Busy Buses

When I was lying on the couch having biopsies taken, the doctor said ‘Do you want to be treated at Bournemouth or Poole hospital?’ My immediate response was Poole, to her surprise. I explained that though I lived in Bournemouth and the hospital is nearer as the crow flies, my local buses both stop right outside Poole hospital, while Bournemouth hospital involves two buses, waiting and stress or perhaps one that only goes once an hour. After this discussion on buses it dawned on me she must have been certain, with all the tests I was having that morning at the Dorset Breast Screening Unit ( at Poole hospital ) , that I did have breast cancer.

I didn’t actually come back on the bus after my operation, but there were numerous routine visits and breast cancer patients are under the hospital for five years, so my decision was wise. Perhaps I should add that this bus journey does take an hour, which would horrify car drivers, but you can relax and catch up with blogs on your phone or people/passenger  watch/eavesdrop. The hospital is also a short walk from the main town with shops? – well modern shopping is for another blog – museum, eateries and Poole Harbour, so if you have only been to the hospital for a quick blood test you can at least make an outing out of it.

I have been using buses since before I was born, everywhere I have lived, except for an Australian country town; so I have earned my bus pass. If you don’t drive, walking, cycling, buses and trains are essential and we non drivers are good for the environment, not that anyone thanks us. But I totally understand that lots of people have no reliable public transport or just think we are insane. The typical new bus passenger gets on board explaining to everyone that he doesn’t normally go on buses, but his car is at the garage getting fixed. He then looks round for an empty seat or the least weird looking person to sit next to. If, when you go on a bus for the first time, you have waited a long time at the bus stop, the driver is rude, there are some very odd people on board plus the local drunk, the bus is packed with noisy school children and you are squashed standing in the aisle I can understand that you would vow never to go on a bus again.

But part of the fun of buses is you can never be sure what will happen! Sometimes something worse happens, such as hearing that your local bus company has suddenly gone into liquidation… That happened to our yellow buses, just as they were celebrating their 120th birthday. Luckily for me we have another bus company, suitably called More Buses, already running my favourite blue bus, M2, going frequently back and forth between Southbourne and Poole bus station with heating, on board Wi Fi, phone chargers and electronic boards and speaker messages telling you which bus stop is coming up. They stepped into the breach within days ( far more efficiently than governments run countries ) offering jobs to yellow bus drivers and bringing in More buses from all over the place. This has made local trips interesting as buses of all colours and ages have turned up, so you have to be very careful to check the numbers. Don’t get on the green bus covered in pictures of trees and ponies and highlighting the delights of the New Forest and expect to go to this fantastic National Park if it says 1a on the front. There have also been drivers who have to ask the passengers which way they are supposed to be going.

Hey Ho, all part of the fun of buses and then there are the passengers, can you even be a writer if you don’t take buses? Hearing people’s life stories, missing your stop because you have got so involved in the phone conversation going on behind you. One early evening I got on the bus at Poole and a chap at the front had a homemade guitar, literally made of bits of wood nailed together and string tied on. It did actually make notes and he was telling everyone about it, in fact he talked non stop till he got off in Bournemouth, at times like these I love buses.

Do you go by bus? If so, have you had any strange trips?

Silly Saturday – About and Out

WHEN YOU GO TO THE SHOPS AND THEY HAVE DISAPPEARED
WHEN YOU GO TO THE HOSPITAL AND END UP BACK IN TIME
WHEN YOU GO ON THE FERRY AND HAVE DOUBTS ABOUT THE CAPTAIN.
WHEN YOU GO FOR A STROLL IN THE PARK AND END UP ON A SCHOOL OUTING.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT SURE WHICH SIGN TO FOLLOW

...AND END UP IN SOMEONE'S GARDEN
…AND END UP IN SOMEONE’S GARDEN

WHEN YOU ARE ASKED TO ORGANISE A BIG PARTY…

WHEN YOU ARE OUT AND ABOUT AND ABOUT AND OUT AND WONDER WHO YOU WILL MEET.

New Friends and Old

Covid has not gone away by any means, but officially in England we are back to normal; yesterday was the second anniversary of the day we went into the first lockdown.  I have had my end of treatment visit to the oncologist so officially I am back to normal. For all of us the past two years have been strange. Perhaps because it is spring, or because Ukraine makes us appreciate our mundane lives, but everything seems more vivid, interesting, exciting even. I haven’t been further than a walk round Poole after my hospital visit but every walk, every coffee stop is ‘an experience.’

