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Going Home – 13 May 2018

Today the fun was over for a while and we were going home.

A laze about morning then we went to a garden centre for lunch. Saw some interesting plants for the garden, but because we were flying home, there was no opportunity to bring any of them north to visit our garden. Maybe that is a godsend with the number of planters and pots we have there now. Wandered round the shop with the usual amount of tat and junk. I bought some pea seeds to plant in addition to the ones we already have.

It doesn’t matter what you try to fill your hours with on ‘leaving day’, there’s only one thing on your mind and that’s going home. The drag of going through security and waiting for your gate to show then finding that gate, which is usually the furthest away one. Better to get started and just go. That’s what we did.

Really busy place Stanstead. Couldn’t believe the queue to drop folk off, but soon we were through security and sitting breathing in the muggy reconditioned air in the departure ‘lounge’. Then there was the hour in a metal tube in the sky before landing in a really sunny and warm Glasgow. I don’t say that very often, do I? Bus in to Glasgow, then train to Croy while being serenaded with rebel songs by a seriously guttered Sellic supporter whose wife and son tried to disown him. Thankfully he was travelling on to Stirling, although Croy would have been more fitting surely. Just going to phone for a taxi when the ‘wee bus’ appeared and we used our pensioner’s tickets again to get to Craiglinn and then walked home.

It was a lovely stay. I think we both really enjoyed it. Thank you again JIC, Sim and the new, improved Vixen. Great, relaxing few days. Too few, but sometimes it’s better leaving wanting more.

Back to auld claes and purrich tomorrow.

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Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

Last night after being fairly well organized, Windows decided it desperately needed an update without telling anyone.

<TECHNOSPEAK>
I thought I was sorted. Blog written, photos edited and ready to be exported. All I needed to do was put everything together and upload them. Unfortunately, Windows in association with Lightroom had other ideas. First, LR wanted to export the wrong file and absolutely refused to pick the right one. ON1 was no help, because it wouldn’t load. Usually a restart will solve the problem and when I tried to restart the computer and it told me it was configuring it, I knew it had been downloading another unnecessary upgrade. That explained it, I thought. However on restarting, nothing wanted to work at all. Got fed up with its shenanigans and did an impolite shutdown. On a Mac, a polite shutdown is where you tell the ‘puter to shut down. An impolite shutdown is where you pull the plug. You don’t have that option on a laptop. Holding down the on button does the same job. Val says leave it for a slow count of ten and then restart it. That’s what I did and it worked. Everything was normal. LR exported the file and Livewriter uploaded the blog without any problem.
</TECHNOSPEAK>

That was last night, today was much better. We were out fairly early to make the most of the day at the Steam Fair in Stotfold. We were walking there, taking the path between the old mill and the mill house, the former dull and uninteresting, the latter looking very elegant, but not worth the £2M asking price. From there across the fields to Stotfold, an odd mixture of new-builds and centuries old farm buildings.

The Steam Fair was marvellous. As the name suggests, lots of steam driven machinery and transport. Even better there was a fair, a real fair with stalls, a big wheel, a helter skelter and best of all, a Wall of Death. I can’t remember exactly when I last saw a wall of death, but it must have been fifty years ago at least. We wandered round the attractions, then we three meat eaters had hot roast pork with stuffing and crackling on a roll from a stall, while the vegetarian of the group had a carton of chips. The roast pork was excellent. Wandered round a few more of the stalls and bought two wee lego ‘Weemen’. A Darth and a panda, both of which will become models in the near future, I’m sure. Visited the Mill, a real working mill powered by a waterwheel. Really looked the part, despite being burnt to the ground in the ‘80s and rebuilt. Later we had a drink in the beer tent. JIC and I had an excellent IPA. Wish I’d taken a quick snap of the barrel to record its name. Sim had Old Peculiar which I always think is a bit too sweet. Scamp had a pint of Deuchers. Glad they had a decent Scottish beer too. Foodies, yes. Drinkies, perhaps. Finally decided to call it a day after I’d stood out in the rain watching a flying display by Captain Nevil’s Flying Circus. I bought myself a couple of caps, one waterproof (allegedly) one, just a cap for the hols. You can never have too many caps or bunnets. I was really glad I’d decided to wear my rainy coat because it rained all the way home.

At night we went to the Lancers, Indian restaurant in Baldock. Food was deemed ok. Not too bad, but with strange mixtures. Scamp wasn’t impressed with her Saag Paneer which seemed to have coconut milk in it. Never seen that before, but perhaps its a regional thing in India.

Watched a couple of strange Black Mirror episodes to finish off the day. What is it about Black Mirror that makes it stick in my head long after the program has finished? They remind me of the old ’60s Outer Limits, the black and white ones.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to this place and fly back home.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

PS
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.

 

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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!

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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!