Friday, November 30, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 48

Hello again. I have decided to start this week with a couple of little things that have made me smile this week, and then I will have a very condensed version of my time in Birmingham and Manchester.
I am happy that the weather has improved greatly this week, and most days we have had some sunshine, with bright blue skies. It comes to an abrupt halt around 5.00, and we have really needed the fire to be lit most evenings, but blue skies days are fine by me. 

One morning I noticed this little ray of sunshine sitting on my front step. The plant is a very old  house plant, a chrysanthemum that I put there, because I can't bear to throw them away while they still show signs of life. The flowers were much bigger when it was new, but it has produced so many little ones that I am glad I kept it.

Yesterday I heard a lorry engine running outside for longer than usual, so I peeked out and saw a man unloading this.

It made me smile because it meant the Town Hall were getting ready for Christmas. From my posts of previous years you will know that we have a telegraph pole outside our gate, and every year we have a Christmas light hung from it. There is one the same every few metres down the road. I assume they are hired as every year they are different. I could see we have a star this year but I didn't realise what the rest was. Soon the man was lifted up by the bucket crane. He was having trouble fixing it to the pole arm. I think his hands must have been cold.
Today it is clear that we actually have pretty angel under the star. We have had an angel before but I think this is a different one. It won't be turned on until the week before Christmas, but I am looking forward to seeing it.

We had a bit of a health scare with Chris last weekend, and I had to take him to the urgencia in Garrucha. (Urgencias are emergency drop-ins found in most large towns, which are open whenever the doctors surgeries are closed. By going to one, you can often avoid a long drive, and a long wait in the hospital A&E). They were very good there, and kept us for three hours while Chris had regular checks, plus oxygen and drips, and when everything was back to normal, they sent us home. We knew he had an infection but the antibiotics hadn't kicked in at the time. Thankfully they did do the trick, and he is now fine.

Last week was cold and wet, and as I can normally dry my washing outside, I do not have a tumble drier, and there is little space inside for hanging things up to dry. So I was reluctant to tackle the pile of worn clothes I had brought back with me, and I was really glad to see the forecast showed we would have better weather this week. So Monday I managed to get two loads on. By the time the first load was done, a sharp wind had got up, and I had a battle to get things on the line. I doubled pegged everything and hoped for the best. I did have to rescue a couple of items than blew down, but I was happy to get everything washed and dried by the end of the day.

I had another mince-pie session also on Monday. I made five dozen for my boys while I was in UK, and then six dozen last week for the church Christmas Fair last Saturday. They had a sunny, though a bit chilly day, and there was a good turnout. I was happy to see my pies selling like 'hot cakes', and the event raised 3,436€, which is more than last year, and gives a much needed boost to our church funds.

This weekend I am on tea duty after Church, so I made a further six dozen pies, half for church and half for us. I will need to do one more batch so I can donate them for after the carol service on 18th, but that will be me done then.

So back to my holiday. As I have so many photos I have made collages with some of them. After the concert in London, Chris returned to Spain, and I went to Birmingham with our youngest son Ben. He had to work some of the time, so I jumped on a bus (a luxury we don't have here), and had a lovely wander through the city. I am not a city person really, but we have no big stores around here, and my shopping trips usually are just to food stores, and hardware centres, so it was good to take my time and see the various trends this year. Debenhams had a great clothing sale and I was able to buy a few treats for myself. I always used to go to British Home Stores, and I really miss them, but I am very pleased with this year's purchases.
I also like to go through the New Street Station. It is a slightly odd design in my opinion, but I like it as a visitor. I took a photo of the 'eye', just as the changing photo came to the iconic bull. This was my landmark for getting back home, but when I came back out under it, I couldn't find my bus stop anywhere. Ben later told me that there are three eyes. I didn't know that, and I was obviously under the wrong one! 
In the main atrium, the floor had a special display of photos of women making up a photo-mosaic of a vintage lady. I didn't have time to read up much about it, but it was all to do with the Suffragette movement, and the anniversary of women getting the vote.
As I walked down from my bus that first morning I was again delighted with all the autumn colours in the trees. The leaves were falling rapidly, and I dare say the trees are bare by now, but I enjoyed seeing them.
After a few days I went out to visit our son Tom in Denmark. Then I visited our second son Mike and son number one in Wolverhampton,  (More about those next week).
My last trip was to Manchester where son number four, Jonathan, lives with his wife Ella. I made friends with their new dog, Rudy, a staffie/greyhound cross. Jonathan took the afternoon off and met me at the train station. Just outside was this very poignant armistice day display, to comemorate those who lost their sight during the wars. 
Together we walked down into the town through the newly opened Christmas market and I loved it. It is far larger and more exciting than the one in Birmingham. I loved all the stalls piled high with decoration, little wooden houses, elves and gnomes, etc. etc. Of course there were also lots of food and drink stalls. We had a warming mug of rum punch, and tried tasters of some other liquors too.
There was a large inflated Father Christmas, high above the square, and everyone was cheerful and enjoying the atmosphere.
I offered to buy Jonathan a decoration for his home and he chose a black star with flowers cut out and backed in red and yellow. It lit up from inside and was very pretty. 
For his wife Ella I bought three little ceramic owls that were "See no evil; Hear no evil; Speak no evil".
She knew instantly what they were, and she loved them.
The next day I had to get back to Ben's as I was flying home from Birmingham the following day. Jonathan took me back to the station on a tram. We decided to walk the last bit and we went through a big park area where this fountain was flowing. In Spain they usually turn them off at the end of the summer season, but it looked as though this one would be going all winter.

