21 Feb

Another airport, another flight – 1 May 2017

In the morning, we went for a walk round the golf course along from the house.  It was raining on and off as we walked through the woodland, but because we were walking through trees, there were plenty of places to shelter.  Labyrinth again became the word of the day.  There are so many paths through the woodland all crossing and re-crossing, it’s difficult to work out where you are going and where you’ve been.  We got ourselves lost a couple of times, but then Genghis Pathfinder chose a path I wouldn’t have chosen, but it lead back to the golf clubhouse.  Unfortunately, by the time we got there the rain was fairly heavy and there was no point in stopping for a coffee as all the inside seats were taken and not even the hardiest of smokers was risking the downpour at the outside seating.  We found our way back to the road and from there, back to the house.

ND suggested that we all go to a garden centre for lunch.  I didn’t recognise the route, but I did recognise the pizza stand and remembered that the pizzas were good indeed, but the waiting time was 25 mins and that was too long.  I chose instead to have sausage and beans with potato wedges.  It was an excellent choice.  Got some kale seeds and some spinach.  Scamp got a square of washable table cover.

All too soon, it was time it go.  Just had time to repack the bags and case and we were off to the airport again.  Seems like only yesterday we were getting picked up there.  Poor ND had to drive through torrential rain to get there, but as usual, he didn’t complain.

Case has now been dropped off and we’re through security although they did want to search my tablet separately.  I don’t know what was wrong with it.  Now I’m sitting in the departures lounge writing this up and whiling away the couple of hours until we go in the big metal tube in the sky.

21 Feb

Dancing on the ceiling–28 April 2017

M4284604_thumb[2]Today we walked to the station and with ND’s help, took the train from Chessington to Greenwich.  From there, we just followed our collective nose until we found a Costa for a seat, a coffee, something to eat and a chance to regroup to decide where we should go.  Initially we had intended going to find the ‘Meridian’, but after finding we were near the Cutty Sark, we chose instead to go and see it. 

The last time we had been to Greenwich we hadn’t seen the Naval College properly because they were filming something in it.  This time we did get to see it.  We were intrigued by the possibility of seeing the ceiling of the college which apparently was very interesting.  When we got to the Naval College we found the place completely covered from floor to ceiling in scaffolding.  Oh, oh it looked like we weren’t going to see that remarkable ceiling with its artwork.  However, on checking with one of the guides, we discovered that you could get to see the ceiling, not only that, but you could see it from close range, almost close enough to touch, except you weren’t allowed to touch.  We both quickly agreed that we’d risk the ascent of the scaffolding with a guide of course and go see that ceiling.  First we were kitted out with a tabard (ours was the green group) and a hard hat to match.  Remarkably, this is the first time I’ve worn a hard hat since I was an apprentice draughtsman way back in the mid ‘60s.  We then had a talk about the hidden meanings in the enormous mural in the far wall before we made the climb.

The mural was impressive, but nowhere near as impressive as the painting covering the entire ceiling of the hall.  As promised, it was close enough to touch at a stretch.  I didn’t stretch.  Again, the hidden meanings of the painting were revealed as we walked along the ‘floor’.  To prevent damage to the artworks, the lighting was quite low and of course we weren’t allowed to use flash, not that I would.  We could have opted for radio headphones, but I’m glad we didn’t because our guide was so knowledgeable and able to answer questions, something you don’t get with a recording.  All in all, a brilliant afternoon and one I’d recommend to anyone visiting London.

By the time we came out, it was time to head for home, but not before we had a spot of lunch in the market.  I had pakora and channa daal.  Scamp headed for the slightly sweeter churros stall.  A bit out of character, but still food and from an independent retailer, and that’s how we work.

Got the train back to Chessington and walked back to the house, although we did stop for a beer and a G&T at the pub, because it was there!

Neil was out tonight, Scamp, Hazy and I sat and watched a film while eating pizza.  What else do you expect on a Friday night.

Tomorrow, ND is taking us to a market, I think.