Poole Twin Sails Bridge

But we do have to face the fact that our town centre shops were already in decline and life is going to be hard and drab for many people with the economic disaster of Covid and Ukraine. Shopping therapy is going to be a thing of the past, though there is still coffee…

Looking on the positive side people have made new on line friends, got to know their neighbours better and become more empathic, helping those who have been isolated and those whose financial struggles were made worse by Covid.

For those of us who have lost partners and loved ones we see the proof that life always does go on, returning more and more to our previous lives doesn’t seem right, but unless we move to a different place or go sailing round the world, it is almost inevitable and a comfort.  Some parts of my life have been rejigged while others miraculously slot back into place. Our writing group has resumed in the library; our tutor and founder is now ninety, recovered from a broken hip and more on the ball than the rest of us!

Tea at Poole Museum.

A few weeks ago my friend was making coffee for the new monthly coffee morning at my local library – one of their activities to welcome real human beings back into the library. I went along for moral support, just as well as only two others turned up, both mature chaps who have just returned to England. We had a really interesting hour and it turned out one of the men, Mike, went to a writers’ group back in the USA.  I told him about our weekly group and he turned up the next week and has really enjoyed his two sessions. Our tutor was glad to have someone else who also remembered the war ( WW2 ) for our new chap was born in 1935 and spent fifty years in the USA after he and his wife emigrated. He is adamant that he is back in England for his ‘last years’ ( he is very spritely so there could be a good few last years), despite leaving all his family behind; a story that is his to tell not mine, but he is obviously making new friends as well, with the philosophy that every day he is going to engage in conversation with a stranger. This week another new bloke turned up at writers’ group, invited along by Mike.

It has been a strange few weeks. I received an email from my old high school friend in Australia who I have not seen or heard from since we were teenagers at college; fifty years of having no idea how both our lives panned out. She is helping with a research project on founder members of the college and with some difficulty ( as with all the girls who had married and changed their names ) managed to track down this website and found my email address on the contact page; I think that is the first time someone has used the contact page! It was really interesting catching up, though I have no idea what she looks like now!

If you walk dogs, walk or cycle everywhere and work in your front garden, you see familiar faces and smile or chat. Since Covid people seem even more likely to engage, with the silent sub text ‘Isn’t it nice not to be wearing masks and be out and about?’

A lady often passes by on her bicycle with a sweet poodly dog attached alongside, ears flying in the wind. I can’t help but smile and she gives a cheery nod. The other day she was on foot as I arrived back at my front gate and stopped to admire my front garden. It is hardly worthy of Gardeners’ World, but has burst into colour with bulbs out and the addition of the ubiquitous primula to fill in gaps in my tubs.

‘Are you a friend of Carolyn?’

I was pretty sure I didn’t know a Carolyn.

‘Carolyn and Amos round the corner?’

‘No, I definitely don’t know a Carolyn and Amos.’

‘Oh, you would certainly remember if you did know them. You look like one of Carolyn’s friends.’

I am still pondering if I have met Carolyn and Amos, perhaps anonymous faces I pass by often. And did she mean I am a twin of a particular friend or just look like the sort of person who would be a friend of Carolyn’s? Has the lady with the bouncy auburn curly coated dog only been greeting me for several years because she thought I was a friend of Carolyn’s?

Do you feel your life is back to normal, have you made new friends or found old ones during Covid?

Twenty Four Hours

When I woke up there was a strange man in blue standing by my bed, then I remembered I was not at home. He spoke.

‘The operation went well.’

I felt a sensation of total relaxation, the sort of calm people spend hours doing yoga or meditation to achieve. I looked at the clock, it was 5.45pm. I had not woken up during the operation and it was all over, a quick feel revealed that the right side had been operated on. Now I need do nothing except lie there and relax.

It’s only now that my writer’s mind brings forth alternative scenarios, what might be said to you when you wake up…

‘I’m very sorry, the operation went wrong…’

‘You’re in hospital, you had a massive stroke when you were in the operating theatre six months ago…’

Do you understand, you have dreamt the past thirty years, you are not a writer, you are in a high security mental institution…’

Fortunately it was still Friday evening and I was soon down/along/up? on the surgical ward. The four bed bay was devoid of other patients, I was not by the dusty window, but sitting up had a view of the harbour. Dinner was not an option. I had been amused when my friend told me she managed to eat quarter of an egg sandwich over three hours after her operation and the walk to the bathroom made her sick.  A cup of tea and a nibble of ham sandwich was welcome. Getting out of bed is encouraged, a relief not to be involved with bed pans, but the walk to the bathroom did make me sick.