I very rarely take selfies, but I realised I had been so busy at each of my sons' houses that I hadn't got many photos of them. So I stopped him by the fountain and took this one of Jonathan and I.
Ben's partner was out on my last night in UK, so I quickly packed my cases, (and made up a parcel for Ben to send of all the things that wouldn't fit in!), and then he sang for me. He has all his music set up in his room, and he played a bit of piano, and then did some karaoke. Here, at my special request, he is singing Ed Sheeran's 'Supermarket Flowers'. It is one of my favourites but he won't sing it in public because it makes him tear up. But I got my own private showing!
When he had sung enough, we went downstairs and he persuaded me to try his Virtual Reality headset. I was unsure as I have seen people falling over and feeling sick with one, but I stayed firmly sitting down and he talked me trough it. I actually amazed him because I completed a big roller-coaster ride, and I am never willing to go on one for real. (I still wouldn't). But it was a very strange sensation to be sitting in an empty theatre, with the lights dimmed, when in my head I knew I was sitting on a sofa in Ben's room! I didn't know he had taken a photo of me but he showed me this the next day.

And then it was time to fly home!

So I will close this week with some stunning sunsets that have happened just this week. The first set were taken on Monday. They all happened within  about a quarter of an hour, so I sat and watched the amazing light show.
And finally I have two from last night. I popped out around 5.30 to look for something I needed from the Chinese bazaar in Vera and as I parked the car I saw this lovely sunset.
It was just dying down, and as the colours left the sky I saw this big flock of birds (probably Spanish starlings), heading home to roost for the night. I just managed to catch them before they flew off.
Phew! Well done if you stayed with me through all of that. Now I just have time to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and then I am off to a double choir practice. First I have one for a small group of us who are learning a Spanish lullaby for our church carol service, and then the main choir as we have two concerts before Christmas.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Rocking Your world 2018: Week 47

Hi everyone. It seems like an age since my last post. I have had a very exciting two weeks away visiting, London, Birmingham, Denmark, Llanymynech and Manchester, and I have a shed load of photos to sort through. As I haven't had time since I got home to do this, and I am still collating pictures from each of my sons, today I will concentrate on the main event which was my visit to London.

Those who follow my blog regularly will know that I went to London with my choir, to sing at the Gala Concert for Cancer Reasearch UK, at the Royal Albert Hall. And what a privilege it was to be a part of this prestigious event. We left Spain as a group on Friday 2nd November. The organisers of the concert had arranged a package deal to cover our transport from Gatwick airport to our hotel on Canary Wharf, and the next day, from our hotel in the morning to a full rehearsal at RAH, back to our hotel for lunch, and back again with our supporters, for the concert in the evening. It was a pretty full on day, but I loved being a part of it. Most of us folk from rural Spain, have forgotten about city life, the traffic, the high rise buildings and all the lights, so we enjoyed our ride to the hotel as night was falling, and when we were assigned to our room on the thirteenth floor, this was the view from the big panoramic windows, as the sun set in a blaze of glory.

Before long the sky was dark and our view was lit up by the myriad lights from the streets and buildings.
We were tired after travelling most of the day, and we had a good night's sleep but I woke up early enough to peep round the curtains and take this lovely photo as the sun rose.
Our coach was picking up up to go to the rehearsal at 7.45 so we had first use of the breakfast room which was on the 38th floor. I sat with some lovely ladies from Kidderminster choir, and together we gazed at the magnificent view over Canary Wharf.
From the end window I looked down between two tall buildings to the dark water below.
My son Tom came to visit us at our hotel in the afternoon, and he took this photo of the Wharf. It has obviously been edited, but it shows the skyline at its best.
Before long it was time to don our 'posh frocks' (waistcoats and bow ties for the men) and get back on the coach to go to the concert. As we drove through London I tried to get some photos but there was too much reflection from the coach windows, and too much movement, but I did catch one of the London Eye, and New Scotland yard lit up in blue.
It was nice to see some of the shops had their Christmas windows on show. Others were covered as the windows were prepared. It is a bit too early I know, but it was nice to see them all the same.

