Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Book Review - Doctor Who Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole

A quick read and a story I was familiar with as Jamie has this story on CD so no real surprises.  As always these books evoke a real feeling of the characters of the Doctor and Rose, a great way to get that additional fix of them, especially as they are both now gone from the TV series. 

The Doctor and Rose are back in London for this story and they arrive after the sinking of a British naval vessel, and as with any Doctor Who story, not everything is quite as it appears.  Why are the relatives and loved ones of the drowned sailors seeing visions of them and why are they asking them to help rescue them.  Who is the mysterious naval commander in charge of the investigation into the sinking of the ship and why is he accompanied by a U-Boat captain, a Victorian lady and a child?

All of the usual characters are here Jackie, Mickey and as always the Doctor and Rose gather some extra help along the way in the shape of Vida a scientist, Jodie a soldier an American Naval commander and a cleaner.  The story also explores some of the impact of Rose leaving with the Doctor and being away for what was only a matter of days to her, but over a year to those she had left behind.  What had Mickey Smith been up to with Rose's friend and how did she feel about that. 

Not to spoil it, but we always know how it is going to end (which is one reason I like reading them they are a safe way of passing a couple of bedtimes and a guarantee of a happy ending!!) and of course, the Doctor saves the day - with a few scrapes and scratches along the way. 

Maybe not the best story in this set of 10 that we have but it keeps up a good standard, an enjoyable read and just what I needed to read when I didn't want to think to hard about what I was reading.

Reading challenge 12/16 - currently reading A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle

NAFAS National Show Harrogate - Part 1

Setting the Scene and A Force of Nature (and apologies for the length of this blog!!!!!)

I had an enjoyable couple of days going to Harrogate for the NAFAS National Show, I guess you could call it my end of course treat.  We had planned to make a weekend of it and head further north after the show to catch up with some old friends - we (Mike and I)  have been discussing parmos in Stockton with Nikkie and it will happen - eventually.  But it turned out that it was the same weekend that Jamie was in Wind in the Willows so that idea had to be shelved, but there was no way I was going to miss the show and flower club this year didn't organise anything so on Thursday I headed north. 

As it was almost in my neck of the woods I was pretty confident I knew where I was going and I have driven that route so many times in the past, although I haven't done a long drive for quite a while.  I was booked into the Holiday Inn which was next door to the Harrogate International Centre so all I had to do on Thursday was get myself there.  The weather was lovely and Mike had packed me off with a flask and a sandwich for my journey up which was very welcome when I stopped for a break at Trowell services.  I think it must be the sign of impending middle age when a flask and sandwiches is more appealing than a Burger King or sandwich from the very expensive services!!

I turned off the M1 and went through Wetherby (which is a lovely little town) and then through Spofforth and near Rudding Park which brought back some memories of a ICI Caravan Club rally of some 30 years ago!!  My Mum and Dad had a caravan and they were members of the ICI Caravan Club and we went on rallies with them (organised holidays in the caravan) - I'm sure they still happen now.  I hit Harrogate and recognised so much of it, it really hasn't changed in the 20 years since I was there last, and quickly found my way to the hotel, got parked up and checked in. 

What joy - I had been upgraded to an Executive Room which was lovely - it had the biggest ever bed I've slept in - HUGE!!!!!! and comfortable for a hotel bed.  I had extra seats and a mini-bar - what more could I want - so I had a big chill out, a wander around Harrogate, another chill, dinner in my room and a lovely sleep.

The next morning I got chatting to a couple of ladies from another flower club at breakfast and their club had some spare tickets to the demonstration that afternoon which was sold out and so I bought one of those tickets and had the chance to see one of the NAFAS National Demonstrators (but more of that in another blog).  I then checked out, took my bits to the car and headed off to the show, it was going to be a very long day!!

The show itself was in 3 halls within the Conference Centre and seemed larger than last year's but that is just from appearances.   (Now after chatting to some other visitors from the flower club it was felt that there were a lot more designs to see) Two halls were full of flower arrangements and one had refreshments, shopping and a small demonstration area, the main demonstrations were held in the Royal Hall which is adjacent to the Centre.  The show was busy.   

I am going to show some arrangements from each of the categories and where I remember will point out if they were winners etc.  It was not always the easiest of photography conditions and so I haven't included some photos where they haven't come out as well as I would have liked and have sometimes included some photos which could be better but the arrangement is worth seeing.  The comments on the arrangements are entirely mine and totally my own opinion and would love to know what other people think about the arrangements and what appeals about one over the other.

One of the hardest things when looking at arrangements is to separate personal likes and dislikes, of a flower, colour, shape etc from technical skills and abilities and how elements and principles in the designs have been used and I hope to point out when my preferences are one or the other. 

