Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Too much wuthering

Last week Pat, of the Weaver of Grass blog, wondered what other bloggers thought of the new film version of Emily Bronte's  'Wuthering Heights.'  Exiled Yorkshire woman that I am, I went to see it this week. It is filmed in a landscape that I know well, and, dear me, there was an awful lot of weather, altogether far too much wuthering. 
Once again we have a film that only depicts the first half of the book, stopping before there is any mention of the further generation and the sad outcome of obsession and revenge. I have always found it strange that this story is described as one of love. Examples are given of Heathcliff's cruelty in the film, but, oh, he looks drop dead gorgeous in his white shirt (and equally so without it!)
I thought that it was perfect to cast a black actor in the role, wholly plausible given that he is described in the book as being dark skinned and was found as a child wandering the streets of the great seaport city of Liverpool.
I don't know anyone from  Yorkshire daft enough to roll in a peat bog who would then scrub up quite so well as these actors, and for goodness sake WILL SOMEONE HOLD THAT CAMERA STEADY!

Verdict, a tad indulgent, but , oh, my homeland is beautiful, even when it's wuthering!

We used to have a Dobermann whom my father named, 'Keeper' after the dog in 'Wuthering Heights'. Keeper did not like men in hats and lived up to his namesake well, so far as the postman was concerned, stalking him up and down our long drive, growling in a quiet but threatening manner. One day the postman threw his cap at Keeper and that marked the end of good behaviour. Post then became a bit erratic, with letters arriving a day late, bearing the pencilled message, 'dog out, could not deliver.'

Ower Tops.

T'other side o't dale 's
a veil o' milky 'ue
as you an' I an' t' dog
on t' peat moor top can view,
at dusk,
a sky awash wi' pink.
An' everythin' takes on a magic glow
as walkin' ower tops we go.

 On the tops (in a bit of weather) with Keeper and Michele. Jan. 1960.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ceramic Sunday: coffee cups.

My father bought this set of small coffee cups for me when I was a child and the gold-plated spoons were one of my parents' wedding presents, hardly ever used. Both he and I were attracted by the combination of bright jewel-like colours and gold interior. Just lately coffee has been off the menu for me, so annoying because a small cup of coffee (and a chocolate!) seem the perfect ending to a decent meal. I have used this little set often and with  a mixture of pleasure and amusement. They were bought when I was young and I think because Dad could not resist them so I was a good excuse! 

Friday, 11 November 2011

All at sea: in the Caribbean


Landfall, British Virgin Islands.

Look who is delighted to be off their great big hulk of a cruise ship and onto a real boat, a racing catamaran. We are in Tortola, heading out from Road Town across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to go snorkelling around the nearby islands.

The sails aren't rigged yet, so we are still standing up, but you'll notice that we are holding on firmly, (and at this point only drinking fruit punch!)

Wonderful snorkeling, with beautiful corals, Sergeant majors and Coral Fins, after which excitement we need a little lie down,

followed by a swim at Peter Island.

Back under sail with a good rum punch.

We arrived in Antigua on Independence Day and docked alongside a British navy ship busily decking itself out with celebration bunting.
Judging Antigua to be a flat island we had pre-booked a jeep in England from Tropical Rentals. Oh, goody, it's red!

The view from Shirley Heights was amazing.

And Independence Day flags were everywhere.

Just look at Himself in Nelson's Dockyard.
Can you feel the heat? 
Can you see the tropical downpour gathering?
Can you imagine our race back to the jeep in time to get the roof back on?
After a terrific downpour the sun came out, the roof came back down, and the intrepid travelers headed to a beach to stretch out in the sunshine.
Another day, another island, another beach, this time Grand Anse in Grenada. We picnic under the shade of a tree in the heat of the day and spend our time luxuriously and aimlessly floating and swimming about in the warm, turquoise water - my idea of heaven.

Blissed out on the water taxi heading back to port.
St George, the capital of Grenada is claimed to be a pretty place, with a mixture of French provincial architecture and robust Georgian stone buildings and coloured wooden houses on the hillside beyond. I asked any number of locals for the best areas to see this architecture but they didn't have the faintest idea, so in true tourist fashion I did a bit of aimless wandering but didn't discover very much.

Then it was back to our balcony

 and the end of a perfect day in Grenada.

Eyes bigger than belly? 

No, belly and eyes both big.(Or perhaps it's just the glasses.)

In Bridgetown, Barbados, Himself chats to a couple who live near us in England.

We've come to take a look at Nelson while he is still on his column. The monument was erected in 1813, seventeen years before the one in London's Trafalgar Square. This Nelson has become a controversial figure, seen by some as a symbol of colonialism, and there is talk of him being replaced by a national hero. We spoke to a couple of locals. Waste of money, they thought, to take Nelson down. He had already been moved to look the other way some time past, at great expense. Leave Nelson where he is, was their opinion, and place a national hero somewhere else.

It is blisteringly hot and ambitious plans for sight-seeing are abandoned in preference to a seat in the shade.

I'm still eating, (but who can resist a chocolate milkshake?)

And we are still dressing up.

By now we know no shame, and when the Bagen Doo Flicky Show invite us on stage on our final evening, up we go.  I am shown how to 'shake ma booty'

which, after time at sea, is a size worth shaking!

"Look at me" says the stilt man, "do what I do."

