Sunday, 5 November 2017

A fortnight of freebies

Another few weeks of varied freebies, all gained in different ways. You don't need much to have a good time.


A(nother) walk around Lyme Park ... and beyond


I'm starting to post a lot about Lyme Park aren't I? I have gone for years without visiting and now I seem to be there every other week. I do enjoy scouting walking sites for guided walks and trying them out and Lyme park crops up a lot, with the added bonus that it's not far from home. And having told you my little parking spot that saves me £7 each visit, you'll know it's a freebie. Sorry National Trust.

This walk was spotted at Countryfile and suggested another parking spot outside the grounds so I thought I'd have a pop at that. After 40 minutes of being sat in roadworks I sacked off the idea of waiting more to get to Poynton and parked up in my usual place, walking the extra couple of miles to join this walk half way round but still complete the full circuit. It was chucking it down too and the roar of the stags rutting was eerie through the thick mist. By the time I reached the view across the lake to the house I was wetter than Colin Firth after his dip but slightly less sexy. Slightly.

The walk took me out through the West gates of the park and onto a narrow lane where the first house, an AirBnB gaff with the wonderful moniker of Windgather, was selling homemade chutney and apple sauce. I dropped a couple of quid in the honesty box and it was money well spent I can tell you. Not a freebie though, unlike the windfall apples that the farmer at Haresteads Farm had left out with a note to help oneself. I picked through the spotted fruits and found a perfect one which crunched most satisfyingly as I carried on along the path to the Macclesfield Canal. This should have been the start point but today was my sandwich stop, interrupted by 4 different dogs not under the control of 3 different owners. All had their nose in my trough but got short shrift, I can tell you. nothing comes between me and a jam butty. 

 Higher Poynton marina has a lovely little shop and some madly named boats moored up - some seem to be there for good and have their own little gardens. About a mile along I left the canal alongside this fantastic little corner that the owner kindly let me photograph. From here it was along a track and through a small but enchanting wood before making my way back towards the main park entrance for Lyme. At the top of the ridge, near the Cage, the stags still honked their horny song. The mists had cleared and this Mr Darcy was drier as he reached the car half an hour later.

Healthy & not so healthy foodstuffs

Belvita were giving away free breakfast soft bakes at Piccadilly station. I grabbed a choco hazelnut filled one, not expecting much. It was alright, actually. Normally these things are quite bland, punishment for healthy eaters. These weren't too bad and the inside was just like Nutella. It probably isn't as healthy as we are supposed to think but that's probably why it tasted OK.

Something that never pretends to be healthy is pizza and Chicago Town gave away vouchers to exchange for a freebie from their Pizza kitchen range. Crisp base and decent veg that tasted quite fresh, definitely one to go back for.


Buy Art Fair & The Manchester Contemporary.

 Thanks to Manchester Confidential for free tickets to this fair, "the North's favourite art fair", held at Manchester Central. This country is marvellous for free access to art and art galleries are something I should feature more on this blog. It seems odd to pay to see artwork for sale but I think the regular entrance was only a fiver and that includes access to interesting talks and the chance to talk to dealers about art.




There is art you like and art you don't like, I reckon. I can't be doing with 'modern art is crap' as that dismisses an entire form based on it's point in time. I do think that the greatest creativity in a lot of art these days is the hype, the explanation or the concept rather than the piece itself but if someone's daft enough to spend £50k on anything that has only aesthetic function then that's up to Mr Saatchi himself. I'm content to spend £10 on a print if it gives me pleasure top look at and your rich collector is the same, it's all dependent on what you can afford. £50k would be better spent feeding the homeless wouldn't it? But then so would my tenner, so we're even.

Looking at something created by someone else that has no functional value and being moved in different ways is an odd thing. How can I spend 20 minutes at one stall, looking closely at every piece and then walk past another with a mere 'meh'? Some abstract pieces stopped me in my tracks, others barely raised a second glance. If I had the money, would I buy an original Lowry for £13k? Possibly. Would I buy the pieces described as a 'posthumous Warhol' for the same? No. The Banksy piece for sale ('Price On Application') was superb but would fit nowhere in my pokey terrace. 


My absolute favourite painting (actually, there were 2 side by side, both by Mark Demsteader) was beyond my means financially and spatially. They are in front of me in the picture to the left and I spent ages waiting for the right moment to get the photo as it was a view that captured everything about the fair - there are about 4 different styles on display along the sides with my favourite works at the end. It was reasonably busy though (a good thing) so this was the clearest view I got and is terribly focused. I didn't have the £18k to buy either of the paintings so this pic will have to do me.

Other stalls that made me stop and stare were by Sydney Clare Checkland and the Salvage Gallery. the latter does go beyond art into having some functional value (and at reasonable prices too) and I loved the rusty drainpipe made into a wonderful blue backlight. This could be affordable and next year I'll save up before I go. 

Some galleries showed works for sale by students (including 6th form students) and the quality was exceptional. I got so engrossed in looking at the art I completely forgot about the talks and was too late to catch Paul Stephenson's screening and Q&A on Warhol, which I regret. With the art cafe in the corner and practical hands on stands for adults and kids this was a great afternoon and I'll look forward to next year. 


Weekend i


This paper had their own stall at the art fair and gave away copies of that weekend's paper. It's only 80p anyway which is why it's my paper of choice anyway on the odd occasion I do buy a paper. The Guardian is my preferred read but like so many things the price puts it out of reach of being a regular buy, plus i is about the right length for a train journey. To be honest, these are about the only national papers I can stomach. I look forward to winning something from the Mail or Express (they do have good prizes) just so I can lambast them both for their preaching of hate. There, now you know where my morals lie - I'm happy to take the freebie and enter their comps but won't say a good word about the paper. I understand if you think that's hypocritical.
Anyway, I find i to be informative and well researched. I would say 'balanced' but it's left leaning so probably reports the world as I see it anyway. Good puzzle pages too.