The first class (the class is usually defined as a title from which the arranger then has to create a design to interpret that title, the class usually will specify what sizes and dimensions the arranger will have to work to or within) I looked at was A Force of Nature and here are some of the arrangements........

Above is the winner of this class - it is beautiful and for me was clearly the winner.  The force is fire (I have assumed) and the colours are so cleverly put together that you can see the flames dancing, to me it looks like a fire in a fireplace and does evoke that feeling of sitting around an open fire on a cold evening.  But the really clever aspect I think is the colour combination because combining such similar colours in such quantities and making them look so effective is not an easy task, the orange colours from the carthamus and calla (mango I think) work wonderfully giving that much needed accent and difference in colour to accentuate the reds and red-oranges.  The second arrangement on top of the class makes the arrangement, it could have been left with the lower but there would not have been the interest and impact as there is with the two.

I really liked the scale and sparseness of this one - an enviably large piece of driftwood too.  This design is dark and brooding, bleak and potentially menacing a wonderfully different interpretation - flower arranging doesn't have to always be bright and cheerful.

This design was an interpretation of the Australian Outback Fires of a couple of years ago, and you could tell them from a distance away, it had it written all over it.  The flames are lapping up the trees, this time in form of Gladiolus.  Again I thought this was an excellent interpretation of the theme, my only criticism is the placing of the 4 gerbera, which look like a big square in the design and detract from the overall look.  The flowers themselves would work and could have perhaps been placed differently to have added to the design, but even so a good interpretation.

Another one that really appeals to me personally, again a dark and minimal interpretation, which again appeals.  This design has lots of interest and different textures, from the stone base, the mesh of twigs to the anthurium, roses and I think cordyline.  The oasis and workings were well hidden, which is always important and I suspect there was a lot of work to get the twigs and branches to look that way.  A lovely colour combination too.

An interesting arrangement but here the star is the piece of wood (I don't blame the designer for that as it is wonderful) and it is an amazing piece of wood, the stars should be the flowers.  Although in this arrangement I was interested in the way the designer had used the palm leaves and made them echo the shapes of the wood.

Another design using wood, again a lovely design but for me doesn't have the high impact as some of the others although I like the colour scheme very much, I just think it is missing something, be it another colour, some dazzling flower.  Although molucella and hosta do work so well together.

This one has the impact in terms of its colours, it uses very similar colours to the winner, I like the design but think it may have been improved by something connecting the three levels of the design to bring them together and the foliage (fatsia japonica leaves just look a bit stuck there).  This maybe a design which would have benefited from a further title from the designer so when you look at the design you can see what they were thinking about when they created the design and gain an understanding of what they were trying to create.  This may help interpreting the designs which have been created generally and is not a specific comment on this design - although on the other hand whatever interpretation we make of the design when we look at it is also just as valid, but I would like to know what the designer was thinking when they put it together.
I like the shape and movement in this design, and there is lots of movement so I have interpreted this piece to be a hurricane or windy day and it works well.  I do of course love the bright green anthurium (a big favourite).

Wood was definitely a common theme is this class and another piece of wonderful wood, this time a sea-side interpretation, a simple design but effective.  There is lots of movement again in this piece and lots of texture too.

A bad picture on my part, again hurricane like with a variety of gerbera, sadly I think the background doesn't help this design, and I would have liked to have seen something else as part of the swirling of the design.

So many of the designs in this category used lots of height and here is one that was low to the ground, I haven't made up my mind about this one but there is clever use of sprayed colour on the aspidistra leaves to bring unusual colours and textures to the design, as the sprayed leaves look very metallic but also flexible which gives interesting movement to the piece.

I really liked the use of the lotus heads in this design which had again been sprayed, I have no idea what the interpretation of this one may be but I do love the colour scheme.

Another low design which used the wood to a good effect and the design is all around, as they all were.

A modern hedge design with some striking flowers in the design too, the  magnificent celosia argentea, delphinium, allium as well as the phaleanopsis orchid.  I personally think this design may have worked just a little better if the roses and celosia were in more blue-violet colour shades and the design kept to a monochromatic colour scheme but a very different design compared to many of the others in this category.

I have left a some entries out as my photos were very out of focus and they really didn't do justice to the designs.  My own favourites are the first four photos and the design with lime anthurium.

Ciao Sue XX Reading challenge 10/16 - currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban

Sunday, 25 July 2010

College - Finally the Finale!

