Thursday, 13 September 2012

Marbella and Ronda

Last week we took the family to Marbella and Ronda, Andalicia, Spain. We decided that the boys hadn't had a decent holiday for some years and we ought to make use of our pre-paid accommodation at Playa Real in Marbesa.

On the first day, we did our usual thing of going to the local (Marbella) Market. It only had the usual things - jewellery, bags, shoes and dresses, etc. but the fruit and vegatables were beautiful.

Here are the family at Marbella Market. L to R: Helen, Toby, Marea, Emilie and Ben

One of the main things we wanted to do was drive up into the hills to Ronda. 

This is Ronda. This is the picture you can't take from the town itself but, as you can see, it sits on the edge of a cliff and you drive in across the bridge that spans the chasm.

Ronda is a bullfighting town. It has the oldest bullring in Spain and celebrates its matadors, particularly Pedro Romero, said to have created the 'art form' type of bullfighting. Coincidentally, we arrived in the middle of the Pedro Romero Festival, the the ‘Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero’ which takes place in September every year. The main attraction of this fiesta is the bullfight which takes place on the first Saturday of the month in the Real Maestranza bullring. Before the bullfight there is a procession of horse drawn carriages through the streets of Ronda with everyone dressed in 18th century Goyesque costumes. The matadors themselves also wear this traditional attire.

Pedro Romero was mentioned by Ernest Hemingway in 'The Sun Also Rises'. I'm afraid I'm not a fan of Hemingway or bullfighting.

The Statues outside the bullring are of Antonio Ordonez and Gaetano Ordonez and it's the Ordonez family that organises the annual feria.

The main shopping street, Calle Pedro Romero, is decorated and, a little later on, crowded with people in the tapas bars and shops, dressed in 'Goyesque' costumes, eating and drinking and having a good time

The family in Calle Pedro Romero

From little girls to matrons - Goyesque

And this is the bridge across the chasm

And the wonderful surrounding countryside

Goyesque costumes come short as well as long

...but always elegant

Marea outside the bullring

Needless to say, we didn't stay for the bullfights on Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Les Miserables and the Royal Academy

As a retirement present for Marea, we were both given tickets to Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue with a back stage tour from the sister of Marea's ex-colleague who works there in stage management.

We decided to stay at the Bloomsbury Park Hotel (just round the corner from the British Museum) without realising that Sir John Barbirolli was born there.

We took a cab down to Shaftesbury Avenue to meet Vanessa and, arriving early, we had a drink and a wander round. For once, this Summer, the weather was good, warm and sunny.

About 5pm, we went in the stage door and into the bowels of the theatre.

Photos onstage are difficult with much of the lighting turned off, but we got a chance to see, and travel on, the revolve wich is so much a feature of the show.

The auditorium is small and intimate and the stage is very tight with no real wings and little depth. I've been useed to the Haymarket, Leicester where I was a Director for about 20 years. Being a new, modern theatre, it had very large spaces to rear and side of the main stage.

Costumes for quick changes, props and even 'dead' soldiers from the barricade scene are fitted in as best they can.

Dead Soldiers

A tiny part of wardrobe

Marea on stage

One thing I do remember very well is the 'Silence' sign - a feature of every theatre I've ever been in.

After the tour, we went for a stroll around thw Wardour Stree area (Chinatown). Something I always enjoy.

Of course, there are no photos during the show but you can take it from me, it's spectacular. If you get a chance anywhere in the world, go to see it.

The next morning, we stowed our baggage at the hotel and went off to Regent Street to look at the shops. Regents Street is hung with flags ready for the Olympics and it looked great in the warm sunshine.

Of course, we visited Liberty, spiritual home of the Arts & Crafts movement (at least the commercial arm). We didn't buy anything but just enjoyed wandering around and looking.

After this, we went on to the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition...

One's not allowed to take pictures in the RA but I didn't think a single general shot would infringe anyone's intellectual property rights.

We bought a picture by Frederick Cuming RA and are now suffering from buyers' remorse (not really - we could have put the money into an ISA or other investment and watched it diminish. We think a picture by a Royal Academician will only appreciate and we have the joy of living with it.) The picture is called 'Studio Moonlight' and I'll put a photo up when it arrives following the closure of the exhibition.

A quick drink in the courtyard and then off to the station via the hotel to pick up our case and off home.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Leicester Children's Holiday Centre (Mablethorpe)

Friday; a quick trip over to Mablethorpe with my Vice-chairman to have a look at arrangements for the new season of children's holidays at Leicester Children's Holiday Centre (Mablethorpe).

We provide free seaside holidays for children from Leicester and Leicestershire who wouldn't otherwise get a holiday. There are many reason why children come to our Holiday Centre - poverty, bullying, neglect, illness or loss of a family member; the list is almost endless. Our only criterion (apart from the age of the children - 7-11 years) is that the child will benefit from the holiday. Of course, the benefit is usually family-wide; everyone gets a break.

Leicester Children's Holiday Centre (Mablethorpe)

I often think the building looke a but unpreposessing but it is placed just behind the dunes on Mablethorpe mbeach - one of the best beaches in the country and its appearance is no guide to the fun and enjoyment it contains.

The dormitories look bare but they will soon be full of colour, children's paintings and designs.

We really need to replace our beds and some of the curtains but this is just one of the many expenses we have to meet regularly.

This is the dining hall with a small stage at the end where a group of the the children put on a show each week for their companion holidaymakers

And I just thought I'd put this in - it's a buffet for our visitors; the children sit down for meals and enjoy good local food which takes account of cultural needs, etc. though a child asked last year "Why are we having another meal - we've already eaten today?"

Time to include a few pictures of our children just having fun...

Even in England, the sun shines sometimes!

Discos - always popular

And, of course, that wonderful beach

And a weekly visit to Pleasure Island

This takes us back to the beginnings of the present building at the turn of the last century. This mared the change from camping in the dunes, then the building of two wooden buildings, one for boys and one for girls, and finally, the building of our existing Centre.

My job now is to get more people involved in putting on events, fundraising for the maintenance and refurbishment of the Centre and stregthening the Charity so it can continue for the next hundred years.