Friday, 29 June 2012

Two stupidities!

Yesterday morning I was working at the reserve, raking up reeds and grass which another of the volunteers was cutting with a brush cutter.  It was hot and humid and quite hard work, so after a while I took my tee-shirt off.  Not a pretty sight, I know, but I did feel it was necessary.  I did notice that my forearms were a bit pink by the time we finished at lunchtime, but took no notice.

In the afternoon I had to go to the Eye Clinic at Addenbrookes Hospital, as the last time my optician looked deep into my eyes, he spotted a freckle on the retina of my left eye, so had to let my doctor know, who referred me.  These things are almost always completely harmless, but very occasionally they can turn into something quite nasty, so taking my eye to the hospital was a sensible plan.

By the time I got to Addenbrookes I was starting to be aware of the damage I'd done to the skin of my arms and back, but there was nothing to be done about it at that stage.

At the clinic they put drops in my eyes, to dilate the pupils, so they could see in better.  I knew they were going to do this and had gone in by train and guided bus, of which more later, so I didn't have to drive with dodgy eyes.  The nice lady doctor reassured me that I'd probably had the freckles since I was born and I could ignore them, which is pretty much what I'd expected her to say.

As I made my way outside into brilliant sunshine, however, I realised I'd forgotten to bring any shades, and it was physically painful to even look vaguely in the direction of the sun.  I cringed while sitting at the bus stop waiting for the guided bus, and had to ask the driver if he was going to the station, as I couldn't read the front of the bus.

So the much-derided guided bus is brilliant for getting from the train station to Addenbrookes, as it goes directly, almost completely on the special track, so has no delays due to other traffic.  Station to hospital takes five minutes.  We used to whinge that there was no halt on the railway at Addenbrookes, when it would make such sense, but with the bus, there's now no need.  Tick, VG!

At the station, quite fortuitously, I met Jenny, and as we walked from the station home, we decided we couldn't be bothered to cook, so having picked up some shades from home, walked up into town.  The nearest restaurant used to have tables out on the pavement where you could eat, but I think the weather has meant they no longer have them, so we were obliged to eat indoors.  Not a big deal, but it would have been nicer to be outside, of course.  By the end of the meal my pupils were back to normal size and I no longer looked as though I was deeply in love with everyone I looked at!

And this morning I've made the mistake of scratching those bright pink bits of me that I can reach, and each time I do so, I rediscover how much it hurts!  What an idiot!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Who did you say you were again?

Yesterday we sang choral evensong in a local village church and acquitted ourselves rather well.  Introit was Oh Lord, the maker of all things, by Mundy, then we did the Smith 5-part responses, Purcell Mag & Nunc and for the anthem, Purcell Oh God, thou art my God.

Afterwards they served wine and we stood around chatting amongst ourselves and with the congregation.  Jenny and I found ourselves talking to a slightly familiar-looking man who was quite engaging, and we had a pleasant chat.  We didn't stay long, but the surprise came when we got into the car with Julie and Jane to come home.

Although this guy had looked a bit familiar, neither Jenny nor I had had any idea who he was, until Jane and Julie, amid gales of laughter, told us he was only Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health.    Jenny was rather embarrassed, but I had just thought he looked a bit like someone I knew but I couldn't  think who, so it didn't bother me at all.

Probably a good job I hadn't realised who he was, as I might have been tempted to ask him what was really going to happen to Royston Hospital, about which we've heard any number of conflicting rumours and denials, but we suspect will be closed shortly.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A great cartoon

I love this cartoon, posted by PZ Myers.  Now I'm going to have to go and find more work by Hanson!

Friday, 8 June 2012

A weekend of downs and ups

And both of those were rather extreme; the downs were pretty shitty, but the ups were fantastic.

On Friday I flew to Italy with Choir 18, which is one of the choirs we sing with.  Sadly, Jenny had to stay at home, as she had to mark Cambridge University exam papers over the weekend, and there's no escape from that.

To my amazement, Ryanair was OK in both directions; nothing like as squalid and disorganised as I remember from a couple of years ago.  On the other hand, there had been threat of a baggage handlers' strike, so I'd got hand luggage only, which made life easier, even if I did waste the £50 I'd paid for a checked bag.

