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Week away in Anglesey October 2018 - Joyce Hollows
We all felt like intrepid explorers on that stormy day, regardless of what time we arrived at gale- lashed Rhosneigr. Dave and I had made a detour in order to drop off a friend who was visiting her daughter somewhere in the middle of the island, literally in the middle of a field, where the sat nav did not work, of course. After some difficulty in finally finding the place, and a very nice lunch as a reward, we set off on the last leg of our journey.
With not a clue where we were, and only sketchy verbal directions, we had to trust that the sat nav knew the way, which it did, in fact, until we came across a fallen tree which was blocking the road. Struggling manfully, Dave braved teeming rain and fierce wind to try to remove it. If only-it was much too big for that. So we then had to reverse along the narrow single track road until a handy gateway allowed us to turn around. By this time water was gushing down the lanes, already meeting in the middle on some of them. Luckily, no else was about on such a stormy day, so we had the roads to ourselves as we finally found our way to our destination. Who knew there were so many winding roads going nowhere on Anglesey?
Most of the group had already arrived, and we were all delighted to find that Plas Newydd was as good as we remembered. Still well kept, warm and comfortable. Some later arrivals had been held up as one of the bridges was closed; due to high winds, then closed again later, due to an accident. However, they all made it, with plenty of time to recover and unpack, before setting off on the short drive to dinner at The Crown in Aberffraw.
In the meantime, however there was the usual collective search for the internet connection. With a lot less fuss than usual everyone soon had a clear signal without having either to go up to the top floor, or worse still outside in the rain.
After a very good meal at The Crown, we all sat around chatting for a while, discussing past trips, and other important matters, including the many escapades of Liam, Mike and Cy on their canal boats. It sounded like a very funny episode from The Last of the Summer Wine. It was Roy's first time on one of our trips, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, sadly he could only stay for two nights, but maybe he will manage to join us again another time.
Liz was industriously working on her crocheted blanket, which seemed to have become bigger than expected, and had to travel in its own bag. Later in the week she was hampered by a shoulder injury, probably acquired on one of her geo-caching expeditions, which seemed to involve climbing a ladder at some point. Hope it is better now, Liz.
At one point the conversation turned to John Hilton, how we would miss him, and speculating on his new life in South Africa. We all wish you well, John, if you ever read this in your new world.
Next day dawned wet and dreary once again. Most people stayed in, but Al and Liz went off exploring. Dave and I went off to the (not) centre of the universe.Amlwch.will we never learn! However, in spite of being its usual gloomy self, we found a very good cafe for lunch. I nearly ended up thinking I might have to buy a horse, listening to locals talking about what was to happen to Joey. It seemed that several bids were in to buy him, but I could not believe he was only worth £ 250, and started doing my mental sums.
Luckily for Dave, we discovered that Joey was in fact an interesting model horse, representing War Horse, and part of a community project to establish a moving remembrance display in the local church. What a great effort had gone into that display, even the horses and dogs were given credit for their wartime sacrifice. So, in spite of the weather, our trip was well worthwhile, especially as Dave took a detour to visit one of our many old haunts at Bull Bay. Not at its best, but still calm and lovely.
We finally gave in to the weather, after finding ourselves sitting in the car at Bull Bay and reading the newspaper! Finally, we accepted that we are really old.
We returned to the house to find an organ recital was just coming to a rousing conclusion with a rendition of 'Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside', not totally appropriate for the day, but very entertaining. Well done, Cy, for lugging your organ all that way, and playing brilliantly as always. The next day Cy was off home again to join in Kate's birthday celebrations, an occasion not to be missed by all accounts. However, he did come back to re-join us.
Later, there was some consternation when the television in the main lounge did not function, and some people were horrified to realise that there would be no 'Strictly', even though Jane patiently worked through many options trying to find it. It was to no avail, but it did earn a lot of respect for her technical skills.
Al and Roy even took extreme action; carrying the upstairs television down two flights of stairs to see if that would work. It didn't, and had to be carried back, as we were in grave danger of being fined for moving furniture, according to the conditions laid down by the owner. The many manoeuvres they had to try, and the unhelpful comments flying from all directions, would have made a brilliant episode of 'Some Mothers do have 'em'.
Jane had several interactions with the owner in the course of the evening, and after being giving a lot of misinformation, finally thought she had managed it, when to everyone's disappointment she could only get Netflix, even with the help of a firestick(whatever that is!) Chris came in rather late in the operations, and made many suggestions for remedial action, all of which Jane patiently explained that she had already tried.
At one point Liam came into the room, groaning: 'Oh, not the telly again!', but at least he and Janet were able to watch a film on Netflix later on, whilst the rest of us drifted off to our warm, comfy bedrooms.
Luckily, the next day dawned brighter, and everyone was eager to get out and about, taking advantage of places to visit which were still open. Several people visited the lovely Plas Newydd, or The Hidden Gardens, near Beaumaris, both of which are well worth a visit, especially on a sunny afternoon. John, Roy, Chris, Joan and Brian thoroughly enjoyed the Track Day, and no doubt we will see lots of photos from that event in the future competitions.
As has been our custom in the past, we managed to have an incendiary incident. John had had a little trouble with the cooker, which had frustrated him and meant the meal was a little late.
While we were enjoying our first course, a very lovely soup, Janet thought she smelt something burning, but it was only when a cloud of smoke began to gather that John checked and found the melba toast for the second course was blackening in one hot oven, while the chicken for the main course was hardly cooking in another oven. John quickly sorted it out, with exclamations of frustration at the lack of an instruction manual, but it led us all to wonder how efficient the smoke alarms were.
There was plenty of wine flowing around the table, and Joan had brought a very lovely prosecco which she had won recently. In spite of taking a photo of the label, I have not been able to trace a source for this, except an American supplier, but I will keep on trying as it was so delicious, especially the second glass, when I added a little port wine to it. We introduced them to our favourite red wine, and Nicola liked it so much she was off to Costco to buy some when she came home!
We all enjoyed our visits to favourite places, and were so lucky with the good weather, enabling us to work up an appetite in the outdoors. We were very glad to come back to one of John's fabulous meals on three or more evenings, after which we either cooked for ourselves or ate out. Joan and Brian recommended the local fish and chip shop, and kindly advised us to take our own cutlery, as the plastic ones provided were not up to the task, so thanks for that. We tried to continue Al's joke with the chip shop owner, by asking for pepper, only succeeded in annoying her instead. But the food was good anyway.
Mike and Cy joined us there, but Mike struggled to eat, as he had all week, due to ongoing problems with his teeth. We unsympathetically had had some amusement watching Mike's struggles with his teeth, or lack of them. He told me the gory tale of how he had unsuccessfully tried a denture, with unsatisfactory results, so had opted for a full set of dental implants for his upper jaw. This had involved a horrible- sounding process of having all his upper teeth removed, including the stumps of old crowns, etc., and the implants installed. I shudder to imagine what this involved, being a bit squeamish myself. In order to keep the shape of his upper jaw and face intact during the three month healing time, Mike needed to wear a denture, but found this impossible during the day, so took to wearing it at night. The result of this was some indistinct features in his speech, which most of us could interpret. It was quite funny, though, to overhear a conversation between Mike and Cy, who has some difficulty hearing, there was much repetition and a little gesturing, but they managed it somehow.
On our last evening we again visited The Crown and, with the many vouchers we had collected over the week, Jane managed to negotiate a good deal, too.
We were all off early on the Friday morning in glorious sunshine, with some plans of places to visit on the way. Joan and Nicola were happy to spend some money at Cheshire Oaks, and several people visited Bodnant Gardens, look out for many photos to come! Dave and I picked up our friend, but no fallen trees or floods delayed us this time and we made a short visit to the Food Centre at Bodnant to collect some provisions. As usual many people were involved in kitchen duties, particularly Jane, Janet, Dave, Brian, Liam, Nicola and Joan. So thanks to them for all the prepping and clearing up. Special thanks to John for shopping, preparing and serving the superb food, it was great, as always, something we all look forward to on our trips. And thanks to Sue, for her help in preparing much of it at home.
Thanks also to Chris for booking the super house and organising the trip. We all look forward to the next one.
Autumn in Borrowdale 2017 - Joyce Hollows
On arrival, we were all delighted with our accommodation at Greenbank House. Welcoming and immaculate, it was the ideal place for our week away. The owner had few rules, unlike on our earlier trip this year, and we were quite happy to make sure our outdoor shoes were left in the hall, to protect the carpet. John E. was delighted with the professional kitchen, which was the best we have ever had, with every piece of equipment we could possibly need, and some to spare.
It was good to meet Nicola's mum, Joan, who was on her first visit with us. She thoroughly enjoyed the week, even the hands-in-the-sink moments, and was a dab hand with the vacuum cleaner, a welcome addition to the group.
Phil and Alison, Brian and Joan, and Chris did not arrive until the Saturday, so there were only twelve of us booked in for a meal at the Royal Oak in Keswick, a good choice by John, and a great relief to Dave, who was convinced we were going to the King's Head, a slightly less enticing hostelry. Our food was good, pleasantly served, and although Nicola was served last, as usual, none of us had any complaints. I was curious to know why my chosen starter, deep fried calamari, turned out to be a delicious alternative: deep fried halloumi cheese. All became a bit less confusing when John told us that the spell check had changed calamari to Kalahari, and he had then interpreted it as Halloumi, as there was no deep fried Kalahari on the menu, unsurprisingly!
A short drive back, and we found late comers, Liz and Al safely ensconced in one of the comfortable lounges.
As usual, the main topic of conversation initially was to do with phone signals. After much discussion, everyone had a signal on their phone, the WiFi connection worked too, so there was less commotion than usual about connecting up.
Cy told us that he had taken a detour on the way to Greenbank House, in order to get a good shot of Ashness Bridge. However, he found a photographer with a tripod completely blocking his view. Being a reasonable man, Cy went for a walk round, coming back an hour later to find the same man still there. This was obviously a dedicated photographer, as when Cy and John H. went up there the following day, he was still there. Dave and I were up there on the Sunday, a glorious sunny day, when the world, his wife and his many dogs were also there, and there was the intrepid photographer with his tripod legs still in the water. Later in the week on a less sunny day, the photographer was gone, but so was the light. Such is the photographer's life.
In the past we have sometimes managed to have an incendiary incident of some sort. This time we had a very serious medical incident on the Sunday morning, when Joan R. had a nasty incident which needed an ambulance. Joan was feeling unwell at breakfast, and luckily Nicola was there as she fell to the floor, apparently unconscious. We were all so thankful that Liz and Jane were able to take over, as Dave phoned for an ambulance, which was not easy, as only Liz's phone would work, and then only if Dave stood at the opposite end of the room to where Joan was. After much questioning, he was able to get an ambulance, and Joan was whisked away to Carlisle hospital, with a much shaken Brian in attendance.
Liz, as the owner of the poshest phone, was on call then, ready to drive up to collect Brian and Joan. Joan was discharged in the evening and arrived back at the house looking rather pale and shaken, but full of praise for the staff and treatment at Carlisle hospital. Joan and Brian were both deeply thankful to Liz, Jane and Nicola for their prompt response to the situation, and Dave for his communication duties. Janet was on hand, too, if needed, but was anxious not to crowd Joan as she lay there.
