Spent the New Year in Matlock with the family (that’s not Matlock above, by the way…)
Situated on the edge of the Peak District, Matlock does a nice line in rocky outcrops, underlying bedrock and watercourses. The River Derwent winds its way through nearby Matlock Bath, and appears to possess something of a dogged nature, opting to cut its way through a limestone gorge rather than follow an easier route to the east. Geologists may suggest landslips or glaciation would account for this but sometimes a river just wants to get out of its comfort zone.
Matlock Bath developed as a spa town when thermal springs were discovered there, and both John Ruskin and Lord Byron – celebrities in their day – popped over to check the waters out. Not long after, they may well have been inspired to a bit of canvas daubing and sonnet scribbling.
This may be an opportune time to introduce a few notable quotes from Lord Byron:
Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.
Friendship may, and often does, grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship.
The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone.
Lots of necessary drinking took place with an inevitable curry at Maazi’s – a contemporary Indian restaurant set in a former cinema with an incongruous tuk-tuk plonked neatly above the main entrance.
I’m not sure if Alan Bennett ever went to Matlock Bath (I’m betting he has) but in his memoir, Keeping On Keeping On, he borrows a line from the poet R. S. Thomas on political correctness, which is worth an airing:
I am not going to affect the livery
Of the times’ prudery.
That’s enough culture to be going on with. How to follow a great few days in the Peak District? I would have thought going to a Pen Museum would be the obvious answer.
Based in a former pen factory, the wittily entitled Pen Museum celebrates the story of how our modern pens evolved from quill to steel nib to fountain pen.
Birmingham’s factories supplied the majority of pens to people all over the world with thousands of skilled craftsmen and women employed in the industry. Apart from anything else, it encouraged many who previously could not afford to write to develop literacy skills.
Tucked away in the Jewelry Quarter, it is a quirky little museum packed with exhibitions and fascinating bits and pieces.
Of course, the whole business collapsed after the invention of that pesky little Biro – but that’s another story…
The annual trip out to Rutland Water turned up its usual blend of birds and banter but we didn’t manage to cover as much ground as usual. This was probably due to a surfeit of waterfowl splashing around on the water, and we enjoyed particularly good views of the bonny Smew (it’s a duck!)
There also seemed to be more waterfowl than ever ducking and dabbling around the pools in huge numbers – just about every species of duck you would expect to see including Pintail and Goldeneye. A sneaky Caspian Gull also managed to immerse itself in with a flock of floating gulls until some sharp-eyed birders dug it out.
A few Red Kites were spotted en route to Rutland in the morning. On the return journey, further diversion was provided when a loud crack came from the roof of the coach. Some air-conditioning mechanism had been torn loose, and there was a bit of a cold journey back for some.
One bird at Rutland that did get pulses racing – plus a fair bit of jostling and jousting in the hide – was that splendid little wader, the Whimbrel.
Always a bit of a star whenever seen in the UK, they seem ten-a-penny in the Canary Islands. (This is a lazy little tie-in to that other annual pilgrimage of ours – a cheeky week in the sun!)
Lanzarote was the island of choice this year and although not overly sunny and hot, there was still enough warmth for shorts and T-shirts during the day, and a fleece in the evenings.
Steve and I stayed at the Arrecife Gran Hotel & Spa. Located on the front and alongside the harbour, overlooking the Reducto Beach. It is the biggest landmark on the skyline with seventeen floors (we were on the sixteenth, just below the panoramic bar!)
The capital of Lanzarote, Arrecife was once a small fishing village – boats could be hidden behind the black volcanic reefs to deter pirate attacks.
Another defensive stronghold to keep out the pirates was just along from the hotel, the Castillo de San Jose, a historic fortress now housing contemporary art exhibitions in the barrel-vaulted rooms that were once used to store powder.
On Sunday, we went to watch Lanzarote FC play the Villa.
Brad Cockerell (the son of a friend of a brother) plays in midfield for Lanzarote’s top team but unfortunately he wasn’t on the pitch as they went down 0-1 in the last minute to Villa Santa Brigida.
The neighbouring resorts of Costa Teguise and Puerto del Carmen are all within easy reach of Arrecife. Certain levels of exploration were required, which took in several bars along the way.
Puerto del Carmen was within walking distance along the coastal pathway that sneaked around the airport. Flitting around the rocky beaches were more Whimbrel, Turnstones and Sanderlings, which provided the ornithological diversion between beers.
The marina also became a favoured spot for a little light drinking…
Stop Press! A children’s book that I illustrated is now up and running on the shelves:
After the publication of the children’s book, it seemed of only natural to attend the Wolverhampton Literary Festival at the end of the month.
At first I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss the metric structure of Byron’s love poetry with kindred spirits – or possibly to interrogate the conflicting interpretations of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
But really I wanted to go so I could ride on the tram.
There were a couple of very good talks to attend – a passionate delivery on the merits of writing groups by the Oldbury Writing Group, and a interesting discussion given by a panel of self-published authors, which provided much grist to this mill.
Now, here’s a little extra plug for my own novel published a couple of years ago (in the very unlikely event that anyone missed this little gem!)
Please read the amazon reviews first though – it definitely isn’t a children’s book despite one friend accidentally ordering several copies for her children’s library!
The Flat Disc Society’s film offering this month was this excellent choice:
It scored 93% on the Tomatometer – and here’s a review by Hal Erickson from the Rotten Tomatoes website:
John Huston’s 1948 treasure-hunt classic begins as drifter Fred Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), down and out in Mexico, impulsively spends his last bit of dough on a lottery ticket. Later on, Dobbs and fellow indigent Curtin (Tim Holt) seek shelter in a cheap flophouse and meet Howard (Walter Huston), a toothless, garrulous old coot who regales them with stories about prospecting for gold.
Forcibly collecting their pay from their shifty boss, Dobbs and Curtin combine this money with Dobbs’s unexpected windfall from a lottery ticket and, together with Howard, buy the tools for a prospecting expedition. Dobbs has pledged that anything they dig up will be split three ways, but Howard, who’s heard that song before, doesn’t quite swallow this.
As the gold is mined and measured, Dobbs grows increasingly paranoid and distrustful, and the men gradually turn against each other on the way toward a bitterly ironic conclusion. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a superior morality play and one of the best movie treatments of the corrosiveness of greed.
Huston keeps a typically light and entertaining touch despite the strong theme, for which he won Oscars for both Director and Screenplay, as well as a supporting award for his father Walter, making Walter, John, and Anjelica Huston the only three generations of one family all to win Oscars.
There was a short introductory cartoon, Bugs Bunny Rides Again, to start things off – one of the first cartoons to pair Bugs and Yosemite Sam who faced off in the Western town of Rising Gorge.
That’s all folks!