself and I will blog about that soon, but for today I want to talk about amazing music and a lovely venue!

North Carolina's Jonathan Byrd has been touring his music for the best part of twenty years so I was surprised than we had not stumbled across one of his gigs before. A singer-songwriter and guitarist, I loved his thoughtful lyrics and the range of his music which takes in many styles from a capella blues to beautifully crafted story songs with a couple of cheesier country numbers along the way. We saw him accompanied by the inimitable Johnny Waken - a talented multi-instrumentalist who managed the whole (stiflingly hot) evening in full three-piece suit with a tie. Perfectly dapper! Dave and I both felt privileged to have seen such an incredible performance and Dave even said this was the best new-to-us musician he has seen for several years!

There are four more gigs on the UK Tour including tonight so, if they're not already sold out, get your tickets through these links:
19th June - Leicester
20th June - Bristol
21 st June - London
23rd June - Saltaire

The Bristol gig will be supported by Jess Morgan from Norfolk who we also saw at The Bank on Saturday. She has a gorgeous voice and good songs on unusual topics and I was happy to have discovered her music as well. Judging by the quality we saw and heard on Saturday I am happy to recommend The Bank to anyone living near or passing through Eye. It's a non-profit cafe and art space located in the old HSBC building and utilising some of the bank's wooden counters which gives the place a unique look. Well worth a visit!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Richard Long sculpture trail at Houghton Hall, Norfolk

A Line In Norfolk by Richard Long 
Driving to Sheringham from our Wood Norton campsite we were lucky to spot an advertising hoarding for a summer-long Richard Long sculpture exhibition at Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Built for the first British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall is now a fabulous stately home with extensive gardens and grounds open to the public. Tickets can be bought online and, at the time of writing are £10 to view the gardens only and £18 for the house and gardens. We got lucky (again!) with Dave spotting a 10% off discount code for online sales: AAAA. I don't know for how long this code is valid.

"Richard Long is one of the most influential figures of conceptual and land art, part of a generation of distinguished British artists who extended the possibilities of sculpture beyond traditional materials and method. Long’s work is rooted in his deep affinity and engagement with nature, developed during solitary walks. Long’s new pieces in the grounds of Houghton Hall use a variety of materials, including local carr stone, flint from East Anglia, trees from the Estate and Cornish slate, and accompany the permanent Long sculpture, Full Moon Circle, which was commissioned for Houghton in 2003."

White Deer Circle by Richard Long 
The Richard Long exhibition is entitled Earth Sky. It will continue until the end of October 2017 and incorporates six large outdoor works dotted around Houghton Hall grounds, a gallery showing a few photographic records of other works, and one indoor work which we didn't get to see as we hadn't splashed out on a house ticket! I loved the contrast of works such as A Line In Norfolk which tears straight down the centre of a pristine green lawn right in front of the house!

Waterflame by Jeppe Hein 
As well as Earth Sky, Houghton Hall also boasts a permanent sculpture trail of nine works placed in various places around the grounds. We were given a map on arrival and searching out the sculptures gave us a good tour of the beautiful formal gardens. It took a good two hours to see everything and that was without going into the house. Houghton Hall would easily make a four to five hour day out with a picnic or cafe lunch!

My favourite non-Long was the surprisingly accurately titled Waterflame by Jeppe Hein, created in 2008. It consists of a simple water fountain, but with an additional jet of what we assumed was paraffin or something similar so the top of the fountain was water and fire. This work was hypnotic to watch as the fountain died away and regrew repeatedly.

Houghton Hut by Rachel Whiteread 
Two other sculptures that caught my imagination were Houghton Hut by Rachel Whiteread and Interior Space by Stephen Cox. Houghton Hut actually depicts the inside of a small building, Whiteread having made a cast of its interior walls and door. This is mind-boggling in itself, especially so when what appears to be a solid sculpture is positioned at the end of a narrow woodland track along which it cannot possibly have fitted!

The reverse is true of Interior Space. This piece is a marble box whose only entrance is the slender cutaway shown in the photograph. It was just wide enough to put my head through and peer inside, but the temptation to try and wriggle in was very strong. I wondered if anyone has got themselves stuck?