In the lead up to the hospital visit there had been much discussion on what I would take in with me. There were numerous leaflets written pre and post Covid and pre and post our three local hospitals suddenly deciding to call themselves University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust and changing the phone numbers.

The main message seemed to be Don’t bring too much stuff, Don’t bring valuables. I was certainly not going to bring my brand new iPhone, which according to my younger son who looked it up after my older son bought it for me is very expensive! And I had managed to lose WiFi on it. I had brought my old phone which still had its sim card, but I couldn’t log in to NHS Wi-Fi in the pre op waiting room, because you had to confirm when they sent you an email and I didn’t get the email as I didn’t have any Wi-Fi… Nor was I going to bring any bank cards to log in to the bedside television, wifi etc which I was sure I would not be able to work; the leaflet said just bring small change. My Kindle would be enough entertainment, though it would be a shame to miss Gardener’s World...

I couldn’t imagine they expected every patient, however old or unconscious, to leap out of bed and rummage around in the locker for their smart phone to contact their family as soon as they arrived on the ward. Patient notes have next of kin and a phone number and you only want two messages sent to someone responsible ‘still alive after operation’ and ‘come and fetch me.’

It turned out they did try and ring the hospital but there was confusion over phone numbers and they weren’t to know how late I had gone down to the operating theatre…

A closer view of Poole Harbour

The nurse did ring my daughter so I sat back and relaxed for an evening of blood pressure and pain tablets, each time asked my date of birth, presumably to check I was still alive or still the same patient. One more patient arrived in the opposite bed. The nurse said she would be back at 11.30pm with the anti blood clotting injection so I didn’t bother turning off the light or tying to sleep. At 12.30am she still had not arrived and I wondered at what time my blood would start clotting.

At 1am I had the injection and presumably went to sleep because a cheery voice said ‘Good Morning’ and checked my blood pressure. I was looking forward to breakfast, but it looked very dark for a summer morning. When I asked the time the nurse said quarter to four! After a wander to the bathroom I asked the nursing assistant what time breakfast was – 8am. Then asked if I would like a cup of tea and a biscuit. YES

Custard creams, yuk, bourbon, no..  or  digestives. Yes please. When the mug of tea arrived there was a packet of three Crawfords digestives, I refrained from saying ‘Haven’t you got Macvities? and it turned out to be the best tea and biscuits ever.

Breakfast was a nice bowl of porridge and toast, all I could imagine facing when I ordered it the evening before. The elderly lady opposite was bed bound and mouthed something, I realised she was whispering I’ve had half my bowel removed. I got out of bed and searched for her lost pen unsuccessfully, then lent her mine so she could fill in her menu. Also I had a good look through the dusty window at the views and took photos, my old phone had come in handy for something.

Another view of the outside world

A doctor came round and said I could go home after lunch, so I went and had a wash, dispensed with the hospital gown and put on my new nightie. Any moving around involved lugging the wound drain bottle and the long length of tube I would be attached to for the next week or so.

I had just got back into bed and a different doctor came by and said I could go home right now. The nurse asked if I wanted to ring home. I tried to explain the phone situation and asked if she could ring. A sensible request as she knew the system and I didn’t. Getting from a ward to the ground floor and then endless corridors to the multi storey car park had seemed a logistical nightmare, but my daughter was told to park in one of the few bays near the main entrance and ring the moment she arrived and the nurse would wheel me down. A better exit than my arrival in my son’s builder’s van. On the way from the ward we passed the machine for purchasing access to the television which had remained perched up by the ceiling above my bed. I hadn’t even needed the small change as in Covid times no one comes round with trolleys and newspapers etc

My departure was exactly 24 hours since we had arrived thirty minutes early the day before and about 21 hours since I had gone to the theatre. Sunday would bring the district nurse on the first of the daily visits...

Sailing

My experience of cruises is limited to sailing from Poole to Cherbourg, a five hour trip on the Bar Fleur, for days out or holidays in France, and our one trip to Bilbao, northern Spain.