So, thanks to our emergency medical team for their splendid response. Joan is feeling better now, and waiting for a local appointment for further advice. Whilst we were waiting for the ambulance, Jane decided to go down to the road to guide them in, but unfortunately she took a shortcut down a very slippery step in the garden and went head over heels, spilling hot coffee all over herself as well as injuring her knee, bruising her face and several other places. Nearly a double ambulance trip, but Jane was not too badly hurt, and managed to struggle off for a walk later in the day.
As if that was not enough for one day, Liz and Al went off for a walk whilst waiting for the call to collect Brian and Joan. Having taken the wrong path, they ended up on a very steep descent, resulting in five falls for Al, and a nasty wound to his leg. Luckily, Liz stepped in again and administered first aid. Well done Liz, and you were not feeling well either.
Things settled down nicely after that, and we all enjoyed the beautiful surroundings in our own way.
One day Mike decided to use his bus pass for a trip to Whitehaven. Unfortunately, he took the bus to Workington by mistake, and puzzled many of the locals when he asked for directions to the harbour. Not a wasted journey, though, as he found some good charity shops to visit. Another day, he very ambitiously took a walk from the carpark at Surprise View up to Watendlath over a very tricky uphill footpath. He was glad to meet Dave up there, and very grateful for a lift down to his car.
Nicola and Joan also went up to Watendlath, where Nicola was horrified to find her car had a puncture. No signal on the phone, of course, but she was lucky to find a very helpful National trust worker on the lower car park. He ran her down to Keswick, where she was able to arrange recovery of her car, and a tyre replacement. She was reluctant to take the car out again after that, so she and Joan did plenty of walking for the remaining days.
Earlier in the week Nicola and Joan were very adventurous and ventured up into Scotland, the lure of a shopping outlet spurring them on, and they were very pleased with their purchases.
The weather became pretty chilly, and it was good to see a fire in each fireplace. Well done, Al, you knew those fire-making skills would be useful one day. The downside was that the fireplaces had to be cleared out at the end of the week, but worth it for the cheerful fires we had enjoyed.
Chris had kindly booked tickets for sixteen of us for the Wednesday evening at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. We were a little disappointed to find the acting a little poor, but it was the first night of a production of a Neil Simon farce, so we hope that subsequent performances improved. Nevertheless, it was the first time we had had a theatre trip on one of our weeks away, and an excellent idea. So thanks for that, Chris.
Although the weather was changeable, and sometimes downright wet, most of us managed to take some good shots outdoors, was it 2,000, Liam? Everyone a winner! Alison and Phil took refuge in several good eating places, and were able to give us reports on suitable ones to try. They had a chilly boat trip around the lake one morning, and Alison looked very fetching in Phil's furry hat.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the week, going our own ways and following our own interests, finding new villages to explore, and enjoying stunning views. Thanks are due to those involved in finding and booking the super accommodation. Thanks also to John E. for his great culinary feats, and for shopping and transporting the huge amounts of food involved. Thanks also to our willing waiters, John H. and Dave, who showed great patience in the face of the many demands made of them! Thanks also to the people who got their hands in the enormous kitchen sink to wash up. Well done, everyone!
The trip seems a long time ago now; the author seems to have been distracted by things like Christmas, viruses, and many hospital appointments, not to mention an attack of gout. Hope to be a bit more prompt next time!
Spring trip to Sleights, near Whitby - May 2017 - Joyce Hollows
A grand old Manor farm house in the middle of stunning countryside, in glorious sunshine, what more could we ask? Why, a book of rules, of course, stating the obvious, and presumably aimed not at us, but at people who trash holiday properties, but a little unwelcoming, we felt.
So we sat in the old kitchen, gloomily waiting for the cleaners to finish their mammoth task, and discussing the more ridiculous rules in the large file.Cy had made sure that he arrived a little late, having had a tongue-lashing from the cleaner the last time we stayed there, when he had been first to arrive.
At last we were permitted to find our rooms, unpack, and settle in. There was plenty to explore, as the house was like a rabbit warren, with corridors everywhere, leading to hot tubs, games room, several kitchen areas, and providing Al with his first visit inside a gym. In all his many and varied outdoor activities, Liz had never persuaded or tricked him into an actual gym. I think he found himself in this one by accident, and after a dazed moment of shock, he left to find refuge on a sofa in a darkened room.
We all began to feel more cheerful after a drink, and were soon ready for our dinner at the local pub. John E. had, thankfully, booked in advance, so we were seated and served pretty quickly. After a relaxed meal, refreshed by food and drink, we made our way back to the house, a short walk for some, a short drive for others, although the sharp turn towards the farmhouse nearly proved Liam's undoing.,
The next morning dawned slightly grey, but the views from the windows were still stunning. After breakfast, eaten in a selection of dining areas, people went off on their individual travels, many people called at Grosmont, as there were steam trains to photograph, and the light had certainly improved. So watch out for the winning shot in future competitions. Not mine, sadly, they are just rubbish as usual.
On a visit to Whitby, Janet was interested to chat to a group of young men from Nepal, who seemed fascinated by the waves on the beach and were having a paddle. Like all students, they had projects set, and Janet became one of them. They were instructed to talk to a local person, and although not strictly local, Janet was the chosen one. Within seconds, their phones were out, and selfies with Janet were sent flying across the miles back to Nepal. International fame at last!
Some of us decided to keep away from the coast over the weekend, to avoid crowds, so we stayed inland; a good choice, as there is so much to see around North Yorkshire, and a very interesting visitor centre in Danby, with plenty of information and interesting art exhibitions. The forest areas showed many shades of vibrant green, with the bright splashes of copper beech trees, and numerous hawthorns and horse chestnuts in full blossom. At the roadside, hedgerows and grass verges were a mass of wildflowers, the perfect time to see this lovely area.
Although we did not have our traditional incendiary event, John E. nearly spontaneously combusted in his efforts to get the ovens going for Saturday night's dinner. I have never seen him so utterly frustrated by a piece of cooking equipment. And, although some of the food had been partly prepared by John and Sue in advance, it was a great relief when between three of the kitchen team they managed to get the oven sorted, and the dinner was presented, only slightly late, but none the less delicious for that. John H and Dave had been willing galley slaves, and served the meal like professionals. Thanks to all who helped prepare and serve the meals, John H for always laying the table so meticulously and everyone who helped clear away and wash up. When clearing up after a superb meal like John cooks, it takes a strong team to face those pots, pans and glasses. And thanks also to John and Sue for the hard work that goes into the shopping, advance preparation and organising to provide seemingly endless amounts of food. We all appreciate what you do.
Pickering Country and Game Fair was a good venue; Nicola and Jane took Mike there on the Sunday and they all had a good time watching the many and varied events. Mike managed some long walks that week, although he did make sure that he was usually in safe company with Jane and Nicola, both in the medical profession, keeping an eye on him, and more medical expertise from Liz and Janet back at the house if back-up was needed. Luckily, we had no medical events, except the odd slip and stumble over the unexpected steps in the house.
However, there were a few mishaps. John H. took an unexpected dip in a fast-flowing river. More to the point, his camera bag went in the water, too. Happily, his request to borrow my hairdryer (puzzling at first, in view of his hairstyle) was not to dry his camera, but only the book in the bottom of his bag which had protected the camera. So that ended well. Not so with Cy's camera, which he accidently dropped on the stone-flagged kitchen floor. A real disaster this time, as the nearly brand-new camera no longer worked. And sadly, that was the end of photography for Cy that week. Hope you get that sorted out soon, Cy.
We were happy to help celebrate Joan's birthday, although we didn't find out about it till late in the afternoon. She and Brian had had an eventful day, a trip to Pickering, a delicious afternoon tea in Botham's posh tea shop, and a rebuff from a farmer, when they tried to help him by reporting an escaped lamb. However the low spot came at dinner that evening, when their pudding was served with COLD custard! They were advised unsympathetically that the pudding was so hot that it would warm the custard if they waited a while. Joan and Brian were also celebrating the recent birth of their first great-grandchild, so were prepared to overlook the custard failure. Congratulations, Joan and Brian!
On the Monday evening, after a gloriously sunny day, we were all content to sit for a while around the dinner table, and some of the more long- standing members got carried away by tales of trips past, which soon became a little hysterical, possibly due to over consumption of alcohol. Cy had many tales to tell about the 'lovely girls' he has managed to encounter on his trips with Sale Photographic Society. He revealed details of his masseuse with 'mystical hands' and some strange practice with stones, not to mention the girl in the cafe near Roa Island. She had lovely 'child bearing hips', it seems. Newer members Nicola, Jane, Chris and Pam seemed fascinated by Cy's tales, and other stories of past madness on our trips; the rest of us, having heard some of them before, still found them hilarious.
The weather was glorious for the rest of the week, and people travelled far and wide, as there are so many lovely places to see around there. And it always adds to the pleasure when you are out and about, and unexpectedly bump into club members intent on photographing the best views. Chris drove a party to Bempton Cliffs for some bird photos, but gave up on the gannets, and managed to find an obliging sparrow instead. While Brian, Chris and John were off birdwatching, Joan, Pam and Susan had a calm and relaxing day back at the Manor. They whiled away the hours sitting in the sun, reading mainly, but Pam had plenty of time for a bit of embroidery,
From time to time the air was filled with plaintive cries, mainly from the men, curiously. 'There's no wi-fi!' was heard echoing from room to room by wandering males staring at blank screens. The signal seemed to be intermittent, but more available in the hallway, which, sadly, did not have much seating. So windowsills and stairs proved useful. This is not a new phenomenon on our trips. Usually, about an hour after arriving and unpacking, the first cry goes up for missing signals, and it soon becomes a chorus, which can go on for days. No one, it seems, ever gets used to the idea that in a fairly remote area the signal can be unreliable, to say the least. The more technophobic of us just ignore the cries and get on with other, more interesting things.
It was a shame that Pam and Chris, Dave and I had to leave on the Wednesday, missing out on two further days of sun in that lovely area. And although we did not follow orders to vacuum and mop our room before we left, at least Dave carried out the owner's personal instructions on how to empty the bins! We should have left behind our suncream for Al and Liz, who managed to get sunburned and ended up with red faces. They thought it was worthwhile, as they had walked many miles, and declared themselves much fitter by the end of the week.
No doubt the rest of the week passed in a haze of sunshine and alcohol, and I do hope the rules were followed to the letter. It was, once again a very enjoyable holiday, spent in a beautiful area. We must remember to thank Mike for booking the trip, after which John continued with the organisation, as Mike ended up in Intensive care for a few weeks. Even in hospital, as he recovered, Mike was concerned with allocating the rooms. We could have done without the phone call at 5.30.a.m. one morning, Mike. We were not that anxious to know which room we would have!
We were all shocked and saddened by the terrible results of the bomb at the Arena in Manchester. Like many other people, we spent a subdued day as the full impact became clear. I am sure we all send sympathy and condolences to those affected.
