Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Jazzy time

Jazzy time:
Not long ago, friend ‘L’ told me that her former classmate Kaori Nakajima, the renowned Japanese jazz saxophonist would be coming to tour the UK in May. For a music enthusiast like me this was good news enough, but I was even more excited when ‘L’ informed me that Kaori would be performing a special concert at their old school, Cobham Hall.
As I was happy to drive to Cobham Hall, I was also happy to take a few friends along too... In attendance were friends ‘S’ and ‘P’ together with ‘Mini S’ and her friend ‘G.’

Kaori and her band were amazing, even more so when she told us that they had only recently formed when she arrived in the UK for her tour. She was a very engaging performer, with lots of interesting anecdotes about her time at the school. Funnily enough, she had taken all her piano grades using the same piano (and creaky stool!) at which her piano accompanist was sitting... 

They performed a host of traditional jazz tunes, like ‘Take Five’ and ‘The Girl from Iapenema,’ mixed in with less well known Japanese jazz numbers.
Mini ‘S’ and friend ‘G’ had no trouble enjoying the music, before long they had improvised by filling an empty Pringles tin with cocktail sticks for a shaker and drawing out a marimba board on a scrap of paper so they could pretend to play along – On with the recycling! I have a feeling they enjoyed doing cartwheels in amongst the topiary and running barefooted on the cool grass in the interval just as much though...

You can read more about Kaori and her music here:

Getting our hands dirty:
After all of our refinement of the night before, I thought it was time to be a bit more earthy and get out in the garden the following day. As our garden is mostly concrete and balcony/deck, I had to think of some cunning ways to grow more plants. As luck would have it the local garden centre were selling little self assembly raised beds which we filled with (peat free) compost... to be planted with courgettes, cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes and climbing beans.

Friend ‘K,’ (who was tempted over to our place with the offer of Sunday lunch) told me about a ‘potato grower’ she had bought in Wilkinson’s for £2.99. When I asked her to describe it, she told me it was ‘made of tarpauliny type material with handles on the sides.’ This reminded me strangely of an IKEA bag (costing all of 50p!). Being the hoarder that I am, I have several of these tucked in the hallway cupboard for no good reason, so, we were able to recycle the oldest IKEA bag (and some old potatoes that had started to sprout in the fridge) as a potato grower!

J’s record of the week:
‘I’m a Gummy Bear
(the gummy bear song)’

For some reason ‘Mini S’ and her friends seem to be slightly (rather an understatement!) obsessed with this song... I’ll have to admit it’s just a tiny bit catchy! It was written by German composer Christian Schneider in 2007, but has ‘gone viral’ via YouTube and other social media in the last little while. While we rewarded friend ‘K’ with lunch for all her hard work in the garden on Sunday, ‘Mini S’ discovered that ‘K’s’ mobile had the song stored... so it was the soundtrack to our lunch, and the journey home! Enjoy? It’s up to you! Jerushah X 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Croatian Capers

Last week I had a little bit of time off, to travel to Croatia with three old school and university friends. I think it was well deserved as I hadn’t had a holiday (field trips don’t count!) abroad in over four years!
I have to confess that even taking my geography subject knowledge (i.e. I’m sure Croatia is just east of Italy?) into account, I didn’t have many preconceptions about Croatia. Rather lazily I just went along with the general consensus of where everyone else wanted to go, but was very pleasantly surprised when we arrived!
The whole place is a little sub tropical paradise. From the airport taxi on the way to our B&B we could see lush palm trees, bougainvillea, orange & lemon trees and tall cypress tree spires everywhere. There was also sunshine sparkling on bright blue seas and little islands all along the coast... Sounds like it was just out of a travel brochure doesn’t it? Truthfully though, that’s just how it was!
In the photo below, you can see how green everything is by looking at the back drop.

On the first day we arrived mid morning, and were able to do a little bit of exploring to orientate ourselves around Dubrovnik, but not without a few wrong turns first...

On the second day we very bravely decided to circumnavigate the Dubrovnik old city walls, all 1,940 metres of them! There were lots of steps and we each got through at least a litre of water, plus I acquired an enormous blister (due to lack of sensible footwear!)
Here we are looking fabulous at the beginning of the walk...

We look slightly more dishevelled 1 kilometre in...

Collapsed, having refreshing drinks at the harbour cafe afterwards!

On the third day, the weather was even more beautiful than the previous day, so we decided to catch a boat across to the mysterious Lokrum Island...

The island had botanical gardens, a salt water lagoon, ruined monastery, hill top fort and dozens of beautiful peacocks!
Lokrum has a very interesting history, concerning ownership. In a nutshell, the legend goes that when the original Bendictine monks were asked to leave the island in 1808, they were so unhappy that on their final night on the island, they put a curse on Lokrum by walking around it three times chanting the words "Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!"   
Sadly, their words turned out to be true starting with the three local aristocrats who initially took on the ownership island. All three died in mysterious circumstances. The island was owned by further unfortunates, notably Austrian Archduke Maximillian, who introduced the peacocks from the Canary Islands, but had an unpleasant end when he was shot in Mexico. The very last owner of the island was Archduke Francis Ferdinand, who was assassinated in Sarajevo... and we all know how that turned out! Since that time no one has wanted to commit to owning the island, and in fact, the locals are unwilling to even spend the night there. Perhaps a benefit of there being no owner of Lokrum is that everyone can enjoy it? We certainly had a lovely day...

Here are some of the only official, full time inhabitants of Lokrum. They are probably descendants of the original peacocks which arrived in the 19th Century with Archduke Maximillian.

On our final day, we decided to brave the cable car... Both friend ‘N’ and friend ‘A’ are not so keen on heights, but when we got to the top; we were rewarded with wonderful coffee and the most amazing view of the old city.

J’s record of the week:

Unfortunately we all forgot to bring our iPods on the journey, so there is no official ‘record of the week,’ this week. However, Dubrovnik old town seemed to have amazing musicians around every corner, from the street busker at the Pila Gate every day to the dynamic jazz trio playing on the Placa Stradun every night, the choral music streaming from the cathedral door and the candle lit classical concerts given in the city every Friday! With all that music surrounding us we didn’t really need to bring anything extra J. Jerushah X