The Y&F show them how

and the stilt man jumps over them!

Our last morning in Barbados and the Anderson Sealy Steel Orchestra gives it all they've got. 

And this Y&F hasn't put on so much as a pound!

Goodbye Caribbean.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

All at sea: Atlantic crossing.

Until last month we had never been on a cruise ship, but our friends, the Young and Fit, persuaded us to join them, saying that we would have a lot of fun. We were under the impression that cruising was for the elderly, and that surely wasn't us!
We sailed out of Southampton in something resembling a large block of flats, while a brass band on the dockside attempted to make sufficient noise to speed us on our way. They were reduced to Lilliputians by the size of our vessel and failed to make much of an impression. 

Our friends the Y&F are incredibly well organised, so it was study the programme, visit the gym, sign up for everything (them), look in amazement at the instruments of torture (us) and then explore the ship.
We were so lucky that our evening dining companions, another group of four, were all from Yorkshire. Oh, the banter, the witty repartee! All this and the romance and history of an Atlantic crossing. Eh oop, Bay of Biscay ahead.

Our gang.

My daily routine at sea was to greet the sunrise with a morning mile, four times round the prom deck, then half an hour in the gym for stretch exercises followed by a really indulgent breakfast!

First stop, Madeira.(That's our cruise ship in the background, all lit up like a Christmas tree.) I know that in March I said that I wouldn't return, but this time I was just passing through. I had extolled the bounty of the flower market to  the Y&F, so we were off the ship at first light to catch all the action. What a disappointment - no flowers! I had presumed that because the weather is always warm that some flowers would always be in bloom. But, like Britain, Madeira has it's seasons, and this wasn't the season for flowers.
Luckily, because of our early start, there were things to see in the adjacent fish market. The Y&F had lived and worked in Japan for several years and were interested in the variety of fish on display.

Then we sampled  one or two of the many fruits, all unknown to us, that the market had to offer.
"Do you like that?"
"Mmm. Not sure."

Cruising seems to involve a great deal of dressing up.... and eating. Never fear, we can rise to the occasion. (And my afternoon aerobics classes should counteract the puddings - ha, ha.)

Cherries flamed in brandy.
Oh, go on then, add a dollop of ice cream!
(I had to eat them, because they matched the colour of my dress.)

Every day at four o'clock there is that most civilized of occasions, afternoon tea. A choice of sandwiches, crusts removed, hot buttered toast and crumpets, scones with jam and cream, a selection of cakes. And a pot of proper leaf tea with tea strainer, Lapsang Souchong for me.

Will a session on the machines compensate for afternoon tea? 

Dream on!

On the sun decks people the size of hippos had bagged the sunbeds and were slowly frying to unhealthy shades of red. (I have to report that the British public viewed en masse are a pretty grim sight.)
A choreographer from the television programme, 'Strictly Come Dancing' is on board. He gives a couple of inspiring master classes on salsa and swing. Happy in the knowledge that nobody on board knows us or is likely to meet us again, our gang enter a dancing competition. One of the Y&F is chosen to compete. 
The excitement! The terror! He is taught a jive routine.

Our lad and his partner, a member of the crew, put on a good show, 

but they are pipped at the post by a pair with snake hips performing a salsa.

Friday, 28th October.
We are sleeping midships, mid-Atlantic, in the floating gin-palace of a P&O cruise ship. We are able to sleep undisturbed, accustomed, now, to the creaking of the vessel, the throbbing engines and the lift and sway beneath us. But at 5.30 a voice on the p.a. system announces, "Man overboard, man overboard." Instantly we are awake and leave the coolness of our air-conditioned cabin to stand on our balcony in the darkness. Passengers have gathered on the decks below us to scan the water. Life buoys with attached lights are thrown overboard  and as the ship continues its forward movement the small, blinking marker lights are  quickly left far behind.
The second in command informs us, over the p.a. system, that the identity of the man is known and asks that, if we see anything at all in the water, we are to inform staff at once. The weather is kind, with a calm sea and warm temperature but we think, no chance, to fall in darkness into the very middle of the Atlantic.
The ship has now been traveling for half an hour. It is still dark. I suddenly spot the flare lights up ahead and realize that our huge ship has traveled in a large circle to arrive back in the vicinity of the man overboard. I see the lifeboats that had been lowered a while ago and searchlights that seem small and inadequate in all this space.
"Help." A faint cry is heard and answering voices from the ship call out urgently in response. A young man is pulled from the water.
After a message from the captain informing us that the man is being attended to in the medical unit, no further information is forthcoming. Rumour is rife and the entire ship plays Chinese whispers.
"He's 22."
"He's 26."
"He fell out with his girlfriend/ grandmother/ grandfather over a bar bill."
"He's with a wedding party."
The only thing on which everyone agrees is that he will be put ashore to make his own way home as soon as we make landfall. There will be no sailing around the Carribean for the man overboard. But I hope he will appreciate how lucky he is to be alive.

Statement from the ship's log.
At Sea, Friday, 28th October.
At 5.30 a Man Overboard call was received on the bridge, 15 minutes later 2 fast rescue craft (FRC) were launched to begin the search. At 6.22 the casualty is sighted by the port FRC and recovered into the Starboard FRC. By 07.15 both FRC are recovered. Passage continued towards Tortola.