21 Feb

Train Talk – 27 April 2017

Footered around in the morning and packed our bags.  Got the bus to Glasgow and onward on the airport bus to the airport – obviously!  Got through all the technicalities and security then went for a late lunch which was a Fish Finger Sandwich and chips (shared) beer for me and a glass of red for Scamp.  All of this was done under a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.  Footered about again and then on the plane and off slightly earlier than expected into that blue sky and through the fluffy white clouds.

An hour later and we were on approach to Heathrow and there was rain streaking the windows and the clouds were grey.  This wasn’t what we had ordered.  We were expecting sunshine!  We were promised jetpacks!  Theresa had said it would be sunny, although Nick the Chick had warned us that if we went to england it would rain.  Stay in Sunny Scotland she’d said.  I wish we had listened to her now.  Never mind, we caught the little monorail to the South Terminal and from there got the train to Clapham and that’s where the Train Talk started.  It came from an opinionated teenager who apparently could have been a nuclear physicist and also a Nobel Prize winning biologist, but she had foregone all that to concentrate on sexual politics.   I was amazed to find that there weren’t just Ls and Bs and Gs and Ts, but there were also Polys, although that might have been Pollys, it wasn’t all that clear.  Also, you could get wristband and bracelets to denote which you were.  She described herself as like ‘Sadness’ “because I’m short and round.”  So, not just fat then?  All this information came in an almost no-stop flow of consciousness with the occasional interjection from one of her two train companions when they woke up.  The interjections also gave her time to breath.  Thankfully, we soon arrived at Clapham and she went further on her merry way and we went ours.

ND met us at the station and we were soon at the house.  Dinner was chicken salad and it was well received.  Fairly early to bed tonight, because it had been a long day.  I think Ms LGBTP will still be talking and talking and talking!

Probably Greenwich tomorrow.

21 Feb

A Closed Shop – 16 April 2017

Not a union matter, just that every shop we tried today for a couple of tins of tomatoes was shut.

Earlier in the day, Scamp and I went out for a walk past the Mill and on out into this incredibly flat countryside under a wide blue sky.  Saw and photographed a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and a Common Blue butterfly.  I wouldn’t mind being called Small if I was a butterfly, but I’d object to being described as Common.  Why are we so dismissive of these pretty flying insects?

It was after we returned and JIC took us off to wander round a garden centre that the problem reared its ugly head.  Sim had gone off to ride Valioso, so JIC was left to entertain us.  He did try his best, but shop after shop after supermarket after garden centre was shut.  Closed, padlocked, locked and shuttered.  It was like the end of the world.  The out of town retail parks looked so different without lights, with only a few abandoned cars and straggles of zombie looking folk.  That’s what it looked like.  It looked like the zombies were taking over.  Where’s that devil dog when you need her?

There was nothing to it but to drive back to the village and go to the corner shop which is always open, isn’t it, and buy the tins of tomatoes there.  At least we’d eat tonight.  We ate JIC’s chicken tagine which was much tastier than the one I made, although I think my Lamb Tagine would give him a run for his money.  After dinner we watched a confusing but very interesting episode of Black Mirror on Netflix.  Definitely one to search for.

Tomorrow we’ll try the garden centre again.  We may bring Vixen to dissuade the zombies.

21 Feb

Around and about – 15 April 2017

Today we started out being driven to Hitchen for lunch and a walk around the shops.  It seemed like a plan as the sun was out and it was fairly warm.

It seems a pleasant wee town with a busy market in the centre.  Had lunch in a Greek restaurant.  I had lamb casserole as my main after a starter of Borek which is filo pastry filled with Greek feta cheese & spinach.  Afterwards we went for a walk around the main part of the town where a Sikh group were giving out free food and cans of juice to anyone who wanted it, free of charge as part of their Vaisakhi festival.  We had just had lunch, but there were big queues at the stall, happy to make the most of the food on offer.  It appears that there is such a thing as a free lunch!

