I spent a pleasant 48 hours over Christmas with relatives in Berkshire. I failed to take any photos, though this one was taken of me by my cousin, Teresa,
she of the boutique Wokingham estate agency, Quarters, for which I am very happy to give a plug, was taken during a rare moment when it wasn’t raining.
I was originally meant to be making music with ten others in South Wales from 27th to 30th December but, concerned about Covid, I withdrew. I was worried that I might have been a party pooper, but was pleased to see from a Facebook post that it had gone ahead with everyone else.
Instead I took up a couple of opportunities (my first) to be a vaccine steward, for a pharmacy in Wedmore, where there were six vaccinators and a couple of volunteers. Fortunately I was indoors, on the damp, though warm, days, and for the most part was kept well and satisfyingly occupied.
The music-making in was only 40 minutes or so from a hotel I had visited back in 1975, in a town which I had first visited in 1961. Both visits had been pony-trekking holidays. The first had been as a mid-teens schoolgirl, with my friend Diane, (when we stayed in a guest house), a trip no doubt cooked up by our respective mothers.
The second was as a woman in her late 20s, accompanied by her then eleven-year-old cousin, Mary G, (not the same person as my friend Mary H who appears in these posts from time to time).
So in October last year I had planned to go on from the music-making to spend three nights at that same hotel, especially knowing that there was to be a Mari Lwyd procession in ‘the smallest town in Britain’ to see the New Year in. With Omicron and all that I did wonder whether my stay would be cancelled by the Welsh government, or should be by me, but in fact, because of the greater eventual restrictions in Wales than those pertaining in England, I felt reassured, and a few days beforehand I confirmed that I would be turning up.
It was a soggy, soggy drive on 30th December. I stopped in Abergavenny for a coffee at the Angel Hotel, the first place I came to, and where service appeared to reflect the problem that all of ‘hospitality’ is reported to be suffering at present. But I was pleased to sit down quietly, and then spend a few minutes exploring the charming high street. (I had left my camera – and my phone – in the car. Grrr.)
It was nearly dark when I arrived at the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells. Apart from its exterior, and one view of the bar, I could remember nothing of it from 1975. It is a somewhat quirky, comfortable three-star hotel, grade II listed, also apparently suffering from staff shortages. Agreeable enough for three unhurried days.
The following morning, Christmas Eve, I went out for a short walk to get my bearings. LLanwrtyd Wells grew as a spa town in the 19th century but, to quote Wikipedia, “the area is now better known for recreations such as pony trekking, mountain biking, walking and birdwatching, and for its annual Man versus Horse Marathon, Beer Festival and World Bog Snorkeling Championship”. It took very little time to explore each of the radial roads.
The Neuadd Arms is listed Grade II, and I learned later is for sale. The present owners have been there for 20 years.
I had tried in advance to book my departing Sunday lunch here at the Drover’s Arms, as it had excellent reviews, but it was going to be shut until 22nd January. I learned in due course that this business also is for sale, and has been for some years.
… multi-purpose building…
…. next door to which was a coffee place which I had been intending to patronise.
But it was shut for the holidays.
This 19th century Congregational Chapel, which closed in 2009, is now…
The Newt in Somerset, to be precise. I hadn’t seen my cousin Mary, who lives in Croydon, for several years, so her love of gardens and gardening, along with the fact that I had a garment to hand over that I had knitted for her, gave the perfect pretext for us to get together last Friday, 20th August, in one of my favourite local places.
South West Trains brought her in perfectly on time to Templecombe Station, which is about 15 minutes’ drive from The Newt (also served by GWR to Castle Cary, just five minutes’ away). We started with the obligatory coffee, bought from the Cyder Bar, and studied the plan of the grounds.
By then, we had just 30 minutes or so before our lunch reservation at the Garden Café, and Mary opted to visit The Parabola, which features hundreds of varieties of apples, and I suggested that the kitchen garden would nicely fill the rest of the time.
Not only apples are grown in The Parabola, so named for its shape.
To get to the kitchen garden, you go past the huge wildflower area,
and through a tunnel, which I’ve seen develop from not there, to there but plantless, to supporting small nameless plants,
to producing many different varieties of gourds.