Again, thanks are due to John and Sue for all the great food we had, and to the willing kitchen helpers, and the unwilling ones, too! The planning worked well, and, as always, we were all impressed with what was provided for a remarkably minimal cost. Thanks to both John and Mike for their planning. We look forward to our next trip in Autumn.
Autumn trip to Whitchurch - October 2016 - Joyce Hollows
Well done, once again, John E. Not only did you book our (slightly quirky) accommodation; it seems that you also managed to book some pleasant, sunny days. And thanks from all of us for the mammoth cooking tasks you undertook, organising the supplies, too.
We took John's advice and based our drive on the A49, which led us, with very little traffic, and no big hold-ups, through very lovely countryside, giving us a foretaste of the stunning Autumn colours we were to see for the rest of our time in and around the Wye valley and the Forest of Dean. Even on the dull days, the colours were amazing, but in the bright Autumn sunshine they seemed to light up the whole area. It was said to be one of the best years for Autumn colour, so we were very lucky.
During the week, people went their different ways, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone, but there was always a great deal to talk about around the dinner table, recommendations for further visits, suggestions for parking, which could be a bit pricey around Symonds Yat, but who could complain with views like that? Certainly not Cy, who met his lovely girl there. He confessed himself bowled over by her beauty and her charming disposition, she also found him a convenient parking spot to add to the attraction! I believe she lived at No. 16, and although he returned to the same spot more than once, she was no longer around.
The house was plenty big enough for the seventeen of us, although John Hilton got a little carried away with furniture removing. Having re-arranged the three dining tables to form one large one, he then started on the bedroom he was sharing with Mike. Not content with moving the beds, he was about to move the wardrobe, but luckily Mike restrained him. However, the changing layout in the bedroom led to Mike becoming totally confused one evening, so that he failed to recognise which room he was in, and stumbled into our room just as we were settling down for the night.
There were unimaginable quantities of ornaments in the house, how on earth the cleaners managed to keep it so dust-free I cannot imagine. One of the first tasks was to collect all the kitchen knick-knacks together out of the way, so that John could unpack the provisions. Fridge space was a bit sparse, and we all felt for John E. when he gave his head a nasty bang whilst trying to pack food in the fridge under the stairs.
Liam and Janet were not arriving until Saturday, so missed the first night's dinner. Alison and Phil arrived just about on time, having set off late, due to Alison's 'legal duties.' They then got stuck in traffic, arriving, slightly breathless, just in time for the meal.
Dinner on the first night was at a pub within walking distance, which is always a good thing for drinkers amongst us. Although a little over-priced, we were all satisfied with the first and second courses, except poor Nicola, who did not have a starter, so was really ready for her pasta dish. Sadly, when it finally arrived, it was not the tagliatelle she had hoped for. The waiter obligingly took it back to the kitchen, and after a while returned with the right order, but it was not hot, so was sent back again. The pea and mint soup was declared delicious by Clive, disgusting by Cy. There is obviously no accounting for taste.
Panic set in on Saturday morning, when there was a power cut. Dangerous acrobatics were undertaken by both Johns, involving manoeuvres on a kitchen chair, to no avail. It was only while Dave was collecting the morning papers that he discovered that the whole village had a power cut, and he swiftly headed back to pass on the news, a great relief. Luckily, it was back on later in the day so we still got our dinner that evening. After that, any time I used the electric shower, I was sure the electricity would go off in mid shampoo. It didn't. But Jane was not thrilled when she used a shower that ran cold all the time.
The house, advertised as being ideal for hen-parties, had some strange rules. We could deal with the order not to use hair dye whilst staying there. But it was much harder to stick to the rule forbidding us to drink red wine in the drawing room. Most of us found the entries in the visitors' book entertaining, and rather imaginative. We did not feel we could add anything to the glowing picture painted by previous visitors.
On one of the really dreary mornings, the nearby Butterfly Zoo proved very attractive, and we all felt it was very well kept, and provided lots of good specimens for our wildlife photographers. Although some of them had a tendency to flutter about (and so did the butterflies!). Joan and Brian did well to walk up there, and enjoyed other walks,too, especially around Symands Yat. Keep up the good work, at least Sale is pretty flat!
Unfortunately, Pam had to leave on Tuesday, but she and Chris had managed to visit many points of interest, and even took a trip to Cardiff one day. What a shame Pam missed Wednesday, which was gloriously sunny, and a brilliant opportunity to get all those winning Autumn shots. It is a shame we do not have a competition set subject entitled 'Autumn' in the near future, there would certainly be plenty of colourful images to use.
John E. went out with Cy, Mike and John H. one day. He saw the future! He said it was like being in an episode of 'Last of the Summer Wine', and he fully expected the three of them to come bowling down the road on an old bedstead, before disappearing over a wall into the river. Strangely, I don't think he took up their offer to go with them the following day.
We all thoroughly enjoyed all the meals served by John E and his team of helpers. He provided for everyone, whatever their dietary needs, even processed peas! However, we very nearly had our traditional fire incident when the poppadoms for the curry were being cooked. Slightly inebriated cooks, pans of boiling oil, a little blue smoke, and a strong smell produced perfectly cooked poppadoms, which we all enjoyed.
John kindly re-ran the presentation he showed at the club a few weeks ago, giving those of us who had missed it a chance to see the programme, which centred on previous trips by SPS members. Were some of us ever that young? It was great to be reminded of good times we had shared in the past, to see some forgotten faces of past members who had either left the club or passed away. Interspersed with the pictures of members having a good time were some of John's brilliant winning shots from the areas we had visited. It was a great way to spend an evening, and a highlight of the week. Thanks for that, John.
Another lively evening was spent in a sing-a-long led by Janet on her ukulele, with Chris leading the singing. Most people joined in with a wide variety of songs old and new, some voices well lubricated with a little of Mike's damson wine. Due to a dire shortage of wine glasses, some of us had to drink our wine from tumblers, such a shame! Mike decided to buy a rather nice glass he found in a charity shop, in an attempt to improve the situation. I am not sure how that really helped, as Mike was often to be seen walking around the house with a full glass in one hand, and an ever-hopeful empty glass in the other. I never saw them both empty at once!
Some people felt that the house was haunted, particularly as Chris woke up one night screaming 'Save me! Save me!' but could not remember what was attacking him. John E. dreamed that he was being stabbed to death. The rest of us slumbered on, unaware of the drama.
Gloucester was a popular venue, with plenty to photograph around the city and in the cathedral; the stained glass windows were stunning. Finding the car parks was tricky, particularly around the newly developed Docks area. Liam was not pleased when he realised he had forgotten to go there, especially when we told him how good our photos were. On the other hand, Liam seemed to follow Clive's long and detailed explanation of how to find his 'Personal hotspot', and was later heard explaining it to another member. It sounded very intriguing, but most of us decided we could live without it.
By the last evening our numbers were diminished, as Cy and Clive had left on Thursday. Some of us went out to The Hostelrie, at Goodrich, for a very pleasant meal. Janet, Liam and John H. had a lift there with Dave and me, which was fine, except for the difficulty in locating Janet's seat belt. After a great deal of fumbling on the back seat, which John H. seemed to quite enjoy, and Janet didn't, it was found and we set off. Liam disclosed that that was the only day he had not been lost whilst out driving. This immediately jinxed our trip, and we found ourselves travelling down unlit narrow lanes, with no idea where we were going. The Sat Nav got a bit cross with us, but finally directed us to our destination, which was very good, and we all enjoyed our meal in a very pleasant atmosphere. Thanks Alison and Phil for finding it, and booking.
After a quick tidy up, we left on Friday morning. Once again the weather was superb, and the drive home uneventful for most people. I am sure everyone will join me in thanking John for booking the house, and for all his tireless work in the kitchen. Thanks are also due to his right-hand-man John Hilton. There were many helpers with prepping, serving and clearing up, not to mention the sterling work done in the sink by the washers-up. So, teamwork paid off yet again. We all had an excellent time in a very beautiful area, and will be looking forward to our next trip away.
Autumn trip to Whitchurch, Herefordshire - October 2015 - Joyce Hollows
Sadly, John had to take over the booking of a venue this time, but Ken would have been proud of him. He found us a magnificent old house near Rhosneigr, Anglesey. We have been to Wales many times on these club trips, but I cannot remember a trip to Anglesey before.
What an amazing house it was. There were fifteen of us, and plenty of space. Bedrooms were all en suite except for Nicola's room, but the bathroom next to her room more than made up for it. There were at least three kitchens, and the main one must have been a delight for John, as it was huge, very recently refurbished to a high specification, and amazingly well equipped, with matching crockery, etc. What impressed me, apart from the overall size and the excellent layout, was that Alison knew where everything went when it was time to clear up.
In fact the whole house was very smart, tastefully decorated, and immaculately clean. The dishwasher did not have to be mended/cleared of horrid murky sweetcorn stew, which was a relief to Dave, who has often has the job of clearing it out on arrival at some places. Furniture was plentiful, and very comfortable, with no tired sofas. Bathrooms were all functional and exceptionally clean, with no grotty grouting.
The views from the front windows, and upper balcony (!), were stunning, giving us a spectacular view of the sunset on the first night. Unfortunately, the subsequent sunsets were less spectacular. Dave and I spent an hour and a half in Aberffraw one evening, waiting for a sunset which never came, and at Rhosneigr we gave up after only half an hour, as the sun just disappeared below the horizon without a trace of red afterglow.So much for the competition-winning pictures. The upstairs balcony was also a brilliant spot to watch the firework display over at Valley on November 5th.
John's food was, as always, excellent and plentiful, with plenty of snacks thrown in for those who needed extra energy So, especial thanks to John E., and to John H. for his galley-slave and waiting-on skills, and also to Nicola, a dab hand with a knife. Thanks also to all those who joined in with prepping , serving and clearing up afterwards. Some sterling service was done in the sink, so thanks to all those who did their fair share of washing up, putting away and generally tidying.
Our meal out on the first evening was a good social event. Mike was not happy with the small portion of rice which accompanied his curry. Be careful what you wish for..... The chef supplied Mike with plenty more rice, but when John served chilli one evening, Mike found himself a little overwhelmed by the amount of rice John placed before him! I think that one will run for some time.
Some interesting facts emerged during general conversations, giving new insights into some of our members. Who knew that Cy is still in love with Cathy Kirby, mainly attracted by her bright red lipstick, and he was saddened to hear that she had died several years ago. There was also a bit of a 'how many wives?' situation. Not sure who ended up with the highest score, though.
We also learned that not only does John H. love a fried fish barmcake, he can then go on to eat a litre of ice cream. When questioned about how he ate it when out and about, he swiftly produced the spoon which travels with him at all times, just in case. On the subject of food, we all have our favourite treats, and Phil was seen sneaking stealthily to wherever the chocolates were at any time.
Unfortunately, Pam was only with us for one night, as she had other plans made. Chris was then without transport, but plenty of offers of lifts meant he still got around. Especially on the day when a large group of our members took a train trip to Hollyhead, and then to Bangor and back to Rhosneigr by teatime. It sounded like a good thing to do on a rather drizzly day, and they all enjoyed it, though Janet found the enormous amount of walking a bit tiring, and Chris overpaid for access to Bangor Pier, which did not please him. Mike left his bag on the train, but got it back, fortunately. His photography was a bit limited when he came to use his camera, and found he had left the battery on charge.
