Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Inspired Sunday

I haven’t been to church as often since I left the Convent in 1979.
There I knew that would grab your attention...

  You a convent girl? 
I hear you chortle, Yes moi! 

Although I have to confess Sister Mary Clare, our Headmistress, 
and I were never that close. 

She probably let out a long sigh of relief the day I left 
to further my education elsewhere.
Her faith, hope and charity having been tested to the max!

The ensuing years saw my church attendance limited 
to three brief periods in which I returned to the fold,
although I must admit, blink and mere mortals may have missed it...
Mr Wren calls these my hormonal days... 
All co-inciding with being pregnant in the 80's. 

I suppose I was searching for some inner calm, 
an impossible ask really
 for 'him upstairs' with three kids under five.... 

My twenties and thirties became a blur of moving around the world.
Church attendence was restricted to increasingly infrequent
 weddings, with occasional christenings and funerals thrown in 
you know... as and when. 

So I have been absent without leave.
Although I'm sure the door was always left open.
Ermm, or maybe not.

Well since I’ve returned to the United Kingdom, 
I’ve found myself in back in several churches with increasing regularity. 
First there was a visit to my Grandfather's grave 
and then my Great Aunt's funeral.

Where they announced the magnolia tree, outside 
was planted by our family way back (see below)

But perhaps of greater note are several recent visits to the 
Church of England, church of my youth,
before I went to the Catholic convent.

I know, don't ask.

It's got something to do with 
'the Nun's were the only decent school that would take you'
Not that we say that in public!

Here is the St Mary's the Virgin church (above) 
where my friends and I once danced up the aisle... 
aged 10 years and 3/4 years old, 
in a pink ballet tutu 
with black ballet shoes with satin ribbons.

Quite what the occasion was I don't remember.
Surely it wasn’t for Harvest Festival?! 

I’m suppose this would somehow be deemed highly inappropriate these days, 
but those were the years in which we lived life on the edge,
 and sat in cars without seat belts you know.

And so when we were all lined up in front of Sister Mary Clare,
for the statutory:
 'Is your daughter of the faith?' admission interview,
my father with his polished Armed Forces officers uniform on,
we could all nod enthusiastically with a 
'yes of course, she's regular in church

Look, I'd best not fib, so when I say I‘m back, 
I mean I’m joining in the family church rota. 
The village divvy up the year, month by month, amongst themselves for 
Church Cleaning, Church Flowers, and Church Gardening. 

You'll have of course already noted my Flower Arranging talents,
if somewhat fledgling, from my previous posts.
What I may not have told you was the fun I had, 
 teamed up with our old primary school caretaker.

In hindsight this probably smacked of favouritism, 
or a last ditch attempt by my Mother, Festival Co-ordinator
to ensure the gates of heaven are always open for me,
by allocating us the altar!

My parents have been on the church rota for years, 
they never attend church for any other purpose 
that to assist with the above, 
never have done. 
They no longer even live in the village…

That’s what I call being wonderfully community minded.

So whilst I've been back
I hope you have enjoyed these photos
from what we would call Down Under, our Church 'Working Bee'!

The Church garden is really interesting to me
because whilst there are some gorgeous flower beds
some of the Churchyard has been left as a wildlife garden.

It's a beautiful English Country church garden
I hope you have enjoyed your visit!

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Aegon Classic Birmingham - Anyone for tennis?

After the dusty red clay courts of Paris
it is refreshing to be in the land of strawberries and cream
and impeccably mown lawn tennis courts.

It's two weeks until Wimbledon
and the summer of British tennis is in full swing.
There's Nottingham, Eastbourne, Queen's
and we are at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

It's a wonderful time of year,
the sun is thankfully now shining, and life's good watching tennis!

We arrive to be waved into the VIP car park right at the front door of the Edgbaston Priory Club. We couldn't have got any closer! It's got to be the easiest start to any WTA tournament that I've attended across the world. We are delighted to be supporting, thanks to my brother, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and have a lovely day of tennis and corporate hospitality ahead.