It was time to make our way to The Story of Gardening. No time to wait for this deer to lift its head.
We could have just walked down the slope to the entrance, but instead went the slightly longer way round on the slightly vibrating walkway,
from which we saw these deer.
I think this selection of photographs does not too much replicate the visit I made with my friend Mary four weeks previously!
Mary was very envious of the Victorians for their greenhouses.
Four weeks ago, I assumed that these smell horns would not (because of Covid) be working. This time they certainly were.
On the long Tool Wall, I was attracted to these many balls of string, all apparently made by the same company.
It was time to move back to real plants, mainly flowers, once we had visited the cactus house.
The Cottage Garden
The Victorian Fragrance Garden
Mary pointed out toxic Monk’s Hood to me.
Part of the White Garden, near to the Red and Blue Gardens
The beginning of The Cascade
Hadspen House, now a luxury hotel
The view from the same spot 180 degrees round. The far pool retains its historic name of the Bathing Pool, though I think paddling would be all it enables, now anyway.
The Fowl House, within the Lower Egg
Back through The Parabola,
where Mary got the joke before I did.
After a visit to the farm shop, where we bought freshly ground coffee, and bottles of the pink cyder of which we had been given small samples at lunch, we made our way to the Cyder Bar, where we enjoyed glasses of The Newt’s delicious chilled fresh lemonade.
A final look round the tropical greenhouse, and it was time to take Mary to my place, from where her brother (a third first cousin – I only have five! – met within 11 days!) picked her up from her to spend the night of his and his partner’s house.
Yesterday I posted about the early music course I did a couple of weeks ago, mentioning that I had been taken to the Emergency Department of the Royal Gloucester Hospital on the Tuesday. Here is the write up I have prepared about it.
MY TGA, TRANSIENT GLOBAL AMNESIA
Transient global amnesia is not actual loss of memory, but the failure to lay down memories for a certain period. Meanwhile you can continue to function physically and intellectually at quite a high level.
It happened to me on Tuesday, 3rd August, 2021. I was at Rendcomb College, on a music-making course with the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, known as the ‘Beauchamp’ course for historical reasons. At 4:30, we were in four different groups, and a few minutes after that an appeal came to the group I was with for a tenor to move to another one. No male tenor offering, I did. Once I had found the room, I was greeted by the tutor there with a considerable degree of scepticism. Knowing full well that I could sing tenor, and well – I wouldn’t have volunteered otherwise – I was determined to prove to him that I could do so, and perhaps oversang throughout the session.
I am told that in fact you could see on the tutor’s face from the outset that I was doing fine. Unfortunately I did not register this, and, had I done so, life might have been rather different for the next 12-15 hours. I think the TGA must have started around 5:15, because when the session ‘ended’ I remember thinking how very short it had been. However that thought must have come to me at about 6:30, when I ‘came to’ (i.e. started laying down memories again) and found myself in the rehearsal room with three other people: Jill C, the only person on the course who knew me at all well – thank goodness she had been in the same session, and it’s only by chance she had hung around to ask me something – and the two administrators of the course, Jane and Anne. I recognised who Jill was, but I couldn’t place the others, politeness stopping me asking.
Apparently, when all others at the session had dispersed at 6:00, I had just sat there, not knowing where I was or why I was there. They told me they had called an ambulance, because of my bizarre behaviour. Later on, Jill told me that I had been asking, over and over again (because, I now understand, I was not laying down memories of their answers) where I was and how I had got there. Jill had asked me the names of my cats, which I was able to give, and where they were, which I was not able to say. And apparently, I also thought that I still lived in France, from where I had returned 10 years previously. (Ah, so I did have some loss of actual memories.)
They had first called 111, but poor telephone network had severed that, and they had also called the registered GP for the school, who did not want to know, so they just called the emergency ambulance, though they had no idea when it would arrive. I heard Anne or Jane say that they would ask for dinner (normally 6:30) to be put aside, and I insisted that I was fine to eat it then, by now 6:45. I needed help to find my way downstairs and through to the dining room, but I had no difficulty remembering that I needed to take the vegetarian option, and I also remember saying, ‘But I haven’t got a mask on’, to be told that that really didn’t matter in the circumstances. Though later I recall being puzzled that people were wearing masks at all. Dinner finished, we went through to sit in reception for the ambulance to turn up.
