Tuesday 5 September 2023

Sad News and many other things.

What has prompted me to blog again after almost a year - I am sorry to say it is with the news that Monty went to Rainbow Bridge last week.  He was an amazing dog, a great companion, utterly faithful and was a superb supervisor when I was working locks.  He was 11.5 - his Mum is still alive at 16, so this is a lot sooner than we ever expected.  He started to develop signs of a cognitive disorder/dementia  about 2 years ago.  These things creep up slowly, so it is impossible to say when it started and I won't bore you with all the details.  We did everything we could, but nothing worked and his life had become very difficult for him, so we made the decision on the advice of our vet to stop his suffering.  Our last act of love.  The house is very quiet - the only thing I don't miss is the dog hair!  May he rest in peace. 

Monty where he loved to be at the end of our final trip on Tentatrice on 4th July 2021

Chris and I plod along and manage to keep ourselves busy.  I am on the WI committee and somehow or other I seem to have been awarded 5 different hats!  I book the speakers, I am membership secretary, I also update our branch's website regularly and at the end of the year I will be producing a printed programme for each member for 2024 and the year book for 2023!  Enough to keep me out of mischief.

I am glad to say that there have been no more trips to hospital for Chris and he keeps well enough.  We do still miss the boat, but know we made the right decision.

We have had two holidays this year - one for 2 weeks in Wales where Chris has family.  We were there for the last week in May and the first in June and we had blue skies every day and not a drop of rain!  Our daughter and her family were with us for a few days and some friends joined us for the second week.  Trains featured highly in the holiday - we went on the Talyllyn Railway and the Vale of Rheidol.  Both were fabulous trips.  Finally Chris and I took the train from Machynlleth to Pwllheli and return all the way along the coast.  It was stunning and well worth doing if you are ever in that part of the world.  We also visited the Dyfi Osprey Centre and oh my goodness what a huge amount of pleasure that has given me over the last few months.  They have a live stream and I have watched the two chicks every day since we got home as they grew, fledged and it now appears they and their parents have migrated. Mum went first, then the female chick.  The male chick was last seen on Monday and Dad has not been around since yesterday afternoon when he was circling around with a large fish looking for someone to feed.  I have been entertained and educated.  I will be back watching and waiting for the return of the parents next March.

Mother - Telyn

Father - Idris - he is an amazing provider for all the family

Cennen - female chick

Seiont - male chick

The quality of the live feed is amazing.  I got all the above photos either from screenshots from the live feed of from their blog where there are many more and loads of information if anyone is interested - Dyfi Osprey Project blog

In June Chris and I celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary with a night away in a superb hotel in Malvern.  That weekend our family gathered for a BBQ on the Saturday when it was warm enough to eat outside (so rare this summer) and then Sunday lunch for us all at a local pub.

The first weekend in July saw me take 4 trains to and 3 trains back to Aldershot, Surrey where I was met by an old school friend.  Another friend joined us on the Saturday and we headed off to Ashford, Kent to visit our old school who were celebrating their 125th Anniversary.  It was an interesting exercise and good to catch up with Liz and Sue.  The lady on my right was in our house, but a year above us.  

Sue even still has her school blazer!

The events kept coming - the following weekend saw us (along with two friends) make a very early start to catch a train from Droitwich which left at 06:20!!  The instructions were firm - we stop for 2 minutes and if you are not there - well too bad we will go without you!  It was a steam heritage trip to Dartmouth and back.  A treat the four of us had been promising ourselves since 2019 when we were booked to go on Tornado (the only modern steam train in the UK) when it went unserviceable and the trip was cancelled.  Something occurred in 2020 that stopped the world, 2021 was not a lot better and somehow we did not get around to it in 2022, so this was a long awaited treat.  We had expected to catch the train an hour later (and that seemed early enough!), but there were engineering works on the line, so we had to go and come back via Newport and the Severn tunnel.  The upside for Chris and I was the trip along the Severn when we remembered our jaunt down there with Tentatrice and Sue and Ken on Cleddau in 2015.  We picked up our steam engine in Taunton and it was not just any old steam engine - it was non other than Sir Nigel Gresley.
 A very rare photo of Chris and I where we both look okay!

Not such a good photo, but the fish and chips in Dartmouth were the best we have ever had
It was a fabulous day and well worth doing.