So it has finally arrived the final week, all assessments done, all assignments done.  I decided to try and get a clean sweep of distinctions but I didn't quite manage it - but hey I will get the Diploma with Distinction and have 8 out of 10 units with distinctions so none too bad.  Everything is now signed and sealed and the only thing left is to collect my green folder and get my Diploma.  I think I need a couple of weeks to get it through my system and come to my final conclusions and am so writing this a couple of weeks later!

I wanted to upgrade 2 assessments from Merit to Distinction (not an easy feat) to get a clean sweep across the board and so needed to re-do my Loose Posy Pad and my Form Linear Hand tied.  Well I found a great picture of a perfect LPP to copy - a lovely version of it but well it wasn't good enough for you know who and would only get a merit so at that point I said goodbye to Milton Keynes College.  If wasn't going to get 10 units then I wasn't going to bother with doing the Hand tied either.  My problem with that one (if I am totally honest) is it should have been a Distinction in the first place but due to the lack of resources at college, her totally subjective way of marking and her bizarre way of explaining things I only got a Merit - just about anyone else would have marked it Distinction.

It is now over.  I know I have my Diploma, I know it is at Distinction and I know I only have to go back to collect my green folder with my mark sheets in - FINIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had one final piece of excellent news - and here I have to set the scene and am also going to be a little bitchy, but in my opinion on this occasion deservedly so - and anyway it's my blog so ..................!!

As in all courses there are always the shall we call them louder members of the class who will shout out their answers regardless, now in this class there were 3 possibly 4 (2 of whom had some knowledge and 1 a little less and 1 a lot less), I was always less first in and would wait  to be asked but largely knew my stuff and often gave the correct answer once the others had stopped shouting out theirs!!

There was a 'tea-party' on the Tuesday evening of the penultimate week which I wasn't able to go to due to Jamie at Cubs but J (the oldest in the group) was given Student of the Year in the Class - although she has said that the speech Janet gave was more along the lines of well whilst not the best student, in the face of adversity etc etc.  Although personally I think she was a good choice as she was very popular with everyone in the group.  The other certificate to the group was for the Student Identification Achievement Certificate for the student who gained the highest mark in all the identification assignments (of which there were 4 identification assessments with marks totally around the 350/360 level).

Now I understand that someone (TD2) was chomping at the bit on the Tuesday expecting that she had won - but there were a couple more that Janet needed to mark and so, quite rightly this could not be announced - the person who had expected she was going to win was part of shall we call them TD1 and TD2 who were joined at the hip for the second half of the course.  So much so that when doing the mossed design it almost looked like synchronised floristry!!  They had the same box TD2 traded her original one in for one identical to TD1, always sat together, always worked together etc and so on.

And then the following week as those of us in that week are having a break, a chat and a sandwich shall we call her Pam Faulty said "Oh well we know ***** is going to win that" and I thought to myself well you can say that but I know some of TD2 scores and knew I was ahead of her on 1 and knew I had done really well on another, so I didn't feel it was cut and dried, in fact felt quietly confident.  I hadn't shouted my results around, but knew I was ahead of her by several on 1 assessment, behind her by 1/2 mark on another and was pleased with the other two scores, so I was looking forward to the result.

And the result was I got the Student Achievement in Identification Certificate and I was over the moon - icing on the cake  to the Diploma!!!  And several cherries on top by beating certain people and other people's ill informed opinions!!  As it turned out I had beaten her by 2 and the next nearest by 7 so a very pleasing finale!!  And it was not based on someone's opinion but on knowledge and hard work, which is far more important to me!!



Reading challenge 10/16 - currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Book Review - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

So finally I have finished this book!  The third installment in the life of the young wizard.   I started reading this book to Jamie quite some time ago - but he is not quite into being read to at the moment and is much more keen to choose his own books to read etc, which is quite right now he is 10.  So I have finished this and I am now hoping he too will start to read it as I often say it is so much better to read the book as you can get so much in terms of perspective, seeing how the characters feel, extra bits of plot etc.

The book is enjoyable as are all the HP's so far, of course you get drawn into the story and the lives of the young wizards.  The fun part of this book is the map which Harry is given which allows him to see who is wandering around the castle and of course it is nail biting right to the end as I was wondering how they were going to save the day with such a few number of pages left but they do, of course they do.  And we also find out  how Hermione is managing to take so many classes. 

I think I am a little subdued about the book because the of huge gap in between reading the first and second half - reminder to self - don't leave a book in Jamie's room when he is having a sleepover.  As for Jamie's room well we have had a good clear out and removed about 7 bags both for recycling via the charity shop and the tip so he has lots of space again - yippee!!



Reading challenge 11/16 - currently reading Songbird by Josephine Cox

Monday, 5 July 2010

And The Rest of the Week!

