Posts Tagged London

July? More like February!

After arriving home from our travels, we had just enough time to unpack and get ourselves sorted out when Charlie and Oscar came to stay.  They were with us for a week, while Claire did a work trip to Sydney. Unfortunately, it was a horrible week weather-wise.  We had only one day with no rain at all, and it was generally quite chilly.  Hard to believe it was late July – the height of the British summer!

Still, we found plenty of things to do. When confined to the flat we spent some happy hours reading, playing games or watching videos.  We had ‘indoor’ excursions to the swimming pool and the cinema.  When there were breaks in the clouds the boys often played outside (on the green just below our flat), and made some new friends.  We also paid a nostalgic visit to the adventure playground at the Rye, which the boys used to visit frequently when they lived in Wycombe.

Playing Scrabble

Sheltering under the play equipment

Legoland

Before the boys arrived, we had a special request for a visit to Legoland, near Windsor.  According to the weather forecast, Tuesday was going to be the best day, and luckily it was right for once.  No rain at all!  We enjoyed our day there, going on some familiar rides and trying out some new ones. The new Ninjago ride was especially popular, and the SQUID Surfer was great fun.  We thought it was a shame that the park closed at 6, as by then the sun was shining, and it was definitely the best part of the day.

Grrrrr!

Back at Kennedy Space Centre

The swinging boat

On the Spinning Spider

On the raft ride

Ninjago ride scores

Sandie and Charlie Sqid-surfing

Ian and Oscar Squid-surfing

Virginia Water

On Thursday it was cloudy but fine, and according to the forecast the rain would not start until the afternoon.  So we decided that we would chance a morning excursion, and went to Virginia Water, a beauty spot we know well, although we hadn’t been there for several years.  We didn’t realise that the boys had been there fairly recently, with Ian’s sister.  They hadn’t remembered the name, but as soon as we arrived they remembered the place, and even a particular tree which they were keen to climb again.

Grebe on Virginia Water

After visiting the Totem Pole, we located the tree, one of several hidden away among the rhododendrons.  We then walked round the lake (about four miles).  But the weathermen got it wrong this time.  After an unexpected brief period of sunshine, there was some heavy rain, and this pattern was repeated.  Luckily we’d brought waterproofs, so it was not too bad.

At the Totem Pole

In the bushes

Peek-a-boo!

London

We wanted to have a day in London, and kept checking the forecast in order to decide which day would be best.  But the forecast kept changing.  On Thursday it looked as if Saturday would be our best bet. However, when Ian got up on Friday, the latest forecast suggested that it would be the better day. So…  everybody up, breakfast, and off by 9am.

We drove to Hillingdon, and took the tube to Green Park. We’d realised that Charlie and Oscar had never seen many of the main tourist sites, and decided to put that right.  So we went first to Buckingham Palace – unfortunately, there was no changing of the guards that day, but we did see some mounted guards coming down Constitution Hill – in fact we had to wait for them to pass before we could cross the road.

Mounted troops outside Buckingham Palace

At the palace

We went through St James’s Park, and across to Horse Guards’ Parade, where we saw the sentries on horseback.  On to Parliament Square (passing Downing Street on the way): there we saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Flowers in St James’s Park

Guardsman on horseback

New statues on the front of Westminster Abbey

Big Ben

Houses of Parliament and the Thames

 

Our next goal was the London Eye.  We’d been on it three times previously, but the last time was several years ago, and the boys had not been on it at all.  We saw the 4D presentation, and then queued for the Eye itself.  Earlier we’d had some sun and it was quite warm, but by the time we reached the Eye there was light rain.  So the views from the top were not very colourful!  But when we came off, the rain had just about stopped, so we did not get wet.

On the Eye

View from the top

We crossed the Hungerford Bridge, walked up to Trafalgar Square (past the new sculpture of the giant thumb), and into the National Gallery.  Charlie had learned about Monet and Van Gogh at school, so he was able to see some of their paintings.  It also got us out of the rain, which by then had started again.

Thumbs up! (1)

Thumbs up! (2)

Next we took the tube to Hammersmith, part of the way home.  After an early pub dinner, we went to the Lyric Theatre to see a musical version of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. It was an excellent production, with some really good acting and enthusiastic singing and dancing.  We arrived home at 10.45, and two tired little boys went straight to bed.

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To In-Seventy and Beyond!

On Wednesday 3rd May we left our home in Sarasota and headed for our home in High Wycombe.  We had to remember that we were flying from Orlando, not Tampa – it seemed a long time since we flew out in November!   In our rental car we had two full cases, one very heavy.  When we first bought our condo (more than two years ago) we had visions of flying the Atlantic with just hand luggage, but we realise now it will never happen – there are always things to take back and forth.