Interior Space by Stephen Cox 
Skyspace Seldom Seen by James Turrell is an amazing idea and one for which I don't want to spoil the surprise for people who have not yet seen it. The work is presented in a large wooden box structure and I will say that I loved the topiary hedges alongside its approach because they reminded me of the moss-covered lava fields we saw in Iceland.

The Silver Sea by Blott Kerr-Wilson 
If you go to Houghton Hall, don't miss the Norfolk By Design pop-up shop that has taken over the old stables building until the end of September. This initiative showcases smaller items by forty-five varied Norfolk artists and artisans including gorgeous lamps, naive pottery, lifesize crocheted deer (yes, really!), shell covered boxes and vanity items, and artworks. My absolute favourite was this picture made from mussel shells, The Silver Sea by Blott Kerr-Wilson.

Houghton Cross by Richard Long 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Two weeks in a trailer tent!

As you probably guessed from that title, we're on the road again! Our camping fortnight started with a single night at Barnstones Caravan and Camping Site, just outside Cropredy. This was quite a big site by our usual standards, almost all hard-standings and was surprisingly busy too. We were glad we had booked when we learned every pitch had been full the night before. Our pitch with electric hookup was £14 and we were right next to the good shower block which also included washing up sinks and a laundry room. I loved the penguin tiles pictured below.

For a busy site Barnstones was very quiet most of the time apart from constant traffic noise from the M40. We both liked Barnstones and would happily return here for a longer stay using the site as a base to explore the local area although perhaps not when the folk festival is on as I imagine the roads roundabouts would be ridiculously busy then!

From Barnstones, we continued on our way to North Norfolk and a few days at the very pretty Four Acre Farm Campsite at Wood Norton, near to Fakenham. A plaque at the entrance commemorates 120 trees being planted here for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the owner reckons he has planted over a thousand in the last fifteen years! Traffic noise here is sparse rather than continuous and the facilities are low key but good. A pitch with electricity is £15 per night and there are two toilet buildings, one of which also has a good shower and a washing up area. For entertainment we can watch swallows and bats at dusk, and yesterday sheep were being shorn in the next-door field. I think there's a couple of dozen pitches here over two fields and another field for rallys too. We are one of only about five units though so the site feels tranquil.

Four Acre Farm is our third time of pitching our Raclet Solena and I am pleased (and relieved) to be able to say we are definitely getting the hang of it now! From our several-hours effort for the tent and the awning at The Crib, we are now down to 11 minutes for just the trailer tent and half an hour total for both. Yay us!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - Camping Gear

Camping Wine Table
by OPWoodcraft1
By the time this post publishes itself Dave and I will be on the second day of a fortnight's camping trip with our Raclet Solena trailer tent. After the (almost complete) success of our long weekend at Buckfastleigh, we have added a small portable radiator to our gear and now think we have every eventuality covered. That didn't stop me browsing Etsy for other must-have camping gear ideas though! These are my five handmade favourites ...

Having a relaxing drink in the sun is obviously a high point of any camping trip so this Camping Wine Table should be top of everyone's accessory list. It is made by OP Woodcraft1 who are based in Witney. Hand crafted from Birch plywood and finished in Blanchon natural water based oil, the table has a diameter of 30cm and its full height with the stake is approx 42cm. I love the ingenious way the wine bottle is supported by a notch in the stake.

The Camping Wine Table is for sale at £54.99 plus shipping.

Cooking Tripod
by Arrowsmith Forge
A smoky campfire meal is another must-do experience and this versatile Cooking Tripod is perfect for wilderness trips on foot or by water, trips to the beach and, of course, camping. The tripod was made by Colin Mckerrell at Arrowsmith Forge in Glasgow. It features 1 metre long legs with 'arrowhead' points on the feet to penetrate even the hardest ground for stability and can apparently support up to 130lb of weight. That's a very large stew pot! The hanging chain is adjustable and includes a detachable S hook. The tripod is designed to be long-lasting so should provide many years of happy cooking.

The Cooking Tripod is for sale at £16.99 plus shipping.

