A Return to Mottisfont

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IMG_0965IMG_0924  In a previous post; Endings and Beginnings, I wrote of a rather chilly visit to Mottisfont last December.  It was lovely, even in the depths of winter, and my family were eager to return in the summer, and yesterday, we did just that.

We arrived just before the gardens were due to open as it gets very busy.  Walking boots on, we had a chat with the friendly staff at the entrance before heading straight for the Coach House Cafe for tea and a scone, which set us up nicely for a few enjoyable hours of exploration.

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The flowers had taken a bit of a battering the night before in a thunderstorm but the colours were still strong and the smell of lavender added to overall calm sensation of the gardens.  It was hard to know what not to photograph there was so much to see!  My mum impressed me with her plant knowledge and my brother took inspiration for his patch of garden back home.  I don’t have a garden so it was lovely to wander among the foliage and listen to the birds flitting back and forth overhead; so healing and inspiring.

After the walled garden, we made our way into the house itself, which my brother and I had only seen part of at Christmas.  You could easily spend a good hour or more exploring each of the rooms, which have so much detail; I loved the old wireless radios and cameras.  Returning to the garden we made our way along the river bank and marvelled at the salmon jumping upstream.  It was so peaceful; just the sound of water and the trees, with the occasional splash from the fish.  The route back to the house cuts across some fields which were knee high with grasses either side of the path, and ended up at the circle of trees which I had photographed back in December on a sunny winter’s day.  Unfortunately, although much warmer yesterday, it wasn’t sunny, so I couldn’t re-create the shot.  However, I tried to do so with as many as possible.

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It was lovey to see the gardens in their summer greenery and we’re planning to go back in October in order to see the trees in all their autumnal glory.

If you’d like to visit Mottisfont, here’s a link for more information:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont

I visited at my own expense.  All photographs are ©VCUzzell2017

 

 

 

Have blog, will travel: re-assessing my goals

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This is the first post for Blogging 101, a free Word Press blogging course. The first assignment is to introduce, or in my case, re-introduce myself to the blogging world.

If someone asked me to describe myself, I would say ‘late-starter’. I have often felt that I haven’t quite got going yet, and as we move into another year and I start another blogging challenge, I’m more aware of that than ever.  However, when looking back over the last two years since I’ve been blogging, I realise I have achieved quite a lot, so maybe I’ve finally started ‘living’.

While yoga was part of my initial inspiration for my writing, and continues to be a fundamental part of my life, my focus has now shifted more towards travel and places I’ve visited (both near and far), along with local walks. I have become more interested in writing about the natural world, and my challenge when doing so is to try and describe what I have seen and experienced in such a way that my readers are able to feel they were there with me.  Yet, as regards my late start in life, I have also begun to travel further more frequently than before, overcoming considerable anxiety about the unknown in order to do so.  I still get anxious when I go somewhere new, but I’ve learnt not fight it, and tell myself it’s normal and it will pass, which it does.  So, when re-assessing my aims for my writing, travel is certainly at the top of the list, and I’m already planning day trips and holidays for this year to provide inspiration.

Following that, it is nature writing and photography, which has been my passion since I was a teenager that I wish to share on my blog. After university I lost my creative impulses and didn’t take photographs for about a decade.  That all changed in my early thirties, when the call of the camera encouraged me to start again, and now as I’ve entered middle-age (crikey!) I hear that even more, and my other goal with this blog is to be more creative more often.  I took it for granted when I was younger that I could just mess about with my camera all day; whereas now with work commitments, it’s not so easy to find the time and head space to be inspired.

In effect, my goals for my blog are quite simple; to see and do more in life. The more I see and do, the more I can photograph and write about.  Speaking, or indeed writing, as someone who feels she has done very little so far, that is really important.  I’m much more concerned with collecting experiences now than possessions, although that hasn’t stopped me buying books!

 

Travel to perfection

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Taking my kind of 'selfie' at Hurst Castle.

Taking my kind of ‘selfie’ at Hurst Castle.

Packing for my holiday next week; I mustn’t forget my camera, sunscreen, a good book and a professional photographer. Um … what?! Yes, crazy as it sounds, people are now buying a holiday package which includes a photographer who will take perfect social media friendly snaps of you in exotic places, just being all casual and having perfectly composed fun.

I’m greatly puzzled by this development. Have people become so self-obsessed that they now feel the need to have a photographer follow them around on holiday and take suitable shots of them ‘experiencing life’? What happened to the slightly rubbish pictures your mum and dad used to take, in which you’d bound to be missing the top of your head? Why does everything have to be so polished and photo-shopped to death nowadays? Also, I like to take photos of what I see and what interests me. I might get my travelling companion to take a couple of cheesy shots of me standing with a silly grin on my face somewhere well-know, but apart from that, I don’t want lots of pictures of myself, I want images of what I saw and experienced in that place.

It seems that some individuals are losing the ability to just enjoy life without having to record every single thing they do. Has existence now come to mean how present you are online, as opposed to how present you are in your life?