Several members found the local charity shops a source of bargains, Mike bought his most expensive pair of shoes to date, an excellent bargain at £ 10, virtually brand new and very comfortable. Liam also managed to grab himself some bargains.
Chris and Janet made a great duo with a sing-a-long-a-session; Janet is now very proficient on the ukulele, and Chris is an accomplished singer. Only Ken's enthusiastic participation was missing. There were many moments when he was missed, and I am sure we all had moments of sadness remembering him.
Cy and John became very excited one day, having found a garden full of snowy egrets near Red Wharf Bay. Sadly, as they approached, it became clear that the reason the creatures were not flying away was that they were, in fact, a flock of geese! Better luck next time. That may have been the day they also renamed an Anglesey landmark, the lighthouse at Penmon Point, known to most people as Penmon Light, became re-named Perch Rock lighthouse. Funny, there is already another perch Rock lighthouse at New Brighton.
Although the weather failed us towards the end of our stay, everyone seemed to have a really good time. Joan and Brian had not been on one of the trips for several years, and I am sure they are glad to have chosen this one. It gave them chance to visit old haunts, and I am sure they saw a real upmarket trend in this property. John, you deserve a big vote of thanks for all your hard work, you even kept up the tradition of nearly having a fire; that very overdone garlic bread was as close as it gets to burning.
We all look forward to our next trip, and hope that some newer members will be able to join us, although whether there would ever be a house big enough remains to be seen. Hmm, there's a challenge, John, maybe a vacant stately home. But it would have to have all that Plas Newydd had, and more besides!
Trip to Craster - May 2015 - Joyce Hollows
After much nagging, Ken finally found us a place to stay in Northumbria. Our previous trips up there, when we stayed at Grey Barns, were legendary, for some of us probably the best holidays ever, helped, no doubt by glorious weather and embroidered memories.
Unfortunately, we only had four nights at Dunstan Hall, due to some folks' lack of decision, but I think we all enjoyed ourselves. As a party of twenty, we had to use two properties, so Richard and Elizabeth, and Chris Mercer were lucky enough to stay in a cottage, overlooking the harbour at Craster, a lovely looking spot, whilst the rest of us stayed in the Hall. On arriving at the Hall, we were amazed at the accommodation, apparently the building was first built in the 14th century, and its walls were like those of a castle, stone, about 30cm thick, and very 'rustic'. The dining hall was huge, with ample room for us all to sit at the table, amidst the tapestry wall hangings, and many bookshelves. Views from most windows were idyllic, orchards and bluebells, various birds, and only one other property in sight.
There was a point at which Justin became somewhat obsessive about a pied wagtail, which seemed to like the garden. I don't think he ever managed to take a decent shot of it, as it was very active, but no doubt we will see it as a winning entry if he did.
The winding staircases which led upstairs, were booby trapped, so that the less steady of us were bound to take a fall. Poor Dave, carrying too much at once, fell up the 'trick step' and gave himself a very nasty bang on the head. One of the toilets was also a deathtrap for those of us more than average height. There was cursing and swearing from time to time, but we didn't actually lose anyone, just the skin from the heads of those whose hair is receding.
Initially, Ken had great problems allocating the bedrooms, as some could only be accessed via another bedroom, a situation that did not please people. However, with some sacrifice on behalf of the bunk-dwellers, and some furniture removal on the top floor, all was settled. Thanks to the furniture movers, and the bunk inhabitants, the problem was solved. Thanks for your co-operation, which saved Ken having a breakdown!
As usual John and his team of trusty co-workers did sterling service, and we had our usual high quality meals. Just laying the table was a massive task, well done John Hilton! And clearing it was pretty hard work too. The kitchen was a bit small, though very smart, but luckily the breakfast room kept us out of one another's way in the mornings. Several of the group did sterling work in the sink, Alison was rarely seen without a pan in her hand, and Chris B and Pam never set off on a morning trip without checking and clearing the kitchen. Backroom work, but vital.
One of the highspots of the holiday was Ken's birthday on the Tuesday. We managed to buy him a cake, with a candle which refused to play his birthday tune, even though it was meant to be 'magic',and I thought I saw a tear in his eye as we all sang 'Happy Birthday'!
Music was often to be heard, giving a very pleasing atmosphere. Cy had brought his (smaller) organ, and would not have been out of place in Blackpool Tower ballroom, as he went through his repertoire of old dance tunes. Nicola, although professing to be unpractised, spent hours practising on the grand piano, proving that practice does indeed make perfect. Janet gave us the odd session at the piano, and the duet with Nicola was most impressive.
Sing- songs were late to start, but I remember falling asleep to the sound of old pop songs, mainly sung by Ken. How sound travels down long stone corridors, and up winding old staircases is a mystery to me. After all, no one would ever accuse Ken of having a loud voice, would they? Most of the voices were well lubricated by Mike's damson wine (whiskey?). We were not sure whether Justin's flushed cheeks and glittery eyes were due to his nasty flu attack, or copious amounts of alcohol, or possibly a combination of the two? And Phil's donations of various alcoholic substances added to the overall ambience, helped along by some chocolate, which kept appearing as if by magic.
Unfortunately, we had pretty poor weather except for one glorious day, which gave those of us who had not been to the area before a chance to see it at its best. The hailstorm which attacked Dave and me, when we were quite a way from the car, caught several others, too, although we were all well equipped for any weather.
The best day, weather-wise, was the Wednesday, when several people decided to visit Lindisfarne.I know they all found it to be lovely. We may get sick of photos of the castle, I guess, but never mind. Someone will have taken a winner. Maybe Liam will produce the winning shot, although his main concern was that he would be swept away on the tide, and possibly lose his camera, not to mention Janet.
What surprised me was that for several members this was their first visit to the area. Imagine Clive, who seems to spend most of his working life travelling the world, not having been to Northumbria before. I am sure he will be visiting again though.
Once more, our thanks are due to Ken for organising the whole thing, we do appreciate your hard work, although we may appear ungrateful at times, especially when you are singing. Thanks also to John and his skivvies, without whom our food would be far less interesting. And thanks to those who brought all the stuff necessary to make a successful holiday.
Trip to Staveley, Cumbria - November 2014 - Joyce Hollows
As always, we arrived with optimism at the huge old farmhouse that Ken had booked for the Autumn week away, and we were not disappointed. The drive up from the village of Staveley was somewhat scary, with a very nasty hairpin bend at one point. But, with many comings and goings throughout the week, there were no obvious accidents, just a few white knuckles.
The scenery was stunning in every direction, and we were lucky to arrive in mid-afternoon, when the light was still good, and the sky was turning orange. Dragging ourselves away from the view, we were happy to see that the cleaning staff were just finishing, so we went in to explore.
Probably the biggest lounge we have ever had, with enough comfy chairs for everyone, and a t/v that worked after a little manipulation. During the evenings, the lounge took on the appearance of a home for the elderly; we saw the future, and, although the company was good, none of us felt ready for that. Though the T/V in the other lounge never did work, it didn't matter. Not many of us were expecting to be watching much T/V, although the weather forecasts proved interesting, but they were never very accurate. I found my seaweed was much more reliable, thanks Clive. However, when the news came on, we were all treated to Ken's (not unbiased) views on what was happening both in and out of this world. Several people seemed upset by the lack of wi-fi, which seemed to come and go as it wished. There was an enlightening moment when John H. astounded everyone present by expounding his theories on why it wasn't working, and what could be done to make it right. Previously John's understanding of technology had been questioned, now the truth was revealed!
The kitchen was also very large, with room for 16 people around the table. But why is the sink always in the corner, making it impossible for anyone to dry the dishes while someone is washing them in the sink? This did not stop John E. from preparing his usual impressive meals, although we were down to four courses from five, showing some respect for our healthy eating needs. Many thanks for lovely dinners, John.
Thanks also to his willing team of food- preppers, table-layers and washers-up, vital for a successful chef. John H. is always a willing worker in the kitchen, but after having mistakenly drunk a large glass of whisky which he thought was wine, he was dishing up the food at a great pace.
For once we did not have an incendiary event, unless you count the burnt melba toast. We did not even attempt to light the fires, as the central heating worked very well, once someone had stopped turning the thermostat up, Cy!
The main disaster was that Mike's car broke down, was towed away, and off the road for a few days. As he had taken Cy, Nicola and John H. out for the day, fitting into the tow truck was tricky, and after some time in a foul-smelling tank, it all became too much for Nicola, and she and John H. were dropped off to travel back by bus.
Unfortunately, the showers were both pronounced useless, with very cool water, and nowhere to hang your stuff. There was a marked lack of hooks throughout the property, but it is due for refurbishment, so maybe next year.
One of the high spots of our stay was the sight of Cy's organ, only a smaller one, he said, emerging from his car boot. Once established in the lounge, it proved very entertaining, although sadly Janet declared that it was too hard for her to use, as it was too big. She made a valiant attempt, but was not satisfied. However, the concert she organised on Sunday evening was a great success, with the more outgoing members taking part, and the others making up the audience. We were also joined for dinner that evening by Ken's son Steve, Dorota, Steve's partner, and their friend Rupert.They enjoyed their dinner, not sure whether they enjoyed their penance of having to watch the concert.
We had Ken doing his Johnny Cash impression, accompanied by Janet on her ukulele. Then Janet and Liam played Nina and Frederick when they gave us a duet. Cy played for a sing-along, and we were quick to learn the words of the Blackpool Belle, sadly it is much harder to forget, and it still runs through my mind in unguarded moments.
Chris did a brilliant recitation in dialect, I managed to remember a long ballad from my Choral verse speaking schooldays, and Dave and I gave our levitation display, which always intrigues people. No one, including ourselves, can understand how it works, it just does.
On Wednesday evening, we had a lecture on the Lake District from an amazing man, Don Austin, who at 91 years of age was as lucid and entertaining a speaker as any we have had at the club meetings. What a pity he cannot travel down here to show his slides on a club night. It was a great privilege to meet him, and inspirational of Ken to book him. And you won't often hear me describe Ken as inspirational, so that is how impressive Don was. Ken and John had arranged to meet Don in the pub, beforehand, and drive in front of him up the tricky road to the house. Unfortunately, Pete had had to leave early to return to work, so he missed what turned out to be a very entertaining lecture. Sadly, Dave and I left on the Wednesday, as did Chris, in glorious sunshine, which soon came to an end, and everyone left the next day as the weather became worse. Clive had planned a visit to relatives for the Thursday, anyway. He was subsequently unwell, hope you soon feel better, Clive. Obviously, too much excitement in one week.
All that I need to say now is thanks as always to Ken for organising the trip, and John for his skills in catering. Not only does he cook our dinners, he also makes sure the supplies are brought, and that we have plenty of basics to get us through the week. Thanks also to the many willing kitchen workers, without you the whole system would break down.
