Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We continue to work our way, slowly, through the canon of Shakespeare’s plays, but when Julie said “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” I wasn’t very enthusiastic. We did it at school – my recorder ensemble provided the music – and have seen it many times. We did a version with our Performing Youth Group at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and Hannah was in a production in Durham which then toured the States. We have seen it in the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, etc. It’s a lovely play, ideally outside on a summer evening (though these days my back needs a decent chair), but not for a January evening in Covid lockdown.

We watched the BBC production directed by Russell T. Davies in 2016. It starts with the Athenian Court and John Hannah as Theseus. No Greek scenery, classical statues, flowing drapery, Mediterranean sun, but a fascist court with troops, surveillance (clever use of ipads). At this point I realised I was watching a different “Dream”. Hippolyta (played by Eleanor Matsurra) comes on. The picture shows wheels, and I assumed we had Hippolyta in a wheelchair. No, she is fastened to a trolley, wearing a leather mask. This is no love-match, but the forced marriage of a captured prisoner. Later on at the marriage feast her bride’s dress is fastened with padlocks. It is profoundly uncomfortable – not what I was expecting. Later I read some of the reviews, and it is pointed out, quite correctly, that Theseus is the sort of Lord who will condemn a girl to death for loving the wrong man.

The lovers are played by Prisca Bakare (Hermia), Kate Kennedy (Helena), Matthew Tennyson (Lysander) and Paapa Essiedu (Demetrius) – my only complaint was that Lysander looked a bit too much like Harry Potter. Apparently they filmed the forest scenes over four nights in October – and were fortunate it never rained – then did some bits in the studio. They are beautifully done, beautiful and natural, put with an added zing of fantasy and effects.

You can tell Russell T. Davies did “Doctor Who”. The effects he uses with the spirits are wonderful – disappearing in colourful trails of light, circling the earth with the effect of a shooting flare. It is brilliant. Maxine Peake is Titania (a long way from Doll Tearsheet), Nonso Anozie is Oberon, and Hiran Abensekera as Puck. Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth and Mustardseed are no gentle flowers, they are incredible lively, colourful spirits, but with a hint of menace.

The biggest surprise was Elaine Page as Mistress Quince. We never saw her as “Evita”, but listen to her regularly on Radio 2. This is the first time she has played Shakespeare. I thought she was good, but it hasn’t led to any other Shakespearean roles. Matt Lucas is Bottom, with a very believable donkey costume, Richard Wilson as Starveling and Bernard Cribbins as Snout were lovely. Javone Prince is Snug and Fisavo Akinade is Flute. They cut quite a lot of the rehearsal part, but the play at the wedding feast was as fun as normal.

The wedding feast is given an edge by Theseus not just laughing at the mechanicals, but taking the i-pad and deleting them. Then he starts to feel unwell, and we see his death off-stage on a security camera, being watched on the i-pad by Philostrate (Elliot Levey) who leaves him to his fate. Hippolyta finds love, and will share her future, with Titania – some reviewers complained about their passionate kiss. I wondered where Oberon will fit in this relationship.

Various reviewers described it as a “Dream for our time” or similar phrases. Vibrant, young, multi-cultural, breaking the stereotypes of gender. Yet Julie pointed out that no-one in the play had a disability, the wheelchair did not exist.

It was certainly worth watching on a cold January evening.

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Shakespeare’s Henry V

As we’ve watched the last three plays in the BBC’s Hollow Crown series of 2012, it makes sense to do the same here – and it is good that the main characters are played by the same actors as before. This was directed by Thea Sharrock – she had had a lot of theatre experience, though this seems to have been the only thing she did for television. In the bonus film she talks about taking Tom Hiddlestone for a run and making him do the speeches as they ran – when she couldn’t hear him, she made him do it again.

Hiddlestone is an excellent King – and I enjoyed his rendition of the St Crispin’s Day speech. A few years ago St Crispin’s day (25 October) fell on a Sunday, so we slotted hymn 410 “Creator of the earth and skies” in to the morning service. It is sung to the tune “Agincourt (Deo Gracias)”, an English fifteenth century melody – which is also the tune that William Walton weaves into his “Agincourt song” from the 1944 Olivier version.