As we wander past the practice courts, spotting now familiar Roland Garros faces, it feels like we've been invited to a friend's tennis club, where they just happen to have been hanging out with some of the very best of the world's top female players.

Edgbaston is a far cry from the crowded Aussie and French Open, of my earlier tennis experiences this year, but it's going to be up there on my list of best  2015 tennis days out. What it loses in terms of sheer wow and razzmatazz compared with the Grand Slams, it wins as an easy, fun, relaxed day at the tennis. Fans in Birmingham do not need to queue patiently outside courts for an empty seat, or wait at known player exit points for a glimpse of their favourite stars. Here we wander amongst players, everyone seems focused but more laid back.

The tournament is in it's 34th year and this year the Tournament Director was delighted to have announced ten of the top twenty Women tennis stars  to compete here in the West Midlands. For the past three decades, the WTA's best have used the Edgbaston Priory Club as part of their final preparation for the Championships at Wimbledon.

Once the final ball is won, or more likely lost, in Paris the players turn their backs on clay and head towards Europe's finest lawn courts before arriving at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

I've always watched players on the hard courts in Australia, I'm now used to seeing players sliding across the red clay, so it was a bit of an ohhh moment seeing players slipping and falling on the grass as they master the change of conditions. 

This year grass court tennis benefits from an extra week of competition, giving players a three week gap before Wimbledon. I am in awe of how quickly players seem to adapt to lawn tennis.

It certainly adds another dimension to watching tennis at Birmingham, there is a feeling that anything can happen, as players make the switch. One thing is certain, players are keen to gain as much grass court competition experience before arriving in SW19. The matches are fast and exciting to watch.

On our arrival we are led to a very smart marquee over looking courts one to four. We are offered a glass of Moet & Chandon, this is the life! Our table is set for lunch with more wine chilling, beautiful flowers in the centre and a scattering of tennis balls. Each seat has a gift bag from the corporate sponsors.

We make our lunch choices and choose a time to return, before we head off to enjoy some tennis on the Centre Court. The staff were wonderful, they reminded me of my own sons and daughters, and looked excited to be working in the Skyview Hospitality Suite. Who comes up with these names?  No-one is here to look at the sky, I can tell you!

All I can say is, (and shush don't tell anyone) comparing it to corporate hospitality at the Men's Finals at the Australian Open, Birmingham wins hands down. Just look at the view we had whilst eating lunch. The food was fabulous, hats off to all concerned.

Whilst enjoying our delicious three course lunch we have a 'Is that Azarenka?' moment hitting up on Court three, and yes of course it's her. After lunch Karolina Pliskova is invited into the hospitality suite for guests to 'meet a player' she chats to the Interviewer who doesn't introduce himself, but all the ladies in the loo are saying afterwards they recognise him from off the telly...

'Don't ask me', I say, 'I haven't lived in this Country for over twenty years!' 

It is a lovely to hear a little more about Karolina's life as we sit there with our very own 'meet a player' guest Irina Falconi, who has finished playing in Birmingham and kindly joins us to meet my family.

With lunch over, we're back to Centre Court passing Ana Ivanovic hitting on the practice courts. She too looks happy and relaxed, looking lovely as always, but flying under the radar in tennis terms, with only a handful of the world's press camera's focused on her today!  

Centre Court is a happy place as we watch two British players win, much to the delight of the crowd, before heading back to the hospitality area for afternoon tea and scones - how delightfully British!

I love these lesser known tennis tournaments and if you are in the Birmingham area and can get to the Aegon Classic, you should pop in for a fantastic day to watch some of the best Women tennis players in action.

Thank you to all concerned for our lovely day at the Edgbaston Priory Club. I hope the Queen Elizabeth hospital had a successful day of fundraising.

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With thanks to all the wonderful hosts

Monday, 8 June 2015

Paris memories

'A few of my favourite things...'


... staying in an apartment close to the Parc des Princes
and seeing the Paris St Germain crowd excitement for the last match of the season.