The best news of the week Jamie passed his Guitar Grade II exam - well done Jamie.  And he has had a busy week with Drama, we had to find his costume too.  He wasn't to thrilled at the idea of wearing women's leggings!!  And he has spent a lot of time playing with his friends.  The new boy at no 1 is now a lovely boy and we are not sure what brought the change about but it is lovely to see them out and about playing together.

The weather has been hot hot hot, so lots of chillin out and not doing as much as I should!!  Made a start clearing Jamie's room and we have moved out 5 bags of either rubbish or recycling and just a little left to finish now.  I indulged in a little cricket.....and Mike seems to have been at work for most of it!!

And we found Harry Potter, just in time for me finishing the course, brilliant timing, cos I've got some time to read it now!!



Reading challenge 10/16 - currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban

Saturday, 3 July 2010

College - The Final Week - Fingers Crossed!!

As it turns out not quite the last week, but I now only have 2 arrangements left to go - both re-takes and both to improve my overall grade.  I can say now that the Diploma is in the bag so to speak it is just the final grades etc.

So this week I needed to complete my final written assignment and my final practical assignment, and then had 3 re-sits to get grades up from mere passes!

So the final written assignment was completed and sods law, throughout all the written work I have had no problems with the printer, well other than having to change ink carts.  So printing out the final draft of the final assignment the printer decides to jam, I had to get Mike to help, I left him to it and had a shower as I was starting to get a bit agitated, as you would well imagine.  He fixed it and it was printed off and put in it's folder.  I got a huge assignment back this week the shop display module and I had done well, so I've got a Distinction for that whole unit - so very pleased with that, lots of hard work and research paid off.

My final practical assignment was the circlet from the wedding unit, I had managed to get Distinctions in all the other practical work, so wanted to keep my grades up and decided to have another practice of this on Monday and then tackle for real on Wednesday.  The practice went well, a couple of bits I needed to tweak so on Wednesday I was all set and produced the circlet below, I was pleased and got the grade I needed - so I am now only waiting for my written work back to complete the unit.  I love the simple colour scheme here and the gold leaves were so useful, the timing of this piece is quite tight, 60 minutes and that includes having to cost it out too.  All the items in the circlet are wired and taped, which takes some time and then they are taped onto a stay wire, which sits on the head.

I did 3 re-sits which were the passes from previous attempts, the Double Ended Spray which I was not happy about when I first took, I did a lovely arrangement (in the tutors words everything was placed perfectly) but because I had used one chrysanthemum instead of another I only got a pass, I think she was being very harsh, but then she is somewhat notorious for being a hard marker - if anything is borderline she rounds down and never up.

So here is my first attempt, everything placed perfectly except she didn't like the green chrysanthemum! 

And here is my re-sit, I got a Merit, so in that case - job done!  Perhaps the other big difference between the two is the flowers and foliage, I took all my own in for the one below and didn't use college stuff, does the difference in quality tell, I think so.  Yes the one below is miles better but there is also another 4 or 5 months training on top too!

One item which had bugged from the test itself was the first practical when I really was all fingers and thumbs and went to pieces really - so I wasn't looking forward to re-doing it but had to - here is my first attempt

and here is the second, there is nothing spectacular about it - but enough to get a Merit and upgrade from the Pass, so again job done.

And finally I needed to re-do the posy with collar that I did a couple of weeks ago which I also made a total mess of.  Here is the first attempt (after I had done this and was packing for the day a couple of weeks ago, the head of dept came in and commented on it and I pointed out to him, that it was in my words crap - which is really was - he mentioned it to Janet - he really is a jerk)

And here is the up-grade, so again job done.  I have now got rid of all my passes and everything is Merit or above so I am really pleased with that.  Which has now left me with a pleasant dilemma which means I need to go in to do a 40 minute assessment and a 45 minute assessment and then I will be totally finished and free!!



Reading challenge 10/16 - currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban

Friday, 2 July 2010

Friday Fill-ins

1. When it's quiet I close my eyes and am thankful for all the wonderful things in my life.

2. I hardly seem to have been at home in any significant way in what seems like a month.

3. My heart is about 5 foot tall, 10 years old and answers to the name of Jamie!

4. Can it really be July?

5. In the town where I was born lived a man who sailed to sea, and he told of his life in the land of submarines ..........!

6. That I know I can trust him totally and completely, is something I really love about my significant other.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to snuggling up with Jamie and watching Criminal Minds, tomorrow my plans include watching the cricket between England and Australia and Sunday, I want to spend some more time with Jamie now that college is finished!


Reading challenge 10/16 - currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban (I found it hooray!!)
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