Posts Tagged London

47th on 42nd

After returning from Manchester on 1st October, we kept ourselves busy.  The analysis and reporting for Sutton Trust occupied most of our time until the report was submitted late last Friday.  We have had problems with our Slough flat, and began to consider if this was a good time to sell.  Discussions, research and meetings took up a lot of time.  And Sandie got involved in a Young Enterprise event, helping Caroline with a presentation to the young people who are to be managing directors of their various companies.

Still, there were opportunities to enjoy ourselves, such as meals with friends, and visits to pubs or restaurants.  We went to the local cinema twice, to see the film Kingsman: the golden circle (quite entertaining) and the NT-Live Encore screening of Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch.  We went to our folk dance club; the first time since May that we’d been able to go, and the last time for quite a while!  And we had two days out, to celebrate special occasions.

Our wedding anniversary

47 years ago

On Tuesday 10th we celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary with a day out in London.  It followed the usual pattern of our ‘London days’, with perhaps some extra treats along the way.  We went first to Leicester Square and were amazed to find there was no queue at all at tkts.  After coffee, and a visit to Stanfords, we walked the final stretch of the Thames Path (for the third time).  In August we completed a short walk on the Isle of Dogs, so we started from there this time.  Walking from Crossharbour DLR station to the river, we stopped for a drink at a pub called Pepper Saint Ontiod.  We’d never heard of any Ontiod, saint or otherwise, but an online search next day showed that there was no such person.  The address of the pub was Pepper St On The Isle Of Dogs – they’d decided to abbreviate to Ontiod and make him a saint!

Saint Ontiod of blessed memory

We followed the Path to the end of the Isle of Dogs and then through the Greenwich foot tunnel, emerging by the Cutty Sark and the Royal Naval Museum.  The painted ceiling was closed, but we had a quick look in the chapel and lunch in The Old Brewery, an interesting place which (luckily for Sandie) had some American-style IPAs.  Then we continued our walk along the river.  It was years since we were last in that part of London, and we were amazed at how much building was going on.  We paused for a drink at the ‘Anchor and Hope’ pub, where we remembered stopping before.  Having only discovered Aperol Spritz in June while in Italy, we now find you can get it anywhere – Gt Yarmouth, the east End of London…..

Looking back at the City

Through the Greenwich foot tunnel

Sandie finds an IPA!

The chapel at Greenwich

An atmospheric sky

The Dome

Captain, I think there’s a problem with the ship!

Gormley’s Quantum Cloud

Now, where are we exactly?

Sunshine and Aperol Spritz – perfect!

We reached the Thames Barrier at 5pm, and needed to get back quickly to the West End. The Underground does not extend that far, and there was no obvious bus. We asked a man to confirm that we were heading in the right direction for the nearest railway station, and he kindly gave us a lift.  We reached Charing Cross with just enough time for a pub dinner and a cappuccino on the way to Drury Lane for the 7.30 performance of 42nd Street.  It was brilliant – wonderful costumes, great sets, and fantastic tap dancing.  It made Sandie keen to be back at her tap class in Sarasota, though she knows she will never be anywhere near that level!

The Barrier

Inside the Theatre Royal

Cheers!

A special birthday

Ellie’s 40th birthday was on Friday, and as part of the celebration we were invited to a family tea on Sunday 15th.  Claire, Ant, Charlie and Oscar were going too, so they kindly detoured to pick us up on their way from Bussage to Faversham.  It was a long journey for them, especially as there were hold-ups on the motorways.

We reached Andrew and Ellie’s house at 1.15pm.  Ellie’s mother and sister, her brother and his family were already there, so 16 of us sat down to lunch.  Ellie did a great job of seating and feeding us!  Some of us had not seen Hope since her birthday last month, so there were presents for her too – and congratulations for Isobel, who just a few days ago heard the good news that she’s passed the Kent test, and will be joining Hope at grammar school next year.

The kids’ table

The adults’ table

Now, what can it be?

Just what I’ve always wanted!

After lunch was cleared away, we all went out for a walk at the Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park. The children enjoyed running around, and we all collected edible chestnuts – we’ve never seen so many!   Sandie regretted having bought some the day before. Back at the house we had cake (made by the girls), and then Ellie’s family moved on to Rebecca’s house, leaving more manageable numbers for tea.

Feeding Lucy

Into the woods

This is where they used to make the gunpowder…

Now I realise why they said ‘No Smoking’

Climbing the walls

Cousins assemble

Who let these kids into my woods?

Chestnut hunting

Cake time!

We left at 7pm, and (after more hold-ups on the M2) reached our flat at 9.15. Claire and co did not stay, as they still had a long way to go.  We relaxed and watched TV – while eating plenty of roast chestnuts!

 

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Bare bums and feathers

Claire and Ant collected the boys on Monday 21st August.  Two days later we went to London for the day, just the two of us this time.   We tend to have a ‘London day’ about once a month when we are in the UK.  But this one was arranged at short notice, when we heard that Paul would be passing through on business.

Another London day

As usual, we caught the first ‘cheap’ train to London, and went to Leicester Square to get cut-price theatre tickets.  The queue at tkts was longer than we’d seen for ages – we had to wait 45 minutes, but we did get the tickets we wanted.  After a coffee and a quick visit to Stanfords, we walked to the Embankment and took the tube to Tower Hill.  We then headed east along the Thames Path, stopping for a snack lunch en route.  We’ve been doing bits and pieces of the Path for the third time, as and when we have the opportunity.