I was accompanied by two of them to my room to pack an overnight bag. I felt very confused and concerned that I wouldn’t remember to take everything, but in the event I did, even surprising myself when I unpacked it again at some of the things I had remembered. No doubt I had been helped by the two women.
When ambulanceman Phil ( from the Southwestern Ambulance Service) came, at about 8:15 I think, he asked me lots of questions and did a few tests. I can’t remember everything, but I can remember him asking whether anything like this had happened before, to which I answered no. At that stage, I did not remember the TIA I (may have) had in March 2016, but I did tell him, or possibly Shaun, who arrived around 10:30 in his ambulance, about it then. Phil saw this as evidence of my having much improved, and indeed, I think I was in fact pretty well back to normal by then. (Of course TIA and TGA are nothing like the same. I did not lose any memory, or rather fail to lay it down, at all during the TIA. But I’m sure I would have mentioned it had I remembered it when asked at the outset if anything like this had happened before.)
The reason that a second ambulance had to come is that Shaun, normally Phil’s partner, had not been able to come with Phil at the outset because he hadn’t had sufficient break. (I am impressed that two ambulances were even available, given the current circumstances.) Shaun was needed for two reasons. Apparently, it was above Phil’s grade to decide whether or not I should be taken to hospital, especially if the decision was negative, and also if I were to be taken to hospital, one ambulance person must be in with the patient.
While Phil would have been inclined not to insist that I went to hospital, Shaun said that once an episode had lasted for more than an hour, it was always their recommendation that the patient should in fact be checked out at the hospital. My own main concern was to be back in time for proceedings the next day, for fear that I would not be included in the various groups as they were planned for the Wednesday. Jill undertook to make sure that I would be!
Meanwhile, Jane and Anne were debating whether one of them should follow in a car to get me back again, but I insisted that neither should come. We had no idea when that would be, and I could get a taxi back anyway.
Shaun’s firm recommendation was that I should go, so I agreed reluctantly. By the time we left the school, at about 11:00 pm, I was feeling fine and my memory for everything outside that hour or so was complete, other than a bit of fuzziness, which remains to this day, about the order of things that I’ve just been describing.
At the hospital all things all seemed very calm in Emergency, nothing like those programmes on television, but I was told that they were having a very busy night. After a few minutes standing, I was led to an area where I was laid on a gurney, where in due course nurses started doing tests on me, and on which I was moved to another area, still in Emergency, later on, for more tests. It was to me chilly – not like hot hospitals I had experienced previously. I was told it was because it was still the Emergency area, and also because they were maintaining deliberately a good flow of air, presumably for Covid reasons. They gave me more blankets.
At no stage did I have any worries, or in fact even think, about Covid, although I was wearing an FFP2 mask of my own throughout after dinner. I had already had a lateral flow test before the ambulance set off with me, (the other ambulance had to be left to be collected by Shaun and Phil later) and another, PCR, was done in the course of the night, along with blood tests, temperature, blood pressure, and an ECG, and, once the doctor – for whom there was a waiting time of six hours, for non-emergency emergencies, (my phrase) – saw me at 7:00 am, various questions to test my mental acuity. She apologised for the “stupidity” of them. Anyway, among other things, I knew my name, my date of birth, what a pen was, what a pen nib was and where I was, (including the full name of the hospital because I had asked that as I arrived). She also asked a lot of other questions, which, as I now recognise from my reading, were designed to eliminate other things that might be going on. She wanted to contact Jill to get a full description of exactly what had happened while I was ‘absent’ but unfortunately network at the school was very poor, and Jill could not be reached. When the doctor came back from trying to do so, said she was going to take a ‘pragmatic’ view of the matter, just telling me not to drive until I really had to (which would be Saturday), and let me go back to the course, which I did, £60 the poorer for the taxi.
At 10:00 pm the night before, when the debate as to whether I should go to hospital was on, I said I just wanted to go to bed because I was feeling very sleepy. Now, I don’t know whether that would been better for me. I got only about an hour’s sleep in Emergency and still, 11 days on, feel that I have not caught up fully with that sleep. On the other hand, yes, I do know it was the right thing to go to the hospital just to have everything checked out.
