sally_maria: (Here and There)
Last weekend it was time for the Tolkien Society AGM again, and this year we were visiting Warwick. It's actually not that far from here - less than an hour away, but therefore I'd never actually visited the town, only the castle, and that longer ago than I care to think about.

It's actually a very interesting town, with quite a few historic buildings and museums, and I wouldn't mind going back again to see more of them.

First of all, I was trying to meet up with [personal profile] wellinghall, [personal profile] adaeze and Little Star at lunchtime on Friday, at the Thomas Oken's house tea rooms. It was well worth a visit, if only for the unexpected member of our party...

Warwick 2017
click through for the rest of my photos.

Other highlights of the weekend included )
sally_maria: (Oldest Hills)
One day I will write DW entries regularly and without lots of second-guessing myself, but obviously not yet...

In the meantime, a few weeks ago I was invited by long-standing friends to crash their family visit to Pembrokeshire, where their parents have retired to. I took a long and beautiful train ride out to Haverfordwest, and met up with them to do the last few miles to Broad Haven, on the coast.

The weather wasn't particularly wonderful, but in between card games I spent a lot of time admiring the view from their lounge window.

Pembrokeshire 2017

(Click through for more pictures)

One day we did go to St Davids, famous as the smallest city in the UK - far smaller than Winchcombe - but it has a cathedral, and that's more important than size.

St Davids

(Click through for more pictures)

I was very grateful for the invitation - a lovely chance to get away and catch up, and visit a lovely part of the world I hadn't seen for 20 years or so.


Sep. 12th, 2016 04:45 pm
sally_maria: (TS Sleep)
Oxonmoot is the Tolkien Society's annual social/academic event, held in Oxford in September for over 40 years. (This was my 19th, but I know there are those on my flist who've been going rather longer.)

It's been a highlight of my year almost from the beginning - a chance to spend the weekend with friends, to learn, to relax and to stay up far too late and try unusual alcohol. :-)

Danish Ent Beer, Finnish Cloudberry Liqueur and Pudding Vodkas )

There were many interesting papers given on a wide range of Tolkien-related topics, and I didn't manage to get to anything like all of them.

These were some of my favourites )

What made this year even better than usual, though, was a special performance of Leaf by Niggle, by Richard Medrington and the Puppet State Theatre Company, just for us. The work involved in getting the dining hall set up as a theatre space (and taking it down afterwards) was considerable, but it was so worth it. It was a lovely, moving, and thought-provoking version, one actor, some family heirlooms and Tolkien's text presented almost complete. Another speaker, Joel Cornah, had talked earlier in the day about the importance of getting the "voice" right in any Tolkien adaptation, and this very much did.

If you get the chance to see it (and at the moment it seems to be touring mostly in Scotland), I'd say you really should - it's just wonderful, both as an adaptation and a piece of theatre.
sally_maria: (Not Amused)
I've had the week off this week, and decided it was time to get round to taking Dad to see the Docklands Light Railway, something he has talked about, but never got round to doing. (Well, not since about 1997, anyway.;-D)

As that seemed a bit of shallow thing to hang a day trip on, I went looking for things to see and found the Museum of London Docklands, in one of the old warehouses still standing near Canary Wharf.

ETA: Should have fixed the photos now.

Cut for photos and rambling )
sally_maria: (Foremarke Hall)
Even though I'm no longer involved in the Tolkien Society committee, I still try to get to the AGM weekend every year. It's a great excuse to spend the weekend with friends, often listen to an interesting speaker at the Annual Dinner, and visit a new and interesting town/city. (There are so many interesting places I would probably have never got round to visiting if it wasn't for the TS.)

This year it was York, and while I'm sure I would have visited more of the city if it wasn't for the stinking cold I've been fighting, I did get to see quite a lot of the centre, including the Shambles, the Minster, the Yorkshire Museum and of course, the National Railway museum.

NRM April 16

(Click through for more pictures.)

Flying Scotsman fever has of course seized the museum, as it has the country - there are a lot of interesting presentations of the history of the FS express service, which existed long before the steam locomotive bearing the name, and the media and publicity attention it had from the very beginning.
(I must admit I'm more of a GWR fan - and my discussion of the exhibits included pointing out the model of City of Truro - which did 100mph long before that LNER upstart. ;-D)

On Sunday morning I went round with a group from the TS, and demonstrated that a little learning is a dangerous thing by attempting to explain various railway related things. I was obviously speaking too loud, as I was pounced on by one of the museum volunteers, who wanted to talk me into joining them. *blushes* Still, it was a good visit, and I was pleased to find Mallard, and a Royal Mail sorting carriage, which I missed the first time round.


