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.



Friday, 30 September 2022

Damp Devon and other things

I started to write this post in early July, but never finished it!  This is a bit of a catch up!

24th - 30th June 2022

Instow, Devon 

Monty went to stay with friends on the Thursday and Chris and I set off for Devon on the Friday only to find that the M5 was similar to the M25 in places - ie stationary. We did, however arrive safely to find that the cottage we had booked for the week did have, as we had hoped, a fantastic view of the sea (well tidal estuary to be more precise).  

The day after we arrived and the only bit of blue sky all week!

The cottage was just a few yards from Marine Parade.  Everything was spotless and the fixtures and fittings were of a very high standard and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a holiday home.  The Old Stables, Instow We did, however, have a few issues due to the layout and the fact that the stairs were open on one side - that does not work well with arthritic knees!  Downstairs was a double bedroom with a 4'6" bed and an ensuite with a huge walk in shower.  We chose to put all our 'stuff' in that room and use that shower, just sleeping upstairs in the 6 foot bed.  The kitchen and dining room were downstairs and the living room was upstairs which made the most of the view, but made taking tea/wine/G&T etc up and down not as easy as we would like it to be.

We did like Instow - it is small and probably to be avoided in the school holidays, but just right in June,  We had parking at the cottage which is essential.  There is a public car park, but it is not very large.  There are a few pubs - we did not eat out, so I cannot say what they are like.  The deli on Marine Parade is just wonderful with excellent coffee and light snacks.

It was wonderful to have a break, but we could have done with slightly better weather.  I had visions of sitting on the little veranda with a cuppa or G&T, but the reality was that I did sit out there, but only once and then for about 5 minutes just to say I had!

Post the holiday, I had my second cataract operation and oh my goodness, what a difference. Colours are amazing and I can do most things without glasses.  I need off the peg reading glasses (I have two pairs - one upstairs in my craft room and one downstairs in the kitchen), but they are only needed for very small print.  The only downside is that the cupboards in the en suite that were white have yellowed - something I did not notice before plus I can see small amounts of dirt lurking in cracks and crevices that I have not noticed for years!  

The summer seemed to whizz by with nothing of much of note apart from a huge effort on our part and with some help from our daughter to tidy the garage and get rid of things we will never be able to use again.  We have solar panels on order and we need space in the garage for the battery, so a good clear out was essential.  The panels were due in October, but are stuck somewhere, so there will be a delay.  As long as they are in place by the spring all will be well.  We also had a great weekend in Bedford for the Bedford River Festival where we spent our time with Sue and Ken on Cleddau and a fair bit of time with Pip and Mike from Oleanna. 

On 2 September we (the two of us, our daughter, her husband and two sons) all went up to our son's in Derby to join them and our DiL's family to wish our granddaughter a very happy 19th Birthday and to wish her well as she starts the next chapter of her life at Aberdeen University to study Conservation Biology.  Her parents took her up the following weekend.  They left after the Queen's cortege had gone through Aberdeen on its way to Edinburgh, which meant they had to go via the Cairngorms - scenic, but slow going.  They then discovered the M6 was shut due to road works, so had to head back across county to join the A1.  What should have taken 7 hours, took 10, but they made it safely which is all that matters.  Molly has settled well and is enjoying life.  

Last Friday (23 Sep) we were due to go to mid Wales for a 2 week holiday, but it was not to be.  Chris woke on Thursday feeling really poorly.  He suffers from COPD and has had a couple of flare ups in the past.  He has an emergency pack of steroids and antibiotics which usually do the trick, however, before he could take anything he collapsed.  For the first time in my life I had to call 999.  You hear so many horror stories of waiting for hours and then ambulances queuing outside the hospital for yet more hours.  Well we were very lucky, the ambulance arrived in 15-20 mins (I lost track of time, but it was quick). The paramedics were wonderful and stabilised Chris and then whisked him off in the ambulance.  There was no wait when they got there - straight in and was seen immediately.  He was admitted to a ward around 7pm and only came home yesterday.  I am glad to say that he is much better.  It was frightening for both of us, but we are so grateful for the care he got from the moment I called 999 to the moment I picked him up yesterday.  We are both just so grateful that if it had to happen, it happened whilst we were at home and not in Wales as the Health Service there is in dire straits.  Chris' cousin's son broke his pelvis playing rugby in October 2021 and he was left lying on a rugby pitch for 6 hours with no pain relief before an ambulance got to him.  

