One of my nearly nieces (the nephew’s long-time partner but not yet married) made the mistake of asking me where I’d been on my travels, so I told her. “Blimey,” she said, “you need a holiday to recover. Time to relax.”
Suppose that’ll mean a few trips to the Horse and Jockey, whose hanging baskets are a blaze of colour (see above).
I was only away for two weeks but it seemed longer, perhaps because there was quite a lot of dotting about. Train from Lichfield to Inverness; car to Dornoch for a few days there; bus to Inverness; coach to Glasgow; plane to Belfast International; car to Dublin; ferry to Holyhead; train to Chester; train from Whitchurch to Lichfield (via Wem and Crewe).
“That’s expensive,” the woman from the Woodland Trust (doing a promotional stint in Lichfield) said when I told her about the train to Inverness. She has relatives in Perth and found the cost of taking her own family up to Scotland by train prohibitive. A senior rail card helps a lot and I missed mine when I left it under the mattress at my friend’s in Dublin and had to do two journeys without it.
The dreaded online booking just requires you to indicate that you have a railcard but the inspector – they’re still using real people on the trains but who knows how long that will last, given the imminent disgraceful culling of ticket offices – needs to see the card. Of course, if you’re buying a new one, you’ll probably have to store it on your phone. Heaven help me if I ever leave that under a mattress.
Even I, Luddite though I am, have got used, however reluctantly, to storing tickets on my phone – footie, cricket, theatre, you name it. I’ve still not quite cracked inputting my golf scores on my phone – the signal persists in cutting out at crucial moments, m’lord – so it’s just as well that I haven’t played many competitions recently. My partner and I wimped out on Tuesday, very wisely, as it turned out – about half an hour after our tee time, the heavens opened and we’d have been washed away. Thank goodness they have a couple of roofs at Wimbledon these days. Some of the tennis has been spellbinding.
The Lichfield Festival is in its second week, so friends and I managed to squeeze in a couple of performances. First up was Mick Doran, principal percussionist of the English National Opera orchestra, with his A-Z of Orchestral Triangle Playing. It was a brilliant, classy performance, funny, informative and poignant and I’ll never underestimate the triangle again. Look out for Mick at the Proms and elsewhere, though goodness knows where the ENO is going to end up.
The golf nerds out there will know that another of the world’s famous Mick Dorans is an outstanding caddy, who has won numerous tournaments, including Ryder Cups, working for Lee Westwood, Costantino Rocca, Justin Rose and Eddie Pepperell, to name just a few. Look out for Mick at the Open at Hoylake.
Post triangle, we went to a concert featuring two musicians from Africa, one of whom, N’famady Kouyaté, from Guinea, is now based in Cardiff. He plays the balafon, a traditional wooden xylophone and he didn’t have his band with him, just his phone to provide the accompaniment. His balafon didn’t seem to cause him too much trouble, seemingly a relatively low maintenance instrument, fairly easily portable.
Gaspar Nali, from Malawi, had to do a bit more tweaking and wrestling and mopping of his brow. He plays “a one-string home-made three-metre long Babatoni bass guitar with a stick and an empty beer bottle”. He also plays a cow-skin kick drum and sings. Quite amazing. Not too many of us in the audience spoke Chichewa, so we hadn’t a clue what Gaspar was singing about because he didn’t give us a synopsis but it all sounded brilliant. There was dancing by the end.
The Knife Angel is also in Lichfield this month, raising awareness of the horror of knife crime and the devastation it causes. The huge, impressive statue, incorporating thousands of blades collected by police forces across the country, was created by sculptor Alfie Bradley at the British Ironwork Centre. It’s an amazing place in Shropshire, on the A5, more or less opposite Oswestry Golf Club. Read all about it – and more – at britishironworkcentre.co.uk. Alfie also has his own website.
Better squeeze a bit of golf in, so many congratulations to Matteo Manassero on winning the Italian Challenge Open at Golf Nazionale in Viterbo. It was the Italian’s second win on the Challenge Tour this season – his wife Francesca, a non-golfer, caddied for him both times – and marks a bit of a revival for the man who once took the European (now the DP World) Tour by storm. Now 30, he had won his four main tour titles by the age of 20, the first in 2010 at the ago of 17 years and 188 days after an outstanding amateur career. He’s still the youngest winner in tour history and has not lost hope of rejoining the top flight.You can’t keep a good Italian down and it was great to see that Federica Dassu, who played on the tour with Mo and has been at the heart of Italian coaching for years, popped up at Woodhall Spa this week where the seniors, men and women, have been braving some wild weather. Thanks to Sue Spencer for sending the pic of her and Feda (left).