Olivier’s is the version I have watched most, always with the understanding that it was filmed towards the end of the Second World War when Britain stood alone. It seems very dated, but the performances, and William Walton’s music, are wonderful. We won’t make any comment about how performances of “Henry V” have influenced our relationship with Europe – in the week when we were dragged out of Europe, and the Prime Minister’s father has applied for French citizenship!

We saw Kenneth Branagh’s performance at the Barbican in 1985, in the version produced by Adrian Noble for the RSC. I had forgotten it was “post-Falklands”, so another interpretation informed by a war – https://www.rsc.org.uk/henry-v/past-productions/in-focus-adrian-noble-1984. Branagh’s film gives him a bigger role than Tom Hiddlestone seems to have, but I haven’t seen that film for a few years. Patrick Doyle’s music for that film is special as well – we sang “Non Nobis Domine” with the Bailiffgate Singers in Alnwick and it has a great tenor part – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmYcpUtvR9U. I think I saw Terry Hands production for the RSC in the late 1970s, I remember one school trip to Stratford – but Julie doesn’t remember going to see that. More information about that performance at https://www.rsc.org.uk/henry-v/past-productions/in-focus-terry-hands-1975. There is so much to read about each play at their website – perhaps I can retire early and do more research.

Anyway, back to “Hollow Crown”. John Hurt is the chorus. He makes a visual appearance at the end when they explain that Henry died quite soon after he had married Kate. I checked, Agincourt was 1415, but he didn’t marry Catherine of Valois until 1420. In this production she is played by Melanie Thierry – rather lovely – but the French scenes are not as amusing as I have sometimes seen them played. Indeed, there are not many laughs anywhere – I seem to remember lots of dialogue about leeks in other productions.

There isn’t much about the death of Falstaff and the scenes in Eastcheap have been shortened. Julie Walters gets a few minutes of screne time. The hanging of Bardolph after he steals from a church is over quite quickly, and they don’t spend much time on Henry’s reaction to the execution of one of his friends. They don’t spend much time on the reason for the execution of the French prisoners either – and they change the reason why it happens. Rather a lot of messing around with Mr Shakespeare.

Henry’s “Band of brothers” speech is addressed to the nobles around him, rather than being a rallying cry for the whole of the English army. It is still very powerful. “Once more into the breach” inspires the men at the earlier action.

It was an enjoyable film, but I would like to watch a straightforward (i.e. sticking to what the Bard wrote) stage play at some point. Having said that, “The Hollow Crown” has been an enjoyable four evenings.

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northernvicarwalks December 2020

The November lockdown made zero difference as so many things remained opened, government is incompetent, test and trace is a complete failure, and the virus has become more efficient. The death toll is horrendous, yet crowds still gather outside hospitals refusing to believe we have a problem and refusing to wear their masks. We ended December in “Tier Four Stay at Home”, so we’ll see if that makes any difference.

In some ways it was quite nice not to be so busy in December, but I missed the music, the crowds and the celebrations. We produced a Zoom service every Sunday and on Christmas Day, did a Christmas video – https://youtu.be/IrTEUVX55wk – and had small services every Sunday. I made lots of phone calls, sent Christmas cards, and Rambled on Facebook every day.

At the end of November I had walked 476 miles, and I managed 40 this month. Much of it was round Kedleston. We were doing the whole of the Long Walk which is about three miles round in a circle. However as the weather has got damper Morgan the powerchair struggles with the meadows in front of the house. So now we walk up and round the back of the house, down to the Splash Pool, then turn round and go back, so that’s five miles in all.

We also managed some walks around Allestree, delivering Christmas cards and admiring the Nativity Scene outside Broadway Baptist Church. So I end the year at 516 miles – I am a Proclaimer, but not much more.

