Thursday, 30 October 2014

Holiday complaints

ACTUAL COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY "THOMAS COOK VACATIONS" FROM DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS: 
1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."  
2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons.  I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time -- this should be banned." 
3. "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food." 
4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price."  
5. "The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room." 
6. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow."  
7. "They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax."
8. "No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared." 
9. "Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers."  
10. "We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish."  
11. "The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun." 
12. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair." 
13. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends' three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller."  
14. "When we were in Spain, there were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners." 
15 "We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning."
16. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel." 
17. "I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes." 
18. "My fiancee and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."
(And my daughter thought SHE had problems! See previous post: http://jacybrean.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/dont-let-penguins-bagsy-all-sunbeds.html)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Saturday, 18 October 2014

Don’t let the penguins bags the sunbeds!

 
View from Bom Dia boat on tour of coast
  
      Going on holiday was my darling daughter’s idea. Portugal - being as far south as our budget could reach and most likely to offer sunshine in October - was mine.  This was to be our first trip abroad together in 10 years and the first time either of us had booked online. DD organised the flights, I did the accommodation – a rather swish 3-star self-catering complex on Meia Praia beach, Lagos.
       Then the phone calls began - 2 months of them - as DD’s obsession with the weather hit an all-time high!  “It’s only 19 degrees in Lagos today!” she complained.  “It’s 19 here in London and I’m freezing!” Later that day, she communed with a recent Lagos returnee who insisted the weather in October would be much, much warmer than anywhere in the UK. “After all, it IS on the equator, you know…..on the same latitude (longitude?) as Algiers.” No doubt Columbus could make more sense of that than me, but it seemed to set DD’s mind a rest for at least 4 hours. The next time she phoned, I was with another couple of chums who’d also been to Lagos and obligingly gave a glowing report of the Algarve climate. “Don’t worry, you’ll have a brilliant time!” said my friend Anne. “Never mind the weather! Get a few Strawberry Daiquiris down your neck and you won’t even notice!”
       Having consulted with her colleagues, flat-mates, friends, neighbours, unwary passers-by and the Daily Telegraph Travel page (Thank you, Daily Telegraph!) DD decided she was cool about it. “I don’t care what the weather’s like; I’m going to swim every single day!” she announced. “Okay,” I replied, “let’s hope the penguins don’t pinch the sunbeds!”
       At last, the morning arrived, me waking up at 2am. The journey went surprisingly smoothly, despite long waits between trains, and I met up with DD for the flight from Stansted. So far so good - until I realised, just before touchdown at 11.45pm at Faro airport, that I hadn’t verified the shuttle to our hotel. We were supposed to give the bus service 24 hours notice! “Oh no! I hope they’ll let us on the bus!”
       Phew! Another panic over! The driver DID let us on and 2 hours later we arrived at the Dom Pedro Meia Praia Beach Club where our crisply laundered twin beds awaited. It had been a whole day since I’d woken up in Derbyshire and that soft pillow was my universe. Unfortunately, my head had hardly touched it when DD flounced off to reception in her jim-jams. “Where’ve you been?” I asked on her return. ”To see if I could get my own apartment!” she said. “Your snoring’s keeping me awake!” Now whether she met a language barrier with the bemused young man on the night-desk or realised that she’d have to pay for it, I don’t know, but she failed to get the accommodation she wanted and settled instead for the balcony. Fortunately, the temperature was pleasantly warm and, of course, she had the stars for company!


View of Lagos - main quayside with colourful market stalls
       Awoke the next day to unending cobalt skies, wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures of at least 30C.  A mere minute's walk and we were on the famous Meia Praia Beach – a wide, sweeping, truly breathtaking stretch of coastline with soft platinum sand. And, to DD’s delight, the sea was choppy with white-crested rollers crashing violently against the shore. Not easy for swimming, perhaps, but a very exciting way to exfoliate! A good sandblast does wonders for the complexion!  30 minutes of paddling along the shore and we were at Lagos Marina with its colourful yachts, cruisers, speedboats and, best of all, a replica of the Caravela Boa Esperança in which Bartolomeu Dias set sail for the Cape in 1488.

Caravela Boa Esperança
       In the town itself, there’s an ancient citadel from which I kept expecting El Cid to appear with a broom handle stuffed down the back of his Y-Fronts!