For Blue Monday!

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

...or roses in a French street market in Boulonge-Billancourt
sprinkled with tennis water!

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens

...Or the Eiffel Tower through the copper gates of the Jardin des Tuileries

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

...or smelly goats cheese

These are a few of my favourite things

...the Eiffel Tower through the sunroof of our taxi


Photo credit: M deVries-Wiering
 Cream coloured ponies and crisp apple struedels

...or Napoleon's horses celebrating victory
on the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel 

Place du Carroussel and the Louvre
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles

Ok so I'm not much into schnitzel 
how about a French Bistro lunch with a dear Aussie/French friend
croque madame, glass of rose and a cappuccino pour moi
salade nicoise, rose and an expresso pour elle!

Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings

...Or the Emirates plane overhead camera 
flying high at Roland Garros

These are a few of my favourite things

...Winning at Roland Garros

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes

...or Roland Garros white frocks and Chanel gold swimsuits
Oh, the fashions and French chic!

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

...or all sorts of mascara in Galleries Lafayette

Silver white winters that melt into springs

...or chairs waiting for sunshine in front of the Tuileries Jardin pond

These are a few of my favourite things

...Pain au chocolate for breakfast

When the dog bites

...Not this tennis loving Crazy Poodle
we saw some stylish poodles in Paris but alas no photos

Anyone for tennis with our crazy poodle?
When the bee stings


Place de la concorde
When I'm feeling sad

... Never in Paris!

I simply remember my favourite things

...all of the above

Making baguettes Galleries Lafayette Food Hall

And then I don't feel so bad

... Happy Days!

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Lou Messugo

'A few of my favourite things'

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Courtside at Roland-Garros!

French Open, Paris 2015

It might seem strange to say, being from Melbourne, Australia, 
but I just reckon Roland-Garros could be my favourite Grand Slam. 

Look at me, I'm a long way from home!
Of course it won’t be possible to say with any complete certainty, 
until I have had the pleasure of attending all four… 

That was the challenge that Irina Falconi, 
professional tennis player and family friend, 
threw out to me this week, and I rather like it! 

If Mr Wren is reading this blog, he may think otherwise, 
given I have been doing a lot of ‘galavanting’ recently, 
but it’s a great thought for the bucket list!

TV cameras on Suzanne Lenglen court
I never thought I’d be able to attend Roland-Garros, 
let alone sit in some of the best seats in the house.
Look at me, with the same view as you are getting on your TV screens. 
Woo hoo!

Or how about the time I sat courtside amongst the Ball Boys?
Talk about being in amongst all the action!

Of course we had some very special matches to watch...

Especially those cheering Mademoiselle Falconi into the Third Round.

 I have been literally pinching myself all week 
as I wandered round as Irina’s guest at Roland-Garros. 

Irina Falconi enjoys her best Roland Garros yet
I’m not the typical person behind the scenes, 
certainly I’m no athlete, or nor the average Tennis "Mum", 
I decided my handbag had to go after Day One… 

I've had the joy and pleasure of seeing all the big names...

Crazy Soccer Mum in tennis mode supporting Tsonga!
I literally stumbled upon Federer in the flower beds, 
as seen here at the bottom of the massive match results board.

Nadal's name appeared out of nowhere on the wall in front of me
behind some unravelling arty tennis racquet
at the Roland-Garros museum. 
I did wondered whether this was a sign of things to come?
And maybe it was.

I've seen all the top names!
Ha Ha I'm only joking 
I did get to see both Federer and Nadal play some great matches 
and had several 'don't look now, here comes Federer' moments.
Pinch, pinch, pinch!

Nadal serves on Phillipe Chatrier court
You'll be glad to know that Melbourne Mum was on her best behaviour
and not leaping out of nowhere asking for a selfie
...unlike some!

Photo credit: M de Vries-Wiering Roger Federer on the practice courts
Wow what an amazing week,
Thank you Irina!
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C is for Courtside at Roland Garros
Thanks Jenny

Lou Messugo