Then before we knew it Chris and I were off to Whitstable in Kent - why there you may wonder?  Well it is all the fault (unbeknown to them) of Ian and Irene on Free Spirit.  A couple of years ago (I think?) they visited the Battle of Britain Memorial in Folkestone.  That suddenly rang a big bell for Chris and I as his Dad (Fred) was a B of B veteran and he and Chris' Mum went to the laying of the foundation stone by the Queen Mother in July 1993.  Sadly they did not live long enough to see the completed memorial and somehow we had never got round to going.  We had the most amazing visit and found Fred's name on the wall of names.  In the entrance their is an electronic display of all those who were in the B of B along with details.  Fred was a rear gunner on Defiants - not a plane that most people associate with the B of B, but they were a vital part of the defence of our country.  Very few survived, so Fred and his pilot Frederick Hughes, but known as Des, were lucky to make it through relatively unscathed.  I found the scramble experience so moving, I was reduced to tears.  

Before we left we went for a wander round the shop when we came across something astounding (well to us it was) - a model of a Defiant, but not any old Defiant - it was the one that Des and Fred flew in the Battle of Britain.  It is a limited edition and if you look at the bottom you will see the names of both of them.  Also note the Red Hand of Ulster on the nose - Des was from Ulster and the five symbols (two are red and hard to see and three white) under the cockpit which denotes the number of planes they downed.  

And this is a picture of Fred under that very plane.

We obviously had to buy one, but ended up getting two so we have one to leave to each of our children in due course.  A very moving and emotional day and one we will always remember, so thank you Ian and Irene.

Whitstable is a fabulous place and the house we stayed in was so well placed that everything was within walking distance.  It also had private parking behind a locked gate for two cars.  That is worth a fortune in Whitstable where on road parking is almost non existent and the car parks cost a fortune.  If anyone fancies a visit I can highly recommend Seascape, Whitstable

August was a bit of a non event for us.  I will try to do better in the future and not leave posting for quite so long.  Even if no one reads my ramblings - I do enjoy looking back every now and then.  I still read quite a few blogs and we have recently met up with the Cleddau crew for dinner in the Fleur de Lys, Lowsonford and then the Chouette crew (non bloggers, but we met when we crossed The Wash with them in 2014) at The Boot Inn, Lapworth, both places on the Stratford Canal.  If anyone is a car journey away from us, please let me know and we will try to pop over and say hello.

And finally - Tentatrice as she is now. Please give them a wave if you go past.  We believe it means 'Our House' in Malay. 

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Oh Yes It Was!!

 Sunday 27th November 2022

Chipping Norton Pantomime - Dick Whittington

I know many of you who may read this will have followed Pip Leckenby's (nb Oleanna) work on the set design for this production.  Sue (Boatwif from nb Cleddau) and I have been avid followers for many years and it was decided that, this year, we should go and see for ourselves.

Step One - book 4 tickets which included a stage tour so we could see all Pip's work close up.  We were early enough to get Row C in the stalls.

Step Two - book two rooms nearby that, if possible, were in easy walking distance to the theatre.  I researched many of the local hotels and was about to hit 'book' when I decided to have a quick peek at past reviews.  They were pretty dire - one stated that 'when as we checked in and they issued us with a small tablet of soap, we realised we may have made a big mistake'!  In the end we decided we would find a Premier Inn and drive only to find out that the latter is just 0.2 miles from the theatre!  Booking made and all we had to do was sit back and eagerly anticipate the event.

Ken was due to have a hip replacement after Christmas, but was offered a cancellation four weeks prior to the theatre trip.  Whether he would make it was in the balance until the last minute, but I am delighted to say he did.  The easy walk there and back became even more important.  We arrived at the hotel within 5 minutes of each other, booked in and made our way to the theatre for the 4pm performance.  

Was it worth the trip - 'Oh yes it was'!  It was a 'real panto' with lots of corny (but clean) jokes, 'boos', 'Look behind you', 'Oh no it wasn't, oh yes it was', some singing with actions, sweets for the children, 'shout outs' to audience members including to 'Ken and Sue the Cleddau crew' and 'Jennie and Chris the Tentatrice crew' (thanks Pip!!). 

