Archive for November, 2014

Home and Away

We had an eventful week in High Wycombe, after writing the last blog. Our new washer/dryer was finally installed, and our new sofas were delivered. We saw the film The Imitation Game (about Alan Turing), and we paid one of our (fairly rare) visits to our folk dance club in Marlow. We went to Slough, to investigate the possibility of installing a new damp-prevention system in the flat where Sandie’s parents used to live. And we had a day out in London, combining business and pleasure.

Marlow Folk Dance Club in action

Marlow Folk Dance Club in action

Blue skies over London

Blue skies over London

A busy day in London town

On Wednesday 12 November we caught an early train to London, met our ERA colleagues Lesley and Dougal, and went with them to a meeting at the Sutton Trust, to discuss future research topics which we might possibly be able to help with. After a ‘working lunch’ in a nearby pub, we went with Dougal to the Tower of London to see the poppies – nearly a million ceramic poppies filling the moat, each one representing a British soldier killed in the First World War. Although the lighting was not ideal when we were there, it was a truly impressive sight.

A moat full of poppies

A moat full of poppies

In memoriam

In memoriam

Gathering up the poppies

Gathering up the poppies

Close-up

Close-up

Shadows

Shadows

A red tide

A red tide

We decided to walk back along the river to the West End, stopping en route to see this year’s installation at the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern. In Trafalgar Square there was another WWI memorial: a soldier inside a glass dome, with poppies blown around at regular intervals. We bought theatre tickets in Leicester Square and browsed round Stanfords, our favourite (travel) bookshop.  By then it was time for dinner and theatre. We saw The Scottsboro Boys, a musical by Kander and Ebb.  It’s a horrifying true story (about racial injustice in 1930s Alabama), set in the context of a minstrel show. Sounds odd, but it really worked, and was a brilliant production.

Turbine Hall installation

Turbine Hall installation

Statue in Trafalgar Square

Statue in Trafalgar Square

Leicester Square

Leicester Square

Christmas lights are here

Christmas lights are here

Garrick Theatre

Garrick Theatre

Good news

On Tuesday 18th Sandie had her follow-up appointment at Wycombe Hospital. We were delighted to be told that the operation had successfully removed the affected area, so there was no need for further treatment. We met up with Claire and Oscar for a celebration, and then went home to get on with our packing!

Early next day, we set off for Florida. There were no problems with the journey: even immigration (in New York, where we changed planes) was remarkably quick. In Tampa we picked up a hire car and drove to Sarasota. We arrived at Jane’s house to find the key under the mat, the lights on and dinner ready to put in the oven! A great welcome.

Landing at Tampa

Landing at Tampa

Sarasota again!

Sarasota again!

 

Househunting again

Soon after arrival in Florida, we resumed our search for a condo to serve as our winter home. We were excited because there was one available in Central Park II (our favourite development) but when we viewed it, we were horrified to see that it was in the worst state imaginable. We are trying to get a contractor to come and quote for complete remodelling, so we can make an appropriate offer, but this is proving difficult. Meanwhile, we are looking at other places, but there are few on the market at present, and none are ideal. The search continues!

We took a break from househunting on Saturday and went down to Venice (about 20 miles south of Sarasota). After a stroll around the town, we went to Sharkey’s on the Pier (one of our favourite restaurants) for dinner, then to the theatre to see a musical production of The Full Monty, transposed to a US context. It was entertaining and a good laugh.

The weather here when we arrived was about 16 degrees – cool by Florida standards. But it has since warmed up to about 25, so it’s back to wearing shorts and t-shirts, and eating outside – not bad for November!

Merry Christmas - may the Force be with you!

Merry Christmas – may the Force be with you!

Sarasota Art Festival

Sarasota Art Festival

Dining and drinking by the water

Dining and drinking by the water

Sunset over Sarasota Bay

Sunset over Sarasota Bay

Cheers!

Cheers!

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Riding Dinosaurs

In the last month, we have kept busy as usual, mainly with family events and medical matters. We have had some enjoyable times with friends, and even made a start on the Christmas shopping!

In and around High Wycombe

High Wycombe is surrounded by woodland, which means we have plenty of scope for country walks, accessed either direct from our flat or via a short bus ride. We have enjoyed the autumn colours, although some of the paths are very muddy. The area is also very hilly (hence the ‘high’!) which makes walking quite good exercise.

Autumn berries

Autumn berries

 

Scrunchy leaves

Scrunchy leaves

Wycombe itself has a good shopping centre, but sometimes it is nice to have a change of scenery. Thanks to the excellent local bus service, we have spent days recently at Watford, Slough and Reading.