I have done lots of reading on this phenomenon, which was not given a name by any of the medical people. But googling ‘temporary memory loss’ has led me to the clear conclusion that I had an attack of TGA. The symptoms are identical. Fortunately, all the literature indicates that it is pretty rare, and that it’s incredibly rare to have a second attack in a lifetime. I am just at the top end of the age group which is most susceptible to it: about 25 in 100,000 in that age group may expect to have one in a lifetime.
Why did it happen? Given all my reading, (Wikipedia and various mainly American articles) I can put it down to three possibilities, perhaps in combination:
– hyperventilation, as I forced my voice to sing tenor, something I do regularly, but not in circumstances where I’m doubted and thus perhaps forcing;
– the stress of trying to prove that I could sing tenor (if so, where are my priorities?!);
– abnormal breath pressure on the closed glottis.
I am immensely grateful to the medical services, and the three women, for all the care they took of me. It must have been pretty frightening for Jill, Jane, and Anne, more so than for me, as I was just confused, (though also a little worried, as I gradually returned to normal, that true normality might never return). Of course I thanked Phil and Sean as they said goodbye at the hospital, and at the same time I asked them what their favourite charity was. I fully expected them to name some medical charity, but Phil, looking at Shaun, said “Animals? Little fluffy animals?” at which the latter nodded. So I have made donation to the PDSA, which is both animals and medical.
I cut the first session of Wednesday, to tidy up and snatch some sleep (unsuccessfully), and was very careful in any further sessions for the remainder of the week when I sang tenor!
Or six nights, five days, anyway. I had done the ‘Beauchamp’ early music course in 2001, when it was based at a place called Beauchamp House, in Churcham in Gloucestershire. Most people camped, and a few of us, including me, living in France at the time, stayed in B’n’Bs.
The scale of things being too large for me on the whole, I had not done that course again, but this year I just felt I wanted to get together with lots of fellow amateur singers and players to make music for a few days under the aegis of some known and trusted tutors. The course had not been held at Beauchamp House for many years and had known several different homes since. It is run by the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, and this year was being held at the independent school, Rendcomb College, near Cirencester, for the first time. It was amazing that the course took place at all this year, and all precautions were taken to ensure a Covid-safe environment, including all participants having to take a negative-outcome lateral flow test within 48 hours before arrival. In the event two people were ‘pinged’ during the course of the week and went straight home.
I arrived on the Sunday with an hour or so to spare before dinner, and walked round (just) part of the grounds.
The timetable was that all 70 participants, plus the four tutors, were all together working on one piece in the evenings, the first session of the day was in instrumental specialities (I was with 30-odd singers), and pre-lunch and post-tea sessions were in changing mixed groups, with the post-lunch period being free.
During Monday’s free time, I took up the suggestion of the very able organisers and visited Cerney House Gardens, just two miles down the road. I took lots of photos of course, and these will be the subject of my next-but-one post.
On Tuesday evening, I was taken to Emergency at Gloucester Royal Hospital, in an ambulance for the first time in my life. I have written that up, and that will be the subject of my next post. (Teaser: it was a mental, not a physical problem.) Here is a photo I took in the ambulance, which will show you that by that time I was sufficiently well to be sitting up, not lying on the ambulance’s gurney, and aware enough to think of taking a photo with my phone. This is Shaun. He has just done a lateral flow test on me. Phil was driving.
I missed breakfast on Wednesday morning. It was not to be served until 8.00 at the hospital (very civilised compared with what I have experienced in the past), and I was in a taxi back to the course at that time. Having had very little sleep overnight in Emergency at the hospital, and being very scruffy indeed, I did not feel up to creeping in for a late breakfast at Rendcomb. I skipped the first music session, and was found a banana, a chocolate bar and some cake to fortify me at 11.15, at the end of the coffee break. From then on I took full part in all the sessions, bar that of Wednesday evening which I decided to devote to R and R. In the afternoon’s free session, Jill D invited me to join a really excellent group of three recorder players and continuo instruments to sing the mezzo part in a lovely piece by Bach. The players sounded gorgeous. I think I acquitted myself reasonably well, but there were some complicated harmonic changes, and I was only working from a part, not a score, so would have done better with a little work on it beforehand. I really enjoyed the brief interlude though.