Soon we reached our destination. I wanted to wait to see the boys as they arrived, but we were ushered straight to our seats, so I left Chris to greet them.
All five of our boys and their partners, had booked to come but sadly one son was unwell with a bug he probably picked up while gigging in Europe the week before,  so he couldn't come. Our oldest son came with our grandson who has an interest in music and wanted to be there. When we were seated everyone started frantically trying to spot friends and relatives around the arena. The house lights were quite low but we knew more or less where to look. Most of our supporters were in tier 2 which is small boxes, quite high up,  each seating five people, so our 'gang' had two of them. My friend Chris' family were in a box immediately opposite us so we soon saw them. Then we had to decide how to get their attention.
Some of my folk were in a box to my right, fairly central to the hall, and we picked them out quite easily. Of course the singers were not allowed cameras, but the visitors all had them, and they managed to zoom in our little group of Altos.
They also had a good view of the whole choir. Basically the basses were up high on one side of the organ, and the tenors were on the other side. The baritones were central below the organ with the mezzo sopranos in front of them. The soprano ones were in the side rows to the left and us altos were on the right. In the centre there was a dais for the Musical Director, and two of England's top brass bands/orchestras.
From where we were sitting, we were able to watch the percussionists for the bands. They play such an important role, but often have to wait patiently for the moment when they can clash the huge cymbals, or bang the gong. They had a wide range of other instruments to look after too, and it was interesting to see them move from to another.
My second family group had a box immediately above us, so they looked down on our heads. I could hear my son joining in with the community singing at the end.
The concert was amazing. I felt less overwhelmed by my surrounding than I had expected. We had learned our pieces well, but it was still quite something to be singing with 1500 other people instead of our usual little choir of 20-30. There were some traditional pieces like The Hallelujah Chorus, and Gloria from the 12th Mass, right down to a gospel spiritual and a Scottish folk song. At the end of the second half we did a rousing round of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, where choir and audience alike, waved their flags and joined in with the refrains.
The most poignant moment was when we sang a simple song called Calm is the sea. We sang the first verse with the bands, the second verse with the organ, and the third verse unaccompanied. Before we sang the MD spoke a little about the charity - Cancer Research UK - that the concert was raising money for, and then he asked everyone to turn on their twinklers. These are the small, round, white badges you can see on our dresses. They lit up and sparkled as the lights in the auditorium slowly dimmed so that there was only a spotlight on the MD at the end. Then we had two minutes silence to think of all those we know who have been affected by this horrible disease. It was very moving. There was a lovely video of the whole of this song, but I don't know who owned it so I couldn't link it here, though it was shared on my Facebook page. But to give you some idea, you can click HERE for a short video of just the last verse.
Another short video shows the ladies singing one of their songs. (There were four songs for ladies only and four for the men, and the rest were the whole choir) You can see our's HERE:
And finally HERE is our rendition of Rule Britannia, when you can see we got quite animated.
Now I have to include this picture of the iconic ceiling of the Royal Albert Hall. The round baffles were added to improve the accoustics. It is quite something to see.

These pictures are what I call my groupies.
Of course I have always gone to support my boys in anything they have done throughout their lives, but I was still touched when they all said they wanted to come to support me. I hadn't expected them to do this!
Four boys and their dad (far left). And on the backs...
Quite amusing when I had warned them all to look smart for the occasion, but it was a laugh and raised some smiles among my fellow singers. After the concert I had a few minutes to say 'Hello' to them all before hurrying to get our coach back to the hotel. It was half past midnight when we got back, so I am glad we didn't stay chatting and miss the coach. Of course I was scheduled to visit each of them in turn during the following two weeks, so it didn't matter that I only had a few minutes on the night. Dad was returning to Spain the next day, but he was with them all evening.
Unfortunately one son had gone walkabout when this was taken and we couldn't wait for him to return, but it does include our Grandson and two partners.

And that's about it for this week but I will close with this big smile. It really belongs in my UK folder but I can't wait until I post that. One of my sons lives fairly near to our very own Annie, so he dropped me off to have a chat with her, before whisking me away to catch my next train. She is every bit as smiley and lovely as I perceived her to be from her blog. I love the way Blogging has introduced me to so many new friends, and it is even more special when we can meet them face to face.
And now I am going to link up with her blog at A Stitch in Time, and see what others are smiling about this week, and also link with Virginia on Rocking Your World, though her post isn't up yet. But I can check back later. Next week I will give you a quick tour of Arrhus in Denmark, and maybe Birmingham and Manchester as well.