It being Easter, there were a few others stalls dotted around, a town crier shouting the odds and even a couple of Imperial Stormtroopers searching for those droids, I presume.  We were looking for Just Desserts, a dessert restaurant, but it when we found it, it was closed, not just for Easter, but for good.   It had had its just desserts.  Instead of a dessert, we settled for a posh, artisan coffee shop.  Coffee was lovely, if  a bit sharp and there were loads of cakes on display.  JIC and I had Yoghurt and Cranberry slice.  Best laugh of the day was when I went to the toilet and found the toilet brush was stuck in a Starbucks mug!  Someone with a sense of humour and an opinion of Starbucks much like my own.

Back in the town the Vaisakhi procession was in full swing with drummers and marchers who were preceded by two men spraying water on the road in front of the markers, presumably to ritually clean it for them.  It was all quite a jolly and colourful affair in the sunshine.  However, our parking time was nearly up, so we made our way past and old church back to the car with a few minutes to spare.

Went out later to see the new Mill House and it’s quite a revelation although there is still a fair bit of scaffolding enclosing it.  Sketched it, but I’m not impressed with the sketch.  May redo it later.

Dinner should have been in the Benington Bell which is a traditional British pub serving traditional Trinidad food!  I had Aloo Pies to start with, but everybody else had Salt Fish and Tomato.  Main for me was Lamb Curry for me and for everyone else was Chicken Curry.  I just like to be different.  Unfortuntely, Sim wasn’t feeling too good, so we just ate and left. (Since I’m writing this on Sunday, I can tell you that she was fine after a night’s sleep.) The food was really, and I mean really excellent.  Thank you JIC and Sim for that.

When we got home, Sim went for a snooze while we watched Black Mirror on Netflix.  Interesting programme.  Must search for it when we get back home.

Tomorrow (or to be truthful, today 😉 we’re hoping to visit a garden centre.)

21 Feb

Homeward Bound part 2 – 21 July 2016

E7211012- flickr--203After yesterday’s journey into the epicurean dungeon that is Lancashire services I decided that we wouldn’t risk salmonella, dysentery or norovirus and would leave earlier than planned hoping to find a cleaner service station.

I woke around 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep, but I lay until almost 7am when Scamp, having been woken by me asked if I wanted to just have a cuppa and head off. I agreed with her suggestion and by 8am we were washed, dressed and on our way north again. As I expected, the traffic was much lighter today and we made good time. We stopped at Southwaite services. What a difference. Light, clean and with people who wanted to serve you. Apparently their dishwasher was working because they had proper cups, not made of cardboard. I don’t know what it is about cardboard cups I don’t like. I think it’s something to do with the feel of the cardboard against my lips. Picky? Not me. Anyway, having had a proper breakfast and a proper coffee, or peppermint tea in Scamp’s case, we journeyed on. Weather was much more Scottish as we crossed the border and we even manages a little bit of rain.  Not a lot, just enough to welcome us home.  It was much cooler too, around 19ºc most of the way.  We turned into our street just after 11am. Last week we were just getting on the road at that time.

The rest of the day was spent lazing around, backing up computer stuff, posting photos and generally winding down. I got ready to take my bike out later in the afternoon, that was when the rain came on, so I did nothing instead. A bit of a waste, that’s the way it is.

Tomorrow, the bus will take the strain.

I mentioned yesterday about the poor WiFi in the Travel Lodge.  I didn’t manage to get the blog posted using it.  I imagine there were too many words for it to handle 😉
What I finally did was use my iPhone which was connecting with four bars of 3G.  I created a personal hotspot and used that to finally upload the blog post.  Isn’t technology wonderful when it works.


21 Feb

Homeward Bound – 20 July 2016

20 JulyI’m going to keep this short and sweet.  The WiFi in this Travel Lodge is awful.  You would think in this day and age that they could afford broadband for their paying guests rather than dial up.  Unless it’s BT based, because they seem to be having problems today.  They were not the only ones.