Bushcraft / Camping Soaps
by Twisted Hazel Gifts
I love this mini Bushcraft / Camping Soaps Set offered by Twisted Hazel Gifts in Clacton. Inspired by her husband's bushcraft expeditions, the six little cylindrical soaps are each intended for a different function - handwashing after meat preparation, toughening skin, beard and hair shampoo, insect repelling, cleaning cuts, and soothing stings - and contains appropriate essential oils for its task. The soap sticks are packed into an easily stashed waterproof tin and you just need to cut off a sliver of the required soap to use leaving the rest safe and dry for next time.

The Bushcraft / Camping Soaps Set is for sale at £8 plus shipping.

Camping Mug
by Paul Pirie Leather
I did wonder if this gorgeous leather-encased Camping Mug is actually too beautiful for its stated purpose! It was designed by Paul Pirie Leather, whose workshop is also located in Glasgow, with the intention of being used outdoors therefore has been made with rugged and durable materials and I think the leather will wear in well with use. The mason jar within the casing will hold up to 490ml and has a screw-on metal lid to protect your drink from inquisitive insects between sips.

The Camping Mug is for sale at £23 plus shipping.

My final choice is this cute Folding Wooden Camping Chair by John-William Dinsdale of Bye Brytshi in Leyburn. Completely and expertly hand made, the small camping chair is perfect for all outdoor occasions from campsites to festivals as it is light weight and portable. It measures 65cm tall when folded and 42cm wide. When standing it is 50cm high. The fabric can be removed for easy washing and if you want a different colour or design for this, Bye Brytshi are happy to accommodate custom designs.

The Folding Wooden Camping Chair is for sale at £35 plus shipping.

Folding Wooden Camping Chair by Bye Brytshi 
Happy camping!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Why voting for a small party makes a huge difference

Don't let Emily down!
Get out and Vote! 
At the time of writing, there are just 26 hours left until voting closes in this year's General Election! I've stocked up with snacks for a long night online watching the counts come in, but of course for that to be worthwhile we need to all Get Out There And Vote!

Do you know where your Polling Station is?
If not, Click This Link. They will all be open from 7am until 10pm.

And, if you have just remembered your unused postal vote, don't panic! Fill it in now and hand it into a Polling Station tomorrow or get someone else to take it for you. Just make sure the Polling Station is in your constituency!

There's was a massive surge in voter registration this year, especially amongst younger people, which is fantastic to see. Now that needs to be transferred into footsteps walking up to ballot boxes. Remember, last time around more people didn't vote than voted Conservative. That's about a third of us who maybe thought their vote wouldn't make a difference. Maybe people living in a safe seat or who support a party that couldn't have won in their constituency? Those voters could have radically changed this country if only they had believed in themselves!

If we look at how far the Conservatives have swung into UKIP ideological territory, we see that all those UKIP votes in 2015 did make a difference. And (in good news!) this year's Labour manifesto includes some good Green thinking. Not enough in my opinion, but it's a start and the stronger the Green vote across the country tomorrow, the more likely we are to get Green policies into practice whether or not we achieve a second (or third) MP.

Each vote for an Opposition party has a tangible monetary value too. I recently learned about Short Money (which is not unexpectedly walking home when Stagecoach puts bus fares up again!), but an initiative introduced by Harold Wilson's government to enable the Opposition to fulfil its role more effectively. Simplistically, Opposition parties get an annual payment towards their costs and the amount is based on how they did in the previous election. At the moment each MP is worth £16,689 and every 200 votes is worth £33.33. So my voting Green in Torbay will get the Green Party 16p - every year! OK, it's not much, but multiply that by every vote ... plus in Bristol West (Molly Scott Cato), Sheffield (Natalie Bennett), or on the Isle of Wight (Vix Lowthion) Green votes leading to a new Green MP could significantly swell the coffers!

However, regardless of which way you are going to vote, please just Do Vote. Take a friend then go for a coffee. Turn up mob-handed then go to the pub. Even spoiling your ballot paper is a visible protest at the state of our country. Sitting silently at home is tacit approval of the status quo and, unless you are seriously rich, this Tory government is Not working for you.

The woman pictured at the top of this post is Emily Wilding Davison. She died on the 8th of June 1913 of injuries sustained when she was trampled by the King's horse at Epsom races. Emily was carrying a Suffrage banner calling for British women to be allowed to vote. She never got to exercise the right she died to achieve but You Can.

Monday, 5 June 2017

#WorldReads - five books from Russia

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month I highlight five books I have read from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post.