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Shakespeare’s Henry IV part II

New Year’s Eve, so let’s lie on the sofa and go back to 1403, after the Battle of Shrewsbury. In this play we have the death of Henry IV, which didn’t actually happen until 1413, but who cares if we condense a decade into one play. Or perhaps I am just going back to when the play was written, probably sometime between 1596 and 1599. Even if we just go back to 2012 when “Hollow Crown” was produced as part of the BBC’s Olympic celebrations, I can’t help thinking that the world was a happier place eight years ago – even this miserable, non-sporty human being was caught up in the excitement of welcoming the world to London 2012.

I said I had done Henry IV part II for A level, but I can’t say I remembered it. We move from the fleshpots of Eastcheap to the Court (which, the extras tell me, was filmed in St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. We haven’t been there for 20 years or so, so it’s another place to visit in 2021). We also march through the wintry countryside (why is it always winter for Richard Eyre the director?) – it amazes me that a bunch of soldiers going down a narrow bridleway through the forest suddenly meet another bunch of soldiers going in the other direction because the narrow bridleway is obviously the A1. I’m sure medieval roads were better than that.

Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet returned, played by Julie Walters and Maxine Peake – there is a touching scene between Doll and Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale). When he rolls off muttering “too old”, you feel for him. Indeed by the end of the play I felt very sad for him – “I know thee not, old man” is a very public rejection. Yet you also see him lying and cheating, and taking the life savings from Justice Shallow – he is not a nice man.

Henry (Jeremy Irons) is obviously a very ill man. He is a king who is still not at ease with his crown and the way he gained it. Prince Hal (Tom Hiddlestone) is fast becoming king – too fast at one point – and there is fascinating interplay between them.

The roles of the courtiers are not particularly large, though Geoffrey Palmer is an excellent Lord Chief Justice (we met him once at the Helmsdale Museum in northern Scotland – on another wonderful holiday).

The rebels have better parts – the Archbishop of York is one of those arrested (he is played by Nicholas Jones, one of those actors you recognise from lots of things).

Northumberland makes a brief appearance before he escapes to Scotland. His wife is played by Niamh Cusack, and Michelle Dockery makes a brief appearance (far too brief) again as the widowed daughter-in-law.

The writer of the Nottingham blog – https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/bardathon/2012/07/14/the-hollow-crown-2-henry-iv-bbc2/ – says this is a dull production. He says it lacks humour, and he could well be right. Even the scene when Shallow and Falstaff are recruiting soldiers has few laughs – despite their names and physical characteristics. Nor is there any humour when Hal and Poins spy on Falstaff and Doll.

The film is beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, and it will be fascinating to watch it on stage at some point. We’ve never seen it on stage, but have different versions on DVD. We’ll see how long lockdown goes on for.

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Shakespeare’s Henry IV part I

If memory serves, I did Henry IV part I for O level and part II for A level, but that was many years ago. Despite the passage of time I can still remember Miss Williamson and Mr Roberts, two of my English teachers. I think it was her first job out of College, while he had been teaching for many years. I remember writing essays on “Honour”, “Hal’s relationship with Falstaff”, and various other topics – indeed I was pleasantly surprised how much of the play I remembered. Julie doesn’t think we’ve ever seen it on stage.

Henry IV had deposed Richard II in 1399 – then Richard died in Pontefract the following year. Richard was only 33 – the same age as Henry. This play covers less than a year – it starts with Hotspur’s battle at Homildon in Northumberland against Douglas late in 1402 and ends with the defeat of the rebels at Shrewsbury in the middle of 1403. Despite living in Northumberland for seven years, I had to look Homildon up – it is just north of Wooler on the A697, so I have driven past it. I have also driven past the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury on several occasions – but have never stopped and visited the Battlefield Church (Churches Conservation Trust). The battle took place in June, but this version of the play set it in the depths of winter – all snow and mud, very atmospheric, beautifully filmed, and a reminder (if one were needed) that medieval warfare was extremely brutal.

We watched the BBC “Hollow Crown” 2012 version again, with Jeremy Irons playing Henry. In 2012 he was 20 years old than the real Henry, and comes across as the old king with a rebellious youth as a son. Prince Hal is played by Tom Hiddlestone, and he is as confident in the taverns and bawdy houses as he is in the court itself.

