I am a huge fan of Winterbourne Opera. This operatic group based near Salisbury were established in 2000 and this is the third production I have seen. We had Dido and Aeneas in a granary barn, The Marriage of Figaro staged in a Georgian long gallery next to Salisbury cathedral, and this years offering was set in the cattle ring of Salisbury market. The acoustics were superb (especially when sung offstage and echoing all around the building) , and if the seating (concrete stands) were a little hard on the bottom we were at least pre-warned to bring cushions. The weather was kind and we enjoyed a picnic before the performance and then we were transformed to a very sleazy version of a town between a tobacco factory (the girls) and an army outpost (the boys). The love story is easy to follow, and, sung in English it was not at all difficult to understand what was going on. I am not an ‘Opera Buff’ and what I embrace most about the Winterbourne is that the chorus are Winterbourne singers who love to perform, and the lead roles are given to young rising opera stars, generously sponsored by friends of Winterbourne and local businesses, as are the excellent musicians. The whole performance was outstanding in the quality of singing and the energy and gusto with which the entire cast threw into the performance; Carmen (Helen Bruce) in particular, using the uprights of the cattle ring as if they were poles for dancing. And how can she sing whilst squirming on the floor with a man straddling her?! The girl deserves the opera worlds equivalent of an Oscar! Bizet’s wonderful musical score is of course very familiar to us all – rather irreverently as an unmistakable ring tone….the musical quality of this production, both sung and played, was faultless. Next Summer, Gounod’s ‘Faust’…where on earth will they stage that?!
A day spent at Portsmouth’s historic Dockyard is money well spent. A timed ticket is a must for entry to the newly opened Mary Rose Museum,which opened it’s boat shaped doors on 31 May 2013. Here you can see on three levels the final stage of the drying out process of Henry VIIIs magnificent warship, built in 1510 (when 2 ships cost £700), by amateur divers and historians in 1971, and eventually and lovingly the half wreck was raised to the surface and hauled to Portsmouth in 1982 some 450 years after she sank. The restoration project is vast and is due to be completed in 2017. Interestingly this is half a ship, and there is still more on the seabed to be found. The exhibit is superb and very informative…not only a walk around and peer through windows at the magnificent ship herself but also the artefacts recovered with her in many chests…from clothes to weapons, to books, coin and pewter and wooden crockery all sympathetically restored and superbly exhibited. Perhaps the most poignant relic from the watery grave of 500 crew lost when the ship went down, is the skeleton of a dog, terrier sized, found near it’s masters cabin. The ship’s rat-catcher. So many lost their lives because of the netting hung in the rigging to repel boarders acted as a net from which the crew could not escape. It is thought that the gun flaps, a proud invention, added with another row of cannon to the ship, were inadvertently left open and that is why she sank when hit whilst fighting the French/Spanish on 19th July 1545. Quite by chance we visited on 19 July and joined in the observing of a minute’s silence to honour the dead.
As part of the ticket price, admission is included to the HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship from where he won the Battle of Trafalgar. His vanity prevented him from disguising himself when going up on deck early in the battle and he was shot by a Frenchman at close range and died a slow death, hidden from the crew so as not to dim their moral mid battle. He had a horror of being buried at sea and the ship’s surgeon had the brilliant idea of pickling him in brandy and fortified wine, preserving the body for some 3 months until she reached England. It is alleged the Victory’s crew drank the pickling liquid and declared it to be ‘full bodied’ !! The HMS Victory is still in commission and is currently topless as the masts are being restored. You can still clamber about on-board; not advisable if you are over 6ft tall!
There are other attractions included in the ticket – don’t miss the hourly harbour cruise where you can see Britain’s finest warships at close range, and of course the cross channel ferries! Commentary is lively and informative.
The best news of all is that the ticket is valid for a year so you can return to re-visit perhaps later in the year.
Any one who is curious, can see our Bargain Hunt episode filmed in Hungerford in February 2013. It’s available on BBC iplayer until 8 July…series 35 episode 1. My son Callum and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge…I won’t spoil it by telling you if we won or not! Any faraways (outside of UK) will need a VPN and I highly recommend www.my-private-network.co.uk I used it very successfully when in the UAE and only a fiver a month – great for watching British telly on iplayer!
If you watch the programme you may note we are pictured above wearing red fleeces – that was at our audition…we were actually the blue team on the day and I will try to add some photos later.
…ah yes here they are!! Come on you blues!
My brother invited me to be his navigating passenger on Saturday’s annual fish and chip run organised by the Taffia (Welsh branch) of the Lotus 7 Club. One slight problem – my navigational skills are not brilliant. Use the satnav you might think…well the carefully planned itinerary doesn’t take the shortest route from startpoint Chepstow to Aberdovey, but the most fun to drive and scenic route possible for a posse of head turning, roaring, topless Caterham cars.
Around 75 of these two seater legends lined up in the car park of the Piercefield Pub in Chepstow. Coffee and bacon butties obligatory whilst we admired each others shiny cars. It would have been good to see them lined up in the colours of the spectrum but alas that was not possible in the confines of a pub car park. Two arrived with their hoods up, to mutterings and chortles…some had umbrellas strapped behind the passenger seat as a precautionary measure…the weather forecast was not brilliant but 7s drivers are not disprins – they do not dissolve easily .
