poster by the lakeA compelling dramatisation of Melvyn Bragg’s novel ‘The Maid of Buttermere’ has opened at the Theatre by the Lake.

This is a sumptuous adaption of a true story local to the Cumbrian hills. A young maid, Mary Robinson, has become an attraction for visitors to the town of Butteremere. An inn keepers daughter, she is swept of her feet by someone she believes to be both an aristocrat and Member of Parliament.

The director Ian Forrest weaves a well balanced blend between both professional and amateur actors. A large group from the Keswick community chorus lay an affectionate back drop for all involved. The leads played by Jonathan Keeble and Rebecca Pownall hold true to the passion of the story offering the audience up to both laughter and tears.

The Theatre sets the scene so well for this play, being able to see the dramatic backdrops of Derwent water and the surrounding mountains. I can highly recommend a trip to the area of Keswick both for it’s natural beauty and for the chance to see the world premiere of this play. A good place to start is on the theatre’s website:

Derwent water


google readerI hope being introduced to google reader will make it a little easier for everyone to enjoy my new blog ‘vanilla sponge’ with relative ease. Vanilla sponge hopes to offer a slice of whats nice, touching on crafts,culture and lifestyles.

Through word of mouth i was beginning to acquire a large bank of good cultural and artistic blogs. Fantastic. However, my ability to remember and organize all these blogs was seriously out of control. Now i’m sure this is no secret to the highly computer literate that, using google reader is great for organizing all your RSS feeds from interesting blogs. But, I have to assume that their are folk  like myself who rarely discover these things at their embryonic stages but once introduced are in awe of their efficiency.

Once signed up to a google account you can organize various elements of your life using the calendar, mail boxes, document folders and photo galleries. However, for the purpose of getting all your blogs organized in one place google reader is excellent. RSS feed icons can usually be found on your favourite blogs which will link through to your google reader account, otherwise you can copy and paste the URL to where it says ‘add a subscription’ at the top of your google reader page.

Once set up you only ever need to go to your reader account to follow all your favourite blogs. You can sort them into folders under ‘subscriptions’ and also star or rate feeds to make them easier to refer back to.

hearth & home


On buying my first flat at the height of the housing market boom, i ensured an above the odds price was paid for the bricks and mortar and, an ‘at least the figure can only down from here’ percentage on my mortgage payments.
With this less than sparkling deal in place i felt i’d try and at least take control of making the place feel like home. Home previously had always been where the parents resided, however, having a mortgage (hitting maturity) i felt i should try and make this place home, and not just somewhere that feels like home.

Helpful touches to throw at your home:
1. The chair pictured is a mock, well used wing back Chesterfield. Bought from the flea/antique markets of the Brighton Lanes, along with a matching (well almost) 2 seater sofa with invitingly rich red leather, pinned with brass buttons, offering an understated grandeur. Glaring out from the corner of the sitting room under the stairs it gives myself, and other visiting mates, the opportunity to sit back, relax and survey what’s yours. At £200 for the both, IKEA is yet to find a place in my heart.

my chesterfield

my chesterfield.

2. Unpack all your books. Put them all around your house. Like paintings they tell people what you’re like and what you’re into. Think of it as a subtle facebook or twitter. There’s something about having little piles of novels/plays/poems on each step of your staircase that releases creativity into the air.
3. Perhaps most controversial of my pointers is, the proposition of taking the TV out the limelight. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than taking on an unwaveringly inert position of laziness on the couch, in your boxers, eating cheesy wotsits and taking in a good film. However, this i suggest should be confined to certain times and appropriate situations. As a guest in other peoples homes it’s a distraction to be presented with a TV, centre stage above the mantle piece. Perhaps it’s the overpowering draw to the screen, or my lack of integral will power, either way it doesn’t feel good in a home.
4. Lastly, purchase yourself a wholesomely round tea pot. I acquired mine as a birthday present. A really good birthday present as it’s something i wouldn’t go out and buy myself and, once you own won there’s no going back. Perhaps from Sunday afternoons spent with the grand parents (you must admire the unnaturally high tea consumption levels the older generation can achieve), tea drinking incites a nostalgic security only ever achieved by family and home.