Tag Archives: covid

Galavanting for Gateaux


I was once asked why I exercised & I flippantly replied ‘so I can eat all the cake I want with out worrying too much’! I also like to travel so when it’s possible to combine the two things then its definitely a win for me.

USA Cupcake – Last before Lockdown

Its hard to think back to March 2020 but there I was sat in a Fort Lauderdale hotel eating this cup cake & trying to take in the fact that the trip to join daughter for shore leave at Disney World was now in total abort mode.

Trying to maintain a sense of calm eating cake was certainly one way of coping with cancelled flights & being marooned in the USA.

It was a case of ‘every woman for herself’ as events unfolded at an alarming pace it was clear meeting up was not an option. I found myself confined to the vicinity of the hotel trying to bag a seat on any flight home.

I have to confess to succumbing to thoughts of several potential ‘escape’ options that saw me apply for a Canadian visa & google how far it was to drive to the border! It’s true I love a road trip but honestly with hindsight this idea seems a tad crazy now but at the time the rising fear of being marooned away from home engendered a sense of panic I had not experienced before.

As it turned out a nice lady from American airlines secured me a place on one of the last flights out of Miami while I tucked into a slice of key lime pie.

Pie

As the plane touched down it occurred to me that essentially I had travelled ‘there & back again’ to buy a guitar book that whilst useful ordering via Amazon might have worked out a cheaper.

Confined to barracks as we were & the introduction of what seemed to be onerous travel rules its been over two years since I have taken an international flight. The lockdowns certainly redefined many things for me one of which was the realisation how important the small things that give you pleasure can be. With domestic travel restricted & cake shops closed being forced to stay indoors the only option was to bake at home so below are a few examples of cakes made by daughter & me.

Ever creative & tiring of home made cakes daughter & I realised that we could visit local garden centres & suddenly the ones with cafes become destination venues.

By June following weeks of lockdown collecting a drain cover from Swindon now constituted a road trip & the prospect of stopping at a Starbucks drive through never more welcoming even if cake options were limited.

It was August before the restrictions lifted enough to allow a jaunt on the motorbike to Monmouth in Wales. This was no mean feat as Wales now operating as a separate entity to England meant the rules were slightly different. However the weather was good & we managed to get a seat on the pavement outside in the sunshine which felt like we were on holiday for a brief moment or two.

The local ‘cakery’ of choice has to be the Vintage Birdcage which serves an alarming array of delicious cakes but if on a venture to London then a visit is not complete without a visit to a branch of Peggy Porschen.

As the restrictions waxed and waned the desire to get out increased and so it was hubby & I ventured out on the motorbike again. When it comes to scones my Cornish genes prevail & I am definitely a jam before clotted cream person regardless of location and choice. If visiting UK definitely add this tea time treat to your ‘to do’ list.

Clotted Cream

As a child I remember being sent to collect this from the local shop where the lady broke the crust of a large tray with a big spoon to add to the container I brought. Now days it comes in repacked pots from the supermarket. If taking scones anywhere don’t settle for whipped, pouring or synthetic ‘squirty’ cream as you will not be getting the authentic experience in my view. Ideally with tea served in a teapot & china crockery too.

Although a fully paid up cakeaholic it has to be said I’m not especially drawn to lemon based cooked items unless they are exceptional. The lemon Earl Grey combo in Rhayader was certainly an example of one.

More biking this time to the North found us in Coldstream taking afternoon tea with friends in the Alice in Wonderland themed tea shop. The Biscoff based cupcake evoked memories of being in San Francisco on the pier & visiting the Biscoff shop.

The return to galavanting for gateaux in the company of friends or family has been at times a complex & drawn out procedure but most definitely worth the effort. As the weeks & months have gone by arrangements once again can be made to get out and do things & get back to a place which previously we all took for granted.

One of the great things has been getting back to eating out at pubs & restaurants and sampling the glorious puddings on offer. Below are a selection of the best I have had recently all for different reasons in terms of texture & flavour. None likely to be considered good for the waist line but definitely for the soul as they were part of the process of creating new memories with family & friends.

While the ‘mask on / mask off’ debate still lingers the future is starting to look a little brighter & the prospect of international travel without onerous difficulty has started to look like a realistic prospect once more.

But until next time all masks are off & I’m off to the pub – now menu please!

Bonkers in Bristol – My Final Musical Hurrah of 2021


To London from Cheltenham, daughter & I bypassed our traditional post coach journey cafe in favour of the Chelsea branch where staff served us alfresco with superb tea & cakes to enjoy in the autumn sun.