Poole Harbour – not the Bar Fleur

Our voyage on the Pride of Bilbao was one of their three-night weekend mini cabaret cruises, off peak season in October, with vouchers Cyberspouse got people at work to cut out of The Sun newspaper, a paper I never let him buy! When we boarded at Portsmouth all the other passengers looked like Sun readers. On the Friday night we went to watch the cabaret and were not surprised that when it was finished the entertainers reappeared in their crew members’ uniforms.

Our inner cabin was like a prison cell; I took the top bunk, not wishing Cyberspouse to crash down on top of me.

But the next day was sunny with plenty to do on board; relaxing in the lounges, taking part in Whale and Dolphin watches on deck or from the observation lounge, going to wildlife presentations in the ship’s cinema with the resident wildlife officer from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme.

After our second sleep came our early arrival in the port for our six hour turn around. On board we could book one of three coach trips; there was a lot of port and industry between us and Bilbao town, so you couldn’t just get off and ‘have a look around’. The fishing village outing was off, not enough takers. We had plumped for the Guggenheim Museum, but regular passengers told us it wouldn’t be opening for another hour, so we changed to the trip into town with hot chocolate and a snack at a quaint tiled coffee house. We spent the remainder of the time wandering around a nice department store near the coach pick up point, because it was cold and also I was worried we would not find our way back or be late for the coach!

That day’s sailing was very pleasant, sitting in the sun lounges, reading or writing and listening out for summons to see whales – we only ever saw distant sprays of water. I decided I enjoyed cruising. On our last night we slept well and were surprised when the next morning the Captain said we had been through a Force Eight ( or was it Sixteen? ) Gale; the Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas. I might have thought twice about going if I had known that, but it seems our inner cabin was far more stable than the better cabins.

The elegant Queen Mary 2 – the world’s only ocean liner, not a cruise ship

We have been on trips to Southampton and crossed Southampton Water on the ferry, so we have seen plenty of cruise ships and most of them look like huge floating blocks of flats, how do passengers find their way around? We never could afford seriously considered going on a proper cruise.

One of the strangest remarks after Cyberspouse died was from the reclusive retired couple in our little road. It’s not that they don’t talk to us, just that they don’t engage much with the rest of the neighbours. Pre Covid He spent all his time in the driveway and garage making things, while She was always out playing golf. He had been over once to say how sorry he was to hear Cyberspouse was ill. I was in the front garden one day and surprised to see them out together and coming over to chat. When he asked how I was getting on I thought he meant as a widow of over a month, but it turned out he had missed the dying part and thought Cyberspouse was still isolating indoors. He then compounded the awkwardness by asking if I was going to do anything exciting… adding like going on a cruise! I can imagine what his wife said to him when they got indoors!

The other day I was watching an item on the news about P&O Cruises offering round Britain cruises for UK residents who have been vaccinated…

Sailing at reduced capacity and with new health protocols, the line will offer round-trip short breaks on Britannia and week-long cruises on its new ship Iona from Southampton from June 27 until September 19, 2021.

For a moment I was tempted, they won’t actually be stopping anywhere. After so long with Covid constraints, many of us will need the security of not being able to do what we like. If the ship never docked anywhere I would also be saved the tedium of queueing up to disembark with lots of old people and their walking frames ( so I have heard ) and of course my fear of getting lost and not getting back to the ship in time. I could stay in my cosy cabin writing or stroll the decks looking out for familiar parts of the coast we have visited. Perhaps I would pretend I was a famous writer going on a great voyage…

Not a P&O cruise ship

Then the presenter asked if the crew would also all be vaccinated and the answer was No, they had crew from ninety ( or was it sixty ) different countries. Then I remembered how in pre Covid days cruise ships were always having outbreaks of Norovirus – yes the vomiting etc one – and I would probably get lost on board; even in Premiere Inns, where the corridors are like being on board ship, I always turn the wrong way out of the room. So perhaps I won’t go, perhaps they are already booked up …a blogging opportunity lost.

Staycation

sunshine-blogger

 To some a Staycation means not going abroad for their holiday, for others it means staying at home in the garden. With our bathroom being ripped out and hopefully replaced, we took the bus into town with our wheelie cases.

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Friday evening we arrived in torrential rain, Saturday and Sunday saw heat waves and on our last night we watched the lightning from our balcony.

For writers and photographers, finding interesting places to stay is vital. We had five nights at an Art Deco hotel which I’m sure has seen better days, but makes a good Premiere Inn. We had a front balcony, only on the second floor, but still fun to look out at everything going on. Westover Road has also seen better days; now an interesting mix with art galleries, posh jewellers and pub at the other end, the lovely Pavilion across the road from abandoned Odeon cinemas and a YMCA hostel next to the hotel. Opposite us, coaches delivered endless day trippers.