Additional report on Llanberis week 14th to 21st March 2014 - Ken Matthews
Our access to Halford Hill was somewhat delayed owing to extra cleaning being needed due to the previous occupants. Everyone arrived safely and as usual we ate out that night. Whilst I seemed to have made a good choice with fish & chips the general standard of the food was poor compared to our previous visit. Apparently the Lake Padarn Hotel has recently changed hands and many of the offerings as good as before.
We welcomed three new travellers on this trip ie, Nicola Brown, John Stubbs and Justin Garner, I hope they will come on future trips and I trust they enjoyed the food and company as well as the venue. Weather was a factor for many of the 17 who journeyed to Halford Hill and had some interesting side effects not least of which was increased attendances at National Trust Houses and Gardens. Penrhyn Castle Nr. Bangor and Plas Newydd were the most visited and though I had been to both several times I was still greatly impressed with Penrhyn Castle and it beau tiful and decorative interior.
The stained glass windows depicting the Signs of the Zodiac is just one aspect and room after room was highly decorated in this monument to wealth created to a large extent from the profits of Slate Mining. Much of the work on the house was done by loc l craftsmen so at least it helped boost the local economy whilst being constructed and there were a large number of staff ongoing.
There's an interesting Rail Museum with several locomotives and some rolling stock and the gardens were covered with swathes of Daffodils forming a carpet of Green and Yellow. A bonus for John and I was the nearby nature reserve which though relatively small was packed with birds of all shapes & sizes. Whilst there we observed and in some cases photographed an array of common and quite unusual Birds , for example Finches and Tits, Mallard, Moorhen, Woodpecker, Geese (White Fronted?) Heron, Pheasant, also 8 or more Common Eagret (not photographed) & a large group of what we think were Redshank.
Most surprising of all was our close encounter/s with 1 or possibly 2 Water Rails. This was originally seen approaching the spot in front of the hide where droppings from the various feeders were being exploited by a pair of Mallards and various small birds as above. The Rail kept diving in to pick up bits fallen from the feeders and dodging the Mallards who seemed quite possessive of this unusual food source.
Several of us visited Plas Newydd which is the ancestral home of the Marquis of Anglesey and overlooks the Menai Straights. This house has numerous interesting features but pre-eminent amongst them is the large Painting in the form of a Mural by Rex Whistler. On a guided Pre-Tour with just 4 of us, we were treated to an in depth history of the house and its occupants and in the end spent some time being shown the wonderful effects which deceive the eye, most of which we agreed were 'impossible' and spent a considerable time trying to explain. A possible 42 disappearing points put forward by Mike Bannister did not help us understand how things moved and lines changed direction as one moved left to right in front of the huge canvas. If you are ever in the area THIS is well worth a visit and quite a mind blowing experience.
By Wednesday evening we were down to 10 and lost a further two after the meal when John and Karen returned home with talk of going to work on Thursday. All that were left took our time the next morning and eventually left mid to late morning in cold wet conditions. John and I returned to the Hide near Bangor in the hope of seeing the Water Rail again hich we did but in cold wet and poorly lit conditions I was unable to get a better picture than on the previous visit, and feeling like I was due for pneumonia we finally left and via a devious route ended up in Abergele where we had a warm ing Lunch before heading home.
Thanks John for all those wonderful meals which helped immensely to keep us going and had at least 17 different disappearing points.
Llanberis week 14th to 21st March 2014 - Elizabeth Parish
The return to Llanberis was to Halford Hill House, an imposing building on the edge of the village, and therefore in easy reach of the facilities on offer - outdoor activity shops and centres, restaurants, and a few provision shops, which were not vitally needed, as John had arranged to transport, and subsequently to cook, with the assistance of more or less skilled volunteers, what was described by Ken & Mike as ' 3 cwt of provisions.' Counting the basement, where the lounges and sauna are situated, there are 4 storeys to Halford Hill House, with the result that mornings and evenings thundering up and down stair-cases resembled the predictable herd of elephants, in spite of carpeting. The constant traffic was partly caused by the fact of 3 bathrooms on different levels to cater for 17 people, and partly by the inevitability of items being inadvertently left behind by those eager to set off for the day's expeditions.
These were many and various, despite uncooperative weather - only Cy seemed to have a talent for finding such sunshine as there was, although expeditions as far afield as Anglesey and Bodnant set off in search of it. One intrepid pair made the ascent of Snowdon on foot, another less trepid reached the waterfall at Rheaddr, while Penrhyn, Plas Neuwydd, Criccieth, Bodnant Gardens and Beaumaris Castle supplied the tourists with some shelter, and South Stack supplied the birds. Many photographs were taken - and some of them were grudgingly allowed to be 'possible.'
One of the results of the poor weather was an increased attendance at the landscape session Ken organised (with some assistance.) Participants supplied images, which were then discussed, marked, and had various titles allotted. Two members even arrived at the same title for one image -'Ewe Tree' - an image of... you've guessed it!
Of course, these excursions would be unthinkable were it not for the meals - 'the 3 cwt of provisions.' These were gratefully consumed by all, especially after the first night at the Lake Padarn Hotel. Ken had booked this venue on the basis of previous experience, and certainly the menu looked promising - but a good-looking menu was about all it had in its favour. The service was sluggish, and the dishes featured that greasy spoon stand-by 'chips with everything', the consensus was that these had been brought in from the local chippy. The dessert options were gateau, or gateau, and three coffees from the machine (two cappuchinos and one latte) proved to be a uniform brownish black with a thin film of froth on the top. John gave the meal 3/10 - and for the rest of the week demonstrated what meals should be, with beef lasagne and hotpot, salmon wellington and bacon-wrapped chicken, not to mention starters and puddings, and the inevitable leftover soup. The only problem then remaining was where to go for the final meal.
However, numbers had dwindled considerably by the time the occasion arrived: some people returning because of work commitments, and others as a result of Mike's generosity - he brought with him a cold of gargantuan proportions, and most considerately shared it around. Cy succumbed early, and Karen and others followed suit.... Even the more promising sunshine on Wednesday had little effect on stemming the trickle, and the forecast for Thursday was anything but promising, with the result that even the stalwarts gave up and returned home.
Overall, it would probably be fair to say that if the break proved a little disappointing because of the weather (while Manchester basked in early spring sunshine, Wales suffered biting winds, heavy clouds, and intermittent rain) it would be unreasonable to hold Ken accountable for the weather! Apart from that, he and his lieutenants, John and Mike, had done an excellent job in making the arrangements for a successful holiday. Thanks are due to them all.
Week away in Dumfries and Galloway Nov 2013 - Joyce Hollows.
What a beautiful area for a week's holiday! The Autumn colours glowed in the sunlight, not all the time, but enough to provide us with some stunning light for photography. It was hard not to get a good shot in that light, so we should see some results in club competitions soon, I hope!
The house, huge and rambling, was set in rolling hills, six miles from the small town of Gatehouse of Fleet. It was very adequate for the twelve of us, although the heating was a bit cool at times, especially for Bob in his 'cupboard'. And John might have liked a bit more equipment in the kitchen.
With many places of interest nearby, and the sea within easy driving distance, we all had plenty to explore. Personally, I found the little fishing villages along the west coast well worth the trip, with rows of cottages painted in pastel colours, and small fishing harbours, not to mention free parking, and public toilets which were user friendly! Loch Ken was not too far away either, a lovely calm, still and silent place, so why did they name it after Ken?
We managed somehow not to have our usual incendiary incident. In fact we hardly managed to have a fire at all, even in the fire place, in spite of Mike's valiant efforts. Though it was interesting to watch people kneeling in front of the fireplace, blowing until their faces were scarlet, in their attempts to get a fire going. What is it with men and fires? As Dave and Cy knelt in front of the fire, Janet took a couple of 'bum shots' for the record!
Unfortunately for us, Janet and Liam left on Tuesday as they were expecting Edward back from his worldwide travels. They were very excited about having him home again. Welcome back, Ed!
Our numbers slowly dwindled, Pete left on Wednesday, he has a job to go to, and he'd left Katie alone, now both their sons are at University. Then Cy, overcome by the cold, and bad pain in his shoulder, left on Thursday, and so did Chris, though only after several people managed to push his car out of the grid it had become stuck in. So it was a sadly depleted group who dined out at the Murray arms for the second time. I think we all enjoyed our meals there, the service was excellent, too.
Dave and I took John H. with us on a trip to Port Patrick, a lovely fishing village right on the west coast. It was a bright but very windy day, and the waves were fairly crashing in at high tide. Meandering around, we imagined John was somewhere nearby, but became concerned when he did not return to the car after quite some time. As we'd last seen him perched high on some slippery rocks, we visualised him being swept into the raging sea. We were getting quite worried about him, and his posh camera, so Dave went off for another search, and found him totally safe, standing waiting for us in the wrong parking area. Next time we'll keep his lead on, I think.
As everyone went off in different directions, Cy, usually 'in hope and expectation'. He and John H.managed to get shown around a lighthouse, though Cy found the ascent a bit scary. Bob had 'kites galore' in his camera after a visit to the Red Kite visitors centre.
Chris gave us regular updates on the weather forecast, according to his computer, although we soon lost faith in them, as they rarely corresponded with the weather we actually experienced. However, what he lacked in weather forecasting skills, he made up for with his bargain shopping, bringing back interesting starters and snacks, not to mention toffee apples!
Not that we really needed extra food, as John E. had done his usual sterling work and cooked us some truly amazing dishes. As always there was too much, but the leftovers usually reappeared in a new concoction, so not much was wasted. We all enjoyed your cooking John. Thank you. And thank you to the willing kitchen skivvies for their hard work too. Although, Pete did become a little surprised when he thought he had to peel tiny new potatoes! At this point we must also thank Bob for his hard work in the sink with his marigolds, he is also adept at emptying the dishwasher, I suspect some members didn't even know where the dishwasher was!
Mike showed off his cooking skills with a large pan of French onion soup, which had everyone in tears during the preparation and which seemed to use tons of onions, each sliced in a particular way, though John Hilton and I lost the plot at times.
So thank you, Ken, for organising the whole thing. It involves a great deal of research and co-ordination, but we do appreciate it. There was so much to see in that area, that I think we could stand to have a second visit there. How about it?
Long weekend away in Llanberis Nov 2012 - Joyce Hollows.
Having seen pictures of the torrents pouring down Llanberris High Street last week, we realise how lucky we were that our trip was booked for the beginning of November. So, well done to Ken for choosing a week with plenty of dry, bright spells, admittedly interspersed with terrific hail storms at times. Atleast the hail storms seemed to leave the air clear and crisp,giving excellent photographic conditions, of which I hope we all managed to take advantage. There was also the odd rainbow to add to the effect, but this was soon dismissed by Mike B's comment: 'Rainbows are naff', which he will no doubt be reminded of for a long time to come.
The same house as the trip last year, but not quite the same, as the whole property had been totally refurbished, still smelling of fresh paint. Brand new bathrooms, kitchen,carpets, brand new everything, in fact. We counted ourselves very lucky. On reading some newspaper cuttings which were framed and hanging on the dining room wall, however, the reason soon became apparent, and we counted ourselves very lucky indeed. There had been a fire fairly recently, started in the sauna, which had caused extensive damage to the house, though, luckily no one was hurt. Ironically, it had happened when the house was occupied by Fire Service students.