First week back

Of course, it is never as hot in the UK as it is in Florida.  But as we were returning in May, we did hope for mild spring weather.  In fact, it was mostly grey and very cool: going from max temperature 30+ to 13 was quite a shock.  We had the best tans we’d ever managed to acquire, but could not show them off as we needed to cover up!

Still, being back in the UK had compensations.  The day after we landed, our Friday night pub crawl (with Caroline) took us to the Crown at Penn, so Sandie could enjoy her ‘vegetarian fish and chips’ for the first time in six months – halloumi seems impossible to get in Florida.  On Saturday night we had dinner at Chutney, our favourite Indian restaurant – we haven’t yet found one as good in Sarasota.

On the quest of halloumi

We had several appointments lined up for immediately after our return.  Sande had an eye test and chose new specs – badly needed as she managed to scratch her current ones earlier this year.  Ian went to the health centre twice, for his regular check-up and tests.  We both had dental check-ups scheduled (in Ian’s case, a bridge tooth needed replacing), but these were cancelled at the last minute as the dentist had gone sick.

On Sunday 7th we had a meeting of the company formed to manage a small block of flats, one of which we own.  Since we had to go to Slough for the meeting, we combined it with a visit to the cemetery where Sandie’s parents are buried.

The new Curve building in Slough

On Weds 10th we had a day in Reading, where we did some shopping and went for a stroll along the canal.  The sun actually came out and it was very pleasant sitting at a canalside pub with a glass of wine in our hands.

Reading

Along the canal

Second week back

We had our delayed dental appointments, and Ian had his bridge tooth replaced.  Sandie collected her new specs.

On Thursday 11th we went to see the screening of NT-Live’s Obsession.  We decided it was not really our kind of play!  The next evening we went to our folk dance cub, for the first time since October.  We took the bus to Bourne End, and then strolled along the Thames – delightful in the early evening sun.  We did our pub walk on Saturday evening, but sadly the pub where we’d decided to eat was not serving food that evening, so we ended up at an Indian restaurant in Hazlemere.

Evening on the Thames

Geese and goslings along the Thames

We’ve linked up with two local groups that were new to us.  As we now know, there are ‘Pulse of Europe’ gatherings in many cities to highlight the positive benefits of the EU; in Wycombe a small number of people have a stall near the parish church on Sunday afternoons.

Pulse of Europe gathering

‘Skeptics in the pub’ is a national (international?) organisation of open-minded people who meet to discuss all kinds of issues.  The Wycombe group meets twice a month, but the main meetings now take place in a hall, as the numbers are too large to be accommodated in a pub. But there is a bar there, so the title is still reasonably accurate!

On Tuesday 16th Sandie had lunch in town with our friend Anne.  On Thursday we went to Slough, for s trip combining business and pleasure.  We had to see our solicitor and sort out some things regarding our flat there, but we took the opportunity of having lunch with our friends and former colleagues Sarah and Tami.

21 in Centigrade!

Friday 19th May was the big day when Ian reached 70.  We’d booked for dinner and theatre in London, but it happened that Ian was needed at a business meeting that afternoon, which fitted in quite nicely.  We went to London by train as usual; after coffee in the West End we strolled down to Millbank, where we met our ERA colleague Lesley for lunch.   Then she and Ian went off to the meeting, while Sandie amused herself, mainly by looking round the Tate.

Sandie in New Bond Street

Statue at Millbank

Inside the Tate

We met up again in a nearby pub, and then Lesley went home and we went back to the West End.   We looked round Stanfords bookshop and were then in perfect time for dinner at Brown’s restaurant.  It was not far from there to the Prince of Wales Theatre, where we saw The Book of Mormon, which we’d long wanted to see.  It was very funny, extremely well done, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Celebrations continued over the weekend.  On Saturday evening we had a birthday dinner at the George and Dragon in Marlow.  It was originally planned by Claire as a surprise event, but then Ian decided to invite the family.  So he knew that they were coming, but not that several friends were joining us!  It was a great evening, giving us the opportunity to catch up with some old friends, and meet new ones: Phil (Maggi’s fiancé) and Ant (Claire’s boyfriend).  We had a lovely dinner, followed by a mango-flavoured birthday cake made by Hope and Bel (with help from Ellie).

Ian shows off his new Star Wars chess set

Remind me again – how old am I?

Multitudes assemble

Fun in the pub!