DD doing Grace Kelly bit on deck!
       The food was wonderful – lots of fish – in outdoor restaurants with friendly staff, and and lovely cafes in unexpected places, either on the small hidden coves along the coast, or, like our favourite, on a cliff with panoramic sea views. It was in Lagos DD swallowed her first oyster - a single mollusc on a plate of crushed ice and salady stuff - and where I drank my first Strawberry Daiquiri – perhaps not a good idea seeing as we had a tricky walk along the cliff-side to reach the sandy bays below. I didn’t like to tell DD that the height was making me dizzy, as she’d have blamed it on the rum – she’s already convinced I’m on the road to ruin, which on this occasion was probably true given the lack of handrails!
       In fact, DD has a thing about booze. During our 8 days in Lagos, I had no more than 4 glasses of wine, the single Daiquiri and, on our final night, a brandy to finish the meal. “Do you want one?” I asked her, “After all, you’re not in the Sally Ann.” 
       “No,” she replied, as I expected. Then, much to my horror, added, “I’ll have some of yours.”  
       “But you don’t like brandy!” I protested.  “And you’ve already had most of my Mateus Rosé and you didn’t like that much, either!”
       DD was adamant. “I’ll have some of your brandy in my coffee,” she said. The awkward Madam obviously wanted to curb my drinking - no doubt thinking she was saving me from a life on meths under a Manchester viaduct.
       “Are you sure you don't want one of your own?" I said, through tightly-clenched teeth.
       “No,” DD replied, pulling her Major Barbara face. “I might not like it.”
       Ah well - back to Blighty and a stiff G & T!
       
If you want a quiet holiday with lots of sun, sea and sand, Lagos is for you. Not much in the way of nightlife, although there are some lovely restaurants in the town and street entertainers in the square.


Water is almost as inviting as a Daiquiri!

http://www.bomdia-boattrips.com/

Hope you enjoy the holiday snaps!




Saturday, 27 September 2014

Good health! Natural ways to stay younger and fitter!

The best of health….

No one wants to grow old. We all hope to stay as young, fit, healthy and beautiful as possible for as long as we live. Sadly for many of us, state pensions don’t run to cosmetic surgery, but despair not! A healthy lifestyle and a good diet will stand you in good stead - whatever age you are!

…….in your 20s

This should be the best time of your life, especially if still single. You’re young, free and (hopefully) earning enough money for those brilliant nights out. But Beware! Lack of sleep, too much stress and snatched irregular meals can play havoc with your system so you may need supplements to compensate.

Smoking and alcohol for instance can rob your body of Vitamin C – essential to keep skin, ligaments, tendons and gums in good condition. To boost your energy levels, invest in Beta-carotene, Vitamins B & E, Bioflavonoids, Selenium and Zinc. And if you’re into sport or other exercise, Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium and trace minerals will keep bones strong while easing the pressure on muscles and tendons.

Young couples are prone to different types of stress. When life gets really pressured - say, when planning a wedding, moving house or starting a family, Valerian, Kava  or St John’s Wort can help you keep your cool.

*If planning a pregnancy, always get advice from your medical practitioner on safe supplements to use.

…….in your 30s

Whether single or part of a couple, you’ve probably settled down a bit by now. Fewer late nights and a regular meals may be the norm, so any health problems you have could be due to genetics - or a very wild youth!

Apart from eliminating the usual risks (smoking, drugs, excessive alcohol) and cutting down on stimulants such as tea and coffee, you also need to watch your weight, so preventing serious problems later on.

Extra boosts to your diet include Iron, Zinc, Folic Acid and Vitamin E which will help maintain a healthy heart. Make sure to use a good sunscreen which will help protect your skin from ageing and even cancer. Then stop worrying. Or, if you can’t let go mentally, try homeopathic remedies such as Passiflora or Centaury Bach Flower Remedy to reduce the stress

*Even at this early age, you need to lower the risk of osteoporosis. Taking extra Calcium is like putting money in the bank for a future day!

.......in your 40s

Life begins at 40, so they say, and it’s not hard to see why. You’re still young enough to have fun but wise enough to keep a balance. Although the menopause can be a pain, HRT may keep the symptoms at bay while protecting against osteoporosis and heart disease. Of course, the best health benefits you can have are nutritious, low-fat, high-fibre foods, plenty of sleep, lots of water and regular exercise.