Dec. 6th, 2015 04:45 pm
sally_maria: Lego minifig monster pushing a trolley of books (Book Monster)
Yesterday, I went to the the Tolkien Society Yulemoot in Birmingham - a new event for this year, just an evening sitting around in a pub, more or less, but a nice chance to catch up with friends, and meet some new people. I hope it's something they'll do again next year. It was lovely to meet [personal profile] kizzia again, and to travel home with [ profile] adaese.

Birmingham is well worth visiting at this time of year in any case, as the German Christmas market takes over more and more of the city centre. Lots of wonderful things to see, eat and drink - one of my favourites was the bar in a giant wooden advent calendar, being entertained by a steel drum band. :-)

Having gone to Centenary Square, I decided it was time to actually visit the new(ish) Library of Birmingham, which I'd admired on television. I wasn't a fan of the old Brutalist concrete building, and find this one much more appealing. A number of years ago, when we first moved TS committee meetings to Birmingham, we were able to use a hidden away treasure- the Shakespeare Memorial Room, originally built as part of the Victorian library - because of a member who worked there. With the building of the new library, it was moved again, this time to the very top of the new building, and freely open to the public, when not in use as a meeting room. I enjoyed the chance to take some pictures, both of the room, and the view from the gallery outside, over the cityscape.

Library of Birmingham

(Click through to Flickr to see the rest of the pictures)

Oxonmoot +

Sep. 23rd, 2015 09:26 pm
sally_maria: (TS Sleep)
I've always been useless at writing up my weekends, even when most people were here to read it, and again I've failed to do so.

So, rather than me droning on, have some videos. :-)

Author Joel Cornah on
Tolkien and Doctor Who

Eminent Tolkien scholar Doctor Dimitra Fimi on
Constructions of Childhood in Tolkien's Legendarium

And a short video covering the whole event by the Sci fi Fantasy Network (yes, you can see me, or at least my back, for a few seconds. ;-D)

And in case you've seen them all already, have a link to some fun icons - Cats and Books, by oraclegreen.
sally_maria: (Foremarke Hall)
As someone of you have seen elsewhere, this weekend is my local heritage railway's Steam Gala. It's been too long since I paid them a visit, and I couldn't resist the temptation to see some new engines, and take another ride in a brake van.

As they've done in previous years, they had three visiting engines from other railways, as well as four of the home fleet in steam. (This involves complicated logistics with the timetable, with six of them actively involved in pulling four trains, plus one on standby, just in case one of them breaks. The gala runs for three days, and they have a different permutation every day...)

The visitors were Wadebridge: )

and City of Wells )

both West Country Class "spamcans" - a very strange shape for people like me used to the classic GWR style but variety is the spice of life, they say. :-)

And also Raveningham Hall )

which is what I expect a steam engine to look like. :-)

Another attraction was a further Southern engine - P&O Line - which has taken the best part of 30 years to be reconstructed, and which was displayed away from Toddington for the first time. (She might actually be in traffic later this year, but then they said that last year and the year before. ;-D)

3 years in the life of a Merchant Navy Class )

The next project was on display in the car park at Toddington this year...

In case you were wondering just what takes that long )

Other highlights that don't photograph so well included the brake van ride, as always. I'm usually so much an indoor person, who'd happily not step foot outside as long as I have my books and my computers, but when it comes to riding exposed to the wind and the rain, with a great view of the surroundings, I don't mind at all. This year we were right behind the engine going through the tunnel on the return journey, and it was fascinating to watch the roof in the light of the fire from the firebox. (On the way down we were at the back of the train, and it's pitch black, no light at all to be seen.)

And finally, a train actually moving:
Wadebridge coming into Winchcombe station )

A day out

Aug. 28th, 2014 07:14 pm
sally_maria: (Silver on the Tree)
It was my day off today, and my aunt invited me and my mother to meet her at Highfield Garden World near Slimbridge. We hadn't been there before, but it's actually only 35 mins or so away down the motorway - a shorter journey than to my aunt's house in Avening, even though it's considerably further in distance.