Mango birthday cake, with age in binary (1,000,110)

Charlie and Oscar stayed overnight with us, and on Sunday morning we played cricket outside. Claire and Ant joined us later; Andrew, Ellie, Hope and Bel also came over, bringing another cake – this one to celebrate Claire’s birthday on the 23rd.  More cake, drinks, cards and presents!  Some of Ian’s cards seemed intended to reassure the recipient that he wasn’t really 70 at all: 46 in hexadecimal, 21 in centigrade, 18 with 52 years’ experience etc. But our favourite (and most positive) message was composed by Charlie: ‘To inseventy and beyond’!

Slog it, Charlie!

An unorthodox stroke by Oscar

Playing chess with Hope

Claire’s exciting cake!

Claire admires her presents

Cheers!

Soon after our children and grandchildren had left, Caroline took us to Piggot’s Farm, where they hold music weekends culminating in a concert open to the public.  We heard close harmony singers in one barn, and an orchestra in another.  It was an interesting place (our first visit), and we enjoyed a relaxing end to a wonderful weekend.

Concert at Piggot’s Farm

Tea in the courtyard

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Autumn in Wycombe

High Wycombe crest

High Wycombe crest

Autumn colours

Autumn colours (Fall colors if in the USA)

After returning from Spain, we had three and a half weeks in High Wycombe, before leaving for Florida.  As usual, we kept ourselves pretty busy.

We went to a barn dance – our first for ages, and great fun.    We’ve been for walks in the sunshine (October was quite mild) and enjoyed the beautiful autumn leaves.  We’ve had several get-togethers with friends or family, usually over a meal.  Brenda and Phil live some distance away, so we arranged to meet them in Banbury, which was convenient for all of us – easy to reach by train from Wycombe, and gave us a pleasant day out.

Autumn mist over the hills

Autumn mist over the hills

Keep Hill Woods

Keep Hill Woods

Fascinating fungi

Fascinating fungi

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

When does the match begin?

When does the match begin?

Banbury High Street

Banbury High Street

A long session in the pub

A long session in the pub

Imposing shopping centre

Imposing shopping centre

Home on the train

Home on the train

We’ve been to the cinema three times. The first time was not actually a film: it was a live transmission of Don Giovanni from the Metropolitan Opera in New York – a great production.  We highly recommend the two films we saw: I, Daniel Blake (powerful stuff from Ken Loach) and A street cat named Bob (an amazing true story about a former drug addict and the remarkable cat who ‘adopted’ him).

Oscar’s birthday

Sunday 23rd October was Oscar’s birthday – our youngest grandchild is now five!  He’d had a climbing party (!) with his friends on Saturday, but on the actual day Claire brought him and Charlie over to us.  Andrew, Ellie, Hope and Isobel also came along – High Wycombe is almost halfway between Stroud and Faversham, so it is convenient for a family get-together!   We had a leisurely lunch at a pub, chosen because it has a playground, so the children could run around outside while the adults talked, and watched what was going on.  Later we had a birthday tea (cake made by Ellie) at our flat.

Family outing to the pub

Family outing to the pub

Lunch at the Beechtree

Lunch at the Beechtree

Hope & Oscar working together

Hope & Oscar working together

A very fancy candle

A very fancy candle

A good puff should do it ...

A good puff should do it …

I've got a ninja cake!

I’ve got a ninja cake!

Claire and the boys stayed overnight, so we saw more of them the next day.  They came up again later in the week (it was half-term holiday) and we took the boys swimming – they are very keen, and are making good progress in their lessons.

Time to put all this Lego back together!

Time to put all this Lego back together!

London

We enjoy occasional days out in London, but the one we had recently was even more packed than usual.  We’d applied for US visitor’s visas, which will enable us to stay there for up to six months.  The initial application is done online, but is followed by an ‘interview’ at the Embassy, and ours was scheduled for 9.30 on Tuesday 25th October.  This meant making an early start, and paying for full-price travelcards rather than the off-peak ones we usually get.   However, the good news was that Paul had a meeting in London the same day, so we arranged to meet.

Oxford Street

Oxford Street

Selfridge's window (1)

Selfridge’s window (1)

Selfridge's window (2)

Selfridge’s window (2)

Not long to the light-up

Not long to the light-up

The Christmas lights in the West End have been put up, though not yet switched on.  From the Embassy we made our way to Leicester Square, where (as usual) we bought cheap theatre tickets, and then browsed round Stanfords travel bookshop.  By then it was midday, but we were to meet Paul at 3, so we filled in the time by doing a walk around Bloomsbury which Ian had downloaded from the Internet.

Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square

Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square

We met Paul in a pub which was just opposite his office, and familiar to us from our many visits to the DfE when we worked for NFER. The vague plan was to have a drink and later go somewhere else for dinner, but we got talking (and drinking, of course) and ended up just staying there for dinner.  We left about 7, and Paul then returned to Bury, while we went to see Kinky Boots – the musical.  We’d enjoyed the film, several years ago, but didn’t think the music added much – it was easily forgettable.  We arrived home at 11.30pm – having set off at 7.15am, it was quite a long day!

Soon we’ll be off

The Embassy held on to our passports, and we had to collect them the following week from a place near Slough, which we were able to combine with a visit to the cemetery, to put flowers on Sandie’s parents’ grave. As soon as we had our passports back, we booked our flights to Florida, and will be off there tomorrow – the day before the US election.

Autumn trees in Slough cemetery

Autumn trees in Slough cemetery

Pumpkins in Colnbrook

Pumpkins in Colnbrook

Like most people we know, we are appalled by the possibility of victory for Donald Trump. There is little we can do to prevent it, especially at this distance, but we’ve found a way of making a small contribution to the campaign.  Avaaz (online campaigning group) asked for volunteers to work with a US partner organisation by sending text messages to young people in swing states, aiming first to identify potential Hillary supporters, and then encourage them to go and vote.  The system is highly automated, very fast and costs nothing; you use a computer rather than a phone.  Over the past couple of weeks we’ve sent out literally thousands of texts – and there are thousands of others doing the same.  Whether it has any impact remains to be seen.  We shall be in Sarasota on November 8th, so we will be able to join in the celebrations – we hope!

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A Long Wait

We’ve managed to keep ourselves busy over the past couple of weeks.  Ian painted the bathroom – twice, because Sandie was not happy with the first colour chosen! While he was doing that, she cleaned out the kitchen cupboards – another job that needed doing.  We finished a complete draft of our book about the journey we did last year, following that undertaken by Ian’s father during World War II.   We had a meeting of our ERA partnership, and managed to attend the Marlow Folk Dance Club – for the first time in exactly a year!

The new bathroom

The new bathroom

Going for walks

We’ve done several walks recently, some short and some long.  Sometimes we’ve managed to combine walking with doing other things.  For example, when we were choosing new flooring etc for our bathroom, we wanted to visit some shops in Loudwater, two miles east of Wycombe.  It was a beautiful day, and our route took us along back roads and footpaths, some of which we had not previously discovered.  After looking round the shops we had a pub lunch, and then came back by a different route, stopping at more shops along the way.

Another day we had arranged to meet our friends Sarah and Tami for dinner in the Red Lion at Langley; we also wanted to take flowers to Sandie’s parents’ grave in Slough Cemetery.  And we wanted to have a look at our Slough flat, as we had had reports of rubbish being dumped nearby.  Again, it was a warm day and we wanted to do some walking.

We set off at 9.15 and caught the Slough bus, but alighted in the Farnham Road.  (This paragraph may not mean much to those unfamiliar with the area!)  We did what we have done several times before: visited charity shops there, had coffee, bought flowers and then walked through back roads to the cemetery. From there we walked down into the town centre, and had lunch.  We walked along the High Street (more charity shops!) and detoured to our flat.  Then we walked through Upton Court Park, along Trelawney Avenue, through to Langley ‘Village’ (where we used to live) and up to Langley Park.  We walked through the Arboretum, and round the lake, and followed footpaths which would bring us to St Mary’s Road.  We reached the Red Lion just as the church clock opposite was chiming 6 – after walking six or seven miles, we’d made it at exactly the right time!

The new Curve building in Slough

The new Curve library in Slough

The lake at Langley Park

The lake at Langley Park

A weekend with the boys

Charlie and Oscar stayed with us again the first weekend in September, while Claire was working.  They are now really keen on swimming, and attend classes where they have made great progress.  The forecast for Saturday was sunny in the morning, but rain in the afternoon, so we came up with what seemed to be the perfect plan.  In the morning we took the bus to Bourne End, and walked along the Thames Path to Maidenhead, with stops on the way for coffee, watching the boats go through Boulter’s Lock, a picnic lunch and a playground.  Reaching Maidenhead we went to the swimming pool and spent a couple of hours there before catching the bus back.  It all worked well, although the forecast was sadly not entirely accurate.  It was sunny when we set off, but we had rain later in the morning as well as in the afternoon.

On the bus

On the bus

Walking the Thames Path

Walking the Thames Path

The posing log

The posing log

In the pool

In the pool

Down the slide

Down the slide

Next morning we asked the boys what they would like to do, and with no hesitation they opted for swimming again.  This time we went to the Wycombe pool, and once again we combined it with a walk: we took a taxi there and walked back (downhill!) with a stop at the adventure playground on the Rye.