I remembered to get my camera out of my bag a few more times, but mostly forgot.
On Thursday afternoon I got a group of four viols and two voices together to do six-part music. Sadly it did not work quite as well as the previous afternoon’s free music-making, not least because I was not on particularly good singing form.
My last photo shows us nearly ready for the final session, on Friday evening. Most of the 70 plus participants can be seen in the picture, but sadly the huge variety of modern copies of renaissance instruments cannot. Hats and coats are because (Covid-safe) ventilation through the huge doors in the four corners of the room meant that it was blowing a chilly gale for most of us – August! – except for those in the large bay of the window.
One way and another I was shattered by Saturday. My aim to make good music with lots of other amateur musicians had been fulfilled – but there were elements I could have done without!
[Works I was involved in were by: Aliseda, Anon, Byrd, Croce, A Gabrieli, Guerrero, Hildegard, Isaac, Padovano, Palestrina, Praetorius, and Victoria (lots). The other tutors were Sue Addison and Julia Bishop.]
After a good night’s sleep, I looked out of the window of my Berwick-on-Tweed B’n’B’ bedroom, to see this.
My destination today, Thursday 17th June, was Shipley, in West Yorkshire, where I was to spend two nights with an old school friend (another Hazel) and her husband. My planned stop-off en route was just a few miles away, Holy Island, Lindisfarne. According to published information, the causeway to it would not be safe until 10.40, so I had plenty of time to kill. Having checked out after a good breakfast, I walked over to look at the sea.
Where there were literally hundreds of swans. No one picture could capture them all, and many were sailing (?) round to the other side of the harbour wall. I wondered whether this was in reaction to the tide falling.
I arrived at the Lindisfarne causeway around 10.30, expecting to have to wait, but that was not the case, and it was clear from the numbers in the car park that others knew that the published timings were set to cover only the extremes of safety.
But I stopped in a layby to take photos of the causeway first. I had never driven across a floodable causeway before, and was curious.
Once parked – quite a palaver in order to pay – I followed the crowds into the ‘village’ so that I could pick up the anti-clockwise circular path I intended to take. I’ll admit now that I did not have the plan with me and relied on just a brief look at this board. As a result I walked much further than I intended. But it was a lovely warm day – the only one in the whole of my time away – and a lovely setting, so apart from worries about time, that didn’t matter at all.
At the harbour, the ruined priory was to my right. Time did not allow further investigation.
The castle had been in view for most of the time, and indeed could be seen from all nearly over the island.
Not only did time mean I could not visit this National Trust property, but I should have had to book in advance because of Covid restrictions.
Some way further on, a kestrel was hovering overhead, and I followed its subsequent flight with my camera. I confess to being quite pleased with this picture.
I took a backward look at the castle.
Coming near to the shore, I wondered what these curious bumps were. A zoom on my camera revealed all.
A spent a few minutes in the hide by this lake, but just before I got to it, …
I was thrilled not only to notice, but to get a photo of this stoat, as it stopped its scuttling for a second or two. (It could of course be a weasel; I did not see its definitive characteristic, the colour of the tip of its tail.)
At this point I turned inland, but I went further than I intended, missing somehow where I should have turned south.
I should not have gone into these dunes.
Starting to worry about time, I was feeling rather hot and beginning to feel hungry, and the castle and the priory seemed a long way off, but at least they were landmarks. I was definitely going south now.
I enjoyed, nevertheless, the lovely heathland flowers.
As I eventually emerged onto the road I saw both these lovely poppies and two people. “Is it far to the car park?” I asked, not really sure where I was. “Not very far at all’ they said – and I was very pleased that in fact it was barely 100 yards further on.
I can remember very little of the long drive to West Yorkshire. I just recall that I was very pleased to refresh myself before joining my hosts for an evening meal.
Another National Gardens Scheme visit a few days ago. Cloudless sky, pleasantly Aprilly warm, no more.