Wandering around taking in the extraordinary doorways & shop fronts decorated as part of the Chelsea Flower show week we then made our way to Angel Islington once more locating the O2 venue with ease .

Drinks in hand there was to time catch up with musician Danny Wright a truly lovely person just before his headline performance & the reason for our visit.

It brought home once more the tough time those involved in the hospitality & music industry have been having. It felt really good to be able to show some support both to the venue & the fantastic artists who gave awesome performances for us.

Listening to Danny’s set I can honestly say it was one of the best gigs of the year as it was clear how much personal effort he had invested in the organising of the event not only for his fans but the support artists too.

It felt like no sooner that we returned from our day trip to the ‘Big Smoke’ we were retesting & repacking before heading north to Manchester. We had not seen All Time Low since Cardiff 2018 so combining a gig with a city break seemed a ‘no brainer’ as this would provide an opportunity to actually explore what is actually quite a vibrant place.

Unseasonably warm weather meant as we wandered along the city centre in search of coffee & cake we passed numerous football fans clad in team regalia sipping pints on the pavement. Wishing to avoid the melee we headed to Spinningfields area consisting of reclaimed old buildings alongside sleek new ones. So it was we found ourselves in 202 Kitchen a very pink restaurant where we ate some great food washed down with chilled rose wine before visiting the Peoples Museum.

It was no accident that the gig venue was within walking distance of the hotel but we clearly missed a trick not slipping a couple of cans in our handbag to sip while we queued outside. Admission was slowed due to the covid checks & some of the creative crowd dispatched surplus mates to collect pints from the local pub.

All Time Low clearly had read their fans correctly as the set list was a great combination of old familiar & new songs. They weren’t the first band to comment how strange it felt to be playing effectively new material to a live audience for the first time who already knew the words. The sloping floor of this O2 provided perfect for viewing even if towards the rear of the crowd & the opportunity to sing out loud was awesome.

Amidst the panic of the ‘UK fuel crisis’ the journey home felt potentially stressful. Whilst not normally willing to pay expensive motorway services prices the opportunity of an empty forecourt with petrol was too good to miss & we could then travel back worry free.

Now both well practised in the art of a quick turnaround we grabbed our bags & headed to Cardiff & the Great Hall to see probably my most favourite band The Hunna. Not disappointed at either the very cheap bar prices (don’t mind if we do have some doubles please) or the music. Again they played an interesting mix of old & new where the crowd sang with gusto that helped relieve the collective tension that I believe everyone has been amassing during the months of uncertainty & ever changing restrictions. Predominantly a young crowd ( even my daughter felt ‘old’) I couldn’t help feeling sorry for these young folk who have had some of their youth ‘stolen’ from them. I hope they all live long enough to claw some fun back in later years like I am in my retirement.

So the last gig I attended was back in Bristol with a visit yet another O2 venue to see Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes. This time alone my hubby kindly dropped me off & I ventured in to the venue still amazed that I had continued to test negative to covid & had managed to get to all the rescheduled 2020 events even squeezing in a few extras like this one.

What a blast I was ‘adopted’ by two lovely young people & with their support I was able to join in the mosh pit. This is something I had never previously had an opportunity to do & although I didn’t stay in long it was definitely a ‘tick off the list of things to do in life’ for me. They expertly saw to it that I came out unscathed & we may even team up again at another Rattlesnakes gig in the future.

So as the year headed to a close I at least could look back and treasure the amazing new memories generated at the various events in the company of many good people. It is possible even in the midst of a terrible situation to still find joy and fun it seems if you surround adopt a positive can do attitude it seems.

However you spent your New Years Eve I hope you had a safe & lovely time and here’s wishing everyone the best 2022 they can experience.

Some People Think I’m Bonkers..Part 1


Others may consider me bonkers but in all honesty my mantra for the past six weeks or so truly has been ‘but I just think I’m free’ too over indulge in live music events. Covid restrictions saw to it that the events originally scheduled across the whole of 2020 were due to multiple date changes all condensed in to this small time window.

The mayhem kicked off with the adventure to Newquay to catch up with festival buddy Pauline at Boardmasters. I felt as if I had been cast in some strange ‘reality tv show’ with the possibility of eviction ever present on the say so of a single positive lateral flow test. Before during & after was filled with nerve wracking moments as one waited for the vital pink line to emerge granting you permission on to the next event.

