The Weekend – Sponsored by the letter ‘f’

A weekend of fun, friends, fine food, F1 and err, a fone!


Ralph and Karen are joining us for the weekend. We haven’t seen each other for a while and there was plenty to catch-up with! Probably the most important task was to begin finalising details for joint trip to China including understanding the Visa process.

Arriving just after 10am, they’d had a remarkably good journey from theirs – and they’d also managed to not get stuck in all the local mega-roadworks! After a quick natter, whilst Ann and Karen then went into town to sort out some bits-and-bobs, us boys took a closer look at Ralph’s new phone – the rather impressive Huawei P20 Pro. (Pity it wasn’t called the F20 though! 😊

It’s an impressive beast of a phone with a spec to die for… and more! πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘

In other phone-related news, we also fashioned a plan to beat the internet restrictions in China by using a VPN and we’re going to firm-up the specifics nearer the time, after narrowing down the various providers. Given that the Chinese State is pretty active in blocking/restricting use of the internet – especially with social media and blogs – it’s a challenge and a half!

…but we do like a challenge! πŸ˜‰

11.55am: Just before Noon, the girls arrived back from town and we sat down to a sandwich lunch. A lazy afternoon followed (for some of us!) leaving Ann busy in the kitchen, weaving her magic for tonight’s meal!

6.30pm: David and Valerie arrived bang on time to join us for the Meal – and Ann’s hard work didn’t disappoint… πŸ‘

Starters 1: Tartlets with Asparagus, Chorizo and Manchego Cheese
Starters 2: Mackerel and Rhubarb Salad
Mains: Tray-bake Chicken
Dessert 1: Blackcurrant Clafouti
Dessert 2: Elderflower and Lemon Posset

10.25pm: As expected, it was all delicious – and only David managed to resist NOT having TWO Desserts! 😁. It was good to catch-up with everyone’s news and the first time we looked at the clock, it was almost 10.30! Time to say good-bye to David and Valerie, quickly followed by us all calling it a night.

11.00pm: zzzzzzzzz!


8.15am: Me, still in bed? Surely some mistake! 😁

10.30am: Next stop? Breakfast! πŸ‘πŸ˜‰

12.10pm: Following our my long lie-in, after breakfast, we took the short drive to Kirby Hall (where we last visited back in July 2009).

Kirby Hall

It was good to re-visit the Hall after all these years, I’d quite forgotten how interesting a place it is – and it’s especially quirky given that the roof was err, ‘liberated’ to pay off gambling debts! As expected, nothing much had changed, but we were surprised by the welcoming committee on arrival! We quickly moooooved on!😊

A spooky-looking Kirby Hall

2.45pm: After a quick Lunch, Ralph took us through their photographs from their trip to India – all the more impressive as they we beamed wirelessly from his phone to our TV.

3.45pm: Movie time! Courtesy of Amazon Prime, we (re)watched The Imitation Game having originally seen it at the cinema back in November, 2014.

4.5 stars
As good as we remember it first time around!

Tonight, to give Ann abreak from kitchen duties, we ate out at our fave local Pub/Restaurant… The Tollemache Arms in Harrington.

6.35pm: We were last here for Ann’s Birthday back in March, and it was good to looking over their excellent Menu again! We arrived earlier than our 7pm slot and it was already heaving! (Surely a good sign!) – but they were still able to seat us. Service with a smile was clearly in evidence and we were soon making our foody-choices.

A couple of Sharing Platters to start…

…and then when it came to the Mains, we naturally did our own thing: Karen chose the Salmon with a Lemon Citrus Dressing; Ann munched into the Macaroni Cheese; Ralph, the Pub’s signature Tolly Burger, whilst I managed the truly melt-in-the-mouth Beef Bourguignon.

Beef Bourguignon

Each dish proved to be delicious, and combined with their excellent service, this, our latest pub-find is becoming our regular haunt! πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘. Room for a Dessert? Well, it would have been rude not to – but I forgot to take any photos, so here’s the Dessert menu instead! πŸ˜•

Desserts – Tollemach Style!

Ann chose to skip the sweet stuff, whilst Karen wrestled the Raspberry Sorbet (I say ‘wrestled’ – it was so cold it caused her some short-term brain-freeze); Ralph, the Sticky Toffee Pudding and me, the Affogato.