It's taken the classic modern pattern of expanding into other kinds of retail (I bought a new shoulder bag for work) and has an interesting food section, including ice-cream from our favourite local firm, Winstones. :-) I was a bit surprised to see a Post Office there though - first garden centre I've seen with one of those. We enjoyed jacket potatoes from the very well presented restaurant, and looking out at the countryside, at least until it started raining.

As I may have said before, that part of Gloucestershire is where my maternal grandfather's family came from and we decided to go into Berkeley, to see if we could find any sign of them. My mother's cousin had found a family house in the past, but failed to give us the address. So we went into the church, and found memorials to a number of Pearces, including my gggg-grandfather's brother and sister. The others are not immediately connected, but I'll look out for them in future research.

We also drove through Little Cambridge, in search of the farm where the photo I posted several weeks ago was taken. No sign of it, though looking at Google Maps of the area it looks as if the area may have been built on, and it's difficult to tell if the original farm house is still there. Now we know we were looking in the right place, we'll probably go back one day and walk around - there's only so much you can see, even on Street View. (Oh, the problems of the modern internet... ;-D)
sally_maria: (Doctor 11 - Jammy Dodger)
I promised a report, and here it is. :-)

When I heard that Worldcon was coming to London, I really wanted to take the opportunity to attend when it was on my door-step, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it. Thanks to the offer of a floor to crash on at Umbrella Man's nearby flat, and being very firm with my manager, I managed to overcome most of the obstacles, and on the Wednesday evening after work I set off for the big city. :-)

Cat was also staying, and after an evening of eating pizza, taking apart computers and playing Martian Fluxx, we set our alarms to get there in good time for Registration on Thursday morning.

If I tried to describe all the panels I attended, and people that I met, I know I'd miss people and bore you all silly, so I'll be content to say that I had a wonderful weekend, enjoyed Doctor Who and book panels, the vid shows run by [personal profile] such_heights and [ profile] eldritchhobbit's wonderful talk on Sherlock Holmes and sci-fi.

(If you'd like a look at the Excel Centre and some of the exhibit area and fan village, I hope she won't mind me linking to her pictures, which are far better than anything I took.)

I did take a few pictures of things I fell in love with in the exhibit hall...

Angst-Lesspork )

Lego Millenium Falcon )

The Tiki Dalek )

Other things I really enjoyed included... )

All in all, an experience I'll always remember, and while there's no way my budget can stretch to cross-Atlantic flights, if the Dublin bid for 2019 succeeds, I'll certainly do my best to be there.
sally_maria: (Watchful Dragon)
As a number of you will know from other places, or because you're here ;-) I'm currently attending Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention.

This isn't a proper post, as it's far too late, but a note to say that I'm thoroughly enjoying myself, and promise to write that proper post later.
sally_maria: (Timeheart)
On Thursday we decided to take advantage of the good weather and visit these famous gardens. (One of those places you always intend to visit, one of these days, and don't always get round to.) If you haven't come across it before, there's a pretty good Wikipedia entry. It's one of the first big English style landscape gardens, with lawns, woods and random structures to make it more visually interesting.

ETA I was also pointed by a friend to the DNB article on Viscount Cobham, the originator of the gardens.

Admiring the Pebble Arch

More photos under here )

For the completeists among you, I made an album with all the pictures I took on Flickr. :-)
sally_maria: (TS Sleep)
I promised an entry about it when I was less tired, and I think I've probably achieved that. :-)

Last year [ profile] apademek and [ profile] gurthaew tried to organise the AGM, but unfortunately it fell through. They were determined not to let the chance pass us by, however, and this year they were able to make it happen.

The venue was Baskerville Hall Hotel, near Hay on Wye.

Picture under here )

Allegedly Arthur Conan Doyle was a frequent visitor to the home of his friends the Baskervilles and their many hunting hounds, but moved the house to Devon to put tourists off the scent... who knows whether it's true or not.

It's certainly set in beautiful countryside,

View from an upper window )

and is close to the famous book town of Hay-on-Wye. Book collecting, and reading in general, being a very common interest in the TS, it was bound to attract a large number of attendees, and the time of the meeting was put back accordingly.

As I'd booked later than some (a whole month before the event) I had to have a premium room as the only one available. It wasn't as big as some, though big enough, but I did have my first ever four-poster bed, and the first time I've ever had to climb steps to get in.