Mistress Quickly (Julie Walters, l.), Doll Tearsheet (Maxine Peake)

He shares one life with Sir John Falstaff (played superbly by Simon Russell Beale), with Maxine Peake as Doll Tearsheet and Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly. The “I know you all” soliloquy is spoken in voiceover as he walks through the tavern away from Falstaff, nodding and smiling at the patrons and people in the street while the sadness in his eyes reflect his thoughts (I’m sure I had to write an essay on that).

Life in court is more formal. There is an excellent blog on the play at https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/bardathon/2012/07/08/the-hollow-crown-1-henry-iv-bbc/, and I rather hope that would tell me where it was filmed. Henry tears a strip off his son at the beginning, and the two have a fascinating relationship. Henry Percy, Hotspur, is played by Joe Armstrong – I had to look him up, and then realised how much he’s been in. His father Northumberland is played by Alun Armstrong (“Prime Suspect”). A bit more research needs doing on these various Dukes of Northumberland and their castles – I have never visited Alnwick and it is many years since I’ve been to Wirksworth.

Hotspur’s wife, Kate Percy, is played by Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary of Downton Abbey). The Nottingham blog writer is disturbed by the power-play and violence in their relationship – my only comment is that if I were sharing my bed with Lady Kate, I would not be in a hurry to leave it and go to war. Alex Clatworthy plays Lady Mortimer (I can’t find a photo of her in this production) and sings quite beautifully in Welsh – she is a native of Llandaff, studied in Cambridge and then at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Doing a bit of research I find that Catrin, Lady Mortimer, was one of the children of Owain Glyndŵr. In November 1402 she married Edmund Mortimer. He died in the siege of Harlech Castle in 1409 and his wife and daughters were taken to the Tower of London. After her death shortly afterwards she was buried at St Swithin’s church which stood on the north side of Cannon Street, and there is a memorial to her there. Going back to Lady Kate Percy, she was also called Elizabeth Mortimer. Hotspur was her first husband. After his death in battle she had to cope with being the wife of a rebel – later she married Thomas de Camoys, 1st Baron Camoys, and had ten years with him. He commanded one of the wings of the English army at Agincourt (but we’ve got Henry IV part II to get through before we get to Henry V). I am going to suggest someone could write a mini-series called “Wives of the Hollow Crown” – I’d watch it (especially if Michelle Dockery and Alex Clatworthy were in it).

These lives are fascinating, and Shakespeare weaves them all together. Part II is still to come!

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Shakespeare’s Richard II

We have several versions of “Richard II”, so we decided to watch the BBC Hollow Crown version of 2012, directed by Rupert Goold. I recognised St David’s Cathedral (where we had a lovely holiday when the kids were small), checked and found it was Pembroke Castle (last visited when I was a lad), and knew I’d seen the amazing topiary somewhere (Packwood House, visited last year). We are a long way from the stage of the Globe.

Apparently the earliest recorded performance of Richard II was a private one, in Canon Row, the house of Edward Hoby, on 9 December 1595. The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 29 August 1597 by the bookseller Andrew Wise. One day I will read more about Shakespeare’s life and how these plays came to be produced and printed. Richard II was king 1377-1399, and this play covers the last couple of years of his reign, and his deposition. Again, I need to re-read the history – I know the Peasants’ Revolt is 1381, but I would have struggled to name the King.

I have recently done a course on the history of Art from The National Gallery, and one of the items we looked at was The Wilton Diptych, where Richard is depicted kneeling in worship before the Virgin and Child, with St Edmund, Edward the Confessor and John the Baptist behind him. There is also this portrait of him at Westminster Abbey, which was one of the influences on the look of this production.

