Finish Jack Vettriano puzzle, Record memories, Go to the Proms – numbers 28, 34 and 36

None of these is related, but they are all complete so I thought I would capture them together.

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Look carefully and you’ll see it is a puzzle!

Jack Vettriano – an artist I very much admire and my favourite work of his is the Singing Butler, the subject of the puzzle. I did worry that it was taking me so long it might put me off the picture but I’m pleased to say it didn’t. The people were relatively easy to do but then it got to the sky and that was a real challenge! I could sit there and look at it for 15 minutes without seeing where a single piece could go and on other occasions would whack in 5 or 6 in quick succession. The trick I discovered was to go for the little and often approach as I ended up not being able to see the wood for the trees. Finally, the number of pieces dwindled until the final one fitted into place. It’s given me quite an appetite for puzzles, which are great fun but very time consuming. I’ve also discovered quite a community of friends who like them too and that makes me very happy. My Jack puzzle is now on its second lend and there are more lining up to have a go. So far everyone has agreed with my verdict on the sky!

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My five year memory book

Recording memories is an ongoing thing. As luck would have it, my daughter bought me a five year memory book. You don’t need to record much each day, after all it is only a fifth of each page. But it’s perfect for me to note down what has happened each day. Most of it is not very interesting and there is a lot about what I spot down by the river while running. Now all I have to do is fill it over 5 years!

And the third item for this post it to head off to the Proms. The first time I went to the Albert Hall for a Prom was one of the first times I headed to London with a friend without adult supervision! It’s so long ago I have no idea what we saw. In 2014 I was fortunate to go to the War Horse Prom. On the eve of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I a special Prom commemorated this anniversary using actors to depict the carefree nature before the war and the horrors that came after. Puppets from War Horse also took their part, with the adult Joey coming up through the floor where the Prommers stand to a cannon firing. Michael Morpurgo was on stage showing his thoughts as he wrote War Horse. Gareth Malone was there with the Military Wives Choir, they sang a particularly haunting version of Home they brought her Warrior Dead with a few of them carrying empty boots they laid on a sheet centre stage. This was then folded over the boots to look like a dear warrior. It was all very moving and incredibly memorable.

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The cast for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

So although the Proms is not a new thing to me, it was something that I wanted to continue. And so in the summer of 2016, we headed to the Albert Hall for an altogether different experience. The Proms really are accessible concerts, the tickets are reasonably priced and the concerts short enough to keep the interest and enthusiasm going. This time it was Beethoven, his ninth symphony including the choral Ode to Joy. Our main problem was the heat, it was an unusually hot day and up in the circle the heat just rose off everyone below us. Thank goodness for a programme to waft. This was a most enjoyable concert with a fabulous choir and soloists. The venue of course is first class. One day I might even get to the last night!

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The beautiful Royal Albert Hall Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Make damson jam – number 30

I actually did this a little while ago. I added it to the list as we had an enormous bag of damsons and I didn’t want to waste them. So I made the jam.. now, nobody told me about the stones in damsons. Don’t get me wrong, I know that damsons have stones, I mean I don’t know that much about damsons but I do know that they are basically little plums [or as Wikipedia says they are ‘an edible drupaceous fruit, a subspecies of the plum tree’] so I did expect stones. What I didn’t expect was how many there would be!

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Look at all those stones – and that’s not yet finished!

Ok, so there is one stone per damson and damsons are smaller than plums and there were indeed a lot of them (nearly 1.5kg!) but I’m sure those pesky stones kept reproducing. I stood for so long pouring over the pot of boiling fruit and sugar picking out stone after stone I thought it would never end!

At first it was fun, picking out the stones feeling like I was the saviour of teeth but that novelty soon wore off. It was replaced by a stubbornness to complete a job now started and it certainly tested my patience. I scooped stone after stone, then when it looked like there were no more to scoop I gave it a good stir and more stones rose to the surface. I repeated this dozens of times until at last I felt confident to say I’d done my best. The recipe had made it sound much easier than it was!

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Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and damson jam bubble

Having taken so long to remove all the stones, not much more simmering was needed and the jam was soon ready to put into jars. I can now say that I have made damson jam but I’m in no hurry to do so again. I have made other jams, including a rather tasty rhubarb and vanilla and a ‘what’s left in the freezer that needs using as there’s no room for the chilli’ jam. In reality that was mainly strawberry but there were other berries in there too and very tasty it was and most importantly not a stone in sight!

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The finished product, very tasty if I do say so myself, and no one yet has broken a tooth

 

Go to the Globe, Visit the London Dungeons, numbers 6 and 44

A trip to London saw me tick off two items from the list. The London Dungeons was not quite what I was expecting but good all the same. I was expecting dungeons, with grizzly stories of murder most horrid, treachery and other such tales.

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Our trip to the Dungeons was the day after the last BBC Great British Bake Off

Now the dungeons are in their new spot, it is a tour of several hundred years of deepest darkest London. We started off in 1605, the year of the gunpowder plot. Guy Fawkes fate was sealed, but he still had a tale to tell in the form of a holographic head and the whole room shook when he let off the fireworks. We continued round, first of all heading into a lift and it was all enclosed spaces. A slightly odd choice for one who doesn’t like lifts or enclosed spaces…

Oh and the dark too, they plunged us into darkness on a number of occasions, including when questioning a witch who had freed herself and tied up her accuser while the lights were out, and in a pub a year after the last Ripper murder when the bar maid moved around and frightened the life out of those she was suddenly next to!

The end gave the choice of the ride of death (an in the dark sudden drop to simulate hanging!) or the door of freedom. I probably don’t need to tell you which I chose.

Lunch was followed by an altogether more literary visit though no less modern as we headed to the Globe Theatre.

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The beautiful stage at the Globe Theatre

I hadn’t realised that it is not built on the exact location of the original though it’s not really that surprising as London has changed somewhat since the days of Shakespeare. In fact, when the Globe was originally built south of the River Thames was not part of London at all.

The tour of the Globe was fascinating, both in terms of the history of the original playhouse as well as the story of the building of the modern replica. Sam Wannamaker certainly had an amazing vision to re-create this important part of our history.

Now all I need to do is go and see a performance, but that will have to be for another time as these don’t take place in the winter months due to the open air nature of the theatre.

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The ceiling of the stage depicting the signs of the Zodiac