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Friday, 18 January 2013

Les Miserables...and not just the weather!

I've never seen Les Miserables on stage so I thought I'd venture out today to see the movie.

We went in at 11.30 am and came out at 2.30 pm. If you've seen it at the theatre, you probably would have had a decent interval for a drink or an overpriced ice-cream. No such respite at the cinema; we had to sit still all the way through. I didn't fall asleep but someone else did.

The grand finale was what I thought the whole movie would be like, so I was very glad when it eventually materialised on the screen. There are two singalong songs which I enjoyed without actually vocalising them, but I found most of the rest rather dirge-like and all the singing spoiled the story. There were ten people in the theatre audience!
It was beautifully produced, brilliantly acted and very mostly well sung. I don't think anyone has ever paid Russell Crowe for his singing voice.

I also didn't know what to expect because my history knowledge is poor and I thought there had only been ONE French Revolution.

Luckily when we came out the weather chaos hoped for by the media had not occurred oop north for a change and we drove home comfortably.
Now settled in the warmth of the snug to watch some Mastermind.

Cheers Gillian

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Some Well Travelled Sea Coal

Last night on BBC2, there was a show called "Why Did The Industrial Revolution Happen Here".  It was selected as what to watch by a couple of TV guides. If you saw it you will have noticed Jeremy Black finding a large piece of sea coal on the beach at Seaton Carew.
In fact, this piece...
We often collect sea coal from the beach there and have brought it home and used it on the kitchen range.
We sometimes find it by the bag load...
And sometimes there is only a sprinkling of coal gravel.
It is brought on to the beach by the tide. If you are north of the mouth of the River Tyne it probably comes from coal seams exposed on the seabed. If you are south of the Tyne then it is more likely to be the debris from the many coal mines along the cliff tops in the old days.
One of the researchers for the TV show tracked down some evidence on my blog and we met the producer to show him where to find sea coal and places where he could film easily. On filming day he chose the southern beach with Redcar steel works in the background.
And he chose the largest of my samples to use for dramatic effect, plucked again from the very beach where I had found it.
It rained for a lot of the day but cleared up just as filming began. Luckily...cos filming that short few seconds of the show took a couple of hours in real life!!! We helped to do things like, hold the umbrella and jog back to the car park to fetch things.
After all that it was fish and chips at "The Almighty Cod" as a just reward.
We were mentioned in the acknowledgements at the end as well.
If you missed it  it should be on i-player for a while or something like that. It was a great show and worth watching.
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 13 January 2013


I made quite a few xmas cards this year. I went on a lino-cut day course to get my skills updated and my ideas sharpened up. I had done some lino-cut stuff at school and remembered the basics. Before I went, I treated myself to some of the kit.
As you can see here I have some printing paints. Just the gold and green are shown here but I had blue and red as well. Also a small roller and a cutting tool. There are a selection of cutting blades which can be fixed to the handle and the parts also join together to make the baren for rubbing over the lino to press the printing ink onto the paper. I had some special vinyl and some old lino. Old lino is fine if it is warmed on the radiator first to soften it.
You start by choosing a picture or design. I chose a photo of Brusselton Hill with a cover of snow(bottom left). That was traced onto tracing paper and then the back of the tracing was coloured over with a soft pencil( bottom right). The tracing is then placed on a piece of lino and drawn over with a sharp pencil. This should leave an outline of the design on the lino which you can go over with pen or pencil to tidy it up.
Then you cut out the design using a cutting tool(top left). You have to cut away the parts that are to be white. It is wise to cut away from yourself and your fingertips! Then do a test print in case you want  to tidy anything up(top right).
Then you choose the colours you want to use and squirt them onto a sheet of glass ( I got the glass from an old frame and masking taped the edges for safety). Then roller them out till they are velvety. In this instance I have chosen two colours and it makes it a little more difficult because you can only roller in one direction or you mix up the colours too much. Rolling in all directions does help to make the paint/ink smoother.
Then roller the ink onto the lino. The idea is to get a thin but complete covering on the lino. Again, if there is only one colour you can roll in all directions to even it out better.
I managed to keep the green to the top half and the lighter gold to the bottom half, but only for the first print. The next couple of prints show the colours getting more and more blended together.
Then turn it inkside down onto the paper. If you are doing cards, this is when you find out if it is printed the right way up and if any writing is the right way or mirrored!
You rub it all over the back with the baren, pressing firmly and evenly, specially at the edges. You can peel it back a bit for a peep but take care not to move it.
It should come out a bit like this.
The inks I bought washed up in warm water and as soon as I had finished a batch I washed the glass. roller and everything else in a warm soapy sink of water.
The prints take a while to dry and readily stick together if you haven't waited long enough before stacking them up!
I shall do some more when the urge takes me. It can be done at home in the kitchen and the gear is all readily available on line at a reasonable cost.
But Art classes start again on Wednesday so I shall swap the print making for the acrylics and pack my basket for Darlington.
Cheers Gillian