The evidence :-) )

I bought 5 books, which I thought was very restrained of me, but had a very nice trip around the bookshops with TS friends old and new, including [personal profile] kizzia, at her first TS event. (I don't think we scared her off. :-D) Other highlights of the weekend included causing trouble at the AGM by too much talking with ExMemSec and John Garth's interesting after-dinner talk on Tolkien's time as an undergraduate at Exeter College.

One of the downsides of no longer volunteering is that I don't see people as often... It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and I'm already looking forward to next year's meeting in Arundel.
sally_maria: (Dreamsheep Cross Stitch)
As I have another week off, to use time up before the end of the holiday year, I was free to visit [ profile] gayalondiel and her knitting/sewing group at the Fair Trade shop here in Winchcombe. :-) (If you've never had TraidCraft biscuits, you are missing out.)

It was lovely to see her, and I actually got some cross-stitch done, something that's more or less fallen by the wayside since we moved here. You never know, one day I might start the steam engine I had got all the materials for before we moved. The internet has a lot to answer for...

Still, having finally succumbed and bought a Blu-Ray player (and the latest Marvel films), I should have more excuse to get away from the computer screen.
sally_maria: (Santa penguin)

I'm sitting on my new computer chair (much more comfortable and less creaky than the old one) and admiring my Jemima Catlin Hobbit calendar.

It's been a good day so far, with one of the highlights being the real donkey that visited the service at the parish church this morning. :-) She was very well behaved and patient with the children.

One more outing planned for tomorrow, the Boxing Day Carols at Gloucester Cathedral. Having gone last year to see gayalondiel, we enjoyed it so much we're definitely planning another visit.


Sep. 29th, 2013 06:04 pm
sally_maria: (TS Sleep)
Was last weekend, and I had a good time, as I usually do. :-)

It was lovely to see many friends again, in such beautiful surroundings - though odd not to have to be much involved in the organisation, after 4 years. It all went very well, and Toryboy did an excellent job at Enyaliƫ, I thought. (As I said to several people at the event, I think it is in many ways the most difficult of the Chairman's tasks. It's so public, and so important, but it's also very personal - it's all down to you to decide what to say and how to say it.)

The LotR and Hobbit Lego saw some active use in Ops/Hospitality - one favourite adaptation was:
The Web Enabled Troll )

Highlights of the weekend for me included Jemima Catlin, the artist who has created the new illustrated edition of the Hobbit, released a few days before the weekend. It was very interesting to hear her talk about her inspirations and I found I got so much more out of the illustrations through being encouraged to really look at them - they have a lot of small details that are easy to miss at first glance.
Banner made by another attendee )

One point that I would probably have missed, for example, the way she used the famous photo of the Professor leaning back against a tree as inspiration for Bilbo's pose on the cover, as you can see in the banner.

Another thing that I was very much looking forward to was not strictly an Oxonmoot event, though we did get a special viewing, but was the Magical Worlds exhibition at the Bodleian. It's a free exhibition, on until the 27th October, and I highly recommend it to any one who loves children's fantastic writing. It contains everything from illuminated medieval manuscripts to the 6 circles, from Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series (Wood, Bronze, Iron, Water, Fire, Stone). It also has several of Tolkien's original illustrations for the Hobbit, the first page of the handwritten manuscript for "The Fall of Arthur" and also manuscripts from authors such as Alan Garner and Philip Pullman. It was a lovely way to spend a hour in the company of other fans. :-)

Next year it's going to be an extended event, starting on the Thursday - definitely looking forward to it.

Too long

Aug. 18th, 2013 11:21 am
sally_maria: Peggy Carter looking away over her shoulder (Peggy Carter)
It's been far too long since I posted here. I've been keeping busy with Sundays on the railway as well as working full time, and not mustering the energy to write anything more than the odd tweet/FB post.

Not working today, though, and I had a wonderful evening yesterday. [personal profile] alitalf and Hibernia drove over to have dinner with me and [ profile] gayalondiel. We went to the newly-opened Yo!Sushi - a restaurant I hadn't been to before, but which was a fun experience, even for someone who doesn't actually like fish and therefore doesn't really do sushi. :-) Ordering random dishes or picking things up from the conveyor belt as it moves past your table is a different way of eating dinner but a refreshing change.

Then we were able to go back to gaya's place for coffee and admire the cats, at least the ones who were prepared to emerge into a room of strange humans. :-) A and H then very kindly drove me home, though unfortunately it was dark by then so they missed the views. One day I will have to send the parents away on holiday and actually have a moot.