There’s obviously nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing your holiday snaps on Facebook etc. but to go to the lengths of hiring someone to manufacture your image to such an extent online, seems to be an f-stop too far.

What do you think? Would you like someone to make your holiday into a photoshoot? Let me know.

Here’s a link to the article which inspired this post:

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2015/aug/27/instagram-professional-holiday-photographer-hire-trend

Exploring Manchester, and beyond

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Tatton Park Gardens  Media City

As a teacher of international students, I’m often embarrassed to realise they’ve seen more of my own country than I have.  So, I’ve decided to make more of an effort to see as much as I can, and not just explore abroad.  With that in mind, I went to Manchester with my brother for a couple of days this week.

Manchester is easily accessible by train from London; the Virgin trains are comfortable, and the tilting around corners is cool!  Our hotel was only a ten minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station, and we emerged into a busy Monday afternoon, with shoppers buzzing past us as we made our way to our temporary home.  Having checked in, we went out to explore the city centre, which I have to admit didn’t look too great on a cloudy afternoon, and the crowds were considerable.  However, if you love shopping, you’ll be quite happy working your way through all the high street shops along the main high street, the large shopping centre, and the quieter, cobbled streets nearby with the more exclusive boutiques.

There’s a lot of regeneration going on in the centre at the moment, with half-demolished or built buildings and cranes everywhere you look, creating new apartments, hotels and eateries which will really add to Manchester’s appeal.  So, give it a year or so and I think it will be much better to walk around.  There are little quiet pockets, with fountains and water cascading down alongside seating areas, which offer a respite from the noise of the central shopping district.

On our second day, we ventured out into the surrounding countryside to Tatton Park, Visit England’s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2014, and a 1,000-acre parkland, with a neo-classical Mansion, 50 acres of gardens and a farm.  It’s easy to get there via Manchester Piccadilly on the Northern Line and takes just under 40 minutes to Knutsford, which is the closest station to Tatton; from there it’s roughly a ten minute walk through the small village to the edge of the park.  Now, if you love waking, as I do, then it’s no problem, but it took myself and my brother about 40 minutes to walk to the Mansion.  You can drive through the Park, and many were, but I suggest a good pair of shoes, something to nibble on, a camera and enjoy the view as you walk past magnificent trees, sailing lakes and deer relaxing in the sun.  By the time you get there, you’ll be ready for one of the scones or cakes for sale in the café.  Later, after you’ve explored the beautiful gardens and Mansion, you can have lunch there, or take your own and sit and admire the view back across the park.  You’ll need to rest and refuel before the walk back!  Trust me, it’s worth it though, and we didn’t even walk the whole of the parkland, we didn’t have time.

Our third day was ‘museum day’ for us and the sun was shining, making the city all the more pleasing to look at.  There’s some interesting architecture there, if you look up above the shop fronts.  We started the day with a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, a fascinating exploration of trains, planes and automobiles, computers, the cotton industry (obviously significant in Manchester’s history), various forms of energy, from electricity to nuclear power, and all within five listed historic buildings.  There were quite a few school parties there during our visit, and there’s certainly plenty to get children engaged.  However, as big kids, my brother and I were happily amused too.  I really recommend a visit here.

After lunch we took a tram out to Media City to visit the Imperial War Museum of the North, the Lowry and Media City itself, as I’m a big fan of radio and one of my favourite programmes is broadcast from there, so I wanted to see what the presenters often talk about as they can look out onto a paved seating area in front of the studio.  Now, I have to admit, the Imperial War Museum wasn’t quite what we had expected, it’s mostly interactive exhibitions, with various videos being projected onto the high walls above you.  It’s primarily a large, open space which has been divided up into various sections, and is by no means uninteresting but didn’t quite grab my attention.  However, like the MOSI, children loved it, and were running around exploring all they could, and that was great to see.  The museum itself is free to enter, but for just over £1, you can take the lift up the tower, which provides far-reaching views, but be warned if you’re afraid of heights as you can see straight down between the steel beneath your feet!  The Media City area is quiet and peaceful, and as it was early afternoon, we joined workers having their lunch and walked along the canal, enjoying the warm weather.

We only spent two whole days in the city, and I was quite pleased to return to my quiet little home the next day.  I love visiting cities but only for a few days because the noise really gets to me after a while; I guess that’s because I grew up, and still live in, a small-ish seaside town.  On the whole though, I would recommend Manchester, especially if you’re a shopaholic, but also for the surrounding countryside and interesting museums it has to offer.

Now, where shall I go next?

Photographs and text ©vcuzzell2015

Links to relevant websites:

http://www.mosi.org.uk/

http://www.tattonpark.org.uk/home.aspx

http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-north

Writing 101: Day 16: Third Time’s the Charm

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(Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings.  Describe a day in which you came upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.)