Vitamins B,C,D and E are essential for wellbeing, as are Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. Co-enzyme Q10 will protect your gums, Cod Liver Oil will keep joints lubricated.

Starflower Oil is said to stabilise hormone levels and, if you’re prone to panic attacks, try Rock Rose, a Bach Flower remedy.

A common problem for women over 40 is gallstones. Flaxseed or Peppermint Oil may help prevent stones forming and even dissolve them. A daily dose of Psyllium can also stop stones forming by promoting regular bowel movements.

*Suffer constant thirst, blurred vision and weight loss? This could be caused by Diabetes, so ask your doctor for a check-up.

.......in your 50s

By now, you should be able to take things easier but life doesn’t always work that way. Grown up children may still live at home, elderly parents may need extra attention, and then there are the grandchildren – all vying for your time and energy.

Result? Burnout….that is unless you look after yourself. Get plenty of rest and stick to a sensible diet, upping the fibre and eliminating unhealthy fats to reduce cancer risks.

Exercise is vital. One of the best ways to stay fit is walking, but cycling or swimming are also good as well as being very enjoyable. If you go to a gym, supervised weight-lifting can help maintain bone health, balance and co-ordination.

Calcium, Vitamin E and Cod Liver Oil may help to prevent osteoporosis, while antioxidants - Iron, Phosphorous and Magnesium - will also slow the ageing process, as will trace elements Selenium and Beta-Carotene. Many women in middle age swear by Evening Primrose Oil and Starflower Oils to keep themselves supple.

*Examine your breasts for lumps and other changes and make sure you have regular mammograms and bowel cancer checks.

.......in your 60s

Impending retirement and a quieter lifestyle can lead to depression. Without a regular work routine, some people feel their lives lack purpose, and the only way to counter this is by embracing new hobbies and challenges. Keep the mind active, stay interested in local events.

Watch your diet. Instead of reaching for chocs, chips and carbs, increase your oily fish and fibre intake. Regular Vitamin C and D go without saying, Calcium, Zinc and Cod Liver Oil will improve circulation, while Gingko Biloba will keep your neurons firing on all cylinders!

Emotional stress can be eased with homeopathic supplements, such as Bach Flower Remedies.

*The brain is a muscle that needs exercise just like any other muscle, so puzzles, games, travel, acquiring new skills such as learning a new language can really enhance your mental capacity well into old age.

And whatever age are you are, drink lots and lots of water to plump up your skin, cleanse you system and improve your general health. in fact, some medical researchers believe a glass of water half an hour before bedtime may stave off strokes and prevent heart attacks!