Given that horrendous weather had derailed Boardmasters in 2019 only to be cancelled again due to covid in 2020 it felt exciting to be a part of it in 2021. Indeed nothing blew the lingering post lockdown blues away quicker than exchanging happy banter whilst checking tickets & dishing out wristbands to hundreds of fellow festival goers.

Off shift we got to listen to live music & explore the local area which I had not visited since my twenties. Originally a surfer meet due to the quality of the waves I guiltily confess to having thrown a wet suit & boogie board in the car that I didn’t actually get around to using them.

It was almost impossible not to be moved by the various artists emotional response to stepping out on various stages after what was almost two years. Some voiced how they had begun to think live performance was a thing of the past & others how strange it was to play music that had been released yet never toured so they had no idea of how their fans were going to respond. They needn’t have worried though as the crowds cheered and danced as the alcohol flowed (which was amazing in itself given the prices) but it certainly was great to be able to see so many happy people.

Whilst not a Dizzee Rascal, fan listening to this live rendition of Bonkers by the artist supported by the crowd of thousands enthusiastically singing along it did make me consider just how important music is to lots of people. Personally I would have found dealing with the long weeks of lockdown so much harder without it.

Festivals are all about discovering new music & Inhaler were definitely a good find but also I found the personality of Beccy Hill & Maisie Peters very compelling though their style very different. Newquay hasn’t changed over much & catching the double decker bus that ferried us along the coast road brought back many memories.

The chaos caused by an incident on the road before me forced an unscheduled break in what was initially an empty rest area. As the car park filled & not wishing to sit for hours in a traffic jam I decided to cut across the Moors. Not quite a short cut it certainly was a journey down memory lane as I whizzed past pubs & places last frequented with hubby when we first started going out together nearly forty years ago. Amazingly most looked to still be in business so I think we will have to put a revisit on the ‘too do’ list.

No sooner home the grubby camping gear was washed, sorted & repacked ready for Reading Festival about 10 days later. Still involving water this festival flanks the banks of the River Thames. Reading I have discovered is my ‘musical home’ such were the plethora of bands I wanted to see I had to make a complex schedule on the back of my shift sheet. Sad & old school maybe but when the app was down it made for easy decisions on where & when to dash between stages to maximise listening potential.

In my stewards tabard I started to feel like the ‘patron saint of lost things’ successfully reuniting the tearful & very grateful man to his lost phone which contained his whole universe to the lad who arrived minus his glasses at the remote gate I was on. His powers of navigation had been nullified by what ever he had been imbibing as he was resolutely walking in completely the wrong direction into the dark wilds of Berkshire. Escorting him to the festival entrance & the bridge back to ‘Neverland’ (well the festival campsite & his mates at least) left me musing that none of these tasks featured in the steward training sessions.

Bands in my experience recently are a bit like buses – you might wait a long time to see one but then they all come along at once. I had tried to get tickets to see Biffy Clyro many times & failed miserably so I jumped with joy when I finally got tickets for a gig in Glasgow.

With all the lockdown restrictions in addition to the Scottish rules I began to despair of seeing them at all until the music gods took pity and it was revealed they were to play at Reading in addition to You me @Six.

YAMAS

Until then I had only seen YAMAS in smaller venues so that was a real unexpected treat. Due to the shift patterns I could only catch a bit of my favourite band The Hunna by ‘dashing’ from one side of the arena in the ubiquitous speed walk of a nurse traversing a hospital corridor dodging people & obstacles. Just one of many odd transferable skills that have proved useful in retirement.

Despite the risk of a dousing from ‘beer’ ( rather not think of the alternative warm liquid it might have been) randomly thrown into the crowd my favourite off duty haunt was The Pit or Lockup Tent.

Waterparks

From the quirky Waterparks with front man Awsten Knight’s madcap antics & generally upbeat tunes to the dark often quite challenging lyrics in songs by Badflower. It was amazing to see both bands actually had been able to leave the USA to appear at the festival as nothing was a given due to the effects of covid & the ever changing rules. The icing on the cake was Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes appearing as the ‘surprise guest act’ with their ‘old school style’ slightly angry, shouty punk which for me summed up a lot of what was making many currently angry.

Saying thank you & cheerio to Pauline for again being a great festival buddy it was time to sit in the car for several hours in order to leave the site. It took longer to drive the mile or two up the winding track into reading than the entire journey home. This time tent was aired and packed away & bags re packed for the next trip the following weekend.

Take care for now & back shortly with Part 2.