Monday, 7 January 2013


The cat loves to watch the birds out of any available window. She also likes to climb up onto the crossbar and ballet-foot across the middle. We have windows that open awning-wise in all rooms so we needed to find a neat way to stop the window swinging open far enough to let her fall out from three storeys up.

This is the result. Well done DJ! We went to a lovely old fashioned ironmongers called Defty's up in Crook. DJ spotted the brass chain and that was it. We came home and fitted it to all windows.
Good thing we did!
You can see the muscular frame of the bengal cat in this pic. She isn't fully grown yet. She is strong and quite adult sized but still rushes around like a mad thing at least twice a day.
On Sunday we went north up the A1 and through the Tyne Tunnel to North Shields. We walked around the lower prom to Tynemouth. Past the old flats and Admiral Collingwood's statue.
I used to live in the Melbourne suburb 0f Collingwood for a few years and of course Collingwood is one of the major Aussie-Rules football teams in Oz.
The town of Tynemouth was very busy and the Metro Station Market was heaving. We wandered but bought nothing and then returned to North Shields for a "fish and chip" lunch.
However, there were many ahead of us, even at ten past midday. Obviously the Waterfront is the place to go.
We shall return.
Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 3 January 2013


Well, we tried it.
We went to the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool. We stayed for three nights...xmas eve, xmas and boxing night. We were looking forward to it. It was well advertised and seemed to be full of fun and activities. I wanted to be sure that the food would be good so read up on tripadvisor. We visited in the summer and selected a room overlooking the sea.

We arrived to find that we were not on a shared table, as had been offered. We were looking forward to joining in with some others (one of the reasons for going away is to have a party with others). We sat on a table for two throughout. It might have been a good thing, it might have not.
OK...I give the room 9/10. I give the hotel generally 9/10
I give the food 7/10. I give the entertainment 6 or 7/10. It was good but very much the same every night and they did the "save money" routine by having a "DISCO" which is a cheap name for playing a lot of records.
The weather was not too bad and we managed to walk a couple of times. DJ won a sheet of Bingo and got a bottle of wine. The pantomime "Cinderella" was on at the Grand Theatre and we had a great Boxing day afternoon. A lovely old toothless fairy/lady sat beside me in the Dress Circle. She was very old and had all her shopping with her and sang every word and responded with every "He's behind you!!!". She was so happy that she had been able to get a ticket just the day before. I was glad she had got a ticket too. The usual pantomime routine was great. Buttons was the star of the show and the "celebrity" from "Emmerdale" who played the Prince Charming was very lacking in voice and confidence.

The theatre was magnificent. We were so glad we had added some fun to our stay.

New Year was more exciting. The above is a picture that I finished for my Aunty for xmas. It is known as "Featherbed Rock" and is at Seaham Harbour. We used to go and climb around it when we were kids but I'm sure it was a lot bigger then.
The seas have been so big since last visit that they have exposed the wreck. It has been hidden under two metres of sand for a couple of years.
The new steps at Seaton Carew have at last, been re-exposed. I love numbers. I shall try to estimate the amount of sand which has been removed recently.
WIDTH  OF BEACH ....5,000m
LENGTH OF BEACH.....2,000m
Volume removed during high seas...20 million tonnes of sand
The Council are still working out a way to "FIX" the seafront!
There were lots of people out and about on NYD . It was sunny and mild. My favourite view was as above.
You'll probably find this weed in a picture soon.
Cheers Gillian