Brassed off

Yes, feeling brassed off*. This weekend we should have been making our pilgrimage to the iconic Royal Albert Hall, London, for the National Brass Band Championships. Alas this is yet another event understandably cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions. This would have been my twentieth visit to the main event, attracting an audience of over 4000, and other fringe activities in London over the weekend.

The competition has been held there since 1945, and is one of the most prestigious events in the Brass Band calendar. I first attended in 1968 and was immediately impressed by the size and atmosphere of the fascinating building. The acoustics are unusual and the hall has a noticeable echo. Various attempts have been made to improve acoustics over the years as can be seen in the acoustic diffusing discs hung from the roof and lit purple and blue.

Twenty championship bands, representing all the regions of Great Britain, compete for the title and magnificent trophy. The day starts with a draw for order of play when band hope to avoid the number one spot and be first on. Three adjudicators sit in an enclosed box so they can hear but not see which band is playing. 2018 was a special year for us when Foden’s, a band very close to our hearts, were crowned winners for the fourteenth time in their history.

Foden’s Band

Maybe, just maybe, we will be there on 9th October 2021.

*For my overseas followers, ‘brassed off’ is a British expression meaning fed up or disgruntled. It is also the title of a feel-good film which tells the story of the fictitious Grimley Colliery Band facing closure but overcoming various difficulties and obstacles to go on and win the championships.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

This photograph was taken five years ago almost to the day. It is inside St Edmund’s Church, Fenny Bentley, a small village near Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It was the day after their Harvest Festival and this simple window display was perfect for a quiet rural church, typical of so many English village churches.

The following day we were in Florence and within days of arriving we were overwhelmed by the ornate churches, elaborate architecture, countless statues and galleries. We were uncomfortable with all the hustle and bustle of an overcrowded tourist city. (Is there a name for tourists who complain about a place because there are too many tourists?). The contrast between the two locations could not have been greater. Of the two, I know where we would rather be, and it doesn’t require passports or boarding passes.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of Florence’s most famous residents and it was interesting to see this quote on a wall in the bookshop at the city’s Leonardo da Vinci Museum.

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. – Leonardo da Vinci.

Now in my book, that makes the sleepy Derbyshire village of Fenny Bentley far more sophisticated than Florence!

Heage Windmill

Heage, a village in Derbyshire, gets its name from a derivation of ‘High Edge’ so what better place to build a windmill back in 1797. The very nature of windmills means they are exposed to the elements and over a span of two hundred years it’s no surprise that the structure fell into disrepair.

She (apparently all windmills are female) was abandoned in 1919 after storm damage but was eventually restored to working order in 2002. It is now a Grade II* listed building and the only working six-sailed stone tower windmill in England. It is lovingly preserved and maintained by Heage Windmill Society and Friends of Heage Windmill. One can only imagine the amount of time and fund-raising it takes by the volunteers to keep a project like this viable and successful. Their website, link below, gives some indication of that.

Perhaps this post should be sub-titled ‘One subject, four skies’; all photographs were taken in the the space of 30 minutes. Well the weather forecast was scattered showers and sunny intervals!

Heage Windmill website

Tutbury Castle

John O Gaunt’s gateway.

We have lived just six miles from Tutbury Castle for over 40 years and have seen it from the outside many times but until quite recently I had never actually been into the grounds. In July, as lockdown restrictions continued to be relaxed, Tutbury Castle reopened for three days a week and we took the opportunity to visit. It turned out to be a good choice as it was a beautiful day and there were not too many people about.

Tutbury Castle sits on a hill close to the Staffordshire/Derbyshire boundary which at that point is the River Dove. There are excellent views towards the river and hills of Derbyshire.

The path leading from John O’Gaunt’s gateway.
South tower.

The first record of the castle is 1071 as one of the new castles built to stamp the authority of the Norman conquerors across the Midlands.

In the background is Julius’ Tower, a folly built in 1780

The castle is best known as one of the prisons of Mary Queen of Scots, who was held here on four occasions. It was here that she became involved in the plot that ultimately led to her bloody execution at Fotheringhay.

