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A rare opportunity to see J & MF-S on stage

The two big DRCS fundraising events I mentioned in the previous post are planned for later in the year. You can find out a bit more about them  if your click the link to DRCS above; both events will really be very well worth attending if you are anywhere in the area. (For those many of you that aren’t I am sorry to tantalize you – maybe better luck next year.)

Firstly there is our annual DRCS Shopping Fair on Wed 6th and Thursday 7th October at the Maynard Hotel, Grindleford. Last year I did my entire Christmas shopping in October, in very congenial surroundings, buying most unusual and very attractive presents that one wouldn’t normally be able to find at all. Even more to the point,  I spent rather less money than I usually end up doing when panicking into buying unsuitable gifts at the last moment (although of course as a member of the fundraising committee I should be encouraging not economy but massive overspending!).

The second event is the DRCS Comic Revue.  There will be two showings: the first on Saturday 13th November, at the Medway in Bakewell and the second on Friday 26th November at Ashover Village Hall. This no doubt will be another sell-out. When we did the last one several years ago tickets were like gold dust, and we ended up having to put on another evening as so many people were disappointed. The revue is a very jolly evening with a large cast singing, ‘dancing’ and doing skits; it is very skilfully produced by Val Kenning, a member of the DRCS Fundraising team, who runs her own drama school and is a genius at extracting previously unsuspected and untapped acting ‘ability’  from all sorts of unlikely characters including John and me…

John has established he cannot learn lines, so has to have a part which involves speaking entirely from behind a newspaper. He also is lined up for one other major non-speaking role, more to be divulged later. My role is very much the side-kick, the foil who – when there are only two people on the stage at the time – is not granted the luxury of hiding behind a newspaper, but in fact has just as much difficulty as John with memorising words.

Catching up

Another busy week in the Orchard Farm household, but the business mainly very pleasurable.

Friday is usually a very full day here, with the changeovers, and getting anything else done that needs to be done in the way of repairs and maintenance in the five hours that we have. It was as full as any yesterday but John held the fort with Janet and Carol  and everything went so smoothly I begin to wonder whether perhaps I should plan more Fridays away.

Anyway, I hardly spent the day relaxing but was equally  busy but in a very different way and not returning home until quarter to 8 in the evening. I was interviewing (with four others) four of the five short-listed candidates for the new manager for DRCS, the Derwent Rural Counselling Service, the Bakewell-based charity that I was manager of for ten years and am still heavily committed to as a trustee and as a member of the Friends Fundraising Committee.

Advance warning about two great DRCS fundraising events John and I are involved in.

More about the latter later – I suddenly realised I should make public for local readers and our guests who may be staying here then the two big events we are planning for later in the year and which are taking up some time at the moment, and which I can unashamedly say should be well worth coming to. You’ll have to read the next blog entry for that but the basic facts and details can be found on the DRCS website link above.

Let us in!

Orchard Farm blue tits 2010Weeks go by with frightening rapidity but no great drama (thank goodness) and then out of the blue something happens just to keep us all on our toes. Fortunately our guests seem remarkably cheerful and resilient which is more than we sometimes feel when something totally unforeseen goes wrong, when the last thing we want is a problem to spoil their time here.

Today’s bolt (forgive the pun) was the Douglas’s Barn lock. To be fair, being wise after the event, we had had some warnings that all was not well with it as some of our guests may remember, but a good dose of WD40 had always seemed to do the trick so we put the awkward behaviour of the lock down to damp weather…

However, things were not so simple. Our poor guests arrived home this evening after a day out, laden with shopping, no doubt just longing for a good bath and a pleasant, relaxing and uneventful evening. That was not immediately to be.  As they struggled unsuccessfully with the lock the next door guests proved most helpful and sympathetic, John and I sympathetic but marginally less helpful; screwdrivers were brandished, wire coathangers and helpful suggestions, to no avail. The only comforting thought was that any burglar would have his work cut out should he ever try to break in. It was not easy.