A day at the seaside

The weather forecast for w/b 11 September was good, with Tuesday expected to be the warmest day.  We had no other plans, and fancied a trip to the coast – perhaps we’re missing Florida (though it’s not quite the same!).  We hired a car and drove to West Wittering, which we always considered to be one of the best beaches along the south coast.  Once again we were disappointed with the weather – by the time we reached Wittering there was quite a lot of cloud, and a fairly strong breeze.  The beach was also not as good as we remembered.  Still, we were able to walk along the sands as far as Chichester Harbour, where we took photos of the boats before returning to the car park by an inland route.  We then drove into Chichester, a city we always enjoy visiting, and spent a couple of hours there before heading home, with a stop en route at a country pub for dinner.

Beach huts

Beach huts

West Wittering beach

West Wittering beach

Boats on Chichester Harbour

Boats on Chichester Harbour

I don't think I'm in Florida any more

I don’t think I’m in Florida any more

Chichester cathedral

Chichester cathedral

Walking the city walls

Walking the city walls

Chichester street

Chichester street

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Our meal stop on the way home

A break in a pub garden

Relaxing in the pub garden

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A day in London

On Saturday 17th we went up to London for the day. As usual, we went to the theatre: this time we saw a stage production of George Orwell’s 1984.  But our main reason for choosing that date for our London trip was so that we could take part in the pro-refugee demonstration.  Along with thousands of others, we marched from Park Lane to Parliament Square, chanting and waving placards.  In the Square we heard moving speeches from politicians, church leaders, celebrities – and refugees.

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We were calling on the UK government to take its fair quota of refugees (at present it is near the bottom of the list of European countries to do so).   In particular, we were thinking of all the unaccompanied children currently kept in conditions described as ‘a living hell’ at Calais.  Nearly 400 have a legal right to residence in the UK – many have relatives already living here – yet the government has been slow to allow them entry.  We need to put pressure on our MPs and local councils to honour their obligations, so that these children can be reunited with their families and have a safe place to live.

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We were also protesting against the racism and xenophobia which sadly seems prevalent in large sections of British society and the media.  And not just in Britain, of course.  The government’s plan to build a long wall in the Calais area is horribly reminiscent of Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border.  We await November with trepidation, and just hope that his bid for the US presidency is unsuccessful.

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Cambodia?????

We said in our last blog that we would get the results of our proposal (for an evaluation project in Cambodia) on September 9.  It is now the 18th, and we have had no news, so we still do not know where we will be spending the winter!

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Fireworks and Pirates

In the UK, two events are celebrated in the first half of November: Guy Fawkes Day and Remembrance Day. For Claire this year there was another celebration – contracts were finally exchanged on her house move.

Sandie went to two fireworks displays this year. On Nov 4 she went with our friend Caroline to a display at Wycombe Abbey School, where Caroline runs a Young Enterprise Group. On Nov 7 we both went with Claire and the boys to the public display at Terriers, just outside High Wycombe. Great fireworks and bonfires on both occasions.

Wycombe Abbey fireworks (1)

Wycombe Abbey fireworks (1)

Wycombe Abbey fireworks (2)

Wycombe Abbey fireworks (2)

Oscar with a sparkler at Terriers

Oscar with a sparkler at Terriers

Bonfire at Terriers

Bonfire at Terriers

Fireworks at Terriers (1)

Fireworks at Terriers (1)

Fireworks at Terriers (2)

Fireworks at Terriers (2)

Fireworks at Terriers (3)

Fireworks at Terriers (3)

On Sunday Nov 8 Charlie was on church parade, in his Beavers uniform for the first time. He did not have to parade far – just a few yards from the hut at the back of the church, into the church itself. We went to take photos, although that proved difficult.  On Remembrance Day itself Charlie had another task to perform, as the school councillors (he is one) went to lay a wreath on the local war memorial.

Charlie on church parade

Charlie on church parade

It was also on Nov 11 that contracts were finally exchanged on Claire’s house sale and purchase. We were all twitching by then as there had been so many delays along the way, and attempts to exchange contracts on Monday and Tuesday of that week had failed. But it was third time lucky on Wednesday, and we all went to Pizza Hut (the boys’ choice, of course) that evening to celebrate. Completion is set for this Friday (Nov 20) – eight months after we made a successful offer for the house.

Time with our grandsons

Claire has been on two working trips to Dubai within the last fortnight, and the boys have stayed with us both times. The first time Claire was away Wednesday-Saturday, so the boys were at school. The weather was bad, with lots of rain, so no chance of going to the playground. We played games at home, and Ian started teaching the boys to play chess. On Saturday morning we went to the local cinema for a kids’ club screening of Inside Out. The boys had seen it before but we happy to see it again; we thought it was great.

