Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two theatre visits in  less than a week and both to Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. It's not been great over the last year or so, with just a few good productions, but now two in a row, which is good for everyone.
The first performance we saw was on Saturday - Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. A tour de force of almost three hours, but well done. With a clever set that took us around the country, we watched the worrying events unfold, ending in relief and tragedy. At the interval we went out to stretch our legs and in search of refreshments - but - oh no! - there was nothing to be had on the sweet side - no ice cream or choccies, and we had not taken any dessert with dinner in anticipation of something at 'half-time'!
Before curtain-up for A Little Night Music at YAT

Wednesday evening we made our way down to YAT again for the Guildford-based theatre company PH Productions' A Little Night Music (music and lyrics, Stephen Sondheim and book, Hugh Wheeler).
As the lights went down and the audience went quiet, footsteps came down the side aisle - a latecomer? No, a lone cellist walked onto the stage and sat on a dimly lit chair and started playing. The curtain rose  revealing panels and sheer curtains about two thirds back from the front of the stage, behind which the 18 piece orchestra began playing the overture and our cellist quietly disappeared off stage. We were then treated to a fast paced opening song from the liebeslieders and soon the story unfolded, punctuated with many Steven Sondheim songs. It was great fun and everyone enjoyed the performance judging by the prolonged applause. And I should mention that this was an amateur production, although many of the cast are either students of drama, or have had some previous experience. And, yes, they had even managed to get in some ice cream for the interval!

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
PH Productions

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birds, music, flowers and food

August weekends at Wisley have been busy and we decided to go down and join the fun this Sunday. It all began with a flying demonstration by the wonderful birds of Xtreme Falconry. They come up from Kent (soon to be Dorset) for a few weekends of displays at Wisley each year. It all began with a beautiful barn owl and then a European eagle owl, a Mexican striped owl and a Griffon vulture. To round off the performance they flew a Bateleur Eagle from Africa, with her impressive red beak and chocolatey plumage. The families loved it and the children had plenty of questions for the main handler. When the birds were back on their perches, we went across to the marquee and took a closer look at these amazing birds. As we were looking at the birds, a band struck up and soon their up beat tunes were wafting across the grass. This was the Panama Cafe Orchestra playing on the terrace outside the cafe - very appropriate! As the weather did look a little 'iffy' they found a corner under the glass roof, and cheerfully played away to the delight of the crowd. We decided to pop into the cafe for a coffee and listen, before going on our walk around the Garden.

From the cafe we turned left to walk round the side of the lake, where plenty of people were watching the ducks, geese and coots paddling in the shallows. There are also some large carp that swim in the shallows gaping their large mouths at the visitors. We came to the Glasshouse where there is a great display of Wisley fuchsias, as well as some smaller displays of the various local fuchsia societies in the Glasshouse Gallery. Up the ramp behind the waterfall is a plant/tree that was featured on the Wisley facebook page, Ensete glaucum or snow banana. It grows fairly high up in Yunnan, China. In the tropical area there were several plants flowering including a small version of the creeper, Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia), which is winding it's way along the balcony with lots of flowers. 

Snow Banana

Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia

Leaving by the back door, we strolled through the lovely prairie planting and on up the rockery to the Alpine Houses where Sunny, the cat, hangs out lying on the warm gravel between the plants.


Time for more coffee before descending through the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden and into the Jubilee Rose Garden, the AGM borders (where all the plants have Awards of Garden Merit from the RHS). The Country Garden is just beyond these, and from there we walked down what was left of the Mixed borders, looking up to see the newly refurbished and replaced Henry Moore Arch at the top of Battleston Hill. 

Time to leave as we had an early dinner date as well as wanting to see some of the cricket before we left for the restaurant. England in command in the last test, so that's good. We met up with friends who had been in Sakhalin with us at the Good Earth in Esher. Great food, but abysmal service (again) even though we had a Chinese person with us, doing the ordering! But it was great to catch up with people we had largely not seen for ten years or so!

 Xtreme Falconry
Snow Banana 
RHS Garden Wisley
Panama Cafe Orchestra
The Good Earth

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Karoo Plainsong


I've recently read Karoo Plainsong, the debut novel from local author, Barbara Mutch. Barbara hails from South Africa, which is where the novel is set (the title is the give away!) and is the tale of Ada Mabuse who is brought up in service to a white family in Cradock at the start of the apartheid era in South Africa. She has a natural talent as a pianist and as the brutality of the times reaches into the Karoo, we learn how this helps her to survive outrageous circumstances. It is a wonderful, well written and fascinating book that you can buy from Barbara's publishers and elsewhere, and she is very proud that it has made it into ebook form as well.
I have also enjoyed reading Barbara's blog all about publishing one's first book. It's a story in itself and through sheer hard work and determination this book is already in its second print run.
Congratulations Barbara!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Walking with friends

Today we met up with some friends for a walk to a pub and beyond. Their day started with dodging the crowds and closed roads due to the London-Surrey Cycle Race. This was a rehearsal for the Olympics next year - twice up and around Box Hill (SSSI) in the middle, a strenuous uphill zig-zag to test the best of them. We started off walking up and over Pewley Down and down to the Wey where we crossed over by Guildford's golden sands.

 There were plenty of people out and about, walking, biking, rowing and kayaking; and even trying their hand navigating the Navigation in a narrow boat. We made good time to the Parrot, arriving around 13.15, but they seemed to have overlooked our booking although there it was in the diary.

Nevertheless, we did get a table, and soon had our drinks and ordered lunch - roast beef and turkey. We chatted away, catching up on the news from both sides, but no food was forthcoming, so at just after two, we inquired as to what was going on. They had lost the order, so we had to start again, although it was tempting to up sticks and go elsewhere. We could have free drinks as compensation, but that's slim consolation. At 14.35 the meals arrived and after we had dessert, too, we were on our way by 15.20.

Our first stop was to visit Shalford Mill, a National Trust property since 1932, but built back in the late eighteenth century, one of twenty five mills along the length of the Tillingbourne river that rises by Leith Hill and joins the Wey, just across the road from this site. We had a comprehensive tour from our guide, David, who is a complete enthusiast. He has done plenty of research into the history and working of the place and has even built a working model on display inside. 

 We clambered  up the steps and ladders to the top to where the new grain was hoisted from the farmers' carts, and then began its journey down the various shoots to arrive to be gathered into sacks as flour on the ground floor.

Now we took the footpath in front of the mill, over the mill race, and up to the Chantries. It was pleasant under the trees, then coming out into the sunlight at the top of the slope, only to plunge down the other side. We turned left eventually, to follow the narrow path between the fields  where harvesting was taking place, even on Sunday.

Neat square bales lay where the combine dropped them. Soon we were back up on Pewley Down to complete the circuit, and we got back home by six for a welcome cup of tea, and to see the start of the last day of the USPGA Golf from Atlanta. Mark Cavendish had won the cycle race, in the meantime!

The Wey
Shalford Mill
Tillingbourne River
Box Hill
London-Surrey Cycle Race