Monday, July 27, 2009

Glass-blowing, tigers and a misbehaving car

We've just arrived back from a very nice weekend visiting family on the Isle of Wight. It's a real tourist hotspot (mostly catering for the older generations; even my uncle who retired there refers to it as the 'Costa Geriatrica') so there's always loads to see and do.

Highlights this time included a visit to Sandown Zoo and a trip to the Isle of Wight glass studios. The zoo is a world-renowned one, which specialises in conservation and rescue work, particularly on tigers. They have a few other animals but not many; the bulk of their collection is big stripey cats that they've hand-reared or rescued from circuses and private collectors. It's only a small site but beautifully landscaped in the shade of an old fort with lots of palm trees and other sub-tropical plants thriving in the island's sunny climate.

The glass-blowing was fascinating. I'd never seen it done before and had no idea of the sheer skill and intricacy involved in creating the individual pieces. We watched two artisans making a perfume bottle with a flower stopper and they were back and forth to the furnaces, reheating the glass, shaping it, adding more layers of colour, reheating again, shaping again, for at least fifteen minutes. And that was just one piece! It made the high prices for the finished products much more understandable. And we treated ourselves to a very lovely paperweight.

The car has been misbehaving all weekend, with misfires in the engine and clouds of black smoke puffing out of the exhaust. Part way back last night it started making scraping noises to boot so it's been taken straight to the nearest mechanics this morning who are Looking At It. No doubt said Looking will involve lots of money so we're waiting for their phone call with some trepidation.

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