Concentration

Concentration

Claire’s second trip was over the past weekend, so we decided to take the boys up to London on Saturday. We were accompanied by Fluffy, a toy squirrel which is Charlie’s class mascot. The child chosen to look after Fluffy for the weekend has to write a diary about Fluffy’s adventures. Charlie was chosen this time because he will be leaving, so it was his last opportunity!

Unfortunately, it rained most of the day, but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. We started from the Tower of London, crossed Tower Bridge and walked along the South Bank. This gave the boys a glimpse of several sights they had not previously seen, including St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge. We went as far as the Tate Modern, though we were not impressed by this year’s installation in the Turbine Hall.

The Thames from Tower Bridge

The Thames from Tower Bridge

The highlight of our day out was a ‘Pirate Fun Day’ on the Golden Hinde (a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship). Two actors did a great job of entertaining young children. Later – when it was dark and the rain had almost stopped – we walked around the West End looking at the Christmas lights in several streets and deciding which we thought best (Carnaby Street was our unanimous choice).

At the Golden Hinde

At the Golden Hinde

Pirate crew

Pirate crew

Playing a pirate game

Playing a pirate game

Charlie keeps his finger on the touch-hole

Charlie keeps his finger on the touch-hole

Carnaby Stret lights

Carnaby Stret lights

South Molton Street

South Molton Street

New Bond Street

New Bond Street

On Sunday morning it was cloudy, but not raining. So we went for a walk from Downley (the other side of Wycombe) which took us past Hughenden Manor. This was mainly through woods, and the boys loved running around and climbing trees. The only problem was that, after all the recent rain, the paths were very muddy, so we returned home with very dirty clothes and shoes!

Walking in the woods

Walking in the woods

A natural playground

A natural playground

Elevenses at Hughenden Manor

Elevenses at Hughenden Manor

 

 

 

 

 

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Following in father’s footsteps: London

Gibraltar was not of course the end of Pa’s story – not even the end of his book. He was taken by ship to Liverpool, and then by train to London, where he was interviewed by both Dutch and British authorities before being allowed to join the RAF. We haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Liverpool, but we wanted to try to find some of the London locations he mentions, as we are in easy reach of the city.

But first we had other things to do! The day after we arrived back, we had to go over to Slough for a meeting with the owners of the other flats in our block to discuss buying the freehold and setting up a management company. During the following week we had several NHS appointments: flu jabs and dental checks for both of us, and an eye test for Ian. Most importantly, Sandie had a hospital appointment, a follow-up to the operation she had last year. There was a possibility of another operation, and radiotherapy, so we were delighted when she was given the all-clear.

Family time

We’ve been catching up with friends, and of course spending time with the family. On Tuesday 20th we saw Charlie invested in the Beavers.

Charlie's investiture

Charlie’s investiture

The new Beaver

The new Beaver

Friday 23rd was Oscar’s 4th birthday, and as usual the celebrations extended over the weekend. After school on Friday Claire took him, Charlie and some friends to Jungle Mania (a soft-play centre which Oscar loves). Maggi came for the weekend, and on Saturday we went for a family dinner at Pizza Hut. On Sunday Andrew and Ellie came for a brief visit with Hope and Isobel. It was good to see them all again; there were more presents for Oscar, and lunch together in a local pub.

Power Rangers little and large

Power Rangers little and large

Birthday excitement!

Birthday excitement!

A new scooter

A new scooter

Andrew takes on the Red Ranger

Andrew takes on the Red Ranger

Last week was half-term, and Claire had a work trip to Dubai, so the boys stayed with us. We had a whole day free on Wednesday, and rain was forecast (although it did not actually happen!) so we decided to go to the Science Museum in South Kensington. The crowds were horrendous, as they always are during school holidays – but when else can you take children of school age? We were a bit disappointed, as they did not seem to have as many ‘hands-on’ exhibits as we remembered from our previous visits, many years ago.

Apollo 10 capsule

Apollo 10 capsule

Look at all those planes!

Look at all those planes!

When we’d finished at the Science Museum Charlie was keen to go to the Natural History Museum next door. By then the crowds were thinning, but we still had to queue for half an hour to see the dinosaurs. After that we went to Oxford Street to see the Selfridges Christmas windows. We arrived home exhausted!

What tasty-looking children!

What tasty-looking children!