Friday, 12 September 2014

Daydreams - Adventures of the mind

       “Advantage Miss Brean. Championship Point.”
       The spectators hold their breath, waiting for the reigning Queen of Wimbledon to save herself from an unexpected and humiliating defeat. Surely, her 15-year old opponent, this wild card child with a devastating backhand volley, the perfect figure, flawless complexion and really beautiful hair, won’t be able to hold her nerve! Slowly, carefully, the older player tosses the ball into the air, draws back her arm, positions her racket and Wham! The ball zings across the court and skims over the net, spinning wide of the young girl opposite. Jacy reaches out, every sinew stretched towards the round yellow object and....
       “Jacy Brean! What’s the square root of 945?” Startled by this unwarranted intrusion, I find myself back in the classroom with an empty exercise book in front of me. Miss Sheehan is not amused. “Write out one hundred times, ‘I must not daydream during double maths!’”
       From as far back as I remember my life has been divided into three main states of consciousness. When I’m asleep, when I’m working and when I’m daydreaming. The first two activities together account for...oooh, 33 percent of my time. The rest of my time, if I’m honest, has been spent in a parallel universe.
       But I’m getting better. Motherhood, the need to earn a living and do the normal things of life – such as eating – have forced me to ‘get real’, a state of consciousness to which I used to be a total stranger but where, for the most part, I now reside. I’ve not stopped daydreaming completely, though. After all, daydreaming has its uses. While waiting in a queue at supermarket checkouts, I’m actually galloping across the desert on a beautiful Arab stallion; when confronted by a dull and over-talkative acquaintance, I’m mentally preparing for the next assault on Everest; and train journeys fly by when I’m auditioning for my latest West End play. Last time this happened, Judi Dench took so long over her soliloquy, she made me miss my stop!
       Daydreaming is such a wonderful way to escape the problems and tedium of day to day life, I’m surprised more people don’t indulge. But there you have it – the world is separated into practical people who concentrate on realities and actually achieve something, and people like me whose successes are merely imagined.
       People from all walks of life have imagination, of course, but daydreaming goes beyond the normal ability to envision situations. It puts the dreamer centre stage where he or she can actually feel the relevant emotions, as though living in a novel or film.  Such virtual experiences can help a person to develop empathy and to explore outcomes to real-life problems. And, according to a recent study by Daniel Levinson, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA*, people whose minds wander during tasks may be more intelligent, with greater ‘working memory’ which enables them to do two things at once.
       But there’s a downside. Spending most of one’s time on ‘another planet’ may prevent us from confronting issues in the here and now. It can distance us from others and result in an unrealistic, overblown view of ourselves and our abilities. Does every XFactor hopeful really have what it takes, or are they merely chasing the ‘dream’? Sadly, you only have to watch the initial auditions to see how few competitors possess the necessary talent – talent invariably honed by the finalists through years of sweat, tears and training.
       Lack of concentration can be embarrassing too. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve offended by chuckling after they’ve told me their dog/cat/grandmother’s died! It’s not that I’m heartless, mind – just that I lose track between setting sail for Fiji and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
       And, while daydreaming may seem harmless on the whole, much depends on their content. A craving for riches, for example, can lead to gambling, fraud or other dubious practices. Romantic fantasies may revolve around another person’s partner, resulting in broken hearts, homes and families. Or they may lead us to follow a glamorous but highly competitive career to which we may not even be suited.
       A few years ago, I asked a group of friends whether they daydreamed. All did. One girl had the very natural dream of marriage and children, the proverbial cottage with roses round the door. One (rather aggressive) young man imagined battling with a faceless opponent over a parking space – an incident that led to violence and a highly dramatic court case.
       During the discussions, my best friend, Lynda arrived and listened intently without adding any revelations of her own. But then, no one could imagine Linda daydreaming, she was far too down-to-earth. “Of course I do!” she exclaimed. “Really?” we asked, by now completely agog. “What about?” Linda’s eyes narrowed with concentration, as we awaited her pronouncement. Finally, she remembered her most cherished fantasy:   
       “Tax rebates.”

*Published in Psychological Science
See also: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2116032/Lost-daydreams-It-sign-youre-intelligent-absent-minded-children-sharper-brains.html


Monday, 25 August 2014

Two new pantomimes - and an early start for 2016!

                                   
2014/15 Season

        It’s been a busy weekend. Up at the crack of dawn 3 days running to attend a convention and not getting home until late evening.  So with some relief I woke up this morning with absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do – at least that was the idea. But you know what they say about best laid plans/mice and men/time and unforeseen and all that…..

       Bleary-eyed,I reached for my Hudl and was idly scanning down the timeline when I noticed the TWEET! Well, who else could it be? Having generously (and with great skill I might add!) RT’d Act One Productions’ latest (and, I must say, brilliantly designed new posters) I’d inadvertently invoked powerful forces, i.e. Jule, in the form of an uncompromising call to action.     “GET WRITING!”
       No preliminaries, no small talk, no theatrical lovey-speke. Just “GET WRITING!”
       “Okay Jule,” says I. “Why the urgency? You’ve got this year’s scripts for Aladdin & the Meanie Genie AND Cinderella – not to mention the extra mid-year script for Alice in Summerland! So what’s the hurry?”
       Jule merely mumbles something about marketing and how we have to get our act together well in advance. Too right! She’s got the POSTERS already!! Leaving retail advertisers at the starting post in the race for seasonal sales!
       “In case you haven’t noticed, Jule, we’re still in the middle of 2014,” I argue.  “This is a theatre company, not John Lewis!”
       “Yes, but, as I mentioned in my email – and DON’T pretend you didn’t get it! – we’re almost booked up for 2014 and now people are already asking about 2015.”
       This is a fair point. Since Act One Productions was formed 5 years ago, demand has increased along with the company’s reputation.  Some of the pantomimes, both short and full-length versions, have proved so popular, they’re going out on tour again next year alongside new productions - not just over Christmas but also other times of the year.*
       “So you see, I hardly have time to turn round for the next 12 months, which means the groundwork has to start now.” By groundwork, Jule’s referring to the scripts on which everything else is based – costumes, scenery, lighting, music, sound and, of course, casting. Looks like I’m going to be busy this autumn!
       “Okay then,” I concede, “So that’s Puss in Boots for the short panto, Jack and the Grumpy Giant for the longer family panto, and Red Riding Hood for the summer show. Will any humans be in the casts next year?” I ask.
       “Whatever do you mean?” replies Jule, and I can almost hear her long eyelashes fluttering with injured surpise.
        “Don't play the innocent with me,Madame! Let’s face it, Jule, you’re not exactly adverse to sticking the odd donkey in here and there. Or elephant. Or duck… Goodness knows what creatures you’re planning to include this time! In fact, it’s not a theatre you need, it’s another Noah’s Ark!”
       “Now THERE’s a thought!” cries Jule. “What are your plans for 2016?”
       “Arrrggggghhhhhhhh!”