Shaun our builder proved the knight in shining armour. He very nobly abandoned mowing his lawn on a Sunday evening to come to our rescue, which he did, but it took 3/4 of an hour. At one stage I was wondering whether he’d have to take the whole door off, but fortunately this did not prove necessary. All is now temporarily well – with the door still lockable  and Shaun will return to replace the locks on both barn front doors on Tuesday.

And so ends another peaceful day in the country.

The Dowager Duchess and the last day of the 2010 Buxton Festival

Another Buxton Festival has come to an end. It was unfortunate for us that our Cornish/Devon trip took a whole week out of the programme but we ended well.

Yesterday, Roy Hattersley, who had done so much as chairman earlier on to develop the festival by attracting excellent speakers and events spoke movingly and very entertainingly  about his view of England (as against Britain), and being English. He is not blindly patriotic or claiming being English confers any sense of superiority; rather he is  just quietly proud to be English, admiring Shakespeare’s  ‘modest stillness’, the emotional reticence which he feels is the defining English characteristic.

The fitting grande finale of the festival for many was the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in conversation with David Blunkett this morning. A possibly unlikely duo but they are actually good friends with amongst other shared experiences so we were told,  that of both having been brought up in estates – he in a council estate in Sheffield and ‘Debo’  – the last of the Mitford sisters – in an estate even if a rather different one – in Oxfordshire!

At 90 the Dowager Duchess is still full of life, quick-witted, warm and amusing but always self-deprecating, never flamboyant or boastful – perhaps a perfect example of  the natural reserve that Roy Hattersley had described yesterday.

Your Roving Reporters in the West Country

Holiday cottages in Cornwall – there’s hardly any limit to the lengths one will go to undertake market research. We were enticed by a delightful invitation from Ruthie and Nick, our English young – which  sadly because of the distance could not include the Autralian contingent-  to celebrate our recent significant but unmentionable  birthdays in a holiday cottage they had selected for the purpose, in Cornwall.

Well, we did enjoy being guests, both of our offspring and of the holiday cottage. The Cornish property sleeps six, and is in Polperro, an old-fashioned,  quite charming little harbour town on the south coast, which in the past was an important smugglers’ headquarters.

The differences between this cottage and our two barns could hardly be more marked – our Cornish retreat is all white painted wood and seaside-y, with a little courtyard terrace behind and the sound of the River Pol and the sea in front; seagulls cry mournfully overhead (when they are  not snatching ice cream cones or chips out of poor unsuspecting holiday makers’ hand). ..

We were promised parking for one, which we naively assumed beforehand would be beside the cottage. No such luck! The parking spot was in the town car park, a brisk ten minutes walk away, and our luggage had to be transported by a buggy and trailer down the narrow and twisting alleyways. Actually, it was rather delightful after we had got over the shock.

In terms of market research it would not be fair to compare our cottage with Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns. Our Cornish one was was for six on a seaside holiday;  it was run by an agent, so “little extras” there were none, not even a teabag; fortunately, we had prepared ourselves for such an eventuality.

There is Sky TV (but only three logs for our use on the logburner – and no suggestions where on earth one might buy more – but fortunately the weather was so warm we didn’t even need one log…!). The kitchen however was  extremely well equipped and in every other way everything was perfect for our needs.

Also,  a few yards from the door are innumerable little eating places, so we even had a bacon buttie for breakfast one morning, and of course an obligatory Cornish pasty – and a cream tea.

After all this indlugence I must add we did a 6 and 3/4 mile stint of the the South West Coastal Path, from Polperro to Polruan. The entire  ‘walk’ was toiling up rough, at times quite slithery, vertical slopes, and then plunging all the way down again only to have immediately to start once more on the uward trail.

