The Pig Yard

January 11 - The anticlimax of Christmas and the short days of daylight are quite depressing but we managed to battle through. Jane's mum went into hospital after having a suspected mini stroke whilst have lunch with Jane's cousins Robert and Elizabeth. She spent most of the month in Barnet General whilst waiting for a bed to become free at a stroke rehabilitation unit. We did manage to visit her three times a week although the journey down the M1 can be an absolute nightmare with journey time varying between one or two hours depending on traffic density, accidents and weather. Jane went by train on several occasions which was reasonably straightforward.

Once the snow had cleared at the beginning of the month it then varied in temperature with some days reaching 8 degrees Celsius with others barely creeping above freezing.

New Year Resolutions

What will 2011 Bring?

Who knows what 2011 will bring but here are some of our hopes for the next twelve months:

  • Sell the Porsche in early summer and revert back to a two car family

  • Find and purchase a plot of land for the community project and develop plans for our new house

  • Get to see our friends Susie & Jon at their home in Yorkshire

  • Spend a few days in New York

  • Revisit Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Rene Macintosh designs in Glasgow and our friends Tony & Jude

  • Revisit Masai Mara in Kenya

  • Steve to become more adept at web site design

  • Jane to join a choir or choral group or do something musical

  • Keep our health and stay fit

If we do half of these things then we'll be very happy.

Walking from home

We managed to find the time to get out on a few walks during the month, mainly walking from the village to the outskirts of Northampton using a number of different routes but avoiding roads as much as possible. The weather was quite varied and on some days the ground had been hardened by a frost but on others it was particularly muddy so Steve had the added "pleasure" of cleaning the boots each time.

We were approaching the flock of geese in the picture in the hope that they would take off as we got nearer but they had decided to save their energy and waddle towards the lake at Swan Valley however we were pre-empted by the arrival of a couple of dogs who were enough to set the flock of geese up and gave Steve the opportunity to take a few pictures.

Our walks are not only good exercise they also allow us to appreciate the countryside in the area.

Flying Geese

Karen Carpenter Tribute band

Karen Carpenter's Voice of the Heart

Last year we went to see the Fleetwood Mac tribute band and so we thought we would give this Karen Carpenter tribute a chance. We were never great Carpenters fans but we did have a vinyl record which was reason enough to visit the Royal and Derngate for this show. The advertising blurb: All the unforgettable Carpenter hits such as Yesterday Once More, Goodbye to Love, Close to You, Only Yesterday, alongside a Beatles tribute that links Mr Postman, Ticket to Ride and Help; a Burt Bacharach medley featuring Do You Know the Way to San Jose, Always Something There to Remind Me and a Carpenter country medley including Top of the World and Sweet Sweet Smile.

The first half got off to a slow start with a medley without the main singer, Carole Gordon, on stage. At this point we both had that sinking feeling one gets when faced with an hour of something that is a mistake on several levels. However we were wrong because when she did come onto the stage her voice was a perfect match and if you closed your eyes it could have been Karen Carpenter. When you did open your eyes you saw a dumpy woman who has never heard of anorexia nervosa.

The second half saw a move away from popular hits to a slightly strange medley of tunes, some of which were not made famous by The Carpenters. We got the impression the band were abandoning the celebration of The Carpenters hits in favour of a celebration of ‘Voice Of The Heart’s’ country music abilities.

Over all we enjoyed our evening out but we won't be rushing back.

Cirque du Soleil

Our highlight of the month was our weekend away in London with our good friends Graham & Sue. Sue had arranged tickets to see a matinee performance by Cirque du Soleil at the Albert Hall. Steve had never been inside the building and was totally bowled over by the building especially as our seats were in a box. We had a great view of the whole stage.

Neither of us would say we are fans of circus but Cirque du Soleil is a very creative mix of music, dance and acrobatics. We enjoyed every moment however the star of the show is the wonderful projections onto the stage with a variety of scenes from waves crashing onto the beach, through volcanic eruptions to rushing streams. A memorable moment was when the projection showed swimmers under the water and then they appeared from under the stage - exceptionally creative.

Steve thought it had the feel of the film Avatar.

Cirque du Soleil

Sue & Graham in Natural History Museum

London Museums

It had been a long time since we'd been to the Natural History Museum, possibly over thirty years and since we were staying at the Ramada Jarvis hotel Hyde Park, which is just across Kensington Gardens, we decided it was time for a revisit. In truth the star of the museum is the building itself. The Victorians knew how to build and labour was cheap. Every arch is beautifully crafted with creatures grasping onto a spinal chord - truly magnificent.

After spending most of the morning at the Natural History Museum we crossed Exhibition Road to the V&A. This was a disappointment to us. We weren't sure what to expect but we were thinking that it might be slightly more dynamic than museums of old however the items on display were quite flat, if they'd been in a shop window we wouldn't have been buying. A good example of this was the Japanese costumes as worn by Samurai warriors and fire-fighters which were very elaborate costumes just hung up. They would have come to life if they had been dressed onto manikins with a scene behind them.

After being stuck in museums all morning we headed off for a bite of lunch and then visited Portobello market. This was a lot of fun and we almost refrained from parting with any money but Jane saw a very unusual bag that she couldn't resist.

London Night Life

We felt obliged to at least observe some of the night life whilst we were in London so we risked a tube journey into Piccadilly Circus. We guess people get used to living in overcrowded environments but it wouldn't suit us.

After wandering around for about half an hour in the cold we decided to head back to the hotel, picking up some wine from a Tesco Express in Kensington High Street and spending the rest of the evening drinking and talking.


Piccadilly Circus

St Pancras Station

St Pancras Station

The last time we stayed in London we had every intention of visiting St Pancras station to see how it had been restored to become a 21st century railway terminus but we didn't make it. Unfortunately this time Jane couldn't go because she needed to visit her mum so Sue, Graham and Steve had lunch and spent the afternoon wandering around. It was difficult because we wanted to leave our luggage at Euston Station but they were charging £8 per item so we had to drag our bags around with us.

The architecture and the blending of the Victorian with the modern had been done extremely well.

Once Jane returned from Barnet General Hospital we met her at Euston station and caught the first train home. To get back to our car we caught a bus. This was a first for us both because we used our free bus passes and it was a special occasion for Steve because he loathes buses with a passion.

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