9.30pm: By the time we left, the place was (still) pretty much full in the Restaurant – well deserved! All in all then, a great experience (again!) – a habit we could get used to!! We headed for home and spent the rest of the evening listening to Amazon Music via the TV.

Killer Tracks

10.45pm: Here we go aga…. 😴😴😴😴 – we left Ralph watching the recorded F1 Qualifier highlights (I’ll catch it tomorrow!)


8.30am: I caught up with the F1 Practice from Barcelona – another good result for Mercedes! πŸ‘

10.30am: We discussed our China holiday itinerary in detail and double-checked the visa requirements. Time well spent, as the visa paperwork is a nightmare with the added complexity of the Chinese State now insists on personal visits to one of their four UK centres where they will also require fingerprints! 😡

12.10pm: Lunch at our other favourite local Pub/Restaurant – The Olde Victoria in Burton Latimer. We haven’t been here for a while but it was good to see that the service and the food was as good as we remember it. By 1 o’clock is was heaving, with only a single empty table for two left in the restaurant.

Five-star Sunday Lunch

1.55pm: We said our good-byes to Ralph and Karen and whilst they headed north, we briefly dropped-in to John and Trish’s on the way home

2.30pm: Just time to drop off Karen R’s birthday present before catching up with a few house chores. It’s been a full-on weekend – but a very enjoyable one! πŸ‘πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸ˜Š

Bank Holiday Weekend in Banstead

We travelled down to Banstead today to meet up with good friends Richard and Nicki. What made today different was that we decided to do it all by train (given the poor journey we had back last time by car!).

Whether it’s a sign of getting a bit older, or simply the thought of the generally heavy road congestion and plethora of speed-cameras nearer our destination – just thinking about avoiding taking the car this particular journey, was relaxing in itself! It may be only 100-or-so miles by road, but it’s two-and-a-half hours at least, behind the wheel! πŸ₯΄ So, not to be recommended!!!

A rather spruced-up Victoria Station (since we were last here)


OK, our journey may have required TWO changes of Train – Finsbury Park and Victoria Station, but it still felt good to NOT be staring over the top of the steering wheel for the journey! We arrived at 10.25 and Nicki met us at Sutton Station – and just 15 minutes later, we were sharing coffee at theirs and planning our weekend tasks.

Yes, it’s mainly a social get-together, but we’d also offered our services helping them around the house – but especially in the Garden

Whilst Richard concentrated on emulsioning the kitchen, we three headed for the front garden aka ‘the jungle’.

There was plenty of work needed here but by lunchtime, we’d made a small dent in it – with plans to completely remove the neglected foliage. The weather was not on our side. Not only was it freezing cold, every so often, it chucked it down with rain! Yuk! πŸ˜•

Cheese for Lunch! πŸ‘πŸ˜Š
Significant Progress! πŸ‘

2.45pm: Back to work – and another couple of hours graft and we’d made some significant progress.

4.00pm: We might have done more, but the rain showers that had come and gone all day now turned into a downpour…

5.45pm: We soldiered on in between the rain, but in the end, the rain beat us – and so we downed tools and called it a day!

Lamb! Minted! 😁

7.25pm: All that hard work was rewarded with some yummy food! Specifically, Nicki’s mouth-watering Lamb and her Mint Marinade!

8.25pm: Movie time! Courtesy of Netflix, we settled down to State of Play (2009) starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. It turned out to be excellent! But towards the end, I could feel my eye-lids drooping!

11.00pm: zzzzzzzzzz!


Not surprisingly, we slept incredibly well, and after a quick breakfast, we were ready for today’s challenges!

First job was to finish off the front garden – and that required numerous trips to the local Dump!

Three Trips!

1.45pm: We ploughed on, and with Lunch on the horizon, by 1.45, it was ‘job done’!

2.05pm: Celebration Lunch!

Mexican Feast! 😍

3.20pm: Suitably fed and watered, we said our farewells and Nicki then dropped us back to Sutton Station for the 15.38 slow train to Victoria. Richard joined us for part of the journey as he was heading for Crystal Palace.

6.24pm: Home! An excellent journey, with all train connections working as they should! We felt a real sense of achievement this weekend and of course, it was great to catchup with our great friends – and help them out too! The stress-free journey there and back, has convinced us that this will be our preferred method of travel for future visits. Three hours door-to-door with an opportunity to doze, is an opportunity too good to ignore! (I must be am getting old!) 😊