Ben Wishaw plays Richard. Tim Dowling, in the Guardian’s review, describes his performance as ”  camp, flutey and painfully self-conscious” – I’m not sure if he means that in a negative sense. It is certainly a fascinating picture of a king who has a Messianic complex – he comes in on a donkey at one point, and Wishaw even looks like Jesus. I found the scene where Richard is killed by arrows very Edmund-like, but I don’t suppose viewers who weren’t from Bury St Edmunds would make that link. There is also one point where he stands with two angelic figures – now I know where we got the idea for our broomstick nativity figures from.

Rory Kinnear plays Henry Bolingbroke. He has done a huge amount of Shakespeare – indeed, all the cast have good Shakespearean pedigree. He came over as a seasoned warrior and a more believable King than Richard.

Patrick Stewart is a marvellous John of Gaunt – and the “Sceptred Isle” speech is marvellous. I am very angry and depressed about the country in which I live, a country where Unicef is helping to feed children and one of the Cabinet describes it as a “political stunt” – this speech makes me feel better about the beautiful country in which I live, and giving me the strength to pray for it.

David Suchet plays Edmund of Langley, Duke of York – again, I need to work out the history.

There are only three female parts. Clemence Poesy is Richard’s Queen, Isabella Laughland is her lady, and Lindsay Duncan (above) is the Duchess of York. I know why he didn’t write for women, but it does feel there is something missing. It will be interesting to see if other productions make more of them.

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Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Since we are going to have a Christmas by ourselves, we are going to use the time to watch some of our large collection of Shakespeare DVDs. We have seen quite a lot of his plays since we first went to see “Macbeth” together forty years ago – and we had both seen a few before then. This might be the opportunity to watch the rest of them.

We settled down on the afternoon of 16 December 2020. Today would have been Gareth’s 31st birthday, and he loved his Shakespeare.

Our version of “Twelfth Night” was recorded for the BBC between 16-21 May 1979, and first transmitted on 6 January 1980. The Amazon review of it says “In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare’s plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors – Twelfth Night [1980] Viola and Sebastian are identical twins, separated by a shipwreck. Landing in Illyria, Viola disguises herself as her brother and goes in to the service of Duke Orsino. When the Duke sends her to help him woo the Lady Olivia, the obstacles of unrequited love, self-deceit and mistaken identity soon lead an assortment of lovers on a merry dance. Perhaps the most popular of Shakespeare’s comedies, Twelfth Night considers the nature of love, true love, self-love and friendship. This star-filled production won great acclaim for its energy and for its inclusion of the play’s often overlooked darker elements.”

The BBC Television Shakespeare was created by Cedric Messina. Born in South Africa, he moved to Britain after the War, and joined the BBC. Transmitted in the UK from 3 December 1978 to 27 April 1985, the series spanned seven seasons and thirty-seven episodes. Wikipedia tells me that the series got mixed reviews, and several of them were quick to blame Messina for a series they thought was rather uninspired. I remember watching several of the earlier ones when they were first broadcast – I was doing my A levels at the time – but would have been at University for many of them. It seems a little silly that none of these BBC productions are available on the BBC website, nor is there any of information about the production. You can find a complete cast listing at https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/9c04b9a85d9d4d8ba6f2c890fd7debb2. A chap called Alistair Nunn has blogged about all the BBC productions, and you can read his review at https://bbcshakespeare.blogspot.com/2013/12/twelfth-night-series-2-episode-4.html

The play was directed by John Gorrie. I had not heard of him – apparently he started his career as an actor, then joined the BBC in the 1960s. He even directed a series of “Doctor Who”. He directed this BBC “Twelfth Night” and the video (it was video in those days) of “The Tempest”. He has set the play in the Seventeenth Century. It’s nearly all filmed around one house, which is actually a TV set, and is a very logical set. Everything flows beautifully. He uses Civil War characters, a conflict between festivity and Puritanism.

Being a man of a certain age, I have to say that the highlight was Felicity Kendal as Viola. She was in her early 30s when she filmed this. She had just finished being Barbara Good in “The Good Life” – another part of my formative years, produced between 1975 and 1978. How anyone can think she is a man, I cannot imagine.

