Everything you need to know about Port Eliot Festival*

* if what you need to know is a jumbled collection of the things I did and thought while I was there, excluding all practical and objective details.

Once again, it’s been quite a while. This month’s excuse is that I was very very busy working onsite at Larmer Tree festival where I did Very Important Things like running around with a radio and explaining to large numbers of people how to use a website. It’s a pretty solid excuse for my absence as long as you ignore the fact that the festival only lasted a week…

I’m back from festival-land for now though, and I’ve been taking a well-earned break by going to another festival with Bonnie, my ex-flatmate and the co-star of most of my year abroad posts. The festival in question is Port Eliot, which I’ve mentioned on here before, and of which I was going to do a solid, all-corners-covered review. However, I’m still quite busy what with moving away from Salisbury to an uncertain future this weekend, so it’s going to be a review of the patchy and subjective variety. Enjoy! 
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Rejected competition entries 1: Canoeing to Plockton

I’ll be back with more actual news soon, I swear, but since this hiatus is getting ridiculously long, I’m going to do a SUPER EXCITING INTERIM POST! Thanks to some of my delightful readers being very encouraging and lovely, I’ve developed a dangerous amount of confidence, and started entering the odd writing competition. Sadly no big prizes have materialised yet, but I thought I’d share some of the rejected entries so that, ten years down the line, those editors will see just what they could have had and be thrown into paroxysms of regret. Or at least so that I can look back and laugh sheepishly at my early attempts. This one is from when I briefly decided I should be a travel writer, and entered the Telegraph’s Just Back competition with a piece about What I Did In The Holidays. 

Lochcarron, Western Scotland: the Lyster family holiday. Our travels are usually accompanied by a dinghy but, due to a wheel-falling-off-trailer-related disaster, this year we were limited to a canoe. This wasn’t going to stop us travelling to nearby Plockton as the seagull flies; that is, straight across the water. My father, an outdoors instructor, is fully qualified to oversee such escapades, and has never actually had a disaster, but we still don’t entirely trust his assessment of a reasonable level of adventure. Thus it was with a certain trepidation that the four of us gracelessly clambered aboard our three-man vessel.

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Heroes: encounters with genius in the Netherlands

In a small act of defiance against TIME ITSELF disorganisation, I’m posting this a while after it stopped being really relevant. I won’t offer the usual apology, because the 12 Days of Christmas series massively increased my average posting frequency, thereby giving me  a free pass to be unproductive all January. Take that, self-imposed deadlines. But now, here are some post hoc cultural tidbits from my latest adventure.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Amsterdam with my mother. Before you decide that my family is weirdly liberal, it wasn’t that kind of trip – we were visiting my aunt, uncle and cousin, who live in a houseboat on the Amstel. This housing choice kills two birds with one stone: they’ve created a charmingly quirky home, and also cleverly circumvented the problem of What Will Happen to the Netherlands When The Oceans Rise Up. We spent much of our time looking at wildly varied objects of beauty in several museums, some of which I shall now expound upon for your reading pleasure.

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The twelve days of Christmas 4: Newfangled Technology

My home is quite rural. It’s not at the remoteness level of the Outer Hebrides, but it’s definitely approaching that of Hot Fuzz. In fact, that film was based partly on Simon Pegg’s home county of Gloucestershire. Herefordshire is next door to Gloucestershire, and is similar, but less well known. In one of the more obscure corners of the county is a village called Llangrove, whose only notable distinction (I like to believe) is to have produced me. It’s also got an excellent pub.

Because there isn’t much demand for direct trains to Llangrove’s nonexistent station, there’s an arduous journey in store for any friends determined enough to visit. From London, it involves at least two trains, an hour’s bus journey to a nearby village, then a three-mile walk (or pickup by car). There is one bus which stops in Llangrove itself, but it comes once a week and I have never actually witnessed its arrival.

The absence of public transport (or towns worth going to) makes online shopping the obvious way to buy Christmas presents. The problem with this is that most SatNavs give up the ghost the moment they leave the A40, persistently misplacing postcodes. This does not make navigation easy.

There has therefore been an increasing barrage of frustrated delivery drivers zipping fruitlessly up and down our lane with Christmas treats galore. I dread to think what we’ve done to their suspension, since the track is comparable to the surface of the moon in terms of driveability, and is rapidly turning into a torrent of mud. Tales of vans sinking into the boggy verge and getting towed out abound. Perhaps it would be better to go back to the donkey courier who was still around within living memory…*

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Artist’s impression of the delivery-driver experience.

*According to a bloke my dad spoke to down the pub, this is actually true – a man with a donkey was the primary means of delivery in Llangrove mere decades ago. Laugh away, Londoners.

The twelve days of Christmas 2: Road Trip

As I mentioned yesterday, we took an ambitious Christmas road trip this year. This was Mum’s fault idea – here’s the relaxing itinerary we followed:

  •  Christmas Eve-Eve:
    • 9am: make elaborate cake
    • Plan to leave at 10.30; leave in a panic at 11.00
    • Drive to Cambridge, with break in Kettering to watch Star Wars
    • Travel at leisurely pace until Kettering
    • At turnoff to Kettering, sit in stationary traffic until the film has started
    • Join audience 10 minutes into the main feature
    • Drive to aunt and uncle’s house in Cambridge
    • Miss turning. Panic due to distrust of satnav
    • Arrive, exhausted, around 5pm
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The cake – another bakeoff recipe. Ended up looking more evil than planned

  • Christmas Eve
    • NO DRIVING
    • Panic about 12 days of Christmas blogs
    • Make mince pies
    • Decide on walk at 10am
    • Go for walk at midday due to unforseen circumstances (rain)
    • Have gluttonous lunch with elite-rower cousin and other elite rowers
    • Feel bad about own shambolic physical condition; eat more anyway
    • Lounge about until bedtime
  • Christmas Day:
    • Plan to leave at 9.50; leave in a slight panic at 10.10
    • Drive to aunt and uncle’s house in Oxford
    • Open presents
    • Have gluttonous lunch
    • Go for walk in delightful Christmassy warmth
    • Write first 12 days of Christmas blog
    • Make mince pies
    • Drive home in the dark along winding roads
    • Arrive home at 8pm
    • Open presents and eat soup
    • Watch Doctor Who
    • Sleep (much needed)
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Artistic license has been taken in a number of areas. Any resemblance to my family members is purely coincidental and may not be used in court.

Bratislava on a budget part 2: Vienna

Sorry once again about the long wait for this post; I’ve been busy pretending to be a journalist at the Gloucester Citizen for the last week. Hard-hitting articles to which I contributed include “Spoons was closed today but we don’t know why” and approx five million school nativities. I’ve also had a monstrous cold, which has kept me just too cranky to be productive. So you’ve probably been hotly anticipating the second part of What I Did On My Holidays if you number yourself among my avid readers. If you don’t, then I’m a little hurt, and I suggest you read this for context. Here’s what happened after we hopped on the bus from Bratislava to Vienna…  Continue reading

“Why are you here?” Bratislava on a budget

I’ve ended up doing a few rather serious posts lately, so here’s some more frivolous fare to balance matters out. Last week I went on a last-minute holiday with Megan, who was in desperate need of a break from studying. Naturally, as a good, dutiful friend, I felt it was no more than my duty to accompany her in this endeavour. Bratislava was our destination of choice. Here’s the lowdown on this fine European capital, through the mercenary but practical lens of how much everything cost.

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