Somewhat worrying, but this did not deter some of our more masochistic members making good use of the new sauna. Judging by the rosy glow they acquired, it seems that the itworked well. At one point, Ken thought someone had really overdone it when he discovered a trail of blood in the adjoining bathroom. Luckily this was only due to a stubbed toe.
As we usually manage to have a fire at some stage in our group trips, we were all relieved to realize that someone else had already done it for us, and the only 'burning' event involved a burnt saucepan, which Dave managed to clean up nearly as good as new.
Our meal out at the Padwrn arms was a great success, with very friendly and willing staff, who didn't seem to mind too much when orders were amended at short notice. The walkdown there was a little hazardous as a recent heavy hailstorm had made the pavements treacherous. Ken, having booked the meal, nearly missed it, as someone locked the door when we left, not realising that Ken was still inside! Luckily he was released in time.
John did his usual thing with the catering. With help from kitchen skivvies he produced superb meals from a rather small and cluttered kitchen area. Thanks, as usual, to John and all his helpers for some really excellent meals.
Originally, there were seventeen of us, but the numbers gradually reduced as the week progressed. Unfortunately, Clive had to leave on the second day, as his mother had had an accident, hope everything is now O.K., Clive. Steve, on his first trip with us, stayed only for two nights, but he'll probably stay for longer if he can next time, as he seemed to thoroughlyenjoy it. Pete and Katie had to leave on Sunday night, but not until after they had enjoyed John's delicious dinner. A wise choice, although we didn't envy them the drive home in the dark.
Cy also had to leave early, as he was due to go on holiday to a warmer climate, but was not feeling well, and hoping he would be well enough to travel. Luckily he was, and he came back to the club meeting last week with a healthy tan, which was very enviable at this gloomy time of year. Mike Henfield was also on his first trip with the club, and seemed to enjoy himself in spite of the repeated disappearances of his prospective lifts home. We missed his stories after he left, as he is a constant source of entertainment, nothing to do with the liquids he consumed, of course!
We were all impressed with John Hilton's posh new camera, and from the results I have seen, it works very well. Keep up the good work John.
There were several minor injuries, mainly due to soggy ground conditions. Liam fell down a slope, and was left feeling shaken and bruised, but luckily he had Janet to rescue him. Ken also had a fall, leaving him with a nasty looking cut to his knee, and although he suffered bravely, it was not in silence! Karen found herself in a swamp and got thoroughly damp, John was not entirely sympathetic, and found the incident quite amusing.
The visitors' book indicated sightings of a ghost, and late in the evening with the help of a little alcohol some of us becamequite uneasy. Even the unflappable John McNally seemed certain he had seen 'something' moving in the top floorbathroom, and was very convincing. Luckily, Bob came up with a very logical explanation, which set our minds at rest. Although, at three o'clock one morning, on the way downstairs, I couldn't be sure I didn't see something, it certainly kept me awake for the rest of the night. Talking of sleep, Mike B. was heard to explain seriously that although he had a good night's sleep, it was the 'wrong kind of sleep'.
There was certainly plenty to do and see in the area, and we look forward to interesting and varied photographic results, maybe even some prizewinners?
Week away in Coniston March 2011 - Joyce Hollows.
Once again we found ourselves in Shepherd's Villa, Coniston, which Ken had booked for the week, thanks Ken.
Even better than last year, the weather was very good, warm and sunny, sometimes a little hazy, but not a drop of rain! The house was just as comfortable and well able to accommodate 17 of us, although people came and went, so sometimes there were fewer.
We started off well with a delicious meal at the Crown on the Saturday evening. I think we all enjoyed what we had, in spite of the increased prices. Whilst still on the subject of food, we were once again superbly catered for by John E. and his team of helpers. My own favourite was the seafood pancake, served as one of the starters on Sunday and Monday evenings, Pete did excellent work making the pancakes for everyone, and very delicious they were. It was also hard to resist the spicy parsnip soup; and the salmon mousse was received with delight as always. An emergency visit to Booth's in Ulverston meant that we could enjoy a delicious lasagne on Sunday, matched only by the chicken fricassee on Tuesday. We are all beginning to see the wisdom of eating reduced portions, if we want to try everything and not have to resort to Rennies later.
I think Steve and Dorotta were amazed to see such gigantic amounts of food consumed. In between, there was a selection of leftovers to enjoy. Wednesday saw us in the Ewedale, eating a very good bargain meal, and then there was curry on Friday, I understand, though Dave and I had left by then.
A slight delay to Pete's meal at the Ewedale was due to the fact that the last person out locked the door, only he wasn't the last person out, and poor Pete had to escape through the kitchen window. Lucky that he is fit and slim, otherwise he would have had to be brought a take away meal!
Still on the theme of food (is this really a photography club?) Bob really enjoyed his trip out with Dave and me to Barrow in Furness, where we had planned a visit to the Dockyard Museum. We didn't know that it was not open that day, low marks for research! We moved on to the coast, and had a look across the water to Piel Island, before enjoying a very nice lunch at the Bo'sun's Locker, not very prepossessing from the outside, but packed inside with discerning diners.
We had a very good lunch, for remarkably little money, and Bob enjoyed it so much that he was happy to go again the following day with Cy and Mike. They were lucky enough to find the Dockyard Museum open and well worth a visit, they all agreed. Due to Bob's enthusiasm for the place, they also went on to have lunch at the Bo'sun's Locker, and were not disappointed. They seemed particularly impressed by one of the waitresses, who was declared to have 'good, childbearing hips' and a 'beautiful pair of …….. teeth'! Praise indeed. We began to wonder if we'd drifted into 'Last of the Summer Wine' by chance.
As the weather was fine, and the central heating very efficient, we didn't need to play with fire this time, and, in fact the trip was uneventful fire-wise for a change. We did however, have a flood in the kitchen when the dishwasher became clogged up. Janet proved a dab hand with a mop, maybe learned by mopping up blood on the Wards? And Chris was able to fix the machine, so well done both of you!
Lots of photographs got taken, Edward had probably taken hundreds before the rest of us were out of bed, as usual, and many mountains were climbed. John McNally needs to know that Karen worries about him!
There is plenty to see around the area, and most of it was seen in superb light. Janet finally persuaded Liam to visit the South Lakes Animal Park, and no doubt between him and the others who visited on another day, we should see plenty of animal and bird pictures in the near future.
There were some sad moments when Pat's absence was felt, she was always a lively member of our group on trips away.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the week, in various ways. Thanks are due to Ken for organising it, and to John for his catering skills. Imagine the shopping and prep he puts in beforehand, no doubt with help from Susan. Also thanks are due to all the kitchen helpers and servers, not to mention those who nobly got on with the clearing and washing up, in spite of the awkwardly planned kitchen. Bob did a grand job with his Marigolds, until we hid them in order to give other people an opportunity to do their share. But he probably found them again!
So, where are we going next, Ken?
Week in Whitby 2011 - Joyce Hollows.
Probably the best appointed house we have stayed in, Manor Farm stands on the outskirts of Sleights village, North Yorkshire, amidst panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. With three hot tubs, a sauna, jacuzzi, games room, well appointed gym, computer room, not to mention two/three kitchens and two living rooms, and more electrical appliances than Comet, we had plenty of space, and plenty of potential for entertainment, too. Luckily, the mainly sunny weather meant that most people were out all day, some were even out in the evening photographing, more of which later.
Sadly the enormous list of rules, couched in quite threatening terms, did put a slight shadow over the place. Poor Cy, the first to arrive, was accosted by the cleaner, told off for being 'late' and subjected to a guided tour of all facilities, plus detailed instructions on how to use/clean everything, and forcefully instructed to pass on the information to all other members of the party. A warm welcome, indeed!
With so many places of interest within reasonable distance, people were off in all directions, looking for winning shots. Most of us spent some time looking at various aspects of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. John Hilton seemed to spend most of his time on rail trips, and undertook some interesting journeys. I particularly enjoyed the slow train to Pickering from Grosmont, which passed through stunning countryside, and, lo and behold!, also passed by the above mentioned John Hilton standing in a field with camera and tripod in action. Karen and her mum, Celia, enjoyed the trip, too.
We were a smaller party than usual, as some regular members were on holiday elsewhere, and even more depleted after John Earnshaw left early, as did Cy and Ed, leaving good weather behind them. However, it gave some people the opportunity to partake of the local cuisine, including, of course fish and chips in Whitby. Elizabeth stood in for John one evening and made a very good meal out of leftovers, for which everyone was duly appreciative. Thanks also to Richard for aiding and abetting.
Ed managed to get some superb late evening shots of Whitby, but hadn't expected to spend quite so much time there that evening. Sadly, he managed to lock his keys inside his car, and had to wait to be rescued. Ed, we all do that, but only once, hopefully! Luckily, Mike was with Ed, and managed to spend some of the additional time sampling the local beer. It may have been at this point that Mike discovered a solution for his toothache - plenty of alcohol!
Ken, expressed himself disappointed at the lack of roast beef at the Cross Butts hotel. I think its name may now have been changed to the Cross Ken hotel!!
Between them, John E.,Ken and Dai made several trips to photograph the birds at Bempton Cliffs, so we look forward to some good gannet shots. Sadly Dai did not get the picture he wanted of the poppy field. He did, however, keep us well supplied with prawn crackers. We were all delighted to welcome Dai back, as we hadn't seen him for some time. John E., Dai and Mike thought they would take a recommended walk to Whitby from the Farm. However it was more arduous than expected, and very hot, too, and the thought of the walk back, all uphill, apparently, scared them so much that they lashed out on a taxi to get them back John's photographer's vest was so wet we thought he'd been in the stream. But it was the effort of walking that had made him lose gallons of perspiration!
Karen was intrigued by the local legend of the Penny Hedge, which seemed to run fairly close to the farm. She had to abandon her quest when she managed to get Celia stuck half way over a stile. It made for an entertaining story, and kept the locals amused for a while.
Although Whitby itself was a little crowded due to the warm weather, we found that Staithes, Sandsend and Robin Hoods Bay were less busy, as was the Abbey at Whitby. We never did manage to get to Runswick Bay, as the car parks were full each time we attempted it. There were interesting churches, watch out for stained glass, etc., and amazing wild flowers in the churchyards and roadside verges, so many opportunities for photographers.
On the instructions of the owners, Karen and I resentfully cleaned the cookers. This is the first time I have ever been ordered to clean to such an extent in a rented property, but in order not to have our deposit forfeited, we had it to do.
Once again, thanks are due to Ken for organising the trip, and, no doubt, the good weather, too, which sadly had the effect of turning him into a lobster for a while. John also did his usual magic in the kitchen, ably assisted by Elizabeth, and some slave labour for prepping and clearing up. Thanks to John and everyone who helped.
Altogether it was a very enjoyable trip, in a super house. So, Ken, don't rest on your laurels, start searching for the next one, but maybe check the rule book first next time!
Trip to Orton, Cumbria. November 2010 - Joyce Hollows.