The acting and singing were excellent - the Queen Rat, the Dame, the Cat and actor who played three parts (Fairy Fee, Nance and The Contessa of Petiti) stood out for Chris and I.  The costumes were just brilliant and as over the top as you would expect at any decent panto.  As for the set design - what can I say, but that we were in awe of Pip's talent and so many hours of hard work.  The level of detail is quite extraordinary.  It was worth every minute of your blood, sweat and tears, Pip.  There is a display area celebrating 50 years of panto at Chipping Norton which included one of Pip's models which is 1/25th of the real thing and accurate in every detail.

None of us had ever been to the theatre in Chipping Norton before.  I had no pre-conceived ideas, but was surprised at just how small it is.  It leads to great intimacy and I would urge anyone who lives close enough to go. Even it you have to travel, the Premier Inn is a good place to stay.  There has been talk of making this an annual Cleddau/Tentatrice event!

Taken looking back from row C in the stalls

The evening was rounded off with dinner in The Blue Boar just round the corner from the theatre.  

Some months ago we ordered solar panels which we were told would arrive in October.  A phone call advised us that it would now be November.  Then suddenly last week Chris got a call saying the scaffolding would be erected on Friday 25th November - this is my current view from my craft room/study/spare room.

The panels were going to arrive at 08:00 on Monday 27th ready for installation starting that day.  That meant a 06:00 start on Monday to get home in time until Chris got another call to say they were very sorry, but that the earliest they would be there was midday - Phew!  It meant we could enjoy breakfast with Sue and Ken before heading home.  It is now 17:45 on Wednesday 30th November and we are still waiting for the panels which we gather have not arrived yet!  Watch this space.

It was a very successful trip and rounded off my 'theatrical November' in style with the added bonus of a catch up with Sue and Ken.  I miss the days of sailing around together for several months over the spring, summer and autumn.  C'est la vie. 

We will be seeing the family over Christmas. I don't think anything of great note will occur (unless we do actually get the panels!) before the New Year, so I will wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2023.

Sunday 20 November 2022

An Unwanted Gift in September, a lost October and a better November!

Continuing from where I left off last time - Chris came home from hospital with a bit of a cough and cold which we assumed was a hang over from the infection that had made him so ill.  It was only when I became ill at the weekend and was so poorly by the following Tuesday that either of us thought to do a covid test.  The only place it could have come from was the hospital!  At one time Chris was on a ward that had bays with covid patients, so I guess we should not have been surprised.  Thankfully, Chris was hardly affected by it and although it took me  a while to get back to full fitness (well as good as it gets these days), all is well with both of us now.

We had been due to have our covid booster and flu jabs the day Chris was taken to hospital.  The next date was the 13th October, but that had to be delayed as you cannot have them within a month of having covid.  We are now due on 30th November and hope it will be third time lucky!  October was almost a non-event for us, but things are back to normal now.  November has turned out (well for me at least) to be 'Theatre month'.  Our daughter, daughter in law and I went to Birmingham on 5th November to see The Mousetrap, which is on it's 70th anniversary tour of the UK.  An evening we all enjoyed.

The day before yesterday, our daughter and I went for our second Mother/Daughter weekend away (Malvern last year).  We caught the train to London.  We found a really lovely Italian restaurant for lunch on Friday after which we slowly made our way to the Airbnb apartment we had booked.  We wandered past Buckingham Palace.  The King was not in residence.  

Then along Bird Cage Walk to catch a bus to the apartment.  I have known for years that there are many wild parakeets in London, but have never seen them at such close range before.  What he/she would not do, was look round to face me!

What also surprised me was the girth of the squirrels - they are obviously very well fed by the many tourists in London.

I grew up just south of London, so catching a red London bus was the normal means of transport locally when it was too far to walk or cycle, however, the last time I caught a bus in Central London was getting on for 60 years ago when travelling with an Aunt who worked in London, so knew exactly which bus went where.  I have always used the tube as there is far less chance of me getting lost (I have no sense of direction), however, these days I have to consider two arthritic knees.  The tube means a lot of walking along underground passageways and also many steps up and down, so we decided to be brave and give the bus a go.  What a revelation it was to find it is so easy these days - call up Google or Apple maps, put in your destination and it tells you which bus stop to go to, the number of the bus, all the stops including the one you are aiming for.  Once on the bus they either have a visual display of which stop you are approaching or a recorded message, sometimes both.  Gone are the days of asking the conductor to tell you when you have got there! They were so easy and the biggest bonus for me was I was able to use my bus pass and travel free!  The views are also a lot more interesting than on the tube.