Dangerous Lady by Martina Cole on the Audiobooks.com app

Two things to review here thanks to crimefiles.co.uk who included a link to a free download on their newsletter. Let's do the app first - it's free to download and you then pay for most of the books. There are quite a few freebies, usually read by amateurs and to be honest I struggled to listen in depth to many of them. Keep trying though, you'll find something free that suits you. If you are a regular audiobook listener then I'm not sure how useful the app will be. It's a subscription service - £7.99 per month gets you one download per month. That's a lot and is one book per month enough? More credits can be purchased but it seems like an expensive source of reading if you want to listen in the car on long journeys - I'd stick with CDs from the library. Those with visual impairments will find the service useful but again there must be a more reasonable way to meet the needs of those people? I'm sure they must get subsidised  services - Derbyshire Libraries gives you free, time-limited downloads of e-books, e-zines and audiobooks, for example. 
The app is excellent though - easy to use and navigate through chapters, plus you can pick up quite easily where you left and if you use it to fall asleep to you can set it to turn of in 10, 20, 30 etc. minutes. Quite useful when the book you are listening to is over 17 hours long...

I've never read a Martina Cole before and I'm not sure I've ever seen a TV adaptation of one of her books. I've been missing out - this was a great listen. Imagine the Godfather set in the west End of London. Instead of Italian ancestry imagine Irish ancestry. Instead of a godfather, imagine a godmother. 

The story starts with the birth of Maura Ryan in 1950, the youngest of a large family and the only daughter. dad is a drunken waster and the boys are a bad lot from an early age. Michael moves up from being a ne'er do well teen to becoming London's top geezer, feared by all. Maura, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to meet a nice chap and become a housewife and mum. She does meet a nice chap, but he's a copper innee?

No spoilers in my reviews - suffice it to say that Maura ends up as the top dog in Landun, dealing with the IRA, Yardies, other gangs, blaggers, construction bosses and her own employees in the clip joints she controls in Soho. It's an epic story that runs until the 1980s (the novel was first published in the early 90s) and sees Maura's rise amid the social history of post-war Britain. We see the rise of the IRA, the conversion of London's dockland to becoming the property capital of Thatcher's Britain, the changes from swinging London to yuppie London. It's an absolute belter with a sexy, strong and sensual lead character. If you don't want to download this version, get the printed one. if you saw the TV series in in the 1990s (which passed me by) then try it again, I think the plot was changed for that. I'll be seeking out more Martina Cole after this.

A word about the reading. Annie Aldington is the perfect choice - a Londoner herself (Sarf, I think, whereas Cole is Essex) she has the perfect voice for Maura Ryan and does credible differences for all the other characters. No mean feat considering the majority are all brothers from the same family. Aldington has a smoky voice, a London fog of a voice, that epitomises the atmosphere of the book. She can't do Irish, mind.

There's a lovely extra after the book has finished, a chat between Aldington and Martina Cole. If you thought Aldington's voice was smoky wait until you hear Cole's - you can almost chew it! 


Hound of the Baskervilles - a farce by northern Rep. 

And the best came last. Over the River Irwell to Salford I walked, and into the Victorian interior of the King's Arms. Great beer, great bar staff and a supporter of the arts - after a few pints I made my way upstairs (with another pint) to the tiny studio along with 16 other souls (this is pretty much a sellout, it really is that small). Inside the studio I'm greeted by the great Mr Holmes himself, together with his ever present companion Dr Jane Watson. After a brief game of charades whilst we waited for others to arrive (play and a book, 5 words, first word 'the') the telling of the great mystery was upon us. Holmes and Watson romped through this most singular tale, regaling us with accurate depictions of all the characters armed with nothing more than false moustaches and 2D pipes and pistols. How they capture the mystery of the moors, how they impart the terror of the hound - how we howled. We howled because we were the voice of the great dog (yes, it's a spoiler but come on, you knew that, right?), but we howled because every other line was hilarious. A real farce of theatre - cheeky, laden with double and triple entendres, corpsing, script and off-script, audience participation, the lot. I truly haven't laughed out loud for so long in many years. It's pure daftness, creativity that was probably born in a pub as well as performed above one. Christopher Brown roars his way through as the greatest ever sleuth (and others) whilst Angela Hazeldine encourages, discourages and sets 'em up as the ever faithful Dr Watson (and others). She absolutely nails a South African accent too. Pffft.

With a brief interval of 20 mins for another pint (we all came back, no danger of doing otherwise!) they kept up this pace for almost 2 hours. For £12 that's incredible value and you don't have to be a genius to work out that with a capacity of about 18 they ain't gonna make a killing. I don't know how many others had free tickets but I hope they also put a fair amount into the jar on their way out. I may love a freebie but I'm not out to put real entertainment like this out of business. Honestly, if ever you get the chance, free or otherwise, see this show. Now to look up other Northern Rep stuff.

Thanks for reading this huge blog (if you made it this far). It's a hobby, nothing more. I like to write but lack the talent to make money from it. I like new experiences but lack the money to pay for all I want to see. This blog lets me pretend I;m doing both and with the money I do have I can still support the peripheries - a drink in the bar before the show, a coffee in the cafe, a small souvenir or programme. I really don't aim to take take take all the time,  I do have fully paid for experiences I don't write about! Peace.