 I went with three other friends, one of whom had been through Rome Ciampino airport before and knew where to catch the coach across town to Rome Termini railway station, so I just followed along.

At the railway station, we'd just missed the 6.30 train, as expected, so had time for dinner before the next train at 8.45.  We went upstairs to a balcony self-serve restaurant, where we had decent food and some nice wine.

Sadly, I was careless with my handbag, hanging it over the back of my chair, and some time later, when I went to buy more wine, I found my purse had been filleted, lightened to the tune of about 250€ and £75.  Fortunately, I keep my cash and cards separate, so the scumbag hadn't found the cards and I was able to draw more cash later.  Welcome to Italy, sucker!

The trains were all incredibly cheap, and worked fine, but about half an hour out of Filogno, our destination, I started to feel unwell.  By the time we disembarked I was feeling quite sorry for myself, and when we arrived at the convent in which we were staying, I was shivering uncontrollably, with an obvious high temperature.

In my room I piled all the bedclothes from the second bed onto my own, and still partially dressed, lay there shivering for a couple of hours.  Eventually I fell asleep, and slept fitfully through the night.

The symptoms were typical of flu, but milder, so not enough to keep me in bed over the weekend, but enough to make life pretty miserably much of the time.  The intensity ebbed and flowed, so some of the time I felt fine, some lousy.  Friends gave me paracetomol, lemsip and sympathy, all of which helped!

The weather was great and we trained to the next town up the track, Spello, and made our way up the hill.  Alex, one of the tour organisers, lead us up to the top of the hill to a balcony restaurant with a terrific view.  The photo is a stitch-up of three I took from the restaurant.  You can tell how ill I was because I drank water. Well, to tell the truth, the jugs of beer arrived first and we were all very thirsty from the climb up the hill, so I had a small glass of bee first, but the rest of the time it was water.  My lunch consisted of a smallish green salad.  I told you I was ill!

I survived the rehearsal in the afternoon, but couldn't make it past half-way through the concert, deciding it would be better to withdraw than to collapse in a heap while singing.  Fortunately there was a point where the choir separated widely into two sections, so in the confusion as they reassembled, I was able to duck out to the side without it being too obvious to the audience.

We found this picture (I swear it's Rowan Atkinson!) in the room we changed in before and after the concert.  I couldn't resist!

In the evening I joined a group of friends, intending to eat with them, but after a glass of prosecco and some nibbles, decided a full meal would be a waste of time.  When they split to find a restaurant, I stayed in the bar (outside in the main square) and had a glass of red with more nibbles.  By the time that had gone down, I'd had enough and retired, hurt, to bed.

On the Sunday we took the train to Assisi where a small group of us wandered around rubbernecking.  It really was fabulous, and I was starting to feel quite a lot better.   There are two churches in the Basilica of St Frances, an upper church, where we rehearsed first, and a lower church where we sang mass.  After mass, we returned upstairs and sang a 45 minute concert in the upper church.
Alex and Temi, our tour organisers from a company called singingholidays.com, had done a great job publicising our concerts, so both on Saturday and Sunday we had decent audiences.  Quite gratifying that we acquitted ourselves well and got lots of compliments from clergy and audience. And one of the clergy filmed the whole thing, and there was word of sticking some of it up on YouTube, though whether that will ever actually come about is anybody's guess.

Alex did post one track on YouTube for us.  It's not my favourite piece, but you get the idea.

We parked ourselves in the station bar while waiting for the train, and with waving beers, sang a few numbers, which seemed to go down quite well.  Then to dinner organised by Temi and Alex in a Foligno restaurant.  Terrific food and excellent wine.  We had a fixed, six-course meal, though I could only make it through to course four before exhaustion overcame me and I sloped off to bed.  Some of the rest were up until 2.30 the wicked people!

On Monday we took the train back to Rome, the coach to Ciampino airport and Ryanair home, all smoothly and without a hitch. I took Jenny a nice bottle of Barolo as compensation for having to stay at home marking.  Marking turned out not to have been completely bad, as the weather was filthy, so she couldn't have done any gardening anyway.

These and a few more photo's are now also here on a web page on my site.