The bus stop was also a much shorter walk to the Airbnb.  The area itself was not that salubrious, but the apartment was very modern and first rate - it was a penthouse on the 8th floor.  It was situated just south of The Elephant and Castle, so not quite central London prices! Neither of us were disturbed by proximity of the trains overnight.

Sunset Friday evening promised we would have a fine day on Saturday

Friday evening we headed back on the bus to County Hall.  On our way we diverted along the bank of the Thames on the Westminster side to find the Battle of Britain Memorial which Chris and I stumbled across some years ago, which is when I took the following photos.  

It lists the names of all the aircrew who took part in the Battle of Britain

I wanted to show Sarah her Grandfather's name (Sgt F Gash)

and that of his pilot (F/O FD Hughes).  Chris's Dad was a rear gunner on Defiants - he and Des Hughes were rare survivors of those on the Defiant Squadrons.  We did take some pictures on Friday, but the monument is not lit up and the photos were a bit dark.
Other London views on our way to County Hall

Another surprising wildlife sight that evening was a fox just ambling along a quite busy road without a care in the world!  

So why County Hall on a Friday night?  It is no longer Council offices and what was the main council chamber is currently being used as a setting for a production of 'Witness for the Prosecution'.  As with The Mousetrap, I am sworn to secrecy about the ending.  All I will say is that was very good and well worth going to see.  The view below was taken from our seats (we were early arriving - it was full before the production started).

Saturday did dawn relatively bright and once again we were off on the bus.  This time to....
which is at the top of The Walkie Talkie building  - not an easy thing to photograph from below!  
The gardens are free to enter, but you do have to book online ahead of time.  We had, however, decided  to treat ourselves to the five course tasting menu in the restaurant on the 37th floor.  We were told to take ID (it was never asked for), but you do have to go through Airport type security on arrival. A lift whisks you up to the 35th floor where you can wander round to admire the gardens and the views.  As you will see, it was a little murky, but at least it was not pouring with rain.

We were just making up way up the final two floors to the restaurant when the fire alarm sounded and we were told to evacuate the building!  It could only happen to Sarah and I!  Many years ago we had gone Christmas shopping and were in Oxford Street when the world went mad - suddenly from a relatively quiet street there were sirens coming from all directions and the road was full of ambulances, police cars and fire engines - there had been a notification of a bomb in three different stores given by the IRA. It was just a scare, but naturally Oxford Street was shut for most of the day. Bearing in mind there were a lot of people in the Sky Garden and we were 35 floors up, the evacuation was very ordered and there was no panic.  My over riding issue was the thought of going down 35 flights of stairs - it would have taken me quite a long time and would have been very painful.  Getting less able folks out has been catered for - they have a 'fire brigade lift' operated by an employee - it took, me, a young man in a leg brace and on crutches and two Mums with children too small to make the trek down, but too big to carry.  Sarah did the long descent and said that it was all very well ordered with no panic.  

Just as Sarah made it out the London Fire Brigade arrived in force.

We ended up waiting (with many others) for about an hour.  The fire was a real fire and it transpired it was in the restaurant we were booked into and it would not be opening up for the rest of the day!  The reservations manager assured us that we would not be charged for non attendance and that we will get an invite back if we can make it.  Sarah did have the presence of mind to ask for a recommendation of where to have lunch and he pointed us in the direction of
It is only on the 14th floor, but it does have some garden areas 

and views - the Gherkin was not visible from the Sky Garden

including a great view of where we should have been having lunch!

By the time we had finished our late (but really good) lunch, we just made our way slowly back to the apartment via Borough Market where we picked up some bread and cheese and then a bottle of wine at our local Co-op for a quiet night in together.  

All we had to do this morning was pack up and get a couple of buses to take us back to Marylebone to catch the train home after a really successful weekend together.  The bus took longer than the tube, but we saw a lot of sights along the way including Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and Regents Street.  

The icing on the cake when I got home - plantation blinds were fitted into our conservatory on Friday.  We are both really pleased with the result.  We had a new 'proper' roof fitted in July which has meant we now have a room we can use without freezing in winter and boiling in the summer.  All that is left to do now is buy a rug for the floor, a few 'nick nacks' for the window sills and something to put on the one solid wall.