Sinead Cusack played a lovely Olivia. I remember her name, but I can’t say I can place her in any other productions or programmes which I’ve seen. Clive Arrindell is Orsino, again not an actor I recall.

Trevor Peacock was Veste. He sings very well, but you can’t help seeing him as Jim Trott from “Vicar of Dibley” – “no, no, no, no, yes”. If you search youtube, you can watch many different versions of the songs.

Robert Hardy (Siegfried Farnon) was Sir Toby Belch, not the sort of part you expect him to play. Ronnie Stevens was Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Robert Lindsay Fabian. I remember Robert Lindsay as Citizen Smith. My dad nicknamed Harry “Trotsky” and purchased him a red tie – “power to the people”.

Alec McCowen played Malviolio. The yellow stockings and cross garters is often played for laughs, this is a darker production. I remember seeing him recite Mark’s Gospel at the Art’s Theatre in Cambridge while we were at University, and I had his reading on cassette for many years.

Julie says we have seen several productions of it, but can’t remember which ones. I have kept a diary since the early 1970s, but I have never indexed it. Perhaps now would be the time to do it – or can I find a research assistant? Surely someone will give me a grant to index a fascinating archive?

I have the programme for the RSC production directed by Gregory Doran in 2009, but I don’t remember seeing it. The Oxfam shop in Stratford always has a box of programmes for sale, and I suspect it came from there. Apparently the first production was at Candlemas 1602, but it wasn’t published until 1623. Gregory Doran writes that at Candlemas 17 years earlier, on 2 February 1585, the twins Judith and Hamnet Shakespeare were presented for baptism at Holy Trinity church in Stratford. Hamnet died eleven years later, so I wonder what William was thinking as he watched his play, with its twins Viola and Sebastian separated by a storm, then reunited.

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northernvicarwalks November 2020

We were running a safe service in each church every Sunday, but were told on the evening of Saturday 31 October that Sunday 1 November would be the last service for several weeks. Apparently the announcement came as a surprise to the Archbishops as well. Good to know that State still talks to Church. Remembrance Sunday was difficult – clear instructions from the City and the Director of Public Health that we must not meet at War Memorials. The Government gave one message about standing on our doorsteps, but also issued instructions that small groups could meet together and even sing (which has been banned since March). So I ended up caught in the middle.

A Hall user in Darley Abbey caught this stunning view of St Matthew’s. On Wednesday 11 November I married Matt and Nicole – it had to be moved forward as Lockdown stops weddings from Thursday and they were due to marry on Saturday. They both work in schools, so I married them at 4.30, and they were back at work the following day.

We managed regular walks – including a lovely one down the old Great Northern line from Breadsall. Julie wanted her own logo.

Tuesday 17 November was the 40th anniversary of our first (almost-) date. I tried to organise an outing to see “Macbeth” at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. My diary says “only Julie Brown came.” As I fell in love with a Coventry girl, we marked the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the City with a History Festival of our own – it’s amazing what you can watch on youtube. Pathe film of the consecration of the Cathedral included the wonderful line for the Bishop of Coventry “The everlasting plenitude of thy sanctifying power”. In 1962 Church told the State how to behave.

2020 is the 1,000 anniversary of the founding of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, and on Saturday 28 November Dr Richard Hoggett gave a lecture on “The Abbey, the Antiquaries and the Archaeology”. We enjoyed watching it, but there are times it would be nice to be back. A lovely Edmund rose – roses still flowering in November.

Advent Sunday on Zoom is not the same as in reality – but 60 people joined us for the service from my study. The following day, the final day of the month, I ended a ten week course on “The Reformation in Ten Books”. University of York Continuing Learning, taught (superbly) by Francesca Cioni. It is one of the things that has kept me sane this term. I walked 40 miles this month, so it’s 476 at the end of November. I continued to do a Facebook Ramble every day.

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northernvicarwalks October 2020

Harvest Festival without “We plough”, weddings with 15 people, baptisms with 6, and more time at home. i was a speaker on WW1 Great Eastern Women at a Zoom conference on “Women in Transport” that should have been at Swindon. (I was looking forward to a day in Swindon). Someone else spoke on “Gender in Intercity advertising”, remembering the days of Monica.