We collected our route instructions, listened to a safety briefing (sticking to the speed limit, waving to the local constabulary in a polite manner etc etc) and set out in batches of six so as not to break the sound barrier of sleepy Chepstow at 10 am. We made an impressive convoy on a Saturday morning in sleepy Wales – a lovely sight; the rear end of a 7 with scenic surroundings as we drove through Usk and onto the very challenging ‘Blackmountain’ testroad immortalised by Top Gear etc. Now a chance to show what a 7 can do…hairpin bends sideways, and a bit of speed, with the hearty throb of the engine scattering the local sheep a little. Exciting stuff! On to Brecon and another scenic stretch of road (complete with military red flags) at Upper Chapel towards Garth and on to Beulah and Rhyader.
We all re-grouped at The Halt Cafe as some needed to refuel, coffee and pee; (amazing how quickly gentlemen can remove their ear defenders, release their 4 point safety harness and vault out from their beloved 7s without touching anything (especially the windscreen and exhaust pipe) in a bid to be first to the toilet!
Much refreshed we drove on down the B4518 to Llyn Clywedog/Staylittle – another scenic, open throttle road, over a few bridges, startling a few more sheep; waving at curious passers by, before finally coming to park in the sea front car park at Aberdyfi. A Net’s Catch (annette being the owner and her husband apparantly being the catch) had been prewarned about the descent of around 120 starving motorists and we formed an orderly queue. Everyone knows fish and chips taste even more delicious in sunshine, out of paper, by the sea. We were not disappointed and still no sign of the threatened rain. Slightly disappointing that the 7s didn’t have the chance to line up (on a previous event a few years ago to Aberystwyth they all lined up along the promenade much to the delight of the locals).
We were then free to follow our own journeys home – these 7s owners came from all over the UK to join this day out. At Chippenham we were hit by hail, which swirled around the cockpit like lottery balls during the Big Draw. Boy did they sting any exposed bits of face! My brother assured me that if you drive fast enough the following rain would skim over the top, and low and behold, we did not really get wet. We passed the shower.
The route (to this passenger) was superbly planned although I have dented my brothers driving credibility by managing to nod off for half an hour on the way home. (Considering the car is noisy, bumpy and draughty this is quite impressive and he feels he can’t have been driving fast enough – I should have been gripping the passenger door!) I sincerely hope I get invited again – I didn’t get us lost (ok we followed others most of the way!), met some lovely people and admired some much loved and polished cars. I WANT ONE!!
For the big finale to our California Adventure we drove south to San Diego a spent an enjoyable day roving the shady walkways seeing all the animals. Not a roller coaster nor simulator to be seen but we did enjoy the birds eye view of the zoo from the rickety tin buckets known as the Skytrain. Highlight of the zoo was definitely seeing giant pandas up close – especially the cub atop a very tall tree. Apparently after nursing and unaware the zoo is safe from predators, mummy panda sends the baby up the tree for safety. When she wants him to come down she shakes the tree! They call fall 50feet or so unharmed! Perhaps we mollycoddle our offspring!
Spent a Comfortable night in an inn that promised just that, and headed back to LA and the skatepark at Venice Beach for the last few hours of freckle promoting before crying over handing the mustang back to Alamo at LAX. US customs confiscated the sunshine I’d enticed into my case so after a very pleasant Virgin Atlantic flight we found Heathrow still in the depths of winter and our freckles faded as we got the M4 with a sprinkling of snow.
P.s the City Pass was a very good idea as it saved queueing and included the zoo and Skytrain as well as 3 day Disneylans with one early morning admission; universal studios and alas we had no time to visit Sea World…next time! You’ve always got to leave something to return for!
We arrived at Universal studios driving from Anaheim in an hour and opted for the middle range parking option which was expensive but close to the entrance . We arrived before 0900 and were actually the first two on the famous Studio Tour. My last visit was 30 years ago and the theme was Star Wars. The King Kong experience is 3D and 360 degree….totally awesome! The tram tour of the back lots and streets are fascinating and this studio is in its 101st year. The Psycho house is more chilling now I’ve just seen Hitchcock. An Anthony Perkins lookalike brings a body and wields a knife..the flash flood still works and Jaws still scares…the scenes from War of the Worlds are pretty grim! Being a Desperate Housewives fan, driving down Wisteria Lane was a highlight…photos from my camera to follow when I can upload them back in the UK.
In the early 80s the theme was Miami Vice…now Transformers is king and the simulator roller coaster is jaw dropping and worth queueing for. Shrek 4D, Jurassic park, Simpsons, and The mummy are also not to be missed. The Waterworld stunt show ensures you get wet. We easily filled 7 hours and although busy with Spring Break teenagers it never seemed as crowded as Disney…perhaps less small children. An amazing day out and can’t help wondering what the theme will be in another 30 years!
We left Sausalito in drizzle and cloud but by the time we hit the Monterey Peninsula on route 1, the sun had broken through and the Mustang convertible came into its own. Stunning ocean views and rolling cloud resembling a tsunami; whales and elephant seals…nepenthe restaurant is probably the most scenic lunch spot on the route. Good hearty sandwiches and an ocean facing terrace and very friendly staff. The drive was breathtaking all the way to Santa Barbara with frequent pull in view points. Then we hit commuter traffic and got a bit lost in Annaheim…the Candy Cane inn, sourced through Trip Advisor exactly suits our needs…2 queen sized beds.. Big room with coffee machine, buffet continental breakfast included and just 700 yards fr Disney entrance, with Subway and convenience stores opposite. We had a Disney filled day today (both parks) and I did space mountain for the 1st time in 30 years…the 1st and one of only a few roller coasters I’ve ever been on. Was telling an employee this and he gave us a fast track because he liked our english accents! Am now fit to drop and early back in there tomorrow to beat the roads a d hug a few characters ! This bed is soooooo comfy!