We expected, and got delays on the M25, but then we went on to the M40 and there were delays there too caused by … well, nothing really.  I’d love to see the motorway system from the air to see these phantom problems that seem to hold up traffic for hours.  On to the M6 and that is where the big problems started.  Queue after queue.  Some caused by roadworks, some caused by breakdowns and some inevitably caused by rubber-neckers wanting a good view of accidents on the south-bound carriageway.  By the time we got to the Travel Lodge I was exhausted.  Booked in and had a shower and felt a lot better.  Went for dinner in the services.  Oh dearie me, what a depressing place.  When we drove down, we stopped at Birmingham services and had fish & chips and it was excellent.  Today we had cold chips and something that might have seen the sea quite a few years ago wrapped up in yellow plaster of paris, at least that is what it tasted like.  Before you ask, “yes” I have eaten plaster of paris.  The yellow dye didn’t improve the taste at all.  We decide not to risk the coffee and went down stairs to have Costa coffee.  Here is what I wrote in the Costa on-line complaint form:

“I’m sitting in an excuse for a Costa coffee shop drinking an excuse for an Americano from a cardboard cup because the dishwasher is broken.  Although there were lots of ceramic cups visible on the coffee makers we were not offered them, we HAD to have our coffee in a cardboard cup.  I assume this makes clearing up easier for the staff and to Hell with what the customer wants. I asked for hot milk on the side. That wasn’t available either. Probably for the same excuse that cups weren’t, but the girl operating the coffee maker offered to pour some milk into my already watery Americano from a plastic carton.  No thanks Costa.  I’ll stick to Cafe Nero in future.”

I expect I’ll get a standard reply from Costa with a standard Costa gift card which I will cut up and put in the bin.

So, it wasn’t just the plaster of paris fish and the cold chips, it was also “couldn’t care less” Costa too.  What do foreigners, French folk, German geezers, Spanish senoritas think when they visit one of these service stations?  Everything is overpriced and the food is inedible.  I remember the first time I travelled through France.  We stopped at a service station.  Everything was shiny and clean.  I had a jambon sandwich that had half a pig in it and tasted magnificent.  No plaster of paris there, even in France!  France, paris.  Well, I thought it was funny.

Today’s photos were of a pied wagtail taken earlier in the day.  The imposing but falling apart Grade 2 listed tower at the Lancaster services and sunset through the hotel window.  Not much of a view, but just look at those clouds!

This was meant to be short and sweet, but I rambled and ranted on again.

Heading to the cold country tomorrow!

21 Feb

The Hottest Day of the Year – 19 July 2016

19 JulyYesterday was hot, but today, oh today was even hotter.  Over 33ºc in some places.  Heavens, even Scotland had over 25ºc.  What is the world coming to?

Scamp had decided that she was going to sit in the garden all day.  A sensible decision given that the sun was going mad.  We sat in the garden for a while watching movement in the pond.  We couldn’t decide whether it was frogs or newts.  We settled on ‘Frewts’ as the most likely suspects.

After lunch we went for a walk along past the golf course and had a couple of drinks at the clubhouse.  It doesn’t seem as if you have to be a member, just as long as you’ve got money.  We had money and I sampled another of these English IPAs which are very nice.

After we got back, Scamp went for more sunbathing in the garden while I went back to the wild woods to try to photograph some butterflies.  I managed to get a Small Heath and a Comma.  We don’t get Commas in Scotland, but apparently they are moving further north as a result of global warming.  I saw a deer, but it was too fast for me and was away into the tall grass before I could get the camera ready.  Also saw the pale blue dragonfly that I saw earlier in the week, but again, it wasn’t landing, just cruising, looking for a mate.

Canute and Delia came over for dinner which was an Indian take-away.  Very entertaining evening.  Just hope I can get to sleep in this really hot night.

Back North tomorrow.  Heavy rain forecast!

21 Feb

Hampton Court – 18 July 2016

18 july bToday Scamp finally decided that we should go to Hampton Court.  A short walk and two buses took us there.  It’s a fascinating building, but far too much to take in on just the one visit.  We settled on the Kitchen and William & Mary’s rooms.  Walked for miles in the building and outside in the searing heat of the gardens.  The best bit was coming in to Kingston after the visit and having a well deserved beer in a bar next to the river.  Scamp of course had a Pimms.