Selfridges window 1

Selfridges window 1

Selfridges window 2

Selfridges window 2

A full day in London

On Saturday 31st we made another trip to London, just the two of us this time, with the intention of finding places mentioned in Pa’s book. We made an early start, which was just as well as it was a very full day. Ian had done some research and identified eight possible places to look at. As in Madrid, we did not attempt to do them in chronological order – this would have meant going round in circles. We covered them in the most efficient way, but even so, we made good use of our travel cards and did a lot of walking.

After being accepted in the RAF, Pa had to report to the No 1 Air Crew Reception Centre. He says this was in St John’s Wood, but gives no address. Looking it up, Ian discovered that it was actually at Lord’s Cricket Ground, which the RAF took over during the war! Lord’s is not too far from Marylebone, where the Wycombe trains arrive, so that was our first stop.

The RAF Reception Centre in 1944

The RAF Reception Centre in 1944

We then caught a bus which was supposed to go to Piccadilly Circus, but in fact terminated in Oxford Street. We discovered why when we walked the rest of the way. Regent Street was closed to traffic because of the annual Motor Show. We are not particularly interested in modern cars, but the vintage cars (with owners appropriately dressed) were worth a few photo stops.

Regent Street Motor Show

Regent Street Motor Show

Vintage cars

Vintage cars

A not-quite-vintage mobile phone

A not-quite-vintage mobile phone

What do you call a collection of Sherlock Holmes look-alikes?

What do you call a collection of Sherlock Holmes look-alikes?

As usual on our London days, we bought cheap theatre tickets and had coffee in Leicester Square, then went to Stanfords travel bookshop in Long Acre. After that we took the tube to Green Park, and got back to our research. In the course of a long walk, we saw Arlington House (where Pa met Prince Bernhard) and Charles Street, site of Netherlands House, although we were unable to identify the building. We had more luck in Bayswater Road, as there is a plaque marking the former Oranjehaven, a house provided by Queen Wilhemina for the use of Dutch escapers.

Arlington House (now flats)

Arlington House (now flats)

Oranjehaven plaque

Oranjehaven plaque

Oranjehaven

Oranjehaven

Our next destination was close to Kensington High Street, some distance away but a very pleasant walk through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, enjoying the sunshine and the autumn leaves. We found Zetland House, where Pa was billeted, and then went by tube to Victoria and walked to Easton Square, where the Dutch Security Service was located (although again, we could not identify the building).

A pleasant walk in Hyde Park

A pleasant walk in Hyde Park

Zetland House

Zetland House

The final two places on our list were some way from central London, so we went by train to Balham and found the school which was once the Battersea Grammar School, where Pa was held when he first arrived in London. Next we went to Clapham Junction, and from there we were able to find the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building (formerly a school) where he was interrogated by members of the Army Intelligence Corps. By the time we arrived it was 5pm, and growing dark. But there was just enough light left for photos, and the building seemed perfect for Hallowe’en!

Battersea Grammar School was here

Battersea Grammar School was here

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building

With our research finished, we returned by bus and tube to the West End, and had just enough time to eat before going to the theatre. We saw the play Mr Foote’s Other Leg: unusual, brilliantly acted and with witty dialogue, though we would hesitate to call it ‘riotously funny’ as the reviews suggest.

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Summer Outings

We’ll start this blog where the last one finished – with the saga of Claire’s move. She finally decided to put in an offer for the house next door to the one we’d been in the process of buying since March. After some negotiation, her offer was accepted – but just two days later, the owners decided not to move after all. And less than one week later, the original chain collapsed. So Claire is back to square one, and has to find another house, but there is nothing suitable currently on the market. It will be some time before she is able to move, so Charlie will be back at his High Wycombe school in September.

London again

We had another day up in London on 30 July. This time the tubes were operating, so we were able to start as we usually do: train to Marylebone, tube to Piccadilly Circus, buy theatre tickets in Leicester Square, have coffee and visit Stanfords travel bookshop. Then we took the tube to Waterloo and the train to Mortlake, to continue walking the Thames Path.

We ate our picnic in the garden by Mortlake Station, then walked through to the river, and had a drink at the Ship Inn, where we ended our previous walk. The first part of this walk was through a tunnel of trees – pleasant, although our view of the river was somewhat obscured.   We stopped at a pub in Putney for a mid-afternoon drink; after that the scenery became more industrialised until we reached Battersea Park, where we paused to take photos of the Peace Pagoda.

Smirking sphinx

Smirking sphinx

Albert Bridge

Albert Bridge

Swan statue

Swan statue

Peace Pagoda

Peace Pagoda

Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha

Crossing the Thames

Crossing the Thames

We ended our walk at Vauxhall Bridge, and got a bus to the West End. After dinner in a pub we went to the Duchess Theatre to see The play that goes wrong. This has had good reviews and is supposed to be very funny; obviously most of the audience thought so, judging by the laughter around us. But it was pure slapstick, a kind of humour that doesn’t appeal to us, so we were disappointed. A week later, we saw an excellent touring production of Oklahoma! at our local theatre, and that was very much more to our taste.