A day at Crich to show Julie my “Mail by Tram” exhibition before it closed.

We had to cope with a fire at St Matthew’s – the funniest thing was when I ended up on the roof with the Fire Investigator and Police Photographer, and the access window shut behind us. Fortunately we were able to open it – as one of them said, if we have to call the Fire Brigade we’ll never hear the last of it.

We had a day at Baddesley Clinton, though the bookshop was closed, discovered Shipley Country Park, and found new memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum. An art course from the National Gallery, and a University of York course on “The Reformation in Ten books”, taught by Dr Francesca Cioni – excellent.

We ended the month with a week in a small cottage on Hadrian’s Wall, by Twice Brewed. We couldn’t meet Harry and Sarah indoors, but we had some lovely walks with them. We visited no bookshops or churches, but we had a gorgeous day at Vindolanda, another at Beamish, and stopped in Ponteland to photo the new road sign on the new estate built over the old Police HQ.

I walked 36 miles, none of it along the Wall (hangs head in shame), so have now done 436 this year. I also continued my Facebook rambles.

The fools in charge decided to bring in a Covid tier system. Various people had better ideas.

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northernvicarwalks September 2020

You know it is going to be a bad month when, on 1 September, you go for a 5 mile walk which has as one of its goals, posting a small parcel at the Post Office. Hannah had prepared it, and asked you to post it to a friend of hers’. You stand outside in the queue for 20 minutes, sweltering under your face mask, and text her to ask what the parcel contains. “Face masks”.

4 miles walked the next day at Kedleston, then 4 on my Derwent Valley Walk. We had Scarecrows in Allestree on Saturday, and Julie and I walked 5 miles to see a lot of them.

On Sunday 6th I went off to the Great Central Railway. They have bridge work on the main line, so were running the Mountsorrel branchline (new track for me). I parked at Rothley and had a circular walk of 3 miles. Road to Rothley Temple (now in the Hotel) – actually a Preceptory run by the Knights Templar (founded 1231, dissolved 1540) – across Town Green (nice timber-framed cottage), and the golf course. It feels like an ancient bridleway. I crossed the railway, then back along the boundary of Thurcaston and to the station. They were running a diesel shuttle. I sat at the end in First – bringing back memories of my childhood. We then went north and came alongside Swithland Sidings. Points were scotched and we reversed onto the Up line – men with bolts and flags, old BR at its best. Down the branchline to Nunckley Hill, where there is a fascinating little heritage centre. An excellent afternoon.

3 miles round Darley Park on Monday 7, and 3 miles along the Cromford Canal on Wednesday 9. Then I did 4 miles to Duffield on Thursday, and 2 at Darley Abbey on Saturday. Morgan likes the new multi-user path, and can’t read simple signs.

A week’s holiday at home started on Monday 21 September we had a lovely trip to Southwell. We walked along the old railway and through the Minster grounds, but failed to get into the Minster itself (we spent too long with Helen in the pub). I’ve already blogged our visits to Tideswell and Castleton. Then on Wednesday we went to Shipley Country Park for the first time – it’s only 20 minutes drive, but has miles of walks and a decent cafe.

On Thursday 24 we drove north Harlow Carr gardens, and met Hannah. 6 miles walked, red mushrooms found, and tea at Betty’s. I’ve already blogged our trip to the Black Country Museum the following day.

3 miles at Melbourne Hall on 26 September, and 4 miles round the beautiful English Heritage gardens at Brodsworth on 27th.

Back to work on Monday with a 2 mile walk to St Matthew’s and round, a 4 mile walk round Shipley Country Park on Tuesday. That meant I had walked 78 miles in September, so my total is up to 400.

I wrote a facebook Rambling every day. Here they are:

We’re supposed to be in a rule of six, but no one seems sure how we interpret that and there are lots of exceptions. Apparently it is illegal for 7 children to feed ducks, but it is legal for 30 adults to shoot them.

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