Her first visit began on 4th February 1569 when she arrived with no fewer than sixty attendants. She had been many hours in the saddle and for the first time since her arrival in England, she realised that she was now in prison. Mary loathed Tutbury, not only because of what it represented but also because it was cold, draughty and extremely damp – threatening her already delicate health. She wrote of its miseries and rather than waxing lyrical about the magnificent view Tutbury offered, she described it as ‘sitting squarely on top of a mountain in the middle of a plain’, subjecting her to all the ‘winds and injures of heaven’.

It is suggested that letters to and from Mary were smuggled concealed inside beer barrels from the brewers of nearby Burton on Trent who were supplying Tutbury Castle.

North tower.

Tutbury Castle website

Fowey

A week by the sea – day 7

With all the COVID-19 restrictions in place we have decided that we will not be taking a holiday this year so now is a good time to delve into the archives and organise a virtual tour of a few English coastal resorts. Welcome on board and enjoy the views! We would normally sign off our postcards with the hackneyed ‘Wish you were here’, but at the moment it isn’t appropriate. You may not wish to be ‘here’. If that’s the case, don’t succumb to temptation of travelling when you know it’s much safer to stay at home.

Day seven – Greetings from Fowey, south Cornwall

The town of Fowey stands at the mouth of the river Fowey. It has long been popular with holiday makers, boat enthusiasts, fishermen, artist and writers including Daphne du Maurier.

So our north-east to south-west journey ends, and the good thing about this virtual tour – we don’t have to drive over five hours for the 275+ mile journey home!

Ferryside was the home of writer Daphne du Maurier
Car ferry over the river Fowey

Sidmouth

A week by the sea – day 6

With all the COVID-19 restrictions in place we have decided that we will not be taking a holiday this year so now is a good time to delve into the archives and organise a virtual tour of a few English coastal resorts. Welcome on board and enjoy the views! We would normally sign off our postcards with the hackneyed ‘Wish you were here’, but at the moment it isn’t appropriate. You may not wish to be ‘here’. If that’s the case, don’t succumb to temptation of travelling when you know it’s much safer to stay at home.

Day six – Greetings from Sidmouth, south Devon.We were staying in mid-Somerset when we took the opportunity to visit Sidmouth, often described as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The Esplanade leads to the red cliffs of Salcombe Hill.

Lyme Regis

A week by the sea – day 5

With all the COVID-19 restrictions in place we have decided that we will not be taking a holiday this year so now is a good time to delve into the archives and organise a virtual tour of a few English coastal resorts. Welcome on board and enjoy the views! We would normally sign off our postcards with the hackneyed ‘Wish you were here’, but at the moment it isn’t appropriate. You may not wish to be ‘here’. If that’s the case, don’t succumb to temptation of travelling when you know it’s much safer to stay at home.

Day five – Greetings from Lyme Regis, Dorset

Lyme Regis is popular with fossil hunters – the ammonite street lights are very appropriate. The harbour is called The Cobb and became well known when it was featured in The French Lieutenant’s Woman when Meryl Streep walked along it. It is also mentioned in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Lyme 6

Lyme 5

Lyme 3

Lyme 4

Lyme 1

Lyme 2

Norfolk

A week by the sea – day 4

With all the COVID-19 restrictions in place we have decided that we will not be taking a holiday this year so now is a good time to delve into the archives and organise a virtual tour of a few English coastal resorts. Welcome on board and enjoy the views! We would normally sign off our postcards with the hackneyed ‘Wish you were here’, but at the moment it isn’t appropriate. You may not wish to be ‘here’. If that’s the case, don’t succumb to temptation of travelling when you know it’s much safer to stay at home.

Day four – Greetings from Norfolk

We explored the north Norfolk coast a few years ago and enjoyed the area from Hunstanton, Blakeney, Sheringham, Cromer to Happisburgh. And yes, those big Norfolk skies are big!

Big Norfolk sky