Watford

Watford

Happy times

Our grandsons stayed with us for the weekend Oct 18-20, while Claire was on a working trip. We took them to the Saturday morning children’s show at the local cinema, where we saw an animated film called The Nut Job. Charlie had a birthday party, and Ian did some pumpkin carving – the boys had to take one each to school on Monday morning. Oscar’s one had a Peppa Pig design (he is a big fan) and won the prize for the best in the nursery.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins

 

The prize winner

The prize winner

The week following was an eventful one. On Wednesday, Claire had a training day. Charlie was still at school, but the nursery department had already closed for the half-term holiday. So we took Oscar to Uxbridge, and went for a walk along the canal as well as a tour of the charity shops. Thursday was Oscar’s birthday – he is now 3! But his birthday treat was on Friday, since by then Charlie had finished school and we were able to have a family day out at Peppa Pig World (where else?) near Southampton. We had fun on the various themed rides, including the dinosaurs that bobbed up and down as they went round the track. After driving back we ended the day with dinner at the local Pizza Hut, but by then Oscar was so exhausted he slept right through the meal!

Oscar and his new George Pig

Oscar and his new George Pig

Now I really am 3!

Now I really am 3!

Arrival at Peppa Pig World

Arrival at Peppa Pig World

An even bigger George Pig

An even bigger George Pig

Ride that dinosaur!

Ride that dinosaur!

On Grandad Pig's train

On Grandpa Pig’s train

The next day, people arrived from north, east and west for a family weekend. Twelve of us (and Jack the dog) gathered at Claire’s house for lunch, after which Paul took Charlie to a football match. While they were there Claire met up with friends from Birmingham who were visiting other friends for the weekend. The rest of us went for a short autumn walk in the parkland surrounding Hughenden Manor. In the evening the eight adults enjoyed dinner at our favourite local Indian restaurant. On Sunday we went to the park so the boys could show off their footballing skills to Uncle Paul. We then had another lunch at Claire’s and dispersed to our various homes.

A brisk walk at Hughenden Manor

A brisk walk at Hughenden Manor

Jack the dog with George and Mr Dinosaur

Jack the dog with George and Mr Dinosaur

Playing football doesn't mean standing on my feet!

Playing football doesn’t mean standing on my feet!

Charlie shows off his footballing skills

Charlie shows off his footballing skills

Not such good news

After returning home we put some washing in the machine, but it made the most horrible noises when spinning, and we had to seek a replacement. The next day we heard that we are not going to be TV stars after all! You may remember from our last blog that we had a screen test for A Place in the Sun. We didn’t fail, but the producers decided they didn’t want to visit the west coast of Florida after all (silly people!).

On October 29th Sandie spent the day in hospital, having minor surgery. Following a routine mammogram, she had been diagnosed with DCIS, which can be a precursor to cancer. The currently recommended treatment is to remove the affected area (which in Sandie’s case was luckily very small) and a small surrounding area, to check that the problem is not more widespread. Sandie recovered very quickly from the op; she emerged from hospital slightly sore and woozy, but nothing worse. However, there were some doubts about the wisdom of flying soon after a general anaesthetic, so our next trip to Florida has been postponed. We were due to go on 3rd November, but are now leaving on the 19th, after Sandie has got the results of the post-op tests.

Happy times again

On 31st October we babysat Oscar while Claire took Charlie and a friend to a Halloween party. Ian’s pumpkin-carving skills were in demand again! Later Claire took all the children trick or treating, while we stayed in her house and distributed sweets to several other groups who were patrolling the road.

Well, they scare me all right!

Well, they scare me all right!

More pumpkins

More pumpkins

The gang prepare to terrorise the neighbourhood

The gang prepare to terrorise the neighbourhood

The next day our friend Anne took us to Henley, and we all went to the ‘private view’ (bubbly included!) of an art exhibition which featured work by another friend, Annette (see http://www.amsoulstream.com). We have very talented friends! It was Anne’s birthday, so afterwards we had dinner together to celebrate.

Henley by night

Henley by night

After not going to the (adult) cinema for a while, we went twice within a week. On Monday we saw an NT-Live Encore screening of Frankenstein. The acting was brilliant, the settings superb, and yet we weren’t really ‘grabbed’ by the production. On Saturday Ian’s sister Maggi came to visit; she stayed overnight, and in the evening we went to see Mr Turner. We had heard a lot about this film, which has got wonderful reviews, so we were all keen to see it. But we were really disappointed: there was no coherent plot, and little dialogue – just a lot of grunting!

Changes to the flat

Our new washer/dryer was delivered on 5th November – but not installed. Unknown to us, there was a problem with the socket behind the machine, so we were told we would need to call an electrician and then call the suppliers back to arrange installation.   Meanwhile, the new machine was ‘parked’ in our lounge.

A week or so ago, we noticed that one of our sofas (inherited from the previous owner of the flat) was sagging badly at one end. So they too have to be replaced. After some searching (in shops and on the Net) we decided on a pair of sofas which had been ordered for another customer; the wrong colour had arrived, but it was the right colour for us! This meant that we got a bargain price and avoided the usual long wait, as the sofas are already in the furniture store. We managed to dispose of our old ones, quite quickly, via Freecycle. The new ones will be delivered soon, but at present our lounge looks rather odd, with a washing machine but nowhere to sit!

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