When I arrived, through a gateway with parallel walls either side, creating a sort of reverberating tunnel, I was horrified at the people noise. So many people! Standing and sitting around, drinking tea and eating cake. Neither peaceful, nor, it seemed to me at that point, very Covid-safe, despite the low rate of infection now prevalent in this part of the country. Other than when getting my jabs, I hadn’t been in the presence of so many people for 14 months. So probably I was over-reacting.
I scuttled round to the ‘back garden’. Empty. As was pretty well every other part of the large grounds. Perhaps this place is just seen as a lovely place to go for tea and cake, (which it is – roaring trade, long – and socially distanced – queue) and who cares about the gardens!
I had learned from the greeter/owner that the garden was started in the 1930s by the then residents, and much additional land had been purchased by them. As I explored the back garden, I would have been very happy for that alone to have been mine, let alone the various other ‘rooms’ to be explored.
Via a tiny corner of the lawn into a conifer area.
And then back to the lawn, which was still noisy, but really not very crowded. Perhaps I’m just not used to the noise of many people at once.
Off to another area, a vegetable plot and greenhouse.
And from now on, I saw almost no-one.
This tree was a splendid backdrop to much of the garden, but is in fact ‘borrowed’ from an adjacent property.
I sat for ages on the stone bench like is one opposite, trying to remember what manual adjustment I had to make to my camera to lengthen the exposure – but failed. Must revise.
Back to the main lawn again. And home to my own cake.
It was Stressful Wednesday, and I had been obsessing with the rolling news half the night (less than four hours’ sleep) and all day until lunchtime. It was gorgeous outside, and I hadn’t done my little there-and-back walk from my house for a very long time. I wondered if it was possible to distract myself for an hour or so.
It was. I can honestly say that I did not give the US presidential election a single thought all the time I was out.
Down to the end of my road,
through a small passageway to my left, up the lane to the main road where the prep school is situated, and back again. Views and details.
I spent a few minutes trying to capture hedge reflections in the puddles at the side of the road. This is the only vaguely successful image.
So I raised my eyes to the lane ahead, and thought that they’d soon be flailing the hedges.
Time to turn round.
From now on, I was facing the low autumn sun.
I was intrigued by this very new fencing on either side of this track, which on first glance appeared to be creating two paths. A closer look made me realise that in fact it was protecting new hedging. I waited for the sheep to be ushered into the right-hand field, and for the ‘shepherd’ to come back to his van, to my left. From him I learned that in fact this was his project. Living in town, he owned nine acres, and was putting native hedging around the three fields, for the benefit of wildlife. 600 metres so far. Brilliant!
I started this post early on Saturday afternoon. I broke off about three pictures ago to watch CNN, and caught the moment the result was announced. Stressful Wednesday was worth it!
With a 55% chance of rain forecast and quite a long drive ahead, I probably would not have set off had I not, obligatorily under Covid arrangements, already booked and paid for my ticket for this garden visit on Saturday, 25th July. And, truth to tell, I nearly turned round about five minutes from my destination, having been diverted twice for road closures, been held up by cows on the road, and was now depressed by rain on my widescreen. But stubbornness made me continue to this garden in Wrington, near Bristol Airport.
I was not the only mad person. There were perhaps eight others wandering around these gardens in the rain, and in the course of my visit I was able to chat separately with the owners of the cottage and a gardening trainee. The proprietors had bought the cottage, which came with an adjacent field, some 27 years ago. Mrs Park Cottage was self-taught, and had designed the garden essentially for children to enjoy. I learnt this as I was leaving, when I commented that more than once ‘Alice in Wonderland’ had come to my mind as I went round. She told me that I was not the first to say the same thing.
I first explored the patches in front of and behind the house, which together alone would have been sufficient to satisfy most house owners. Only two photos here though, as there’s so much else to see.
I then moved to the ‘field’ area. This is just the beginning.
I didn’t go inside the greenhouse, which housed carnivorous plants among other things. I had also seen some similar plants through the windows of the conservatory attached to the house.
From now on visitors were asked to follow the directions from signpost to signpost, numbered 1 to 8. This was because pathways were far too narrow for people to be able to cross in opposite directions while also meeting Covid guidelines. As far as I could tell, with hindsight, this had involved walking one circuit inside and touching a larger one, with a small amount of pathway in common, through a jungly area.