                                  
2015/16 Season

*For performance schedule, check out the website:

http://www.touringpantomimecompany.co.uk/page/2014-touring-pantomimes

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

How to cope with STRESS

1 in 5 British workers physically ill; 1 in 4 reduced to tears in the workplace; unprecedented demand for anti-depressants…..All due to stress.

Yet, stress is not always a bad thing.  The American Psychological Association states that “Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life,” depending on how we manage it.

Imagine watching an adventure movie, say Indiana Jones or Fast and Furious. Or riding a rollercoaster.  When things get really exciting, the body’s emergency response system kicks in, making you breathe faster, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate, and really getting the adrenalin pumping as extra glucose and blood cells rush to the rescue.  Once the situation that triggered this response has passed, the body should return to normal.  But if the stress factor continues, the same mechanism can cause intense anxiety.

Much of today’s stress, of course, is far from pleasant, but how we handle it can make all the difference to our overall mental and physical health.  Tobacco, excessive alcohol, overeating or ‘vegging out’ in front of a TV or computer screen will only make things worse.

According to the National Institutes of Health in the US: “The best start to relieving stress is…..a well-balanced, healthy diet as well as getting enough sleep and exercise.  Also, limit caffeine and alcohol intake and don’t use nicotine, cocaine or other street drugs.” Other suggestions are regular breaks, hobbies and spending time with friends and family.

Naturally, different types of stress require different methods of coping:

Overstretched schedule

For some people, it’s hard to juggle work and family commitments, especially when there are children and elderly parents to consider.  But, no matter how packed your schedule, it’s important to find time to relax – otherwise you’re unlikely to help anyone, least of all yourself.  Prioritise, make sure you get enough sleep, and set aside much needed ’me time’.  If your current schedule won’t allow you to, maybe you should simplify your life. Do you really need that top-of-the-range car? The dream kitchen? Or a designer wardrobe?  So many people wear themselves out by chasing after ‘things’ which can never make you happy.  Try to be satisfied with the quality of life rather than the amount of stuff you can acquire!

Insecurity

In recession, job security and fears for the future may hang heavily. People with consistent support from family or friends are less affected by stress-related disorders, so being able to confide in someone close is a real protection. On top of personal anxiety about the future, the news is full of worrying events. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violent crime, accidents and illness are on every news item, which doesn’t make them any easier to cope with.

Yes, there are plenty of worries to keep you awake at night - if you let them! Try to avoid negative thinking – those ‘what if?’ disasters rarely happen and will only drag you downwards if you dwell on them. Just take one day at a time, deal with every problem as it arises and, if you’re a believer, pray about it. 

Troubled relationships

Spending 8 or more hours a day with a difficult boss or colleague is bound to get you down. Should they annoy or offend you, it can be hard to keep your tongue in check. But do try. Whereas a snide comment or angry response from you can make the situation 100 times worse, time and time again mildness has proved more powerful than rage, keeping tensions at bay and even softening the other person’s attitude.

If someone ‘has words’ with you, perhaps criticising you unfairly (at least in your view) try to keep the argument private, settling things with dignity and respect. You may believe you’re in the right, but it helps to see the problem from the other person’s angle and you may come to see their grievance is valid. Even if they’re completely in the wrong, be forgiving. People who bear grudges often have an increased heart rate and high blood pressure, while letting go of any resentment will lower stress levels.