While in London Sandie experienced several problems with her camera, and decided it was really time to get a replacement. Two days later, she bought a so-called ‘bridge’ camera, and tried it out that evening on one of our pub walks. She has used it a lot since, experimenting to see how it compares with her SLR. So far she is pleased with the results.

Outings with the boys

We have spent a lot of time with our grandsons recently. Sandie and Claire took them swimming twice, and we all went (Ian as well) to Black Park, where Claire and Charlie completed the junior ‘Go Ape’ course, climbing through the trees on all sorts of bridges, swinging platforms and zipwires.

Preparing to 'Go Ape'

Preparing to ‘Go Ape’

That's the way to do it, Mum!

That’s the way to do it, Mum!

Charlie steps across

Charlie steps across

On the zipwire

On the zipwire

On Monday 3rd August, while Claire was in Dubai, we took the boys to Langley by bus. We showed them the house where we lived for 18 years, then drank coffee while they enjoyed the playground in the centre of the village. We continued our nostalgia trip by walking up to Langley Park, about two miles away. There is a better playground there, and a café where we could get hot drinks to have with our picnic, and ice creams afterwards. Then we explored the Arboretum and the lake, before walking cross-country to the Red Lion pub, which used to be our local. Finally along the canal back to Slough – stopping en route at yet another playground which the boys had spotted – and a bus back to Wycombe.

Getting our bearings

Getting our bearings

Single file through the corn

Single file through the corn

Whee!

Whee!

Middlegreen playground

Middlegreen playground

Mitsy enjoys an occasional coke

Mitsy enjoys an occasional coke

Claire belongs to the Qantas UK Cabin Crew, and normally flies only to Dubai – the Australian crews take the planes on from there. However, the British flight attendants do sometimes now go ‘all the way’, and last Saturday Claire set off on her first ever trip to Melbourne. She is away for a week, and the boys came to stay with us for the first four days.

We planned a trip to the south coast (first time for ages!) for Tuesday which was supposed to have the best weather, according to an early forecast. But on Saturday the weather was warm and sunny – and the forecast for Tuesday had changed – so we decided to make the most of it and go then. First Ian took Claire to the airport, so we were late setting off, and the traffic was very heavy, so we didn’t reach Littlehampton till 3pm!   After that, though, we had great fun: playing on the beach, walking along the prom to a playground, walking along the river to a nice café where we had dinner before returning home (a much faster journey).

On the beach

On the beach

Fun in the waves

Fun in the waves

Let's go back in!

Let’s go back in!

Dodgems 1

On the dodgems with Oscar

Dodgems 2

Charlie’s turn

Evening view of Littlehampton

Evening view of Littlehampton

On Sunday we went to the Chiltern Open Air Museum, not far from here. We’d visited before, but many years ago. We thought the boys might like it, especially when we discovered that they had a ‘Vicious Vikings’ weekend on. We had no idea that there were so many people who spend their weekends dressing up in Viking clothes, camping in Viking tents, demonstrating Viking traditions and engaging in Viking battles! We arrived early enough to enrol the boys for the ‘Children’s Army’ which fought the adult Vikings during the afternoon. The children had great fun chasing the Vikings and tackling them with wooden swords: there were fearsome yells of triumph when (not surprisingly) they won.

Learning how to spin wool, Viking style

Learning how to spin wool, Viking style

Viking encampment

Viking encampment

Battling Vikings

Battling Vikings

Shield wall

Shield wall

Bring on the Vikings!

Bring on the Vikings!

Into battle

Into battle

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

Victory yell

Victory yell

Toll house, which used to be in Wycombe

Toll house, which used to be in Wycombe

The weather was wet and miserable on Monday, so our only excursion was to the children’s matinee at the local cinema. However, it improved again yesterday, so we went to Henley and did a walk along the Thames, passing Temple Island, stopping for a picnic lunch at Hambleden Lock and Weir, and for drinks at the Flower Pot in Aston. Then it was back over the hill to Henley and the playground there.

On the Thames Path

On the Thames Path

Admiring Temple Island

Admiring Temple Island

Hambleden Weir

Hambleden Weir

Now, this is where we are...

Now, this is where we are…

Back to Henley over the hill

Back to Henley over the hill

Earlier today Ian drove the boys to Bussage. They will stay with Maggi until Claire returns from Australia on Saturday. Meanwhile, we shall be setting off on our travels once again!

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