This month's country is Russia! I didn't realise until I was putting the post together that all the authors are male. Usually I try to feature male and female writers so my apologies for this. I will redress the balance with an all female list for July's post!

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

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Tagged with "one of the greatest love stories ever told", I was misled into expecting this book to be more romance than history. Perhaps worded as a result of the film version, the novel itself is far more. Set during the Russian Revolution(s), we follow the life of a young doctor as he and his wife attempt to keep their family together amid intense turmoil. I loved Pasternak's descriptions of Russia, both the land and her people, and for me, this was the 'great love' of the novel.

The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Originally written in the Soviet Union between 1927 and 1940, but not published until 1967, the story of the book's existence and Bulgakov's life is interesting in itself. Plus it might be the most fantastical novel I ever read! Sharp political satire on one level and amazing storytelling on another. A deserved classic.

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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I wasn't surprised to learn that Dostoyevsky had a gambling problem himself because his insight into his narrator, Alexey's, compulsive behaviour is wonderfully realistic. Apparently this novella was written in great haste because the profits from its publication were needed to settle gambling debts! Dostoyevsky has created an interesting story of selfish, back-stabbing people all unashamedly out to gain as much of each other's fortunes as they can.

Yevgeny Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

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I haven't read any other translations of Alexander Pushkin's famous poem Yevgeny Onegin so cannot comment on how Anthony Briggs' new translation differs, but I was surprised at how readable he has rendered the poem. I admit I had been putting off, expecting something quite impenetrable so was pleased to find myself actually enjoying the story and the humour. I particularly loved the descriptive passages which vividly paint snowy Russian villages, exciting sleigh rides and a wonderful ball.

One-Two by Igor Eliseev

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I was introduced to this novel set in Perestroika Russia when it was Guest Reviewed for Literary Flits. This is the most recent of my Russian Five having been published just last year. A tale of conjoined twins, Faith and Hope, the story depicts their life from the time they are sent to an orphanage and it's not a happy tale, but is rewarding to read.

That's it for June's WorldReads from Russia. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country and if you want more suggestions, click through to see all my Literary Flits reviews of Russian-authored books! Please do Comment your own favourite Russian books below and if you fancy buying any of the five I have suggested, clicking through the links from this blog to do so would mean I earn a small commission payment.

If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, we have already 'visited' Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, ItalyNew ZealandNigeria, South AfricaSpain, Sweden and Turkey. In June I will be highlighting five books by American authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Walking from Brixham to Berry Head and beyond

I'm glad we made the most of yesterday's glorious weather by packing up sandwiches and heading out on a walk. We decided to take advantage of the Western Lady ferry connection between Torquay and Brixham which, at just £3 for a return ticket, is excellent value - cheaper than the bus and quicker too! We got great views across Torbay from the water and there was even a commentary on the way out drawing passengers' attention to the main sights.

Torquay and Brixham harbours were both very busy due to it being half-term holiday week, but once we ascended up to the streets above, everything quietened. I liked seeing older buildings such as a row of stone fishermen's cottages and the grandeur of Wolborough House. We followed a narrowing road out of town until we spotted our footpath leading through woods towards Berry Head. It was actually pleasant to get out of the sun into dappled shade for a while as we continued uphill.

View from the coast path 
The South West Coast Path is reasonably well signposted and affords gorgeous views out to sea. It is also less undulating here than at other sections along its route so not such hard work to walk! I loved the occasional stone stiles which are apparently left-over from the Coast Path's original function as a coastguards' walk. They would patrol the top of the cliffs looking out for smugglers! Now the Coast Path is the longest National Trail with a total length of 630 miles. Yesterday's we only covered about 3-4 miles each way towards the headland at Sharkham Point.

En route we diverted to explore each of the two Napoleonic forts at Berry Head. Human inhabitation on Berry Head dates back to at least the Iron Age and even more ancient history can been seen by examining the fort stones for fossils. The Napoleonic forts, North and South, were built between 1795 and 1805 when England was at war with France. The southern site now has an interesting small visitor centre which has historical exhibits and information about the varied local flora and fauna. There is also a nice cafe here and a bird hide overlooking seabird colonies on the cliffs.

Napoleonic fort at Berry Head