January (and a little bit of February).

I spend most of my working day with Radio 4 playing in the background. I don't always listen properly, but there are very few things which will actually make me get up and turn it off (ahem-round-Britain-quiz-cough) and there are occasionally programmes so good they root me to the spot, unmoving until they finish). I thought I might write each month about my favourite listen and then decided to add in other recommendations too, so it's become a sort of monthly round-up. Having left it til mid-February, this is a bit of a cheat too. I'll get better.


With Great Pleasure: Sanjeev Bhaskar

I love this series, a sort of Desert Island Discs for the book lover, and this programme with Sanjeev Bhaskar of Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at no. 42 fame (42 because he's a big Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan, I discovered while listening!) is one of the best. You should listen just to hear Adrian Lester read the line "and we're going to need your creativity or we're done for", it will send shivers down your spine. Claire Benedict also does a fantastic reading of Kipling's 'If' which I'd never imagined being spoken by a woman and is much the better for it. If you're in the UK, you'll be able to catch it on iPlayer for the next 3 days.


Love's Labours Won (Much Ado About Nothing) / Love's Labours Lost

Despite being a Midlander, I'd never been to the RSC in Stratford until a couple of weeks ago when we went to see Love's Labours Won. We loved it so much we couldn't resist going back again last Friday to see Love's Labours Lost. Much Ado is my very favourite (happy) Shakespeare and this production was completely wonderful. The best Beatrice and Benedick ever I've seen and, most surprisingly, a Dogberry who will not only make you cry with laughter but also break your heart. Both plays still have a few more performances left to run and you can catch Love's Labours Won at the live cinema broadcast on the 4th of March.


Ilam Park (The photo above is from the same walk, but in October because I didn't actually take any last week.)

This was our Valentine's day out, complete with fish and chips from Ashbourne's Market Place which have got to be the best to be found this far from the sea! Just up the road from Dovedale, Ilam looks like a gingerbread village with it's ornate, steeply roofed cottages. The hall is a National Trust hostel, complete with a tea room and a garden that offers a spectacular view of Thorpe Cloud. With your delectable jam-slathered scone in hand, you can watch the tiny people rowed up along the top ridge like the spines of a dragon. Heaven. We discovered it's just as good with a parcel of fish and chips on your knee, which handily doubled up as a hot water bottle on this particular grey February day. We opted for a gentle amble upstream along the river, where the path eventually meets a lane that leads back down into the village.