You’d be surprised what people bring in here.  January of course is the busiest time.  We’re up to our eye-balls in unwanted presents and New Year clear-outs.  Round here you can pick up some good quality stuff; name brands and the like.  The local well-to-do ladies shed their clothes every season like skin.  Of course, you sometimes get the other type of donation, when someone’s passed on.  It’s hard for the relatives.  One young girl came in the other week.  I say young girl, she was to me, but I guess she was about 30; had a load of men’s clothes and shoes.  Lost her dad, she had.  Not fair on someone so young.  Still, working here, I’ve realised how loss is often tied up with gain, for someone, and many people will benefit from her donation.

At the moment, we’ve got a lot of video cassettes; can’t shift ‘em.  Mind you, I read the other day that some might be worth quite a bit; people looking for old films or something.  No-one listens to CDs either.  It’s all downloading and the like nowadays, so we’ve got piles of them, almost up to the ceiling.

Books?  Yes, loads.  Naturally, they’re a good seller for us.  We had a load of Penguin classics in the other day.  They’ll go well.  Oh, yes, and that 50 Shades book; we’ve had quite a few of those in too.  But we do get some interesting books, like a curious one I found a few weeks ago in a big box.  As good as new it was; a travel book, with lots of lovely photos in.  It must have been a present and they didn’t want it, which was a shame.  There was a message inside.

To a friend who has yet to see all the pictures of the world, but one day undoubtedly will.  Love Nick x

I thought, I wonder if they’d donated it because they’d gone off travelling.  It got me thinking too, and that’s when I made my decision.  Yes, it was the book that finally made me do it.  It was something we should have done together after retirement, but when I lost him I sort of went off the idea.  Didn’t fancy going alone, so I stopped work and started volunteering here three days a week, but I always thought about it and watched lots of those travel programmes on TV.  So, when I came across that book it felt like a message, something telling me ‘now or never,’ you know?  So, tomorrow is my last day.  I’ve sold the house and I leave from London on Friday.  My first stop is Paris.  We went there for our honeymoon, so it seemed right.  Then I’ll just keep going until the money, or my body runs out, whichever happens first!

(This was inspired by a Lonely Planet photography book I bought in a charity shop  six years ago, which had the message below in it.)  

©vcuzzell2015

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Hello anxiety my old friend

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I often joke that the frown lines on my forehead have been there since I was born.  I was ten-days late, so was clearly worried about venturing out into the big world from the start.  That sense of anxiety about the unknown has remained throughout my life, and it’s only in recent years, that I’ve begun to be more adventurous, and explore further afield than my own country.  Yet despite wanting desperately to see as much of the world as possible, I still get really anxious when going somewhere new.  At first I used to try and fight it, ignore it and often just get plain cross with myself, but obviously none of that helped.  In the end, it was something a friend said which enabled me to finally let go of my worries.  I mentioned my nervousness about travelling and she said, ‘oh everyone feels like that.  It’s normal.’  There I was, thinking there had to be something wrong with me for getting so stressed, and not realising this was how other people felt too.  Hooray!  Since then, if I ever feel anxiety lurking as I get ready to meet the unfamiliar, I just think, no problem, that’s ok.  I have realised that when I became upset with myself for being worried I was making it worse, and so now I just say it’s fine and know that it will pass.  As the attached short article below says, using the breath is a brilliant way to ease anxiety, and I recommend it, along with viparita karani; it’s one of my favourite poses and is a great all-rounder, so give it a try.  Most of all though, just give yourself a break!  It’s not always a bad thing to be anxious, especially when it comes to new situations and places.  It probably helps you to be better prepared and take a bit more care, which can’t be bad thing.  So make friends with anxiety, and learn to love your inner worrier.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/11/3-yogic-ways-to-ease-anxiety/

Enjoy the Silence

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I’ve just returned from a short city break to Barcelona with friends. We had an enjoyable time, although it was unusually hot for the time of year.  Bearing in mind I live in England, where temperatures of 29 degrees or more make headline news!  Yet, even the owner of the apartment we rented commented on how it was hotter than the norm for September.  Some days my friends and I would chase the shade wherever we could find it, as we feared our skin would start to sizzle if it caught sight of the sun.  I love city breaks though.  Probably because I live in a seaside town and therefore love to spend time wondering around museums and galleries, looking at incredible architecture and eating wonderful food.  The only thing I’m not so keen on is the noise.  Shortly before I went away I was moaning that the new fridge the landlord had bought for my flat was noisy and sometimes woke me up at night, and my windows are broken, so I haven’t got any fresh air at the moment either (hopefully they’ll be fixed soon).  Yet after four days in Barcelona, I was longing for the peace of my flat, even with the fridge and stuffy air.  When you first arrive in a city, the sounds of life are exciting and add to the feeling of ‘here we are!  Let’s explore!’  However, after a few days of this I do long for my humble abode, with often only birdsong or the lift for aural stimulation.  My brother said to me today that we often don’t realise how lucky we are, and it’s only by seeing the world from a different point of view that we understand this.  My friends and I flew back from Barcelona on an early evening flight, and so when I entered my home, all was silent … and I immediately turned the radio on!