It’s a short blog post tonight because I’m knackered and worse than that, my iPhone decided it didn’t want to count my steps so I can’t brag about how many miles I’ve covered.  Oh well, what does it matter anyway.

It’s supposed to be hotter tomorrow.  Is that even possible?

21 Feb

Open Heart Surgery – 17 July 2016

17 JulyThe open-heart-surgery wasn’t on me, it was on my blog.  Or to be more exact, it was on my website architecture, but more of that later.

Not such a lazy start to the day, by which I mean that I was up and having breakfast just after 9am.  That’s early enough for me – on my holidays.  After that, Scamp and I went for a walk through the woodland path near the house.  Much better paths than back in Cumbersheugh.  The managed woodland is wedged between two halves of a golf course and is wild enough to feel as if you are miles from anywhere, but with the knowledge that you are only a mile at most from civilization.  I got a few photos, but on the way back, the battery on my ’10 packed in, so I swapped it out with the one in the ‘5 which is much more frugal with its energy.  When I got back to the house I found I’d lost the battery cover for the ‘5.  It’s the weakest part of the design of this camera and pivots on a flimsy plastic hinge, or doesn’t in this case.  I reckoned it was lying on the path somewhere and as it was black and the path was hard packed black dirt among trees, there was little chance of recovering it.  It was lost for good.  Duct tape would make a reasonable substitute when I got home, until then I need to be careful.

For ages, Hazy has been promising she’d help me organise my website to make it more simple to navigate.  Today we sat down and after backing everything up, we set about the open heart operation.  Actually, the backing up was the hardest part.  Once that was complete, the reorganising was pretty straight forward.  Straight forward, that is if you have someone who knows what they are doing sitting right next to you, not on the other end of a phone line, or worse still, someone who had been sitting in their room in California six months ago writing a blog post telling a numpty like me how to do it.  So, once again, thank you Hazy for not making a drama out of a crisis.  You are a gem, and you know it.

After that scary thing, Scamp and I drove out to Tolworth to get dinner.  This was another scary thing.  Here I was driving in London, well, in the outskirts of London, but driving with the rest of the lunatics.  My God, I thought I was impatient – I am impatient – but I have nothing on these folk that need to be everywhere, like, yesterday!  The only thing to do is to join them and be as mental as them.  Turn a rubber ear to all horns and turn your blind eye to the gesticulations.  Fire a few well chosen Scottish sweary words back at them.  They won’t understand the words, but they’ll get the gist.  I’d hate to drive through this every day going to and coming back from work.  I dare say you get used to it.

So, we reached M&S and got parked too.  Almost as soon as the engine had stopped a bloke came over and offered to wash my car for a fiver.  If I thought he could have removed the dried seagull crap from the back wing without steel wool, I’d have got him to do it!  I saved him the trouble by saying “Thanks, but it’s ok as it is.”  Had coffee after M&S to fire me up for the drive back, which incidentally was much more pleasant than the drive there.  Maybe I have joined the lunatic fringe.

Scamp had already stated her intention to go and sit in the sun in the garden for the remains of the afternoon, but that battery flap was still bugging me, so I set off to see what I could see.  I’d hardly walked for five minutes along the path when there it was!  By luck it had fallen with the chrome inside facing up and glinting in the sun, completely confounding the Centre of Gravity theory that states that bread always falls butter side down.  Too difficult to explain after a stressful day – Google it.  Happy now, my step was a lot lighter as I retraced my steps of this morning and walked the wild woodland again.  Saw a beautiful pale blue dragonfly, but it was too busy looking for another pale blue dragonfly to bother with the likes of me.

Dinner was Sea Bass en Papillote with new potatoes and broccoli.  Followed by Apple Crumble with cream.  Tonight’s film was the mystifying Now You See Me.  Third success from Hazy.

Tomorrow we may be going to Hampton Court … on the bus.  Enough driving excitement for me today.