We felt exhausted but tremendous when we finally reached Polruan – even the superfit young reckoned it to be quite a triumph generally  but I couldn’t resist marvelling that six months go I was hobbling along on crutches with a broken fibula so I gave a quiet thanks to the French doctor in the Alps and the NHS who obviously did all the right things.

Bald as a Coot

CootsWe were strolling round Tissington the other day, daughter Ruthie  having bought us some wedding anniversary plants from the nursery there, when we were charmed to see this mummy coot,  nesting on a very precarious looking bunch of weeds in the big pond. (We also felt rather proud that we had spotted the scene, before John – he has such sharp eyes and is normally so quick to spot anything  interesting, amusing or  unusual in the bird world.)

At fairly frequent intervals, the father coot swam up with some delicious morsel in  his mouth which he transferred to the mother’s beak;  she promptly fed the two babies while he paddled off again to find some more for them.

Buxton Festival continues

Many more excitements at the Opera House since the last post…no less than two operas followed by Cherie Blair this morning, being interviewed (I think the expression is ‘in conversation with’ ) Dame Janet Smith, who is chairman of the Buxton Festival, and like Cherie Blair a barrister.

Starting with the last, we were both surprised at how much we enjoyed listening to the conversation. Mrs Blair has had a bad press, on the whole, but she came over as very warm, humorous and charming, and obviously highly intelligent; the Buxton audience was very restrained and there were no questions about some of the more sensational of the stories about her, but she did admit that there were times when Tony Blair might have wished she had not done or said what she did, personally. However,  she was very clear that, professionally, as a barrister she had to represent her client, regardless of the client’s stance and whether she therefore appeared to be ‘agin’ the government and her husband.

Still moving backwards, we went as guests of some very kind friends to a  performance on Wednesday night of Verdi’s Luisa Miller. John and I weren’t the only ones there who hadn’t up until now ever heard of it, but that is our ignorance. It was charming, the music delightful, the singing wonderful; the ending rather Romeo and Juliet like with both hero and heroine dying, so no happy ending to  lift one’s heart there, but in spite of that it was a wonderful evening.

Finally, last Sunday we went to the Barber of Bagdad by Peter Cornelius. As can be assumed, the story is about complicated infatuations, and this time apparently based on the Arabian Nights! The Barber was rather Mr Toad like in a weird outfit complete with goggles, and he appears on stage astride a comically adorned three wheeler tricycle/barber’s chair. The barber is meant to be rather long-winded, and comically so; in the first half John found this all too successfully achieved, but fortunately the second half really livened up and was thoroughly, totally, enjoyed by all.

We are so lucky to be able to enjoy this all, so easily. Buxton is a pleasant half hour’s drive, parking is easy, and free after 6pm, and the atmosphere both outside and in the theatre is wonderful. Until today, the weather has smiled upon us, but today poor Cherie was rained upon.

Buxton Festival 2010 next instalment

The morning talks are great. The speakers are inevitably very experienced, often amusing entertainers, and the hour passes only too quickly; yet afterwards in the sunshine outside they will linger and chat as they sign their books and everyone mills around wondering where to go for a quick bite of lunch, often before scu8rrying off to the next event of the day – or perhaps as in our case, back to the real world.

Since the Three Explorers we have been to listen to Alastair Sawday talking – not on travel books and websites – but on the global food crisis. We were all thoroughly depressed by the message at the beginning – daily as a nation we are all getting fatter and less healthy,   manipulated as we are by the supermarkets and the food industry generally to consume yet huger quantities of junk and unhealthy food…

To everyone’s relief (he was preaching to the converted) here is a  chink of hope… the growing interest in organic food, in growing one’s own vegetables and in buying local produce. John and I felt unreasonably smug when he praised the Riverford Farm box organic fruit and veg scheme, which we use (we have a weekly delivery from their Riverford Stockley Organic Farm in nearby Staffordshire which guests can also make one-off use of while they are here).