“Have a nice walk!” from a Roman emperor

Boats at St Katherine’s Dock

This stretch of the Path goes slightly inland, passing wharves and warehouses, as well as along the river.  Although we had no rain, the day was very grey and gloomy – hence our photos are not great.   And our time was limited, so soon after passing Canary Wharf we headed for the nearest DLR station, and returned to the West End. By now Leicester Square was packed, but we managed to find a pub with a few spare tables, and Paul joined us there.  After drinks, dinner and chat, he took the train back north, and we went to the Haymarket Theatre.  We saw Queen Anne, which was brilliant like all RSC productions, although we would have benefitted from knowing more about the historical context.

A grey day on the Thames

Canary Wharf

In the pub with Paul

A sunny day

Charlie and Oscar were back on Thursday 24th, for just two days this time.  The forecast for Friday was warm and sunny – and just for once, it was right!  We decided to walk our favourite stretch of the Thames once again.  So we got the bus to Henley, and the boys explored the playground there.  Then we had coffee and headed east.

Setting off from Henley

A curious caterpillar

It was only two days since we’d been on the Thames Path, but the scenery on this stretch is very different from the East End of London.  And the weather was completely different too, with hardly a cloud in sight. The boy enjoyed watching boats go through Hambledon Lock – at least we did not have to wait this time!  We stopped for drinks at the Flower Pot, sitting in their large garden.  Then it was on to Hurley Lock – more drinks and snacks – and finally Marlow.  Another playground to visit, followed by dinner in the George and Dragon, and then the bus home.

At Hambledon Lock

Striding out

Charlie in legionnaire mode

Opening gates is boring!

Notting Hill

The boys left us on Saturday 26th, but the warm weather continued through the Bank Holiday weekend.  We decided to go to the Notting Hill Carnival on Monday, for the first time ever.  We’d been to the Rio carnival, and Mardi Gras at New Orleans, yet we’d never been to one that is (relatively speaking) on our doorstep!

We spent some time trying to work out the best way to get there. As Notting Hill is west London, we thought we might be able to get there without going into central London and out again.  Ian pored over bus and tube routes; he even found a way we could get there totally free (using our bus passes). The problem was, we couldn’t get home again – bus services tend to stop early on Sundays and Bank Holidays.  So we had no alternative but to go into central London by train.  Not cheap… but as the trains run late, it meant we had another opportunity of going to the theatre.

Arriving at Notting Hill earlier than expected, we saw plenty of individuals in carnival costume – lots of feathers, but little else! But there was no sign of any floats.  We’d got a map from the Internet which showed the carnival route, but not where the parade started or ended.  We asked two of the many police officers who were on duty, but were still confused. Finally, a third officer explained.  There is no set time when all the floats set off in convoy – each group parades as and when they wish.  More casual and chaotic than other carnivals we’ve been to.

Heading for the action

Spending a penny just got much more expensive!

Getting ready

Memories of Grenfell Tower

The costumes were gorgeous, but the floats we saw were not much decorated – mainly lorries carrying some of the participants.  There were some bands, and some groups danced, but it was not the highly organised dancing we’ve seen elsewhere.  Indeed, some individual dancers paused in the midst of the ‘action’ to eat, drink, chat, or use their mobile phones.

Viking man

Gotta take this call …

Mainly feathers

Not only women wear feathers

Feathers and bling

Serious feathers

Drummers

Flower power

Bare bum and feathers

Dancing and smiling

Full-on feathers

Elaborately costumed

Not so elaborately costumed

Ian makes friends

As in Rio, many of the shops and cafés in surrounding streets were not just closed, but boarded up. There was certainly a lot of drinking, and incredible piles of rubbish later in the day, when the crowds became so large it was difficult to move.   But we saw no sign of violence, although we read reports of arrests the next day.

Boarded-up shops

Raising steam

Mostly yellow

Drummin’

Santa’s new outfit

Younger generation joining in

Having a ball

Don’t sit next to him on the bus

In the evening we went the Dominion Theatre to see the new version of An American in Paris.  The dancing was brilliant, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Slough

After the excitements of the past week, we anticipated a quiet few days at home: just as well as we had a lot to do.  Ian made a start on some analysis for one project, and wrote a brief proposal for another.  We put the finishing touches to our book, and signed the contract for self-publishing.  And we heard that the paperwork relating to the extension of our leases was at last ready to sign – good news which involved a day trip to Slough.

So on Friday we were off again. We had coffee with a friend, signed the new lease at our solicitor’s office, and walked along the High Street, marvelling at the number of major stores that had closed down very recently.  After lunch we bought flowers and went up to the cemetery.  Although the hot weather last weekend had not lasted (down to 12°C on Weds!) today was quite sunny and ideal for a walk.  We walked along the canal (the Slough Arm of the Grand Union) to Langley, then up to Langley Park and down (by different footpaths) to the Red Lion where we had dinner. This was our regular Friday evening excursion when we lived in Langley, so it was a nostalgia trip as well as an enjoyable walk.

Slough Arm of the Grand Union

Canal boats at Langley

Langley Manor and Lake

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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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