We all arrived safely on a pleasant afternoon, having travelled along various scenic routes. Judging by Edward's set of photos; he didn't need to take his camera out on the following days. But he did of course, with his usual super results.
Set in a peaceful location, beside a very fast running waterfall, the house was astonishing, and seemed to go on forever, with two sets of stairs between each floor. We had two kitchens, which was useful for those who want to make sandwiches or a drink when the main kitchen was occupied. The dining tables were laid for dinner when we arrived, complete with napkins and wine glasses. Our reputation had obviously preceded us. This was a very welcoming touch.
.Dinner was booked at the George Hotel in Orton, and everyone enjoyed it, especially Mike and Keith, who seemed to have chosen the most enormous item on the menu. They both did it justice. The staff were very helpful, even managing to produce some off-menu deserts, and the requested 'lashings of custard' proved a bit over-facing even for Cy.
The drive home from the pub turned into a bit of a mystery tour, as we missed the turning more than once, as did Mike who was driving right behind us. Turns were made more difficult by driving rain, narrow muddy roads and the utter darkness that we all forget about if we live in towns. The sight of Bob sailing past in the opposite direction gave us hope, and we followed him straight to the house. Thank you, Bob, we could have still be en trying to find it in the morning if you hadn't shown us the way. Even Liz's usually excellent sense of direction failed her, and Pat's too. Thanks for your driving, Clive, I think we were all glad we weren't driving.
Sunday was dull, not too good for outdoor photography, though no doubt Edward managed to find some winners amongst the hundreds he took. There were plenty of opportunities for indoor church photography and stained glass,especially in the local church at Orton.
Monday was glorious, ever changing light on the Dales, gave us the opportunity to replicate pictures we had taken on previous trips to the area, with better light, probably. The weather was so lovely that we thought Keith might go for a cycle ride on one of the two bikes he'd brought with him, but the surrounding paths were a bit hilly and pretty muddy, too.
We had a very minor incendiary incident this time, not up to our usual standard at all, just the toast for the salmon mousse on Monday night. There was always the worry that Karen might turn herself into a human sacrifice in the sauna, but luckily it worked perfectly, and those who used it enjoyed the extra amenity.
John performed his usual culinary miracles and we all enjoyed a superb four course dinner on Sunday evening with a variety of desserts, thanks to Jacqueline. Monday evening's dinner was just as impressive, especially the seafood risotto. So thanks once again, John, for all the cooking, shopping and general organisation that went into the catering. We all appreciate what you do.
After dinner, Bob put his rather interesting black rubber gloves to good use, in a tussle with the many cooking pots. Thanks for that, Bob, and to all the other scullions who helped with laying tables, clearing away, filling and emptying dishwashers, etc. Janet and Karen performed the clearing up dance on Monday evening, I'm not sure whether the whisky bottle in Janet's hand helped with the clearing up, but it did seem to improve her dancing.
The week-end's entertainment culminated in a Sing-along-a-Ken session after dinner on Monday, and some of us even went as far as a bit of jiving, obviously helped by the considerable amount of alcohol consumed. We had an interesting introduction to Salmanakki, a favourite drink of the Finns, which Clive introduced us to. We also learned a few Finnish phrases and the custom of banging the glass on the table three times and consuming the contents in one gulp, accompanied by the Finnish word for Cheers, which I have now forgotten; I do remember that other word though, Clive. And I can testify that Salmanakki may look like Buttercup syrup, but it tastes much better and does an equally good job at curing a cough.
Our plans for an interesting detour on the way home were abandoned, as the weather on Tuesday was hideous, and we were so wet with just loading up the car that the quickest way home seemed the best. As we were leaving there was some concern about the very odd noise coming from John E's car. On investigation, it was deemed not to be life threatening, and hopefully John has now got it fixed.
We missed Mary's company, and hope she’ll manage to come on one of the trips planned for next year.
We were all glad that Ken had taken the trouble to find us such a very pleasant place to stay. Thank you from everybody, Ken. We look forward to the next trip in the Spring.
I had planned to try to insert a few photographs into this, but having seen Clive's set, I will leave it up to you to look at those on the club website instead
Week away in Herefordshire 2010 - Joyce Hollows
Well, it seems that where weather is concerned, Ken has triumphed yet again! We spent a glorious week in a super C17th farmhouse; well modernised, thankfully, and with plenty of room for fifteen of us.
John played his usual exceptional role as chef, and Saturday evening saw us all dining outside at the long garden tables, enjoying a superb four course meal, and chatting amicably. What an idyllic situation, with the scent of roses everywhere, birds singing, and the clatter of knives and forks, not to mention the clinking of glasses. With Bob looking suave in his straw hat, we could have been in Provence.
We were all very relieved to get our traditional fire out of the way on the second day, with flames leaping out of the toaster to a height of well, who really knows? Four inches, a foot, various reports, possibly somewhat exaggerated.. At least we then knew that the fire alarm was loud enough to wake Liz, even when she was wearing earplugs. Though why she was sleeping in the afternoon is a mystery, unless she was preparing herself for a moving event to come! The toaster may have also been responsible for one or two blown fuses, not welcome during the England versus Germany match, which caused other fuses to become close to blowing. Luckily, the toaster was replaced later in the week by the owner.
On Monday evening, we enjoyed an AV show presented by Mike's friend, Richard, who lives in Herefordshire. He had plenty of anecdotes about his exploits on the British Antarctic Survey in the 1960s. His slides were as clear as when they were taken, and would have done him proud in any competition. The photographs were breathtaking, and his commentary very interesting and amusing. Thank you Richard, particularly as you had a back injury to deal with, and you, Mike, for organising the event.
Mary managed to keep on top of the washing, she was particularly intrigued by the muddy footprints which mysteriously appeared overnight on the bathmat, and did her best to keep the party clean. Luckily, there was an enormous and very new washing machine to help deal with this.
One evening,in the heat of the kitchen, as eight people tried to cook eight different meals at the same time, things became a little overheated. Dave luckily decided to barbecue that night, so he was unaware of the scrum in the kitchen. Some of us also had a few very good meals out at The Three Horseshoes, a few minutes walk away.
There was a worrying evening when Ken was heard walking in the garden, hooting, talking to the owls, it seems. Is it time to get worried about this? Or is he just joining the local bat community?
Cy and John H. saw some interesting places, and Cy is possibly a newly converted Railway Enthusiast????
Although our resident Doctor, Liz, had left early to go on her Orient Express trip, I was very grateful to Nurse Janet for her swift treatment of an attack by bramble thorns on my leg. Serves me right for scrumping gooseberries in the garden! Although the amount of blood was impressive, she soon had it all cleaned up. Must try to remember to get a First Aid Kit. And I have promised Ken a gooseberry pie - when I get around to it.
It was a peaceful week, with most people taking the chance to see the many places of interest in the area. As it was particularly hot at times, the garden was a magnet which drew some of us back early each day, to relax in the shade of the trees.
Once again our thanks are due to Ken, for getting us organised, and finding such a delightful place. Thanks to John for his cooking and also for the catering arrangements which continued through the week. Though I have to say: 'Never has so much lamb been shared by so many for so long'. It was a miracle, something like the feeding of the five thousand, but without the loaves and fishes.
A Glorious Spring Break in the Lake District 2010
Once again Ken's meticulous planning took us to Keswick for a great weekend break with brilliant spring sunshine, probably he needed help with organising the sun, but maybe not. We all enjoyed the superb light; hopefully we'll see a few of the pictures in future competitions.. So, no excuse not to have some good photos.
It was very cold when we arrived until Dave and John McN finally worked out the mystery of the new boiler. However, it took Karen's sharp eyes to find the thermostat, which was well concealed on the upstairs landing. Once sorted, we had plenty of heat and hot water. As usual, the plaintive cry went up: 'It's too 'ot in 'ere. Open the door!'
We ate at The George in Keswick on Saturday night, thanks for organising that, too, Ken. The place was packed, so booking in advance was a good idea. Karen's displeasure at finding no place at the table was enough to get the staff scurrying around to find an additional table. The food was pretty good, as was the beer, but even half a cow pie seemed to be too much for some members. And Karen's dinner was overshadowed by the baleful glances from the dead fish on John's plate.
How John managed to produce his usual range of superb food in such a restricted space is amazing, but he did it. Well done, and thank you John. There was also room for a few skivvies to help with veg. chopping and dishing up. Sadly for Liam, Janet even found a space at the sink, where he scoured the roasting tins under Janet's eagle eyes.
John was clever enough to produce a meal for Monday night as well, which saved us having to forage in the local chip shop. Some of us seem to be getting a bit old for eating four course meals, but it is hard to ask for a small portion when it is all so delicious. Due to an excess of alcohol, the conversation became a little raucous on Monday night, partly due to Liz's appearance in her Buff, which, disappointingly for some members, turned out to be an ingenious multifunctional piece of headgear.
Feeling proud of themselves for remembering to bring some coat hangers, which are often sadly lacking in holiday houses, Janet and Liam's hopes came to nothing. They didn't even have a wardrobe to hang them in! Undaunted, Janet lashed out and treated herself to some new Nike trainers, which she wore with pride until she fell into some muddy water the next day. Never mind, they will still be comfortable, even if they're a bit grubby.
Monday was so sunny and windy that in the evening we had Ken, Keith, Liam and Mike sitting on the sofa like four wise monkeys doing a good impression of a radiator with their glowing red faces. John McN., Karen and Pat also had red faces earlier in the day, when they were told off by the warden at the Osprey Centre for arriving up a very steep cliff face in the midst of the nests. They were forgiven when it was discovered that local people, who objected to having a footpath rerouted to allow the ospreys some peace, had removed the sign posts.
Alison's cake, kindly donated as a raffle prize for the Annual Exhibition, was much appreciated, and disappeared pretty rapidly. At least by sharing it, we kept most of it out of Dave's sticky hands. Everyone agreed it was a very good cake, and beautifully decorated.
All in all, we all had a good time. I don't ever remember such consistently good weather in the Lake District before. The lakes were at their photographic best, there were daffodils and blossom everywhere and fields of young lambs. We even saw some herds of small Fell ponies with their tiny foals. It was easy to spend all day outside, leading to some aching legs and feet, but who could resist the attractions of the great outdoors in such superb weather. Now, Ken, we need you to organise equally good weather for the week in Herefordshire in June, please.
Joyce Hollows - Six days in North Cumbria
Ken is to be congratulated for finding us another new venue; and it proved to be excellent accommodation, although John E. might disagree, as the kitchen layout was not ideal. However the whole farmhouse was dazzlingly clean, and very well equipped, even down to a spare kitchen if we felt the need!
It was also very warm. The background heating worked well, but the wood burning stove was very popular. Men were seen wielding axes and saws at every available moment, until we had far more wood than we could burn. Amid cries of 'It's too 'ot!' we had to open all the doors to cool off. I think there is something about us and fire, as this time we didn't notice until too late that a pair of gloves was slowly smouldering on top of the stove, it was only the acrid smoke that finally alerted us to the situation. Obviously, alcohol dulls the sense of smell.
We arrived in good weather, having braved the snows of Teesdale. The house was a reasonable (for the fit) walk from the cobbled streets of Alston, and we had our first evening meal at the Cumberland Hotel. Now, Cy, what could have been in the winter vegetable soup? The clue is in the title!