Today, I'm resting up, as I have busy week coming up - commuting to Swindon 4 out of 5 days. (The office in Swindon is severely short of staff, and our manager has been helping out by arranging for some of us to help cover, travel expenses paid.) It's a longer day, but the train journey is good for reading and it's interesting to be doing something slightly different. One day I will have to make a trip to Swindon for the Steam Museum there, now that I've had the chance to see where it is.
sally_maria: (Foremarke Hall)
The weekend was the first Steam Gala for my local railway for a number of years, and they decided to push the boat out with a major event, including 3 visiting locos (925, 80072, 8572) as well as the 4 that normally work the line.

I was working Friday and Saturday, unfortunately, but was able to volunteer to help in the cafe yesterday (very busy, lot of fun) and to go as a visitor today. My shiny new phone came in very handy, and I took quite a few pictures, some of which you can see on Flickr here.

Highlights of the day including travelling from Toddington down to Cheltenham in the brake van on the back of the freight train they had running all weekend, as well as 3 passenger trains.

Brake van )

As you can probably tell from the picture, it was a draughty trip but the view all round was wonderful. We had the chance to chat with the guard, and a couple of experienced volunteers, and hear a lot more about the history and running of the railway. The most exciting bit was probably going through the tunnel - it's nearly 700 ft long and curves through the hill, so the middle, in the unlit brake van, was pitch black. The last time I was anywhere that dark, it was down a coal mine.

Coming back to Toddington in a slighter better lit vehicle, I looked around the site and had a ride on the narrow-gauge railway. Only about half a mile, but their workshop was open and interesting to look around - though I was rather amused by this sign on the way out.

What did they think we were going to get up to in there? )

I also climbed up onto the foot plate of this monster...

Merchant Navy Class 35006 )

She's been under restoration at Toddington since 1983 (she'd been heavily cannibalised for parts for other engines), and they're hoping that she'll be ready to steam later this year.

Finally, back in Cheltenham the Racecourse was being used for a Bank Holiday weekend fun event, and this was the sight we were greeted with, as we came into the station. :-)

sally_maria: Steve Rogers in army uniform (Captain Steve Rogers)
As some of you will have seen elsewhere on social media, today was my first day helping out with On Train Catering for my local heritage railway, the GWSR.

This weekend was their first ever 1940s event, Wartime in the Cotswolds. Unfortunately I was too busy working to get many pictures of many of the wonderful costumes that could be seen around on the trains and platforms, but just one example of the entrance to Winchcombe station...

Under here )

As for the job itself, I enjoyed it - pretty hectic at times, particularly when one of the water pipes decided to leak everywhere after about three-quarters of an hour, and we had to turn the water tank and boiler off, and make hot drinks with a plug-in urn and lots of insulated jugs for the rest of the day. There were four of us, and two more relief over lunchtime so we could have a short break, and we were kept busy, but in a good way - lots of happy customers enjoying a day out. I got time to sit down and chat to a chap from the Free French Navy, eat a bacon roll and some very nice cake, before the queues built up again. :-)

I've nothing but respect for the BR employees who used to work in this kitchen and others like it, not just making bacon rolls and tea-cakes like we do, but actually serving meals.

My next shift isn't until nearly the end of May, when I have one of the days of the Steam Gala at the station cafe in Winchcombe. It's easier to get to from here, and more room to move around, but we shall see whether it's as much fun.
sally_maria: (No personal life)
Yesterday was my last Tolkien Society committee meeting (at least for the foreseeable future).

I'm still in post, until midnight on the 20th April, after the AGM, and there's still quite a lot to do between now and then. On the other hand, going to Birmingham (and before that Oxford) every couple of months for a meeting and a meal afterwards has been part of my life for the last 15 years. It's going to be strange not to be doing that.

I decided I wanted to make a little bit of an occasion of it, and arranged for us to go to a slightly fancier restaurant than usual - Asha's, which is a very nice Indian restaurant, only minutes from where we usually meet. We had an excellent meal, which was a nice end to an era.

Another interesting part of the day was an organised fund-raising event for Action for Children - the Big Egg Hunt. I spotted the first of the Eggs as I was walking along New St and there were a mass of them outside the Council House in Victoria Square

Some of the Eggs )

I didn't have time to take part, but there were quite a few happy children defying the bitterly cold weather to run around looking for the Eggs, and I really enjoyed seeing such an interesting and unusual way of raising money.


sally_maria: Daniel Jackson looking sideways (Default)
wrong but wromantic

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