There’s no doubt, every human on the planet suffers some form of stress. You may not be able to remove the causes; what you CAN do is to deflect your own anxiety by helping others, by reaching out in some way. Giving to others is one of the fastest routes to happiness and peace of mind – the perfect antidote to stressful,and even traumatic, conditions.










Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Hiking round Hathersage - with Charlotte Brontë & Little John

The limousines set off, engines purring, up the road, past the smoking woodland, and out into open country. Joe gazed out of the window as they climbed steadily upwards onto the moors, which were particularly beautiful at this time of year, with the heather coming into bud and the sun casting a golden glow onto the peaks.
As they continued the journey however, the landscape grew bleak and blackened by peat, a desolate scene relieved only by coarse scrubby tufts of lifeless reeds and bracken. And if this were not enough to make Joe's heart sink, then the sight awaiting him would send it plunging into his trainers. – Extract from The Runaway Children Vol 1 – Flight from the Nunjas.

As this passage from The Runaway Children trilogy suggests, Derbyshire High Peak is an area of contrasts:  From lush, leafy forests and verdant valleys to miles of rugged moorland and jagged rocky outcrops. In fact, the area where I live is one of the most popular places for tourists in the world! No wonder that, on her regular visits home, my ozone-depleted, London-based daughter insists on at least one lung-challenging walk every day.
Which means consulting the Green Book, a guide to local footpaths by a husband and wife rambling team.  (I’d give you the title but unfortunately, it’s disappeared, much to my darling daughter’s disgust. We try consulting an Ordnance Survey map instead but, like Captain Catastrophe, a character from the 2nd book in my trilogy, can make neither head nor tail of it!). So we decide to re-visit a favourite walk in Hathersage, a few miles from my home. Like so many quaint Derbyshire villages these days, free parking isn’t easy to find, but there’s a generouslysized car park not too far from the village centre.
“Why are you wearing those stupid sandals? Haven’t you brought your walking boots?” asks my darling daughter (DD for short). I explain that I have indeed brought my walking boots but have forgotten to bring any socks and, as the fields are dry and relatively flat, I can’t foresee any problems, despite the rather high wedged heels I’m wearing. “And anyway,” I add, “you haven’t exactly dressed for a hike yourself in those flimsy trainers.” DD merely shrugs and links my arm. I sigh with relief. First objection tackled, argued and put to bed. (And we’re still talking.)
Having reached the village, we make our way past allotments and a small cricket ground until the path leads us into open fields. “Oh look!” says DD pointing to a tree stump halfway through the second field. “Someone’s lost their glasses!” Now this is what I like about Derbyshire folk; someone has very thoughtfully placed the spectacles on the stump in such a way they can be easily seen - so if the owner is reading this and wants to retrieve them, I’d bet my life on them still being there!





DD is now in full stride, racing ahead of me. The view is breathtaking, so I ask DD to turnaround while I take a photograph of her against the tree-lined hills. “I don’t like having my photo taken,” she replies, going all Diva-ish on me, so most of my shots are of her disappearing rear. She does, however, oblige me with her profile as she stops to chat with a newly-sheared sheep. “I wonder if she’ll let me pet her,” muses DD.


DD & Sheep
 Now, Derbyshire sheep are an unusual breed, not easily alarmed and rather bold when it comes to cadging food from unsuspecting picnickers. They are also rather stubborn and this particular sheep is no exception to the rule. Having settled herself onto a comfy patch of grass, she’s reluctant to give ground, even when DD leans towards her. It isn’t until DD’s hand comes in for the pat that the animal decides to budge - just in time to avoid contact.
Another photo. “Oh Mum, do stop it!” sighs DD, turning her back on me yet again. “You only want pictures for your stupid blog!”


North Lees Hall, front view
After a mile or so we reach our first place of interest: North Lees Hall. This imposing Elizabethan manor was once home to the Eyre family and is thought to have inspired the fictitious Thornfield Hall where Mr Rochester wooed ‘Jane Eyre’ and where his mad wife jumped from the turreted tower. Apparently, author Charlotte Brontë stayed in Hathersage (her model for ‘Norton’) in 1845 with her friend Ellen Nussey, the vicar’s sister.