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After breakfast on the first morning we went up to the ninth floor and found a writer and photographer’s delight, the rear view; a riot of fire escapes with a little old house surrounded by layers of building developments. A walk up the road took us to the official opening of a newly pedestrianised area, Darth Vader and friends turned up collecting money for charity.

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Down at the pier and the main beach, which you always see in newspaper pictures of seaside hot spots, was busy, busy, busy; beach parties with tables laden with food and very loud sound systems. A walk to the end of the pier brought a bit of peace and a good view of the zip wire which takes you back to the beach.

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What did I learn from pretending to be a visitor? The homeless group that always seems to be there when I go to Bournemouth and get off the bus, IS always there; a double bed arrangement which stretches halfway across the pavement with several occupants near to our busy hotel. Of course they are not the only homeless; in a town full of happy holiday makers and lively young language students they are the spectre at the feast and Darth Vader isn’t the only one ignoring them. In the gardens there are buskers and a young man doing fire juggling with a sign ‘Homeless but Trying’. At the shops there are Big Issue sellers. I bought a Big Issue.

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The Royal Bath Hotel nearby is a great place to stroll into. Sit and cool off inside the huge fascinating lounge or enjoy the sun in the gardens. You could stay all day, people watching, plug in your lap top etc. without anyone noticing.  This hotel has also seen better days, as we discovered when we went there for dinner one evening to try the ‘special three course meal’ – no wonder it was so reasonable; we needn’t have worried about being smartly dressed, there were some very strange guests.

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On our last day we went abroad on a cruise; bus to Poole Quay for a boat trip to the start of the Jurassic coast at Old Harry Rock and then to Swanage on The Isle of Purbeck, an hour’s trip. We disembarked at the restored Victorian Pier for five hours ashore. A short walk takes you through the pleasant seaside town to the station where you can see steam trains, take a ride to Corfe Castle or have a snack in the railway carriage cafe. A walk out to Peveril Point and we could stand on the cliffs and look back to Bournemouth.

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For more Staycation pictures visit my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-two-coastal-views

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

Have you been on a Staycation?

 

Liebster Award (Retro)

Where Are We?

Are you sure you know where you are? I could say I live in Wessex, but Wessex has not existed for a thousand years. It was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until England was unified by Æthelstan in the early 10th century. But Wessex must exist because Thomas Hardy set his novels there… No, he used it as the name of the county in which his stories are set; corresponding approximately to Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

But Wessex must exist because there is an Earl of Wessex.  Don’t worry if you get confused with all the titles the Queen has bestowed on her children and grandchildren, most of us do. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones. By tradition the monarch’s son receives a title upon marriage. Prince Edward became the first British prince in centuries to be created an earl, rather than a duke. His wife Sophie became The Countess of Wessex.

Many organisations, including the army, that cover the area of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire use the name Wessex .

The ITV television series Broadchurch takes place in the Wessex area, primarily the county of Dorset. It features government agencies such as Wessex Police and Wessex Crown Court, and several characters are seen attending South Wessex Secondary School.

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I live in Bournemouth which is in Dorset… or is it?  Before it was founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell, the area was a deserted heathland occasionally visited by fishermen and smugglers. Historically part of Hampshire, it joined Dorset with the reorganisation of local government in 1974, but it has always seemed to me to have little in common with real rural Dorset. Since 1997 the town has been administered by Bournemouth Borough Council. But wait, more changes are afoot Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will be the unitary local authority for the district of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that is to come into being on 1 April 2019. The three towns already form the South East Dorset urban connurbation. What will it mean for the locals? Most of us are expecting to pay more in rates and have more services cut. Bournemouth is a new town set between two historic towns with plenty of pirates. Poole has the second largest natural harbour in the world, Sydney, Australia has the largest. Our sea is Pool Bay. Christchurch lies round the corner separated by Hengistbury Head; in Bronze Age Britain this was an important seaport, there was a settlement here in the Iron Age. I wonder how they viewed their identity?

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But let’s zoom in. I live in Southbourne, the creation of Doctor Thomas Armetriding Compton, who set up general practice in Bournemouth in 1866 and could see the area’s potential as a health resort. The clifftop land here had been part of Tuckton Farm, purchased by Compton in 1871 and later developed by the Southbourne-on-Sea Freehold Land Company.