But far superior was the excellent meal cooked by John on Sunday night. Well done John, it was most impressive. Karen cooked for us the next night, producing a superb and enormous chilli, in spite of having been out walking the hills most of the day. Thanks for that Karen, we all enjoyed it, and some people continued to enjoy it the next day, along with other leftover items. Sadly, there was little left over for Mike to take home. Better luck next time, Mike!
The weather deteriorated as the week progressed, although those who went across to the Lake District found it sunnier over there. John McN., Karen and Pat even went as far as Scotland in their search for sunshine. We look forward to seeing their photos of the wildfowl. Edward seemed to take more photos than the rest of us put together. Now, Edward, we need to see some of them winning club competitions. You would have given Alfred B. a run for his money, I suspect.
Evening entertainment was slow to start (turn the television off!) but we were all impressed by John McNally's images of the Shetlands, with several of our wildlife photographers considering giving up after seeing some of his amazing pictures of birds.
We also had digital presentations from Pat, with beautiful warm light on Scotland, Dave H. with images from Sicily and Como, and when we finally managed to get Liam's disc to play, it was well worth waiting for. Thanks to all for taking the trouble to bring their stuff.
It was good to meet John E.'s nephew Steve, who didn't stay long, but seemed to enjoy himself immensely. David Brown also came on his first SPS trip. Hope it wasn't too wearing for you, David; we did keep trying to wake you up!
We had our last supper at the Angel in Alston, 'better than the Cumberland' seemed to be the majority view.
The highlight of the entertainment was that arranged by Janet and Karen, to celebrate Janet and Liam's wedding anniversary on Nov 5th.. After a sing-alonga-Janet, the audience was amazed by the magic elevation prowess of myself and Dave. John Hunter fairly flew through the air! But no one could have been prepared for the next item, as Keith and Ken, dressed as the Klingon Sisters gave us their rendition of 'I feel Pretty'. Their clothes and make-up added to their obvious charms, enchantingly enhanced by their headgear. Well done all of you for a very entertaining show. Rumour has it that Janet and Karen are considering a Gilbert and Sullivan production next time. We finished off with a game of charades, which proved taxing, but hilarious.
I think everyone had a good time. The Autumn colours were stunning, even when the light was dull, and there was plenty to see in that part of the world. Thanks again, Ken, for continuing to find such good accommodation in lovely locations. We look forward to the next trip - some Images.
Dave Hollows - A Short History of My Time at SPS
I joined Sale Photographic Society in 1979. As far as club competitions were concerned I was a beginner although I had had an interest in photography since 1955 when I got my first enlarger.
When I first joined we met in the dining room at the Eskdale Hotel and it was a tight squeeze some evenings to fit us all in. It was a very sociable club then, as it still is, probably enhanced by the fact that nearly everyone had a drink before or during the meeting and at the interval. Some evenings, after the official meeting was over, it continued for some hours downstairs. It was here that a lot of information was exchanged and tips passed on.
At that time we still had merits and quarterly competitions although the merits, as I remember, were only a Set Subject, no Open section. The maximum print size allowed was 10"x8". This was to encourage members to enter the set subjects without the expense of producing larger prints (remember that at this time almost all the prints were home processed). I don?'t recall anyone entering trade processed mono prints at that time, even though SPS was quite ahead of its time in accepting trade processed colour prints, long before the L&CPU decided they were acceptable.
I think it was in 1985 that this was cleared by the L&CPU to such an uproar that several societies broke up and a few people went so far as to form new clubs that were only allowed to enter 'Home Processed' images. The furore at the L&CPU AGM's went on for a few years with attempts, by a few clubs, to change this back to the original rule. Happily, common sense prevailed with the view that what really mattered was keeping people interested in photography and that the end resulting image was what counted not how it was achieved.
Does this scenario seem familiar?
After having to leave the Eskdale and move to a Local Authority building at Atkinson Road the membership increased. I think the reasons were mainly that:
? We had a lot of room.
? We were not tied to a strict closing.
? The catering facilities were good.(we went from alcohol to tea & coffee)
? On portrait night we were easily able to accommodate two full studio sets.
? As the numbers increased, and the turnout percentage was very high, funds became more available to invite lecturers from further afield which in turn encouraged regular attendances and even more funds.
This all came to an end unfortunately when the L.A. decided to close the building and sell off the land. They did, however, offer us alternative accommodation at the Norris Road Community Centre and as we could find no other suitable room at the time we took it. It was very cheap so as far as club funds went it was a good deal. In the time we were at this Centre we lost half of our regular membership. It was due to a combination of thieves operating on the car park, a low ceiling room with little or no atmosphere and noise from the adjoining dance group. Members were having to patrol the car park in turns to try and curtail the damage and thefts.
We soon began looking for new premises and finally found our present room, although we had to wait a year whilst the new St Mary's Centre was finished. That move has proved a great success on the whole although the rent is a lot more than LA rooms. Visitors from other clubs have often said that the warm feeling of the building makes it feel welcoming.
Here is where we come full circle in a way, with the advent of DIGITAL. This also caused concern in some clubs when it became accepted in competitions. It's not fair, it's cheating, you only have to press a button, it's too expensive and only for the rich, it?s not photography. These are all things that we have heard about digital photography in the past few years, and don't they seem very similar comments to those made when commercial printing was first allowed? At the time of commercial colour printings being allowed many clubs were in the doldrums, and the new rules increased enthusiasm and, consequently, the number of entries in competitions. The number of members also went up.
The same thing seems to have happened with the arrival of the dreaded digital, entries in print competitions have greatly increased to the extent that the L&CPU have had to reduce the limit on print entries. A similar ruling followed at our own AGM this year.
The renewed interest in monochrome work has resulted in increased entries in this field also which can only be good.
Another side interest is the increase in digital AV shows of all kinds, travelogues, technical, historical and family shows. AV in the past was an enjoyable evening's viewing, but only a very small number of people were able to produce the work. Now, with the advent of digital projectors and the number of clubs having bought them the quantity of AV has increased as witnessed by the number and variety of entries by our members the other night. It bodes well for the future. Slide entries have suffered, though, and this is sad but is evolution in a way. It is not only in our club, but throughout the club scene, that print entries are on the increase to the detriment of slides. Slide film is even getting difficult to buy in some places and the range has certainly reduced. Some major camera manufacturers are stopping making film cameras.
To my knowledge clubs that broke away in 1985 to form home processed images only clubs are now wholly embracing digital printing and in general it appears that at least 90% of print entries are digitally printed and probably about 80% digitally acquired.
In our club, the people who took to digital processing first, were the people who actually had printed their own wet prints and now used the digital opportunities to increase the development of this, and come blinking into the daylight.
The generation of younger members have grown up with computers and are more adaptable to the use of them and hopefully this will keep them interested for a few more years to come. What then? New technology that isn't fair, too expensive etc. Full circle again. I only hope I am alive to see it and have enough faculties left to make use of it
Pat Holmes: LRPS the EASY WAY (or was it?)
After many years as a happy snapper with varying degrees of satisfaction I decided that a City and Guilds course in photography might be beneficial so enrolled at Arden College, Manchester for the Part I course. Bear in mind that this was the mid90s and the C&G course debarred the use of both digital photography and computer generated images, facts that, having access to neither and wishing only to gain experience in black and white darkroom work, did not disturb me in the least.
About twenty four of us turned up on the first night; this was something of a shock as there were only eight enlargers available for our use but as the weeks wore on it became apparent that there was a hardcore of only half a dozen students, of whom I was one and I quickly realised the advantage of developing my film at home so that I could spend college time making full use of the enlargers, we hard core quickly established our personal favourite workstations and considered it something of an imposition when, on occasion, we had to share. And so, gradually, from lectures, set tasks and through swapping what information we had acquired elsewhere, we made progress in a very pleasant atmosphere of camaraderie.
At about this time there was an article in Amateur Photographer about the Bromoil Circle's exhibition in Little Germany, Bradford. The work featured had captured my imagination so I rang for further information and was fortunate not merely to be invited to the opening of the exhibition, with wine and refreshments, but also received a warm invitation to attend the next meeting of the Yorkshire Monochrome Group. There I found an enthusiastic group of monochrome workers whose production ranged far and wide, and from whom I learnt a lot. This gave access to several workshops with eminent photographers, further advancing my knowledge if not my production, and on occasion I discovered that I was even able to teach my college tutors!
Part I called for the submission of two folios, one consisting of commercially produced colour prints on the theme of preparing a brochure advertising Manchester to the world at large, the other being a folio of our own work showing appropriate use of depth of field, close up, wide angle etc, and for both of these I gained a credit.
Part II was scheduled to take at least two years, but in the event a radical change in the syllabus at the end of our second year meant that we had to complete within the second year. This entailed the production of five folios, selected from about seventeen themes, all required to include ten or twelve photographs which could be either black and white or colour prints or slides. These must be a coherent panel and show good use of all varied camera and printing skills, and were marked on both creativity and technical competence, my strength lying more on the latter than on the former. Most of the folios also had to include a statement of intention, how we hoped to achieve that intention, why we changed our minds etc, etc, etc, (i.e. an awful lot of paperwork) and a statement of how each of the photographs was taken and processed, plus our own evaluation of them. I have to admit that my editing skills were not a strong point at first, probably still aren?t, and I found I really had to be bloody minded to get my selection down to the required number. My chosen themes were Victorian Railway Architecture which I thoroughly enjoyed researching, and found it quite amusing having to go for a training session in health and safety before being allowed to use my camera at Piccadilly railway station, The Woodland Landscape of Alderley Edge another delight both to photograph and to research, and the occasion of my discovering that the better half was no use as a tripod bearer usually being half a mile in front of me or somewhere far behind when needed and for both of these I worked in monochrome. Portraits were submitted as colour slides and I ventured to break the rules here by using digital thumbnails of each portrait to head the relevant descriptive passages very daring and called for some explaining. Next came Tourist Tat, submitted as colour prints, commercially produced, and for the fifth I opted for Close ups,a table top selection submitted as cross processed slides, and chosen simply because time was running short and there was virtually no written work required. The titles here are my own; I forget now what the stated themes really were. The marking of all modules was moderated by external C&G examiners.
Getting finished in time was something of a rush, plus concerns that quality of output would inevitably be affected, but at the end of the three years we had the satisfaction of looking back on a lot of shared fun, outings with the daytime mixed media course students, all 16 going on 8 years of age, the frustration of discovering that the said students had contaminated the various chemicals or adjusted the solutions etc well we had to blame someone and the realisation that we had, in fact, learnt a lot. The cost of the course rocketed after our first year, but fortunately a scheme was instituted by the government which enabled us to apply for grants and which, to our amazement, we were granted. The icing on the cake was the gaining of five distinctions and an LRPS on the back of that. Since then, of course, C&G requirements have changed radically and while my own enthusiasm has not diminished I fear I taken a few slides down that slippery slope of ignoring some of what I have learnt, plus I have all but a baoned my beloved darkroom, spending my time coming to terms with the digital revolution.