North Lees Hall, rear view
“It’s very small, isn’t it?” muses DD but I’m too busy taking photographs again. I particularly like the clog-worn steps leading up from the back of the hall to an ancient footpath which I’m certain Charlotte will have trod, and the views beyond are spectacular.

Stone steps behind North Lees Hall
                                         
View of crags from North Lees Hall
“Oh come on, Mum!” DD is now decidedly grumpy, so I put my phone/camera away and we look for a way back to the village via the parish church. We amble towards a path which seems vaguely to go in the right direction. Just as we reach the style, a lady appears, walking her dog.
“Will this take us to the church?” I ask.
“All paths lead to the church,” the lady replies, adding: “In the old days, there had to be a way for every farm to carry their coffins for burial.” Here follows a pleasant discussion about Hathersage and its various features, including a dam, the rock pools along the top of the crag, Robin Hood's cave and a swimming pool. “Only it’s closed today for cleaning,” says our new friend. Due to hot sunshine the previous day, a large number of families had cooled off in the pool, but only after smothering themselves with sun-cream: “Which made the water extremely greasy, I can tell you!” (Not to mention all the other unmentionable substances which may have been lurking – but let’s not dwell on that!)
View of Hathersage
Minutes later, DD and I are walking through fields towards the parish church and by this time my feet are starting to hurt a lot. DD has already removed her trainers to walk unfettered through the luxurious grass, so I decided to follow suit - only the grass isn’t that pleasant. It’s soggy and spattered with sheep droppings. “Don’t think this is such a good idea,” I say. “People can catch Lyme Disease from sheep, you know” “Oh Mum, you’re so negative!” “But it’s true!” I insist, “and if anyone’s allergic to ticks or spiders in the grass, it’s you!”
“Spiders!?” DD squeals and starts dancing on the spot like a cat on a kiln, toes curling with horror. “Better get your trainers on, Quick!” I yell, secretly enjoying her discombobulation, as she struggles to put on her trainers and keep both feet off the ground. Somehow, she manages to re-shoe herself and we both continue.
“Oh,” says DD. “Tourists!” Sure enough, a few yards further down the field is a party of Chinese teenagers who have stopped to ask the way from an elderly gentleman sitting by the fence eating sandwiches. He tells them how to get to their destination at which they promptly set off in the opposite direction. “Hoi,” he cries, pointing his finger, “That way!” This the youngsters understood and set off on the right track.
“Lovely day, isn’t it?” says the elderly man, cheerily. “My missus has gone to Wimbledon, so I’m having a picnic and a nice long walk.” Actually, I feel a bit sorry for him, even when he tells me his wife has made his lunch before setting off for the London train, but he seems happy enough and willing to pass the time of day – much to DD’s annoyance. She’s walked on a bit and is now gesticulating, grimacing and beckoning me furiously from behind a hedge.
“Why were you talking to that man?” she demands, “We’re SUPPOSED to be on a walk!”
“Just being friendly,” I explain. “Can’t cut people dead mid-sentence, can I?”
“But you were sooooo loooooong!”
In answer, I get my phone out again and start taking photographs. DD harrumphs, not for the first time, and stomps off ahead of me. Honestly, I do TRY to catch up but am beginning to feel rather tired. Left to my own devices, I’d be having a nap by now.




“Here we are then! St Michael’s & All Angel’s Church.”
Though mostly built in Tudor times, the structure of this impressive parish church actually began in 1381, and there have been other churches on this site since the 12th century.
The graveyard is thought to house Little John, allegedly a Hathersage man. Whether or not this IS the burial place of Robin Hood’s legendary side-kick is open to dispute, yet whoever lies beneath the Yew Tree before the church’s main entrance is certainly very tall; when opened in 1782, the grave contained a male skeleton measuring 7ft. (Our dog walking friend reckons it was over 8ft judging by one of the thigh bones!) Little John’s neighbours include Robert Eyre, a veteran from the battle of Agincourt whose descendants built the church extension along with North Lees Hall.




By this time, my feet are really hurting and I’m looking forward to tea and cake at Cintra’s in the village. This lovely café doesn’t disappoint – in the garden behind the café, we order moist lemon cake, a delicious toasted sandwich and a generous pot of steaming tea from the very pleasant owner and staff! Bliss!

Cintra's Tea Rooms, Hathersage