Local businesses consider they are in Southbourne-on-Sea, Southbourne Grove, thriving with interesting shops and eateries, has been nicknamed the Sobo Mile.

You can see plenty of my local area at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-two-coastal-views/

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Now let us zoom out. I have never considered I come from anywhere in particular, having lived in lots of places. I was born in Middlesex, but it ceased to exist as a county in 1965. It stretched to Westminster many centuries ago, but London had finally swallowed it.

Our local borough may be getting bigger, but our horizons will narrow as Britain leaves the European Union, dark days for those of us who are Remainers. We shall all still be members of The Commonwealth and the English speaking world and The World, The Solar System and the Universe… as we used to write in our exercise books at school…

Do you know where you are, do you care where you are?

 

Pause and Applause

We were at a matinee concert at Bournemouth Pavilion, near the front was a young mother with a little boy who was chatting excitedly, when the music started he quietened. After a few bars the conductor raised his baton for a pause in the music; the little boy called out in a loud voice STOP. It was so funny. The conductor lowered his baton unperturbed and the orchestra carried on playing, but before the next piece of music a busy body usherette came bustling down and moved the mother and child further back and to the side. I hope it didn’t discourage them from live concerts.  After all, the child was better behaved than some adults and Bournemouth Pavilion seems to attract more than its fair share of odd people when Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are playing.

The seats are very close together with little leg room, not surprising in a building nearly a hundred years old, so just getting to one’s seat involves lots of very English ‘excuse me’s and ‘sorry’s. One afternoon in the foyer, an ‘odd chap’ was already causing confusion in the queue for programmes. Soon after I sat down he came shuffling along, huffing and puffing, treading on toes as he made his way to the middle of the row in front, then with much shuffling, grunts and elbows flying finally sat down. Nobody could believe it when in the middle of the first piece of music he stood up and reversed the whole procedure till he finally reached the aisle again.

One evening the lady in front of me started rummaging in her bag the moment the first notes were played, her friend whispered advice ‘In my experience the more you look the less likely you are to find what you are looking for.’ The rummaging continued until the last note when she triumphantly held aloft what she had been looking for – her glasses.

Surely no one would unwrap sweets noisily? Yes, perhaps they can be excused if they have just had a coughing fit. But why would anyone eat a packet of crisps in a concert? One evening, across the aisle from us, sat a lady who we assumed had come along as carer or friend with a very disabled lady in a state of the art wheelchair. The disabled lady sat quietly enjoying the concert and needed no attention from her friend, so what on earth was her companion doing digging in her bag, rustling around, disturbing everybody and probably the orchestra as well?

Visit another Pavilion concert in a previous blog.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/wagner-elgar-and-all-star-superslam-wrestling

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Not everyone intentionally causes havoc at a concert. We were at the Lighthouse in Poole, the BSO were at full throttle in a lively movement of a Tchaikovsky symphony when we felt our seats vibrating. It wasn’t the music; several well built Saint John’s Ambulance people were wheeling a stretcher down the aisle, with even more disruption as they tried to get to the collapsed man; finally they wheeled him off with his poor wife, clutching her handbag, following after them. The orchestra played on valiantly, presumably the conductor would not have seen all the action, some of the orchestra must have, unless they were totally absorbed in the music.

Some people enjoy a night out without hearing the concert. I knew an elderly couple who came to the Lighthouse throughout the season. He loved music, she did not and figured they could afford for him to go to more concerts if they didn’t buy tickets for her. She was quite happy to sit in the foyer with her knitting, holding court, chatting to the Saint John Ambulance and bar staff. At one stage she made a friend who also sat out the concert waiting for her husband.

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If you have never been to a live concert before don’t worry, you won’t draw attention to yourself if you follow two simple rules. Don’t clap till you are surrounded by applause; even regulars don’t always know when a piece of music has ended. Second rule, don’t stand up, don’t move a muscle until the orchestra leaves the stage. You may think the concert is over because the conductor and soloist have been applauded and left the stage. Don’t be deceived, they will return, perhaps several times to more frantic applause and just when you really think it’s over and you will be in time to catch your train or get to the car park before your ticket expires, the pianist will sit down smiling and play an encore. At one concert the flamboyant pianist played three encores, each with enthusiastic flourishes, did I detect  a look of panic on the faces of the orchestra members, was she ever going to go home?