The final surge of second hand pride was when he singled out the George at Alstonefield as being a wonderful example of a pub producing excellent food cooked on the premises from first class local produce. Emily, the owner of the pub, look rather embarrassed when she was asked to stand up and be recognised but as all our guests who have been to the pub will agree, the praise is due!

How to relax!

“Absolutely shattered!” “I feel so stressed!” Work has been a nightmare!”

See how Richard and Joanna enjoyed relaxing with their two Cairns last week:

“How hard it was to leave Orchard Farm, Toms Barn was everything we had hoped for and much more.

What a fantastic location, buttercup meadows, wildflowers and peace. Great walks of course and great pubs especially the Old Gate at Brassington, The George at Alstonefield, both happy to accept dogs… “.

“And now we are simply going to chill out, relax and do nothing.” When our guests arrive here they often confide how exhausted they feel, how stressed and overworked, how in need of a complete break from all outside pressures.

Their dream is to completely switch off , with  time miraculously  theirs to do with what they will.  And this is surprisingly easy to achieve. Both our barns have a delightful aura of calm where it is all too easy to forget that any other world exists.

After a few days doing nothing much in the peace and quiet surrounding them  it doesn’t take long usually before they start feeling a bit more energetic and keen to explore the area, take a few walks, sample a few local pubs.This is all part of relaxing.

We are always glad to hear from our guests about where they’ve been and what they have enjoyed – or not, as the case may be. It helps us when we are recommending to new guests before they arrive, and also, we know that many others log onto the blog to see what’s new and what people have enjoyed doing.

Even having lived in the area some time now, we are still constantly amazed how much there is to do locally and end up wishing we were permanently on holiday  ourselves so we could spend more time following up some of the recommendations guests make; perhaps we’re not so keen on the gliding lessons someone recommended earlier but hiring a boat and having a picnic on Carsington sounds just the ticket!

Buxton Festival 2010

The 2010 Buxton Festival  season has begun. It opened with an opera last night – Luisa Miller by Giuseppe Verdi; we didn’t go but are being taken by some friends next week which is a treat to look forward to.

The festival for us therefore started this morning with a most stimulating, interesting and amusing ‘conversation’ between Matthew Parris and ‘the Three Explorers’, Ranulph Fiennes, Robin Hanbury-Tennison and John Hare.

The Festival programme explains:

Ranulph Fiennes is holder of several endurance records and the first man to reach both Poles by surface travel.  Explorer and conservationist Robin Hanbury-Tenison has been on over 30 expeditions, and spearheaded the international concern for tropical rainforests.  Founder of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, John Hare was the first European to travel into the wildest parts of the Chinese Gobi desert.

The very entertaining  hour of ‘conversation’ mostly involved their answering some excellent questions from the floor.  Matthew Parris was hoping to discover what motivates men to tackle some of the most physically demanding journeys in some of the world’s most inhospitable regions.

If I can dare to sum up, the answers were:  excitement, relishing a certain level of danger, scientific research and seeking to find out more about – and to protect –  endangered and rare species and indeed the climate.

All three of the guests were extremely entertaining, very quick and amusing and not in the slightest arrogant about their successes and physical triumphs; not surprisingly Matthew Parris very ably managed, as always, to get the best out of everyone, including the audience.

One of the lovely things about the Buxton Festival is the atmosphere and the intimacy: the Opera House is small by modern standards. I can’t find out the exact number it seats but it must be in the very low hundreds. The excitement is infectious, the guest speakers are always very approachable; this morning – as always –  we almost felt we knew  our speakers at the end of the hour.

After the event his morning many of us, including Matthew Parris,  sat at tables outside the pub opposite the Opera House,  enjoying a coffee or beer while the three explorers  signed books for a long queue of people anxious also to have a quick word with the authors.

And now we look forward to Alastair Sawday talking tomorrow, not about holiday destinations or ‘Special Escape’ self-catering cottages but about ‘Slow Food Britain’ and the global food crisis…


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