We will plod on with life and I will pop in every now and then - November is a month with a few interesting things planned, so watch this space.  For now, we are taking life easy and allowing Chris time to fully recuperate.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Are we still here?


At the end of March Chris and I went off to Sussex for a holiday.  The main purpose was to catch up with friends and ex-colleagues.  It is 10.5 years since we left Sussex for Worcestershire, so it was definitely time to visit.  We hired a holiday let in a small village called Findon, near Worthing.  It was superb and I would highly recommend it if anyone wants a break in that part of the world.  Little Longmead, Findon.  It was spotless, the best equipped holiday home we have ever been to.  The owner lives next door and is very friendly and helpful.  How is this for a view from the back garden?  It was very peaceful.

We had no plans for Saturday and Sunday, so on the former we decided to pop to Worthing to find a sea front café for a spot of lunch - not a hope as we could not find a car parking space for love nor money, so we ended up at a M&S café - not quite what we had planned.  

Sunday we went to the RSPB reserve, Pulborough - a much better option for a gentle very peaceful stroll and a quiet sandwich enjoyed in the sun with a wonderful view.

We did drive up to see our old house, which has changed a bit, as you would expect in 10 years.
2011 as we left
March 2022

We came away with the feeling that we were so glad we moved to Worcestershire when we did.  The number of new houses (and in one case a whole new village) was unbelievable.  Also the traffic was pretty dire and the countryside not as nice as where we are now.  The week was definitely a great success as we both caught up with the people we intended to meet and I even had lunch by the sea in Goring by Sea (Sea Lane Café - which I can recommend) with a couple of my friends.  

Just after we got home I had a cataract operation on my left eye and oh my goodness, what a difference.  Even though that was my better eye sight wise, I now find I can do most things without glasses.  For very small print I have an old pair of glasses with just one lens for the right eye or a magnifying glass.  The right eye will be done on 4th July.  Hopefully, four weeks after that I will be able to drive again - for now I am being chauffeur driven.

We have had a landscape gardener in to make our rather dull garden look a little better now we are here most of the time.  My favourite part is the raised bed for herbs (and a few strawberry plants) made from reclaimed cobbles.

We also have a couple of troughs for mint and tomatoes

We made a brief appearance at St Richard's Festival in Droitwich.  The weather was glorious on the day we went and after our couple of hours serving on the Worcester, Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Society Stall
Chris selling duck race tickets closely supervised by Monty of course!

we were able to wander around and enjoy a beer in the sun.  It was so good to see so many people out enjoying themselves again after a two year gap.

On the May Bank Holiday Monday, I went to a tulip festival at Morton Hall, Redditch with a friend.  It was well worth the visit which we ended with a rather fine light lunch.  

Listed Chestnut Tree

Japanese Tea House

All profits go to the RSC and they had a few costumes on display.  I think the crew of nb Cleddau will recognise this rather magnificent outfit from a recent production of Much Ado About Nothing.

This morning we drove out to Droitwich to walk along the canal to witness the sad sight of a boat that had been sunk in a lock.  It is a long story of three boats hired by a Stag Party which ended up with two of the boats being abandoned and the third sunk.  I gather that they were moving after dark and tried to go down a staircase lock around 10pm.  The paddle on the offside is always locked.  They, however, failed to check the other side, assumed they were stuck, so went to bed.  The boat drifted backwards onto the cill, the water leaked out of the lock and the boat sunk.  They woke at an awkward angle and had to be rescued by the fire brigade.  RCR and C&RT were in attendance when we were there.

Re-floated and now above the top lock

Fortunately the only casualty is unlikely to complain, but I hope someone fishes her out before she ends up round someone's prop!